With the decklists posted from the SCG Invitational and World Championship, Standard is finally starting to solidify from the shakeup of M14. All eyes are on Jund Midrange and U/W/R Flash as almost all of the greats have decided to champion one or the other. But that doesn't mean there's no hope for the rest of the field! Today I'll be going over what I feel are the best and worst archetypes in Standard. I want candy!
#1 & #2: Bubblegum & Taffy
I won't waste any of our time explaining why these two decks are the best in the format. At this point it's like explaining why 'Merica is the best country or why Evan Erwin is terrible at winning pie bets. These are simply facts we all know are true.
The only thing I really want to touch on is the one Acidic Slime in Reid Duke's sideboard. Acidic Slime was in the sideboard of Jund for a very brief time earlier in the season to help combat cards like Underworld Connections and Staff of Nin. This one copy will probably evolve into every Jund player starting to run this card, thus forcing these powerful artifacts and enchantments out of Jund sideboards. A little bit of spice makes everything nice.
#3: G/R Aggro
Before I get into Brian Kibler's deck, I want to talk about my reaction to the decks played in the Standard portion of the World Championship. It wasn't a big surprise that Jund Midrange and U/W/R Flash were the two most popular archetypes. These decks have proven themselves in the metagame time and time again. What shocked me was that only three players didn't play one of these decks. That means that thirteen players played either Jund Midrange or U/W/R Flash! That's absurd!
I understand that these decks are good, but are they that good? When I see metagames that look like this, the first thing that pops in my head is that someone screwed up. Either the players in the event didn't get on the appropriate level or Wizards didn't figure something out in the Future Future League. Since I don't think any card in Standard is ban-worthy, my opinion is that these players were so taxed by the stress of preparing for four different formats that they were unable to go too far from the norm. Instead of spending countless hours working on new strategies, they opted to play already proven strategies.
Most of them also worked with other competitors. This resulted in five players playing the same deck from one team and three from another. Ten of the sixteen decks in the event had at least one duplicate also in the event.
Something very interesting happened as a result—the team decks didn't do too well. Team Czech/Japan/Stark went 5-10 with two mirror matches, and Team "Luis' Entourage" went 4-5 with one mirror match. I've never played in this event, so I don't know exactly the correct strategy, but my gut says that testing with 33% of the competition is too much. Cannibalization is a real thing when it comes to test teams being too big. You don't just want to play teammates, and the end goal is to have the deck that trumps everything.
The players that either worked on their own or deviated from team decks had a much stronger showing. This doesn't really mean anything except that it probably wasn't entirely correct to just play stock decks unless it's the one you know back to front.
In the end, I'm not saying anyone did anything wrong. All sixteen of these players are extremely talented and have proven to the world they deserve to be there. I just know I would have tried to find something geared to beat the expected metagame (Junk Reanimator obviously!) as well as work with a more personal group from my local area.
Anyway, let's talk G/R!
Brian was one of the only players to go undefeated in Standard, and for good reason—his deck was very well positioned for the expected metagame. This is an archetype I was working on for the Invitational, but I quickly dismissed it due to my fear of bad matchups like Bant Hexproof. Kibler easily evaluated that Bant Hexproof would not be a real deck in this event since it has bad matchups against the two decks everyone knew would see play.
The fact that this deck was designed for the World Championship doesn't mean it won't be good for tournaments the rest of us mortals will be playing in. It's a very aggressive deck with explosive topdecks and card advantage.
Domri Rade has gotten much better with the new planeswalker/legend rule. This deck wants to play four, but extra copies often got stranded in hands. Now it's possible to fight a creature using its -2 ability and then play another and tick up. This interaction greatly boosts the planeswalker's overall power level.
The only card I would not play in this deck is Gruul War Chant. It isn't really that powerful and never does what you want it to. Kibler suggested Chandra, Pyromaster since it has a similar effect as well as straight up deals with Lifebane Zombie. I would swap these two cards and call it a day.
#4: Junk Reanimator
- 2 Angel of Serenity
- 3 Arbor Elf
- 3 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 1 Elvish Mystic
- 2 Fiend Hunter
- 4 Restoration Angel
- 1 Shadowborn Demon
- 4 Thragtusk
- 2 Obzedat, Ghost Council
Junk Reanimator is a deck I assumed would just die once Scavenging Ooze was reprinted. Ooze just does everything you want against a deck like Junk Reanimator. The problem with Deathrite Shaman was that if they hard cast Angel of Serenity targeting the Shaman you couldn't kill the Angel and immediately get it out of the graveyard. That isn't the case anymore.
What I didn't know is that Brian Braun-Duin was not about to let this deck die. His persistence has brought this deck from the brink of destruction to being one of the best decks in the format. Players are not bringing hate for the matchup since they all assume the Oozes in other players' decks will take care of the issue. This doesn't really work out for anyone who ends up playing against a Junk Reanimator build that has a plan against Scavenging Ooze.
Brian wrote about this deck in his article this week called 28 Matches Later. This article is a must read if you're in the market for cheesy puns and good decklists. To be honest, I don't know if the title for his article is a play on Zombies and reanimation or just the amount of rounds he played last weekend. Regardless, his article was awesome, and you should take a look.
#5: Naya Midrange
- 1 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Boros Reckoner
- 3 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Loxodon Smiter
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 1 Sublime Archangel
- 4 Thundermaw Hellkite
- 4 Voice of Resurgence
Andrew Tenjum is someone that was not on my radar until after the Invitational, where he took second. I was very impressed with his play throughout the Top 8 and expect to see his face in more Top 8s in the near future.
His take on Naya Midrange has some spice to it. The maindeck Sublime Archangel is something we rarely see, but it always looks amazing in play. It isn't a card you want many copies of but is a great one-of in this deck, allowing for some very quick kills.
Zealous Conscripts is my pick for most underplayed card in Standard. It's always something I fear to see when playing with cards like Thragtusk, yet very few people actually run the card. As long as Jund Midrange is one of the top decks, this creature should be in any G/R and Naya sideboard.
#6: B/G Midrange
I can officially say that I'm no longer in the "Rock sucks" camp. This is a deck I started playing solely because I wanted to play with Primeval Bounty. What I found out is that the six-drop mythic rare isn't that good but the rest of the deck is.
The deck has many game plans, but the most common is an attrition war. Liliana of the Veil has gotten much more powerful with the inclusion of Scavenging Ooze in the format. Lingering Souls along with the rest of The Aristocrats has gotten significantly worse because of this, making it much easier to tick a Liliana of the Veil down without too much fear of not getting enough value.
The other game plan is to just jam powerful creatures. This deck has a lot of high-impact creatures. It can simply curve out with its four different creatures and make it tough for any deck to really get anything going. Mutilate makes Desecration Demon a very scary threat since it can often be a one-sided wrath.
Demonic Rising hasn't received much love since it was first printed in Avacyn Restored due to how difficult it is to consistently trigger it when your opponent doesn't live in a bowl. With the trigger on the stack, an opponent can simply kill the one creature you have in play and stop the Demon from entering the battlefield. Mutavault changes this equation since it's more difficult for an opponent to have two removal spells at the end of a turn. If they kill your one guy, just animate Mutavault, which leaves you again with one creature in play to trigger Demonic Rising.
Once online, this enchantment makes it very difficult for blue-based control decks to find any footing. The game plan of these control decks is to grind midrange decks out using removal and Sphinx's Revelation, but that can become difficult if the army attacking them didn't cost any resources. I am always in the market for free 5/5s, and this is a card that doesn't disappoint.
#7: G/W Elves
- 4 Arbor Elf
- 4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
- 4 Craterhoof Behemoth
- 4 Elvish Archdruid
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Elvish Visionary
- 4 Kalonian Hydra
- 2 Loxodon Smiter
- 4 Wolfir Silverheart
Zvi Mowshowitz has once again designed a truly impressive hypermana deck in the form of G/W Elves. This deck is fast and explosive and plays many cards that are must answers at any point in the game. This deck's centerpiece is Garruk, Caller of Beasts, which allows the deck to go into "hyperdrive" by drawing multiple creatures a turn. Once the planeswalker is in play, no opponent can keep up with the raw card advantage it provides.
The reason this deck is so good is that a lot of decks in the format are running many proactive spells. This means that both players have spells that don't interact with their opponent. When this happens, the deck that is more powerful and faster usually ends up on top. I can't speak for you guys, but I've played with Craterhoof Behemoth, which means I know firsthand that it can go over the top of every single strategy in this format.
If this deck is up your ally, I would strongly recommend reading Zvi's latest article Hypermana Deckbuilding.
Spoiler: That's all I have for decks I think are well positioned. If you don't play any of these decks, I suggest you exit this article now. It's not going to be a pretty sight for your beloved archetypes from here on out—don't say I didn't warn you!
#8: Junk Aristocrats, B/W Humans, B/W/R Humans, Act 2
It's much easier to lump these decks together instead of writing about them individually since they all play many of the same cards. Lingering Souls based strategies have dominated Standard for the last eight months and are the only real reason I've had any success. It's actually sad to look back and see that besides Atlantic City I have only made Top 8 of events with Blood Artist in my deck. It saddens me to know that these decks are bad choices now, but I learned early in life that it's better to have loved and lost than to never have loved at all. Or is it if you love it, set it free?
The reason these decks have fallen from grace is that M14 brought two very powerful cards against them. Scavenging Ooze has seen major play already, and I have no reason to believe it's going to slow down. This creature singlehandedly puts a ton of strain on these decks since it's very difficult to always play Lingering Souls when you have the mana to flash it back. Scavenging Ooze also gets very big very fast and provides the pressure midrange decks need in the early game.
I played Junk Aristocrats at the SCG Invitational since I had some crazy backwards logic. I thought that if Jund Midrange was relying on Scavenging Ooze in the early game that Skirsdag High Priest would go from bad to good against them. I mean, they stopped playing Pillar of Flame too.
This didn't work out that well for me since I still lost to the cards I should lose too!
The other card is Ratchet Bomb. The moment I saw that this card was getting reprinted my heart sank. As long as people are playing cards like Ratchet Bomb and Curse of Deaths Hold, you can't justify playing token-based strategies. It's just that simple.
#9: Bant Hexproof
Bant Hexproof was hyped a lot coming into M14 Standard, but with that hype came hate. Everyone showed up to tournaments with enough hate cards for the matchup, which shut down Bant Hexproof before it could really get any footing.
That doesn't mean it will be bad until rotation. People will soon start running fewer Bant Hexproof hate cards since fewer people are playing it, and then every Bant Hexproof player will pounce.
#10: Naya Blitz
It's a sad day when I finally have to let go of one of my pet decks. Building Naya Blitz with Todd Anderson was one of the most enjoyable experiences I've had working on a deck. It just isn't any good. I played it in two Opens, and I have to say they were my worst finishes in months. I always thought the deck was good even though I never played it.
There just isn't any reason to play a deck like Naya Blitz since every deck now tries to get on the board as fast as Blitz but has a better late game. This means that Blitz has to go under every deck in the format, which is impossible. I apologize to everyone out there that bought into my love for this deck in the past couple months. DON'T PLAY THIS DECK!
I'll be in Knoxville, Tennessee this weekend playing in the SCG Classic Series, so stop on by and say hi if you're in the area.