War of the Spark Standard is evolving at a breakneck pace. While there were initial scares of Standard being dominated by Esper Midrange/Control and Mono-Red Aggro, that seems to have worked itself out with time. Obviously, those decks are powerful enough to exist throughout the entirety of this season’s Standard, but it’s clear that there are many viable options.
Despite being high on Esper Midrange earlier this week, Izzet Phoenix is my pick for the weekend. It’s won three MCQs that I know of, which is incredible for a deck that isn’t widely played. With all the haste and burn, it’s quite good against planeswalkers, plus it has the capability of playing a longer game thanks to Finale of Promise. That’s exactly where you want to be.
It’s not a good time to play cards or decks that are weak to Teferi, Time Raveler or Narset, Parter of Veils. While this deck doesn’t like seeing either of those cards on the other side of the battlefield, at least it can remove them. After sideboard, you even get access to Legion Warboss, which is a powerful way to sidestep your opponent’s sideboard cards and also happens to be one of the best cards to pressure the three-mana planeswalkers.
Augur of Bolas is sort of a hedge. I respect aggro decks and Augur of Bolas isn’t the worst card in any matchup.
Finale of Promise doesn’t put Izzet Phoenix over the top, but it is a nice value-add. Being able to return Arclight Phoenixes though a barrage of Thought Erasures is nice, but having another clean two-for-one is the main draw. Goblin Electromancer helps with the expensive nature of the card too. Plus, it functions as another removal spell against aggressive decks.
Niv-Mizzet, Parun is a trap. The control decks all have access to Thought Erasure, and if that weren’t a big enough problem, they have planeswalkers that disrupt your cantrips enough that you might not even hit six mana on time. Neither is a death sentence for the card, but Legion Warboss is a stronger juke at the moment.
Similarly, Saheeli, Sublime Artificer doesn’t seem great. Legion Warboss is a much stronger threat, even if it runs headfirst into the Cry of the Carnariums that your Esper opponents will want to bring in against you in the first place. Taxing their copies of Cry isn’t the worst place to be, plus you have counterspells to protect your threats. Meanwhile, Saheeli is slow and doesn’t do her job particularly well.
You can’t go wrong with Esper Control, at least if you’re willing to adapt to the metagame week-to-week. Adding more planeswalkers is key, as is shaving on Chemister’s Insight because of Narset, Parter of Veils. You still want access to some in grindy matchups, but it can be a liability.
Kaya’s Wrath isn’t great against many decks at the moment, but Cry of the Carnarium is great against the aggro decks and Izzet Phoenix. It’s also more efficient than Kaya’s Wrath against Esper Midrange. You still want some copies in your 75 for the occasional green deck, but that’s about it.
Oath of Kaya is a maindeck hate card for Mono-Red that doubles as a way to remove opposing Narsets. Should your Ugin, the Ineffable die, you can also use it to win the game by repeatedly bouncing it with Teferi, Time Raveler. For those brave souls out there, you could play Oath of Kaya as your only win condition, but Ugin is actually worth playing right now. You don’t have to subject yourself to looping Oath of Kaya if you don’t want to.
You don’t need Thief of Sanity out of the sideboard, but it’s nice to have a real threat and especially a card that forces your opponent to make some difficult sideboarding decisions. Granted, they will probably sideboard like you have Thief of Sanity in the dark regardless.
- 2 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
- 3 Dovin, Hand of Control
- 4 Teferi, Time Raveler
- 2 Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor
- 4 Narset, Parter of Veils
- 4 Sarkhan the Masterless
If you haven’t noticed, these sorts of decks are taking over. Not only is Jeskai SuperFriends a real deck, but there are different versions popping up, plus decks like Bant, Sultai, and Esper are incorporating more planeswalkers by the day. Last weekend would have been a good time to play this deck, but now I’d expect a bunch of The Elderspells, Mass Manipulations, and various ways to attack planeswalkers.
Search for Azcanta is awkward in the deck that rarely has cards going to the graveyard, but there are very few cards you’d rather have against control. Additionally, you need things to do on Turn 2 and Fblthp, the Lost doesn’t cut it, regardless of whether you want to play Mox Amber.
Despite the issues the deck has and the incoming flood of hate, the deck is still incredibly powerful.
At some point, we have to stop and ask ourselves why we weren’t just playing four Teferi, Time Ravelers in the first place. You can make the argument that drawing multiples isn’t great, but realistically you can just double-cycle away the first one and cast the second.
Adding the fourth Teferi has cascading effects on the decklist, namely that you end up with too many three-mana cards. I decided to trim a Deputy of Detention, despite it performing incredibly well. Once you have fewer Deputy of Detentions and creatures in general, Sorin, Vengeful Bloodlord becomes less appealing. That could be wrong, and maybe Mortify is supposed to be the card that gets the axe, but this is where I am currently.
I’m also back to 26 land and Dovin’s Veto instead of Duress. With a low land count, I’m more likely to want Duress maindeck. There are inherent risks to playing Duress maindeck and missing with it could be a death sentence if you also flood out a bit. Playing fewer lands mitigates the risk of losing when not enough of your cards have an impact on the game. At this point, I’d prefer Duress to Dovin’s Veto, but Veto scales better into the late-game.
Other than that, not much has changed in the 75. Even though I recommend Izzet Phoenix for this weekend, Esper Midrange is a great choice.
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Wildgrowth Walker
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 3 Deputy of Detention
- 4 Hydroid Krasis
- 3 Frilled Mystic
- 2 God-Eternal Oketra
Although Bant Midrange is currently losing the arms race against the more powerful planeswalker decks, it’s still a viable deck. Llanowar Elves potentially gives you the leg up in planeswalker battles and Frilled Mystic is still strong against control. That said, it seems like Standard has already passed this deck by. Everyone else has more planeswalkers and things like The Elderspell, and very few people care about God-Eternal Oketra.
I’m not going to expand on Mono-Red Aggro too much, since its options are rather narrow and the deck has been explored to death, but I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention it at all. If you play Mono-Red Aggro this weekend, it will always be a fine choice, but know that the target is still on your head and you need to be ready for that.
Experimental Frenzy is much stronger than Chandra, Fire Artisan and you shouldn’t leave home without your Legion Warbosses. Aside from that, there aren’t a whole lot of decisions to be made.
If you’re looking for the deck poised to make a breakout performance this weekend, look no further than Izzet Phoenix. If you want to stick to something proven and powerful, you can’t go wrong with Mono-Red Aggro or either version of Esper. People have been sleeping on white aggro decks so far, so I could also see a good performance from that deck this weekend.
Honestly, with so many great decks to choose from, you can basically play whatever you want. Of course, you need to update your deck based on what you expect to face, but SCG Syracuse is anyone’s tournament to win.