The Core Set 2020 Standard metagame has slimmed down quite a bit over the last month. Luis Scott-Vargas won Grand Prix Denver with Bant Scapeshift, putting a boatload of Zombies onto the battlefield from Field of the Dead and putting the archetype on the map. Afterwards the Standard landscape has mostly been six decks:
- Bant Scapeshift
- Mono-Red Aggro
- Esper Hero
- Jund Dinosaurs
- Orzhov Vampires
Corey Baumeister helped set the metagame as well with his Team Constructed victory with Jund Dinosaurs at SCG Philadelphia. Mono-Red Aggro and Esper Hero are old favorites that have maintained their strength over the months. Orzhov Vampires got a huge boost from Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Knight of the Ebon Legion, completing an archetype that needed just a touch more to become a Tier 1 deck. Feather, both the Boros and Naya variants, has been doing well in the hands of the few pilots that choose it as their weapon of choice.
But just because the format has been largely compartmentalized into consensus Tier 1 decks doesn't mean that the format is solved. For those attending SCG Richmond next weekend, I'd look into the following decks if you want to play something competitive, yet a step off the beaten path.
Strsk has an affinity for dipping back into Magic just enough to rattle a format in a good way by introducing new deck variants to keep people interested. He also had a big part in the Four-Color Command the Dreadhorde deck of last season that was considered the deck to beat for a period of time.
Lotus Field requires a hefty cost of sacrificing two lands for a Gilded Lotus that enters the battlefield tapped. That's where Blood Sun comes in. Blood Sun causes all lands to lose non-mana abilities, including detrimental ones. This means your Lotus Field enters the battlefield untapped, doesn't ask you to sacrifice two lands, and is ready to tap for three mana of any one color immediately.
Blood Sun adds secret splash damage against Bant Scapeshift and Field of the Dead. With Blood Sun on the battlefield, they can't create Zombie tokens, their primary win condition. They can bounce the Blood Sun with Teferi, Time Raveler, but that takes some effort and the tempo is often enough to push the matchup in your favor. Blood Sun also stops Blast Zone and various lifegain lands from the Scapeshift deck incidentally.
This build of Nexus doesn't play Search for Azcanta because of Blood Sun. In fact, Blood Sun does a great job of stopping the Ixalan cycle of transforming cards, including Legion's Landing and Arguel's Blood Fast.
The deck plays as a normal Nexus of Fate deck with an Expansion // Explosion win condition. It sucks that the deck can't win if Expansion // Explosion gets exiled, but that's a risk worth taking for efficiency. The sideboard could likely use some work, as a pile a Shocks and Frys seems like it could be optimized with some other cards, since you have to take two from a shockland early to cast them in many cases.
- 4 Deputy of Detention
- 4 Hydroid Krasis
- 4 Leafkin Druid
- 4 Llanowar Elves
- 3 Paradise Druid
- 4 Risen Reef
- 3 Voracious Hydra
Corey Baumeister did a great analysis of Bant Ramp:
Here we're doing mostly fair things when compared to something like Bant Scapeshift: some mana creatures and high-cost payoff, and all the while winning through well-statted creatures attacking in combat. Deputy of Detention and Teferi, Time Raveler offer all the interaction you need in the meantime while you assemble a heavy hitter like Nissa, Who Shakes the World or a large Hydroid Krasis. Risen Reef ramps a bit while offering card advantage and gets to turn those Leafkin Druids into value later.
- 4 Dreadhorde Butcher
- 4 Fanatical Firebrand
- 4 Gutterbones
- 4 Knight of the Ebon Legion
- 4 Mayhem Devil
- 4 Priest of Forgotten Gods
- 1 Rix Maadi Reveler
- 3 Judith, the Scourge Diva
Rakdos Aggro has always existed as a playable, albeit underpowered deck in Core Set 2020 Standard. Mayhem Devil is strong, but the outlets for sacrificing were thin or you had to work a touch too hard for them for the juice to be worth the squeeze. Mask of Immolation offers a continuous outlet of Mogg Fanatics that trigger both Mayhem Devil and Judith, the Scourge Diva, really allowing you to pop off on the opponent. Chandra, Acolyte of Flame is solid on her own but super-impactful when the Elementals get sacrifices to trigger Judith or Mayhem Devil twice.
- 4 Dreadhorde Butcher
- 4 Knight of the Ebon Legion
- 4 Legion Warboss
- 4 Rakdos Firewheeler
- 4 Skarrgan Hellkite
It's been awhile since Rakdos Midrange has done well in Standard, basically since Jody Keith won a Grand Prix with it six months ago. Knight of the Ebon Legion offers a nice early-game boost that functions as a late-game mana sink (the card reminds me a lot of Warden of the First Tree, one of my favorite one-drops of all time). Chandra, Awakened Inferno is the top-end the deck was looking for to close out games after you've stabilized the opponent's initial onslaught. She's even great against control with the uncounterable clause.
- 2 Chandra, Awakened Inferno
- 2 Karn, Scion of Urza
- 4 Narset, Parter of Veils
- 3 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer
- 4 Sarkhan the Masterless
- 1 Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
- 4 Teferi, Time Raveler
Jeskai Superfriends was another one of those decks that had performed well previously but had been shelved lately. Again, Chandra, Awakened Inferno pops up as another tool to fight both wide creature decks and control decks.
Every planeswalker you cast exponentially increases the potency of your other planeswalkers. The opponent is forked on where to attack and you ultimately have the last say with how to block and which creatures to point your burn spells at mid0combat. You life total is sideways buffered by the opponent constantly needing to attack down your planeswalkers instead of you, alleviating the cost of playing shocklands in your three-color deck.
Sarkhan the Masterless turns all your planeswalker into 4/4 flying Dragons to threaten to end the game in a turn or two. Saheeli, Sublime Artificer creates Servos to protect your planeswalkers from attacks. The 1/1s created by Saheeli force overcommitted attacks on certain planeswalkers while also causing an overcommitment to the battlefield, which falls right into your trap of casting a sweeper.
Deafening Clarion and Cleansing Nova are really potent when you're running a creatureless deck. They're even stronger when you can cast them at instant speed because of Teferi, Time Raveler. This just adds another layer of complexity for the opponent to play around when trying to play around everything you can have.
Preparing For SCG Richmond
SCG Richmond is next weekend. I expect most teams to play it safe with a Tier 1 deck. If you want to beat them, I suggest either the Rakdos Sacrifice deck or Jeskai Superfriends. Rakdos can go toe-to-toe with Orzhov Vampires and Mono-Red Aggro while still having a fast enough clock against the Scapeshift and control decks. Jeskai Superfriends packs enough sweepers for the aggro decks while packing plenty of of planeswalkers to give control decks fits. And the passives of Teferi and Narset frustrate any slow deck.
Personally, I'd play Rakdos Sacrifice or a version of Feather, the Redeemed at SCG Richmond. After all, the faster you get you match over with, the more time you have to help your teammates, right?