Has Gruul Adventures Reclaimed Its Title As Zendikar Rising Standard’s Best Deck?

Fresh off strong finishes in the Zendikar Rising Championship, our experts provide their picks for Standard’s best decks!

Embereth Shieldbreaker, illustrated by Randy Vargas

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the results of the Zendikar Rising Championship in, many are unsure what they’d play in Standard That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Zendikar Rising Standard event!

Autumn Burchett — Gruul Adventures

After I went 7-0 with Gruul Adventures in the Standard portion of the Zendikar Rising Championship, how could I choose anything else? The deck has an incredible amount of play to it, can put up a fight against pretty much anything, and is also just a ton of fun to pilot.

The list my testing team came to feels incredible to me. Gruul Adventures was, for a time, becoming very inbred, trimming on copies of Embercleave in order to be better prepared for mirror-matches. This is why decks like Mono-Green Food were able to so convincingly prey on the deck, and the correct response is to go back to maxing out on Embercleave and to add some Questing Beasts to the equation too to combo with this powerful piece of equipment and break through cluttered battlefields.

Maindeck Embereth Shieldbreakers help with the Food matchup also, whilst recovering you some important percentage points in the mirror. Sure there are matches where this card isn’t exciting to draw but when your Plan A is Embercleave you’re happy for any two-drops you can find in Game 1, and getting to trigger Edgewall Innkeeper is just a great bonus on top of that.

Sometimes you’ve just got to believe in the Cleave!

Brad Nelson — Esper Doom Foretold (Yorion)

Why hello everyone, fancy meeting you here! After my triumphant finish at the Zendikar Rising Championship, I was asked by my testing partner Cedric Phillips to bestow some of my wisdom upon you fine folks. I don’t know what to think of this opportunity just yet, but I at least am sure I don’t want to mess it up. That’s why I’m suggesting you NOT play the deck I used to Top 8 this past weekend.

Now Mono-Green Food isn’t bad per se, but it was heavily targeted which might continue to be the case for another week or two. Esper Doom Foretold, on the other hand, was and is probably a great choice moving forward. In fact, it was my second choice going into the event and was very close to registering it. I guess I just couldn’t get away from how smart I thought the sideboard plans were for my build of Mono-Green Food.

Anyway, Esper Doom Foretold is a great choice now that Gruul Adventures is back on top which should also cause Dimir Rogues’ numbers to most likely taper off. The deck’s just very good at dealing with the problematic permanents found in the green decks which is not something the other “blue” decks can say.

Oh, and it’s also a lot of fun to play!

Dom Harvey — Gruul Adventures

There was a high-stakes tournament this weekend which means our own Autumn Burchett was cleaning up with Gruul Adventures. This list addresses Gruul’s inherent clunkiness with additional two-drops in Scavenging Ooze and Embereth Shieldbreaker — a welcome tertiary adventure creature for Edgewall Innkeeper and the perfect way to contest The Great Henge, the latest Throne of Eldraine card to take over Zendikar Rising Standard. At the same time, Autumn leans into Gruul’s aggressive nature with all three heads of Questing Beast joining the roster and a focus on Embercleave over The Great Henge rather than the even split common in stock lists.

Instead of messing with success, I’ve mostly copied and pasted Autumn’s list here. The only change is a second Primal Might as a nod to the Gruul mirrors that are sure to be even more popular now as Zendikar Rising Standard heads into the holiday season. 

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Dimir Rogues (Lurrus)

Right now, Zendikar Rising Standard seems to be in a pretty healthy place —there are many different decks you can play and succeed with. When things are wide open, very 50-50ish, and there isn’t a deck that can really exploit the metagame, I like to turn towards comfort, which to me in this format means Dimir Rogues. I think with Dimir Rogues you are slightly behind versus Gruul Adventures and some versions of control, but ahead versus Mono-Green Food and Temur Adventures (Obosh). Regardless, the matches are all close, which is fine by me. 

As to which version to play, I will write about it in more detail this week, but I think Lurrus of the Dream-Den is just too good right now (especially in mirrors), and I was missing Ruin Crab in the Zareth San, the Trickster version, as it was often too hard to turn on the graveyard stuff. I tried a version with Zareth San in the sideboard, but found out Lurrus was actually better versus most of the decks, so that’s what I am stuck with for now. 

Patrick Sullivan — Dimir Control

It takes a lot for me to break out the Islands and Swamps, but I was intrigued when Andrew Jessup posted a Dimir Control list with which he went a mind-boggling 25-0 through five leagues on Magic Online. I forked over most of the remaining tickets on my account (the majority of which were previously sold for bathroom tiling) and built it myself. I’m currently 11-4 through three leagues, and that would be 13-2 if it weren’t for my laborious pace of play. I think this deck is excellent.

The maindeck is the same as Andrew’s; I don’t think there’s a change I would consider except for maybe turning the Jwari Disruption into another Temple or Triome.  Andrew’s sideboard only had two copies of Duress and I think that card is so good against other blue decks, for creating leverage with Mystical Dispute, for attrition’ing the game out and winning with arbitrary Midnight Clock leftovers, that I made room for the full set.

The sideboard removal and counters are so good and possess such absurdly high value-over-replacement against your worst maindeck cards, that I’ve felt advantaged in literally every sideboard game I’ve played so far, and you aren’t that bad in most of the common Game 1s. Just be mindful of your pace of play.

Ari Lax — Gruul Adventures

I really wanted to recommend a Dimir Control deck this week. I can’t. You should play Gruul Adventures. It’s just great and the other decks seem merely good.

Why Gruul Adventures over Mono-Green Food? One, have you cast Embercleave? Why would you choose to not cast Embercleave when you could cast Embercleave instead? Two, Embereth Shieldbreaker eliminates any advantage Mono-Green Food had and the matchup is just close now. That leaves Gruul Adventures with no bad matchups.

I have no relevant info to add to the Gruul discussion beyond playing Gruul, so if for some maniacal reason you refuse to play Gruul, I don’t think playing Esper Doom Foretold (Yorion) is out of the question. I really like Andrea Mengucci’s list from the Zendikar Rising Championship that is a bit more of an Esper Control deck with the good Yorion, Sky Nomad cards and less a bad cards like Golden Egg deck.

Shaheen Soorani — Dimir Control (Yorion)

I have long touted the strength of Dimir Control in Zendikar Rising Standard.  As of late, it has been a force in competitive play with a few different variations.  Traditional control, the more reactive side of things, has been my poison of choice; however, this Yorion, Sky Nomad brand has been the best performing across the board.

When the companion rule came into effect, I wrote an article centered around the continued strength of Yorion.  The rule was not enough of a hit to hurt control decks choosing to play 80 cards. The additional cards did not throw a wrench into the overall consistency of a deck it turns out, as the additional spells were cards like Omen of the Sea and Cling to Dust.  Additional land and card draw spells kept decks with Yorion consistent, while the upside of having the Bird Serpent was huge.

This Dimir Control version has the best late-game plan, summoning a full set of Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.  This planeswalker brings the end to nearly every opponent, making cards like Solemn Simulacrum and Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths perfect mid-game cards to provide the land to get there.  The rest of the deck are the usual suspects, all of which line up perfectly to defeat Gruul Adventures, Mono-Green Food, other control decks, and everything in-between.  This is the best control deck to walk the Standard format for some time now, so sleeve with confidence.