The 10 Ways You’re Losing In Standard And What You Can Do About It

Is anyone better at no nonsense information than Ari Lax? He’s got all the data and testing in the world to show that these are the reasons people are throwing away Standard wins!

There has been a lot of praise for Guilds of Ravnica Standard
finding a balance between threats and answers that has been more than a
little off the last couple of years.

People aren’t wrong. There aren’t weird mixes of unkillable and card
advantage and stability or closing speed. The Scarab God and the plane of
Kaladesh are gone, and everyone is better off for it.

But the threats are still good. We get low cost, high power creatures that
cantrip, many removal plus card advantage planeswalkers, and a bunch of
resilient attackers.

There are a fair number of them that qualify as something more important
than the rest. These ten threats from the top decks are the ones that will
shred through imprecise decklists without a second thought and define the
answers people are forced to play today.

Golgari Midrange

#1- Golgari Findbroker

More than any other card in Golgari Midrange, you are going to lose to
Golgari Findbroker.

You can stifle their first wave of half-cantrip explore threats, but
Golgari Findbroker can rebuild an army and avoid Deafening Clarion. You can
battle down a planeswalker, but Golgari Findbroker brings it back for
another round. If you just trade cards, Golgari Findbroker will chain with
other copies of itself or loop with Memorial to Folly and bury you.

The key to beating Golgari Findbroker is not putting Golgari’s cards in
their graveyard. Fly over their blockers and clock them or Lava Coil their
early threats.

Some decks can cast something that goes far above the two-for-one Golgari
plan, but beyond Expansion and March of the Multitudes the next best way to
do that brings you down to Pelakka Wurm. Even Carnage Tyrant can get
blocked down by a Findbroker and whatever it recurs.

#2 – Carnage Tyrant

The other threat Golgari will bury you with is Carnage Tyrant. If you can’t
kill Carnage Tyrant, it will kill you. Or again, you can just fly over and
kill them.

Blocking Carnage Tyrant down is a reasonable plan, but one often upset by
Finality sweeping away your doofuses. Or just making their Carnage Tyrant a
9/8 to bowl over your 7/6 Tyrant. If you plan on this, make sure you have
more blockers in hand and life to take a hit. Golgari Findbroker is often
instrumental in this.

Vivien Reid might seem like a card that belongs here, but she is a
replaceable planeswalker. The only games she runs away with are when she is
used as an answer, killing a Enigma Drake and threatening to still be a
planeswalker with a +1 ability.

Vraska, Relic Seeker is in a similar boat, and I assure you the Pirate ship
pun is unintentional. Vraska is unbeatable in closer games, but they need
to be near stable for it to matter. For a six-drop that’s a lot to ask.
Carnage Tyrant can turn a game around just killing them, and is harder to
stop if Golgari is being held to nothing by control.

Izzet Phoenix

#3 – Crackling Drake

Crackling Drake represents the Izzet Drakes play style that will bury you,
and Arclight Phoenix is only a bit behind it in that aspect

Izzet Drakes is only a really good fast deck when it gets lucky with
multiple Arclight Phoenix and discard outlets. What Crackling Drake really
represents is a scaling, assured end game.

On turn four Crackling Drake is a fine play. If it lives it is likely a 4/4
flier that is a reasonable clock. If it dies you aren’t down a card.
Arclight Phoenix is the same, as it just comes back.

On turn fourteen, Crackling Drake is going to one shot your opponent.
Possibly immediately with Maximize Velocity. Arclight Phoenix is going to
come back with a friend. And your heavy load of cantrips means it is really
hard for you to run out of steam.

This is similar to the role Golgari Findbroker plays and the routes around
it are similar. Kill their stuff or kill them. Both of these are a bit
easier than against Golgari due to the lack of lowball explore threats, so
four Lava Coil and some other removal can carry on the kill creatures front
and one or two ways to clear a blocker carried on the kill them front.

You also don’t need to exile everything as only Arclight Phoenix recurs
itself, and enchantments that exile won’t just get eaten by a planeswalker
against Izzet. Blue and red aren’t known for their ability to destroy a
Conclave Tribunal.

But if you half and half it, you are going to die. All the Izzet threats
hit hard and can’t be bricked in a stall like the Golgari explore
creatures. A deck like Selesnya Tokens has to race, and even if a Lyra
Dawnbringer shows up a twice cast Maximze Velocity or Beacon Bolt breaks
through it. I would not want to play Brad’s Boros Angels deck against Steam

Boros Mishmash

The Boros and red decks all lean on a similar set of haymaker threats to
break games, despite a wide range of how they are presented. Mono-Red Aggro
is approximately one sideboard away from Treasure Red, which is basically
the same deck as Boros Angels these days.

#4 – Rekindling Phoenix

The biggest one is Rekindling Phoenix.

There’s really no way around a Rekindling Phoenix on the battlefield.
Attacking through it doesn’t work. It kills you if you leave it. You have
to exile it.

If Grand Prix New Jersey was a week ago, I think we would have seen a
massive number of Rekindling Phoenix in the Top 8. As is, only two players
made the cut, including our own Brad Nelson. All the Golgari players have
Vraska’s Contempt. All the Jeskai players have Seal Away. All the Izzet
players have Lava Coil. There are not nearly as many Lightning Strikes,
Justice Strikes, or Cast Downs.

#5 – Adanto Vanguard

The other similar threat is Adanto Vanguard. There was a period earlier
this week where Adanto Vanguard was literally unkillable on Magic Online. I
swear it wasn’t a bug, people just didn’t put cards in their deck. Everyone
just had Lava Coil and assumed that was enough. Eli Kassis’s Seal Aways are
a key development in the format.

#6 – Experimental Frenzy

The last piece of any of these puzzles is Experimental Frenzy. Andrew
Tenjum even opted to play this card in Boros Angels, or rather Treasure
Boros? Experimental Frenzy isn’t difficult to figure out. If it hangs out,
something drastic has to happen for the player with it to lose.

Looping back to Seal Away, Disenchant effects are about to come back into
vogue. Mono-Red won Grand Prix Lille because Frenzy was a reasonable solo
threat that was hard to kill with a card good against the Mono-Red main
plan. The shift from Vraska, Relic Seeker to Carnage Tyrant gave Frenzy a
small window of less contested greatness, but that might be short-lived.

Tokens Strategies

#7 – The Pump Spell

March of the Multitudes isn’t really what kills you. When it gets cast
around turn 6 it doesn’t actually go bigger than an opposing six-drop. It’s
the pump spell that leverages the tokens that does it. Same thing with
History of Benalia, Legion’s Landing, and all the other small but wide
plays out of Selesnya Tokens and White Weenie strategies.

Beating this is counterintuitive in multiple ways. You would think sweepers
are great, but even if Deafening Clarion and Ritual of Soot destroy their
tokens, they are sorceries. Sitting on sorcery sweepers isn’t great because
instant March of the Multitudes (or the less common Heroic Reinforcements)
bash through.

The key to beating this is forcing exchanges early to keep their
battlefield small. This is a bit weird as trading for tokens is often card
disadvantage, but if you trade while they are small the tokens don’t trade
well for most of the other good cards. Sweepers should be leveraged as
Plague Winds, where Fiery Cannonade is followed by a Crackling Drake

Or just kill them with fliers. See Crackling Drake and Rekindling Phoenix.

#8 – The Immortal Sun

The Immortal Sun is a weird one, but its success centers on one fact. I
mentioned Experimental Frenzy promoting Disenchants, but the cards I’ve
mentioned that do that are Vivien Reid and Vraska, Relic Seeker. The
Immortal Sun bashes people because many planeswalkers are convenient ways
to handle artifacts and enchantments, and that means their other spells

You can up your Assassin’s Trophy count, or move towards Thrashing
Brontodon, but there’s a simpler answer. The Immortal Sun is a stupid
six-drop with almost no immediate impact and honestly little assured impact
the next turn, so you can just kill them first.

The answer to both tokens threats is bashing your opponent before they do

Side note: Zac beat the crap out of me early in this Grand Prix with
Squire’s Devotion. His logic for it made a ton of sense: It’s like a Lyra
Dawnbringer that hits them before they can Fight with Fire it. It might not
make this list of top threats, but it was definitely a threat I lost to.

Jeskai Control

#9 – Nothing

The Jeskai decks don’t have a threat that will bash you. That’s the joke.

These aren’t the Teferi, Hero of Dominaria decks of last season. That card
is in them, but it is fragile. The real way they win is “eventually.”
Eventually, you run out of stuff or they randomly have a bunch of mana and
cast Explosion. Who cares. Control wins, you lose.

Control is beat by proper leverage of the other threats. Look at their
answers and build around it.

The closest thing to a single unifying action they take towards this goal
is casting Deafening Clarion. Being able to clear out a battlefield a turn
under the bigger threats means Jeskai Control just gets to its idea state
of exchanging their cards and turns for yours without giving you a good
opening to slam something that matters.

In case this wasn’t clear, the “real threats” to control in this format
largely start at the five mana planeswalkers. There isn’t a Chandra, Torch
of Defiance or Glint-Sleeve Siphoner to bury them early. That is why Adanto
Vanguard and the response of Seal Away were so key. Vanguard was the
Scrapheap Scrounger people needed for a brief moment.

Mono-Blue Aggro

#10 – Curious Obsession

If another crack was appearing in the metagame, Mono-Blue Aggro was the way
to wedge it open.

Mono-Blue Aggro is an offensively underpowered deck, except when it draws
Curious Obsession. Then it has an engine, and bad card beatdown can run
away with a game.

Curious Obsession alone wouldn’t do it, but Obsession comes with a backing
of Spell Pierce, Siren Stormtamer, and Wizard’s Retort. Most of the removal
spells I’ve cited as good against the other threats are sorceries. You
spend your mana, they counter, then they untap and it happens again. A
Justice Strike goes a long way in breaking that parity, but few decks
playing that or Shock are removal dense enough to fire back to back

Again, Seal Away is the answer we need. It covers the flash requirement
here, it covers the exile requirement against Adanto Vanguard and
Rekindling Phoenix. It just does it all.

The Rest

This is not an exhaustive list of every interesting and powerful card in
Standard. There are plenty more waiting in the wings.

If you aren’t interested in changing ten cards in your Golgari deck to
fight control and Angels next week, look at the list of answers I gave.
Find the next The Immortal Sun that dodges them.