The Two Best Things You Can Do In Standard

The great GerryT is on his way to #SCGPORT, and he has found that any one of two strategies are the best way to go. He shares his process, his decks, and his matchups for these strategies here!

For the last week or so, I’ve been playing a lot of Standard, both with Esper Dragons and with decks that are trying to beat it while being solid against
most of the other decks in the field. In order to be good against Esper Dragons, I’ve been looking at Deathmist Raptor alongside Den Protector.

Overall, Den Protector and Dragonlord Ojutai are the best two cards in Standard.

Here’s why: Last week, I explained the Dragonlord Ojutai sub-game
and in my video this week, we got to play that sub-game. It
never ends well for the person on the other side of it. Dragonlord Ojutai is the premier finisher right now, capable of winning games all by itself.

On the other hand, Den Protector is a fair Magic card. It represents a little bit of value for a rather large amount of mana, but then again, Eternal
Witness and Snapcaster Mage were format-defining staples. Having a split card is so uniquely powerful that it’s worth the additional mana, and that’s not
even taking into consideration the shenanigans with Deathmist Raptor.

Additionally, Thoughtseize (and to a lesser extent, counterspells) have been the bane of midrange decks. When you get Thoughtseized, the game is going to
slow down because both players are trading resources, which means that your opponent’s best choice is often taking the Den Protector itself. With both
players light on resources, it’s likely that Den Protector will translate into the card they actually wanted to Thoughtseize, except with an additional 3/2
body attached.

Basically, Den Protector gives you more action no matter what matchup you’re playing against. Post-board, it gets even better when you’re recurring the
powerful things you brought in just for them, such as Read the Bones or Self-Inflicted Wound.

Nothing else in Standard, aside from Foundry Street Denizen, seems to come close.

Esper Dragons Updates

I’ve taken some time off of Dragonlord Ojutai to focus on other things, but it’s still something I’ve been thinking about. Why is this deck so powerful and
why does it win? Additionally, how can it adapt to the people trying to hate it out?

The Squeeze

Crux of Fate was a card I frequently sided out and rarely needed. However, I found out that when I was on the other side of things, trying to grind them
out with little green creatures, “The Squeeze” was incredibly difficult and frustrating to play around. In order to beat a Dragonlord Ojutai, you either
have to kill it or swarm around it. At that point, a Crux of Fate will basically lock the game up for the Esper Dragons player. You’re damned if you hold
back, and damned if you over commit.

That’s The Squeeze.

I’ve been tempted by Perilous Vault, but it doesn’t put the same type of pressure on your opponent that Crux of Fate does. Maybe Aetherspouts is another
card worth trying since it puts the same amount of squeeze on them and deals with Deathmist Raptor better than Crux of Fate does. The only issue I see is
that they can potentially play around it easier than Crux of Fate, plus Aetherspouts is slightly worse against the Esper Dragons mirror.

A Different Take

Crux of Fate was mopey at times, the Mono-Red matchup wasn’t as good as it could be in Game 1, and the entire package, especially Dissolve and the
manabase, felt clunky.

I built this:

This list was loosely based on Ali Aintrazi’s U/B Control deck from SCG Richmond. He used more cheap spells to fuel Treasure Cruise alongside Dig Through
Time, and that idea seemed perfect for this deck. Basically, all you want to do is strip their hand and resolve Dragonlord Ojutai. Since that’s the plan,
you no longer need Haven of the Spirit Dragon to grind your opponents–they shouldn’t have a hand anyway.

The deck didn’t function as smoothly as I thought it would. The manabase was still not great and was overly reliant on drawing Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth
early. There was a slight issue with drawing multiple Urborgs, but this deck doesn’t really care about playing lands past Turn 5 or 6. It didn’t take long
for me to put the deck down.

One card I thought of after the fact was Rakshasa’s Secret, which might actually be great. They are likely going to be holding things like Hero’s Downfalls
or other cards you’ll have to get through eventually. Additionally, milling yourself for two is great with delve.

The other weirdo option I considered was either Jeskai Sage or Palace Familiar. At States, Michael Sellers was raving about the Palace Familiars in his
Esper Control deck, but now there’s actually a reason to consider playing it! Foul-Tongue Invocation is the best card at getting rid of Dragonlord Ojutai
in the mirror, but it’s much more difficult to make that happen if you have something else to sacrifice for value. They won’t want to waste a counterspell
or removal spell on a dinky 1/1 that gives you value, but they will have to eventually. Jeskai Sage might even get them for ten damage.

Neither card is very embarrassing against Mono-Red, but they are definitely embarrassing everywhere else. It might be worth a sideboard slot, but I’d
prefer Risen Executioner.

Eventually I trimmed some of the “engine” cards and made the deck more normalized, but I still have some hope for the idea. It probably won’t be me that
figures it out though.

The most important thing this deck did teach me is that there is basically no reason not to play the maximum amount of Dragonlord Ojutai. It is by far your
best Dragon, so the only reason to not play multiples is if you’d want multiple Dragons in play at the same time. There’s some merit to that, but Crux of
Fate is often better at keeping opposing creatures off your back.

My Current Frontrunner

This is my frontrunner for SCG Portland this weekend. I’ve kind of shifted back to a more normalized decklist, except I have Dissipate over Dissolve and
some weird stuff in my sideboard. I’m light on removal and heavy on card drawing and Dragons at the moment, which might come back to bite me against the
more aggressive decks out there. Hopefully the card drawing (alongside the additional threats and discard) give me a leg up in mirror matches, but given
how hateful people are being for the mirror, it might not be enough.

I think two Urborgs is correct, and I would actually consider sideboarding the third against decks where you really need to cast Bile Blight and Drown in
Sorrow in time. Most people might think it’s crazy to sideboard a land for such a purpose, but it’s probably genius. I’m not doing it currently because
Drown in Sorrow hasn’t been all that good for me. My Magic Online opponents have been pacing themselves very well against me, which is typically a good way
to approach things. With my Duresses and Virulent Plagues, it often ends up not mattering though. Drown in Sorrow needs to be there in some capacity to
keep them honest.

Without the Standard Super League to worry about for the rest of the week, I’ll have plenty of time to get ready for Portland. I should have no excuses for
not being able to figure it out in time.

Den Protector Brews

Since Den Protector is basically a new effect, unlike Dragonlord Ojutai which is basically just a fatty win condition, we haven’t quite figured out what
we’re supposed to be doing with it yet. Do we play it just as a value card? How deep are we supposed to go with Deathmist Raptor?

This is by far the easiest card to brew with from Dragons of Tarkir since it slots into so many different decks.

G/W Aggro

Bram Snepvangers played a similar deck to an 8-2 finish at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. Antonio del Moral Leon finished in the Top 16 of Grand Prix Krakow
with an updated version of the deck. This deck is a popular choice on Magic Online, is posting good results, and will continue to evolve.

This deck did not impress me when I tried it, although it did seem like some of the pieces had potential. Maindeck removal isn’t great against Esper
Dragons, and you can’t really afford to have dead cards in that matchup. The threat of Dromoka’s Command has pushed out many of the enchantments in the
format to the point where you don’t need to maindeck as many anymore.

I do like the idea of a beatdown deck with some staying power, and this deck has the tools to accomplish that. The issue is that I kept losing to decks
that were going slightly bigger than I was. Maybe I just didn’t have the right configuration, because the problems all seemed solvable. And yet I kept

While playing with various Mastery of Unseen / Den Protector brews, I continually lost to Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. That leads me to believe that it’s a
great sideboard card for the mirror matches, and I’ve already seen a couple players adopt that plan. Bant Megamorph and the like should definitely play 2-3
copies in the sideboard if they expect mirror matches. Setessan Tactics is another card that’s quite powerful, particularly in the manifest mirrors, but it
is almost certainly not as potent as a game breaker like Elspeth.

Jund Reanimator

I started here:

But I ended up here:

I like this deck, but it’s missing the power four-drop in Sidisi, Brood Tyrant or Siege Rhino. Because of that, there’s no real need to play Sylvan
Caryatid since there isn’t much to accelerate into, at least with a two-drop accelerator. Elvish Mystic is definitely a consideration to ramp into
face-down Den Protectors or face-up Deathmist Raptors. If nothing else, you might be able to ramp into Sidisi, Undead Vizier, sacrificing the Elvish

The thing I overlooked was Kolaghan’s Command with Den Protector, which is pretty great, and is likely worth the additional color requirements. Perhaps I
should revisit this deck just to try that combination, although I would want the Shock portion of Kolaghan’s Command to be better in the format before
jumping through hoops to play with it.

My Standard Super League Deck

For #MTGSSL, I was torn between trying to predict the field and just playing something rock solid. The more I thought about it, the more I thought a
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant-based Whip of Erebos deck might just be good against the field as a whole, which would mean I didn’t have to try and predict anything.
Thankfully, Willy Edel used a solid shell at Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir for me to work off of. Esper Dragons is the deck I was most worried about, and it’s
a difficult matchup in Game 1, but if you can get a Whip of Erebos into play, that should likely be enough. Post-board, the games are much easier barring a
lot of hate like Perilous Vault.

I ended up losing in the finals to Owen Turtenwald’s Abzan Aggro deck when my draws didn’t quite come together. Sidisi, Brood Tyrant’s matchup against
Anafenza, the Foremost has never been very good, but I definitely thought about the Abzan Aggro matchup, so I was as ready as I could have been.

Still, I liked how the deck fared and will definitely be willing to play the archetype in the future. Considering my history with Whip of Erebos, that
might not be surprising, but playing with Whip of Erebos is rarely a bad choice. The matchups against Esper Dragons, Mono-Red Aggro, and the opposing
Deathmist Raptor decks, thanks to the Doomwake Giant / Pharika, God of Affliction package, are actually pretty good.

The weirdest thing about my list is probably the Deathmist Raptors in the sideboard, but I didn’t think they fit into any of my plans in Game 1. I mostly
go over the top of people, so the Deathmist Raptors are kind of just Trained Armodons. In the post-board games, they might have removal for Whip of Erebos,
and the games get grindier in general, so having another angle of attack is great.

Let’s Get Weird

We can go deeper.

Perhaps we’re supposed to be splicing Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor into a deck like this. Instead of the mini-Soulflayer package, you could go as
deep as Gurmag Angler. The big delve guys don’t interact all that well with Den Protector, Flamewake Phoenix, and Deathmist Raptor since that might lead to
too much graveyard reliance. We’re not milling ourselves hard enough. However, it is the cheapest way to convert Commune with the Gods into a four-power


In the coming weeks, who will emerge victorious — Den Protector or Dragonlord Ojutai?