The State Of Standard For SCG Cincinnati

The Scarab God is far from your only option in Standard at SCG Cincinnati! Brennan DeCandio breaks down the format’s pillars and wild possibilities in his can’t-miss latest!

It’s been a while since I’ve gotten to play Standard, and the rest of the world has had the opportunity to evolve from that “The Scarab God or bust” format we thought we would see it become. Rekindling Phoenix has left its mark on Standard in different decks as the premier threat from red that enables something besides an all-in plan. Tokens decks have also shown their strengths at fighting the removal-drenched decks that lean on Vraska’s Contempt to do their heavy lifting.

But aside from all that, the hard-to-kill 5/5 The Scarab God certainly is a test for the format. Still, it can be beaten, and what insane ways people have come up with to do just that!

When considering a deck for this weekend it’s good to look at the pillars of the format and really see how each deck tried to fight one another and pick your weapon of choice. If The Scarab God isn’t your thing, we’ve got tons of options for you to try!

The Scarab God reigns supreme as Public Enemy No. 1 for pretty much every deck that isn’t trying to do something silly like cast Approach of the Second Sun. There’s a reason decks these days pack the full four copies of Vraska’s Contempt or even one-hit knockout card Ixalan’s Binding.

On top of that, a card that was deemed too slow for the initial take on the format, Profane Procession, has seen a significant uptick in play, since it has the ability to check almost all the threats from a Grixis Energy deck that might be too much to handle otherwise.

Another card that The Scarab God has to worry a bit about more than it did before is Scavenger Grounds; more specifically, Hour of Promise for Scavenger Grounds!

What in the world is going on here?

These Rivals of Ixalan cards are making a late arrival to the party.

Getting the City’s Blessing isn’t really a special mechanic that a deck should be built around, since natural interaction seems to hamper trying to have ten permanents on the battlefield at once. That being said, Hour of Promise does a very good job at getting you to the City’s Blessing, since it’s often a five-mana spell that puts four more permanents on the battlefield.

So what is this deck trying to do? It’s using the pseudo-Rampant Growth effect from Thunderherd Migration to jump the curve and power out the full four copies of Carnage Tyrant, a real problem for most The Scarab God decks. On top of that, we have a threat that most decks can’t play, Wayward Swordtooth. Playing an additional land can come in handy when trying to cast Hour of Promise; beyond that, it’s fairly medium but a necessary evil, since keeping your Dinosaur count high enough for Thunderherd Migration is a concern.

As you can see, this deck has the full set of Vraska’s Contempt, like most decks supporting black mana have these days to answer The Scarab God. On top of that, this deck chooses to include Trial of Ambition as its removal of choice as an answer to Bristling Hydra as well as Glint-Sleeve Siphoner early in the game. Fatal Push seems to have fallen out of favor a bit in Standard because of the resilient threats people are playing often shrug it off, though Trial of Ambition is a decent answer to Hazoret the Fervent if the situation is just right.

So what are some other avenues of attack you could choose this weekend that you might not have noticed the last time that the SCG Tour showcased this wild and fun Standard format?

Okay, hear me-ow on this…

I just had to throw that one out there!

But seriously, this deck has potential. It checks all the boxes to compete with the pillars of the format and makes perhaps one of the most underrated and underplayed cards in the format look like an all-star!

Remember when I said this format is all about interacting with your opponent and all the threats being answered by one-for-one removal? Shapers’ Sanctuary laughs all that off like nobody’s business! When all of their Fatal Pushes, Vraska’s Contempts, Harnessed Lightnings, and so forth become card disadvantage, how in the world are they going to keep up?

The only real answer to that is with a card like The Scarab God, which is blanked by the three copies of Scavenger Grounds as well as the full set of Cast Out! We even have the feline planeswalker himself in Ajani Unyielding, providing a near-endless source of card advantage doubling as answers for problematic threats.

I wouldn’t be surprised to see a deck like this do very well, as it even sideboards answers for what would be the biggest issue for a resolved Shapers’ Sanctuary, getting all its threats countered, with Prowling Serpopard in the sideboard. (Which is a Cat, by the way! Brownie points for staying on-theme.) I’m excited that these are the kind of cards that are 5-0ing Magic Online Leagues, and if this doesn’t tickle your fancy, then get out, because we don’t want you here. Cat Tribal, everybody. Get in here!

While Cats are certainly sweet and I can get behind that list, there are even more interesting decks out there that could make a huge splash this weekend.

This is podracing!

I’ve been trying to make Ghalta, Primal Hunger work for a while, and here’s a deck sporting the full four! The idea here is that Rhonas’s Monument buffs your creatures when casting a cheap one and Greenbelt Rampager is a creature that actually makes you cast it more than once, turning your little Elephant that could into a Dark Ritual of sorts while making your battlefield presence even more threatening.

The glue that really holds this deck together is the playset of Blossoming Defense. While it seems innocuous at first, earlier I mentioned how decks are maxing out on Vraska’s Contempt and it feels really bad when your Ghalta, Primal Hunger gets Doom Bladed, even if it cost them four mana. We’re not giving Blossoming Defense enough respect in this format, and that those who haven’t been paying attention in the format will suffer greatly at the hands of that one open green mana people will hold up so threateningly all weekend.

Aside from the cute combos that Greenbelt Rampager and Ghalta, Primal Hunger have in this deck with Rhonas’s Monument, keep in mind that the Monument helps power out a Turn 4 Carnage Tyrant with a little help from a Servant of the Conduit. The Monument cycle, aside from the Oketra’s Monument, has long been overlooked in Standard, and the call to have answers for artifacts is vastly overshadowed in the format right now with all the amazing enchantments we have available, so it might be time for them to finally shine, and this is a perfect home for the green one!

Another deck I had an excessive amount of fun with over the past week was one deck that tries to put X, Y, and Z together to make craziness happen with Sphinxes, of all things!

Let’s let go of the fact I cheated and included a deck that has The Scarab God and that this deck is splashing for Chandra’s Defeat and Naturalize out of the sideboard for just a second. Let’s instead realize what’s going on here.

So with these two cards on the battlefield and Arcane Adaptation naming Sphinx, every time a creature enters the battlefield, you get to Fact or Fiction for four cards. Let us also note that the cost of all your creatures is reduced by two generic mana, meaning Walking Ballista and Metallic Mimic cost zero mana, and not only does Weaponcraft Enthusiast cost only one mana, it triggers Unesh, Criosphinx Sovereign three times!

All that churning through your deck means you can explode onto the battlefield for next to no mana, abusing the interaction of Metallic Mimic and Walking Ballista to get a massive presence and be able to ping off threats that might have been beating you down up until then.

In all likelihood, it’s a hard combo to put together, but there’s always the backup plan of Tezzeret the Schemer alongside Treasure Map to combo with Marionette Master and drain down an opponent from a huge life total. This whole package is woven together by some simple removal and the often-overlooked Metallic Rebuke, which this deck uses to great effect, with Treasure Map, Walking Ballista, Weaponcraft Enthusiast, and Metallic Mimic helping make the counterspell cheaper.

Is the deck powerful? Most certainly! Is it something I’d truly feel comfortable sleeving up for a Team Open? I’d think it would take a lot for my teammates, The Tannon Grace and SCG’s own Ross Merriam, to let me register Arcane Adaptation, but aside from that card, this deck functions as a completely realistic midrange deck with a ton of powerful plays scaling into the late-game.

So what is the right answer? I’m not quite sure, for once. Standard has been in a continuous state of flux the past few months and it’s ever-evolving. For now, it’s looking like I’m being pressured back into playing Grixis Midrange with a slight control lean from sporting a full set of Vraska’s Contempt. But who knows? My desire to cast Ghalta, Primal Hunger is certainly strong, and given that Blossoming Defense might be at its playability peak, that might just tip the edge in the Elder Dinosaurs’ favor!