Kaladesh Standard is still in its infancy, and therefore the metagame is continuing to fluctuate, but the picture of a fun, diverse format is starting to emerge.
Maybe not literally Emerge, as Emerge strategies aren't the best right now. I just mean the metagame is Energetic. Marvelous? Deliriously fun? Flashy? Spirited? Copter-vating?
You know what I mean.
Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur and Providence have provided us a clearer picture of things, and perhaps an idea what the format's best decks might be, but the only truly clear thing right now is that things are unclear.
Today I'm going to give my thoughts on the Standard format as a whole and sift through some decklists to try and find some answers.
Come absorb my thoughts and my energy. Here are my Kaladesh Standard metagame observations in ten bullet points:
1. W/U Flash Continues to Prove Itself as the Deck to Beat.
W/U Flash secretly did great at the Pro Tour and continued that trend by doing even better at both Grand Prix.
Simple, powerful, consistent. W/U Flash is getting access to some of the most powerful cards that win the game if not immediately dealt with in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn. It also gets access to the best maindeck disruption in Spell Queller and as much in the sideboard as it wants.
I think, after its performance this weekend, it's entirely clear that W/U Flash is the deck to beat now and you should be choosing your deck and tuning it with that in mind.
Despite landing six copies in the Top 8 of Kuala Lumpur and being the most-played deck, I still don't feel that W/U Flash feels oppressive yet. It feels very beatable, and I think the metagame will be able to adjust now that it's being targeted.
One of the solid choices against it is right in front of us. It's time to take out the Flash.
2. B/G Delirium Is the Safe, Solid Deck Choice That Has Good Game Against the Other Best Decks of the Format Right Now.
- 1 Noxious Gearhulk
- 2 Pilgrim's Eye
- 4 Grim Flayer
- 2 Mindwrack Demon
- 1 Tireless Tracker
- 1 Emrakul, the Promised End
- 3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
- 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
3. Aetherworks Marvel Has Been Pushed Out of the Format.
This is partially due to the rise of W/U Flash, which has a great matchup against combo decks, and partially because they were so prevalent at the Pro Tour everyone is prepared for them.
It's hard to even find an updated list because they've been so thoroughly hunted to extinction.
...of course, this is exactly what a combo deck wants you to think before it makes a comeback and/or a combo-back.
4. Aggro Is Still Very Good, and Mardu Vehicles Is Lapping its Competition as the Choice Version.
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Inventor's Apprentice
- 4 Thraben Inspector
- 4 Toolcraft Exemplar
- 4 Veteran Motorist
- 3 Depala, Pilot Exemplar
Most of the decks in the format are essentially proactive creature-based aggro anyway, which means everyone is prepared for aggression, usually by being aggressive themselves.
Mardu Vehicles is able to capitalize on anyone getting too cute and not respecting aggro.
W/U Flash is able to hold its own against these decks while still being able to seriously capitalize on combo and still have game against control.
B/G Delirium can beat the other two by a slim margin, but in the process might leave itself vulnerable elsewhere.
Problem is, it's difficult to say what beats what right now, and it's even more important to...
5. Respect the Fringes of the Format, Where All the Deviant Decks are Scary, Strange, Unpredictable, and Strong.
Here you'll find warped Zombie decks trying to rise again, G/R Energy trying to power up, various die-hard control decks, and the remnants of combo echoing “this time it'll work” over and over again.
Everything in Standard falls within a similar power range and nothing feels completely invalidated quite yet. This is also due to the fact that…
6. There Are Multiple Versions of Almost Every Type of Deck, with the Best Versions Uncertain.
Forget everything I've told you so far, along with everything you know about Magic and all your loved ones and pass-codes.
Because it don't mean diddly-squat.
Wait, can you even intentionally forget a memory? Well, at least try to repress it a little.
You want to go B/G? Aggro or Control?
W/U? Dedicated Spirits or regular?
Red Aggro? Ha! W/R Vehicles, R/B Aggro, R/W Tokens, or Mardu Vehicles?
Midrange? Control? Combo? Ho ho ho! There are more lists than even Santa could sort through.
This is amazing and exactly what I want a Standard format to be.
7. Is Control Good Again Yet?
Serious question. It got first and second at the Pro Tour, right? That means it's good again, right? It's the glory days for control again right? Hello? Anyone?
8. You Can Still Play Pretty Much Whatever You Want and Win With It... or Master Your Own Little Slice of the Metagame.
One of the best feelings in Standard is when you have a great deck that you're winning with that not many other people are playing. It feels like Kaladesh Standard currently has that. A bunch of different people can play different archetypes and succeed with them. It's difficult to say what's best right now, but you can hop from deck to deck or just pick a deck and keep updating it.
9. I'm Still Happily Playing G/R Energy.
- 2 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Tireless Tracker
- 2 Voltaic Brawler
I've still been putting most of my attention on G/R Energy, and I've found few reasons not to be.
I already wrote about the list I played to the Pro Tour last week, but there are a lot of changes in response to the shifting format, so I'll discuss the upgrades here. To me it just feels like G/W Tokens back in its glory days of Standard: consistent, adaptable, grindy, and powerful.
First is I'm now packing the full four Chandra, Torch of Defiance. Finally the hype around her has died down enough that I can afford a playset.
I kid, I kid.
The real reason is partially in response to an increase in control decks; Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet; and Spell Queller that I want to kill and partially just because Chandra, Torch of Defiance is great.
Like Tireless Tracker, you expect Chandra, Torch of Defiance to not stick around for long but to get some value while she does. Of course, the longer it takes for her to get dealt with, the better, and if she sticks around long enough, she's going to win the game. Even the awkward position of her just absorbing two Smuggler's Copter hits isn't all that bad.
Incendiary Flow is a card that goes great with Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and their synergy is a strong reason to run four of each. Not only is it nice to scorch the battlefield clean on the turns before you cast Chandra, one of the most common plays you make the turn you land Chandra is adding mana with her +1 and casting a removal spell immediately.
You'll also notice that Galvanic Bombardment has been cut from the deck entirely and replaced by more copies of Incendiary Flow and Weaver of Lightning. More and more decks are running chunkier creatures with three or more toughness, and while Galvanic Bombardment is excellent in multiples, Incendiary Flow is more consistent. It's better against Prized Amalgam decks and Scrapheap Scrounger, and it can go to the face against control decks.
The deck already is jam-packed with two-drops, so I'm happy having a higher curve now that we're a less aggressive deck. It's less necessary to kill our opponents quickly since we're almost always grinding them out nowadays.
Nissa, Vital Force is great in a lot of scenarios, particularly the ones where she doesn't immediately die. The problem is occasionally you don't really particularly want to ultimate her, or -3 her, or use her +1. Yes, I know I listed all her abilities. Verdurous Gearhulk is better in general and I'm thinking Fevered Visions is better against control.
I had my first whiff of scrying six lands to the bottom of my library with Aetherworks Marvel, which still isn't the worst deal when you think about it. Still just looking for value in longer games, and it's even better now that the deck is more top-heavy. Might be a little too slow if the metagame is all W/U Flash and Red Aggro.
Weaver of Lightning is good against most aggro decks, great at blocking, and great in multiples. It makes Incendiary Flow kill Archangel Avacyn or your Harnessed Lightning cost one less energy (by pinging the Lightning target with Weaver first).
What Weaver is poor against is Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, so make sure to keep Gideon in mind when sideboarding and playing.
Yup, Root Out still says “draw a card” on it somewhere. It's one of the best responses to Smuggler's Copter, providing actual value! It's great against any artifact deck and also good against cards like Verdurous Gearhulk and Stasis Snare.
Ceremonious Rejection is exactly the card you want against Metalwork Colossus and Aetherworks Marvel decks, but that's basically all it's really good for. Right now, those decks are on the decline, but if they pick back up in your metagame, add more Ceremonious Rejection.
Negate is great against Metalwork Colossus and Aetherworks Marvel decks, but the extra mana is very noticeable. The fact that we're running it over Ceremonious Rejection is a concession to control being one of our most difficult matchups and just that we need more interaction against them.
Negate isn't even as amazing against control decks as you might have expected it to be, since it isn't a good answer to Torrential Gearhulk. I think the countermagic tends to be a little underwhelming except against combo decks, so you could shave it further.
I mostly added the blue splash because all I was losing to was control and combo, and Fevered Visions seems like the best answer to control. Still not sure if it's quite worth it.
10. Standard Is Great.
Kaladesh Standard has been great so far. I hope things keep shifting and new strategies keep coming out on top. Let's just mop up these W/U Flash decks and keep them in check before they ruin everything. Can Standard keep it together and stay fresh two whole weeks after the Pro Tour? I'm thinking it can and will.