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After all these hours of brewing, watching, testing and tweeting about the new decks, we finally had the first week of competition to see Standard come into action at an SCG Open and a Magic Online PTQ.

I also did some testing myself, and it is based on these events that I will bring you my current stance on the format. Where we started, where we are now, and where we should go.

And we might as well start with the Jellyfish Hydra in the room…

Sultai Krasis

The inheritor to the Golgari dominance

Standard Hydroid Krasis by Jason Felix

Hydroid Krasis by Jason Felix

It was pretty clear that the powerful BG Midrange shell would exist in some form or another still, likely with our new manabase to expand to three colors.

However it might not have been obvious to everyone how good Hydroid KrasisHydroid Krasis is. I compared it to an old fan favorite in MulldrifterMulldrifter. When cast for 6 mana, the Krasis will draw you two cards, give you a flying threat and gain you 2 life. This is similar to MulldrifterMulldrifter, and while it costs more mana you also get a real threat.

Similar to our flying fish friend, Hydroid KrasisHydroid Krasis can also be cast for less mana in order to gain some traction in case you need it. But what MulldrifterMulldrifter can’t do is scale to your amount of mana. It happens so often in midrange decks, especially with mana dorks, that you hit 8 or even 10 mana. But you can’t really run such expensive cards normally.

And when you get to cast Krasis for 8 mana you gain so much advantage. A 6/6 flyer needs to come off the table, and quickly. After that you still have to deal with the 3 new cards it drew. This gets even easier in the early game when you pair Krasis with the mana-producing powers of Incubation DruidIncubation Druid.

At least I’m sad that I didn’t order them earlier.

Misplacedginger, renowned streamer and Standard trophy hunter, came up with this list that has been the basis for what people perceive as the initial best deck. Sultai Krasis even took down both major events this weekend:

Sultai Krasis by misplacedginger

Creatures (25)
Hostage Taker
Hydroid Krasis
Incubation Druid
Jadelight Ranger
Llanowar Elves
Merfolk Branchwalker
Wildgrowth Walker

Spells (10)
Vivien Reid
Find // Finality
Cast Down
Vraska’s Contempt
Lands (25)
Breeding Pool
Forest
Hinterland Harbor
Overgrown Tomb
Swamp
Watery Grave
Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard (15)
Vraska’s Contempt
Assassin’s Trophy
Cry of the Carnarium
Disdainful Stroke
Duress
Negate
Thrashing Brontodon
Vraska, Relic Seeker

Sultai Krasis by Anthony Devarti

Creatures (26)
Carnage Tyrant
Hydroid Krasis
Jadelight Ranger
Llanowar Elves
Merfolk Branchwalker
Midnight Reaper
Ravenous Chupacabra
Seekers’ Squire
Wildgrowth Walker

Spells (10)
Vivien Reid
Cast Down
Vraska’s Contempt
Find // Finality
Lands (24)
Woodland Cemetery
Forest
Island
Swamp
Breeding Pool
Drowned Catacomb
Memorial to Folly
Overgrown Tomb
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Tendershoot Dryad
The Eldest Reborn
Crushing Canopy
Disdainful Stroke
Negate
Vraska’s Contempt
Cry of the Carnarium
Duress

This deck had 9 copies in the top 32 of the online PTQ and 7 copies in the top 25 of the Open. Those are some high numbers for week 1. People like their easy choices for the best deck!

Hostage TakerHostage Taker is another new overperformer. It works very well against Hydroid KrasisHydroid Krasis in the mirror, as even if the kill the pirate, they won’t get their big flyer back. But they basically have to get rid of your Hostage TakerHostage Taker, otherwise YOU get the ability to cast a krasis and draw some cards!
It’s also another card that works well with the extra mana from Incubation DruidIncubation Druid.

Petomartinez’ genius

A better version of Sultai?

Standard Hostage Taker by Wayne Reynolds

Hostage Taker by Wayne Reynolds

However, it seems like these decks basically just splash black for Vraska’s ContemptVraska’s Contempt. Also, Wildgrowth WalkerWildgrowth Walker is so easy to go over the top of if you aren’t playing only Mountains. I was really impressed by this version that won the online PTQ:

Sultai Krasis by petomartinez

Creatures (28)
Growth-Chamber Guardian
Hostage Taker
Hydroid Krasis
Incubation Druid
Jadelight Ranger
Llanowar Elves
Merfolk Branchwalker
Zegana, Utopian Speaker

Spells (8)
Vivien Reid
Find // Finality
Cast Down
Hadana’s Climb
Lands (24)
Breeding Pool
Forest
Hinterland Harbor
Overgrown Tomb
Watery Grave
Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard (15)
Cast Down
Find // Finality
Disdainful Stroke
Duress
Moment of Craving
Negate
Thrashing Brontodon
Growth-Chamber GuardianGrowth-Chamber Guardian adds another angle of attack and a good way to spend all of your extra mana. This addition also makes the deck much more of a threat against control decks.
Peto Martinez also gained access to Hadana’s ClimbHadana’s Climb, which is a good enabler for your adapt 2-drops, and Zegana, Utopian SpeakerZegana, Utopian Speaker. These make it really easy to go over the top of other midrange decks, and they both impressed me so much.

From playing this deck, I found it to be really smooth and with a good manabase, great early game and plenty of options in the late game. This is the version I would recommend if you have a big tournament soon. Although I would look to add some Wildgrowth WalkerWildgrowth Walker between the maindeck and sideboard, because Mono Red is a bad matchup.

There is also a chance that the black splash is just a mistake, when you could instead play white. That gives you cards like Ajani, Adversary of TyrantsAjani, Adversary of Tyrants, a planeswalker that works well with the adapt 2-drops, as well as Deputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention, Ixalan’s BindingIxalan’s Binding and the like.
The sideboard of such a Bant deck could also have cards like Knight of AutumnKnight of Autumn, Shalai, Voice of PlentyShalai, Voice of Plenty and Lyra DawnbringerLyra Dawnbringer, which should make it trivial to crush Mono Red Burn.

And speaking of the devil…

What are you at?

Burn got real in Standard again

Rhythm of the Wild Skewer the Critics by Heonhwa Choe

Skewer the Critics by Heonhwa Choe

All it took was a common and an uncommon, and now we have a real Burn deck, where almost every card either deals direct damage immediately or draws more cards. This deck seemed obviously good, is cheap enough that it has ravaged MTG Arena, and even had a good handful of results here early in the format: There were 8 in the top 32 of the PTQ and 5 in the top 25 of the Open. Here is a sample decklist:

Mono Red Burn by triosk

Creatures (16)
Ghitu Lavarunner
Goblin Chainwhirler
Runaway Steam-Kin
Viashino Pyromancer

Spells (23)
Light Up the Stage
Skewer the Critics
Lightning Strike
Shock
Wizard’s Lightning
Experimental Frenzy
Lands (21)
21 Mountain

Sideboard (15)
Mountain
Experimental Frenzy
Banefire
Electrostatic Field
Fight with Fire
Lava Coil
Vance’s Blasting Cannons

These Mono Red decks come in a lot of different variants, and it’s quite scary that such a simple and 1-dimensional deck can be built in so many ways. Some go for Risk FactorRisk Factor or The Flame of KeldThe Flame of Keld instead of Experimental FrenzyExperimental Frenzy, some play Fanatical FirebrandFanatical Firebrand or Spear SpewerSpear Spewer (I think the latter is superior) as additional 1-drops. Some don’t play Runaway Steam-KinRunaway Steam-Kin or replace it with Electrostatic FieldElectrostatic Field. Some splash green for CindervinesCindervines and Collision // ColossusCollision // Colossus in the sideboard, and some splash black for Carnival // CarnageCarnival // Carnage and Theater of HorrorsTheater of Horrors.

What’s common between all the lists is that they run the 8 wizards, 4 Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler and at least 14 burn spells. And you must be prepared for this deck. I don’t think you can throw a couple Moment of CravingMoment of Craving in your sideboard and call it a day. That won’t be enough. This deck is brutal.

Personally, I’m impressed by Spear SpewerSpear Spewer and its ability to consistently threaten damage and enable spectacle. It does damage both players, so be wise when you consider its activation. Runaway Steam-KinRunaway Steam-Kin also felt somewhat clunky. It rarely does anything as a topdeck and is weak on defense.

Turbofog

The fate of Nexus of Fate

Standard Wilderness Reclamation by Tyler Walpole

Wilderness Reclamation by Tyler Walpole

Despite so much hype, no Wilderness ReclamationWilderness Reclamation decks managed to make it to the top of the SCG Open standings. It might be because their website hyped up the cards so much and many writers warned the players. Maybe people just showed up scared and prepared.

The Magic Online PTQ shows a different result, because it had 3 Wilderness ReclamationWilderness Reclamation decks in the top 8!

All of them try to take advantage of the broken interaction between that card and Nexus of FateNexus of Fate. Here’s the 3rd place list, which is a pretty stock FogFog version:

Turbo Fog by LLeaf33

Spells (35)
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Chemister’s Insight
Expansion // Explosion
Growth Spiral
Nexus of Fate
Precognitive Perception
Revitalize
Root Snare
Gift of Paradise
Search for Azcanta
Wilderness Reclamation
Lands (25)
Arch of Orazca
Breeding Pool
Forest
Glacial Fortress
Hallowed Fountain
Hinterland Harbor
Island
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden

Sideboard (15)
Crushing Canopy
Disdainful Stroke
Hydroid Krasis
Knight of Autumn
Lyra Dawnbringer
Negate

The scariest thing about this deck is that you might never get another turn.
Consider turn 2 Growth SpiralGrowth Spiral into turn 3 Wilderness ReclamationWilderness Reclamation (potentially with a play on the opponent’s turn), followed up by a Teferi, Hero of DominariaTeferi, Hero of Dominaria. If you float mana in response to a trigger in the end step, this will lead to 7 mana so you can cast Nexus of FateNexus of Fate and pass the turn to yourself again.

Again, there are lots of different version. Some play Temur and some are on a spicy Gates brew, that eschews both Teferi and Root SnareRoot Snare. These decks run other ways to build a card-draw engine and stay alive, with Expansion // ExplosionExpansion // Explosion and Uncomfortable ChillUncomfortable Chill in Temur or Guild SummitGuild Summit and Gates AblazeGates Ablaze in the Gates list.

These decks don’t play out like normal Standard decks as they are much more like combo decks in nature. And while it can feel deflating to play for so much time where your turns don’t matter, I do think it’s awesome that we get decks like these in Standard again.
Also, this is something to be prepared for. It certainly hurts this deck that many of the green creature decks now play blue, so they have access to countermagic postboard. Also be aware of cards like DuressDuress and Knight of AutumnKnight of Autumn that are good against both Burn and Turbofog.

Esper Control

A new tool for the blue mages

Chromium the Mutable by Chase Stone

Chromium the Mutable by Chase Stone

This deck, powered by the new shock lands and Kaya’s WrathKaya’s Wrath showed the opposite story of Turbo Nexus decks. It didn’t place higher than 10th at the PTQ, but there were two in the top 8 of the Open. I guess only one type of Teferi deck can succeed in each tournament.

This is one of the top 8 lists for reference:

Esper Control by Nick Cowden

Creatures (1)
Chromium, the Mutable

Spells (33)
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Absorb
Chemister’s Insight
Moment of Craving
Mortify
Negate
Precognitive Perception
Vraska’s Contempt
Search for Azcanta
Kaya’s Wrath
Notion Rain
Thought Erasure
Lands (26)
Plains
Swamp
Drowned Catacomb
Glacial Fortress
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Isolated Chapel
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
Basilica Bell-Haunt
Deputy of Detention
Thief of Sanity
Moment of Craving
Lyra Dawnbringer
Arguel’s Blood Fast
Duress
Kaya’s Wrath

At the moment, Jeskai Control almost vanished completely in favor of Esper. I’m not sure if this will hold up, as the green decks have so many ways to gain card advantage now that it might be hard for Esper to keep up. In that case, it’s so much more attractive to go for Expansion // ExplosionExpansion // Explosion and Niv-Mizzet, ParunNiv-Mizzet, Parun so that you can make sure to go over the top when you go late.

The upside of Esper though, is how much more flexible the removal spells are. Cast DownCast Down, Vraska’s ContemptVraska’s Contempt and Kaya’s WrathKaya’s Wrath just get things dead and especially MortifyMortify is clutch now with all of the enchantments floating around. Black also gives you access to more life gain, which is certainly welcome in a mono red world.

I don’t know if Esper Control will live as the format goes on, but Teferi is still such a stupidly good card advantage engine, so I wouldn’t write it off the list.
However, it’s not the only Esper-deck that sees results.

Esper Hero

The definition of a multicolored deck

Hero of Precinct One by Bram Sels

Hero of Precinct One by Bram Sels

Wyatt Darby has created a very good stream channel to build upon his Pro Tour win, and during his early playtime on Arena he created a Hero of Precinct OneHero of Precinct One deck in Esper colors where every spell but the Hero was multicolored!
He tuned it since and managed to top 8 the Open with it. The deck also got 9th at that tournament and top 8’ed the online PTQ, so it certainly has some prowess:

Esper Hero by Wyatt Darby

Creatures (22)
Basilica Bell-Haunt
Deputy of Detention
Hero of Precinct One
Hostage Taker
Seraph of the Scales
Thief of Sanity
Lyra Dawnbringer

Spells (14)
Mortify
Discovery // Dispersal
Thought Erasure
Dovin, Grand Arbiter
Lands (24)
Swamp
Drowned Catacomb
Glacial Fortress
Godless Shrine
Hallowed Fountain
Isolated Chapel
Watery Grave

Sideboard (15)
The Eldest Reborn
Cast Down
Consecrate // Consume
Disdainful Stroke
Moment of Craving
Negate
Vraska’s Contempt
Karn, Scion of Urza
Duress

The Hero is certainly a good card in this deck, as it basically reads “whenever you cast a spell, create a 1/1”. Hostage TakerHostage Taker also got better, as discussed earlier, and MortifyMortify as well as Deputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention are just slam dunks.
Basilica Bell-HauntBasilica Bell-Haunt completely wrecks Mono Red and with access to maindeck discard and sideboarded counterspells, I wouldn’t be afraid of Nexus decks either. What I do fear is that this deck does not have what it takes to go toe to toe with other midrange decks that get to play Vivien ReidVivien Reid.
Also, because this deck doesn’t play any 1-mana cards, I can imagine that it’s quite clunky when you try to utilize the Hero. And the tokens might not matter that much anyway, at least not on a stalled board.

I suspect that these finishes were just a flash in pan, since the deck is nowhere to be seen outside of those top results, and that people will now think that the deck is stronger than it actually is.

Closing thoughts

Where do we go for week 2?

Thought Collapse by Sara Winters

Thought Collapse by Sara Winters

It seems like a solid metagame begins to take shape. These 5 archetypes should turn into a testing gauntlet if you want to prepare for the coming weeks. While most of these decks are still not fine-tuned, it seems like Sultai, Red, Nexus and Esper variants will make up most of the metagame in the coming weeks.

This doesn’t mean that the format is already solved. Far from it. While these lists work towards more consistency when they face each other, people are still out here and perform with Izzet Drakes (that features Arclight PhoenixArclight Phoenix again!), White Weenie with Deputy of DetentionDeputy of Detention, Gruul Aggro and even crazy Gate decks. I wonder where Judith, the Scourge DivaJudith, the Scourge Diva went?
It also seems like nobody really pays attention attention to or wants to explore the sick synergy between Hero of Precinct OneHero of Precinct One and March of the MultitudesMarch of the Multitudes. I guess that’s only to my advantage!

 

This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com