Ever since the complete spoiler of Theros was released, I have been racking my brain trying to find awesome decks for Standard. While I have learned many things, I keep coming back to a lesson Brian Kibler has preached since the dawn of Magic.
Just kill them!
That's right, just kill them! It's pretty easy when you think about it. Who really knows what is going to happen this weekend. There is an abundance of good cards, and the power level of those cards is extremely comparable. It's difficult to really say what's going to end up on top of the standings this weekend at the StarCityGames.com Standard Open in Worcester. Instead of trying to be cute and play around all the cards in the format, you can simply attack them until they have no more life points.
Since I started working on Theros Standard, I have yet to find a deck better at "just killing them" than this!
- 4 Burning-Tree Emissary
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 4 Ember Swallower
- 4 Ghor-Clan Rampager
- 4 Satyr Hedonist
- 3 Scavenging Ooze
- 4 Stormbreath Dragon
Since this is the deck I'm suggesting you all play this weekend, I want to go over each card individually before we discuss anything else.
Eleven sources of green mana on turn 1 might not sound like enough, but the deck has to run this low of a number if it wants to have enough red to cast the more powerful spells in it. This could be an argument to play something like Sylvan Caryatid, but I'm more impressed by a turn 2 Domri Rade than I am with more consistent turn 3 Ember Swallowers.
Elvish Mystic is involved in all of the deck's best draws. Turn 1 Elvish Mystic followed by Satyr Hedonist into Ember Swallower allows for the potential of destroying every land your opponent has in play on turn 4. Magic is fun for everyone!
It took a while to find a good home for this card in the new Standard format, but I finally found it. In this deck, Burning-Tree Emissary's number one job is to make sure you have the correct mana on the appropriate turns. This is crucial in this new world where players will constantly have issues with their mana.
It also helps fight off swarms of creatures in the early turns, which helps fuel Scavenging Ooze earlier than normal.
This is not a card I thought was playable in Constructed until I saw it in this decklist. Its base stats looked too weak for me to even consider trying to find it a home.
Well, one was found, and it plays a very important role in this deck. Not only is Satyr Hedonist another card to play off of Burning-Tree Emissary, but it also helps ritual out cards like Stormbreath Dragon and overloaded Mizzium Mortars. These fast starts also have the added bonus of giving Scavenging Ooze more fodder in the early turns.
Last but not least is his ability to help activate monstrosity on Stormbreath Dragon and Ember Swallower. These abilities are very good if activated in the early stages of a game, and that is exactly what Satyr Hedonist is trying to do.
Scavenging Ooze is way too powerful of a card to not find a home in Standard, but I didn't really know where to put it. Its ability became less disruptive with the rotation of flashback, undying, Snapcaster Mage, reanimation, and pretty much everything else in Innistrad Block. Now it will just be a cheap creature that can gain you some life while it becomes a 4/4 or 5/5. That is good enough but not great.
However, this deck loves to put creatures into the graveyard. Whether it is Burning-Tree Emissary trading with other small critters, Ghor-Clan Rampager showing the true power of Gruul Clans, or even Satyr Hedonist taking one for the team, the graveyard will fill up rather quickly. This means Scavenging Ooze will have many things to forage for as well as something to use extra mana on.
This card might seem out of place in a deck like this since it really isn't that aggressive. You don't have an abundance of haste creatures, and one of your other four-drops is designed to blow up lands. What everyone forgets about Ghor-Clan Rampager is that it also moonlights as a creature.
Ghor-Clan Rampager is a creature first in this deck but gives it the ability to attack into a bigger creature when it needs to. Boros Reckoner and Desecration Demon will both see an abundance of play in the coming weeks, making it important to be able to get around them.
The best thing Ghor-Clan Rampager has going from it is its ability to dismantle planeswalkers the turn they come into play. Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Jace, Architect of Thought will be the centerpieces of most control decks and can get out of hand if they are not dealt with immediately.
I'm so glad that this card is going to be playable in Constructed. I loved it the moment it was spoiled and knew I was going to work on it. I assumed it would go into "Brad's pet card pile" alongside such hits as Trading Post, Tracker's Instincts, CraterHOOF Behemoth, and Shimmering Grotto. Little did I know I would be sleeving up this bad boy on the first day of Standard.
I'm extremely happy that Wizards made this guy a 4/5. This lets it dodge not only Mizzium Mortars but Selesnya Charm as well. This is a very good place to be since it can block almost anything that comes down early in a game.
Its ability is the real reason why it is in the deck. Backed up by Satyr Hedonist, this card will get many free wins when on the play. This is where you want to be right when a format shifts. You want as many free wins as you can get. Blowing up your opponent's lands is one of the easiest ways to accomplish this.
This is the main reason to play a deck like this. Stormbreath Dragon doesn't have the same impact on the game that Thundermaw Hellkite had, but it is very comparable. Protection from white is extremely potent when dealing with control decks since their only good way to deal with it becomes Supreme Verdict. It also has the added bonus of being able to go toe to toe with Sphinx's Revelation by using its monstrosity ability.
I have found playing this creature on turn 3 via sacrificing Satyr Hedonist to be an easy way to steal games. You don't really want to do this against an opponent who has Doom Blade or Mizzium Mortars, but it's insane against decks without those cards.
Domri Rade has proven to be one the most exciting planeswalkers in some time. It was by far the best card in Standard last season, pushing G/R and Naya to the top tables in almost every tournament. All three abilities are important in varying matchups, and the ability to gain card advantage in an aggressive deck is extremely powerful.
Xenagos, the Reveler is by far the most aggressive planeswalker to come out in some time. Not only does this planeswalker create 2/2s with haste, but it also has the ability to be a Burning-Tree Emissary the turn it comes into play. If you ever get to untap with this guy, you have easy access to activating monstrosity and overloading Mizzium Mortars.
You should view Xenagos, the Reveler as less of a threat than your opponent. Sure, they are going to have to deal with him to win the game, but I wouldn't invest too many resources into protecting him. I never really want to get him to his ultimate since producing 2/2s is probably more important, but at the same time, they are only 2/2s. Use him more as a role player than a finisher.
This is the best removal spell in the format if you don't care that it can't deal damage to opponents. Only cast it for two mana when you have to since getting to overload mana is fairly easy with cards like Xenagos, the Reveler and Satyr Hedonist.
The Temple cycle is going to be decent in most decks, but none of the others will be as powerful as Temple of Abandon will be in this deck. Not only does this deck have a huge disparity in the cards it wants in every single game, but the ability to scry right before activating Domri Rade is nice. I'm more excited to play Temple of Abandon than any of the other scry lands.
I think Burning Earth is going to play a much bigger role in this Standard environment than the previous format. This is mostly because many of the three-color midrange decks were aggressive enough to sometimes punish red decks for casting this spell. The other reason is that all of the midrange decks ran creatures that gained back the life lost from Burning Earth.
This isn't the case anymore. The scariest card that a three-color deck can cast is Desecration Demon, which isn't even close to how bad Thragtusk was. I think the new rule is to bring this card in against three-color decks no matter what!
I really don't know how good this card is going to be, but I do know that I want something to replace my Ember Swallowers with when playing against aggressive decks. Polukranos, World Eater does seem like it fits the midrange role in this deck since it has the ability to fight off a threatening creature. This deck also has the ability to take out something huge backed up by Saytr Hedonist and Xengos, the Reveler.
Both of these planeswalkers are in the sideboard to be added card advantage against control decks. The only reason for the split is that I don't want four cards that cost six against control decks, as well as the potential for Chandra, Pyromaster to help kill small creatures.
Ruric Thar, the Unbowed is in here to help against spell-based decks. The hidden reason for this guy is to help fight Celestial Flare against U/W Control. Many controld decks are going to have to lean on Supreme Verdict to be able to kill off Stormbreath Dragon. Obviously, Dragon players are going to be aware of this, so they will simply wait for the Supreme Verdict to take out the other creatures before playing the powerful mythic. Celestial Flare is there to help deal with the Stormbreath Dragon on the following turn since there are no other haste creatures to join in on the attack. Ruric Thar, the Unbowed comes down main phase to help deal extra damage if the control player is on this line of thinking.
Another card that could potentially fill this role is Mistcutter Hydra. It has the added ability of never getting countered or Azorius Charmed and can also help kill Jace, Architect of Thought on turn 4 or 5. Now, I don't know if this will be that important, but it is worth testing at least. The same goes for Hammer of Purphoros.
Flames of the Firebrand was really bad last season. The only reason you would play it is because decks ran Blood Artist. Everything else got way too big in the early turns to actually get an advantage.
This just isn't the case anymore. If you are playing a beatdown strategy, you will have x/1s in your deck. This card will help clean up in the early game and let us easily take the control role in a game without fear of being overrun in the early turns. I wouldn't be against going up to four copies.
This card is a concession to Selesnya decks. Advent of the Wurm is going to be a tough card to fight, making it important to have something to deal with it. Not only will tokens be an issue, but Loxodon Smiter with Unflinching Courage is also an easy to lose a game.
The best reason to play this deck is that it has something to do with its mana at all stages of the game. Old Standard was filled with mana sinks like Gavony Township and Kessig Wolf Run, but there are very few ways to use excess mana currently. This is the main reason why I have yet to find a Selesnya deck that I like. Fleecemane Lion and Boon Satyr can only do so much when trying to utilize extra mana, and the deck almost always runs out of steam when the games go too long. I might have to go back and explore Selesnya decks that curve all the way to Angel of Serenity, but I don't see those decks ever beating U/W Control.
This deck is also in an interesting place against both two-color and three-color decks.
We are all very aware by now that three-color decks took a huge hit with the rotation of buddy lands. These lands complemented shock lands nicely and made it very easy to obtain three colors. There was a long period of time that I honestly believed that three-color decks were more consistent than two-color ones. Sure, you had to take some damage, but at least you didn't have to play basics!
This is no longer the case. Three-color decks are still going to exist but will no longer be as consistent. This gives aggressive decks a huge advantage compared to the previous format.
Let's break down why three-color mana bases are going to be bad. For reference, this is what the average three-color mana base looks like.
10-12 shock lands
6-8 basics (Because this beats Burning Earth!)
There are multiple things that can go wrong when decks have this type of mana base. For starters, this many lands that come into play tapped almost always force the shock lands to enter untapped. This means that you will almost always deal yourself four-to-six damage over the course of a game if you want to cast your spells on time. This wasn't the biggest issue when it came to decks like Jund since many of your permanents gained you a ton of life, but those cards aren't in the format anymore. It is just too much damage to take in a control or midrange strategy.
The argument that your deck doesn't care about losing life doesn't really work either. No aggressive deck wants to play tap lands. It's the exact opposite of what you want to be doing. The last time I can think of where an aggressive deck ran a "come into play tapped" land in Standard was Windbrisk Heights. [Editor's Note: You mean the best land ever printed?]
All of this means that three-color decks will be slower, less consistent, and more painful than decks only running two colors. This makes it a great time to be aggressive. Punish them for being greedy!
This doesn't mean that two-color decks have it easy. The main reason to play more colors is that the power level of the cards you play is stronger. This is the big tradeoff. Two-color decks will have a much more difficult time reacting to aggressive strategies by simply not having the right tools in every situation. Decks with fast aggression backed up by planeswalkers have the best chance of exploiting these two-color reactive decks.
It is too early to know exactly what we are going to be playing against, but I will take my best shot in the dark for anyone who is going to pick this deck up for this weekend.
This is probably one of the easier matchups and a reason to play this deck. U/W Control has been moving away from countermagic since it had to replace Think Twice with Divination. This leaves it less reactive and relying more on planeswalkers and powerful removal spells to win games.
This is a great place to be with a deck full of creatures and planeswalkers. It will be easy to resolve planeswalkers and get a couple activations out of them before Detention Sphere comes down to ruin the day.
U/W Control also has to react very fast to both of our creatures with monstrosity. Ember Swallower is exactly what control decks don't want to see on the other side of the board. Sphinx's Revelation is the endgame they are trying to get to, and it would be a shame if something came in and disrupted that.
I really wish I was able to board out all of my Mizzium Mortars and Scavenging Oozes in this matchup, but it is ok to leave in a couple Oozes since they are still creatures and can become huge in the late game. Just bring in Garruk, Caller of the Beasts; Ruric Thar, the Unbowed; and Chandra, Pyromaster and call it a day. If you play against Esper, make them burn with Burning Earth!
I think this will be the most played deck this weekend. It didn't lose that much from last season and isn't a deck you have to go out and buy many mythics to be able to play on the first weekend. There will be a ton of different versions, but they all act the same. Just be aggressive and understand that you need to react for a small amount of time before going on the offensive. This shouldn't be too hard since we have Mizzium Mortars and Dragons.
If you really want to be prepared for this matchup, I could see finding room for two or three Shocks in the sideboard. Shock helps curve out and protect Scavenging Ooze faster since you will kill a creature in the first couple turns.
This matchup can get out of hand depending on what cards they are playing, but my suggestion is to monstrosity a Stormbreath Dragon as fast as possible. Correction, just cast Stormbreath Dragon as fast as possible. They will almost always have a better board position on the ground, but they will have very little interaction in the air. Don't be afraid to make it a 7/7 since Selesnya Charm is in fact white.
I would sideboard the exact way I did against Mono-Red Aggro. We want to deal with their early guys, and it can be extremely difficult to protect Domri Rade in the early turns. I would rather just get something big into play and try to ride it to victory.
Honestly, I have no clue what else you will face this weekend, but this deck is designed to be able to fight anything. It has powerful planeswalkers, Dragons, mass removal, and something to do with its mana at all times. It is the best deck I know of right now and is what I would play in Worcester if I were going.
This deck is also the reason why this article wasn't about Trading Post. I was all prepared to talk about Post, but it couldn't come close to beating this deck. I hate to always cry wolf when it comes to Trading Post because I do believe it has the potential to be a powerful deck in current Standard, but it will have to become a three-color deck if it wants to compete with R/G. I just didn't have the time to perfect an Esper shell before this article had to be written. I promise you guys that I will find a good Trading Post deck before it rotates. It just won't be today.
Anyway, I wish all of you the best of luck this weekend as you explore Theros Standard. I will be battling here in Roanoke at Friday Night Magic since that is my only outlet to play sanctioned Standard. If you are also playing in Roanoke, I hope you come prepared to get Stormbreath Dragoned!