Bow Down to the Gods of Standard

Standard is a format currently defined by its deities. The best decks (with the exception of vanilla Temur Energy) have all gravitated toward one of two Gods to which they declare their allegiance. If this is what Wizards of the Coast intended when they were plotting out the structure of Standard, they were right on the mark, because the two best Gods are socking away at each other as the major poles of the format, and they show little sign of abatement. Duel Decks: Hazoret the Fervent vs. The Scarab God is a fine subtitle for our Standard format, and it’s high time the players appreciate that fact.

Hazoret the Fervent
The Scarab God

Now, most everyone knows how Hazoret works. If you wish to end a game quickly, there’s no better God than the 5/4 indestructible hasty creature. Ramunap Red, Mardu Vehicles, and various forms of {B}{R} Aggro all employ Hazoret to great effect, and it’s only thanks to the existence of Vraska’s Contempt and Whirler Virtuoso that Hazoret hasn’t completely taken control of Standard. With Trey Van Cleave’s new version of Red, with full complements of the Virtuoso-hating Rampaging Ferocidon and Harsh Mentor, even Temur Energy can fall behind and be unable to stabilize. His list is easily the choice going forward, as it maintains the aggression Red is famous for, with the right hate permanents to stifle the effectiveness of the common countermeasures to Red.


With a metagame overrun with Energy decks, it makes perfect sense to reduce the number of cards that get brickwalled by Whirler Virtuoso (Ahn-Crop Crasher, Kari Zev, Skyship Raider) and increase the number of cards that punish all the Energy-based activated abilities so prevalent in that deck. Additionally, this particular list is incidentally great against Pascal Maynard’s {W}{U} God-Pharaoh’s Gift, Abzan Tokens, and any other low-removal decks that hope to clog the board and gain life in order to defeat Red. Rampaging Ferocidon, Abrade, and Scavenger Grounds put the kibosh on any God-Pharaoh’s Gift shenanigans, while the deck is generally set up well to beat any opponent wasting time casting Strategic Planning and Chart a Course in the early turns. Kudos to Trey on a well-built deck, and I fully expect to see this list become the norm in the coming weeks.

But Ramunap Red isn’t the only observant Hazoret archetype, because Mardu Vehicles has quietly acquired a Top 4 finish in both the Pro Tour and recent Grand Prix. Lawrence Vess followed up on Samuel Ihlenfeldt’s Pro Tour finish with another strong result for an underplayed archetype:


Ah, the classic “Rampaging Ferocidon + Cartouche of Ambition” deck! Seriously, though, where straight Red gains in a clean mana base and a lower curve, Mardu Vehicles has more resilient, powerful individual threats and the card Unlicensed Disintegration, which is reason enough to play it. In a classic contest between consistency and power, Mardu is the more powerful choice, and though I personally prefer Samuel Ihlenfeldt’s three Hazorets to Lawrence Vess’ 1-1 split, the fact remains that Mardu is a reasonable choice for a player who likes their midrange decks to verge on aggro, or their aggro decks to have a spectacular midrange plan.

Of course, there are only two real flavors of Hazoret in Standard, but there are at least five different distinct archetypes featuring the flavorful and fun Scarab God. The element of an unkillable mana-sink is hard to ignore, and there are a ton of reasons to love each of the following decks for how they employ this premier threat as their endgame.

1: Sultai Energy

Seth Manfield’s Pro Tour-winning Sultai Energy deck is more lean, low to the ground, and focused on tempo plays on the third and fourth turns, but a single maindeck copy of The Scarab God offers a mana sink and an all-in-one gameplan. The best part is, because it’s only a singleton, many opponents will be particularly vulnerable to a careful sequence that walks them into a losing position against that card specifically. Hostage Taker, Blossoming Defense, and The Scarab God all play so well together, it’s no surprise to see Seth using them in concert to pull together a win at the highest level of the game. Then, with a second copy in the sideboard, Seth is well-prepared to shift gears as matchups slow down for the second and third games, with more mana sinks and sturdy, resilient individual threats to bank on for his wins. Kudos to Seth on bringing The Scarab God the glory it so richly deserves!

2: Four-Color Energy

Petr Sochurek’s greedy Four-Color list doesn’t just employ The Scarab God as a top-end mana-sink and incredible threat, but it goes up even more for Vraska, Relic Seeker and even Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh for its end-game. What an incredible way to use the excessive mana in the deck (which plays a full thirty mana sources, as is the standard for Energy decks nowadays).


Petr’s got Planeswalkers, he’s got Gods, he’s got Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, he’s got Glorybringer. If there is a four-mana+ mythic in his colors, he’s likely playing it in this beautiful monstrosity, and there’s a good chance you should be playing it as well. With such a high density of must-answer threats, Petr’s going to be favored going long against just about every other Energy shell out there, and with a high density of removal (eight, count them, eight maindeck instants to kill creatures), he’s highly likely to end up getting to the late game where he can dominate. The fact of the matter is, regular Temur Energy decks have no way to ameliorate mana flood going long, and with thirty mana sources it makes sense that in a large number of games the deck will simply run out of gas. Four-Color Energy has planeswalkers and The Scarab God to slowly grind the life out of every other semi-mirror, and that’s one of the best reasons to play it over one of the leaner three-color versions. One of my favorite angles in midrange mirrors is to go slightly bigger, to have more card draw or more mana sinks or unanswerable threats, and Petr understands that principle well. If Attune with Aether is your cup of tea this weekend, I highly recommend Petr’s wacky list, with so many different threats that it will be impossible for opponents to play around them all.

3: U/B Control

A holdover from the World Championships, the fact that this deck has lost so much press is a bit puzzling, as it still maintains a potent matchup against the Energy shells with its smooth countermagic into Torrential Gearhulk as well as the Swiss Army Knife of The Scarab God:


Too quickly we forget how good a deck with a few counterspells backed up by Search for Azcanta or Torrential Gearhulk could be, and though it sports a relatively weak matchup against Mono-Red, there are ways to shore up that weakness involving an eight-pack of lifelinking 2-drops. Contraband Kingpin and Gifted Aetherborn are both great inclusions, and a bunch of those backed up with removal and counterspells is more than enough to get a win. In fact, one of The Scarab God’s best friends is Gifted Aetherborn, for both the fact that a low-cost lifelinker is a great roadbloack to buy time for the God to come down, and for the fact that a 4/4 lifelink+deathtouch Zombie is a tremendous way to turn the corner once The Scarab God is doing its thing. As such, it makes sense that the best decks for the God are closer to midrange piles, and less pure control.

4: U/B Gift

The deck Travis Woo, Mattia Rizzi, and I all played at the Pro Tour, this is the first real deck with The Scarab God as a centerpiece on the list, and one of a cluster of decks that tries to actually maximize the powerful mythic. With The Scarab God and God-Pharaoh’s Gift together, there’s no shortage of amazing comebacks that you can pull off, involving reanimating two or three creatures in a single turn and developing an imposing board from nothing at all. The best of a macro-archetype that includes Esper Gift, {W}{U} Gift, and various Jaberwocki midrange brews, {U}{B} Gift got Travis a reasonable 7-3 record at the Pro Tour, and might do even better with more testing and tuning. Where we last left off, the list looked like this:


The biggest problems I began noticing when playing this deck were the following: The deck has no source of card advantage early, and can often run out of impactful spells very quickly off a mulligan. Ramunap Red embraces mulligans as ways to pump out an attacking Hazoret faster, and Temur Energy has Rogue Refiner to un-mulligan quickly and easily. Even Esper Gift can unmulligan itself off a Seekers’ Squire trigger. Combine that with the fact that a Gate to the Afterlife is essentially a mulligan without any synergistic pieces to enable it to go off, and suddenly there are a lot of hands that just run out of gas without doing much. The deck also needs to hit its land drops, but too often it misses on the fourth or fifth, and that is unacceptable. Essentially, where other decks have built-in ways of ameliorating mana issues, this deck is just left casting its spells and hoping that they were drawn in the right order. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Chart a Course are possible answers, but there is not really room for more non-creature spells in a deck focused on getting six creatures in the graveyard, and Siphoner is not great if you are playing from behind (as you often are with this deck!). It’s possible to cut a land, a Gift, a Freebooter and a Trophy Mage for Chart a Courses or Glint-Sleeve Siphoners, and that might be the next direction to take the deck, but a Jaberwocki brew from the recent MOCS event caught my eye, and it might just be the ultimate Scarab God Deck . . . 

5: U/B Midrange


This is my frontrunner for the upcoming Team Open in Baltimore, as it plays the maximum number of The Scarab Gods, so it must be great! (Isn’t that how these things work?) The deck is smooth as butter, with a ton of great ways to keep cards flowing and a stellar “protect the Queen” strategy. Essentially, you are just playing disruptive elements to force the opponent to deal with those, before dropping a bunch of snowball-esque cards like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Hostage Taker, and The Scarab God. All of these cards run away with the game quickly if left unchecked, and Duresses and Kitesail Freebooters give you the proper information for how to sculpt a game plan to best sneak through these gamebreakers.

Essentially, this last deck subscribes to one overriding principle. If you win every game in which The Scarab God gets to do its thing, doesn’t it just make sense to design a deck that gets the God going as quickly and consistently as possible, with as many cards designed to draw removal away from the big bug as possible? {U}{B} Midrange pushes that idea to the extreme, and it seems poised to take the crown of “best deck in Standard” away from plain-jane Temur Energy once and for all.

Standard is in a more interesting place now than many would admit on first glance. If the arms race between Energy shells continues, it is only a matter of time before the biggest and best God makes its presence at the top of the format unquestioned. At that point, it will be on the followers of Hazoret to reinstate their deity at the peak, but there stand to be a great many twists and turns in the next few weeks as the format evolves. The one great truth that all must hear, though, is clear: Standard is in a war of deities more intense than any medieval crusade, or any eschatological Biblical horror story. It’s come down to the ultimate showdown. Hazoret vs. The Scarab God: Name a better rivalry. I’ll wait.


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