I’ve begun messing around with Standard 2022 on Arena in the last few days, and I’ve been having fun playing Lolth, Spider Queen, but before we get to that, let’s take a boarder look at the format.
Standard 2022 is post-rotation Standard, meaning Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Ikoria, and Core Set 2021 aren’t legal. I’ve liked playing without Adventures and Ultimatums, but there are still definitely a few cards that really stand out in the format.
I think green is the strongest color and blue and white seem weakest. Generating additional mana has felt great, so the colors are somewhat ranked by their ability to do that. Jaspera Sentinel has felt amazing, but green also has Prosperous Innkeeper and various traditional ramp spells, while red and black have some Treasure generation.
I hate trying to rank Top 10 lists, but here are some cards and packages that have felt significant to me so far:
Esika’s Chariot is the bomb Kaldheim Draft led me to expect it to be. It feels like an easy way to pull far ahead on the battlefield.
Jaspera Sentinel has felt great with creatures that make Treasure because you don’t really care about attacking with them and they’re not really worth killing, so you can freely tap them for mana. Curving Jaspera Sentinel into Prosperous Innkeeper to get five mana on Turn 3 has felt particularly nice.
Goldspan Dragon has felt like a go-to threat for a wide variety of midrange red decks — Gruul, Rakdos, and Izzet primarily.
Rakdos has a lot of powerful things to do with Treasures between Valki, God of Lies; Orcus, Prince of Undeath; and Awaken the Blood Avatar. I like all the cheap Treasure cards. In my previous article, I underrated Foresworn Paladin, but I still mostly haven’t been inclined to play it that much because I’ve been focusing more on fast Treasure-making and casting big spells, where I think it plays better if you deck looks more like an aggro deck than a ramp deck.
Koma, Cosmos Serpent seems worth ramping into. Without Ultimatums, it seems like the biggest thing going on —either that or Alrund’s Epiphany with Dragons, I suppose, but Koma requires the least support to take over a game, which makes it a great ramp/Treasure payoff.
Werewolf Pack Leader and Ranger Class are exceptional threats, and those with Old-Growth Troll and Esika’s Chariot create a very powerful core for Mono-Green Aggro❄, one of the best decks in the format. The power of cards that cost multiple green symbols really pushes against splashing, particularly in a format where the best duals are Pathways, which are particularly bad at letting you cast spells with a lot of the same color of mana symbols in a multicolor deck.
Ranger Class is a lot more flexible, since it only costs a single green mana, and I think it’s good outside of mono-green, though the other cards in mono-green might be strong enough that they’re just better than the two-color aggro decks that could use Ranger Class.
Because Treasures are so good, Culling Ritual is in an interesting place in the format. There’s a lot of potential there, but it definitely has some bad matchups. Having only played Best-of-One, I haven’t found a great place to explore it, but it’s a really interesting tool. Currently, I’m most optimistic about it in a Sultai Control/Ramp-style deck that finished with Koma, Cosmos Serpent.
Soul Shatter is a really appealing removal spell due to ignoring ward, especially on Iymrith, Desert Doom and Goldspan Dragon’s targeting trigger, and also cleanly answering Immersturm Predator
The mana is bad enough that it creates a meaningful incentive to play monocolored even when your deck doesn’t have a lot of cards with intense color requirements. Goblins seems like a reasonable approach to mono-red, while I favor Magecraft for mono-white. Here’s my current build of that:
This deck is built to kill in a single attack thanks to magecraft triggers from Clever Lumimancer and Leonin Lightscribe. Often you’ll use Guiding Voice to get Academic Probation for a cheap trigger that clears their blocker and attack for lethal.
I like this combo/aggro approach more than playing a normal aggro game with good white creatures. In particular, I think it’s good at preying on other aggro decks, which tend not to do enough to disrupt it, and it fairly easily generates a lethal attack faster than another aggro deck can win.
I don’t like Usher of the Fallen very much, which is why I’m only playing two, but I think this deck is kind of cheating on one-mana creatures. I’d like more in theory, but it’s hard because I don’t want to cut into spells and the more expensive creatures are a lot better. I’m not sure if Usher of the Fallen is better than playing a flyer.
Professor of Symbology might be good here, but I think I like the other cards more. I really like the addition of Loyal Warhound, as the extra mana makes it a lot easier to set up the big turn where you cast multiple spells, but it’s really important that it’s also a threat, since this deck can flood out very easily because its functionality requires both a large number of creatures and instants/sorceries.
I think learn cards in general are quite a bit better now than they were in Standard before. They largely feel like a weaker version of Adventure cards, but with those out of the format, this is the best clean card advantage we can get in that style. Also, while this deck isn’t interested in Mascot Exhibition, I think the abundant access to Treasures makes it a lot easier to cast in other decks, which makes getting access to it more powerful.
I’ve been a lot more interested in playing with cards like Field Trip, Gnarled Professor, and Igneous Inspiration now than I used to be.
My favorite deck has been an extremely all-in Lolth, Spider Queen deck that only lightly learns.
This deck was cleaner when it only had twenty lands and had four copies of everything else with no Esika’s Chariots, but Chariot is too strong and fits in the deck too well not to play.
Eyetwitch has been impressive. Pest Summoning is an easy default to enable Plumb the Forbidden, but it’s easy to get up to Mascot Exhibition in this deck, and it can be nice to get the wide range of creatures. Also, having access to Containment Breach has been a great way to answer The Book of Exalted Deeds to avoid losing to an enlightened counter on a Faceless Haven, which is weirdly hard to beat. [Copy Editor’s Note: After initial publication. WotC has banned The Book of Exalted Deeds in Standard 2022.]
Shambling Ghast and Prosperous Innkeeper are both very good at not losing to aggressive decks and buying time to set up a Sedgemoor Witch, Esika’s Chariot, or Lolth engine.
Deadly Brew has been great for making sure I have access to my important cards. I think of it as a Regrowth first and killing my opponent’s creatures is just a nice perk.
Lolth has been pretty impressive in this deck. Reach is great on the Spiders and it can gain a ton of loyalty very quickly, and generally offers a lot of late-game strength to the deck. Casting it on Turn 3 has been incredible.
[Copy Editor’s Note: As mentioned above, Sam Black wrote this section before the banning of The Book of Exalted Deeds in Standard 2022. It remains useful for looking at the Standard rotation, as the announcement specifically stated the ban will not apply to post-rotation regular Standard.]
Another direction I think is interesting is that The Book of Exalted Deeds combo that I referenced earlier. If you can use The Book of Exalted Deeds to put a counter on Faceless Haven, as long as you don’t animate the Faceless Haven again, your opponent can’t win unless they have a way to destroy your land, which most people don’t have. The trick is that this combo isn’t very fast, so you need to play it in a heavy white controlling deck.
Search for Glory is a really cute way to find The Book of Exalted Deeds, because if you use entirely snow mana to cast Search for Glory, you’ll gain three life, so if you cast The Book of Exalted Deeds in the same turn, you’ll also make an Angel.
Most players I’ve played against using this combo played mono-white, but I think it might be better to add another color. My current version uses red for additional card selection.
This is basically a combo deck disguised as a midrange deck, which is an unusual space to occupy, but pretty cool. Theoretically, you can beat someone with your value creatures, but for the most part, they’re a distraction to set up the combo.
This deck maybe uses a few too many cards that I like from Strixhaven Draft — Reconstruct History might be too slow, and it also might be too slow when combined with slightly greedier removal spells (I’m playing Igneous Inspiration and Lorehold Commander where I could be playing Frost Bite). That means they’re more powerful to cast and return, but also that the deck is substantially clunkier. My thinking is that Doomskar helps against aggressive decks, and against control decks I want those cards to be less dead than Frost Bite would be, but I’m not sure that I can really afford to be quite this clunky.
Overall, I have some concerns about the diversity of the format. Toning down the overall power level of Standard from where it had been in Throne of Eldraine is great for making room for new sets to impact the format, but the danger is that if the best cards, those that were able to compete in current Standard, are so much better than the cards that currently don’t see much play, we might simply have a narrower format where there’s too large a gap between the top tier and the other cards for there to be room for new decks.
My hope is that Innistrad: Midnight Hunt opens things up somehow. Low-hanging fruit would be improving the mana in the format to decrease pressure to use Treasures or keep to a single color or enemy pair. I’m already starting to worry about getting tired of Esika’s Chariot and Goldspan Dragon. Maybe someday we’ll revisit the possibility of slightly faster Standard rotation, but until then, I’m at least glad we can pretend it’s 2022 on Arena and get away from Throne of Eldraine cards a little early.