So… What’s The Deck To Beat In Zendikar Rising Standard?

Omnath, Locus of Creation in Zendikar Rising Standard: beat it or join it? World Champion PVDDR and five more SCG creators say what they’d play.

Omnath, Locus of Creation
Omnath, Locus of Creation, illustrated by Chris Rahn

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the introduction of Zendikar Rising, what’s the deck to beat in an all new Standard format? 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 Zendikar Rising Standard event! Be sure to vote for what deck you would play at the end!

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa – Four-Color Ramp

If you happen to get paired against me on ladder, you’ll notice that I’m trying a bunch of different things at the moment — Dimir Rogues, Izzet Spells, an assortment of control decks. However, for a tournament right now, I can’t in good conscience recommend anything that isn’t Four-Color Ramp. The cards in the deck are just too powerful. Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath was already the best card in Zendikar Rising Standard and Omnath, Locus of Creation is basically a second Uro — it draws cards, gains life, adds mana, and presents a body that threatens to do all of that again the next turn. I’m not sure that this will be the best deck moving forward but I do think it’s the best deck now, so it’s what I would register. 

As for which list of Four-Color Ramp, I’ve liked Oliver Tiu’s version the most. It pains me to play Ilysian Caryatid over Tangled Forahedron, and I’m not sure that it’s correct, but the ability to cast a Turn 3 Omnath, Locus of Creation without a green Triome seems to be more important than anything else. I saw that Ondrej Strasky added Spikefield Hazard to his version of the deck, and that’s a change that I can definitely get behind, since killing opposing Lotus Cobras seems to be a major concern moving forward.

Sam Black — Dimir Rogues

I’m really not interested in playing Four-Color Ramp mirrors, so I’ve been looking for something fun to play that has game against Omanath.  It’s hard to beat because Omnath’s lifegain makes it extremely hard to race and a good draw can put roughly a million objects on the battlefield on Turn 4.  I started by trying to play control decks, but found that Uro grinds too well and you can’t let them resolve a single important spell and still hope to win, so I landed on Dimir Rogues, which despite fueling their Uro can apply enough pressure to end the game quickly while having a good density of counterspells for their game-winning spells.

The deck is a delight to play with game against anything and a feel that more closely resembles Faeries in Lorwyn Standard than any other deck I’ve played.  I also really like my list in particular.  It’s very clean and focused and I think Lofty Denial and Drown in the Loch are much better than any other interactive spells available. With those two and Brazen Borrower, you have plenty of interaction for Game 1.

I like modal double faced cards (DFCs) a lot, but the colored mana costs in this deck are really demanding, so it’s important to prioritize two-color lands with my lands that enter the battlefield tapped. And while I love the maindeck, I’d acknowledge that the sideboard is a work in progress, but what I have has been good enough thus far.

Dom Harvey — Four-Color Ramp

It’s Day… 3? 4? of this ‘new’ format and we’re back here again. My hope that Zendikar Rising Standard would be different from its predecessors vanished the moment I saw Lotus Cobra accelerate into Omnath alongside an old culprit in Uro. This package powering out Genesis Ultimatum goes over the top of anything else in the format while gaining enough life to buy time against the aggro decks (while having better mana than them!). It’s bizarre that Omnath is easier to cast than Questing Beast in this format but that’s the world we live in (once again).

With that in mind, the focus has to be on preparing for mirrors. Exciting new cards like Felidar Retreat that seem like natural fits for this strategy are somehow too ‘small’ to matter when both players aim to put their whole deck onto the battlefield. Spikefield Hazard and Shatterskull Smashing remove Lotus Cobra — crucial for breaking serve in the mirror — and offer further insurance against aggression.

With 28 ‘natural’ lands and these modal DFCs, the guaranteed land drop from Cultivate is less important and the door is open for Beanstalk Giant as a ramp spell that’s also a big finisher for Genesis Ultimatum (and leads to immediate wins with Kenrith, the Returned King or other contenders like Terror of the Peaks). In the sideboard, controversial hate card Confounding Conundrum lives up to its name — it’s unclear how strong it actually is in mirrors, but that matchup is so important that the mere possibility of it being good earns it an audition.

If some aggressive deck does emerge as a threat, Four-Colour Omnath can deploy the best anti-aggro cards from across the colour pie. Bonecrusher Giant hasn’t gone anywhere and neither has Elder Gargaroth. Sweepers like Storm’s Wrath and more cheap removal are available in case those prove more effective.

For now, I want to be the best Omnath deck I can be.

Michael Majors — Azorius Control

Have I bumped my head?

The first few days of Zendikar Rising Standard have demonstrated pretty clearly that ramp strategies are here to stay.  Omnath is on the short list for strongest cards in the new set, and there have been some pretty disgusting things going on — with Turn 5 kills not being out of the question.

Omnath paired with Uro also means that being aggressive looks to be quite the challenge, at least until folks hopefully figure it out over the next couple weeks. These two major factors led to me building this control deck that probably looks really weird on the surface, but I promise that there’s some logic to it!

First, Waker of Waves + Elspeth Conquers Death is a low-opportunity-cost way to close the door quickly on people.  This combination is strong and will keep showing up.

Confounding Conundrum is by no means lights-out against Four-Color Ramp but it is effective.  It genuinely does slow them down a massive amount. When paired with Archon of Emeria and additional interaction out of the sideboard, it really does make it extremely difficult for their deck to function properly.  I might be holding onto an additional copy of Field of Ruin too tightly to try to live the “dream” of slowing folks down with Conundrum, but this interaction definitely doesn’t suck either.

I’m super-light on sweepers, with just two copies of Shatter the Sky in the sideboard. This could easily change but this build of Azorius Control is also pretty good at closing out the game quickly with the aforementioned Waker of Waves + Archon of Sun’s Grace that’s powered up by the many enchantments the deck gets to play.  

The sacrifice in raw power versus playing something like Omnath is really apparent, but I do think that this control deck has the tools to get the job done.

Corey Baumeister — Four-Color Control (Yorion)

New format, same old Yorion nonsense from me!

It’s not a secret that Omnath seems to be the Week 1 favorite for the best card/deck in Zendikar Rising Standard. The lists that have been the most dominant have been running a ton of expensive sorceries, which makes the deck very easy to attack. Instead of being all-in on Genesis Ultimatum and Escape to the Wilds, I wanted to tone it back and have some countermagic to be able to interact with these powerful spells. But just countering those spells isn’t enough to beat those Four-Color Ramp strategies because they almost never run out of steam, so you have to be doing something powerful as well.

That’s why I added Charming Prince to the list. The endless loop that Yorion, Sky Nomad and Charming Prince generate is the perfect recipe to mix with counterspells. After that matchup felt solved, I started to feel really good about the deck because Yorion-style decks are already naturally very good against aggro. That only leaves one troublesome matchup and that’s Sultai Control with Shark Typhoon. They just do such a great job of answering our threats on a one-for-one basis that it’s hard to get anything of value going with Yorion. I added Shark Typhoon to the list above to be able to fight fire with fire but it still has felt like a bit of a tough matchup.

If you want to check out some gameplay of this deck, my Droppin’ Baums this week features this masterpiece!

Shaheen Soorani — Dimir Control

Killing Lotus Cobra is the name of the game in Zendikar Rising Standard, making black-based control the direction to move in.  With Azorius Control, there are very few ways to handle an early creature but that’s the nature of white-based removal for the last few years.  Shatter the Sky is the crutch Azorius Control leans on, ignoring the early threats as much as possible, knowing that a sweeper is on the way.  That type of control cannot be played now and the mana does not support it either.

I made a few modifications to the list from last week’s article.  There was too high of a focus on dealing with creatures, leaving Dimir Control vulnerable to big spells and planeswalkers.  I maxed out Neutralize to handle the big stuff while leaving the early-game interaction mostly intact, with five removal spells to deal with a Turn 2 creature, along with an Essence Scatter and a couple of Brazen Borrowers to seal the deal.  The power of the planeswalkers makes Dimir Control competitive and I’m excited to handle the Elemental threat that is before us.