#SCGDFW has come and gone without too many surprises as Week 1 was dominated by various Energy midrange decks, Ramunap Red, and U/W Approach. All three of these archetypes were ported over from the last format and were the easiest to build heading into Week 1, and therefore it wasn't a surprise to see these three on top. Whether you like to play aggro, midrange, or control, there looks to be a quality deck for you to start this Standard season, but between those archetypes, it looks to be there is only one option. At #SCGDFW there were 23 Energy decks, eighteen Ramunap Red, and ten U/W Approach in the Top 64, meaning a whopping 80% of decks ran one of these three strategies!
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
It's hard for another aggro deck to compete with Ramunap Red, as the deck is incredibly explosive while still having a decent late-game thanks to Earthshaker Khenra, Hazoret the Fervent, and Ramunap Ruins. This is nothing new and we have all known this since the last Pro Tour, but building a different aggressive deck that can compete as well as Ramunap Red is hard to do. Sure, you can build an anti-Ramunap Red aggressive deck such as B/W Vampires, but it's going to struggle against the strength of the other decks in the format.
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Hostage Taker
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 1 The Scarab God
If you're playing a midrange deck in Standard, then it's almost impossible to do something better than Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner. Sure, the rest of the cards in the deck can change depending on what other colors you want to play and what decks you want to beat, but this is the clear top deck of the current format. I believe Sultai Energy will most likely start to push out Temur and Four-Color Energy from the format for various reasons, the biggest being that it's the best Energy deck against control by having access to both Duress and Negate.
Control was arguably the worst matchup for Energy decks before, and it's definitely a matchup to focus on for the midrange deck. Sultai Energy also has access to Hostage Taker, which is proving to be one of the best things to do during the mid-game. I'm not counting out Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Glorybringer yet, but Sultai Energy is the real deal. In any case, making a midrange deck that's better than Attune with Aether is a tough challenge, but one we're going to try today.
Finally, there is U/W Approach, which is built with beating the Energy decks in mind. Ramunap Red is a pretty tough matchup for the control deck, but this is easily the best of the various control decks at beating it. Settle the Wreckage has proven to be a very good card in the matchup that U/W Approach has gained, making it closer than it was before. I do like the use of Farm // Market in Jim Davis's deck here, but I'm not a fan of Aether Meltdown, as the Sultai Energy cards can get larger than it easily enough.
So we know the decks we need to be able to beat, but then again, these are the best decks for a reason. There's one tribe in particular from Ixalan that many people believed would come in and shake up the format but has been underperforming, and that's Dinosaurs. I still believe that Dinosaurs has a chance to compete in Standard, so I've been working on building the best Dinosaur deck that I can, and that's what I'm going to go over today.
Before that, there was one Dinosaur deck that made the Top 64 of #SCGDFW, so let's take a look at it first.
- 2 Carnage Tyrant
- 4 Deathgorge Scavenger
- 4 Drover of the Mighty
- 4 Otepec Huntmaster
- 4 Regisaur Alpha
- 4 Ripjaw Raptor
Well, this is an incredibly even decklist: so many twos and fours! This looks like a very generic G/R Dinosaurs deck, but my favorite part is the inclusion of Samut, the Tested.
Theres probably a short list of people who were more disappointed in Samut, the Tested than I was when it was previewed, as I've always had a soft spot for Gruul planeswalkers in Standard. However, I think Samut's time has finally come, as it seems to be that it is perfectly designed to work with the Dinosaurs of Ixalan.
While the plus ability works well with any of the midrange Dinosaurs, it particularly shines with Carnage Tyrant, who has trample so it can always get through. The minus ability works well with Ripjaw Raptor to let you draw cards, and also with Ranging Raptors to ramp, which was unfortunately not in Alex Fann's deck. I think you need to have Ranging Raptors in the deck to get full use of Samut, the Tested.
Savage Stomp is a tricky one to figure out. It pairs perfectly with any Dinosaur to take down most other creatures for the low cost of one mana while growing the Dinosaur, which means you would think it would be an easy inclusion in the deck, but I think it may be a trap. Most importantly, it isn't a removal spell on Turn 2, which is when you really want it against the two-drops of Sultai Energy.
Thankfully there are four Abrades in the deck, but that may not be enough. (Side note: I do prefer Abrade to Lightning Strike in this deck, as I think the ability to destroy an artifact is still very useful in the format.) Second, the Energy creatures can get larger that our Dinosaurs a healthy percentage of the time, which means having our creatures fight can be unreliable. Third, there's always the chance that our opponent has a removal spell for our creature in response to the sorcery-speed Savage Stomp, and with all of these added together, I want to go with something more reliable.
- 3 Carnage Tyrant
- 4 Drover of the Mighty
- 4 Otepec Huntmaster
- 4 Ranging Raptors
- 3 Regisaur Alpha
- 4 Ripjaw Raptor
- 2 Gishath, Sun's Avatar
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
This is where I'm at with Dinosaurs right now, adding a small white splash for some very important cards. Let's talk about some of these cards and what my gameplan is against the top three decks.
Starting small, I've included Ranging Raptors into the deck to take full advantage of Samut, the Tested. I wasn't incredibly happy with Ranging Raptors the first time I played Dinosaurs, as my maindeck curve topped out at Regisaur Alpha and I simply didn't need the excess lands. I'm going much bigger than that now, though, and for good reason.
The true midrange breaker, Gishath, Sun's Avatar is an incredible card at a hefty price. Eight mana is certainly nothing to sneeze at, and without access to Chandra, Torch of Defiance adding mana, it will take us a little bit of time to get there, but there aren't too many cards that match up well against the legendary Dinosaur Avatar.
You may think that Gishath hits hard, but until you really play with the card it's hard to understand how difficult it is to deal with from a combat perspective. Gishath is also incredible with Samut, the Tested, and giving it double strike almost always ends the game on the spot. Ramping to Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger was a strategy that many used last season to go over the top of these Energy decks, and Gishath, Sun's Avatar does exactly that as well.
With splashing white mana, mostly off Drover of the Mighty and Ranging Raptors, we have access to a better overall removal spell than Savage Stomp. Cast Out may not be as cheap, but the versatility it provides is crucial, especially considering how before we had no good answers to important cards such as Hazoret the Fervent and The Scarab God.
Rhonas the Indomitable is a key part of a Dinosaur deck, and I wouldn recommend playing at least one in any build. Giving Ripjaw Raptor and Regisaur Alpha trample is critical, especially if they have double strike from Samut, the Tested. Rhonas pairs incredibly well with Carnage Tyrant, who has hexproof, a combination that's difficult for Temur Energy to beat. Sultai Energy does have Hostage Taker now, who matches up quite well against Rhonas, so that's something to watch out for.
Over in the sideboard, the most important card, as well as the card that is probably the oddest to see, is Solemnity. If you're going to play midrange in Standard right now and you aren't playing Attune with Aether, then you have to have access to Solemnity in my mind. I know it's very narrow in nature, but the crippling effect it has on the Energy decks can't be understated. Especially against Sultai Energy, which relies on Winding Constrictor and Walking Ballista, Solemnity utterly shuts down almost their entire deck. Right now you must expect to play against Energy strategies over and over again, and having access to Solemnity will shut them down.
Gideon's Intervention is not only hard to cast, but it's also very narrow. I have it in my sideboard to fight U/W Approach, which is the absolute worst matchup for Naya Dinosaurs. Both Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate destroy pit gameplan of playing big creatures and relying on them to win. In the games where you are far ahead and your opponent needs a Fumigate to catch up, feel free to name Fumigate with Gideon's Intervention, but for the most part you're naming Approach of the Second Sun and hoping they can't find one of their Cast Outs before you can put together lethal. This card is also useful against some fringe combo decks that you may play against, such as Electrostatic Pummeler and Marionette Master decks.
I have both Nissa, Vital Force and Chandra, Torch of Defiance in my sideboard to help fight control decks, and so far I've been happier with Nissa over Chandra. The clock Nissa, Vital Force provides after a sweeper is incredible, and gaining an emblem the turn after entering the battlefield is a nice option to threaten. The ramp ability from Chandra, Torch of Defiance is very useful with Gishath, Sun's Avatar, but the two damage a turn is usually too slow to compete with Approach of the Second Sun.
You want to save your Cast Out for either Hostage Taker or The Scarab God, as they will be the most useful creatures with a Solemnity on the battlefield. Our plan is definitely to play that Solemnity on Turn 3, which is why I cut Otepec Huntmaster, as it's the weakest card in our deck against them. If your opening hand doesn't have Solemnity, it needs to pretty good in order to keep it.
Since we are cutting our top-end for more three-drops, I like shaving some Ranging Raptors from the equation. We don't really have anything in particular we need to ramp hard into any more, but I still like keeping one Carnage Tyrant to top out with. Our plan is to race them, with our creatures attacking hard and fast. Save Cast Out for Hazoret the Fervent.
I actually like to keep two Cast Outs in the deck post-sideboard, even if they have minimal targets for it. Most importantly, you can exile their Cast Out, which presumably exiled our Gideon's Intervention to get back our most powerful sideboard card here. Try not to walk into Settle the Wreckage, but sometimes you just need to attack.
So there you have it: a Dinosaur deck that I think can compete in Standard. Sure, Dinosaurs may have had a disappointing #SCGDFW, but there's still a long way to go before I'm ruling out these antiquated reptiles! And until then, I'm still going to be turning these big creatures sideways…well, except Gishath, Sun's Avatar!