The Big Standard Archetypes You Should Care About

With the first big Open weekend in the books. a handful of potential frontrunners have emerged! Which archetypes are here to stay? Which are going to fade? How do they match up against one another? Shaun has the answers!

Decklists, decklists everywhere! Sweet, sweet decklists!

Looks like we got a mighty fine crop here from the first weekend of Standard Opens in Indy and New Jersey. Finally the Magic community can collectively
move on from guessing what the metagame will look like, and making Khans puns (khan’t stop, won’t stop?) and get down to the good stuff; tuning lists and
brewing lists to try and break the format.

The SCG Opens before the Pro Tour are always especially awesome. They are like crunching into a field of freshly fallen snow, each round an exciting new
adventure with wonders to behold, before every patch of the metagame has been molded into a tuned killing machine.

The Pre-Pro Tour metagame is starting to shape up with some well put together decks. The big winners over the weekend were midrange decks, and that message
was loud and clear. Home, home on the midrange, where the deer and the plant hydra play. There were, of course, a few surprises, and I think the most
interesting new lists were the Jeskai Tempo strategies.

Mantis Rider! Can you dig it?

Mantis Rider is a card strong enough that a brand new archetype essentially popped up out of thin air to support it. Kevin Jones and his Mantises preyed on
an unprepared field and won the Open in New Jersey. At first glance, it appears to be the Delver of Secrets of the format, perhaps not quite as strong, but
it appears to play similarly. The biggest difference between Kevin’s Jeskai Tempo deck and Delver decks of yore is that many of the cards in the Jeskai
deck work well defensively as well as offensively.

While Jeskai wants to play the tempo game by clearing the way for a Goblin Rabblemaster or Mantis Rider, it can also win through sheer card advantage with
Dig Through Time and Steam Augury. It reminds me of my Pro Tour winning control deck that would kill everything that moved until there was nothing left and
you were free to melt your opponents face off. Mantis Rider does a pretty good Celestial Colonnade impersonation and even taps for mana if you’re casting
Stoke the Flames.

Jadine Klomparens Top 8 list looks to be more aggressively bent, featuring Titan’s Strength and Gods Willing to push through more damage. Her deck will
give Thoughtseize and Hero’s Downfall a hard time since almost all of her cards are going to trade at an advantage by damaging the opponent before they
bite it, which is exactly what the deck wants to do. Success with Jeskai Tempo is likely going to hinge on determining which role is correct to play,
defensive or racing, how your deck is built to capitalize on your preferred method, and whether you find the winning path and redirect the flow of the game
towards it.

Goblin Rabblemaster will just end the game if left unchecked, but can still be useful even if it just sits around spewing doomed goblins into blockers. It
obviously plays well with convoke on Stoke the Flames, allowing you to tap a would-be chump attacking goblin, but it also makes blocking a riskier
proposition for your opponent. It essentially adds an extra damage onto any burn spell you want to point at a creature that’s eating a goblin token.
Courser of Kruphix blocking a goblin now dies to Lightning Strike and a blocking Siege Rhino now dies to Stoke the Flames.

Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is another great card on defense and offense and the perfect hard to remove win condition. With Stoke the Flames and Sarkhan
around, five toughness seems like a key number for creatures.

Magma Jet is very well positioned right now since it trades favourably with Goblin Rabblemaster and is excellent at picking of mana accelerants from green

Griptide never looked so good. Jeskai Charm is great for racing no matter which mode you choose. From pumping an army of goblins, to doming the opponent or
a planeswalker. It’s most useful mode, popping a creature on top of the library, is quite good right now. It trades well against bigger monsters like
Polukranous, World Eater and Arbor Colossus and can mess with opponents draws if they have out Courser of Kruphix. During the draw step you can use Jeskai
Charm on Courser if you see they have a land on top and set them back a turn. Don’t forget you can use it in response to a fetchland activation to
potentially get rid of a creature for good.

Seeker of the Way is an assuming card that can really make your opponent’s life miserable. The best thing it has going for it is that it’s a two drop,
which the deck is lacking, and is great at attacking, which is something you want to be doing with the deck. It also presents a constant guessing game for
your opponent and is hard to block with Courser of Kruphix or Sylvan Caryatid. It’s obviously great against aggro decks and often a 3/3 or larger, but it
does come with risks. The deck will have trouble curving out from Seeker into Mantis Rider with all its tapped lands and heavy mana requirements, and even
if it does, your Seeker is a Grizzly Bears. There will also be times you want to be holding onto your burn spells and not spewing them willy nilly to
activate prowess. Seeker of the Way really only gets a chance to shine when you drop him on turn 2, but when you do, he does a lot of work. Inclusion of
Seeker of the Way in Jeskai Tempo is probably necessary if there are a bunch of aggro and green devotion decks.

I would personally look to build Jeskai decks in a more controlling way. How can we do that? First of all, I think the deck can afford to have some more
tapped lands since you aren’t ever casting anything on turn 1 other than Magma Spray. Next I would look to add more copies of Dig Through Time and shift
the maindeck to play the card advantage game more often.

Keranos, God of Storms seems like a slam dunk inclusion to the maindeck. I think this might be the best home for it since you don’t mind if you are bolting
your opponents face because that is your eventual gameplan anyways, whereas typical control is pretty disappointed when that happens.

Is this the Mindswipe deck? If Mindswipe is good enough this is likely where it goes. It can end the game as a surprise Fireball or just act as a
completely unexpected Force Spike for three mana. Right now Jeskai Tempo isn’t running any counters, but a singleton Mindswipe or Dissolve might do very

This also appears to be the best home for Jace, the Living Guildpact. You want the bounce, you want the card selection, you want the mill to power up Dig
Through Time, and a planeswalker with six loyalty seems mighty hard to kill. This might also be a case of Jace just not being good enough.

Finally, Brimaz, King of Oreskos looks like a fine addition to the squad. He works well with Stoke the Flames and can win the game on his own with very
little support, the downside being that the deck is a little light on white sources and already full of good three drops.

Here’s a starting list for a more controlling version:

This list should play similarly to its predecessors while leaning more towards winning in the late game. The sideboard has a bunch of anti-aggro fixings
and some countermagic to deal with slower decks. Narset, Enlightened Master seems like a great one-of that can win the game outright in slow matchups with
very little that can stop it. If you’re looking to run a Seeker of the Way version (which is likely correct) I would likely add a couple more Mystic
Monasteries as well.

Green Devotion

It’s really hard to exploit green devotion decks. If you try to go under them, you run into Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid. If you try to go over
them, they might generate a million mana and run you over anyways. And if you try to disrupt them, a topdecked Genesis Hydra will always threaten to
destroy your plans.

The cards are so strong it doesn’t feel like you’re missing out on anything by not going three colors. You’re giving up Siege Rhino? Well here’s
Polukranous, World Eater, who’s actually just bigger and sometimes better. Polukranous, World Eater can live up to his name and chomp a Sarkhan, the
Dragonspeaker, clears Brain Maggots, Firedrinker Satyrs, and Elvish Mystics with ease, and just so happens to be an excellent mana sink.

Reid Duke’s list looks to capitalize on the strength of the red planeswalkers and the strength of Arbor Colossus. His list isn’t about going all in on
generating mana or trying to end the game as quickly with something like Goblin Rabblemaster and feels very midrangey as far as G/R Devotion is concerned.

Nature abhors a vacuum, but arbors a colossus. Arbor Colossus just stands and shakes his head at the puny Butchers of the Horde and Mantis Riders that want
to attack. The Green mana symbols it comes with are excellent with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx as well. Arbor Colossus is just plain beefy, it’s a brick house,
and essentially demands a removal spell in the midgame, and gets even bigger in the late game when you have mana to spare.

Chris Kvartek’s version is looking to ramp a bit harder and abuse Hornet Queen. Hornet Queen is still not trumped by much for the low, low, bargain price
of seven mana. It adds three devotion for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, and a whopping five mana if you plus Xenagos, the Reveler (and Xenagos is always just
itching to get plussed in this deck.) If you didn’t win with the first Hornet Queen, she’ll at least by you time to win with the second one, usually
immediately followed by a massive Genesis Hydra.

It also features Craters Claws which is a card I expect to start showing up more and more. Not only is it capable of ending the game after you pump
eighteen or so mana into it if the game stalls, it’s also surprisingly versatile in the early game. Land a Polukranous, World Eater and you can suddenly
just cast it as a sorcery speed Shock, Lightning Strike, or better. You don’t want to overload on too many since it isn’t great in the early game and
increases the whiffs for your Genesis Hydras.

Mono-Green Beatdown! Heir of the Wilds seems very well positioned since it essentially gets great mileage for its cost no matter what. It can constantly
attack into anything and everything and can easily be powered up. It also shuts down the ground against more costly creatures.

Nissa, Worldwaker is in kind of an awkward spot since she is very powerful if left unchecked, but her best matchup (control) isn’t around. When you’re
casting a Nissa and making a tapped land into a 4/4 only to have her immediately pummelled by a horde of much bigger monsters, she’s not so appealing. If
you are running a Mono-Green version with four copies of Nissa, Worldwaker, throw in a Darksteel Citadel, as that combo is quite nice.

Soul of New Phyrexia is one of many creatures competing to top off the curves of Green Devotion decks and essentially go over the top of what other people
are trying to do. It makes it so you can swing in with no fear and essentially control the board as long as it’s in play (or the graveyard.) If everyone’s
playing Hornet Queen why not plop down Soul of New Phyrexia and just bash on through?

Also of note is Ross Merriam’s G/B Devotion deck which looks tight, tight, tight. Hopefully he will illuminate us on its intricacies soon, but I will say
Doomwake Giant crushes Mono-Red and Mono-Black Aggro, works well in multiples, can swing combat in your favour, and eats hornets for breakfast.

There are a ridiculous amount of ways you can build green devotion decks, and it’s really hard to say which way is best. Should you be going over or under
other green devotion decks? Is your focus on beating the mirror or having a great game against the rest of the field? Are cards like Setessan Tactics going
to win you the game outright or trip up your flow early on and leave you too far behind? What are the best lategame trump cards to ramp into? How quickly
can you add up all the mana symbols on all ten of your creatures? I imagine those that find the correct answers to these questions will do very well in the
upcoming standard season.

Abzan Midrange

Samuel Valentine brought a very fine deck to SCG Indy and took the tournament down. No Abzan Charm, no Hero’s Downfall, no Thoughtseize, and no Courser of
Kruphix in the maindeck of an Abzan deck, yet the list still looks fantastic. While this list is good, I still think it could use some polishing, as there
is plenty of room to move cards around and it’s very unclear what the optimal build should look like. You can, for example, run one Thoughtseize and one
Hero’s Downfall main if you want, but it’s just a matter of finding the right configuration.

Commune with the Gods and Satyr Wayfinder essentially become fantastic as soon as you hit anything with them as long as you also have Murderous Cut in
hand. Any sort of graveyard bonus with Whip of Erebos down the road is pure gravy.

Empty the Pits still feels like a trap to me but might be worth it as a one-of. Necropolis Fiend is just very solid and should probably be popping up in
more lists.

The deck can kind of “combo off” with Whip of Erebos recurring Saytr Wayfinders and Nyx Weavers. Whip of Erebos can sometimes be an all-star just by giving
a Siege Rhino lifelink, and in the lategame with Hornet Queen, it is whistle worthy. This list has all the tools to play an exceptional lategame by abusing
the graveyard, and while not having to rely on it too heavily. I think this is the model Abzan deckbuilders should be focusing on.

The Upcoming Metagame

These decks are the initial winners in Khans of Tarkir Standard. As far as comparing them in a rock paper scissors style metagame, I would say Jeskai Tempo
is slightly favored game against Mono-Green Devotion and slightly unfavoured against Abzan Midrange. As for the Mono-Green versus Abzan Midrange matchup,
it seems fairly even and depends on who is more focused on going a little over the top in of the other in the lategame.

How about beating these decks? Mono-Red might be decent and is almost always underrepresented. Sure, there are scary cards like Siege Rhino, Seeker of the
Way, and Nylea’s Disciple, but Mono-Red is consistent and powerful and able to punish stumbling and fight through a bit of hate.

Jeskai Ascendancy combo or other combo decks might have a shot, but remember you shouldn’t play combo just because it seems like it should be able to crush
a field of midrange decks. If Mono-Green is still just going to consistently out goldfish you, that’s basically the end of it.

Absent completely from the Top 32 of both tournaments was any form of blue control deck. No U/W, no U/B, and no Esper. There was R/W Control, with twenty
efficient removal spells and some planeswalkers, but it’s just not the same when you aren’t blue. Do blue control decks need a more defined metagame to
thrive? Possibly, but right now it’s looking grim.

Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir approaches, and Hawaii is a pretty great place to hold a gigantic Magic tournament if you ask me. I’m excited to continue
exploring this brand new Standard format and see what secrets it’s still hiding.

Midrange and Tempo win round 1, but only time will tell if that trend continues.