The Battle For Zendikar Standard Compendium

Two-time Pro Tour Finalist Shaun McLaren tells you the cards that beat each Standard deck, the decks to avoid if you’re expecting a certain metagame, and everything in between for #SCGDFW’s $5,000 Premier IQ!

What’s the best deck in Standard?

There is a theory which states that if ever anyone discovers exactly what the best deck is, Standard will instantly disappear and be replaced by something
even more bizarre and inexplicable. There is another theory, which states that this has already happened and that’s how Modern was created.

But seriously, what’s the best deck in Standard? This is the classic question. Yet the answer is always changing. As soon as it’s answered, a new deck will
appear to dethrone the champion.

Unless you played while Caw-Blade was a deck…

Perhaps that is truly how it is meant to be and what makes a good Standard format. Having a deep enough card pool and diverse enough strategies that the
absolute best deck can change from week to week while still providing a bunch of dependable options.

Maybe the lesson is that there is no ultimate answer and that joy can be found in the journey of discovery. Perhaps people who say this don’t realize that
winning is the only thing that matters. Perhaps if you’ve played a deck without Mantis Rider or Siege Rhino in the past year, more often than not, you’ve
made a mistake.

Yet Standard still manages to feel new despite the conspicuous colorful Khans creatures consistently crushing cooler cards. There are plenty of
strategies to choose from and they all feel viable, most of them are durable, and yet there is still plenty of room for innovation. Today I’ll take a look
at a broad overview of the format and how the strategies perform against one another. What works against what and so on.

Here’s what we’ve got so far and how to beat it:

“You must be this fast to ride the Standard.”

Atarka Red defines Standard by being the guard dog keeping the rest of the decks in check. Do you have a reasonable matchup against Atarka Red? This is the
first test for any new brew because Atarka Red is:

Fast. It has powerful hasty one-drops that hit hard in the earlygame and the lategame. It has a very low curve and can function on 2-3

Focused and consistent. It’s going to curve out smoothly more often than opposing decks can curve out smoothly and stop them. Most of
its cards are somewhat redundant and all work towards the same goal: get the opponent dead.

Surprisingly resilient. Abbot of Keral Keep provides fuel in the lategame. Its token generators are good against most types of removal
being played and, when combined with Atarka’s Command, can push through a lot of damage. Atarka’s Command is easily one of the most powerful and scariest
cards in Standard.

How To Beat Atarka Red

Easier said than done. I think Atarka Red is very good, and it requires heavy pushback from the rest of the format to keep it in check. As long as the rest
of the format has it in their sights, it won’t quite be able to keep up, but as soon as other strategies start getting slow and packing weight onto the top
part of their curves while shaving sideboard slots, Atarka Red will punish them.

Good Cards Against Atarka Red

Radiant Flames Surge of Righteousness Languish Dromoka's Command

Hangarback Walker Stasis Snare Virulent Plague Siege Rhino Duress

When Should You Play Atarka Red?

Whenever it didn’t win a major tournament last week. Now would be a good time, right after it didn’t Top 8 in GP Quebec City. If you aren’t sure you’ve got
a winner or a nicely tuned deck, then picking up Atarka Red isn’t a bad choice.

Casting Become Immense expanded Monastery Swiftspear’s power seven sizes that day.

Ari wrote in depth about R/G Landfall
if you’re looking for a thorough rundown. I consider this a combo deck as much as it’s an aggro deck. It embraces the Become Immense and

Temur Battle Rage plan fully. I’ve had this deck do absolutely nothing against me the first four turns and then play Monastery Swiftspear, Titan’s
Strength, Temur Battle Rage, and Become Immense to immediately kill me. Just knowing what the deck is capable of is important.

That does lead to issues though. Often you’ll play around the instant death combo while they chip away at your life total and don’t even have it, and you
slowly get into a losing position by playing too carefully.

How To Beat R/G Landfall

Know what you’re up against and be have lots of spot removal. Respect Outpost Siege if you’re playing against any Red Aggro deck. If you’re playing Dig
Through Time and Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy, having at least one way to deal with it after sideboard can be a lifesaver.

Good Cards Against R/G Landfall

Wild Slash Fiery Impulse Ultimate Price Murderous Cut Crackling Doom Stasis Snare

When Should You Play R/G Landfall?

Whenever Jeskai Black isn’t being played too much and instant-speed removal in general isn’t too prevalent.

It’s aggro. It’s control. It does it all.

The games where you have an early unanswered Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy or Mantis Rider you’ll feel ahead the entire game. Every threat must be immediately
killed or the game will start to snowball out of control.

Jeskai Black, first of all, has a chance to win with an early Mantis Rider but is very flexible. Most games will go long and you’ll have to win by eking
out value. Jeskai is very customizable and has a lot of power built into its best cards. It will remain one of the top decks for its entire lifespan and
will basically only fail completely when it isn’t tuned to beat the right metagame.

How To Beat Jeskai Black

Dedicated aggro and control strategies tend to overwhelm Jeskai Black. You want to be attacking it in a way it isn’t capable of answering, which means
being one step ahead of how Jeskai Black decks are currently being built. Also having early answers to Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy and Mantis Rider are a must.

Good Cards Against Jeskai Black

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar Mastery of the Unseen Silkwrap Rending Volley Hordeling Outburst Dragon Fodder

When Should You Play Jeskai Black?

Whenever you have the time to test it, tune it, and feel like you know where the metagame is headed. It’s rare anyone wants to see their opponent casting a
Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy on turn 2 or a Mantis Rider on turn 3.

Interesting to note that Abzan Control is about as dead as a doornail. Not that I’m entirely sure what a doornail is or whether one can actually be
considered dead. Elspeth, Sun’s Champion appeared to be the linchpin (or doornail) that held the deck together.

Abzan will absolutely tear through anything trying to get to fancy. It is just a solid brick of efficient power. It can be a little clunky in the earlygame
and can suffer from flood in the lategame. Shambling Vent bridges the gap and allows the deck to run a healthy land count to prevent screw while still
letting it have a reasonable mana sink in the lategame.

How To Beat Abzan

I think in the eternal conflict between Abzan and Jeskai, Jeskai is actually slightly on the winning side at the moment (despite what the finals of the
last two Pro Tours they’ve battled in may indicate).

When Should You Play Abzan?

Whenever the format is getting too fancy. As more strategies emerge and try to target one another, Abzan is just going to continue being solid and doing
its thing.

There are a lot of different base G/W decks. The two basic ends of the spectrum are a more controlling Bant Tokens deck made by Sam Blackor a
more aggressive Megamorph style championed by Michael Majors.
White is the most prevalent and likely the best color in Standard. G/W is consistent, proactive, and has some of the best value planeswalkers in Gideon,
Ally of Zendikar and Nissa, Vastwood Seer.

How To Beat G/W Decks

Play ramp or Rally the Ancestors.

Good Cards Against G/W Decks:

Utter End Erase Tragic Arrogance

Languish Ugin, the Spirit Dragon Dragonlord Ojutai Mantis Rider

When Should You Play G/W Decks?

G/W excels at out-valuing the rest of the midrange strategies and has a reasonable to good matchup against the other main pillars of the format, including
Jeskai Black, Abzan, and Atarka Red. It’s still susceptible to hate, so if it grows in popularity, it’s going to be pushed back.

Control decks must be built very carefully. There are very few efficient catch all answers like Thoughtseize and Dissolve like there once were. If your
answers run into the wrong threat, it can be all over. The big thing the control decks have going for them is that they are off the radar. Everyone is
focused on packing a lot of good removal into their decks, which can be dead draws against the control decks.

How To Beat Esper Control

Don’t play Jeskai Black. Be aware of control decks when building your deck and make sure you have a decent sideboard against them.

When Should You Play Esper Control?

When you’re a master. A perfectly built control deck up against the right metagame should theoretically sweep a tournament. When you’re playing online, I
would not want to run a control deck right now due to the speed of the format. You’d need to play very quickly to not pick up any draws.

The rise of ramp decks reflects just how good Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is in the format right now. It will often immediately win the game singlehandedly
against midrange decks.

How To Beat Eldrazi Ramp

Be dedicated aggro or have hard counters for the top end of the deck. As far as ramp decks go, this isn’t exactly the best version Standard has ever seen.
It is filling a very important roll though by being a hard counter to midrange strategies.

When Should You Play Ramp?

When you don’t expect too much Atarka Red or Esper Control and you want to feast on the delicious midrange decks.

This might look messy, but it gets the job done. It can often take a boatload of Zulaport Cutthroat and scry triggers and multiple Rally the Ancestors, but
it will kill an unprepared opponent all the same.

How To Beat Rally Decks

Be prepared for the deck’s key cards: Grim Haruspex, Collected Company, and Rally the Ancestors. If you can deal with those cards, the deck is a pile of
discarded commons.

Cards Good Against Rally Decks

Dispel Silkwrap Anafenza, the Foremost Hallowed Moonlight

When Should You Play a Rally Deck?

When there isn’t much hate and there is plenty of G/W. Jeskai Black with maindeck counters and Abzan with Anafenza, the Foremost will naturally have a
decent matchup against you since they have pressure backed up by disruption for your key cards.

The Best

And those are the basics of the format so far. It’s actually very diverse for such a new Standard format, and there are plenty of other strategies I didn’t
touch on, including Esper Dragons, U/W Control, Mardu, Hardened Scales, B/U Aristocrats, B/G Aristocrats, Bring to Light Control, R/B Aggro, Five-Color
Collected Company, and more!

Decks are also very customizable in this format. There are many variations and directions to take each known strategy. Decks with the same “name” can look
completely different. There are approximately ten unique ways to build a base G/W Aggro deck, and all of them are viable.

Mantis Rider and Siege Rhino don’t ever change. Standard is great the way it is too. The only question left to answer is: What deck is the best for you?