Grand Prix Seville and Grand Prix Memphis, along with numerous Open Series events, have all had their hand in laying the groundwork for Standard. Now that we have a metagaming forming, I wanted to take the time to write about which decks you want to be playing and the ones you should set aside in your preparation for Grand Prix Miami. Just because Miami isn't this weekend doesn't mean we shouldn't be trying to get a head start on the tournament.
Let's kick things off with the best deck in the format!
Now, take the term "best deck" with a grain of hyperbole. R/W Aggro is no Mono-Black Devotion, but it is the best choice going into Grand Prix Miami. The deck has a big fat bull's eye on it yet still has been performing above expectations. That was even before Ben Stark brought the world his version of the deck!
Throwing Stormbreath Dragon into the sideboard might seem like a small thing, but this was easily the reason why Ben Stark put up the best result with the deck in Memphis. Outpost Siege has already proven itself to be a maindeck all-star in the archetype, but until now, everyone just stuck it in the already existing lists. Just because the card is good doesn't mean the deck didn't need some adjusting.
Outpost Siege might be best categorized as "the red Phyrexian Arena," but the fact that you don't get to keep the extra cards for turns to come can be awkward at times. None more awkward than Stormbreath Dragon, since casting it will eat up an entire turn. By simply putting them in the sideboard and lowering the deck's curve, Ben Stark was able to utilize his Outpost Sieges so effectively that it warranted an entire set to be put into the maindeck. The only downside I see to Ben's list is his vulnerability to Drown in Sorrow, but four Outpost Siege will most definitely help him in the attrition war.
I would be shocked if we don't start to see more copies of Erase and Back to Nature flying around, but on the other side of R/W Aggro is Goblin Rabblemasters and Stormbreath Dragons that laugh in the face of enchantment removal.
- 2 Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
- 1 Garruk, Apex Predator
- 2 Kiora, the Crashing Wave
- 2 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
Very rarely do we see a brand new archetype in the first week of a new Standard format dominate for weeks to come. Gerard Fabiano surprised the world with his take on Sultai Control in Washington D.C. last month. Just looking at the deck made you think he must be insane at playing the game since the deck obviously didn't pull its own weight. Well I will be the first to put my foot in my mouth and say that I was completely wrong about the deck. Sure it has awkward draws, but what deck wouldn't with Thoughtseize and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon in it?
The best selling point to playing this deck is that it has game against everything. The removal package Sultai gets to play punishes every type of proactive strategy the format has to offer. Who needs counterspells when the removal can simply pick off everything anyway?
Interestingly enough, this deck doesn't have that bad of a U/B Control matchup. One would think that the deck with more counterspells would have the advantage, but this deck has a much stronger early game velocity. Satyr Wayfinder also gets some very important work done in the earlygame. After sideboard, this deck gets to shift into more of a midrange deck using Rakshasa Deathdealer and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, but it still has everything else the control deck does.
Dig Through Time control decks have taken down the last three Standard Grand Prix, and it wouldn't surprise me to see it happen next weekend.
Did people really forget about the Bogeyman? Abzan Midrange won the Pro Tour in Honolulu and continued to be one of the most powerful decks in the format until Fate Reforged, where it continued being, well, one of the most powerful decks in the format. For some reason people started to ignore the archetype and then it immediately crushed the next week. The deck might not have taken down Grand Prix Memphis, but it did put five pilots into the top 8. Four of which were all in communication before the Grand Prix and played four copies of Fleecemane Lion in the sideboard.
Fleecemane Lion might have been a surprise going into Memphis, but that doesn't mean it isn't still a great sideboard option. Creatures have taken up four slots in midrange strategies sideboards before, making this old hat. The reason for these cards is to not catch people off guard, but to streamline the deck in the matchups where you want a higher threat density. It takes much less removal to win a game if you are able to curve out on creatures, which is the real appeal of Fleecemane Lion. If it dies, it dies and you move on with your life. The card is great in the earlygame and can become the most annoying thing to get through in the lategame thanks to its monstrous ability. I would be shocked if most Abzan players don't adopt this sideboard strategy, since it was the key reason why all of us succeeded this past weekend.
- 1 Arbor Colossus
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 3 Genesis Hydra
- 4 Rattleclaw Mystic
- 3 Shaman of the Great Hunt
- 3 Voyaging Satyr
- 4 Whisperwood Elemental
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 3 Polukranos, World Eater
One of the last Tier 1 decks is G/R Devotion. This deck has had a smattering of decent success but still does not have a definitive version for the masses to replicate. The biggest culprit for us not knowing the best version of this deck yet is how big of a blowout every win is. Devotion strategies have always had an inherent flaw built into them due to the fact that you always need a mixture of lands, mana accelerants, and expensive spells. Without one of these ingredients, the deck often times looks like a Limited deck might give it a run for its money. The risk of this happening does not come without a reward. When all three parts of this formula do come together you often see this deck doing some of the most busted things. It's just the nature of the strategy.
The high variance nature of the archetype makes it difficult to pinpoint ways to make the deck better. Both Brian Braun-Duin and Andrew Shrout played G/R Devotion this past weekend in Memphis, but their ideas on the deck were vastly different. I chimed in on their conversations during the long road trip, but mostly I just sat back in amusement as they talked about the many ways each of their decks were different. The only thing they both had in common was the lack of Shaman of the Great Hunt.
The reason this version of the deck is positioned so highly on my list even with its high variance nature, is that Standard is also high variance. The creatures are so powerful that it is difficult to ever feel in control of every situation in a tournament. You have to go in swinging, which is exactly what this deck is capable of.
Another major reason for this deck being a reasonable choice is that Thoughtseize will most likely be on the decline in the near future. Thoughtseize is easily the highest impacting card against any Devotion strategy and forces the deck out of existence when it is being playing highly. The card is really only good in Abzan Midrange and only in specific situations. If the deck picks up popularity, Thoughtseize might become a two or three-of instead of the automatic four people have been playing due to how low impact it is in the mirror and against R/W.
This might not have the perfect version of the deck, but I like the things it is trying to accomplish. Even a glance into the sideboard shows what you need to try to beat in sideboarded games and has cards for those matchups. Briber's Purse might have only seen play in Ascendancy Combo, but it acts as a very nice way to slow down heroic strategies for a green-based ramp deck. Time is all you need against them to go way over the top, and that is exactly what the card provides.
Keep in mind that even though I believe G/R Devotion to be decently positioned in the metagame does not mean that it is guaranteed a successful finish. The deck has as many good draws as it does bad. It just feels like its best weekend is on the horizon, which makes it a reasonable archetype to play if you try to spike an event.
I don't have a good list for the deck yet (because Kibler's articles don't come out until Friday), but my gut tells me this is the sleeper deck. I could easily be wrong, since my gut has always told me the deck was bad and I never tested it, but powerful creatures backed up with Stubborn Denial sounds so good right now. Control decks might actually begin to increase in numbers, making this deck a perfect way to prey on control and Abzan all at the same time. Not many decks can say they can do that.
I can't help you with the 75, but I did want to give you the green light if you were leaning towards testing the deck.
These would be the five decks I would choose from if you weren't trying to break the format. Up next are those that don't pack a serious punch, and I would suggest leaving at home.
#1 Abzan Aggro
There was a time when this deck was impressive. Even though it had very little innovation over the months, the strategy was still winning a high percentage of its games. This was due to how efficient every card in the deck was for putting and then keeping the opponent on the back foot. Right when the opponent was turning the corner, Wingmate Roc came down from the heavens to shut that door before it ever even opened.
How the mighty have fallen. This might have been due to the deck's front man Brian Braun-Duin being naughty, but Santa had nothing in his stocking for the deck when Fate Reforged rolled around. The deck stayed the same, while the rest of the format sped up.
I continuously see people playing the deck, often times across from me. Nothing felt better in Memphis than when one of my three Abzan Aggro opponents revealed that I was not in a mirror match but one of my best matchups. Sadly, most of the decks in the format can say the same thing. The deck doesn't have a good control, Abzan Midrange, or R/W Aggro matchup. It doesn't really have a great matchup in the format right now period. Maybe if Sultai Reanimator comes back to try to fight all of the Abzan decks, but that deck already has issues with one of the most popular decks in U/B Control.
I strongly urge you to reconsider your decision of playing this deck. It is just a worse version of R/W. Speaking of worse versions of R/W Aggro…
#2 Jeskai Aggro
What is the appeal of adding Mantis Rider and Treasure Cruise/Dig Through Time to R/W? The gains for playing the third color don't even come close to what you give up. R/W has Chained to the Rocks, which is a premium removal spell, and much better mana. I don't even know if playing Mantis Rider is that much of selling point in this current metagame.
If you don't trust me, just take a look at the last couple of weeks' results. The best of the best all played this deck and only Martin Juza was able to pull out a top 8. When all the best players in the world play the same deck to middling results, it says something. They either all got unlucky, played poorly, or the deck isn't as good as it looks on paper. This might be a multiple choice question, but you all know what the answer is.
The downside to this deck is how clunky the draws can be. The deck plays up to ten enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands, which makes it very difficult to curve out with the deck sometimes. This is much bigger than one would think, since the deck is littered with three-drops and delve spells. Sometimes you just are too slow to put up a fight against anything in the metagame. Not to mention that the deck still has issues with Hordeling Outburst, which every version of the most played deck has four of.
Trust me now, or enjoy swimming with the fishes later. Literally.
#3 W/U Heroic
Why do people still play this deck? It has had abysmal results over the past couple weeks and doesn't even look that good in action. I guess people have a difficult time letting go of their once powerful decks, but this one should be abandoned. Goblin Rabblemaster and Chained to the Rocks were already some of the scariest cards for this deck, and the numbers of these cards went up significantly. Let alone the fact that R/W Aggro also received some significant upgrades like Valorous Stance.
Not only that, but Glare of Heresy might be the best sideboard card in the format due to Abzan coming back and packing Fleecemane Lions. I would be absolutely shocked if this deck is a good call right now. Yuck!
#4 U/B Control
It is time to splash the green. Sultai Control is just a superior version of the deck. It's hilarious to me that the three-color deck has better mana, but it honestly does. U/B Control is one of the most powerful decks if the mana is perfect, but often times, it loses way too many games to itself to deem it worthy. The format has sped up significantly, which lends itself to the fact that U/B Control is a bad deck. It's difficult to control people when they simply kill you every time you stumble.
#5 Mono-Red Aggro
This deck sucks! It sucks so much, yet people still play it. Even Todd had to take a dip in the red sea for a PTQ a few weeks back while all I did was try to stop him. There are so many versions of this deck running around out there, but they never seem to do well. I haven't even lost a match to this deck on MTGO with Abzan Control. If the deck isn't good there, then what does it beat?
That's my current take on Standard. If I missed something, it probably means it's bad too. I've decided to take this weekend off instead of traveling to the Open Series in Baltimore. I want nothing more to game this weekend, but Modern just isn't my favorite format, and I'll instead be playing in a couple IQs locally. I believe playing in these IQs will give me the best chance of fully understanding this Standard format in time for Grand Prix Miami.
Just like in Memphis, I finished in third place in Miami last time, and I want to improve on that. Hope to see you all in sunny Florida!