I’m absolutely in love with the new Standard 2022 format. For those of you who aren’t yet familiar, Standard 2022 is a Magic Arena format that was released with the future in mind. In two months Innistrad: Midnight Hunt will be released which forces the Standard rotation. With this in mind, Standard 2022 gives us a chance to experience what Standard might look like as the only legal sets are those that won’t be rotating: DnD: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, Strixhaven, Kaldheim, and Zendikar Rising.
Technically there are a few more cards legal in the format in the form of the beginner expansion Arena Base Set (ANB). This collection of cards is rather weak, but is legal in all Standard Best-of-One queues and does give life to Goblin decks as Shock, Raging Goblin, and Goblin Trashmaster are all in the set. For the most part though these cards have little-to-no impact on the format.
It’s also worth noting that the format on Magic Arena is currently only Best-of-One. While it’s really nice that there’s at least a ranked queue this time around, I’d still love to see a Best-of-Three queue sprout up. I did get to scratch my itch last week with one of Insight Esports Standard 2022 tournaments as they were Best-of-Three, and I really hope they run more of them in the future.
I bring this up because today we’re going to just be focusing on Best-of-One so our decklists will look a bit different than they usually do. Some decks will have sideboards as learn + Lessons and Legion Angel are in the format, but we will not be focusing on any non-Game 1 strategy. I’ll redress this in a later article if a best of three queue is opened up on Magic Arena, or if there’s a large spike in third-party Standard 2022 tournaments on the horizon.
Anyway, I’m not the only one excited to take a break from what Standard has become over the past year. Yesterday, Sam Black wrote about some of the brews he’s been working on which you should definitely give a read. I’m also expecting other content creators from Star City Games to write about this format and I just can’t wait to see what they have to say about it so be sure to be on the lookout!
While Sam’s brewing up a storm, I’ve been playing with all the “best decks”. This is my typical process when I dip my toes into a format as it allows me to learn what needs to be beaten. That, and I just love tuning great decks. So yeah, our focus today will be what I think are the best archetypes in the format, what their strengths and weaknesses are, and how I feel they need to be built.
- 3 Swarm Shambler
- 2 Tangled Florahedron
- 4 Kazandu Mammoth
- 4 Old-Growth Troll
- 4 Jaspera Sentinel
- 1 Gnarled Professor
- 4 Werewolf Pack Leader
Last week the great Stephen Croke was the first to popularize what’s still widely considered the best deck in the format. Simply put, this deck has it all. It’s curve is spectacular, almost every card has an activated or triggered ability, and to top it off it’s monocolored, giving it a higher chance of functional opening hands. All-in-all this deck checks every box.
Another important factor to consider is that it exists in a Best-of-One world. I learned a lot about Best-of-One when I spent two months preparing for the Mythic Invitational back in 2019. The most important rule to live by was to not dip your toes too deeply into the midrange trenches. We found that midrange decks suffered when their interaction didn’t line up well, and that was very difficult to stop from happening when you came across both control and aggro opponents. Mono-Green Aggro❄ doesn’t have to worry about that. It has an incredibly efficient curve of creatures backed up by a small smattering of interactive spells.
The secrets out about this card. Ranger Class is most likely the best card in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. I mean look at it! It just does everything a deck like this would want it to do! It creates a creature when it enters the battlefield, starts pumping up the squad when attacking, and then eventually gains you card advantage once the game’s stalled or you’re flooding out. A mana sink like this rarely comes around and I’m sure it’s going to be a Standard staple after rotation. If you’re a fan of the green machine, I highly suggest you pick up your set before it’s a double digit dollar rare.
I’m very confident in most of my card choices except for Gnarled Professor. There’s just something telling me that it’s foolish to not have access to a sideboard when given the opportunity. That said, all the Lessons you could be searching up are low-impact. Still, I’ve won quite a few mirror matches thanks to the 2/1 Inkling token you get off of Mascot Exhibition which is why I still have one copy of the four-mana value creature in my deck.
There’s really not much more to say about this deck. It’s a perfect first deck to try out if you’re just getting started in Standard 2022 as well as a great deck to switch to if you’re looking to increase your win percentage. It does have a target on its head right now, but that doesn’t stop it from still winning most of its matches… even against me.
There’s a little more to say about today’s next archetype as it falls into that midrange realm we just talked about. Like I said, I don’t typically like playing midrange decks, but luckily Izzet Dragons❄ doesn’t have the same traditional end game of needing to attrition an opponent out. Izzet Dragons❄ is the type of midrange deck that’s merely trying to stem the bleeding long enough for the combination of Goldspan Dragon and Alrund’s Epiphany to kick in and win the game from nowhere. That’s why I think it’s very important to play four of each.
This is where things get a little murky though as other Izzet Dragons❄ and Dimir Control players may have their lists skewed more towards beating the other blue decks. This can be extremely frustrating when your opponent has less removal spells and more counterspells than you. That’s just a part of the Best-of-One structure that you have to accept. If you’re in the Shaheen Soorani camp of “never losing blue mirrors” then you can make a couple changes to even the odds.
For a couple days this past weekend I was convinced that every deck in this format should utilize its sideboard. Similarly to Fae of Wishes from my Mythic Invitational testing, it just seemed too vital of a resource to pass up. Especially when Divide by Zero isn’t that bad of a spell on its own.
Well I was wrong. Some decks just need to stay as lean as possible and Izzet Dragons❄ is one of them. This is mostly just because the juice isn’t worth the squeeze when it comes to Lesson cards for certain decks. This took me a bit to realize, as I remembered what casting Mascot Exhibition felt like in Strixhaven limited, but I was never really able to replicate that feeling in Standard 2022.
As you can see, my initial list of Izzet Dragons❄ doesn’t have Iymrith, Desert Doom. I wanted to really like it, and do like it in Dimir Control, but I just don’t think it fits what the deck’s trying to do against non-blue matchups. Like I said before, this deck is a combo deck at heart and Iymrith doesn’t have a role in that gameplan. It’s still a fine card to turbo into, but it’s never getting me out of difficult spots like a Goldspan Dragon can.
I’ve been very impressed with Battle of Frost and Fire, but one combo that I’m still dabbling with is Draconic Intervention and Magma Opus. Now it might seem bad against other blue matchups, but the truth is there’s a finite amount of counterspells in the matchup. Sometimes they just won’t have the answer to a Magma Opus and when that happens you get to start chaining massive effects to bury them in card advantage.
Obviously this doesn’t happen every game, because velocity plus Alrund’s Epiphany can end games quickly. This is exactly why I’ve failed each time I’ve worked on this combo, but I thought it was at least worth sharing with y’all if you want to pick up where I left off.
- 4 Fireblade Charger
- 4 Goldspan Dragon
- 4 Extus, Oriq Overlord
- 4 Eyetwitch
- 4 Shambling Ghast
- 2 Orcus, Prince of Undeath
- 4 Kalain, Reclusive Painter
The last deck I wanted to talk about today is also my favorite deck in the format. I’m still unsure just how good this deck is, but it’s far and away the most fun deck I’ve found thus far. Actually, I only discovered it because the creator of it beat the ever living heck out of me with it.
One of the more interesting aspects of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is all of the Treasure generation the set has. Cards like Shambling Ghast, Kalain, Reclusive Painter, and Prosperous Innkeeper allow for some really interesting deck building decisions as they help a format that has rather bad mana cast multicolored spells. Take After Office TTV’s Mardu deck as a good example. This deck’s best card is Goldspan Dragon, of course, but behind that it’s Showdown of the Skalds. Even Extus, Oriq Overlord gets cast on Turn 3 in many games thanks to how easy it is to find white mana in a Rakdos deck. This is why I love this format, and think there’s still weeks of exploration left before we find out if there’s a busted deck out there or not.
Speaking of busted, this combo allows for Turn 3 Goldspan Dragons, and if that’s not enough to entice you to craft this deck I don’t know what could. Sometimes this deck just has disgusting opening sequences that no deck has a chance of beating, but this one is the most absurd one.
I was a little confused to see Fireblade Charger in this deck when I first got my hands on it; it’s just not that good of a card, right? Well once I started playing with the deck I quickly realized that it’s not always just dealing one damage when it dies. In all actuality, one of the more common lines of play that I’ve been making is casting Fireblade Charger off of a Treasure token when Kalain is on the battlefield to then sacrifice it immediately to take out a two-toughness creature. That’s usually a Luminarch Asparant, but every once in a while it’s a Goldspan Dragon thanks to Showdown of the Skalds!
Another combo to keep in mind is that Goldspan Dragon produces two mana off of each Treasure, and Kalain loves spending Treasure mana on creatures. That’s right, I have cast a second Goldspan Dragon that entered the battlefield with five +1/+1 counters (and yes I did win that game).
One thing to keep in mind is this deck is an engine at heart. Sometimes you’ll lose a game on the draw to an aggressive deck and you’ll think to yourself, “if I just had one removal spell I would have won that game!” The problem with this is that there’s other games where you wish you had another creature to sacrifice to Awaken the Blood Avatar. I’ve played a ton with this decklist, and have yet to justify any changes to the maindeck. Odds are I’ll eventually explore non-Mardu Lesson cards for the sideboard, but I haven’t gotten to that place yet.
Anyway, these are currently what I consider to be the best decks in Standard 2022 and are all unique ways to play Magic. If you used to like Standard, please do yourself a favor and try out this format. I promise you, it’s nothing like current icky boring Adventures of the Forgotten Realm!