How To Make The Good Standard Decks Better

We now have a healthy dose of metagame for Standard, but Pro Tour champion Ari Lax doesn’t think we’ve gone far enough! See the many archetypes that are finding success and how they can improve drastically!

Another week, another Magic Online PTQ won by Golgari Midrange. This week
was the opposite of the the eight archetype Top 8 from last week, with six
Golgari Midrange decks flooding the elimination rounds.

So, rather than stopping at the Top 8 I went through the Top 16 where the
following archetypes appeared:

-Golgari Midrange

-Mono-White Aggro

-Jeskai Control

-Boros Aggro and the similar Treasure Red

-Selesnya Tokens

What did I like and dislike about the many variations of each archetype?

Golgari Likes

I’m going to cover all the approximately eight million Golgari decks in
bulk rather than going through each list and arguing about the number of
Seekers’ Squires or whatever.

Okay, not actually eight million. There were six Golgari decks in the Top 8
of the Magic Online PTQ, and another six in the rest of the Top 32.

While I did say in
What We’d Play last week
I was all about Golgari Midrange, after getting a chance to watch VS Live!
last week I had doubts. Todd Anderson dismantled Brad Nelson with

Selesnya Tokens, and it felt like Golgari was hard pressed to cover all
their angles.

The first thing I loved about this list is Doom Whisperer as a way to just
solo a game against Tokens. The old Golgari lists had to win with some
stupid grindy plan against a deck with Adanto, the First Fort, Arch of
Orzaca, and eventually they slam of a giant March of the Multitudes. Doom
Whisperer just kills them. Selesnya has four Conclave Tribunal and that’s
it. You can surveil into an Assassin’s Trophy for their enchantment if they
gun for Doom Whisperer, at which point you are just back to square one.

In mirrors, I’m unsure what actually beats Izoni, Thousand-Eyed. Maybe they
catch you short on explore creatures with an empty graveyard, but what were
you doing the whole game then?

Izoni is also fine insurance against March of the Multitudes. They have a
lot of tools to go over the top of it, but that setup period gives you time
to dig with Izoni into the next thing and up the ante.

Not playing Llanowar Elves in your planeswalkers and Jadelight Ranger deck
blows my mind. That is all.

Speaking of ways to break a March of the Multitudes pump setup, Finality
does a nice job of it. Find is also just a great card, recurring two spells
for two mana. Then those spells are explore creatures that find more

I have no clue how control beats this deck without resolving Teferi, Hero
of Dominaria. And then having it not die to any removal spell they were
saving for that exact scenario.

Duress has to be the best answer to Selesnya Tokens in the format. Their
scary cards are March of the Multitudes and History of Benalia. Rather than
trying to time a Golden Demise properly and sometimes just failing because
Knight tokens tapped to cast Venerated Loxodon, you can take their threat
before it gets into position. Or maybe just their Conclave Tribunal so your
planeswalker is unchecked.

Or my dream scenario: crippling their mana by taking Flower. There are few
Thoughtseizes I love more than the Stone Rain Thoughtseize.

Golgari Dislikes

I have nothing against Seekers’ Squire, but playing more of this card than
Merfolk Branchwalker sounds dumb. One of them has more power. Yeah, a 2/1
Branchwalker dies to Goblin Chainwhirler, but what is that 1/2 doing
against these?

I get the joke. You aren’t playing Llanowar Elves, so you want a black
spell early or something. But your mana is base green, so what are you

Oh, and it’s actively offensive to play Karn, Scion of Urza and not try to
Llanowar Elves it out early here.

I don’t get it. Jadelight Ranger and Merfolk Branchwalker are 3/2s.

Oh, maybe all your Golgari opponents put Seekers’ Squire in their deck.

Or do you need a four-drop to help versus control?

Someone, please explain this.

Jadine Klomparens will have a bunch more to say later this week about the
exact list she worked on with Autumn for their Top 8 finish, but until then
I don’t get Sorcerous Spyglass. Did we forget to register more Assassin’s
Trophy? I’m all about answering the threat once they commit the card to it,
not guessing first.

Mono-White Aggro Likes

You know what’s great against a stack of explore creatures? Not letting
them trigger on entering the battlefield. You know how they want to kill
this hatebear? Ravenous Chupacabra and Golden Demise.

At least you kinda tried, right?

Ignore the Venerated Loxodon anti-synergy. You can play around your own
cards if you want.

Mono-White Aggro Dislikes

Despite undergrowth being the Golgari mechanic, all Remorseful Cleric’s
exile ability actually trades for is half of a Golgari Findbroker. Maybe
once more people pick up Izoni, Thousand-Eyed you can shut off their
six-drop, but honestly that’s just a nail in the coffin of an already lost

I remember testing a Boros Tokens deck last season with Pride of
Conquerors. It turns out the card is just a nonbo with itself. You want to
draw creatures and jam your pump spell, but this isn’t a creature and none
of the options here are Raise the Alarm style effects that really amplify
it. Well, Legion’s Landing is close, but if you are activating Adanto, the
First Fort, something went very well for you.

I like keeping my aggro decks like this at twenty or less lands. 21 is just
reaching this threshold where you aren’t really drawing that many more
spells than the Llanowar Elves decks, so they just have the edge of playing
better cards than you. Llanowar Elves is also a huge issue on this front.
You are just fooling yourself if you think any game involving that card is
one where your one mana 2/1s get under your opponent.

Tom Ross is your role model here. Boss Sligh played eighteen lands for a
reason. Maybe I’m underestimating the quality of the one-drop creatures
here and their ability to trade up, but I have real doubts this deck stands
up to the above average draws of the other top tier decks.

Mono-White Aggro also has the classic mono-color deck sideboard issue. What
the heck are these cards? A four-drop designed to grind someone out in a
deck that has already lost the grind war if it draws a fourth land? A card
that literally only kills Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice and still dies to
Deafening Clarion?

Try harder please.

Jeskai Control Likes

These are just normal human being numbers instead of the nonsense

from the Jeskai deck last week.

Three Sacred Foundry, four Expansion just isn’t okay.

You see, its a combo and you gain life after you kill all the creatures.

Real talk: There just isn’t a ton of lifegain in these decks, and that’s
always an edge that’s nice to have. Especially when some maniacs with
Goblin Chainwhirler will be playing Banefire and you really need the double
digit padding to take an unstoppable Blaze to the face.

What is it your opponent is casting? Who cares? It’s dead or you have the
answer. Few threats escape this removal spread, the most notable being
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice.

Jeskai Control Dislikes

Having an extra slam jam threat in control and midrange matchups is great.
Not having a good idea of which one you want isn’t great.

I have to believe the bad card is Ral, Izzet Viceroy. You already have four
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Do you really want another five-drop
planeswalker? Is there not just a four-drop or something?

Maybe it’s just the next copy or two of Search for Azcanta. Only one copy
is just weird. There aren’t that many Field of Ruins around, and there’s
only so many Assassin’s Trophy they can have for this and all your

Is the problem Vraska, Golgari Queen kills your cheap enchantments? That
almost makes sense, as if you aren’t protecting Search for Azcanta, you can
literally ignore that card exists until it cycles a couple basic lands and
then eats a Teferi -3.

It feels like you want some one-mana removal in the deck. Not a ton or
really not even any maindeck, but just having a way to trip up aggro decks
when you don’t immediately draw one of your Deafening Clarions seems great.
Vorg7’s list from the Top 16 has its head in the right place here with one
Shock maindeck, one Shivan Fire sideboard.

Boros Aggro Likes

We put good cards in our deck, then we take our opponent’s life total and
make it zero. State-based effects then place them in the graveyard.

The sweeper of choice these days is Deafening Clarion. Tajic, Legion’s Edge
is just a clean way to not overextend into it, especially with the drop off
in Shivan Fires.

Nice card people have finally realized just isn’t good. It’s better to just
play cards that do things and Experimental Frenzy.
Give it a week or two more of this and I’ll call this a point on the
[card name="Fact or Fiction"]Fact or Fiction[/card] scoreboard.

Boros Aggro Dislikes

These are not high quality pieces of cardboard. They are the packing
peanuts of a good deck, and you probably should just play relevant cards

Did you really put Ghitu Lavarunner in a deck with ten instants or
sorceries? Seriously, what was your big plan? Squire for one less is still
a bad card.

You are only playing three copies of what might be your best card. You
can’t even make the “I guess they could only afford three” joke because the
fourth is in the sideboard.

If you want to start adding relevant cards to your deck, this might be a
good place to start.

Check out Ra_Po’s 15th place list. It literally just plays the good cards
and some things that might actually be worth a card on their own.

Selesnya Tokens Likes

There literally isn’t anything new going on here. It’s Selesnya Tokens, the
deck that won the SCG Tour’s Columbus Open two weekends ago. There’s a
Benalish Marshal version further down the standings that is basically the
same cards.

Selesnya Tokens Dislikes

Dawn of Hope is slow and lame. It also dies to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
which is a common issue among stupid permanents like this. There has to be
a better way to beat control.

While six of the same deck in the Top 8 of an event is going to make some
people claim the sky is falling and that we should spin the Wheel of Bad
Suggestions, to me it implies Standard is exploitable. Golgari is a good
deck, but it operates on a finite axis of card advantage and random
creatures. We can do more.

Can I suggest Emma Handy’s article from two weeks ago for some inspiration?
There’s a lot of fun stuff waiting to happen.