What’s The Best Standard Deck For SCG Dallas?

GerryT is hard at work on putting the metagame trends together! He’s got countless decks ready to go on Arena, and all the testing he’s done has led him to the conclusions he lays out for you here! Get ready for SCG Dallas right!

It didn’t take long for Hydroid Krasis to go from scourge of Standard to
the easiest prey. The majority of the SCG Tour’s best players shifted to
Esper Control after Sultai Midrange proved to be the breakout deck of
#SCGINDY. With Esper Control largely having the target on its head now, how
are players going to react next week?

Both decks have incredible long games, so the answer is to either go over
the top or go under them. The short version is play Mono-Blue Aggro. A
solid Sultai matchup also makes the deck look incredibly good, even if only
for a weekend or two. Even though he chickened out of playing it, Tom Ross
wrote a great article singing Mono-Blue’s praises last week.

You could make the case for Izzet Drakes instead of Mono-Blue Aggro, but
it’s not good enough against Esper, Sultai, or aggro decks to get my vote.
If my deck of choice is going to be flimsy and inflexible, I’d rather play
something with polarizing matchups instead of flipping coins.

I’m taking a lot of inspiration from Ted Felicetti’s list here. Sideboard
Treasure Maps give you a draw engine against spell-based decks, which, when
combined with your counterwall, makes it very hard for you to lose. The
Surge Mares and Entrancing Melodies allow you to become a control deck
after sideboard against Mono-Red and Azorius Aggro. Entrancing Melody is
busted against everything right now that isn’t Esper Control.

Four-Color Gates is the other deck that dominates Esper Control. There are
some folk that have been having a tough time with Gates against Esper
because of their hand disruption and removal that exiles Gate Colossus, but
there are many ways to fix that. You could play something like Rhythm of
the Wild and deploy multiple threats in the same turn or you could be evil
and play Nexus of Fate.

I’m coming around on the idea that Nexus of Fate is what you’re supposed to
be doing with Gates, but that’s also just a bad version of any of the other
Nexus of Fate decks. If I’m entering no clipping mode, I’d rather have Root
Snares and the like rather than Gates Ablaze.

This deck has been performing far better than I ever would have expected,
so I imagine it’ll remain a sleeper choice for many people, especially as
the format shifts to be more about midrange and control.

Conveniently, both Mono-Blue Aggro and Four-Color Gates are weak to
aggressive decks, so that will be the next step. The wrench in the plan is
that Dallas is notoriously an aggressive hotbed. Mono-Red Aggro tends to be
well-represented, but even things like Gruul and white-based aggro decks
aren’t out of the question. For that reason, I’d recommend against playing
Mono-Blue Aggro at


specifically, but it could be a strong choice for any PTQs.

It’s weird though. Standard is currently pulling away from the traditional
aggro decks. Mono-Red has a difficult time against Esper with all its
Lightning Bolts and the white aggro decks need the blue splash to interact
with Esper Control and Nexus of Fate. Both of those trends bode well for
Mono-Blue Aggro.

You could also do worse than playing one of the best decks.

Both Andrew Jessup’s deck choice and his specific build are, as expected,
both very reasoned. Many of the SCG Tour’s top players chose Esper Control
last weekend, and for good reason. You have solid game against everything,
including against Mono-Red Aggro.

One of the things I like about Esper Control is that you can play a ton of
removal to ensure you don’t die to Azorius, Mono-Red, and Mono-Blue and
then gas up with Teferi or Precognitive Perception. The fact that
Perception allows you to see so many cards means you can go from nothing to
a full hand almost immediately.

Chemister’s Insight is nice and everything, but it’s more of a card that
slowly creates an advantage, but Esper typically wants that quick reload.
Obviously playing both has upsides and you don’t necessarily want to load
up too much on either, but playing without two Perceptions strikes me as a
mistake. The threats in Standard don’t outright win the game quickly, but
they do snowball.

The more burst card drawing you’re able to play, the more spot removal you
can typically afford to play too since you’ll almost always be able to slow
the game down. In mirror matches, being able to filter through your dead
cards also helps unless the game comes down to trading specific resources
with each other. For example, Esper has very few win conditions, so Game 1
of the true mirror probably comes down to whose deck has the most business
spells. After sideboard, all that changes when both players bring in more
threats and counterspells.

Basically, more burst card drawing allows you to play more removal spells,
at least in this specific instance. Play Precognitive Perception!

In the sideboard, we’re starting to see Hostage Taker crop up as an answer
to the various Hydroid Krasis decks in the format. With Thief of Sanity,
you have a potent duo that Sultai needs to be prepared for.

Chromium, the Mutable is largely nonsense, even if Jonathan Rosum’s
rationale for the card is to clock the Nexus of Fate decks. You do need a
real win condition, and Karn, Scion of Urza mostly solves a lot of the same
problems and is a reasonable draw engine. The Eldest Reborn is also fine
but doesn’t solve the issue against Nexus decks.

Similar to Chromium, Basilica Bell-Haunt out of the sideboard for Mono-Red
is both narrow and not necessary. You can get percentage points against
Mono-Red without having to play something specifically for them. Even
Moment of Craving, while somewhat narrow, is arguably stronger against red
decks while also giving you percentage in other spots.

The keys to winning with Esper Control are two Precognitive Perception
maindeck and two Hostage Takers in the sideboard.

We’ve seen many takes on Sultai Midrange, but I still feel like the
archetype is underexplored.

I’ve been playing a similar deck on Magic Arena and noticed the
similarities between my version and Matt Nass’s, which Martin Juza was
streaming Thursday night. My version had a couple Entrancing Melodies
maindeck (which I like), but the plan was the same.

Simic was on my to-do list because I didn’t think I’d miss Find, Ravenous
Chupacabra, Cast Down, and Vraska’s Contempt very much since you don’t need
them for every single matchup, but being three colors is noticeably
stronger, even despite the downsides. Even though your mana is smooth and
you have a reasonable amount of interaction and card advantage, Simic still
falls short. What you really miss is the versatility of the black cards.
Not being able to function as a control deck against other midrange can be
truly brutal, even if you have Hadana’s Climb and Zegana as an edge.

To top it off, Plaguecrafter is too important of a sideboard card at the
moment. It decimates the decks trying to protect a threat with Dive Down,
snipes Teferi and their Thief of Sanities out of the sideboard, plus it can
get rid of Carnage Tyrant or Vivien Reid in the mirror (although usually
only when Finality is involved).

Where does Mono-Red fall in all of this?

First of all, against Esper Control you need either repeatable sources of
damage or a bunch of card advantage. The “all Lightning Bolt” plan doesn’t
work through Moment of Craving and Absorb. We need to adapt.

This version is about as anti-Sultai and Esper as I can imagine. Oddly
enough, it really looks like last season’s Mono-Red Aggro decks. Since
we’re looking at persistent sources of damage, it doesn’t make much sense
to stay mono-red. Is this supposed to be the time where Rakdos Aggro
actually makes an appearance?

If you want to stay Mono-Red, Legion Warboss is probably where you want to
be. It’s the hardest hitting red creature in Standard, demands a Kaya’s
Wrath all by itself, and is the best follow-up to a Kaya’s Wrath. You’ll
need to clear the way against Sultai, but that’s the reason Lava Coils are
back in the deck.

One of the worst cards in the deck has always been Fanatical Firebrand.
Giving it the axe isn’t something I’m upset about as it frequently
contributed to anemic draws.

Yeah, I have a Nullhide Ferox in my Mono-Red Aggro sideboard. You got a
problem with it? Someone needs to teach these Basilica Bell-Haunts a lesson[CEDitor’s Note: I seriously thought that was a typo… ]

Everything Else

Gruul has been solid for me, but mostly because it farmed Esper and
Mono-Red. Sultai is a different story because no matter what, you’re going
to have issues with Wildgrowth Walker and Finality.

Judith and Heroic Reinforcements seem good at the moment, even though very
few people are playing them. Similarly to Gruul, Mardu ends up taking this
smallball approach that will eventually overwhelm Sultai, only to get
dominated by Finality. If the deck were a little faster or a little
stickier, things would be much easier. It’s another reason why I recommend
being very aggressive, very disruptive, or go very big at the moment.

Another reasonable performer is white aggro, but the versions with the blue
splash aren’t where you want to be. Slowing down a little in order to
splash Negate off nine blue sources is bound to cost you at some point. I’d
look into Mono-White with more one-drops, potentially more fliers, and a
lot of Unbreakable Formations.

While discussing the deck this weekend, Tom Ross noted how poor his History
of Benalias have been, which also points to the point that being just below
Sultai on the midrange spectrum ends up being bad for certain cards, not
just certain archetypes. Cutting them altogether isn’t out of the question.

The biggest shift was the complete lack of Esper Midrange this weekend. Cut
those Bell-Haunts for Seraph of the Scales, consider playing The Immortal
Sun instead of Teferi, and you might find success with the archetype.
Realistically, you will probably lose to Sultai and Esper Control though.

I don’t know if Arena has a cap on the amount of decks you can have saved,
but if they do, I’m sure I’ll hit it soon. The brewing has basically been
nonstop, but this format feels like Teferi, Hydroid Krasis, and the various
aggro decks are the most powerful things you can be doing and are already
figured out. It’s not likely that I’ll break the format, but I could break
it for a weekend!