The State of Standard, by Graeme McIntyre

Lands, Adventures, Planeswalkers and aggro... Graeme runs us through the prominent - and promising - decks in Standard right now.

Fae of Wishes (Alternate Frame) from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)

[Editor’s note: This article was originally published prior to Field of the Dead’s Standard ban. Graeme has kindly prepared an updated commentary in response:]

Update on the State of Standard (04.11.19)

Field of the Dead being banned has changed the format. When I heard about the emergency ban I thought they might ban either Field of the Dead, Teferi, Time Raveler, or both. I briefly considered that they might ban Oko, Thief of Crowns but banning an expensive mythic in Standard before it has even really had a chance to be played is such a radical move that I dismissed the possibility. Oko, Thief of Crowns from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)

Well, at least he is making use of the crown. If you’re planning on playing Standard in the next while and want to win consistently it’s probably a good idea to sleeve up the new king. Social media is awash with frustrated comments about Oko, and blue green decks featuring him were dominant all weekend.

It wouldn’t be a huge shock if the card was banned by the next time we’re playing standard PTQs, but that leaves those of us who have not yet purchased Oko’s in an awkward spot. This is one reason to consider playing something else, beyond simple preference. So, what other options are there now?

Firstly I’d rule out playing a medium to slow creature based deck with little interaction in this format. It’s asking for trouble, as this is exactly the sort of deck Oko will kick up and down the street. Hard pass.

Before this weekend I was thinking of playing Black Green adventure with some high end planeswalkers for the late game, but many of the Oko decks are actually splashing black for the exact same high end I wanted now. Veil of Summer also makes the prospect of relying on Murderous Rider to solve problems quite unattractive.

Mono red is an option as well, with the potential to just race the blue green base decks before they can get set up. Food is a real issue, though, as being able to pay 2 mana each turn for 3 life is pretty decent for stopping the red deck. Often you’ll be forced into attacking the planeswalker to stop the food production, but the damage invested in doing so is virtually free food activations for the blue green deck. This issue is compounded by how efficient Questing Beast is against red, putting down a clock, a blocker, and a high toughness from turn four onwards. Red has game against UG, but it’s difficult to see how it can consistently win, and easy to frustrating losses.

This is what I think I’d be experimenting with:

Esper Stax

4 Teferi, Time Raveler
2 Murderous Rider
1 Planar Cleansing
3 Dance of the Manse
4 Kaya’s Wrath
4 Thought Erasure
1 Wishclaw Talisman
4 Golden Egg
4 Guild Globe
4 Doom Foretold
4 Oath of Kaya
1 Castle Vantress
1 Island
2 Plains
2 Swamp
3 Fabled Passage
4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple of Silence
4 Watery Grave

The Oko decks are good at dealing with creatures, this deck doesn’t really play any. They’re not great at dealing with enchantments, this deck is built around one. Creatures are an important part of their strategy, this deck has wraths and removal. It’s got discard main, and access to strong sideboard cards. Also, Doom Foretold is a powerful, weird Magic card that people will mess up against and there is something to be leveraged there.

This deck is hardly a gift wrapped solution to the format, but it’s an idea and a place to start. Hopefully it helps, good luck in your events this week!

Original article: The State of Standard, by Graeme McIntyre (originally published 18.10.19)

Before I start writing an article I generally have a look at the last few I wrote. Partly to create a sense of continuity but also with a mind to addressing any questions which were raised or new information which might impact either those articles or the one I intend to write next.

Mythic Championship Qualifiers didn’t last long, did they? The Players Tour qualifiers which have replaced them are pretty much a cross between the old Pro Tour Qualifier system (now outdated by no less than three “new” systems) and the Pre Pro Tour Qualifier system which succeeded them. Essentially we will be playing satellite tournaments which award immediate qualification for the professional level of play, but these satellites will be plentiful and more evenly dispersed, resulting in smaller events and greater ease of access to those events. These events being smaller means that they can be ran in stores, greatly reducing the costs faced by tournament organizers which in turn reduces the entry fees for these events, which was a significant barrier to a large portion of the player base.

My two cents is that this will be a pretty decent system, and I hope they stick with it for a bit. The constant change within the game over the last few years has become unattractive.

What all this mean for you and me is access to more competitive Magic events within a short distance at a lower cost. It’s very early in the format, and this article is intended to be in part preparatory for me while also being informative to you: I don’t have a strong idea as to what you or I should be sleeving up in the next few weeks yet. I approach new formats firstly by keeping an eye on the spoilers as they come out, then meeting up with David Inglis and essentially creating a shopping list by reading through the spoiler, then checking out what the decks are on Goldfish. I do it in that order because it is very often the case that the decks and cards which do well early are not the same ones which are doing well a couple of weeks later, so it’s good to buy the cards which seem like they ought to be good, even if no one has won an event with them in the first week. It’s rare to see a control deck do well week one because they’re designed to react to what other people are doing and that’s a difficult thing to do in the dark.

This set is full of cards with potential, so while I have something to say about a great many of them, in the interests of keeping this article at a readable length (and not encouraging you to buy 4 copies of every card…), I’ll talk about the decks which are doing well right now, then go on to discuss some notable absences.

Bant Lands

Field of the Dead from M20
1 Izzet Guildgate
1 Selesnya Guildgate
1 Castle Vantress
2 Temple Garden
1 Temple of Malady
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Plaza of Harmony
1 Boros Guildgate
1 Tranquil Cove
1 Plains
2 Hallowed Fountain
4 Arboreal Grazer
4 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim
4 Growth Spiral
4 Field of the Dead
1 Simic Guildgate
3 Realm-Cloaked Giant
4 Teferi, Time Raveler
4 Hydroid Krasis
2 Forest
4 Once Upon a Time
4 Circuitous Route
1 Blossoming Sands
2 Breeding Pool
2 Fabled Passage
1 Golgari Guildgate
2 Island
1 Agent of Treachery

Sideboard

3 Knight of Autumn
2 Negate
1 Planar Cleansing
2 Veil of Summer
1 Unmoored Ego
2 Aether Gust
1 March of the Multitudes
1 Deputy of Detention
1 Time Wipe
1 Agent of Treachery
Teferi, Time Raveler (WAR)
Bant lands is pretty much the typical ramp deck. It plays a bunch of cards which put land into play, sacrificing early game in exchange for an excellent mid game. On the face of it you might think this deck was light on threats or redundancy, with Hydroid Krasis, Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Realm-Cloaked Giant as the only significant creatures in the deck, but Field of the Dead offers up another level of redundancy. Additionally the deck has a number of excellent targets for Teferi, Time Raveler because of their enter the battlefield triggers. Bouncing Realm-Cloaked Giant for Cast Off is also pretty good.

Jeskai Fires Superfriends

4 Fae of Wishes
2 Kenrith, the Returned King
4 Deafening Clarion
4 Drawn from Dreams
2 Time Wipe
4 Narset, Parter of Veils
3 Sarkhan the MasterlessUgin, the Ineffable from War of the Spark (WAR)
4 Teferi, Time Raveler
1 Ugin, the Ineffable
2 Castle Vantress
2 Fabled Passage
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Interplanar Beacon
1 Island
2 Mountain
1 Plains
3 Sacred Foundry
4 Steam Vents
3 Temple of Epiphany
1 Temple of Triumph
1 Prison Realm
4 Fires of Invention

Sideboard
2 Dovin’s Veto
1 The Elderspell
1 Chance for Glory
2 Mystical Dispute
1 Kaya’s Wrath
1 Mass Manipulation
1 Sarkhan the Masterless
1 Casualties of War
1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno
1 Command the Dreadhorde
1 Garruk, Cursed Huntsman
1 Planar Cleansing
1 Planewide Celebration
Fae of Wishes (Alternate Frame) from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
Jeskai Fires Superfriends (what a name!) is a tap out control deck. In a way it’s similar to Bant, in that it’s playing a medium-game plan with a great deal of redundancy and inevitability, but instead of ramping it’s got 4 Deafening Clarion, 4 Fae of Wishes and 4 Teferi, Time Raveler to destroy/block/bounce enemy early game, then an endless stream of planeswalkers to seal the deal. Fae of Wishes is likely the glue that holds this deck together, again combining with Teferi, Time Raveler’s bounce allowing for Granted to find yet more threats in the sideboard.

Bant Ramp

Food Token from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
4 Gilded Goose
1 Arboreal Grazer
4 Oko, Thief of Crowns
3 Wicked Wolf
4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
4 Hydroid Krasis
2 Voracious Hydra
4 Teferi, Time Raveler
4 Leafkin Druid
4 Risen Reef
4 Breeding Pool
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple Garden
5 Forest
1 Plains
1 Island
4 Fabled Passage
1 Temple of Mystery
1 Paradise Druid
1 Once Upon a Time

Sideboard

2 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves
3 Glass Casket
2 Negate
2 Veil of Summer
3 Aether Gust
2 Mystical Dispute
1 Wicked Wolf
Oko, Thief of Crowns from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
There is another version of this deck that doesn’t splash white, so loses out on Teferi, Time Raveler, but fundamentally they’re both trying to do the same thing i.e. rush out medium threats as soon as possible. This deck was the talk of the town last week when I first looked to buy cards and is a classic example of how formats change. It’s got good, solid threats and doesn’t play any especially ropey cards, and it will definitely win games. Doom Foretold from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
3 [card]Dance of the Manse">Oko, Thief of Crowns[/ard] is good against other similar strategies as well so it’s no surprise that he’s the most expensive card in the set. That said he’s not very good against Jeskai Fires Superfriends or Bant Lands, both of which are playing a better late game than this deck.

Esper Stax

Doom Foretold from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
3 [card]Dance of the Manse
4 Kaya’s Wrath
4 Oath of Kaya
4 Guild Globe
4 Teferi, Time Raveler
1 Legion’s End
2 Plains
1 Island
4 Godless Shrine
4 Golden Egg
3 Thought Erasure
4 Watery Grave
3 Fabled Passage
2 Swamp
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple of Silence
1 Wishclaw Talisman
3 Doom Foretold
1 Dovin’s Veto
1 Planar Cleansing
1 Castle Vantress
2 Murderous Rider

Sideboard
1 Unmoored Ego
1 Legion’s End
2 The Elderspell
2 Duress Dance of the Manse from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
2 Disenchant
2 Ashiok, Dream Render
2 Dovin’s Veto
1 Cry of the Carnarium
1 Realm-Cloaked Giant
1 Disfigure

Esper Stax is a prison deck which seeks to lock its opponent out the game through the inevitability of Doom Foretold. It would be really slow except that Dance of the Manse provides a quick, Replenish-like end to the game in the form of several 4/4 artifacts and enchantments. Yet another deck in which Teferi, Time Raveler will shine due to come into play effects on practically every card.

Selesnya Adventure

Lovestruck Beast (Alternate Frame) from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
4 Edgewall Innkeeper
4 Faerie Guidemother
2 Flaxen Intruder
1 Knight of Autumn
4 Lovestruck Beast
4 Shepherd of the Flock
4 Venerated Loxodon
4 Questing Beast
1 Gideon Blackblade
8 Forest
8 Plains
4 Castle Ardenvale
4 Temple Garden
4 Once Upon a Time
1 Unbreakable Formation
3 Flower // Flourish

Sideboard

2 Glass Casket
2 Knight of Autumn
2 Conclave Tribunal
4 March of the Multitudes
1 Unbreakable Formation
1 Trostani Discordant
1 Gideon Blackblade
2 Devout Decree
Edgewall Innkeeper from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
Selesnya Adventure looks like an aggro deck designed to beat the Oko, Thief of Crowns deck. However on paper it looks like all the other decks in the format are designed to do that as well, and they’re doing it in a way which will also be good against this deck e.g. wraths and powerful midrange threats which transition into the endgame well. As you might expect, many of the cards have adventure, so it’s got more durability and value inherent to its cards than the average green-white beatdown deck. Edgewall Innkeeper has partiularly great potential to draw loads of cards in an aggressive strategy. The problem is the other decks make most of these cards irrelevant without too much trouble.

Mono-Black Aggro

Rankle, Master of Pranks from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
4 Gutterbones
4 Blacklance Paragon
3 Drill Bit
4 Murderous Rider
4 Knight of the Ebon Legion
2 Rankle, Master of Pranks
3 Midnight Reaper
4 Castle Locthwain
4 Spawn of Mayhem
3 Footlight Fiend
4 Priest of Forgotten Gods
4 Lazotep Reaver
17 Swamp

Sideboard

1 Legion’s End
4 Duress
1 Dreadhorde Invasion
4 Noxious Grasp
3 Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage
2 Rotting Regisaur
Murderous Rider from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
Mono-Black aggro exactly what it says on the tin, even down to the 17 swamps and 36 creatures, most of which are 1 and 2 casting cost with some 3 and 4 mana ones to give it a bit more gas as the game progresses. It’s got more interaction than it first looks thanks to Murderous Rider, and it’s likely got more bite against the late game decks than the green-based creature decks previously discussed. It’s probably not so blisteringly fast that it will crush the late game decks, and it will almost certainly struggle with the green creature based decks. Later iterations will likely include a stronger disruption package.

[Editor’s note: The Cauldron Familiar/ Witches Oven combo has been making a show on Arena recently, which may be an alternative fast black strategy to watch out for.]

Mono Red Aggro

Bonecrusher Giant from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
4 Bonecrusher Giant
4 Fervent Champion
4 Rimrock Knight
4 Runaway Steam-Kin
4 Scorch Spitter
2 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
17 Mountain
3 Castle Embereth
2 Experimental Frenzy
4 Shock
4 Slaying Fire
4 Light Up the Stage
4 Skewer the Critics

Sideboard

1 Experimental Frenzy
2 Flame Sweep
2 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
2 Tibalt, Rakish Instigator
4 Claim the Firstborn
4 Lava Coil
Light Up the Stage from Ravnica Allegiance (RNA)
Classically mono red aggro has been a better bet than mono black aggro because it has burn spells, which allow you to reach into the late game after other strategies have got your creatures under control. The exception is when the black deck has a strong – often tribal – creature based synergy which gives it a better late game. The burn spells in this deck are good; Light Up the Stage provides excellent card draw value, Experimental Frenzy is a house and Bonecrusher Giant is on the same power level as [/card]Goblin Chainwhirler[/card] was, all be it less frustrating and situationally overpowered.

Noteworthy Absences

Brazen Borrower (Alternate Frame) from Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
I don’t have concrete plans for exactly what to do with the following cards, but are all ones worthy of consideration:

The Cavalier Cycle from M20 are all potentially powerful cards, and not really getting played. There is potential for them to shine as things develop, but they’re in a bit of a sour spot with the end game decks going over the top of them. It might be that they come to the fore once control decks emerge.

Brazen Borrower is a ludicrous magic card and will no doubt see some play at some point.

The cycle of legendary artifacts all have a great deal of potential, except perhaps the red one, but they’re really weird cards. I expect 1 or 2 of these will do well at the Players Tour and become a big deck, but maybe they’re too slow.

Feasting Troll King seems like it should be really good, but perhaps suffers from the same issue as the Cavaliers.

Hushbringer is actually pretty good against a lot of the decks in the format.
Garruk, Cursed Huntsman frm Throne of Eldraine (ELD)
Garruk, Cursed Huntsman is really powerful as well, and it’s hard to think that he couldn’t be competitive. The card is very reminiscent of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion which was an absolute power house and format defining card not too long ago.

M20’s Ajani and Vivien are both strong cards, but perhaps lack a home due to their mana costs. Certainly it seems like there are enough decent white cards that Ajani could be good.

Conclusions

There is a lot of potential in this format much of which is contingent upon other parts developing. On the face of it, it would be easy to say that clumsy mid to late game effects and zombie tokens are likely to be the story of the format, and many of the cards and decks I discussed I did so in the shadow of just those factors. A control deck would do quite a bit to mitigate for that, and it’s not like the format is especially hostile to control. It’s easy to think it’s dead because Teferi, Hero of Dominaria rotated, but that’s unlikely. If I was playing something this weekend, I’d play Mono Red Aggro or Bant Lands, though.

That’s it for this week, good luck in your events!

Find more of Graeme’s articles (including more on his preparatory process for the MCQ competitions) through his author page.

Join us for our Standard win-a-box tomorrow (with extra goodies in the prize pool, including 2 x entries to WPNQ Tamworth), and for Standard FNM the 1st & 3rd Wednesday of the month at 7pm. Find more events via our Facebook events page, and join the conversation on our local player board.

The State of Standard, by Graeme McIntyre
The State of Standard, by Graeme McIntyre
Lands, Adventures, Planeswalkers and aggro... Graeme McIntyre runs us through the prominent - and promising - decks in Standard right now.
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