Is Adventures In The Forgotten Realms Standard As Wide-Open As It Seems?

With Naya Winota rising in popularity for AFR Standard, is it the deck to play, or the deck to beat? World Champion PVDDR and others say what they’d play.

Winota, Joiner of Forces
Winota, Joiner of Forces, illustrated by Magali Villeneuve

Welcome to What We’d Play! With the arrival of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, 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 Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Standard event.

Ari Lax — Naya Winota

I started this last weekend winning with Naya Winota. I then dabbled in the Dimir decks that were supposed to beat it: Dimir Rogues (Lurrus) and Dimir or Sultai Control (Yorion). I’m back to Naya Winota.

The problem is the Dimir decks do an okay job of managing Naya Winota, yet are much weaker against the rest of the field. I don’t really want to play either of those decks against Edgewall Innkeeper. So I’m back to Naya Winota, just with a bit more respect towards the control decks. Tatsuaki Yajima’s list seems like as good a place to start for that as any.

Shaving on Jaspera Sentinel, using your “pre-sideboarded” flex slots on Ranger Class instead of Bonecrusher Giant, and having a couple more resilient threats in the sideboard are exactly what you should be doing to beat Clearwater Pathways. The Winota part of your deck manages the rest.

Shaheen Soorani — Jeskai Mutate

I endorse this strategy as this Standard enters its golden years.  Even with a few recent successes from control decks, it has not been enough to resuscitate the archetype in this volatile format.  The answers are too polarized, only able to address the hyper-aggressive side if most resources are dedicated in that mission.  When you go down that rabbit hole, the slower matchups become too difficult to overcome with any consistency.

Jeskai Mutate is a sweet deck that I have been having a blast with.  Pulliam’s list is solid, with enough blue disruption and card draw to appease my control desires.  It pairs that disruption and card advantage with a rock-solid creature base, providing synergies with Goldspan Dragon targets, returning countermagic, and recasting card draw on the house.  This deck is the real deal and I hope to see it continue to succeed as we move toward rotation.

Dom Harvey — Sultai Ramp (Yorion)

The sky is falling. Winota, Joiner of Forces has finally become the format-warping menace it always promised to be. Sultai Ramp (Yorion) is officially dethroned and now a relic of the past. Right?

I’m not so sure. Sultai has the tools to beat whatever it wants to; the problem is when it has to cover opposing poles of the format at once. That is happening to some extent — hyper-aggressive decks like Naya Winota and new lists of Gruul Aggro demand one set of answers, the hard control decks that are increasingly popular demand another — but every other deck faces the same pressure and needs to have its sights firmly set on Winota, creating a weakness for Sultai to exploit.

This list shares that goal. It has Disdainful Stroke and additional Jwari Disruptions as ways to interact with Esika’s Chariot and Winota, Ray of Enfeeblement as the best answer to Winota or various X/1s that’s cheap enough to be cast even through an Elite Spellbinder tax, and the usual anti-aggro hammers like Elder Gargaroth, which is still terrifying even though Burning Hands has made it less reliable.

A leaner, non-Ultimatum version of Sultai like the one I had some success with pre-Strixhaven may be worth another look too. For now, I think the rumours of Sultai’s demise have been greatly exaggerated.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa — Sultai Ramp (Yorion)

The Standard format has remained relatively constant for a while, but it looks like Adventures in the Forgotten Realms finally shook it up a bit, as Naya Winota has been putting up dominating performances. This forced some decks that were previously good (such as Mono-Green Aggro) to take a back seat due to their inability to interact with the card Winota, Joiner of Forces, while decks like Dimir Rogues (Lurrus) gain in popularity at the same time.

My pick is neither of these decks, though; it’s still Sultai Ultimatum. Even though it did not perform well in the aggregate chart, I believe I have a good version of it for the field, and I also believe that all the new developments in terms of what cards people put on their decks will favor you. For example, all the Rogues decks I’ve seen are playing Crippling Fear, and some are even playing Pestilent Haze or Ray of Enfeeblement. I also think you happen to be good versus Winota, even though you’re still not great versus Dimir Rogues, especially now that Power Word Kill offers them a clean way to beat Polukranos.

As far as the list goes, I’m playing something similar to what I had before, which already slanted towards beating creature decks. Elder Gargaroth is incredible in the maindeck right now, particularly against Winota, and Pestilent Haze is also very good. In the sideboard, there’s a Ray of Enfeeblement and two Kaervek, the Spiteful.

It’s not a walk in the park by any means but I think you’re at least okay versus Winota and good versus almost everything that people can play to beat it. If Rogues becomes very popular as a reaction to the metagame, then that is when I’d play a different deck, but I don’t think we’re quite there yet. I’ll have to wait for the Challenger Gauntlet this weekend to assess that. 

If you expect even more Winota, then you could cut Mystical Disputes from the maindeck. I think Dispute is not horrible versus aggro decks in some spots, and I’m not ready to go that all-in on the anti-creature plan (especially since I still suspect Rogues), but this is something you could do.