When I say we’re all Jon Snow, I don’t mean that we’re handsome or brooding. None of us command dire wolves. I personally don’t have that gorgeous head of
The basis of that statement is that we all know nothing.
If two red-headed women hissed it at the Magic community, it still wouldn’t be as apparent.
I’m talking, of course, about Standard.
This format is a screwed up place.
Across the realm magicians did battle. In Sao Paulo, Toronto, and Portland.
There’s probably several GoT jokes in there (Toronto = Winterfell), but I’ll abstain since I inundated everyone with television references last week.
My point is that we know everything and nothing about Standard. The obvious statements “Esper Dragons is the best deck” or “Abzan Whatever is the best
deck” were validated by their wins in the hands of PVDDR and Lucas Slow. No one is surprised.
First, let’s look at Lucas Siow’s winning list from Toronto:
Lucas’s deck is a welcome home party for Abzan. His list was set up for a metagame of Esper Dragons, boasting Crux of Fate to punish their Ojutais and
Silumgars; Nissa Worldwaker, who is already a very hard to answer planeswalker for Esper; Read the Bones to push card advantage; and Den Protector.
When testing for Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, Michael Majors proclaimed that Den Protector was the best card from the new set. We could scarcely believe
him. After all, we were smashing Atarkas and Ojutais off of each other. We spent days trying to put Sarkhan Unbroken in G/R shells. With all these other
ridiculous cards, it was hard to see the forest for the trees. Steadily, we started to understand how fantastic Den Protector really was, but it was too
late. After we locked in our decks, Michael was the only one to register them.
It was apparent how strong Den Protector is in G/W Devotion, and Craig Wescoe gave it a boost with the emerging Bant Megamorph deck. These evolutions made
sense. Then Den Protector showed up in various Sultai Reanimator decks. Okay. Sure.
Abzan Megamorph took Cleveland by storm, and at that point, it was clear that this card wasn’t a poor man’s Eternal Witness.
It was becoming vastly clear that if you played green, you should be playing Den Protector. Lucas took this to heart by adding Den Protector to Abzan, and
thus a deck which thrived on generating impressive card advantage just became even more deadly.
To make things harder for opponents, the sideboard shores up every bad matchup this deck has. Red has to deal with not only an already big problem in Drown
in Sorrow, but Arashin Cleric makes an appearance. Three life and a 1/3 blocker for two mana can be a big enough hurdle for Atarka Red to overcome, and it
will buy enough time for Siege Rhino to hit the ground. Other contender, Esper Dragons has to compete with more Nissas, more Read the Bones, Duress, and if
they try to get adorable with Risen Executioner, you even have fringe cards like Silence the Believers.
So we get this. Or at least we kind of do. We didn’t really see it coming. If I’d have told you on Friday “Abzan wins Toronto,” you’d probably think Aggro.
Well what a fancy surprise.
Then we have the winner of Sao Paulo.
Same old shoes, but with a nice new shine.
It was only a matter of time until Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver founds its way back in the deck. A criticism of this deck was “can it beat a Thoughtseize into
an Ashiok?” Some players decided to take this theory and put it to the test. When Paulo makes a change, it’s because he’s one of the best Constructed
players in the world and he believes it’s the natural evolution of the deck. For something as simplistic as an FNM, I put three Ashiok in my sideboard
because it made the sideboarded matches a lot more decisive. With opponents sideboarding in more Foul-Tongue Invocations to deal with Ojutais, you go both
under them and over them with Ashiok.
They make a lot of sense within the context of how the format is shaping up. With decks slowing down to compensate for Esper, a card which punishes them
for trying to adapt to your strategy is just what the doctor ordered.
Again, this isn’t a wild notion.
Esper Dragons won a Grand Prix in the hands of one of the greatest players of all time.
But then, over in Portland, things got a little…weird.
- 4 Thassa, God of the Sea
- 4 Master of Waves
- 4 Kiora's Follower
- 4 Hypnotic Siren
- 4 Frost Walker
- 4 Stratus Dancer
- 4 Shorecrasher Elemental
- 4 Silumgar Sorcerer
Two people at my local store, Fred and Jordon, have been talking about this deck.
I thought it was a fun FNM idea, but Nick’s list makes a lot of sense. I hate that you have to play cards like Hypnotic Siren, but Silumgar Sorcerer makes
it palatable. Flying Men gets in a few hits and then acts as fodder to counter a Siege Rhino. Later in the game, it steals a Siege Rhino. Screw Siege
Thassa, God of the Sea is the same super annoying card it was in days of Standard’s past, but people are acting super surprised about how super good Thassa
is in this deck. Having consistently smooth draws isn’t an overrated concept, making your creatures unblockable still kills your opponent, and…oh yeah…you
can put this thing into play off of Collected Company. If all of this sounds too real to you, it’s because it is.
Is this deck a player going forward?
I hope someone proves to me that it is. I’d love to dust off my Master of Waves.
Green being added into blue is pretty neat, but sometimes green just needs to be on its own.
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Reverent Hunter
- 4 Boon Satyr
- 2 Swordwise Centaur
- 1 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Den Protector
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
- 4 Avatar of the Resolute
- 4 Surrak, the Hunt Caller
- 2 Servant of the Scale
Stephen Girdner did not come to play Magic, he came to beat people up.
Watching this deck on camera was ridiculously entertaining because of his matches where he won by turn 5 on the back of the criminally underplayed Aspect
of Hydra. It also brings other Constructed powerhouses to the forefront like Surrak, the Hunt Caller, Boon Satyr, Deathmist Raptor, Den Protector, and
possibly the most insane of all of them: Swordwise Centaur and Servant of the Scale.
I bet you I can see into the mind of Stephen’s first opponent.
They then lamented losing to a “draft deck” while Stephen marched himself to a very competitive Top 8 on the back of a deck people were completely
unprepared for. I love it.
This deck is good ole’ fashioned southern Magic: We bash now and think about the consequences later. The best part about Mono-Green Aggro is that they
always have to have it. If they don’t, they’re dead! Abzan has to have a ton of removal spells, Esper has to draw its Crux of Fate, and Atarka Red gets
outclassed very, very quickly by huge creatures it can’t attack through.
Who needs other colors when you’re efficient at killing people by turn 5?
Lastly, we have this little cutie pie.
- 1 Hornet Queen
- 3 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 1 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 4 Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
- 1 Silumgar, the Drifting Death
- 2 Sidisi, Undead Vizier
- 4 Den Protector
- 4 Deathmist Raptor
Once believed to be “dead” CML showcased why Sultai Reanimator is still a very viable strategy.
It focuses on the immense power of Den Protector, Whip of Erebos, Deathmist Raptor, and plenty of enablers like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Satyr Wayfinder.
Each piece fits perfectly, and it creates one of the best versions of a snowball in Standard. Due to the huge presence of Ugin, this deck had to take a
backseat. Since it appears to have less of a presence in Standard than it did, decks like Sultai Reanimator become even better.
I would talk about Chris and his sideboard, but I don’t have another 1,500 words to work with. This deck has a ton of important pieces, so I can see the
charm and effectiveness of fifteen one-ofs. Take out a few unneeded cards and replace them with whatever helps in the matchup.
I fully believe that this deck might have a bigger presence going forward in Standard. It has all the tools needed to be good. It always has, but with
natural predators appearing less and less, Sultai can appear in higher numbers and start being far more dominant again. I imagine that those players
battling in Sao Paulo and Toronto wrote off the Sultai Reanimator strategy a little bit, which is why we didn’t see much of it.
That might change.
So where do we go from here?
Three different decks took home crowns this weekend.
Who is the rightful king of Westeros?
At the start of this weekend, we thought we knew everything, but much like Jon Snow, we knew nothing.