Quite the week we’ve had in Magic! On top of a new set, we’ve just had four
cards banned from Standard! In general, though I believe this was a
positive change to Standard. The format is now fresh again with a ton of
new options, thanks to Rivals of Ixalan. This means there’s a ton
of room to brew and almost everything is viable. However, some of us are
preparing for #SCGDAL this weekend, and I assume many teams’ top priority
are to make sure they bring a good Standard deck.
I’ll be teaming up with my friends and Lotus Box teammates Zan Syed and
Korey McDuffie. I’m excited to say I’ll be in the Legacy seat, Korey will
be playing Modern, and Zan has the challenging task of tackling Standard.
With us having close to no Standard data to go by, a lot of us will be
taking a stab in the dark. Many people will just be bringing their pet deck
from the previous season and maybe adding a new card or two. Some people
will bring completely new brews to fill with Rivals of Ixalan
cards. Historically, proactive strategies are the best performing decks on
release weekend. This leads me to our teams’ current top deck of choice and
a personal favorite of mine: Mardu Vehicles.
- 2 Pia Nalaar
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 Veteran Motorist
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
Mardu is a deck that is near and dear to my heart. Despite only having a
brief love affair with the deck over the summer, it managed to carry me to
Pro Tour Hour of Devastation in Kyoto. I’m thrilled to be revisiting the
deck after playing Energy since September. I always thought the deck looked
like a worse Mono-Red deck this past season, but that is no longer the
case! In fact, I just watched Brennan DeCandio get his face kicked in by
Zan on stream with Mardu, playing for the trophy!
Since the previous rotation, Mardu Vehicles has taken a bit more of an
aggressive stance with the additions of Bomat Courier and Hazoret the
Fervent. This was a boon on the archetype last season because it was hard
to push through the threats of Temur Energy. With Energy gone and Mono-Red
weakened significantly, I would expect this deck to be the premier aggro
deck and one of the best decks to come out of this weekend.
First off, it’s proactive, which we know is a good recipe for success week
one. Second, it’s resilient unlike some of the other aggro decks. Fumigate
has been the bane of the green-based midrange decks in Standard for quite
some time despite having powerful creatures with packed in card advantage.
Temur and Sultai Energy, as an example, were strategies that have struggled
with Fumigate significantly, especially in game 1s. Mardu Vehicles has a
lot more staying power and resilience to sweepers because of Scrapheap
Scrounger, Hazoret, and Heart of Kiran. Lastly, my absolute favorite part
about the deck is its ability to adapt and switch roles. I’m the type of
player who’s always looking for my deck to be as flexible as possible so I
can adapt to all kinds of situations. Mardu Vehicles’ ability to turn into
a midrange-control type deck gives you a lot of room to keep people
guessing. My favorite games with this deck are the ones where you play a
planeswalker or two and a sweeper while your opponent rots with Fatal
Pushes and Naturalizes in hand.
Speaking of which, Angrath, the Flame-Chained is a new addition that has
been an absolute house. Versus control it’s essentially an expensive
Liliana of the Veil that also pressures their life total while also being a
great way swing a game in a midrange fight. Here’s hoping that our read on
Mardu Vehicles is correct. Hopefully it helps carry us to victory this
The second deck that has caught my eye is Grixis Midrange.
- 2 Torrential Gearhulk
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 3 Glorybringer
- 2 The Scarab God
- 2 Ravenous Chupacabra
This list is basically just Brennan DeCandio’s most recent list. I only
mildly tweaked the sideboard as I find it inconceivable why anyone would
want to put Dreamstealer in their deck. I added some Glimmer of Genius in
the sideboard as it plays well with the deck’s play patterns, especially
post-sideboard. On top of that, it’s just a good card to cast with your
Torrential Gearhulks which basically only have removal to Flashback. To be
honest, I just want them main deck, but I’m not confident what to cut right
The deck looks like it has the tools to compete with just about everything.
You have good creatures, the best removal in the format, sources of card
advantage, and the best top end you can get in Standard. This deck will
likely be very solid against the creature decks of the format – Mardu
Vehicles, B/G Constrictor, and various flavors of Merfolk – but will likely
struggle with the decks going over the top of it, like U/W Approach and
God-Pharaoh’s Gift, especially pre-sideboard. Grixis Midrange is pretty
much a dumbed down Temur Energy deck, but that isn’t a bad thing because
that means you’ll have game against everyone. I’d expect this to be a
relatively popular choice in Dallas, as it’s an easy transition for people
who were playing Energy decks in the past. It’s also just the classic
Jund-style midrange deck so many players (including myself) gravitate
The next deck up that’s at the top of my list is B/G Constrictor.
- 4 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 3 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Ravenous Chupacabra
There are a ton of different ways to build this archetype. In fact, fellow
SCG writers Ross Merriam and Jadine Klomparens wrote full in-depth articles
all about B/G Constrictor and its different iterations (Ross’ is
and Jadine’s is
). This list however is one that 5-0’d in the hands of Nathan Steuer. For
those of you who don’t know, Nathan is a young kid who has been grinding
tournaments lately and shows a lot of promise. To no surprise, his list
looks clean and well thought out.
Having a tiny bit of an energy subtheme with cards like Glint-Sleeve
Siphoner and Aethersphere Harvester is a great way to make your Winding
Constrictors more impactful. B/G Constrictor is a deck that has always been
lurking underneath the top tier of Standard since the release of Kaladesh. Whether it’s been broken combos like Aetherworks Marvel
or Felidar Guardian, or just the powerful energy threats, B/G has always
been kept in check. Historically the deck has been able to prey on smaller
aggro decks, such as Mono-Red or Mardu Vehicles, but like the other green
midrange decks of the format, the deck struggles to beat decks like U/W
Approach and God-Pharaoh’s Gift.
I think B/G Constrictor will have a decent representation this weekend
partially because it is so easily ported over from last format. I expect it
to put up some results, but by no means take the event by storm. B/G
Constrictor has been medium in the past, and while I do think it has gotten
better I don’t think it’ll be the format’s premier deck by any means.
The next deck on my list is Esper Approach. The 75 I’m providing to you is
based mostly off katoriarich123’s recent Magic Online list, which he has
two 5-0s posted with, with the addition of some new cards.
- 2 Fumigate
- 4 Glimmer of Genius
- 3 Disallow
- 2 Fatal Push
- 2 Cast Out
- 3 Approach of the Second Sun
- 4 Censor
- 2 Supreme Will
- 1 Vraska's Contempt
- 4 Settle the Wreckage
- 2 Search for Azcanta
- 2 Azor's Gateway
- 1 Baffling End
Even though I’ve been pushing for aggressive decks week one, this doesn’t
mean control should be forgotten. Approach has proved itself as a
sustainable archetype in Standard. While being reactive can be a dangerous
thing to employ in such an open field, at least any Approach deck gives you
some easy “oops I win” draws with its namesake card.
Azor’s Gateway is a nice new addition that filters your draws, gains you
life, and ramps you into your big plays. Baffling End is another nice new
addition that this deck gains a bit from.
Esper Approach was already in the market for some more cheap removal,
something the straight U/W variants have struggled with. In fact, if I
we’re going straight two colors, I’d seriously consider up to three or four
copies of Baffling End. Because of the instant speed and the ability to
Torrential Gearhulk it back, Fatal Push gets the nod as our removal spell
of choice in the Esper build. However, I do believe Baffling End to be a
great addition to Standard since it kills basically every early game threat
and there isn’t a ton of enchantment removal.
I also think that since Standard has been on such a heavy decline recently,
you’ll be able to catch a lot of people off guard with the creature-heavy
sideboard plan. Alex Lloyd, as an example, proved this to be a route to
success when he won GP Atlanta a few months ago.
The last deck on my Standard short list is…
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
I know it might come to some surprise that I’m posting this, and I’m sure
most of you we’re hoping that this archetype was dead and to never see
Longtusk Cub rear its ugly head again. But I do think Temur Energy is alive
and well, and honestly, looks quite good. The deck lost some consistency
and card advantage due to the bans, but Jadelight Ranger is a nice
substitute for Rogue Refiner as a new value three-drop and might keep the
deck alive all by itself. Though Attune with Aether isn’t replaceable,
Temur Energy still looks like it has all the tools to beat everything and
in my opinion, will still be one of the format’s top decks.
Those are my top choices for Standard this weekend for SCG Dallas, and I’m
close to certain our team will end up on one of these decks. My honorable
mentions to this list would be Esper God-Pharaoh’s Gift, and potentially,
U/G Merfolk, as its already posted some 5-0s on Magic Online. However, it
wouldn’t surprise me if a handful of other new archetypes rose to the top.
Finally, I’d like to leave you with my top 3 choices in each format for SCG
I already went fully in depth on why I like each of these archetypes. They
all are similar because they are all proactive while also being flexible
with their gameplans. On top of that, they are also proven strategies that
have seen successful in Standard’s past. I don’t think you’ll regret
playing any of these three decks.
U/R Gifts Storm
Ari Lax wrote
a great piece earlier this week
highlighting the strength of Affinity in team events, and I agree with him.
The reason why the deck is better in team events is because the games you
get hated out on, you can still rely on your teammates to win the match.
Also, there are certainly going to be a good percentage of games where you
just roll peoples’ faces in. U/R Gifts Storm is second on my list, as I
think it’s just the format’s best deck in a vacuum. The deck has proven
itself to be fast, consistent, and resilient, and if you have a strong
Storm pilot in your team’s arsenal, I’d highly advise they play it. Last is
my pet deck in Grixis Death’s Shadow. While some might argue this is the
format’s best deck, I think it requires a pretty high ceiling to play. The
deck is extremely punishing and there is not a lot of wiggle room, but if
you have a strong Grixis Death’s Shadow player on your squad, like myself,
it’s perhaps the best deck you can have in your Modern seat.
Sneak and Show
While Legacy has sort of become an arms race of “Who can Deathrite Shaman
better?” I still think there are plenty of good options. Grixis Delver will
almost certainly be my weapon of choice as I’m quite accustomed to it, and
I believe it to be the best deck, but Lands has continued over and over to
prove itself as a strong competitor and typically shows up in high numbers
at these team SCG events. A lot of the top teams will have strong Legacy
players like Jody Keith and Kevin King who have been playing the archetype
for years. The last deck on the list is an old favorite in Sneak and Show.
The reason why I like Sneak and Show right now is it has good matchups
versus both Lands and Four-Color Leovold, two of the format’s most popular
decks. It has also proven time and time again that it has the tools to play
a close match with Delver of Secrets strategies. This would be the deck I’d
select if I were a combo player.
Hopefully this article was insightful and helps narrow down your deck
selections for the upcoming team events. I’m quite optimistic about
Standard’s development and look forward to putting more focus on a fresh