There’s More To Standard Than We Think

However many people think Standard has a three-deck (or fewer!) metagame, Gerry Thompson is preparing for many, many more. Check out his extended gauntlet ahead of Pro Tour Ixalan!

Testing for Pro Tour Ixalan has been a weird experience. Coming off the heels of the World Championship and US Nationals, it looked like we had to settle in for a boring Standard format weighed down by Kaladesh oppression. I was all set to dedicate minimal hours toward tuning Temur Energy.

Given how things have looked on Magic Online the last couple of weeks, that’s probably a mistake.

At the World Championship, Temur Energy was the biggest enemy. Many players showed up with Ramunap Red and were promptly dumpstered by Temur Energy. I registered U/B Control in the hopes of beating up on Temur Energy, and mostly did that. Around that time, various Hidden Stockpile decks were crushing Magic Online, but no one dared test their luck with it.

US Nationals was the week after, and Tokens was surprisingly a popular choice. Given that Abzan and Esper Tokens are difficult to play (with many opportunities for missed triggers), are of a lower power level than other decks in the format, and have a Temur Energy matchup that’s overrated, I was surprised that so many people picked it up.

However, in times like these, it’s not surprising to see people want to branch out and try new things. Standard hasn’t been its best in quite some time, but it’s kind of up to the people to innovate and play different decks if they want to change that. Since I played Temur Energy at US Nationals, I’m certainly part of the problem.

Going into the Pro Tour, things may be as cut and dried as they seem, but they also may not be. If anything, I expect the pros to put in a ton of working trying to beat up on Temur Energy. It wouldn’t surprise me if 40% of the field played Attune with Aether, but given the Magic Online results, I could also see the Pro Tour having a wide-open metagame.

My plan has been to build the best version of the best deck and hope it carries me. There’s not a whole lot that can go wrong with that plan, and it leaves room for everyone else to mess it up. Granted, I could miss out on something sweet, but given that I can’t predict this metagame, the odds of me getting it right are very low.

Temur Energy it is.

Over the last couple of weeks, there have been some sweet brews that have been showing up on Magic Online, and I’ve lost to more than a few of them while playing Temur Energy.


My opponent in the semifinals of US Nationals said his Mardu Vehicles deck was a favorite against anything that wasn’t Temur Energy, and that seems true to me. It makes me wonder if you can hate on Temur a bit more and suddenly have a great deck.

The artifact count for your early threats like Toolcraft Exemplar and Inventor’s Apprentice definitely matters, but some lists have been cutting Inventor’s Apprentice entirely. Unlicensed Disintegration is a big reason to play the deck also. If you have less reliance on artifacts, cards like Rampaging Ferocidon could slide into the maindeck in place of things like Pia Nalaar.

Hazoret the Fervent is one of the pillars of Standard and will probably remain that way for a while. Ramunap Red isn’t the only home for it, and Mardu Vehicles may just have its resurgence this weekend.

Unlike Ramunap Red, Mardu Vehicles has a wide selection of excellent one-drops, and while you have to jump through some hoops to make them good, I think it’s worth it. After all, most of Ramunap Red’s power is tied up in Hazoret the Fervent, and Mardu gets to play that just fine.

Are fourteen artifacts enough? Various Magic Online lists seem to think so, although many of them are also cutting Inventor’s Apprentice for things like Legion’s Landing. Depala, Pilot Exemplar is certainly a card I don’t want to be playing at the moment since, the other three-drops are incredible.

B/R Aggro

These B/R Aggro decks are rapidly evolving and actually getting pretty scary. Unlike Mardu, my record with Temur against B/R Aggro hasn’t been very good.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is one of the best cards in the format. Very few threats in the format demand an answer as quickly as Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, and that means you can quickly run away with the game if you get to untap with it.

Bone Picker is another nice evolution of the deck. There is no shortage of sacrificial creatures and there is also plenty of removal to make it cheap. Four might be overkill, but playing it in small numbers is almost free.

The Bontu’s Last Reckoning package is something that started in Megafone’s original list, but more and more lists are cutting it. As it turns out, you don’t exactly need it against Temur Energy. I’ve found that Key to the City is a much better sideboard card against them, as it doesn’t take many hits from Hazoret the Fervent to put them into burn range.

B/U Midrange

I love this deck!

If I had more time before the Pro Tour, I would almost certainly be working on B/U Midrange with and without Rogue Refiner. It looks like it has the tools to go bigger against decks like Temur Energy while also having a low enough curve to fight the aggressive decks.

Realistically, the green is probably not necessary against midrange or control and actively hurts your aggressive matchups, though. Straight B/U is probably where it’s at. The real reason why the green splash isn’t worth it is how often your lands enter the battlefield tapped when you really need to cast The Scarab God or Torrential Gearhulk on-curve.

You definitely miss having the fixing and smoothing of Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner compared to other midrange decks, but Champion of Wits and Chart a Course do a fine impression. Without any Liliana, Death’s Majesty shenanigans, Rogue Refiner is still a better card than Champion of Wits, especially with Aether Hub and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.

Can I sing the praises of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner some more? That card singlehandedly makes me want to play black in this format. On top of that, you get Fatal Push, which is solid against most decks, and cards like Vraska’s Contempt and Gonti, Lord of Luxury, which solve a slew of problems. The Scarab God is the perfect finisher.

Playing some counterspells in the maindeck is necessary if you expect U/W Approach, but not really anywhere else. Essence Scatter and Supreme Will aren’t offensively bad cards, so you can maindeck them to help in certain spots without having to feel too bad about it. They also help bridge the sideboard plan of Torrential Gearhulk against other midrange and control decks.

Getting to splash Vraska, Relic Seeker is a huge pickup with the Rogue Refiner splash, especially since B/U is traditionally weak to cards like Hidden Stockpile. River’s Rebuke was originally heralded as an answer to the various Tokens decks, but its true calling is being the perfect stall-breaker in midrange The Scarab God mirrors.

U/W Gift

Is this the future of God-Pharaoh’s Gift?

It’s really unfortunate that people are playing Disenchants for Hidden Stockpile and Heart of Kiran plus some graveyard hate for The Scarab God. God-Pharaoh’s Gift kind of gets caught in the crossfire. Becoming a U/W Control deck with Fumigate and Search for Azcanta is a nice way to sidestep all of that nonsense.

U/B Marionette

I played against something like this online and it seemed sweet. Instead of putting an Angel of Invention onto the battlefield and trying to win the game in mostly a fair way, you get to combo people out with Marionette Master, using Metalwork Colossus as a sacrifice outlet. A hit for four from a hasty Marionette Master means you can use Metalwork Colossus in your graveyard to sacrifice all three Servos and the God-Pharaoh’s Gift for a clean twenty damage.

With very little in the way of interaction in Game 1, I imagine some matchups are tough, but you should obviously tune the deck as you see fit.

Four-Color Energy

While I’m not a fan of cutting Longtusk Cub, this deck does a good job without it. The arms race for the Temur mirrors is very real, and while some games are dominated by an early Longtusk Cub, for the most part they are going to lose out to Confiscation Coup or something like Carnage Tyrant. Cutting Longtusk Cub means fewer free wins and fewer lightning rods to help ensure your Glint-Sleeve Siphoners live.

The red cards seem like a necessary evil at this point. Harnessed Lightning is the best removal spell at the moment, capable of taking down Glorybringer for a minimal mana investment. Whirler Virtuoso has been almost a constant four-of since Ramunap Red debuted but it’s proven its worth elsewhere too. Sometimes going wide with an army of Thopters is a new angle of attack that your opponent isn’t prepared to deal with.

Getting to play all the colors seems great in theory but is clunky in practice. You can take some liberties with your manabase by splashing The Scarab God into Temur, but basically playing the full four colors comes with some downsides.

From playing with this deck, I would almost immediately cut two Fatal Pushes, as it felt like the deck was too heavy on removal. Additionally, having four Negate and four Duress is overkill. The slower the mirror matches get, the better Duress becomes, but it is often quite poor against U/W Approach. In that matchup, you want counterspells to stop their big plays, and Duress can’t stop the top of their deck.

Sultai Energy

This should be, in theory, the best deck in the format. Harnessed Lightning gives you more game against Glorybringer and Whirler Virtuoso helps against aggro decks (which this struggles against), but overall the fourth color isn’t worth it.

Temur Energy was struggling with random permanents until it added a bunch of Appetite for the Unnaturals, but Vraska, Relic Seeker gives you the perfect out to them in the maindeck. The black cards help you so much against the weird decks in Standard that it might be worth playing Sultai for that reason alone.

Both Vraska, Relic Seeker and The Scarab God are incredible late-game threats in midrange mirrors. As long you don’t die against Temur Energy, you’re going to win the long-game every time. Given how volatile that mirror matchup can be, having direct trumps is insanely powerful.

That comes at a cost, though. Sometimes you take a while to actually close the door on people, which means you can lose to a topdecked Confiscation Coup or Glorybringer. The aggressive matchups aren’t as good as with Temur, hence the boatload of Cartouche of Ambitions in the sideboard to go with the maindeck Bristling Hydras.

So far, that plan hasn’t been working, especially since the aggressive decks have fewer one-toughness creatures these days and are trying to go a little bigger. It’s possible that a plan with more Vraska’s Contempts, Essence Extractions, and Torrential Gearhulks is the way to beat them.

The more midrange the Energy decks become, the better Bristling Hydra becomes. It’s still weak to things like Vizier of Many Faces and Gonti, Lord of Luxury, but most of the time it’s going to be the only thing left standing on the battlefield.


My hope for Pro Tour Ixalan is that a bunch of people trick themselves into trying to break it and I get to crush them all with Attune with Aether. Maybe they actually get to do it, though. If nothing else, these decks are incredibly varied, which puts a ton of pressure on your sideboard. You simply don’t have the slots to fight each of these decks.

The one bright side is that some sideboard cards, such as Chandra’s Defeat, are less important now than they were at US Nationals. That opens up some slots for extra help against some of the increasingly popular matchups, but you’re still spread thin. The best thing you can do is play a proactive strategy where you don’t need to answer every single permanent and eventually try to win the game.

For me, that probably means Glorybringer.