Magic Candy #2! Top 5 Standard Decks You Should Be Playing In The Next Couple Weeks!

If you’re playing in a PTQ this weekend or the StarCityGames.com Open in Indianapolis, featuring the Invitational, check out what Player of the Year Brad Nelson thinks are the top 5 decks in the ring right now.

We are two weeks into New Phyrexia Standard, and there is a lot to be discussed. Twitter has been on fire this past week; players are saying that
Standard hasn’t changed at all and that something needs to be banned from Caw-Blade lest the format be dominated by the deck for the next four months.
I don’t really see it this way.

Let’s take a close look at the top five decks in the format, and that will help me illustrate my point.


Number 1 Caw-Blade

I first noted Edgar Flores when he Top 8ed a StarCityGames.com Open but disregarded it as just another name. Then he Top 8ed another and another and
another until he made it to Level 8 of the StarCityGames.com Open Player’s Club—solidifying himself as one of the top SCG Pros.

I have yet to see Edgar play a match, and I hadn’t seen his deckbuilding skills in action until very recently, but I think it’s safe to
assume that this kid will break out on the Pro Tour very soon, since it seems like just a matter of time before he takes down a PTQ.

Edgar seems to have the ability to figure out a format and to know what tools he needs to win events. This decklist is proof of that as well as his
ability to develop decks. He’s a true developer, during one of the greatest times for such a style of player.

The thing about Standard right now is that it is not imagination that is driving the format.

The Pro Tour and Grand Prix circuit have always been about breaking formats. Being creative is a very important skill in such events.

The biggest pros play around 15-20 major events a year. When they’re not playing those events, they’re working on decks for the next event, whether at
home or at a friend’s. They spend weeks figuring out the best deck to play and trying to break the format.

Pro Magic players also supply the world with competitive decklists. This is the reason why the Pro Tour was created. It gives Magic players not only
the incentive to get good and play in tournaments, but to create decklists for the rest of the player base.

StarCityGames.com has recently helped build a new generation of pro players. The SCG Open Series awards money and points to players who want yet
another opportunity to live like a pro, and about eight people are doing so, attending all the events and living off of Magic. These players attend
events every week instead of every month. And instead of grinding out games in front of a computer, they do it in the tournament halls.

The SCG Pros also help influence the decks people are playing and how formats are perceived. However, the difference between these pros and the PT Pros
is that they aren’t given vacation time to break formats. They have to play week in and week out, so they have to find a great deck and constantly get
better with it.

It doesn’t help that before New Phyrexia, Caw-Blade was by far the best deck in the format. I don’t think I have ever seen a deck dominate as much as
it did, but I also believe that its dominance was not perfectly understood and that the StarCityGames.com Opens had something to do with it. Grand Prix
Dallas told a different story because the best players in the game had weeks to find the holes in Caw-Blade and had the skills to put up a fight.

I do think that Caw-Blade is still the best deck, since I have it as number one, but it isn’t the rock it used to be. The only reason we’re seeing
Caw-Blade and Darkblade take over the most recent SCG events is because these SCG Pros are still grinding and still playing the deck that will give
them the best results. They’re all very proficient with the deck and know its ins and outs.

When New Phyrexia came out, were the SCG Pros supposed to abandon the deck that they knew would give them the best chance at winning and invent
something new and untested? No, of course they’d just play the same deck. This allowed them to prey on people trying out new, untuned creations as well
as outplay their opponents. It was the best week to be playing last format’s bogeyman (see Jund).

So back to Edgar Flores and his list. I really like this decklist, and I think this is what Caw-Blade is going to look like for the next couple weeks.
New decks are slowly going to creep into the format, and this deck was built to be able to beat them.

Into the Roil and Mana Leak are both great at beating unknown threats and strategies. This list seems prepared for at least one or two random matchups
per tournament, probably one of the major reasons Edgar had back-to-back finals appearances in the last two weeks.

I also feel that Valakut might be on the rise with so many Darkblade variants running around, so having a decent number of counterspells provides a
good shot of mopping up that side of the metagame.

Number 2 Splinter Twin

Finding out that a tournament was won by something other than Caw-Blade was the best feeling I’ve had in a long time. Don’t get me wrong; I love
Caw-Blade, but it was very refreshing to see the format shaken up—by none other than Mike Flores too! Double win!

I was confused, however, when I saw his sideboard. Please explain that to me next time I see you, sir!

Flores is one-hundred percent correct when he says that the combo of Deceiver Exarch and Splinter Twin is the most powerful thing you can do in
Standard. Two-card combos have always been very powerful, but Exarch/Twin is just perfect for this environment.

Standard is a format that is very proactive right now. Players must develop their board faster than their opponents can, or else. Excepting Exarch/Twin
decks, every deck wants to tap out every turn because of how powerful Jace, the Mind Sculptor can be, which is exactly what this combo wants their
opponent to do.

The best version of this deck has yet to be discovered, but even though the kinks haven’t been worked out, this deck is still powerful. I look forward
to really working on this deck. I think it will become a big contender and soon take over as the best deck in the format.

Number 3 Darkblade

When Gerry talks, we all listen. He brewed up what he thought was the best deck in the format for Orlando, and almost everyone who was anyone followed
suit—basically everyone minus Edgar Flores.

Gerry knows a ton more about Standard right now than I do, so it scares me to say this, but I think this deck is much worse than regular Caw-Blade.
However, it’s still a great choice because of how powerful both of these decks are.

The reason that Caw-Blade variants are so good is that they’re flexible and consistent. The deck can play lots of lands because it’s almost impossible
to get flooded. Stoneforge Mystic, Squadron Hawk, Jace, the Mind Sculptor, and all of the lands with activated abilities can make use of extra lands.
Thus, the deck runs enough lands to rarely get mana-screwed and easily finds ways to prevent flooding.

This kind of consistency is rarely found in Magic. Pilots often win or lose based on their ability to cast spells, but Caw-Blade beats this rule.
That’s why I don’t understand the reason behind sacrificing consistency for power.

Darkblade may be more powerful than Caw-Blade in the early turns, but it can also screw itself more often as well. One problem is not having Tectonic
Edge. This card really helps the better player win the mirror match. Casting hand disruption into a Stoneforge Mystic is a very strong play. I’m just
not sure I want to give up Tectonic Edge for the opportunity.

I am curious whether Mental Misstep will help Caw-Blade take away Darkblade’s edge and kill off the variant again, as it did months ago.

Number 4 Vampires

It’s funny that this deck didn’t break the top ten in my last Magic Candy article, but now it’s
number four. The reason is that a lot of the problem cards for this archetype are no longer around.

Vampires’ worst enemy: Primeval Titan

Valakut was a very big problem for Vampires but is not a popular choice these days. This makes Vampires a bit stronger even though it hasn’t changed
much since Worlds last year.

Vampires’ second-worst enemy: Gideon Jura

Seriously, where did this guy go? The promo video for Magic 2012 was poorly timed, since I think Nicol Bolas did in fact kill him. It didn’t matter how
many friends he gathered up; he’s not coming to the party.

Caw-Blade used to have a ton of answers for this deck built into it. Sword of Feast and Famine already gave the deck a way to punch through damage, and
Mortarpod was a great answer to the most of its threats. Caw-Blade used to have more removal as well. Into the Roil may be a great way to defeat the
mirror but does a terrible job at keeping the bloodsuckers at bay.

None of this even comes close to how effective Gideon Jura was. This is the card that would stop Vampires time and time again and would swing the
matchup the most.

With not that many people playing Gideon Jura, Vampires becomes a very real threat against the Caw-Blade opponents. Lightning Bolt can pick off a stray
Stoneforge Mystic before the dreaded Batterskull hits the board, but the deck still has a ton of answers for the Equipment if it does hit the table.

Not many decks are ready for a creature swarm these days which makes Vampires a great deck to be battling with. This might not last for long. Just
until Caw-Blade numbers start dropping and more Exarch/Twin decks take over the format. Take advantage of Caw-Blade players beating on mirror matches
while you still can.

Number 5 Valakut

4 Primeval Titans

4 Overgrown Battlements

3 Inferno Titans

4…….…….We all know the decklist by now, and there isn’t anything special to
add to it except for maindeck Tumble Magnets or Nature’s Claim. I think Nature’s Claim is better at stopping what you want to stop, but Tumble Magnets
are better against all the other decks.

It may seem strange that I put Valakut so high on my list, but I think that it has a chance to make a serious impact on the format because of all the
Caw-Blade wars taking place. Caw-Blade players are skimping on hate for this deck so that they can gain an edge in the mirror matches and against the
Exarch combo decks.

Valakut is a high-variance deck with high-variance matchups. I don’t think this is the deck you want to play if you think you are better than the
average player in your tournament, but it’s something you should play if you think you need to run hot to win. Trust me; I have gone into a tournament
with that mentality before and succeeded (see Grand Prix Columbus).

These are the top five decks of the format in my eyes. I know there are plenty of other decks out there like RUG Twin and Tezzeret brews, but I
don’t think that those decks are strong enough to compete with what is happening on top. This does not mean these decks are not going to be
contenders. Creativity beats out the grind if people work hard enough at it.

I have only put a small amount of work into this format and have not discovered anything yet. Most of my creative energy is going into Block
Constructed. All I know is daddy needs another Top 8!

Brad Nelson