Is Sultai Ramp (Yorion) The Deck To Beat In Strixhaven Standard?

Strixhaven Standard is underway, but has Magic’s newest set help to dethrone Sultai Ramp (Yorion)? Six SCG creators share their thoughts and decklists.

Quandrix Cultivator illustrated by Filip Burburan

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the arrival of Strixhaven, many are unsure what they’d play in Standard. That’s where we come in and let you know what we’d play and why we’d play it. Hopefully this advice aids in your decision making for your next Strixhaven Standard event (like an SCG Tour Online Satellite or Strixhaven Championship Qualifier this weekend)!

Brad Nelson — Sultai Ramp (Yorion)

Thus far, Strixhaven hasn’t had much of an impact on Standard, so things are looking pretty much the same as they did before. There are a few more Mono-Red Aggro❄ and Mono-White Aggro❄ decks than normal, but that’s probably due to spikes preying on the new-set brewers roaming the ladders. Even so, it still just seems like Temur Adventures, Sultai Ramp (Yorion), Dimir Rogues (Lurrus), Jeskai Cycling, and Mono-Red Aggro❄ will continue to be the best and most played decks.

I don’t really have any sage reason why you should pick Sultai Ramp (Yorion) over any of the other top decks. All the matchups are pretty even, with slight edges to those who prepare for certain matchups. Personally I like playing Sultai Ramp (Yorion) and currently want it slanted to beat up on Temur Adventures and other creature-based decks since those are the decks I’m playing against the most.

Quandrix Cultivator

I never thought Quandrix Cultivator was going to be the Strixhaven card to make the cut. After all, Solemn Simulacrum didn’t pass the test so why would Turtle Druid? You could say it’s because of its body being better which does help a ton, but the real upside I didn’t consider before playing with the card was that the land entered the battlefield untapped. This has come in handy when you play it when you have access to an extra untapped land, making it easy to double spell the turn before casting Emergent Ultimatum.

Eureka Moment Baleful Mastery

Neither Eureka Moment or Baleful Mastery have made the cut thus far. In theory, Eureka Moment could be a better Beyond the Multiverse, but always having to pay full retail has been annoying and the metagame is just too aggressive right now in general.

The same can be said for Baleful Mastery. There’s just not enough planeswalkers roaming around to justify playing a card with this type of downside. The fact that it takes out Koma, Cosmos Serpent is nice, but so does Extinction Event, so I side towards that card at the moment.

Test of Talents

Test of Talents is pretty messed up in the mirror. Obviously you want to exile all four Emergent Ultimatums, but even countering a Duress and seeing their hand can help you navigate the following turns. Still, it might not be better than Negate if Four-Color Blink (Yorion) starts picking up in popularity.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Boros Winota

When Strixhaven was previewed, I struggled to find many cards that I thought would see play in Standard. After playing Ladder on Arena with it for a bit, I’m now more optimistic about its prospects; it’s possible that people are just trying the new stuff out a disproportionate amount and then things will return back to normal once the novelty has worn off, but right now I’ve been playing with and against a fair number of Strixhaven cards. 

Because the metagame is wildly unpredictable at this point, I think playing a proactive strategy is best. I like Sultai Ramp (Yorion) and Dimir Rogues (Lurrus) as decks right now but I think they’re much better when you expect a certain metagame, and right now I don’t know if I want to play Heartless Act or Negate yet. Proactive strategies don’t need to worry about that nearly as much, so they’re my go-to for the start of a format. Of the proactive strategies I’ve played, the one I’ve had the most success with is Boros Winota.

I wrote about Winota, Joiner of Force decks a few weeks ago and since then I’ve refined my list a bit to a point where I like it more than either Mono-Red Aggro❄ or Mono-White Aggro❄ (though it does pain me to give up Faceless Haven — that card is really good). I think there’s merit to playing Mardu (the black cards are very good with Winota herself), but the mana suffers for it — I’m trying to cast a W/R W/R W/R W/R card, after all, so even playing a Pathway on black can be a disaster. Besides, it’s not like you’re playing bad cards instead of good cards in another color — there are plenty of good Boros cards for the deck. 

In the end, I think the Mardu deck is a better Winota deck since your three-drops make extra creatures, but it’s also a worse deck if you don’t have Winota, and the Boros deck is good enough of a Winota deck for me that I want to maximize my non-Winota draws. Basically the Mardu deck is a 9 when you play Winota and it lives, but a 4 when that doesn’t happen, and the Boros deck is an 8 when that happens and a 6.5 when it doesn’t.

Shaheen Soorani — Dimir Control (Yorion)

Strixhaven has had more of an impact on early Standard than most competitors thought.  The power level of this set is a drop compared to its recent predecessors; however, there are a few gems that have moved the format to a healthy place.  The improvements to control have upped the archetype’s game against slower decks, like Sultai Ramp (Yorion) and the mirror, allowing this Dimir Control (Yorion) deck to make its way to the top of the metagame food chain.

Mono-White Aggro❄ is still a force in Standard, which is why I still have a robust removal suite to handle that deck.  Exile effects are in high demand, since many of the threats from this deck are not removed by a simple Doomskar.  Extinction Event is where you want to be in this Standard format, especially when the aggro decks all have similar creatures that are difficult to kill.  The effectiveness of the removal allows for most of the deck to combat enemy spells, not creatures, making Dimir Control (Yorion) my choice for this new Standard right now.

Ari Lax — Sultai Ramp (Yorion)

The first week of Strixhaven Standard doesn’t look like it brought new format crashing archetypes, but it did bring significant improvements for existing archetypes. It does seem like Sultai Ramp (Yorion) gained the most, and it was already the most consistently successful archetype in the format.

No more Cultivates that don’t do stuff beside ramp, just good ramp spells that are bodies (Quandrix Cultivator) or card draw (Eureka Moment). Did you know Quandrix Cultivator produces an untapped land? What the heck is that? Professor Onyx is also a nice fork to present in an Emergent Ultimatum with Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider and Valki, God of Lies, forcing your opponent to give you the two planeswalkers or get lethally ultimated by one of them. From there it should be super easy to mop up, where sometimes Alrund’s Epiphany or Kiora Bests the Sea God was answerable at minimal loss of value. At first glance it also looks like Professor Onyx is a better find than Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor in many spots where you’re just getting the planeswalker and an extra turn, since it digs six cards deep from your deck for another Emergent Ultimatum over the same time span Tibalt gets you two cards.

If you want a spice factor deck to bring, play some Eyetwitches like wordy333 in 11th place in this same event did with a pile of Awaken the Blood Avatar. Just cut all the Fireblade Chargers and play anything else.

Dom Harvey — Sultai Control (Yorion)

After jumping around a lot in Kaldheim Standard, I had consistent success with a leaner build of Sultai Control (Yorion) that eschewed Emergent Ultimatum in favour of more cheap interaction and mid-game threats like Polukranos, Unchained and Elder Gargaroth. This was less powerful in the abstract than ramping to Emergent Ultimatum but more reliable against the other most popular decks: Mono-Red Aggro❄, Dimir Rogues (Lurrus), and the various builds of Temur Adventures that suddenly took over the format after the Kaldheim Championship. 

Not much has changed so far with Strixhaven. Throne of Eldraine still sets the bar impossibly high for most new cards and the new decks most likely to emerge — Boros Aggro with or without Winota, Joiner of Forces and Blade Historian, for example — are the same kind of strategy that this version of Sultai took aim at before. After doubting my own instincts about the deck leading into the Standard Showcase playoff on Magic Online this past weekend, I was pleased to see Fabrizio Anteri make it through a stacked field with a similar build featuring some Strixhaven cards. Quandrix Cultivator as a good Yorion target and bridge to Koma, Cosmos Serpent as well as Baleful Mastery as an answer to Koma or anything else that can be played on the cheap when staying alive is all that matters.

Cedric Phillips — Mono-White Aggro❄

My choice should surprised exactly zero people but seeing Mono-White Aggro❄ win the most recent Magic Online Standard Challenge is a good enough reason for me to select it.

Oh and I guess Elite Spellbinder helped too. Because that card is messed up.

While reading all four of our Strixhaven First Impressions articles, the thing that stood out to me the most was that everyone thought Elite Spellbinder was going to be impactful across all four major Constructed formats — Standard, Historic, Pioneer, and Modern. Few cards have that kind of cross format appeal, and if they do, they’re normally a spell, not a creature. So assuming my colleagues are correct — and who would I be to do otherwise? — that means that Elite Spellbinder is likely to be insane. Seeing three copies _Cygnus’ list makes a lot of sense to me, and I wouldn’t be surprised if the fourth one makes it in over a copy of Lurrus eventually.

Mono-White Aggro❄ is long on three-drops — Skyclave Apparition, Reidane, God of the Worthy, Maul of the Skyclaves, Chop Down, Lurrus, and Elite Spellbinder — but they’re all so good that I’m not sure what you’re supposed to do about it. Tough cuts are going to have to be made sooner rather than later but this is a good problem to have, because as the metagame continues to shift, Mono-White Aggro❄ will be able to adapt accordingly.

I know the Kaldheim Championship didn’t go well for Mono-White Aggro❄, but I think Elite Spellbinder is such an outlier when it comes to power level that the deck needs to be revisited again. It paid off for _Cygnus and I think it can pay off for you too.