The article you are attempting to view is only available to StarCityGames.com Premium Members.
(If you are having trouble viewing this content, please consult this FAQ.)
This weekend brings the StarCityGames.com® Season Two Invitational. The winner will walk away with $20,000 and their likeness enshrined on a token of their choosing. And it's about two miles from my house! During the Season One Invitational, all eyes were on Standard, as Aetherworks Marvel had just been banned. As a result, it felt fresh and unexplored because it had been oppressed for months. Now, with Ixalan being the newest set added to the mix, as well as all of Battle for Zendikar and Shadows over Innistrad being set out to pasture, Standard is in a weird spot.
The Standard Portion
The games are pretty fun and interactive, but the decks do a lot of the same stuff. Energy is running rampant, though it is being used across multiple strategies in different ways. A control deck won the last North America Standard Grand Prix, but people don't really respect it for some reason. Ramunap Red was an insane powerhouse before Ixalan, crushing Pro Tour Hour of Devastation and only losing one or two cards. And God-Pharaoh's Gift seems to have fallen off the map after showing some early promise.
Three decks currently line the top of the field:
- 3 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 1 Vizier of Many Faces
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
Whether you splash for The Scarab God or not, everyone can admit that the Temur-based Energy deck is one of the best decks in the format. It goes without saying that a large percentage of the field will be playing some version of this deck. Harnessed Lightning is a busted removal spell, and all the creatures are incredibly efficient. If you want to beat Temur Energy, you need to do one of two things: go fast or go big.
But since Temur Energy is a midrange deck playing three or more colors, it has access to some of the best sideboard cards and plans in the format. Even if you're a control deck that blanks all the removal and can answer every threat cast, you will occasionally lose to a well-timed Negate. If you're an aggressive deck looking to go under them, you'll have to fight through a swath of removal coupled with Whirler Virtuoso. And because of its flexibility, Temur Energy stands at the top of the field for "best deck."
- 3 Walking Ballista
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 3 Hostage Taker
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Rogue Refiner
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
- 2 The Scarab God
While this deck tends to be weak against Glorybringer, it does have legs against just about every deck in the room. With aggressive starts featuring Winding Constrictor and Longtusk Cub backed by protection like Blossoming Defense, Sultai Energy is not a strategy you want to ignore. While many think that Sultai Energy is a weaker choice than Temur Energy, I'm under the impression that both are fine options given the right metagame.
Sultai Energy boasts a better matchup against the stranger side of the metagame. With access to both Duress and Negate, any combo or control deck is going to be in some serious trouble. Your early clock backed up by efficient disruption should be solid enough to seal the deal, but just know that you're going into the tournament as an underdog to a single card. Trading red for black means you lose your safety net against big dumb monsters like Glorybringer, and you're likely a bit worse off against stuff like Rampaging Ferocidon. While Fatal Push is a great removal spell, turning on revolt isn't all that easy. And since you don't have access to a ton of versatile removal (which is strange for a black deck), even Whirler Virtuoso could give you some major problems.
I don't know if I'd have the guts to play this deck, even if it did win Pro Tour Ixalan. But given the right shift in the metagame, I could easily see it making the elimination rounds.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 1 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 2 Harsh Mentor
- 4 Rampaging Ferocidon
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
I'm under the assumption that Ramunap Red will perform well at the Invitational, but only if built correctly. At the moment, there are three ways to build the deck, and all three have merit. The original version of this deck focuses on making creatures unable to block on the back of Ahn-Crop Crasher and Earthshaker Khenra. After Temur Energy became the format's oppressor, some changes were made to make it a little bit stronger against Whirler Virtuoso. That meant maxing out on Rampaging Ferocidon and cutting back on Ahn-Crop Crasher. Then Ben Stark went and did the unthinkable: he moved some sideboard cards to the maindeck.
In all seriousness, Ben Stark's version of Ramunap Red (Big Red or Desert Red) is pretty close to what you look like after sideboarding against most matchups. You have Glorybringer, fewer two-drop creatures, and a little more removal. Chandra, Torch of Defiance maindeck is also a big part of Ben's version, giving you access to a permanent that is difficult to remove and can give you an engine that generates card advantage or mana, or can act as additional removal.
But as a result of going bigger and having a tougher time of emptying your hand, Hazoret the Fervent was much more difficult to "turn on." And with most versions of Ramunap Red going for four copies of Hazoret the Fervent, arguably the best card in the deck, it seemed like a strange move. I will say that, after sideboarding, Hazoret the Fervent does become harder to turn on, which might mean trimming a few is a smart choice, but I still haven't been able to bring myself to do it. After all, if your opponent can't kill it, it's likely going to end the game by itself (assuming you aren't massively behind).
So, learning from these three versions of the deck, I think I want to play something very close to this during the Standard portion of the Invitational.