A Playtest Session With Standard’s Big #SCGINDY Decks

Pro Tour Champion Shaun McLaren wasn’t content to just sit and watch all the new Standard action! He got all of the format’s first-week decks together and formulated sideboarding guides and playtest games galore! He’s got the full results of his playtesting tournament here!

#GPAtlanta October 7-9!

#SCGINDY, the first big Standard event featuring Kaladesh, is in the books and we have many new fancy decklists to work with.

At first glance, the most important takeaways are that red aggro decks are amazing and Smuggler’s Copter is amazing… “a full 32 copies in the Top 8” amazing.

Watching the actual Top 8 matches from #SCGINDY was very insightful, but I also want to see how a wider variety of archetypes match up against one another and get a good feel for the decks in the format.

That’s why today I’m going to take eight different decks in eight different archetypes for a test drive, prioritizing ones that did well. Then I’m going to play through my own mock Top 8 with those eight decks.

Here are the eight decks I chose:

W/R Vehicles by Chris VanMeter

Grixis Emerge by Zach Voss

G/B Delirium by Abe Schnake

R/B Aggro by Jacob Hagen

Jeskai Flash by Jeff Hoogland

W/R Humans by Donovan Lachney

G/W Aggro by Brian Braun-Duin

Temur Aetherworks by Daniel Weiser

So we have all the decks that made Top 4 at #SCGINDY and then a smattering of some other decks, including Temur Aetherworks as my Wild Card pick. I think this represents plenty of the best decks while diversifying with a few archetypes that interest me and look powerful.

Next I’ll randomly set the brackets, play out the Top 8 against my brother Dean, and then I’ll share a quick recap of the games, along with my perspective on how each deck played, sideboarding decisions, and so on.

Here’s the bracket for this mock Top 8:

G/W Aggro


Jeskai Flash

Grixis Emerge


W/R Humans

…and on the other side of the bracket:

G/B Delirium


R/B Aggro

W/R Vehicles


Temur Aetherworks

Let’s see how things might have gone in an alternate reality.

Quarterfinals Match One: G/W Aggro vs. Jeskai Flash

I was playing G/W Aggro against Dean playing Jeskai Flash.

Game 1

I quickly curve out thanks to Servant of the Conduit on the play and smash face with a Verdurous Gearhulk and Smuggler’s Copter for the win.




Sideboarding for this match seems very tricky when almost all the cards seem like they could range from terrible to amazing depending on the situation, since both decks are so versatile. I just tried to get a feel for everything, while focusing on dealing with Spell Queller and Archangel Avacyn and dodging Fumigate.

Game 2

I keep a triple Smuggler’s Copter hand and get Angel-handled by an Archangel Avacyn that I don’t have an answer for. Lesson learned. Archangel Avacyn is still powerful and matches up well against Smuggler’s Copter.

Game 3

I curve out into Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Nissa, Vital Force and get a massive lead, but Fumigate and Selfless Spirit nearly reset things. Nissa, Vital Force’s emblem allows me to win a long drawn out game, but only barely since G/W Aggro struggles with fliers.

G/W Aggro advances!

Thoughts on G/W Aggro and Jeskai Flash

I like the idea of G/W Aggro, but I suspect it doesn’t have enough early-game interaction right now. It’s good if it curves out or faces a grindy deck, but it can fall behind easily or die to fliers. Fairgrounds Warden is the only maindeck removal and it’s not good against Smuggler’s Copter. Declaration in Stone, while still being a very solid card, is also not great against Smuggler’s Copter, so G/W needs to adapt some other way in that regard, maybe with Stasis Snare or Archangel Avacyn.

Jeskai Flash has a lot of the elements I like, particularly Spell Queller and Archangel Avacyn, but the deck still needs some polishing. Revolutionary Rebuff and Glimmer of Genius in particular seem poorly positioned going forward when compared to Smuggler’s Copter. I could easily see it just evolving into full on U/W Spirits with Smuggler’s Copter, Mausoleum Wanderer, and a lower, more aggressive curve.

Quarterfinals Match Two: Grixis Emerge vs. W/R Humans

I was playing Grixis Emerge and Dean was playing W/R Humans.

Game 1

I mulligan and get off to a rough start mana-wise but finally make it to Elder Deep-Fiend to start tapping down all the pressure. Unfortunately I don’t find a Kozilek’s Return to pair with Elder Deep-Fiend and just die after I can’t find a third one to cast.




The mana feels rough for Liliana, the Last Hope.

Game 2

Again I mulligan and my mana is awkward. I manage to cast Elder Deep-Fiend with Kozilek’s Return in the graveyard, but this time I’m foiled by Selfless Spirit and die after I don’t follow it up with anything.

W/R Humans advances!

Thoughts on Grixis Emerge

Elder Deep-Fiend and Kozilek’s Return are going to be one of the main good options to fight back against aggro decks. Finding the right consistent shell is going to be the hard part, and Grixis Emerge has a lot of potential, but still needs work done on it.

I’d want to try cutting Perpetual Timepiece and Cryptbreaker for more lands and Essence Extraction if the mana can be finessed to support it.

Quarterfinals Match Three: G/B Delirium vs. R/B Aggro

I was playing G/B Delirium and Dean was playing R/B Aggro.

Game 1

I’m on the back foot from the start under Smuggler’s Copter pressure while I try to get delirium to make my creatures grow up to be big and strong. I finally reach delirium and stabilize with Ishkanah, Grafwidow, but the opposing Pia Naalar is able to help Scrapheap Scrounger push through my wall of spiders and Unlicensed Disintegration takes care of what I have left while pushing the last bits of damage.

Game 2

I mulligan and Fiery Temper and Smuggler’s Copter quickly put to rest any ideas that I should be ahead in card advantage. An opposing Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet that I can’t answer seals the deal.

R/B Aggro advances!

Thoughts on G/B Delirium

It feels like there isn’t enough time to get delirium and without it you’re severely outclassed. Liliana, the Last Hope is still a solid card, though, with plenty of targets to kill outright, and she even survives a Smuggler’s Copter hit.

Quarterfinals Match Four: W/R Vehicles vs. Temur Aetherworks

I was playing Temur Aetherworks against Dean playing W/R Vehicles.

Game 1

I’m off to a great start with double Harnessed Lighting and some Glassblower’s Puzzleknots, while not clogging my hand with any useless Eldrazi. Unfortunately, dig as I might, I can’t find an Aetherworks Marvel and just die.




Game 2

I curve out with Woodweaver’s Puzzleknot and activate turn 4 Aetherworks Marvel but only find a Kozilek’s Return that kills two creatures and buys some time. I’m able to activate Aetherworks Marvel again but whiff on finding an Eldrazi again and then die.

W/R Vehicles advances!

Thoughts on Temur Aetherworks

A promising deck, but one with a large amount of risk involved. You can draw too many of your Eldrazi early, not draw Aetherworks Marvel, or just plain whiff when you do. But hitting an early Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger backed by Kozilek’s Return seems great.

Thoughts on the Quarterfinals

All the aggro decks smashed right on through the slower decks. All the control and combo decks are harder to play and that was a factor, since I was new to most of the lists, so that will take time, experience, and tuning to get just right. This might change as lists evolve, but right now aggro does seem very powerful, and I think the results were in line with what I would have expected to win.

Semifinals: G/W Aggro vs. W/R Humans

I was playing G/W Aggro against Dean playing W/R Humans.

Game 1

I have no answer to Smuggler’s Copter and Fairgrounds Warden isn’t helping.

I finally draw my own Smuggler’s Copter and have Blossoming Defense backup, but I still can’t do anything except let the Copters ram into each other and die, because if I pull the trigger on Blossoming Defense, I let Harnessed Lightning freely zap my scooter out of the sky.

It makes for an interesting game of Thopter Copter Chicken where whoever blinks first loses, which leads to Smuggler’s Copters just ramming into each other and exploding. Fortunately any creature piloting a crashing Smuggler’s Copter will be safe after pressing the conveniently located eject button.

Seriously, though, how come Smuggler’s Copter loots when it blocks? What could it possibly be smuggling when it’s sitting there blocking? I could let it slide on a flavor technicality if it was at least transferring its loot over after blocking a Mule.

Anyway, Game 2, I mulligan and flood out.

W/R Humans advances to the finals!

Semifinals: R/B Aggro vs. W/R Vehicles

I was playing R/B Aggro against Dean playing W/R Vehicles. This was the exact same semifinals matchup in #SCGINDY as well.

Game 1

We both curve out like madmen, but I’m on the draw and don’t have Smuggler’s Copter and quickly die.




Game 2

I mulligan but still curve out and ride an unanswered Smuggler’s Copter backed with removal to victory.

Game 3

I’m on the draw and mulligan, but I have the almost ideal hand of Foreboding Ruins, Mountain, Mountain, Bomat Courier, Smuggler’s Copter, and Unlicensed Disintegration, with Fiery Temper on top of the deck after my scry. Unfortunately for me, Galvanic Bombardment picks off my Bomat Courier, and even though I follow Smuggler’s Copter up with Pia Nalaar, Harnessed Lightning zaps my Copter out of the air and I flood out and lose.

W/R Vehicles advances to the finals!

Thoughts on R/B Aggro

The deck has some very powerful cards and a solid triangle of synergy:

Bomat Courier can crew Smuggler’s Copter for cheap, and both of them can discard Fiery Temper. Boom, synergy triangle.

The R/B Aggro archetype seems amazing, but maybe not quite as amazing against other aggressive decks. Even a card as fantastic as Unlicensed Disintegration is usually trading for the same amount or less mana than the card it’s destroying in an aggro vs. aggro match. Still, it has plenty of potential to shore itself up against other aggro decks thanks to Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Essence Extraction, both of which we should be seeing a lot more of. Being able to switch into a few Essence Extraction on the draw to gain life and stabilize and back to Unlicensed Disintegration on the play to push damage seems great.

Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet has the crucial four toughness that you’re going to want going forward and Essence Extraction is solid removal that can help stabilize and works well against Smuggler’s Copter.

Finals: W/R Humans vs. W/R Vehicles

I was playing W/R Humans against Dean playing W/R Vehicles.

Game 1

I mulligan to four.




Game 2

We both mulligan and I curve out with Inventor’s Apprentice, Smuggler’s Copter, and Hanweir Garrison and proceed to run away with the game.

Game 3

Dean mulligans to five and I curve out nicely, which means W/R Humans wins it all! Anti-climactic, but hey, it’s what happened.

If you liked the format of the mock tournament, let me know in the comments and I’ll try it again sometime.

Thoughts on R/W Aggro

R/W Vehicles also has a low cost powerful Synergy Triangle (yup, Synergy Triangle is now a totally legit term).

Toolcraft Exemplar likes artifacts. Smuggler’s Copter likes one-drops that Crew it. Thraben Inspector does both those things.

Synergy. Triangle.

One of the most powerful aspects of Smuggler’s Copter is that you don’t have to Crew it. If your opponent is holding up two or, God forbid, three mana, you can just not Crew Smuggler’s Copter and go about your turn as normal. That forces your opponent to spend that mana that they kept up, along with their removal spell, on something of yours that’s probably worse than Smuggler’s Copter (since everything is) or possibly waste that untapped mana and try again next turn.

Playing and using Selfless Spirit to Crew and protect Smuggler’s Copter when your opponent is representing a removal spell is also just filthy.

W/R Humans might end up being like Bant Humans was last Standard, which turned out to be superior to Bant Company in the Bant mirror. Thalia’s Lieutenant and Hanweir Garrison are excellent together and are both capable of going over the top of other less focused strategies.

Standard Going Forward

Aggro is dang good.

We’ve seen Week 1 is often defined by aggro decks, but nowadays it’s also often just defined by some of the best decks. I think the aggro decks debuted at #SCGINDY are very powerful and will continue to be powerful.

These aggro decks have many dimensions of attack: card advantage and selection, resilience to mass removal, threats more efficient than the answers, and just plain some of the best cards in the format.

That said, I think it caught most people at least a little off-guard just how good these red aggro decks were, and the format wasn’t properly gunning for them, so don’t expect it to happen again.

I think it’s clear that aggro decks are the deck to beat right now. The question, then: is there a way to stop them?

#GPAtlanta is Sealed, which means thatPro Tour Kaladesh is the next big Standard event. It will likely be all about whether aggro decks can stand up to hate, so expect to see lots of optimized aggro decks and lots of decks trying to beat them.

Keep in mind aggro decks get to improve and adapt as well.

Is this a Bant Company situation similar to last Standard where the best deck is already mostly formed in Week 1?

Maybe, but all of these decks look like they can be polished, and there are sure to be some hidden archetypes waiting to be broken.

The Pro Tour approaches!

#GPAtlanta October 7-9!