What I’d Play in Every Format

Four formats, four decks. GerryT lays out what you should play and why in Standard, Modern, Pioneer, and Legacy!

There are a lot of Magic formats that are all pretty great at the moment, so what do I write about? The easy answer is all of them!

(Note that Pauper is not included in this article, but would be if I had more time and/or it were a supported format. Sorry, Pauper fans.)


Don’t do small-ball stuff. Cauldron Familiar + Witch’s Oven goes over the top of most strategies and so does Jeskai Fires. Either try to get under them with Knight of the Ebon Legion or Brineborn Cutthroat, or try to kill all their stuff with Casualties of War

I’m a simple man. I like Cats. I don’t like the idea of throwing them into Ovens, but Magic takes you to weird places sometimes.

This deck won a PTQ in the hands of DysposableHero. I posted the decklist in the Arena Decklists Discord and he picked it up and ran with it. Having people believe in me and then get rewarded for it is exactly why I’m so happy and fulfilled making content full time. 

I wouldn’t change much, although the Duresses should probably be Drill Bits now that I might have to bring them in against the mirror to fight Casualties of War. Simic Flash is also on the rise and Drill Bit was always better than Duress against Flash and Jeskai Fires. The potential downside of not being able to spectacle when you want to is rare in a deck with Cauldron Familiar and Mayhem Devil

This might not be the best choice simply because everyone should be targeting it, but that isn’t always a disqualifier. Yes, people have Leyline of the Void, Casualties of War, and Karn, the Great Creator in their decks, but that’s because the Sacrifice decks are so much better than everything else. 


Play the best Karn, the Great Creator deck that also beats big mana. It might be this:

Chuckles 5-0’ed a League with a list I posted on Patreon, which, again, you love to see.

This might not be the best deck to do that, but it’s at least very close. You get to have some of the most explosive starts in Modern, so Devotion is always a lot of fun. I still have that feeling that there’s a better way to build it, though. Axing Vivien, Arkbow Ranger for Garruk Wildspeaker was a start, but there could be a stronger mix of enablers and payoffs.

The other thing I’ve been thinking about for a while is Valakut. With Arboreal Grazer, Once Upon a Time, and Castle Garenbrig, there has to be a version that consistently casts Primeval Titan or Through the Breach on Turn 3. Maybe the necessity for Forests makes your Turn 4 awkward enough that Primeval Titan can’t get the job done, but there’s something there. 

Infect is likely busted at the moment. Once Upon a Time, Scale Up, Oko, and Veil of Summer sort of complete the archetype. It can threaten a Turn 3 kill while also having a strong backup plan. Post-sideboard, it’s able to grind well against black decks. Plus, most of Infect’s bad matchups don’t see much play. If you’re an Infect master, it’s probably time to dust off your Glistener Elves.


Similarly to Standard, you can’t do small-ball stuff, except, in this case, Cat/Oven is the small-ball. Field of the Dead goes over the top of most things, so you need a plan for that. Evasive creatures are excellent, but Mono-Black Aggro is the litmus test for the format.

At one point I was farming people with Blightbeetle, but they seem to have given up that fight. Nexus seems to have died out, so for my PTQ, I cut two Thoughtseizes from the maindeck of Mono-Black Aggro. Naturally, I played against Nexus twice, but I’d recommend ignoring Nexus in general.

Golgari Field is an excellent deck for beating up on aggro and midrange, but worse against the bigger ramp strategies. When other Field of the Dead decks can find multiple copies easier than you can because they have more ramp and more card drawing doesn’t bode particularly well. Ugin, the Spirit Dragon does quite the number on the mirror match as well. 

If you want to have the best chance of success, you should be playing Mono-Black Aggro.

I made the finals of a Magic Online PTQ on Wednesday with roughly this decklist, but have since updated the sideboard to not have as many dead cards. There’s a plethora of removal to choose between for your sideboard but Grasp of Darkness covers the vast majority of your bases. Dark Betrayal isn’t necessary. Mono-Black Aggro is the most popular deck, but saving one mana on your removal spell costs equity everywhere else. 

Magic Online tends to be on the cutting edge and that’s especially true in Pioneer. Mono-Black Aggro is everywhere online, but that will likely be different if your Pioneer tournaments are in real life. If that’s the case, Mono-Black Aggro is still a great deck but you might want to shift it back to the version that isn’t tuned specifically for the mirror. That mostly means swapping the maindeck Aethersphere Harvesters with the Thoughtseizes in the sideboard.

If nothing else, the games I played in the PTQ were complex and intricate. Each turn, there are so many options with your various activated abilities that you have a feeling of complete agency. Each of my losses could be attributed to my own mistakes, either in decision-making or deckbuilding. 

I’m not saying the deck is unbeatable, but it does feel like you get to determine your own fate.


You know what no more Wrenn and Six means? Sultai is back! 

We have to ask ourselves a few questions:

  • Is Tarmogoyf a relevant clock in the metagame? 
  • Is Shardless Agent into Ancestral Vision worth the deckbuilding constraint?
  • How prevalent is Dark Depths?
  • Do we want basic lands?

The decklist should tell you what I think the answers to those questions are. As much as I like Shardless Agent in general, not working with Flusterstorm and Veil of Summer is a non-starter. I didn’t have a problem taking out Shardless Agent for Flusterstorm or even keeping them both in the deck, but we have better options now. Oko, Leovold, and Narset are often as good as Shardless Agent into Ancestral Vision.

It’s worth noting that the lack of Wrenn and Six means fewer red decks, which in turn means fewer Pyroblasts. I used to play Tireless Tracker as a way to dodge Pyroblast, but we probably don’t need to go that far. Additionally, it likely means an uptick in Veil of Summers because there will be more green mana and fewer Pyroblasts to worry about anyway. We can exploit that to some degree. 

Brazen Borrower is the answer to Dark Depths, plus you have enough backdoor answers like Oko to merit playing Drown in the Loch over something like Tyrant’s Scorn. It’s truly a good time to be a Sultai mage. Sultai Urza with Baleful Strix and Seat of the Synod seems like a potential winner too.

Legacy was a good, fair format before the Wrenn and Six ban. There was a lot of diversity even in the face of a best deck. Now, that format is likely even better.