Strong-Arming Standard – RNA Archetypes
The new Standard metagame has had a few new additions, along with adaptations to old decks. The first weekend was led by Sultai Midrange and Esper Control at the Star City Open, despite Nexus of Fate and Mono Red being the common fears going into the weekend. Nexus managed to take the top 2 spots of the MTGO Standard Premier Event for the weekend but wasn’t even in the top 32 of the Open.
This deck is an adaptation of last formats Golgari deck. The major addition to the maindeck are Hydroid Krasis and the blue lands for a Sultai mana base, with Negates being added to the sideboard. Hydroid Krasis gives the Golgari deck a much better late game than it had last format, and it being a flying threat that blocks Rekindling Phoenix and Drakes, it replaces Doom Whisperer as the best top to the curve. Having a large X spell that can be both found with Vivien Reid and recycled with Find // Finality is a huge boost to this decks late game.
This seems to have replaced Jeskai as the top control deck, in terms of high level tournament play. With Kaya’s Wrath as an unconditional 4 mana board wipe, Esper can sweep the board early enough to survive an aggressive onslaught. The last time we saw a 4-mana board wipe was Supreme Verdict, which was a format staple. The mana requirements for an Esper manabase may be a bit restrictive, but it isn’t too difficult to pull off with 12 shocks and 12 buddy lands. Absorb and cards like Basilica Bell-Haunt have also helped with the aggressive matchups, making this control deck able to contend in traditionally difficult match ups.
Azorius Aggro (white weenie splashing blue)
Similar to last season’s Nexus of Fate-fog deck, this deck got a huge boost from Wilderness Reclamation in this set. While this deck was nowhere to be found at the SCG Open, it went 9-0 and 8-1 in the Standard Premier Event on MTGO. The main thing that set these lists apart from the ones at the Open is the use of Gift of Paradise and Revitalize as a way to get to the late game against aggressive decks. They often splash Expansion//Explosion as a win condition because it works well with Wilderness Reclamation.
Mono Red is very similar to last format, but it gained Light up the Stage and Skewer the Critics as cheap, efficient spells. A lot of lists have cut down on Experimental Frenzy and Runaway Steam-Kin to make room for these, as well as playing Risk Factor in the main, making them more a burn strategy than a combo deck.
The mono blue decks of this format are less creature based than the previous. With the addition of Pteramander and Essence Capture, they are more interested in playing more spells and holding up mana for their counterspells and protection cards than committing into cards like Kaya’s Wrath. The deck has a great matchup against Nexus of Fates decks, so this deck was pretty popular online early on, but with the poor performance of Nexus at the SCG Open I wouldn’t be surprised to see this drop off a bit.
This deck focuses on Hero of Precinct One with a lot of high-value multicolored spells. This is the first truly new deck I’ve seen in the format, playing 21 cards in the main deck from the new set (not counting the new lands). Basilica Bell-Haunt, Deputy of Detention, Seraph of the Scales, Dovin, Grand Arbiter, and Mortify round out the new cards this deck plays. There have been a few other color combinations that have been trying to play Hero of Precinct One as well, like Mardu and Abzan, but none have done as well as the Esper version.
Gates is a control deck that takes advantage of a lot of the newer gate cards. The deck has the best 3 mana board wipe available in Gates Ablaze, as well as a huge late-game life gain card in Archway Angel. This combination gives the deck a reasonable aggro matchup, assuming they don’t get burned out early. The deck also has ramp and massive x spells for the late game to shut the door, and one of the best draw engines in the form of Guild Summit. The downside, of course, is that all the gates enter the battlefield tapped, so you are effectively playing a turn behind your opponent at most points in the match.
There are a lot of different versions of this deck that people are trying, none of which did well last weekend. There are so many cards available in these colors that it is going to take a while to find the best combination, but I wouldn’t be surprised to find this as a contender as the format settles down.
This deck is very powerful when you can cast all your spells, but the mana base is an issue. Having both red and black 1 drops with a basic land can be awkward, and Spawn of Mayhem requiring double black on turn 3 can be very hard to cast. Judith has been great when I’ve tried this deck but the games you don’t draw her or Spawn of Mayhem, the deck has trouble closing things out.
Well, that’s all for today! What do you think? Did I miss any archetypes? What have you been brewing lately. Let me know!
~ Sean Armstrong