The CCC Cycle in Standard

The cycle of CCC cards (CCC referring to a mana cost of 3 of the same color) from Dominaria were always expected to make waves in Standard. So far, Goblin Chainwhirler has stolen the show, dominating the format in various flavors of red aggro and midrange decks.

The aperture has widened a little bit since the release of Guilds of Ravnica, however, and now the other CCC cards are starting to see more play than before. Well, not all of them, as I’ll discuss. Still, these cards are doubtlessly powerful, so it’s worth investigating if they’re all being used to their best effect.

Goblin Chainwhirler

Snore. Everyone knows this card is bonkers, and that hasn’t changed since rotation. Red decks are still performing strongly, and this Goblin is still out there whirling his chains. Zzzz.

Mono-Red Aggro

11_jaguar_11, 5-0 in a Competitive Standard League

Risk Factor and Experimental Frenzy are critical new pickups for this post-rotation red list, but Goblin Chainwhirler is largely doing the same thing as ever, so there’s not much to discuss here. While the deck is somewhat new and has updated angles of attack, Chainwhirler has more or less the same role as before. Let’s move on.

Steel Leaf Champion

Steel Leaf Stompy decks were held in check before rotation because of Goblin Chainwhirler being so effective against green decks and their Llanowar Elves. New green decks are bucking this trend, however, and a new cast of characters are joining the turn-2 Steel Leaf Champion and helping to put green decks back on the map.

Steel Leaf Stompy

_goblinlackey, 5-0 in a Competitive Standard League

Llanowar Elves into Steel Leaf Champion is a massive play, demanding an immediate answer like Lava Coil. With the addition of so many other huge green threats, there’s now enough incentive to play the mighty—but very fragile—Llanowar Elves. Pelt Collector and Nullhide Ferox have both been massive shots in the arm for ailing green decks, and Steel Leaf Champion is getting it done once again as the premier green 3-drop.

The renewed presence of Steel Leaf Champion has important implications for the format as a whole. The threat of facing a 5/4 on turn 2 isn’t something that any deck can afford to ignore. The quickest red deck on the planet will have trouble getting under it, and slow control decks will take 10-15 damage before being able to stabilize properly. Additionally, its evasive upside against small creatures causes headaches even for token decks.

While there are efficient answers to Steel Leaf ChampionLava Coil, Cast Down, etc.—it remains a real force to be reckoned with. Ensure that your Standard deck has what it takes to beat a turn-2 Champion, because you’ll be seeing more and more of them, regardless of how fragile Llanowar Elves might be.

Benalish Marshal

My personal favorite of all the CCC cards is—at long last—getting a bit of airtime. A Glorious Anthem that can attack and block is no joke, and when paired with go-wide cards such as March of the Multitudes or Emmara, Soul of the Accord, things get out of hand quickly.

Selesnya Tokens

Redzone91, 5-0 in a Competitive Standard League

Of course, the most important aspect of the +1/+1 effect is its interaction with another CCC card: Goblin Chainwhirler. With a Benalish Marshal, no longer can a massive March of the Multitudes be undone with a single Chainwhirler trigger—preventing tokens being swept away by 1 damage effects is incredibly important, given the preponderance of red decks.

The only trade-off is the loss of many of the best green token producers. Hunted Witness and Legion’s Landing are fine, but losing cards like Saproling Migration is a real cost. The heavy white commitment required to play the Marshal is not irrelevant, but the payoff is tremendous, as it often comes close to doubling your total on-board power and toughness.

Tempest Djinn

Somehow, the Ken Yukuhiro special survived rotation, despite the loss of the Herculean all-star, Slither Blade. It turns out that playing an evasive 1-drop and slapping a Curious Obsession on it can still win you games.

Mono-Blue Tempo

Waterd, 5-0 in a Competitive Standard League

Just as with mono-red aggro, not much has changed when it comes to this particular CCC card. Tempest Djinn is something of a plan B for Mono-Blue Tempo as a massive end-game threat powered up by a mana base that consists solely of Islands. Protecting threats like Tempest Djinn with Dive Down and countermagic is the name of the game, and it doesn’t take too long for the Djinn to end things as the game goes longer.

The most interesting thing about this list is how little it has been impacted by Guilds of Ravnica. It’s still a fringe player, and that may be because it didn’t get many exciting new toys. As you can see, the list above actually played zero Guilds cards. Some decks have included Nightveil Sprite and post-board Disdainful Strokes, but on the whole, not much has changed since Yukuhiro surprised us all with his deck choice in Las Vegas.

Unfortunately, I don’t think it gets much better than this for Tempest Djinn. Unlike the other CCC cards, the Djinn demands a mono-colored, basics-only mana base. Whereas it’s possible to splash green while playing Benalish Marshal or black while playing Steel Leaf Champion, you’re locked into mono-blue with Tempest Djinn. As a result, lists including the card will lack dimension. I think we’re looking at the ceiling of Tempest Djinn’s potential in Standard.

Dread Shade

Last—and certainly least—is poor old Dread Shade. With the printing of Cabal Stronghold in Dominaria, many thought they might live the dream of yesteryear and bring back Mono-Black Control. It hasn’t happened—yet.

Mono-Black Control

Riley Knight

Perhaps this isn’t quite control, but mono-black midrange doesn’t have the same ring to it. Needless to say, black has access to the best point removal in the format, and that’s been bolstered by Ritual of Soot, an incredibly effective sweeper against aggressive decks, as well as smaller midrange decks.

On top of these board-management spells, black’s threats are top-tier. Not only is Doom Whisperer already cracking skulls up and down Standard, Dread Shade is particularly powerful in this deck thanks to its interaction with Cabal Stronghold. Once the game is on lock, you don’t have to worry about grinding out a Teferi emblem or nickel-and-diming them over a billion turns. You can just one-shot ’em with a juiced-up Dread Shade.

Is this list a little optimistic? Perhaps. There are plenty of reasons to play blue (Notion Rain, countermagic) or green (explore subtheme), but the purity—and the sweetness—of a mono-black list like this can’t be denied!

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