Hello from São Paulo, where I’m writing this after a weekend of text coverage at the Grand Prix. We had a bunch of nice content, such as a piece on how “Papa” Willy Edel manages a newborn son alongside a full-fledged Pro career and a list of 7 ways to beat Esper Dragons besides Deck Techs and features. In the end, PVDDR claimed the trophy while showing his continued dominance with Esper Dragons, but the Standard format contains so much more. In this article, I’ll share several rogue, yet competitive decks.
As a whole, Standard consists of four main pillars right now:
- Esper Dragons
- Red Aggro (with or without Atarka’s Command)
- Abzan Aggro
- Megamorph (mostly in Abzan or Bant flavors)
The next tier of decks is wide and consists of RG Dragons, Abzan Control, Bant Heroic, Green Devotion, Jeskai Tokens, Sidisi-Whip, Mardu Midrange, and GW Company. I was particularly happy to see GW Company with Deathmist Raptor and fewer Nykthos, as I suggested last week, do well: Craig Wescoe made Top 8 in Toronto and both Guilherme Manzano Silva Leite and Vagner Casatti finished in the Top 16 in São Paulo.
With Grand Prix Paris on the horizon, which Standard brew is due for a breakout finish next? The thing is, I’ve come across so many sweet decks recently, I can’t choose! So instead of focusing on one deck in particular this week, I’ll do a rundown of five that have stood out to me.
Lukasz Wlodarczyk’s Abzan Rally – 7th at the RPTQ in Prague
After Satyr Wayfinder, this deck aims to cast Rally the Ancestors for, say, two Siege Rhino, Gray Merchant of Asphodel, and Mogis’s Marauder. That’s an 11-point drain and a 12-point hasty attack—good game! Since Rally is an instant, it can be cast when the opponent taps out for Dig Through Time and lacks Silumgar’s Scorn mana.
Right now, the deck may not be positioned ideally as people add Anafenza and Perilous Vault to their decks to exile Deathmist Raptor, but it’s still pretty cool. In total, three Rally the Ancestors players made Top 8 at the RPTQs last weekend: Zach Jesse in Greensboro, Michael Blair in Madison, and Lukasz Wlodarczyk in Prague. I like Lukasz’s list the best, in particular the Deathmist Raptors and mana accelerators. The only suggestion I have is Merciless Executioner for the sideboard because it’s a good answer to Dragonlord Ojutai while synergizing with Rally the Ancestors.
James Wray’s Naya Heroic – 11-4 at Grand Prix Toronto
I’ve been waiting for a good Become Immense + Temur Battle Rage deck to appear. I toyed around with Prophetic Flamespeaker while testing for the Pro Tour, but that never worked out. James Wray, who went undefeated in Toronto on Saturday before stumbling on Sunday, put the combo in a Favored Hoplite shell. Instead of Battlewise Hoplite and Ordeal of Thassa, you have Warriors’ Lesson plus Temur Battle Rage as your card advantage combo.
I have two suggestions for the creature base. First, I would like to have at least 14 creatures in a deck like this. You have to mulligan most hands without a heroic creature, and 12 is too few in my opinion. Second, looking at the curve, I think this deck can afford a few 2-plus-mana creatures. Seeker of the Way is an option, but Monastery Mentor in particular may be valuable because it can protect you from Foul-Tongue Invocation.
Nicholas Damian’s Mono-Blue Ensoul Devotion – 11-4 at Grand Prix Sao Paulo
As Nicholas Damian told me, he had been out of competitive Magic for a while, copied this main deck from an online discussion forum, drew up a sideboard himself, and went to battle. As it turns out, his maindeck matches a list recently proposed by Travis Woo, so it is likely that Travis’s list was the source for Damian’s deck.
While testing for the Pro Tour, I tried various blue devotion lists. Shorecrasher Elemental was okay, but the problem was that Standard contains too many efficient removal spells for synergy-driven decks to succeed. Ornithopter and Ensoul Artifact are not well positioned for that reason, and I preferred a version with Collected Company and Silumgar Sorcerer. Still, I didn’t like it enough.
So what changed? The rise of Red Aggro and the low-on-removal Bant Megamorph, that’s what! Master of Waves is an excellent card against those decks, and Blue Devotion is the best shell for Master. The best build, however, remains to be found.
Guido Barlaro’s Grixis Dragons – 11-3-1 at Grand Prix Sao Paulo
Grixis is the new color combination for a Dragon deck. Compared to Esper Dragons, it gains Anger of the Gods, Thunderbreak Regent, and Draconic Roar in exchange for Dragonlord Ojutai. When everyone is cutting Hero’s Downfall for Self-Inflicted Wound and/or moving toward Deathmist Raptor, the red Dragons and exile spell may just be better. Grixis is an interesting option, and the metagame is moving into a direction that might make it a good choice.
Thiago Bonfim Moreira’s Mono-Red Devotion– 11-4 at Grand Prix Sao Paulo
Finally, we have a deck that is reminiscent of Raphael Levy’s Big Red deck, but with more devotion in Fanatic of Mogis and more Dragon synergy in Stormbreath Dragon and Draconic Roar. In exchange, the curve is higher, lacking early drops like Zurgo Bellstriker and Lightning Berserker. There must be a good midrange Mono-Red build somewhere in the middle.
All of these brews look like a lot of fun, and all of them have the surprise factor. Other decks may be more powerful in the abstract, but you gain back those percentage points if your opponents don’t know what to expect, don’t know how to play against you, and don’t know how to sideboard. Don’t underestimate the surprise value!
In the next two weeks, I intend to focus in more detail on two of these brews. You can help me decide. If you’d like me to test and tweak one of these decks, then let me know in the comments!