Every month, Perilous Research studies Magic Online Daily and Premier Events in an attempt to identify and categorize every viable archetype. The most recent Standard compendium showcases one of the most diverse formats in the history of competitive Magic. The current Standard metagame allows players to choose from multitudes of competitive strategies and naturally encourages innovation from week to week. This column illustrates the diversity of Standard and provides players with an excellent tool for playtesting and pure in-game knowledge.
elcome back to Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's Magic Online column. Every second week of the month I break down the entirety of the Standard format, providing decklists for every archetype that goes 4–0 at a Daily Event or Top 8s a Premier Event. Having complete knowledge of the contents of every archetype gives players a huge advantage over less-exposed opponents. Those players will be able to make certain plays against specific opponents with full knowledge of the possibility of outcomes. I strongly recommend reading and rereading this column if you intend on mastering the current Standard format.
Standard is more diverse than it has been in years. There are no longer unwinnable matchups. Every deck seems to be strong enough that it's able to overcome the hate intended for it with tight play. I'm going to loosely categorize decks as Midrange, Unburial Rites, Combo, Aggro, or Control.
Aggro in Standard
Standard was dominated by controlling decks less than a month ago. Then everything changed after Grand Prix Charleston. Black-Red and Mono-Red decks quickly proved themselves to be worthwhile and the format sped up a great deal in a relatively short period of time. Let's take a look at Standard's aggressive offerings. All the following decklists either 4–0ed a Daily Event or Top 8ed a Premier Event.
marc_31's Green-White Aggro
Aggressive Green-White strategies were mildly popular about a month ago, but the deck began garnishing a massive following the last week of November. The deck is capable of running over its opponent, but the presence of Thragtusk alongside Restoration Angel means the deck plays a mean endgame too.
Trollshow's Red, Splash Black
Black-Red was the dominant archetype in Standard two weeks ago. Players quickly realized that being more aggressive was the best way to attack the normal Black-Red Strategy (seen below) and this version of Black-Red turns up the heat and preys upon the more creature-heavy format of today.
This is the stock Black-Red list. When playing against a Rakdos deck, you should assume this is the list you're battling against unless you see more than one Mountain or an obviously out-of-place card. This deck is largely responsible for the significant decline in control strategies. It's impossible to answer everything and preserve a life total when the most-played aggressive deck in the format is playing so many haste creatures.
Mono-Red is the obvious choice when you intend on being faster than your opponent. This deck performs well against the more controlling decks and the stock Black-Red list, but it struggles against midrange decks with Huntmaster of the Fells and Thragtusk.
_sprite_'s Green-Black Zombies
Black-Green Zombies was the deck to beat back in October when the format was still young and undefined. The deck's pure power level is extremely impressive and the current state of the format (midrange creature decks) makes it the best aggressive option for today.
Midrange in Standard
Midrange creature strategies were nowhere to be found in the previous weeks, but the recent decline in control strategies has opened up the door for a number of midrange creature decks to perform well. These are the most common strategies in the current Standard format.
This version of Naya can probably be categorized as aggro, but the presence of Garruk Relentless, Zealous Conscripts, and Bonfire of the Damned made me bunch it in with the midrange decks. Naya decks have become increasingly aggressive in an effort to improve all non-midrange matchups.
Grixis midrange put up decent numbers this past week and a quick look at the deck leaves nothing to be desired. The deck performs well against all creature decks and its post-sideboarded matchup against control decks is very reasonable. I expect this strategy to increase in popularity in the coming weeks. On a side note, have you ever Evil Twinned Angel of Serenity?
smalltownmagic's Four Color Stuff
This strategy was first popularized by Conley Woods when he managed to Top 8 Grand Prix San Antonio with a similar list. Smalltownmagic improved on Conley's innovative deck by adding Lingering Souls. This card gives the deck a tremendous amount of longevity in every matchup.
TheShafting's Four-Color Stuff
Conley's brews are like waterfalls, often spidering out into more archetypes in days. TheShafting chose to make the deck more controlling with this list.
Neptoon's Four-Color Navigator
Deadeye Navigator has a lot of crazy interactions in the current Standard format. Zealous Conscripts and Thragtusk seem to be lost and they need guidance more than any other creatures in Standard. Deadeye Navigator can navigate them to victory with a stroke of his oar.
robotbc's RUG Midrange
This is one of the more interesting decks to come out of Magic Online this past week. More than one individual managed to go undefeated in a Daily Event or Top 8 a Premier Event with a RUG deck that splashes black for the flashback on Forbidden Alchemy. Notice the presence of Silklash Spider! The combination of Nightshade Peddler and Izzet Staticaster makes this deck a powerhouse against creature decks, especially those that play little or no removal.
101DeMoNS's Green-White Midrange
Brad Nelson has written a bit about big green-white decks and their power against the more aggressive strategies in Standard. This deck performs very well against creature decks that aren't peddling nightshade, but it's unfortunate position against decks like Bant Control and Five-Color Control strategies makes it a risky proposition.
saitology's Jund Midrange
Saitology has been winning everything with Jund Midrange since the release of Return to Ravnica on Magic Online. The deck seems like it's always in a pretty good spot in the changing metagame and I wouldn't be surprised if it made a ninth-inning comeback in the last weeks of Return to Ravnica Standard.
schozoidman's WGB Tokens
Black-Green-White Tokens has been lingering around for quite some time, even snatching a 2nd-place finish at Grand Prix Charleston. This deck still has what it takes to compete. In fact, it has become significantly stronger with the variety of midrange decks in the field. The deck struggles against Izzet Staticaster and Bonfire of the Damned, but those are still a fairly small portion of the metagame.
Unburial Rites in Standard
There was a time where everyone was casting Unburial Rites for Angel of Serenity. Sideboards and main decks have changed to be able to handle this level of power. Unburial Rites strategies remain one of the biggest forces in the shaping of the metagame and they've become more diverse than ever. Let's take a look at some of the Unburial Rites decks from the last few weeks' Daily and Premier Events.
_Mindtrick_'s Nightshade Rites
This version of Unburial Rites was being seen a bit on the Internet in the last few weeks, but it really got a jolt in popularity when it managed to emerge victorious at Grand Prix Nagoya in the hands of Yuuji Okita. Izzet Staticaster and Nightshade Peddler give the deck a lot of free wins and the endgame plan of Unburial Rites on Angel of Glory's Rise in a deck full of Humans is quite impressive.
SlimHeavens's WGB Rites
This is more of a traditional Unburial Rites strategy for Standard. It's good to play carefully against this type of strategy because you can just get killed out of nowhere by Craterhoof Behemoth if you're not careful.
ashleybaden's Four-Color Rites
We've come to expect Four-Color Unburial Rites to play blue for Supreme Verdict and Forbidden Alchemy, but the strategy has began playing red for Faithless Looting, some spot removal, and a much better sideboard.
Control in Standard
Control decks have become passé in the current state of the Standard format. Raka Flash decks aren't truly control, but they're the closest thing we have to a control deck in the current state of the format.
mad03's Raka Flash
White-Blue Flash was considered, by many, to be the best deck in Standard a few weeks back. The deck has slowly shifted to play red since Gerry Thompson's impressive finish at Grand Prix San Antonio with a version of the deck that splashed red. Now, it's hard to find a White-Blue Flash deck that doesn't play red.
mindcandy's Five-Color Control
Five-Color Control was thought of as a joke deck until US National Champion Ali Aintrazi managed to go deep at Grand Prix Charleston with the archetype. The deck can struggle on the draw against more aggressive decks, but there's nothing that can compete with the deck's pure power level once it starts operating with all its cogs. After sideboarding, the deck can bring in a Door to Nothingness and just win the game in control matchups.
mattiasNL's Esper Control
Esper Control decks have lost a lot of their allure since the decline of control decks, which Esper Control performs well against. The deck has changed to be better positioned against creature decks and it proves that protecting Planeswalkers is still a viable strategy in Standard.
ninfo's Bant Control
How the mighty have fallen! Bant Control was the dominant archetype in Standard in mid-November and now it's practically nowhere to be found when looking through winning decklists. The deck has devolved and is once again packing Terminus and lots of Planeswalkers. This could be what the deck needs to compete against the new midrange format, but it still leaves the deck weak against Rakdos strategies.
Combo in Standard
I wouldn't have thought there were any combo decks in Standard, but a few different Burn at the Stake combo decks performed very well this week.
Giarola's Burn at the Stake Combo
The goal of this deck is to produce tons of tokens and cast Burn at the Stake for lethal damage. I put the deck together and played a few matches with it and I found that the deck struggles against Bonfire of the Damned and leans very hard on its Goblin Electromancers. I don't think the deck is quite consistent enough for me to recommend it to people, but I can tell you to immediately kill any Goblin Electromancer you see.
I hope you enjoyed this month's Standard Compendium. This is an excellent tool for anybody looking to become a Standard savant. Hit the forums or shoot me an email with questions or comments regarding this column.
Knowledge is power!
A new aggressive strategy has been bouncing around forums for the past week. We began seeing the deck in Premier Event Top 8s and atop the standings in Daily Events this past week. The green-splash-black aggressive deck is quickly proving itself to be a format contender.
emar8's G (splash B) Aggro
The deck performs well against the most aggressive decks of the format. Cards like Predator Ooze are uniquely well-suited for the current Standard environment. Against control decks, the deck gets to bring in Golgari Charm. Golgari Charm is one of the better sideboard cards in this format. It successfully wipes the board of Lingering Souls tokens, Snapcaster Mages, and Moorland Haunt tokens; or it counters Supreme Verdict; or it destroys a Detention Sphere on your opponent's endstep for a quick blowout. I'd strongly recommend this deck to players who enjoy mono-green stompy variants.