Hallelujah, Hallelujah, Hallelujah!
It's the end of a long road that has seen Standard at its worst since the era of Ravager Affinity, which is the only legitimate time Magic was ever in danger of dying off. We've been shocked, we've been tortured, we've been brutalized with horrific format after horrific format, but I'm here to tell you why that's all changed and you can once again be excited for FNM and why you can prepare yourself for an amazing weekend in Dallas given you don't mind the cold!
Goodbye, you won't be missed!
Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner have had their day in the sun for far too long, and I am thrilled to see Wizards hear our cries for the removal of these oppressive energy producers. There've been countless articles about how they could have gone about fixing the problems plaguing Standard for months now and it seems my Christmas wish has been fulfilled! There was no doubt that something from the formerly known Ramunap Red deck was going to be banned to help balance the other powerhouse in Standard and thank goodness it was the card that gave the deck a horrid name. There will be games where the now Mono-Red deck will play out exactly the same as before, but it won't gain those free percentage points or wins simply because their manabase allows it.
The more unexpected ban that I believe makes some sense to the brewer in me but saddens me from a standpoint that a Dinosaur is now not allowed when Dinos is one of my favorite tribes from the Ixalan plane; Rampaging Ferocidon is banned, but I'm not sure it will remain on the banned list the duration of this year since the primary reason it's there is to weaken a deck that will almost entirely rotate with the loss of Kaladesh and Amonkhet block this fall. While I'm certainly not upset that people can't have this free hate card when I'm trying to cast Angel of Invention, it's an odd choice to make because it wasn't a four-of in all the red decks.
One thing Rampaging Ferocidon did do was shore up the weakness that they had against most matchups looking to fight them since playing a bunch of tokens and gaining life certainly was a good way to go about doing that. All in all, I think Standard will be more diverse because of the Rampaging Ferocidon ban allowing there to be numerous token decks that don't have to worry about this minor annoyance and allow people to fight the good fight against Mono-Red!
That all being said, Mono-Red and Temur Energy certainly aren't dead; they merely have to adapt!
- 4 Bristling Hydra
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Longtusk Cub
- 4 Servant of the Conduit
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
While this deck certainly loses a lot of its consistency with the loss Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner, there will be games this deck plays and feels exactly like Temur Energy did before any bannings. I think there's a lot of room for this deck to grow and adapt, and yes, I understand that's something that no one wants to hear, but there are those who want to stand by the Temur mantle and play the next iteration of the deck, which includes the new spicy card from Rivals of Ixalan, Jadelight Ranger!
A lot has been said about Jadelight Ranger, but the real take away from it seems to be that it's a similar card to Rogue Refiner in that it gives the deck some velocity, card filtering, and card draw to smooth things a bit. Jadelight Ranger doesn't offer any additional energy bonus, but I think that's an okay thing for this deck to have to struggle with after having the best three-drop in the format for a year now.
- 4 Bomat Courier
- 4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
- 2 Dire Fleet Daredevil
- 4 Earthshaker Khenra
- 2 Fanatical Firebrand
- 3 Soul-Scar Mage
- 3 Hazoret the Fervent
- 3 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
Have you been attacked by a Hazoret the Fervent? I sure have and it didn't always matter that they cast a turn three Rampaging Ferocidon or had a Ramunap Ruins on the battlefield, but I sure as hell was taking five to the face a lot of the time.
One card I love and can see breaking a lot of mirrors open is the newest iteration of Snapcaster Mage that steals a card out of your opponent's graveyard. You're your opponent is sideboarding in cards like Chandra's Defeat and using their Shock and Lightning Strike to kill your creatures, this little pirate that could does it's best Sand Strangler impression that could sometimes cost three mana when tagging a Fatal Push against any Winding Constrictor decks that could give you issues. Again, while Mono-Red has certainly lost some of its staying power in the late game, it's lost none of its potency and will be one of the decks I certainly expect to see this weekend in Dallas.
Enough with the old, lets get into something new!
Here's a quick list of decks I'd consider viable and wouldn't be surprised to see sitting across from me this weekend in no particular order.
This is a breath of fresh air from the previous format where I honestly couldn't look you straight in the eye and tell you that you should sleeve up anything but Energy variants. I'm sure I'm missing several decks on here that I've come across this week, but the fact that I'm able to say I could expect to face any number of any of these decks is a relief from what I'd expected to face if no action was taken with the banned list.
I've been spending countless hours testing and have narrowed it down to three decks I'm seriously considering playing this weekend for the initial weekend of Rivals of Ixalan's release!
- 2 Torrential Gearhulk
- 1 Champion of Wits
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 3 Glorybringer
- 2 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 4 Whirler Virtuoso
- 2 The Scarab God
This deck is the easiest port over from the previous format, and while it didn't gain much from the release of Rivals of Ixalan, it certainly benefited from the removal of Rogue Refiner, turning this deck from "Support Staff Energy" to what I think most of the people who enjoyed playing Temur Energy will flock to.
One change this deck has seen from the last format is the upgrade of Hostage Taker to Ravenous Chupacabra. Hostage Taker certainly has its moments late in the game when it would far outperform Ravenous Chupacabra, as a turn 4 play in a deck with not many early creatures for your opponents to point their removal in hand at, it's far superior to not have to care if your Flametongue Kavu effect dies or not and undoes all the work you did.
Also one thing to note with this deck…
Overall Grixis Siphoner is a deck that can run away with a game as early as turn 2 with an unchecked Glint-Sleeve Siphoner backed by all the removal you have as well as have ways to defend a powerful planeswalker like Chandra, Torch of Defiance with the still omnipresent Whirler Virtuoso. I'd give this deck a solid 8.5/10 for this weekend. You can't go wrong with it, but it's certainly a difficult deck to play if you've never picked it up before.
Next on my list of decks I'm seriously considering for this weekend is an updated version to the deck I used to top 8 that last Standard event on the SCG Tour® that also was in Dallas!
- 4 Walking Ballista
- 4 Angel of Invention
- 4 Champion of Wits
- 3 Dusk Legion Zealot
- 2 Hostage Taker
- 4 Minister of Inquiries
- 3 Ravenous Chupacabra
- 4 Seekers' Squire
- 1 The Scarab God
As mentioned last week , Esper Gift is a deck I've been huge fan of since I built the archetype upon the release of Ixalan, and it's been given a bunch of tools since then. I talked about how good Dusk Legion Zealot and Ravenous Chupacabra are for the deck since they're creatures that either replace themselves or help stabilize the battlefield early against aggression, which is the only way this deck every really loses in all honesty. A change that testing has yielded this week is the return of the maindeck inclusion of Fatal Push, with the resurgence of Mardu Vehicles meaning I've been seeing a lot more copies of Heart of Kiran.
I would highly suggest this deck for this weekend since it won't be as likely to face hate cards such as Deathgorge Scavenger and Crook of Condemnation as you might face in the weeks following once the metagame is more established. My one concern for those looking to play this deck is how incredibly complicated it is and how narrow the margins are. Something as simple as sequencing leading on Seekers' Squire or Dusk Legion Zealot incorrectly could cost you the game, and it varies at different points and could also depend on what you're playing against. This deck has the highest ceiling and lowest floor of all the decks I think are viable for this weekend, but if you've mastered it, it's amongst the most powerful decks in the format.
Rating of 9/10 for this one, just buyer beware that you're going to be faced with a lot of complicated decisions and you're not piloting the most forgiving deck in the world.
Lastly, a deck I brewed up because I wanted to see how well the synergies of Heart of Kiran and Rhonas the Indomitable having higher power than their cost pair when trying to cast one of my pet cards for the set, Ghalta, Primal Hunger.
- 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
- 4 Glorybringer
- 4 Jadelight Ranger
- 4 Merfolk Branchwalker
- 4 Rekindling Phoenix
- 2 Ghalta, Primal Hunger
- 3 Pia Nalaar
- 2 Rhonas the Indomitable
Of all the decks I've mentioned, this would be the one I have the least confidence in but am the most excited for!
What was a last minute addition to the deck just wanting to try it out turned out to be one of the best cards for the deck: Rekindling Phoenix checks all the boxes of resiliency against cards like Ravenous Chupacabra and Glorybringer! Coming back turn after turn, with haste, if they're only able to kill it once makes this an insane card at playing both offense and defense. Four mana for a 4/3 flyer used to come with a downside, and this one checks all the boxes for this format. Rekindling Phoenix was a sleeper during preview season, but I bet it will end up being the most expensive card in the set as well as one of its most playable.
There's a light black splash in this deck for the sole purpose of returning Scrapheap Scrounger since it works so well at crewing Heart of Kiran as well as being a creature for Rhonas to buff and be able to consistently attack with despite a lot of removal from your opponents. While there might be better two-drops if the format becomes more aggressive since Scrapheap Scrounger can't block, it certainly serves its purpose here, not to mention being a three-power creature to assist in the casting of Ghalta, Primal Hunger.
You could certainly take this deck in a more Jund direction, cutting the Ghalta, Prima Hunger and adding cards like Unlicensed Disintegration to improve your removal. Vraksa, Relic Seeker is an additional card you could add if the deck wanted to move more towards a black splash, but I do value the untapped lands and potential to curve out without a hiccup. It's the good ole power vs. consistency argument with that one.
All in all I'd give this deck a 7/10 for playability for this weekend. I think there's a lot of potential here, but I might be clinging to Ghalta, Primal Hunger a bit too hard to make it work at the moment.
One thing is certain; I'm thrilled for SCG Dallas this weekend and can't wait to see all the decks that unfold for new Standard over the coming weeks. I think this will end up being the best Standard format we've seen in years, and I'm crossing my fingers that I'm right. Hopefully the weather is kind and holds clear until after I land and I see you all there.