This is the best Standard format in the last five years.
The range of decks you can play is absurd, and the customization inside of
each archetype is unheard of. Is your deck losing to a specific card or
matchup? Chances are you can add a color or just change a few cards around
and solve that problem. The issue when you do this is that you’re cutting a
different card that ultimately leaves you vulnerable to another card or
And to me, that’s the sign of a good format. You want to play a
bunch of expensive stuff to go over the top of Golgari or Control? Well,
that’s gonna cost you big time against these low-to-the-ground aggressive
strategies. You can see it in the finishers. You can see it in the utility
spells. You can see it in the removal. Everything has a hole. Nothing beats
everything. And on top of all that, we have like ten or more viable
I’ve spent the last few weeks talking about Jeskai Control, and for the
most part, I thought the archetype was very good. But as I pointed out
often, if your opponent is trying to go under you, chances are your
counterspells will be pretty bad. Plus, unless you play very specific
removal (and draw said removal), you’re going to get run over by cards that
are relatively difficult to beat. On top of that, if you fail to draw a
Deafening Clarion against some of these fast aggro decks, there’s a good
chance you’ll die before you ever even get off the ground. Since aggressive
decks did so well at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, as well as
multiple high-level Magic Online tournaments over the last two weeks, I
can’t in good conscience recommend playing Jeskai Control at this juncture.
But things change quickly, and if Golgari Midrange builds their deck in
such a way to punish aggressive strategies and continues to be the most
played deck in Standard, Jeskai Control could make its way back into the
metagame. It’s a swinging pendulum and we’re currently in the spot where
Jeskai Control is bad, but that could change as early as next week!
Let me start by saying that Wizards of the Coast got very unlucky
to have a Top 8 full of Boros-colored aggro decks. The decks that went 8-2
or better were diverse, and it seemed like most of the players in the Top 8
were boosted into the elimination rounds by doing well in Draft. And while
those eight players and their decks are the ones people will be talking
about, there’s a lot of information to be gained by parsing that data.
Since this format is changing so quickly, it’s important that we stay
informed from week to week. Every shift in the metagame means we need to
change the suite of spells in our maindeck and sideboard. When we have a
target on our back, it’s possible we should just be changing strategies
altogether! It’s a lot to ask, but if you want to be successful in this
Standard format, you need to be ready to switch cards or decks on a dime.
, I thought Golgari Midrange was in a pretty good spot for the Pro Tour so
long as it was built to handle the aggressive decks as opposed to being
great for the mirror. I expected Wildgrowth Walker to make a huge comeback
because it helped Golgari decks claw back into games where they fell really
far behind. The life buffer created by Wildgrowth Walker usually gives you
enough time to find whatever you need to clear up the battlefield or close
With that said, Wildgrowth Walker isn’t exactly a card I want in the
mirror, as it’s a primo target for Ravenous Chupacabra and the life gained
isn’t overly relevant. So if Golgari Midrange comes back in a big way – it
was 20% of the PT metagame – building your deck to be good against
aggressive strategies instead of the mirror or control means you’re going
to do poorly against virtually anything that isn’t an aggressive deck.
Every card choice matters. Every change loses you percentage points in the
matchups where the card you’re cutting is important. How you build your
deck is just as important as how you play your deck, and that’s an
absolutely fantastic place for Standard to be. But with the results of the
Pro Tour confirming my belief that we need to be rock solid against
aggressive strategies, most of the stuff I talked about last week still
holds water. But that doesn’t mean we didn’t learn a thing or two from the
The fact of the matter is that there are a ton of viable options when it
comes to choosing your deck for the next Standard event and telling you
that “this particular deck is the best deck for the weekend” would be
disingenuous. Honestly, things are changing so fast that something you read
as early as last week could be invalidated by now. So I’ll just say that
there is no “right deck choice,” but I will say that I think there are
right “card choices” within each major archetype. Today’s article is going
to revolve around my top five Standard picks and my ideal decklist for each
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 4 Wildgrowth Walker
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 2 Seekers' Squire
- 1 Thrashing Brontodon
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 3 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 3 Doom Whisperer
First off, I just want to say that this version of Golgari Midrange is
heavily inspired by Matt Nass’s list from the Pro Tour. The ideas that he
and his team came up with for the archetype were awesome, but even that
list needs some tweaks if we expect Boros Aggro to be everywhere next
Long story short, Doom Whisperer is just a busted Magic card if your
opponent isn’t playing Ravenous Chupacabra. While we aren’t doing anything
too messed up like milling your entire deck to find Izoni, Thousand-Eyed or
Brad Nelson’s Golgari Raiders, the body and ability are both just
disgusting. And since many decks are leaning on red for removal or white
enchantments that get blown up by Vivien Reid, Doom Whisperer is relatively
safe on the turn that you cast it. And even if your opponent gets it off
the battlefield, you’re likely digging for another high-impact card on the
I also think the sideboard is pretty disgusting. The fact that people are
sleeping on Reclamation Sage is baffling to me, as these white-based aggro
decks are just flooded with Conclave Tribunal, Baffling End, Seal Away, and
Legion’s Landing. Yes, we’re playing one Thrashing Brontodon in the
maindeck, but that’s because the body is large if the ability is
irrelevant. If the ability is relevant, I’d much rather have a 2/1 sticking
around after. Unfortunately, Reclamation Sage is also another “enters the
battlefield” ability, which isn’t exactly ideal against Tocatli Honor
Guard. But it seems like fewer and fewer people are running it in the
maindeck, which is great news for our deck that revolves around the explore
And now we get to the elephant in the room – Boros Aggro.
Let’s be clear – if you ever stumble against Boros Aggro, you’re dead.
Their entire gameplan revolves around casting three or more creatures in
the first three turns, overwhelming traditional spot removal. History of
Benalia is responsible for many of the game wins, but the deck functions
just fine without it. Of course, if your opponent is going to play a
sweeper or three, drawing History of Benalia is actively good. And the free
wins you get from casting History into History on the play are nice too.
With so many different versions to choose from, it can be difficult to come
to any real conclusions about the archetype. For example, both versions in
the finals of the Pro Tour opted out of playing Heroic Reinforcements! For
me, that was the main reason to play red in the first place! But with so
many teams figuring out that Heroic Reinforcements was a “win more” card as
opposed to something that’s good at multiple points in a game, it starts to
make sense. For example, Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice is a fine card when
you’re applying pressure. And when you’re ahead, an Aurelia could play a
very similar role to Heroic Reinforcements. It’s just not as flashy. The
kicker is that when you’re behind, Aurelia is a great way to play defense
while also trying to poke through some damage.
“But Todd, what about Venerated Loxodon? Lifelink creatures and Ajani’s
Pridemate? Goblin Instigator? What do I choose?”
From the man himself:
lifegain list is definitely favored, but I do think a lifegain list with
Loxodon might be even more favored.” – Andrew Elenboger
So let’s try that!
- 4 Ajani's Pridemate
- 4 Adanto Vanguard
- 4 Skymarcher Aspirant
- 4 Benalish Marshal
- 4 Leonin Vanguard
- 4 Healer's Hawk
- 4 Venerated Loxodon
The hard truth is that Andrew Elenbogen’s version of Boros Aggro was the
best last weekend, but even he admits that the spice LSV and company
brought to the table was awesome. So why don’t we try to find a hybrid? In
this version, I’ve decided to cut Dauntless Bodyguard in favor of the
lifegain creatures. From watching the Boros decks all weekend, I never felt
like the ability on Dauntless Bodyguard was all that relevant. Outside of
an opposing Deafening Clarion, I don’t expect it to have much of an impact,
as most of your creatures are effectively the same. I could be
underestimating the ability of Dauntless Bodyguard here, but if Deafening
Clarion doesn’t show up, I don’t see the card doing all that much work.
I’ve cut Pride of Conquerors, which I personally despise, but I wouldn’t
fault you for playing two Conclave Tribunal and two Pride of Conquerors in
your maindeck. After all, just about every single white-based aggressive
deck played at least two Pride of Conquerors. I just have had too many
games end with me needing to draw a creature but drawing Pride of
But if you’re going to play Boros Aggro, I would definitely recommend any
version featuring Venerated Loxodon. It has such a huge impact in the
mirrors, as does any “anthem” effect, and I think being well-positioned in
the mirror is where you need to be with this archetype.
Some things just don’t make sense. Sure, I can see Mono-Blue being a viable
choice when all the decks you’re playing against get blown out by Spell
Pierce and Dive Down. That’s just science! But how does a deck like this
one compete in a field full of Mono-Red, Boros, and Golgari? Well,
Guillaume Gauthier certainly showed us all what’s up with his 10-0 run in
Standard at the Pro Tour.
With that in mind, the format should shift pretty heavily toward Boros
Aggro with six of the eight slots in Top 8 featuring the archetype. So how
would you change Mono-Blue Aggro to beat Boros Aggro? Or, at the very
least, what changes will help the matchup come crunch time?
- 4 Siren Stormtamer
- 2 Warkite Marauder
- 4 Mist-Cloaked Herald
- 4 Merfolk Trickster
- 4 Tempest Djinn
- 2 Exclusion Mage
- 20 Island
As a mono-colored deck, making any significant changes in the build is
difficult because you don’t have that many different choices! Plus, with
his 10-0 run, I don’t think making too many changes is all that essential.
Basically, I just want to come in with a nod to Boros Aggro and keep the
core of my deck intact. A second Exclusion Mage in the maindeck over a
Warkite Marauder could help against History of Benalia.
Out of the sideboard, Selective Snare is a great option for fighting
History of Benalia tokens, but I also think the tech brought by a lot of
Izzet Drake pilots in Entrancing Melody could be surprisingly effective. Of
course, tapping out isn’t exactly ideal in this archetype, but I think
moving toward a different gameplan against Boros Aggro is key. My plan is
to flood the battlefield with threats, steal their creatures, bounce their
creatures, and eventually find Sleep and kill them. Entrancing Melody is
also a great payoff card if we’re slowing things down with the likes of
Any major changes to this archetype could ultimately make it fall apart,
which is why I’m hesitant to do much of anything. However, Boros Aggro
wasn’t exactly a huge part of the metagame. If the matchup is bad, which
I’m inclined to think it is, it’s possible that Mono-Blue Aggro is poorly
positioned. However, if a bunch of slower decks try to attack the aggro
strategies, a deck like Mono-Blue is primed to clean house!
I can’t help it. I just keep coming back to it.
Okay, first of all, what the hell? One Seal Away and zero Settle the
Wreckage maindeck? How on earth are you beating a resolved Adanto Vanguard?
Aside from blocking it with a Crackling Drake, the answer is “I’m not.”
Okay, so here’s where I’m at. It seems like Zach had some good ideas. He
isn’t the first person to play Crackling Drake and Deafening Clarion
together. In fact, a version of this archetype did well in one of the first
Magic Online PTQs of the season. In my initial testing, the deck seemed
pretty solid, but I just couldn’t see why you’d want to continually tap out
for Crackling Drake! Your opponent is just going to slam Ravenous
Chupacabra and keep applying pressure!
Well, let’s just say that this isn’t your typical “Jeskai Control” deck.
While there are removal spells and counterspells, as well as some card
draw, there are quite a few heavy-hitting creatures. And maybe that’s what
we must do as Jeskai Control pilots in order to be competitive in this
format! While Niv-Mizzet, Parun and Crackling Drake are a bit clunky, it’s
possible they provide enough raw power to finish games in the face of
Ravenous Chupacabra. After all, if you’re just replacing Chemister’s
Insight with Crackling Drake, you’re still effectively casting a “two for
one,” except one of these cards has tremendous synergy with Deafening
Dive Down is also a card I have gained a ton of respect for in the last few
weeks. As a cheap way to protect your creatures and as a lategame
counterspell for your opponent’s removal spell on Niv-Mizzet, Parun, Dive
Down is absolutely terrifying. I can vouch for that. Basically, if you ever
get to untap with Niv-Mizzet, Parun, the game should be over. And a
singleton Dive Down acts as a “Splinter Twin” of sorts in that it allows
you to win the game when combined with Niv-Mizzet.
The lack of Azor’s Gateway isn’t surprising. In my initial testing, cards
like Azor’s Gateway just aren’t very good if the format is overly
aggressive. My first few matches of Jeskai Control with Azor’s Gateway had
my opponent killing me before I even came close to transforming it. At
Grand Prix New Jersey, I transformed it almost every game I cast it!
I have to say, this direction of Jeskai Control is really starting to grow
on me. The more I think about it, the more I absolutely adore the body of
Crackling Drake as the “second card” on Chemister’s Insight. So if we’re
going to approach this archetype constructively, what cards do we want to
beat? And what changes can we make to help facilitate that?
All I’d really change from the maindeck is adding another Seal Away over a
Justice Strike. The sideboard is solid but not perfect. I honestly looked
at this decklist for about twenty minutes, changing something here and
there, and just kept reverting to the same list. The only thing I really
hate is the second copy of Justice Strike because we’re playing four
Izzet Drakes is the deck I want to end on today, as I think it is the
archetype you need to be the most precise with when it comes to
deckbuilding. Making sure you balance your threats and utility spells is
paramount. If you spin your wheels too much without actually deploying a
threat, chances are your opponent is going to overrun you while you’re
still digging for action. And, unfortunately, a lot of draws from Izzet
Drakes start to go south if you can’t find an Arclight Phoenix in the top
twelve cards of your deck.
A lot of people have argued both for and against Goblin Electromancer. My
gut tells me that any draw featuring Goblin Electromancer is better than a
draw without it. Plus, Goblin Electromancer lets you build your deck in
such a way that your “nut draws” are significantly better. Cards like
Warlord’s Fury and the like just aren’t very good. I’d much rather be able
to play Radical Idea in order to make my Arclight Phoenix better.
The problem here is that I also think Enigma Drake is good! A hybrid might
still be the answer, but I think moving back to four copies of Goblin
Electromancer is key.
The card I’m most excited about playing?
I think this card so perfectly fits inside the current metagame that I’m
playing one maindeck over a Crackling Drake. With a second in the
sideboard, I honestly think it might be the perfect foil to Boros Aggro and
the mirror. The problem? It doesn’t close games too quickly and looks
downright embarrassing against Ravenous Chupacabra. With that said, there
are enough copies of Lava Coil and such running around that having five
toughness is a huge deal. Plus, being able to assemble an army from one
creature to stall Boros Aggro in their tracks is sweet.
The other tech card, which we’ve talked about already in Mono-Blue Aggro,
is Entrancing Melody. In a deck that wants to cast Goblin Electromancer, I
often found myself not wanting Fiery Cannonade. It just wasn’t reliable, as
they could get their creatures above two toughness. Plus, my best card
against them got swept up in it! Goblin Electromancer shines against decks
without a lot of removal. When left unfettered, Goblin Electromancer goes
So instead of Fiery Cannonade, the plan for most Izzet Drakes pilots was to
just steal all the annoying threats and play a different game than them.
Steal their threats, beat them down with Drakes, profit. Can’t say I
disagree with that plan at all!
On the whole, I think Izzet Drakes might be the best deck in Standard right
now, but I’m biased. I may or may not have a type, and that type is exactly
“decks that can play Enigma Drake.” Regardless, a lot of the game’s top
players agree with me that Izzet Drakes is dope, and more often than not
you should probably listen to Jon Finkel and Yuuya Watanabe.
Anyway, that’s my take on the current Standard format. Play what you want,
but just make sure you’re prepared to beat the “deck of the week.” This
week, that deck is Boros Aggro. In previous weeks, it has been Golgari
Midrange or Jeskai Control. And I fully expect the trend of having a
different “best deck” each week to continue. So this week, we’re slanted
toward beating Boros Aggro, but all five of these archetypes (and others)
will no doubt be changing cards here and there to make themselves more
resilient against the week’s top strategy.
*Sniff.* It’s beautiful. I love it. This Standard format is just so good!
Until next week, friends!