Evolutions in Standard

We had a large invite-only tournament last weekend on the StarCityGames circuit as well as one of their patented SCG Opens. In these events, we saw more of the same as well as some surprises.

To emphasize what I talked about last week, it’s important to sleeve up a deck that you feel comfortable playing. Although I have written countless articles in my career about the weekly metagame changes in Standard, the comfort factor is more important than having the “new tech.”

Izzet Staticaster
Before I go into the big decks from last weekend, I would like to follow up on some of the ideas that excited me last time.

  • Izzet Staticaster and Nightshade Peddler Combo – While the combo is powerful, I don’t think it’s strong enough to jam into a midrange strategy. The winning list at Grand Prix: Nagoya integrated the combo into reanimator, but my testing with the deck showed me how weak it was to graveyard hate. I should also note that drawing Nightshade Peddler was a little too frustrating at times to simply not play a deck of powerful spells. I did like a list that made Top 8 at the SCG Open I will discuss later on. You’re either all-in or all-out with this combo.
  • Naya with Sphinx's Revelation This deck was very powerful, but I had some trouble against aggressive starts. A cute interaction with Selesnya Charm and Kessig Wolf Run can take down opposing small creatures after pumping them. This deck is certainly more powerful against slow decks because aggro can beat you down before assembling all four colors.
  • Dark Naya – Since this deck doesn’t play Sphinx's Revelation, it should be built more aggressively. I noticed the lack of synergy between Thundermaw Hellkite and Revelation as they promote opposing views on how to play out the game. If I want to beat down, Dragon is good. If I want to grind out an advantage, Revelation has my back. Dark Naya wants to play Dragons and Smiters to get its beatdown on.

With that in mind, let’s talk about Standard!

SCG Invitational

Sphinx's Revelation
I love me a Sphinx's Revelation, but there was so much innovation in other archetypes, too. A key point to mention is the structure of the SCG Invitational. We saw a tournament filled with some of the best players in the U.S.A. who tend to mostly gravitate toward blue decks. This was a sixteen-round event, which means the more consistent decks will flourish. The fact that half of the rounds were Legacy, where blue decks tend to dominate, makes for a Top 8 with a blue skew. (I say this before every Invitational analysis and not necessarily because I know the results before I write the article.)

The best place to look for top Standard decks is not in the Top 8 because Legacy could have had a major impact on a particular player winning. SCG compiled a list of the best records for Standard, which makes my job a lot easier.

Matt Nass made some interesting changes to W/U Flash and finished in the Top 4:

This is technically a Flash deck, but it can put on the pressure early with Geist of Saint Traft. I have heard many players clamor over the power of Feeling of Dread, and Matt went up to two copies. Not only can you Thought Scour it, but it can put you ahead in a race against Thundermaw Hellkites and Falkenrath Aristocrats.

The lesson from this deck is that you can be aggressive with a Hallowed Fountain strategy without playing Steam Vents, too. Also notice Matt chose to exclude Runechanter's Pike because it can be risky to mill it with Thought Scour. Instead, he went up to three Sphinx's Revelations due to the high power level.

Lauren Nolen changed the traditional Bant control deck by adding Angel of Serenity.

The additional Restoration Angels provide enough creatures to return with Angel of Serenity against control. I’m never above blinking out an Augur of Bolas either. I like the extra Angels because you can close out a game early if the clock is getting you down. It can take a while to win with Reid’s deck, as you will see below.

Reid won $15,000 with the deck he has been playing forever. I wouldn’t recommend this particular list to many players, as it requires a fast yet precise pilot.

Nick Spagnolo loves to play a good control deck, and he didn’t disappoint, bringing a sweet Esper deck:

This deck plays four Nephalia Drownyard! If you want to play control but worry better players will beat you with Islands, bring this deck! I don’t care how good your Bant control opponent is, he won’t be beating all of these milling effects. With that said, Reid defeated Nick in the Top 8, but I don’t think you will find a more formidable Bant opponent.

I also like how Nick continues with the milling strategy by main-decking Jace, Memory Adept. It’s such a powerful sideboard card that it’s probably worth playing in your sixty.

Notice how good this deck can be against B/R Zombies, as Azorius Charm puts big threats on top and then can be milled by Nephalia Drownyard. With the addition of Ultimate Price, this deck can be the way of the future with regards to control.

Twenty-eight lands may seem high, but remember Bant plays four Farseek to put the deck up to thirty sources. When your game plan is to mill with Drownyard, missing mana is not an option.

Leon Kornacki gave an innovative twist to Zombies: adding green!

If I could describe this deck in one word, it would be “smart.”

After following the Legacy coverage, I saw Deathrite Shaman winning games left and right. The addition of Grisly Salvage allows Deathrite Shaman to have enough fuel to be a legitimate threat.

Fetch lands? Who needs ’em!? Milling four out of five cards will allow for mana generation as well as spells to fling at your opponent's head.

This deck is all-in on playing 1-drop threats:

4 Deathrite Shaman
3 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rancor
4 Diregraf Ghoul
4 Gravecrawler

If you want to smash face but don’t want to invest in Falkenrath Aristocrat, this is the deck for you!

Jon Job managed to 8–0 Standard with this Naya list:

If you like midrange, give Borderland Ranger a try, as they have been picking up steam (I’ve been impressed so far). I like that Jon cut down to three Huntmasters, as they can be low-impact and vulnerable to sweepers.

Ben Weinberg made the finals of the Invitational with a Naya Humans deck:

Since Zombies has been showing up less, a Silverblade Paladin deck was able to make it to the top. I really like the way most of the Humans have enters-the-battlefield effects to abuse with Restoration Angel. Notice Ben also decided to cut down to three Huntmasters (I smell a future trend).

Another exciting trend with this event is the lack of B/R Zombies as top performers. It appears this deck is beatable, as spot removal can handle the large, hasty threats.

SCG Open: Los Angeles

Corey Burkheart managed to Top 8 with a cool Izzet Staticaster deck. He wants to assemble the combo, but he also plays four copies of Olivia Voldaren for consistency, making Nightshade Peddler less embarrassing.

Another great way to abuse Deathrite Shaman: Tracker's Instincts. The moral of the story is that you should be able to take advantage of the mana ability if you’re main-decking Deathrite Shaman. Another option for this is Forbidden Alchemy, and we could see more of that after Gatecrash is released.

Although this is a four-color deck, it only needs black mana for Rakdos's Return and Olivia. The life-loss ability from Deathrite Shaman also requires black, but it’s key to require the fourth color later in the game to avoid being color screwed.

Ian Kendall won the Open with mono-red-splash-black:

Don’t have enough black mana for Geralf's Messenger? No problem; just play Hellhole Flailer! This card can hit pretty hard even though it’s not as powerful as the Messenger. I see a trend of base-red aggressive decks, as they’re favored against Zombies.

Keep in mind the mana isn’t that bad because a Cavern of Souls on Human casts both Ash Zealot and Knight of Infamy.

Ken Yakota made Top 8 of the open with this bad boy:

When I was playing Naya midrange with Sphinx's Revelation as a splash, I had a difficult time against Geist of Saint Traft. There were many games in which my only removal was damage-based to handle a Zombie horde, and a hexproof beater killed me.

This looks like a good direction for G/W, as it has plenty of ways to protect Geist from blocks. The seamless addition of Knight of Glory also makes for a good metagame call if Zombies are big in your area.

If you like Humans decks, give Matt Firek’s list a try, as he made Top 8 of the Open:

I haven’t seen Wingcrafter played in a while, but it’s very solid with Geist of Saint Traft. Precinct Captain also benefits from evasion as he assembles an army of tokens. It’s also a Human to pump up Champion of the Parish and cast off Cavern of Souls.

We have been seeing a trend of small creatures rushing the opponent. B/G Zombies plays a ton of aggressive 1-drops to kill before Thragtusks ever come into play. Matt uses his critical mass of weenies to deal massive amounts of damage with Rally the Peasants.

Aggro is more than capable of handling the big threats control can dish out at them, but beware of Supreme Verdict. I would play five sweepers in the main deck to handle the early rush.

OmniDoor ThragFire

This deck was created by Derek Adams, presented by Travis Woo, and showcased by LSV. This deck’s fun level is off the charts:

This is Brad Nelson’s take on the list, but it’s pretty much the same deck. Notice how Fog acts as a Feeling of Dread. It can take some time to set up these ridiculous plays, and sometimes, an extra turn is all you need.

Recap

Omniscience
I covered a ton of decks in a short amount of time, so let’s do a recap of where the metagame stands:

  • Bant control is still good, but Reid Duke makes it look all too easy.
  • Esper control looks to be well positioned against control and giant, hasty threats.
  • Feeling of Dread and Fog made an appearance as ways to prevent hasty monsters from dealing damage before they die to Supreme Verdict.
  • Reanimator had a bad showing this weekend, but that was to be expected, as the field made sure to not lose to the graveyard after a Grand Prix victory (note Reid Duke’s main-decked Rest in Peace).
  • B/R Zombies has finally taken a break in Standard, as green was the splash of choice.
  • Red Deck Wins has taken the place of the hasty threat deck with Hellrider, Falkenrath Aristocrat, and Thundermaw Hellkite.
  • Jon Job showed us Naya shouldn’t be tainted by a fourth color.
  • Corey Burkhart had a solid plan of using Izzet Staticaster plus Nightshade Peddler. If that combo looks fun to you, give his list a try.
  • This was a great weekend to be a fan of Humans, as they came in all shapes and sizes.
  • OmniDoor ThragFire makes it all right for you to name your deck something silly. Go nuts, and post in the comments.
  • It’s a great time to be playing Standard!

Thanks for reading,
Kyle

kmboggemesATgmailDOTcom