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Last week, Owen Turtenwald compared The Scarab God to Jace, the Mind Sculptor; Deceiver Exarch / Splinter Twin combo; Elspeth, Sun's Champion; and even a time-traveling Rhino. He was extremely animated about just how powerful this card is, and I still don't think he even scratched the surface on how absolutely metagame-warping this piece of cardboard actually is.
In fact, The Scarab God is the metagame. The more I play Standard, the more I believe it's an egregious error not to put this card in your deck, at least until people start respecting just how powerful it actually is.
It seems difficult to believe that an entire format can be held hostage by one creature that costs an absurd amount of mana to be efficient, but that's the world we live in. There's just no cheap way to beat a resolved Scarab God, so an opponent almost always needs to use their entire turn to deal with it. Since the card wins the game all by itself, the rest of the deck has enough interaction built into it not to get too punished for this exchange.
The main reason for The Scarab God's dominance is that both blue and black have extremely efficient spells for the early game. Fatal Push, Duress, Negate, and Essence Scatter make it difficult to sequence in a way that exploits the exchange of the casting and killing of The Scarab God, especially when cast on Turn 7 with Negate backup.
Standard is in dire need of a card like Celestial Purge to achieve a more balanced metagame, as this would punish players more for tapping out or tapping low for The Scarab God. Until then, we just have to accept the fact that there's nothing better to play.
Standard in its current iteration is still young. We've had few events to flesh out everything, and until recently, the biggest threat was actually Mono-Red Aggro. Since Grand Prix Memphis there's been a drastic shift in the metagame, as most of the red-based aggressive decks have almost vanished from the Magic Online queues.
The reason for this expulsion is simple – The Scarab God decks caught up. They figured out how to beat Mono-Red and now the queues are littered with U/B Control, U/B Midrange, and Grixis Energy. All three use the same late-game engine. All three do better than the rest of the field.
I honestly don't know which one of the three decks are the best. It's difficult to know at this point when all the games end the same way: someone untaps with The Scarab God after tons of dust has finally settled. It's all that matters, so that's what all of these decks play to. The only reason for all the unique variations is people trying every path to get there in an attempt to find the best route.
We should see more unified builds in the near future, and potentially even U/B Midrange or Grixis Energy getting pushed out of the metagame due to a "survival of the fittest" situation. Until then, it's critical to understand the differences in each iteration to clear up the blurry lines between these midrange strategies.
I'm going to mostly focus on these midrange decks today, as I'm not comfortable yet voicing strong opinions about U/B Control. By next week that should change, as I plan to play five to ten Leagues with the deck by then.
I'm under the impression that the reason why these lines became so blurred is that many consider Grixis Energy and U/B Midrange to share a foundation. It's easy to assume this, as both play so many of the same cards, but that doesn't make them want to function the same way on their path to winning with The Scarab God.
Grixis Energy has better removal, and thus plays more of it. Given this higher density of removal, the deck then needs the rest of its spells to be higher-impact. Chandra, Torch of Defiance is the perfect card for this deck, as it can act as a removal spell but also generate card advantage later in the game.
It's also a target for Vraska's Contempt, which is surprisingly important for the strategy. Grixis Energy doesn't have as much built-in card advantage, so it needs a high density of cards that must be killed by Vraska's Contempt in order to lower the opponent's density of answers to The Scarab God. This means anyone playing Gonti, Lord of Luxury in Grixis Energy is doing something wrong.