Did The May Strixhaven League Weekend Help Solve Strixhaven Standard?

What happened at the May Strixhaven League Weekend, and how will Standard players react? World Champion PVDDR and others say what they’d play.

Dream Trawler, illustrated by Jesper Ejsing

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.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Sultai Ramp (Yorion)

I think Strixhaven Standard is in a relatively healthy place. Several decks are viable and any deck can win a tournament. Some matchups are still polarized, but not many. As such, I think you can just play whatever you’re most comfortable with and that will give you the biggest chance of doing well (as long as your deck is Tier 1 or Tier 2). I believe that, right now, it’s better to play the fourth-best deck over the best deck if you’re more experienced with it, because the difference in power level is very small and the metagame is wide open.

Personally, my choice is Sultai Ramp (Yorion). I feel very comfortable with it (I’ve already played it a lot) and it feels like a bit of a safe choice to me. I don’t think Sultai Ramp has all good matchups — I think Mono-White Aggro (Lurrus)❄, Mono-Red Aggro❄, and Dimir Rogues (Lurrus) are all unfavored — but even your bad matchups are very winnable, whereas your good matchups are usually pretty good. For example, your matchup versus Naya Tokens is more favorable than your matchup versus Dimir Rogues is unfavorable. When you put it all in the balance, you win more than you lose.

The main difference in builds from what I played before is that I’m now playing one Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider. I cut it originally because I felt I didn’t need it to win the game, but I kind of missed it in mirrors and versus other slow decks such as Esper Blink (Yorion) or Four-Color Blink (Yorion), so I added it back in. I do sideboard it out a fair bit, though.

Quandrix Cultivator Test of Talents

Past that, there are two new cards from Strixhaven: Quandrix Cultivator and Test of Talents. Quandrix Cultivator is just a solid card, gives you something to play early that works both as a ramp spell and as a bridge in the mid-game, and blocks Faceless Haven pretty well. Test of Talents is mostly a better Negate — countering a Drown in the Loch, Into the Story, Zenith Flare, or Emergent Ultimatum with it can be game-changing and just looking at their hand while you’re countering a Cultivate or Duress is good too. Neither card is an absurd improvement to what existed before but I think they’re both better than whatever else you could be playing in their slots.

Dom Harvey — Gruul Adventures

The May Strixhaven League Weekend was a celebration of old and new. Sultai Ramp was the most popular deck yet again while Izzet Dragons❄ took everyone by surprise, becoming the next-most popular deck out of nowhere. Familiar faces like Jeskai Cycling, Dimir Rogues, and Mono-Red Aggro❄ rounded out the majority of the metagame.

If there’s one card conspicuously absent from this list, it’s Lovestruck Beast. The latest Standard scourge from Throne of Eldraine had vanished and this was reflected in the card choices in the top decks. Anyone playing Sultai Ramp had to make sacrifices against aggro to prepare for the mirror and the new Izzet menace, while Jeskai Cycling as the default aggressive deck demands specific answers that don’t line up well against random large creatures.

This creates an opening for Gruul Adventures, the best deck two sets ago, to make a glorious return. Embercleave is still in the discussion for best card in Standard (and conveniently the scariest card for Jeskai Cycling) and Gruul Adventures is the best deck at using Embercleave. Izzet Dragons❄ relies on damage-based removal to handle creatures and this lines up poorly against Lovestruck Beast. Gruul Adventures naturally has good tools against Dimir Rogues and Mono-Red Aggro❄ and can push this further in sideboarding if it cares to.

Esika’s Chariot is the only pickup since Zendikar Rising and it’s a big one, giving you a uniquely resilient threat against spot removal that’s also a haste threat against sweepers. It first drew attention here in Raphael Levy’s Gruul variant as part of a package with Jaspera Sentinel and Magda, Brazen Outlaw but it’s an excellent card in general that fixes a problem of classic Gruul Adventures.

Ari Lax — Mono-Red Aggro❄

I’ve been a sucker for Falter creatures for a long time, and since the full-power Obosh, the Preypiercer days last year I’ve been a sucker for Raging Goblin with upside. Hall Monitor is also a terrible punchline to a joke, so I feel obligated to tell you to play it.

But also this deck is good. Jacob Wilson and Mike Sigrist both went 5-1 in the Rivals League with it last weekend, and I think aggro is the place to be right now. Add in red having a historical edge against Jeskai Cycling, the other popular aggro deck and one that likely to draw an even bigger target away away from basic Mountains, and I think it’s a good weekend to be rocking The ‘Cleve.

Shaheen Soorani — Esper Control (Yorion)

Vanishing Verse has been the key to my success in Strixhaven Standard, bringing that smooth removal spell for all walks of aggro, while being a vital removal spell for problematic noncreature permanents.  From Roiling Vortex and Esika’s Chariot to a Professor Onyx, Vanishing Verse handles the workload that more expensive spells have done in the past.  I was addicted to Dimir Control in Standard for a while, but Strixhaven produced the near-universal removal spell that I have been fully dependent on for weeks.

The rest of this Esper Control (Yorion) deck has been consistent, including the manabase.  I’m always suspicious of three-color manabases without shocklands, but the modal DFCs have taken care of business.  Running twelve of those suckers in any three-color deck creates a solid footing to successfully cast double-colored spells throughout the game.  The return to white brought back Dream Trawler, a sorely missed win condition.  It’s still one of the cleanest control win conditions ever printed, good against most decks in the format.  The Azorius mana requirement held it back for a bit, but with the mana assistance and a powerful removal spell in Vanishing Verse, I have complete faith in this Esper Control build.

Brad Nelson — Gruul Adventures

I’m not going to sit here and lie to you. I think this deck is a trap.

“Now Brad, why would you suggest we play a trap?” you might be asking right about now.

Well, this article series is a platform for me to say what I’d be playing right now, and this version of Gruul Adventures is for sure the next deck on my list to play leading into my Strixhaven Championship testing. Why? Well, it “might” actually be good, but mostly it looks like so much fun!

Jaspera Sentinel Esika’s Chariot The Akroan War

The gimmick of this deck revolves around Magda, Brazen Outlaw and its ability to generate wealth, but the real prize comes with tapping your opponent’s creatures. I can’t tell you how much fun it is to use Esika’s Chariot or Jaspera Sentinel to tap your opponent’s creature right as your The Akroan War is about to conclude its third chapter. Now instead of them getting their creature back, it kills itself with the rest of their battlefield!

Seriously though, this deck might become a real force in the metagame as Mono-White Aggro❄ did have a great weekend. That makes sense as it’s very good against Izzet Dragons❄, Sultai Ramp, and Mono-Red Aggro❄. The answer to Mono-White Aggro❄ gaining popularity is most likely Jeskai Cycling, and that’s a metagame where you want to believe in Embercleave.

Odds are you’ll find me on Twitch this week playing this deck in high Mythic, so we’ll see just how good it actually is then!