The Best Standard In Years

Count Brennan DeCandio as optimistic that SCG Dallas will show us a whole new Standard world! He has decks, decklists, and more to help you on your way to the new season!

Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!

It’s the end of a long road that has seen Standard at its worst since the
era of Ravager Affinity, which is the only legitimate time Magic was ever
in danger of dying off. We’ve been shocked, we’ve been tortured, we’ve been
brutalized with horrific format after horrific format, but I’m here to tell
you why that’s all changed and you can once again be excited for FNM and
why you can prepare yourself for an amazing weekend in Dallas given you
don’t mind the cold!

Goodbye, you won’t be missed!

Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner have had their day in the sun for far
too long, and I am thrilled to see Wizards hear our cries for the removal
of these oppressive energy producers. There’ve been
countless articles
about how they could have gone about fixing the problems plaguing Standard
for months now and it seems my
Christmas wish
has been fulfilled! There was no doubt that something from the formerly
known Ramunap Red deck was going to be banned to help balance the other
powerhouse in Standard and thank goodness it was the card that gave the
deck a horrid name. There will be games where the now Mono-Red deck will
play out exactly the same as before, but it won’t gain those free
percentage points or wins simply because their manabase allows it.

The more unexpected ban that I believe makes some sense to the brewer in me
but saddens me from a standpoint that a Dinosaur is now not allowed when
Dinos is one of my favorite tribes from the Ixalan plane;
Rampaging Ferocidon is banned, but I’m not sure it will remain on the
banned list the duration of this year since the primary reason it’s there
is to weaken a deck that will almost entirely rotate with the loss of Kaladesh and Amonkhet block this fall. While I’m
certainly not upset that people can’t have this free hate card when I’m
trying to cast Angel of Invention, it’s an odd choice to make because it
wasn’t a four-of in all the red decks.

One thing Rampaging Ferocidon did do was shore up the weakness that they
had against most matchups looking to fight them since playing a bunch of
tokens and gaining life certainly was a good way to go about doing that.
All in all, I think Standard will be more diverse because of the Rampaging
Ferocidon ban allowing there to be numerous token decks that don’t have to
worry about this minor annoyance and allow people to fight the good fight
against Mono-Red!

That all being said, Mono-Red and Temur Energy certainly aren’t dead; they
merely have to adapt!

While this deck certainly loses a lot of its consistency with the loss
Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, there will be games this deck plays
and feels exactly like Temur Energy did before any bannings. I think
there’s a lot of room for this deck to grow and adapt, and yes, I
understand that’s something that no one wants to hear, but there are those
who want to stand by the Temur mantle and play the next iteration of the
deck, which includes the new spicy card from Rivals of Ixalan,
Jadelight Ranger!

A lot has been said about Jadelight Ranger, but the real take away from it
seems to be that it’s a similar card to Rogue Refiner in that it gives the
deck some velocity, card filtering, and card draw to smooth things a bit.
Jadelight Ranger doesn’t offer any additional energy bonus, but I think
that’s an okay thing for this deck to have to struggle with after having
the best three-drop in the format for a year now.

Have you been attacked by a Hazoret the Fervent? I sure have and it didn’t
always matter that they cast a turn three Rampaging Ferocidon or had a
Ramunap Ruins on the battlefield, but I sure as hell was taking five to the
face a lot of the time.

One card I love and can see breaking a lot of mirrors open is the newest
iteration of Snapcaster Mage that steals a card out of your opponent’s
graveyard. You’re your opponent is sideboarding in cards like Chandra’s
Defeat and using their Shock and Lightning Strike to kill your creatures,
this little pirate that could does it’s best Sand Strangler impression that
could sometimes cost three mana when tagging a Fatal Push against any
Winding Constrictor decks
that could give you issues. Again, while Mono-Red has certainly lost some
of its staying power in the late game, it’s lost none of its potency and
will be one of the decks I certainly expect to see this weekend in Dallas.

Enough with the old, lets get into something new!

Here’s a quick list of decks I’d consider viable and wouldn’t be surprised
to see sitting across from me this weekend in no particular order.

Mono-Red Aggro

Temur Energy

U/W Approach

U/B Control

U/G Merfolk

Esper Gift

U/B Gift

Mardu Vehicles

Grixis Midrange

Sultai Midrange

B/W Vampires

R/W Tokens

W/B Tokens

G/R Monsters

G/R Dinosaurs

B/G Constrictor

U/B Reanimator

U/B Pirates

Mono-White Monument

Mono-Black Aggro

Jund Monsters

Grixis Improvise

G/X Ramp

This is a breath of fresh air from the previous format where I honestly
couldn’t look you straight in the eye and tell you that you should sleeve
up anything but Energy variants. I’m sure I’m missing several decks on here
that I’ve come across this week, but the fact that I’m able to say I could
expect to face any number of any of these decks is a relief from what I’d
expected to face if no action was taken with the banned list.

I’ve been spending countless hours testing and have narrowed it down to
three decks I’m seriously considering playing this weekend for the initial
weekend of Rivals of Ixalan‘s release!

This deck is the easiest port over from the previous format, and while it
didn’t gain much from the release of Rivals of Ixalan, it
certainly benefited from the removal of Rogue Refiner, turning this deck
from “Support Staff Energy” to what I think most of the people who enjoyed
playing Temur Energy will flock to.

One change this deck has seen from the last format is the upgrade of
Hostage Taker to Ravenous Chupacabra. Hostage Taker certainly has its
moments late in the game when it would far outperform Ravenous Chupacabra,
as a turn 4 play in a deck with not many early creatures for your opponents
to point their removal in hand at, it’s far superior to not have to care if
your Flametongue Kavu effect dies or not and undoes all the work you did.

Also one thing to note with this deck…

Glorybringer and The Scarab God are still very good Magic cards and this
deck plays both!

Overall Grixis Siphoner is a deck that can run away with a game as early as
turn 2 with an unchecked Glint-Sleeve Siphoner backed by all the removal
you have as well as have ways to defend a powerful planeswalker like
Chandra, Torch of Defiance with the still omnipresent Whirler Virtuoso. I’d
give this deck a solid 8.5/10 for this weekend. You can’t go wrong with it,
but it’s certainly a difficult deck to play if you’ve never picked it up

Next on my list of decks I’m seriously considering for this weekend is an
updated version to the deck I used to top 8 that last Standard event on the
SCG Tour that also was in Dallas!

mentioned last week
, Esper Gift is a deck I’ve been huge fan of since I built the archetype
upon the release of Ixalan, and it’s been given a bunch of tools
since then. I talked about how good Dusk Legion Zealot and Ravenous
Chupacabra are for the deck since they’re creatures that either replace
themselves or help stabilize the battlefield early against aggression,
which is the only way this deck every really loses in all honesty. A change
that testing has yielded this week is the return of the maindeck inclusion
of Fatal Push, with the resurgence of Mardu Vehicles meaning I’ve been
seeing a lot more copies of Heart of Kiran.

I would highly suggest this deck for this weekend since it won’t be as
likely to face hate cards such as Deathgorge Scavenger and Crook of
Condemnation as you might face in the weeks following once the metagame is
more established. My one concern for those looking to play this deck is how
incredibly complicated it is and how narrow the margins are. Something as
simple as sequencing leading on Seekers’ Squire or Dusk Legion Zealot
incorrectly could cost you the game, and it varies at different points and
could also depend on what you’re playing against. This deck has the highest
ceiling and lowest floor of all the decks I think are viable for this
weekend, but if you’ve mastered it, it’s amongst the most powerful decks in
the format.

Rating of 9/10 for this one, just buyer beware that you’re going to be
faced with a lot of complicated decisions and you’re not piloting the most
forgiving deck in the world.

Lastly, a deck I brewed up because I wanted to see how well the synergies
of Heart of Kiran and Rhonas the Indomitable having higher power than their
cost pair when trying to cast one of my pet cards for the set, Ghalta,
Primal Hunger.

Of all the decks I’ve mentioned, this would be the one I have the least
confidence in but am the most excited for!

What was a last minute addition to the deck just wanting to try it out
turned out to be one of the best cards for the deck: Rekindling Phoenix
checks all the boxes of resiliency against cards like Ravenous Chupacabra
and Glorybringer! Coming back turn after turn, with haste, if they’re only
able to kill it once makes this an insane card at playing both offense and
defense. Four mana for a 4/3 flyer used to come with a downside, and this
one checks all the boxes for this format. Rekindling Phoenix was a sleeper
during preview season, but I bet it will end up being the most expensive
card in the set as well as one of its most playable.

There’s a light black splash in this deck for the sole purpose of returning
Scrapheap Scrounger since it works so well at crewing Heart of Kiran as
well as being a creature for Rhonas to buff and be able to consistently
attack with despite a lot of removal from your opponents. While there might
be better two-drops if the format becomes more aggressive since Scrapheap
Scrounger can’t block, it certainly serves its purpose here, not to mention
being a three-power creature to assist in the casting of Ghalta, Primal

You could certainly take this deck in a more Jund direction, cutting the
Ghalta, Prima Hunger and adding cards like Unlicensed Disintegration to
improve your removal. Vraksa, Relic Seeker is an additional card you could
add if the deck wanted to move more towards a black splash, but I do value
the untapped lands and potential to curve out without a hiccup. It’s the
good ole power vs. consistency argument with that one.

All in all I’d give this deck a 7/10 for playability for this weekend. I
think there’s a lot of potential here, but I might be clinging to Ghalta,
Primal Hunger a bit too hard to make it work at the moment.

One thing is certain; I’m thrilled for SCG Dallas this weekend and can’t
wait to see all the decks that unfold for new Standard over the coming
weeks. I think this will end up being the best Standard format we’ve seen
in years, and I’m crossing my fingers that I’m right. Hopefully the weather
is kind and holds clear until after I land and I see you all there.

Good luck and be safe!