Perilous_Research

Catching up with Standard

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The letter W!elcome back to Perilous Research! Over the last few weeks, we've been focusing on Modern in preparation for Pro Tour Born of the Gods. With the Pro Tour in the books, we can refocus on lenses on the Standard format. A lot has changed in Standard since we last visited the format. Born of the Gods has encouraged many strategies to shift gears or add new colors while simultaneously creating a number of new and viable strategies for the format. Today, we'll be looking at the landscape of the new Standard format by discussing decklists that have performed particularly well in recent Magic Online events.

Many of us expected Black Devotion strategies that were already a dominant force in the Standard format to snowball in terms of strength with the release of cards like Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow. As it turns out, this has not been the case. Black Devotion remains strong, but cards like Courser of Kruphix and hexproof creatures that punish the Black Devotion strategies for cutting Devour Flesh are quite good.

Let's take a look at the new face of Standard's archetypes!

Naya Auras

Zeanith's Naya Auras
Standard – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #6767372


Aura strategies have been around for the last few years with scattered success, but we haven't seen many Aura strategies since Theros was released. This is about the most dedicated Aura strategy we've seen in some time. The deck thrives on the fact that Black Devotion strategies have "upgraded" their Devour Flesh in Bile Blight. Strapping a lot of Auras onto a creature with hexproof seems like a good plan with fewer Supreme Verdicts in the face of Ephara, God of the Polis and fewer Devour Flesh in a world with better spot removal.


Black Devotion

jmoore13's Black Devotion
Standard – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #6767372


The king is dead. Long live the king! Black Devotion decks were able to upgrade their removal spells to include a play set of Bile Blight with the release of Born of the Gods. However, the deck does have trouble with Ephara, God of the Polis's constant stream of card advantage and the new wave of Control and Hexproof strategies seem to be reasonably matched up here as well. That being said, nothing has a very good matchup against four Underworld Connections. Sure, the deck may not be as dominant as it once was, but that doesn't mean it isn't the best deck in the current Standard.


Maze's End Fog


This is the end. Maze's End was a very successful Block Constructed strategy that had trouble being successful in Standard because of cards like Acidic Slime that we no longer need to worry about. The deck aims to use board-clearing effects like Merciless Eviction/Supreme Verdict and combat-damage prevention like Fog and Riot Control to prolong the game to a point where it can achieve victory by activating Maze's End. The new Standard has slowed down a bit and it seems like a perfect time for the Maze's End decks to come in and ruin everyone's day. We shouldn't be surprised if this deck had a lot of success in the coming week.


Esper Humans


I've played a lot of games with the Esper Humans deck and we should be confident that it's one of the most powerful Standard strategies when everything goes according to plan. Ephara, God of the Polis is one of the very best cards in the new Standard and it combos very nicely with cards like Precinct Captain, Xathrid Necromancer, and Obzedat, Ghost Council. We can expect this deck's success to be inversely correlated with Blue Devotion decks. Blue Devotion strategies are very strong against this deck unless it's able to curve out into an Obzedat, Ghost Council and take over the game.


Red Devotion

Hitcliff's Red Devotion
Standard – 1st Place, Magic Online Premier #6767332


Red Devotion decks have taken a pretty nasty hit with the release of Born of the Gods. Cards like Bile Blight and Drown in Sorrow are very strong against Boros Reckoner, Ash Zealot, and Burning-Tree Emissary chains. We can expect red strategies to become more focused on a burn plan in the coming weeks so long as Black Devotion remains popular, which should be a safe assumption.


Orzhov Haymakers

Brotato's Orzhov Haymakers
Standard – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #6767359


White-Black midrange strategies have been popular since the deck was able to emerge victorious at Grand Prix Dallas a few months ago. Since then, the deck has begun playing some number of Elspeth, Sun's Champion in most cases, in addition to adding Bile Blight to its removal suite. The deck is very similar to Black Devotion, but Obzedat, Ghost Council makes the deck better positioned to handle control opponents than its more consistent mono-black cousins.


Esper Control

javersonlai's Esper Control
Standard – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #6767359


Esper Control has changed very little with the release of Born of the Gods. The deck plays a lot of the most powerful cards in the current Standard format, but most of the best threats in Standard require fairly specific answers and it isn't unusual for the Esper Control deck to lose games when it has plenty of lands and a lot of cards in hand. That being said, this is still a tremendously powerful strategy that will always be capable of beating any opponent as long as it draws its cards in the correct order.


Gruul Monsters

SacrieR's Gruul Monsters
Standard – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #6767359


Gruul Monsters has become very good now that it gets to play with Courser of Kruphix. Courser of Kruphix is one of the better cards in Standard and it combos nicely with Domri Rade, a card that would have already been played as a four-of in this type of deck. The deck has everything a good Magic player could desire: card-advantage engines, aggression, and a strong plan for a long game. The deck transitions roles fluidly, and may be one of the more difficult decks to pilot in the current Standard.


Azorius Control

n1n's Azorius Control
Standard – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #6767359


White-Blue Control was easily the best control strategy in Standard before Born of the Gods. The deck aims to control the game with interactive cards before taking over with a big Sphinx's Revelation and unlimited Elspeth, Sun's Champions thanks to Elixir of Immortality. The deck has weakened now that Red-Green Monsters has picked up steam with its Stormbreath Dragons, but we can expect it to rise to power again when Black Devotion decks try to take over.


Blue Devotion


At first glance, it didn't seem like Blue Devotion decks picked up a lot in Born of the Gods. The deck tries to play a very aggressive game and tighten the screws on victory with a haymakers Thassa, God of the Sea or Master of Waves. Ephara, God of the Polis gives the deck a much-needed card-advantage engine that lets it win long games that used to be far out of its grasp. We should expect most Blue Devotion players to adopt Ephara, God of the Polis and Detention Sphere in the not-too-distant future.


Burn!

Masa8's Burn!
Standard – 4–0, Magic Online Daily #6767359


Despite an early Grand Prix victory, burn strategies didn't have a ton of success in Theros Standard. Born of the Gods strongly encourages players to move away from Burning-Tree Emissary and Ash Zealot and we should start seeing more burn in the coming weeks if players want to stand a chance against the Black Devotion strategies that seem to make up the majority of the new Standard environment.


Born of the Gods has shifted the landscape of the Standard format. Black Devotion decks that seemed to be taking over are being unseated by decks that take full advantage of Ephara, God of the Polis; Courser of Kruphix; and hexproof creatures. In the coming weeks, we'll continue to explore the new Standard environment and keep our fingers on the pulse of the metagame!

Knowledge is power!

We should be sure to check out all the exciting coverage from Pro Tour Born of the Gods if we were unable to follow along with all of the action. Modern is an exciting format that truly tests the skills of great players and watching the game be played at the highest level is sure to improve our abilities.




 
Jacob Van Lunen
Jacob Van Lunen
@JVLTMS
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Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published.

 
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