It's a new day in Standard, and with major hits to the two top decks of the format, as well as the addition of an entire new set, many players are scrambling to decide what to play in the Standard seat at #SCGDFW this weekend. My goal today is to give you a much better handle on the different decks that will likely be popular week one to help get you prepared for the format from the start. If you like to innovate and brew your own decks, this is the format for you! Don't think these are the only decks you'll see out of the gates, but this is a pretty good list of what will likely be popular and should be good enough to bring if you can't find a deck for yourself. So let's dive on in with a few popular decks that remained untouched from the Banned and Restricted announcement, starting with three shades of U/W decks:
U/W Approach should be one of the most popular week one decks because of its ability to blank the removal spells from other decks as well as go over the top of any other strategy. It turns out having "win the game" attached to a seven mana sorcery is a powerful finisher for a control deck and I expect to see plenty of Approach of the Second Sun right out of the gates. The multitude of sweepers it plays matches up well against creature decks, and with Ixalan block being tribal themed we will almost assuredly see more creature decks in the format.
U/W Approach was already one of the most popular decks heading into the release of Ixalan and the last rotation, and there were plenty of people that were excited for both Settle the Wreckage and Search for Azcanta. Neither card has disappointed, especially Settle the Wreckage, which has turned into one of the best removal spells in the format. Unfortunately for U/W Approach fans, Rampaging Ferocidon also entered the format in Ixalan and helped make Ramunap Red a terrible matchup by negating the work that Authority of the Consuls would do. The red Dinosaur's days are over though, and now U/W Approach is looking like a wonderful option again.
The only new card I have in my maindeck right now is Baffling End, which gives the deck a much needed early removal spell that can take care of cards like Winding Constrictor, Longtusk Cub, and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner right away. After Blessed Alliance rotated out of the format, white has been looking for a solid early removal spell, and I think Baffling End is just that.
In the sideboard I have one copy of Nezahal, Primal Tide, but honestly it's entirely possible there should be more. It has everything you want in a threat that dominates control mirrors - it can't be countered, it draws cards, and it protects itself. Other control decks are known to have a good matchup against U/W Approach to begin with, so I could see having two or three copies of Nezahal in the sideboard to help those matchups. I would take out a Regal Caracal for another Nezahal if it looks like the sideboard could use some more help against control.
People who love God-Pharaoh's Gift everywhere are rejoicing with the banning of Rampaging Ferocidon, something that will probably be a theme of the article today. It's surprising how much that little Dinosaur was holding back other strategies. Even though U/W Gift is playing many more creatures than U/W Approach, it also does a good job of making the opponent's creature removal ineffective. The deck's namesake artifact will keep bringing back all of the creatures that were killed before bigger and stronger, making it a liability for the opponent if you have creatures in your graveyard.
The decklist looks incredibly similar to what Pascal Maynard used to take second place at Pro Tour Ixalan with Rivals of Ixalan not having much to add for the strategy. I'm interested in trying out one Zetalpa, Primal Dawn as an overpowering threat in conjunction with God-Pharaoh's Gift. It's very possible it won't be worth the slot, but I'm interested in using it and at least seeing what happens before entirely dismissing it. Either way, U/W Gift will be a deck to watch out for at the beginning of the format.
Finishing out our U/W decks is U/W Cycling, the one that I, honestly, have the least experience with. Therefore, I haven't tried to add any new cards from Rivals of Ixalan as upgrades, as I don't know if there are any and what they would be. I would assume Baffling End would be better than Impeccable Timing in the sideboard at the very least. This should still be a deck on your radar for the beginning of the new Standard format though and potentially gains a lot simply from the bans than any new addition to the new deck.
Again we have another deck that relies on winning game 1 by blanking the opponent's removal and just hopes to get there in a sideboard game. So far we are three for three on decks like this, and there are still more to come.
If you want to play a control deck but you don't want to end the game the good ol' fashioned way of attacking with creatures instead of casting a big sorcery spell, then I recommend U/B Control. It's well set up for control mirrors with less mass removal cards that are awkward in the matchup and has the ability to side into four Duress and four Negate. Plus, The Scarab God is everyone's favorite win con, right?
As far as new cards are concerned, Moment of Craving fits very well into this strategy now that Rampaging Ferocidon has left the format and the third toughness is not as relevant. Before you needed Essence Extraction to make sure you could deal with Ferocidon; now you can play the easier to cast (and cheaper) spell. Sure it could still be awkward with some cards, such as Winding Constrictor, but I think it's good enough for now.
When I first went through the preview cards I honestly didn't think Tetzimoc, Primal Death was good enough for Standard. I even said as much in a Fact or Fiction from earlier this month. I was wrong and Ross Merriam was right, as it turns out Tetzimoc is very good, and I found that out during the first time playing. It often times kills multiple creatures when it enters the battlefield and doesn't allow the opponent to commit more to the battlefield before it enters. If you're playing any kind of black midrange or control deck that is looking to prolong the game, such as anything with The Scarab God, I really recommend trying Tetzimoc out.
I haven't heard too much about Arch of Orazca so far, but I think it's a nice addition to two-color control decks that are looking to play a very long game. Manabases in Standard are as bad as they've been in a long time, and therefore, you can't afford to play many colorless lands, but I believe this one is good enough to gain a spot. U/W Approach plays more enchantments that can help allow you to ascend, so it's better there than in U/B Control where you may be waiting until your tenth land drop to gain the city's blessing. I understand that playing a card that doesn't do anything until you've played ten lands--and even then only draws a card for six mana--isn't exactly impactful on many games, but I think it's enough of a free roll to try it out. There's a good chance Field of Ruin or Scavenger Grounds are more impactful cards in the end.
- 2 Torrential Gearhulk
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 3 Glorybringer
- 2 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- 2 The Scarab God
Another favorite for most popular week one deck, Grixis Midrange is a removal-heavy deck that is looking to utilize some of the most powerful individual threats of the format. We all know how good Whirler Virtuoso and Glorybringer are by now, and this deck pairs them with The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk, making this arguably the most powerful deck on a card-by-card basis. As long as you can keep hitting your land drops and survive long enough, then one of the threats will take over the game.
Ravenous Chupacabra was the only new card Brennan added in for this test run of the deck. With plenty of other mana sinks for the late game, he didn't want Hostage Taker for this slot since he would also need to cast the creature he stole with it. He wanted a four-drop that would come down and be a removal spell that he wouldn't have to worry about investing more resources into. Hostage Taker can also exile artifacts such as God-Pharaoh's Gift, but having access to red and Abrade makes that less important for Grixis over a straight U/B shell.
There are plenty of good cards that you could play if you want to delve into Grixis so feel free to change up this kind of deck to your liking. Whoever is able to find the right mixture of cards for their 75 and have a solid gameplan could make a deep run at #SCGDFW with the high individual power level of these cards.
Yet another exciting archetype that gained a ton from Rampaging Ferocidon leaving the format, Abzan Tokens is the most likely home for a standout card from Rivals of Ixalan:
Now this is one loyal planeswalker! The goal with Huatli, Radiant Champion is to get her emblem as fast as possible, because it's truly game-ending. The amount of cards it will acquire for you will almost assuredly allow you to take over the game, so the biggest question is how often it will ultimate. This is the kind of deck that can make plenty of chump blockers while also having access to Wrath effects if your battlefield is inferior, meaning you should be able to protect her well enough.
The more I think about these two Vampires, the more I like them in Standard. It's just hard to put together the right deck for them. This most likely isn't the best fit for Twilight Prophet, but I wanted to put one in the sideboard for when opponents take out some removal because ascending in this deck most likely isn't a big challenge. Elenda, the Dusk Rose, on the other hand, is right at home with Hidden Stockpile and Anointed Procession. Each creature you sacrifice to Hidden Stockpile grows Elenda, as well as when you chump block, and finally you can sacrifice Elenda to Hidden Stockpile to make a ton of tokens when need be. Stockpile also protects Elenda from being exiled, which is really nice as well.
This is not an aggressive deck but interacts with the battlefield extremely well, meaning other ways for the opponent to win are hard to stop. Therefore, Approach of the Second Sun is a difficult card to beat, which is why four copies of Lost Legacy are probably a necessity for an Abzan Tokens sideboard.
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 3 Bone Picker
- 4 Dread Wanderer
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Night Market Lookout
- 2 Ruin Raider
- 3 Vicious Conquistador
- 3 Yahenni, Undying Partisan
Enough with all these spells! Where's a creature deck!? Mono-Black Aggro is a deck that I believe is pretty underrated and that has the tools to be successful. Not only is it much faster than many of the decks I listed here, many of the creatures in the deck are resilient or provide card advantage. Unfortunately, I'm not sure that any new cards from Rivals of Ixalan help improve the strategy, but even if you don't want to add anything new, it's still a good option for week one Standard.
Maybe you want a creature deck but you want to go bigger?
- 4 Verdurous Gearhulk
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 3 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 4 Winding Constrictor
- 1 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
- 1 Rhonas the Indomitable
- 1 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
After losing Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, Winding Constrictor decks will most likely migrate back towards just two colors instead of splashing blue. Splashing The Scarab God and sideboard Negates is a tempting proposition though, so we'll see where they ultimately end up. Both Ross Merriam, here , and Jadine Klomparens, here , wrote good pieces on Winding Constrictor decks earlier in the week, so I recommend giving them a read as well. I'll just touch on a couple different cards I want to try and have in my build:
A 12/12 trample body is no joke at all, and with how big this deck can already go Ghalta, Primal Hunger shouldn't be too difficult to cast most of the time. Sure it doesn't help against the Fumigate decks, and sure it may be a bit of "win-more," but I can't imagine anyone surviving just a single hit from this Dinosaur.
I wonder if people have forgotten about Rhonas the Indomitable as I haven't seen it pop up in any decklists recently. Sure there are widely played cards that exile creatures, but almost all of them cost more mana than Rhonas. Besides helping us cast Ghalta, Rhonas does a great job at turning our mediocre explore creatures or Ravenous Chupacabra into real threats. It also survives Fumigate and allows us to commit less to the battlefield by making each attacker a threat our opponent needs to use their Settle the Wreckage on.
These are the most popular returning decks from the last Standard format that gained the most from the recent Banned and Restricted announcement, but before that announcement there were two dominating decks. Do you really think Temur Energy and Mono-Red Aggro are just going to go away? If so, I'd ask you to reconsider. Don't let these cards collect dust just yet.
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 3 Glorybringer
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 3 Rekindling Phoenix
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
Temur Energy needs a little facelift after losing Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, but there are still plenty of good cards here. You need to play more lands to offset Attune with Aether but at least you can play a full set of Sheltered Thicket now to help in the games where you're flooding out.
Jadelight Ranger, while certainly a downgrade in this specific archetype to Rogue Refiner, can still fill the three-drop role and provide value. It will also help smooth your draws out if you're missing a specific color of mana or just need to hit more land drops. If you have a land on top, great you get to draw it. If not, explore to the graveyard and try again! So it can not only help replace Rogue Refiner, but also do a small part of Attune with Aether's job as well.
Rekindling Phoenix is a nice addition to Temur Energy to go alongside Glorybringer. It attacks hard and is difficult to kill, requiring no further mana investment than just the four to begin with. I really like it in a midrange deck like this because it can play either an offensive or defensive role well. If you're behind you can block every turn with Rekindling Phoenix and watch it come back to block again.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 3 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 4 Soul-Scar Mage
- 4 Hazoret the Fervent
- 3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Honestly losing Rampaging Ferocidon may be more impactful than losing Ramunap Ruins. You're a lot more susceptible to the life gain effects of the format, especially Authority of the Consuls from opponent's sideboards. However there's a good chance people don't respect red enough in week one and you can take them by surprise by the power level of your deck. As talked about above, there are many control decks looking to pounce right now and playing Mono-Red Aggro week one could be the perfect counter.
I know a lot of people like Chandra, Torch of Defiance in their sideboard for their Mono-Red Aggro deck, but I'm not one of them. Every turn 4 I want to either play a Chandra or a Hazoret the Fervent as both cards are incredibly good when you're ahead. Sure you'll have some awkward games where you'll draw too many mythics, but I'm still going to rely on the best cards in my deck every game and not just after sideboard.
So there you have it, plenty of solid options for week one Standard. Of course there will be plenty of other brews hitting the scene, from Merfolk to Vampires to anything else, and if you love brewing then give it your best shot! For everyone else though, hopefully you find something here that peaks your interest to bring to the table out of the gates. I'm definitely one that likes to brew, and would love to play Standard this weekend, but I'll be battling in Modern alongside Jim Davis and Jody Keith. I'll still be spending my week helping Jim either fine tune one of these decks or find a sweet new Standard brew to bring to #SCGDFW.