Shaheen Soorani Recommended Playing WHAT In Core Set 2021 Standard?

What’s the deck to play in Core Set 2021 Standard? Nine SCG content creators give their picks, including a major surprise from Shaheen Soorani.

Lovestruck Beast, illustrated by Kev Walker

Welcome to What We’d Play! With recent events being won by Mono-Green Aggro and Rakdos Sacrifice, is Sultai Ramp still the deck to play in Core Set 2021 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 the event! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!

Emma Handy — Sultai Ramp

Sultai Ramp’s the best deck.  Just play it.

After finishing in the Top 16 of last weekend’s SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier, I knew some quick updates I wanted to make on my deck.  My initial list was one I ripped from GuI_Dukat.  Not the first time I’ve placed my trust in him for this column and it won’t be the last.

The biggest difference between this deck and the traditional Sultai Ramp lists is a departure from hand disruption in favor of Opts.  They smooth draws into the later turns and help balance the deck between the 30-ish lands that it wants to play and ensuring it doesn’t actually flood as the game progresses.  The Opts also do a great job of padding Narset, Parter of Veils numbers, meaning she hits more consistently.

The biggest shift I’ve made going into this weekend is eschewing Cultivate in favor of some planeswalkers.  Outside of a few draws, the Cultivates can be clunky and are much riskier to cast early when people are starting to maindeck Negate. By the time they can be cast with protection, the game has progressed past a point where ramp is valuable.

I can’t recommend this list enough for anybody looking to take down their Standard events this week.  Both of my losses last weekend were mirrors, and the deck has game everywhere else.  Just do the responsible thing and click submit.

Cedric Phillips — Mono-Green Aggro

With a win of a recent Magic Online Standard Challenge in the hands of Wily Edel as well as the most recent SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier in the hands of Brendon Hansard, it’s safe to say that Mono-Green Aggro is Core Set 2021 Standard’s best aggro deck. And because of that, I expect more people to pick it up moving forward (at least in the short term). So what direction am I moving? Preparing for the mirror and other creature decks of course! Here are the (minor) changes:

  • Ranger’s Guile has been removed from the deck entirely. Yes, it’s good against all Sultai variants, but with what I expect to be an increase in aggro decks, I’d rather have…
  • A third copy of Vivien, Arkbow Ranger in the maindeck. Vivien dominates other creature decks and is problematic against all Sultai variants to warrant a third copy.
  • A fourth copy of Garruk’s Harbinger in the maindeck. This card has continued to overperform for me against all Sultai variants and is more than passable in mirrors (especially in combination with Vivien +1/+1 counters.
  • Cutting The Great Henge from the sideboard. I’ve discussed previously my disdain for this legendary artifact, and while it is good in the mirror, some assembly is definitely required and I don’t find it to be worth it. I’ve opted to play…
  • A third and fourth copy of Ram Through in the sideboard. If the mirror picks up in the fashion I expect, having eight fight spells, four each of Ram Through and Primal Might, as well as more Viviens than your opponent should be enough to get the job done. Having access to more Ram Throughs will also help in the off chance that Nightpack Ambusher picks back up in popularity (something I wouldn’t be surprised to see happen).

Enough reading. Get back out there and get some wins with The Green Machine!

Dom Harvey – Sultai Ramp

After covering Sultai Ramp’s emergence and dominance of Core Set 2021 Standard, I was excited to get behind the wheel myself this weekend and I would happily do it again. The flexibility that has made the Simic core the best deck across many iterations of Standard also gives you many options for trying to get an edge in the mirror.

In the SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier a week ago, Alexander Gordon-Brown and Koutarou Ishibashi both earned well-deserved spots on the podium with innovative but different approaches – Narset, Parter of Veils as the mirror-breaker for Ishibashi; a strong emphasis on cheap, instant-speed interaction for Gordon-Brown; and a clear commitment to Shark Typhoon for both. In the many Sultai mirrors I slogged through this Saturday, Shark Typhoon excelled in allowing one player to get ahead on the battlefield and forcing the opponent to pick fights that the abundance of cheap interaction could easily win. If Narset is the trump card in the mirror, Shark Typhoon is an important answer for it and a great threat to dig for with it.

The most surprising feature of this list is what’s missing. Aether Gust’s time in Standard has been a true roller coaster – it’s the best card in Standard one week but barely playable the next, and the Aether Gust count on a decklist is often a good litmus test for who is following the movement of the format. As Sultai Ramp lists move away from expensive green haymakers like Casualties of War and towards cheap blue instants, Aether Gust struggles to find good targets – Gusting a Nissa, Who Shakes the World can be a necessary play but rarely a winning one unless you are already ahead, and the combination of discard and counters makes it hard for Gust to be a surprise blowout.

Aether Gust has uses against some of the aggressive decks hoping to duck under the Sultai mirror arms race but – as our own Cedric Phillips will tell you – a fake Doom Blade that lets them draw their best card again isn’t a recipe for success against Mono-Green Aggro. I’d rather load up on cards that are broadly applicable and bring in a dozen cards for aggro matchups where I need the help anyway. 

Ari Lax — Sultai Ramp

What did you expect? I would lose the finals of an event in a matchup I beat twice that day and just be off it?

Kyle Boggemes is a master of building a stock-plus decklist, and Sultai Ramp is a deck that operates excellently at stock-plus. I copied his list and changed the sideboard just a small amount. The only maindeck card I’m less than certain about is the Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and it’s still fine. Certainly don’t cut the third Nissa, Who Shakes the World like half my opponents did, and the Eat to Extinction and Casualties of War are so much better than Mystical Dispute. They do things in non-mirror matches, Eat fights Shark tokens in mirrors, and sometimes you just don’t have the luxury of sitting around and waiting for them to move especially as more people move to Thought Distortion.

I would take a hard look at the Cry of the Carnarium slot and possibly the last Heartless Act or two, though. You have to keep your pulse on the metagame for the non-Extinction Event removal, and if Mono-Green Aggro is the most important aggro deck to beat you might want a better answer or two there.

Noxious Grasp? Mazemind Tome? Who knows. Take a good look.

Shaheen Soorani — Mono-Green Aggro

Sometimes, the Expensive Sorcery Master must get his Stompy on.  I have a soft spot for aggro decks when the format is ruled by a seemingly untouchable menace that feasts upon control.  Azorius Control has been kind to me on the Magic Arena ladder; however, it has not translated into victories on the SCG Tour Online as of late.  This perfect storm of anti-control fervor pushes me into the arms of one-drop creatures, so sign me up!

Mono-Green Aggro is a Cedric Phillips special, which has added merit to the choice for me.  Brendon Hansard won the SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier with it last weekend, but content creators like Cedric have known this deck can pack a punch this entire time.  He and my teammate Corey Baumeister have put up results with it, with this most recent victory by Brendon sealing the deal for me. 

I will take advantage of the lack of Azorius Control, with true sweepers that dominate Mono-Green Aggro and enter the red zone with giant monsters in the next SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier in two weeks.  Garruk’s Harbinger and Ranger’s Guile are nifty insurance policies against a format that relies on spot removal over sweepers and I doubt anyone will adapt to stop that.

(CEDitor’s Note: I, quite literally, cannot believe what I just read.)

Michael Majors — Sultai Ramp

This past weekend once again highlighted the success of Sultai Ramp, but with Mono-Green Aggro taking the crown and the inevitable encroaching of aggressive decks, Sultai needs to respond.

There’s still a lot of what you would expect here given the relative shift two weeks ago towards either Alexander Gordon Brown’s heavily teched anti-mirror match list or the heavy Narset builds.

We’re meeting somewhere in the middle, with a lot of attention given to the mirror match while still giving aggressive decks some respect.  I like the Narset plan a lot, but she isn’t a card you can flood on when under any pressure.  I want a cheap interactive spell maindeck, so although it can’t kill Questing Beast, Eliminate gets the nod for being somewhat useful in the mirror (tagging Hydroid Krasis and Narsets that Heartless Act can’t).  

I like being able to draw to my one copy of Casualties of War, especially with the inclusion of Nissa.  Sure, it’s clunky and sucks if your opponent is overloading on countermagic, but it’s still one of the best ways to get out from under Nissa in otherwise hopeless battlefield positions.

There’s some minor but effective technology in the sideboard.  I’ve adopted some Mazemind Tomes that have popped up in some numbers last week.  They play well in games where both Sultai players have started to take a lean flash approach and it can get under Mystical Disputes and even potentially Negate and Thought Erasure on the play.  I could easily see bringing them in against Mono-Red decks as well. 

The single copy of Tale’s End plays a bit better than the third copy of Negate in the mirror, giving more countermagic options against Sharks, Krasis, and Uro while still hitting planeswalkers.

Autumn Burchett — Temur Jolrael

If you’re asking me what you should play this week, I would tell you just to give in and play Sultai Ramp. That said I can’t stand the play-patterns with the deck and whilst I’d normally just play the best deck anyways, I’ve been looking to ways to still leverage Nissa, Who Shakes the World and Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath whilst having anything vaguely resembling an actual synergy in my deck instead.

Erin Diaz suggested I try battling Sultai Ramp against his Temur Jolrael list, and after Temur Jolrael put up a good fight in our games I decided to battle with it in last weekend’s SCG Championship Qualifier. Whilst my Top 32 finish isn’t amazing, it did leave me feeling that some Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse deck could gain a nice edge in the Uro pseudo-mirrors and I’m excited to explore that further. Jolrael being a two-mana threat that doesn’t get hit by Mystical Dispute whilst also forcing your Sultai Ramp opponents to leave in removal spells in the sideboarded games gives you a really nice edge, and when the games become all about recurring Uro your cheap cyclers ensure that your Uro has much more staying power than your opponents.

I’m not sure exactly how I want the deck to look. The Royal Scions is a card that I’m excited to try, and if that doesn’t work out then it’s possible it is better to be Sultai (oh no…) instead of Temur as I’ve been largely unimpressed with Storm’s Wrath and Enter the God-Eternals is really messed up in a lot of your harder matchups. Check out my article on Jolrael strategies on Friday to find out my thoughts once I’ve had more time to explore.

Andrew Elenbogen — Mardu Winota (Jegantha)

Sultai Ramp is the undisputed best deck in Core Set 2021 Standard but I would not play it right now because Sultai Ramp decks are exactly the kind of grindy midrange slop I can never win with. Additionally, I do not think Sultai Ramp is so overwhelmingly dominant that nothing else can compete.

Winota, Joiner of Forces is a completely ludicrous Magic card that’s somehow legal in Standard despite numerous bannings. As a result of these two factors, I would play a Winota deck in the current Standard environment especially since I also think that Sultai Ramp decks are making so many concessions to the mirror these days that aggro decks have a real shot.

Most of the specifics of the list I have left to the very talented Simon Nielsen. But I do like how the deck is set up to maximize its percentage against Sultai Ramp decks in Game 1 and then transform to a sacrifice plan to beat creature decks in Games 2 and 3. If your opponent has only light interaction, Priest of Forgotten Gods plus Claim the Firstborn will crush them. It doesn’t hurt that Winota and Sefless Savior already push a control deck’s removal to the limit, and Priest is randomly a Human and can enter the battlefield off a Winota trigger.

Good luck spinning the Winota wheel!

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Sultai Ramp

I tried for a while, but at this point it seems likely that, if there is a Standard deck that is better than Sultai Ramp, I’m not going to be the person to find it. This doesn’t mean that Sultai Ramp is favored in all matchups (clearly it isn’t), but it seems to have established itself as the clear best choice overall. It’s the most-played deck by a lot, everyone knows it’s going to be the most played deck, and it still performs the best in every tournament. 

There’s still a lot of divergence in which Sultai Ramp list is best. You really see everything ranging from an almost strictly Dimir build with a lot of discard and four Narset, Parter of Veils to an almost strictly Simic build with a lot of counterspells and four Nissa, Who Shakes the World, with many versions that have elements of both.

Personally I think Nissa is very good, which makes the counterspells better than the discard spells, as the tempo is very important. I’d much rather play something like Negate, Mystical Dispute or Aether Gust over, for example, Agonizing Remorse. Nissa kills very quickly, and playing a Nissa and countering their next play is almost game over even if they have other cards in hand by that point.

The list I’ve been playing is virtually identical to the one that Alexander Gordon-Brown used to win the SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier #4, but you can play more Eliminates or another Shark Typhoon if everyone morphs to the Narset version.