I’ve spent the last week grinding Standard. My schedule for the past couple days was wake up, wash up, eat something, play Magic Online, watch a movie before going to bed, and fall asleep 20 minutes into watching the movie. I don’t really have a Standard tournament to prepare for, but I haven’t been playing well lately, so I just want to get ready for the upcoming Pro Tour and brush up on my Magic skills. It also helps that Standard is a lot of fun right now. There are a bunch of things going in every single game.
Deckbuilding, and sideboarding along with it, are very tricky. I admit that I don’t have things figured out yet, and I’ve been struggling in the MTGO Leagues.
I’ve tried various decks, starting with all of the tier 1 options: Mardu, Zombies, Temur Energy, and B/G Energy. I tried a bunch of brews like Abzan Tokens, Metalwork Colossus, B/W Control, and Temur Emerge. Of those, B/W Control seemed like it had the most potential, but it has a problem with being too inconsistent. I started with a deck list I found on Dylan Donegan’s Twitter, and here’s where I am now.
Of all the decks I mentioned, I spent the most time on Temur Energy. I went over bunch of variations and versions of the deck. I also feel that my version is a bit different than the stock lists, so that’s what I’ll be talking about today. First, the deck list:
Let’s break it down. The biggest difference between the stock lists and the one I’m playing is the absence of Longtusk Cub. Instead, I’m playing the full set of Channeler Initiate. Now the pros of Cub are that sometimes you have bunch of energy lying around and it becomes a huge threat that will win you the game. Sometimes your opponent will stumble and it’s going to get you a free win. Still, I like the consistency of Initiate more—this deck is mana hungry so you can always use the extra mana. I also hate having Cub on the draw while Initiate helps you catch up. I’m not 100% sure, but so far every time I tried Cub I was disappointed. For now, I’m sticking with Initiate.
I have 2 copies of Rhonas the Indomitable. I originally tried one in the sideboard as a card I thought might be decent in the mirror. I didn’t have high hopes, but it overperformed. Overall, this Standard format is super fast, at least in the preboard games. So whenever you can curve out Rhonas into Hydra it’s great. The green God also helps in the post-board games, as one of the best cards against you is Fumigate.
The last piece is the main-deck Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. I said last week that I think this card is going to be great, and it lived up to my expectations. The reason it’s so good is that it’s so hard to kill. It basically dies only to Harnessed Lightning while blanking removal like Fatal Push, Grasp of Darkness, Glorybringer, Cut // Ribbons, and Dark Salvation. Also, Standard is all about creatures, so having one card that goes over the top has proven effective.
The rest of the main deck is pretty normal. I used to have 2 Magma Sprays, but now I’m trying 1 Spray and 1 Cut to help against the B/G Energy deck. I also played 4 Glorybringers for the longest time, but I wanted to make space for my 5-drops that I bring in post-board, so I cut down to 3.
Cards I’m Not Playing
Whirler Virtuoso: I had Virtuoso in my deck forever, then realized I’m basically siding it out in every matchup. It’s good in races where you can create 2 chump blockers in a crucial turn, but the card is just weak overall. Paying 3 energy to get a 1/1 flyer is just too bad of a deal.
Elder Deep-Fiend: I played just 1 or 2 Leagues with this card, but it seemed terrible to me. It feels like there is never time to cast it and the 5/6 body isn’t all that impressive. I’d recommend playing this card only in combination with Kozilek’s Return.
Blossoming Defense: Too situational—you don’t have enough cards you want to protect anyway as your best threat already has hexproof built in. It could potentially be good in the Cub version.
Essence Scatter: Another situational card. I thought it would be good in the mirror, but then my opponent tapped 5, played Flagship, and I was just sad looking at my hand.
2 Magma Spray, 2 Sweltering Suns, 2 Chandra, Flamecaller, 2 Radiant Flames: This is the package against Zombies. You turn into a control deck, and sweepers are essential. I’m playing a weird split of Suns and Flames. I’m not yet sure which one is better. Sweltering Suns has cycling, but I’ve found that having the option to play the sweeper only for 1 or 2 also comes in handy often. Especially against Abzan Tokens you can just kill all their tokens in one turn and attack for lethal.
1 Appetite for the Unnatural: Likely the best Disenchant effect in this Standard, as it’s the only one useful against all of Abzan Tokens, Mono-White, and Mardu.
1 Cut // Ribbons: Against B/G and Zombies.
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship: Against basically everything—the card is great!
Game 1 is not great. You’re trying to race, as you don’t have enough removal to contain them. Your best card is Glorybringer, so try to get it online fast and hope they don’t have a good draw. Post-board, things get much better. You take out Channeler Initiate, as it’s bad with sweepers. On the draw, I think it might be correct to side out 1 small Chandra and keep in an extra Hydra. In sideboard games, the plan is just to trade removal for their creatures and then win with card advantage. Their best card post-board is Relentless Dead, so be careful with your Magma Sprays.
On the Draw
On the Play
Chandra is much worse on the draw. While it usually wins if you can land it on turn 3, they have too much pressure when you’re going second. Be careful not to get Confiscation Coup blown up by Blossoming Defense. Basically you have to try to stop them from going off with Winding Constrictor, at which point your creatures stay bigger and you should be able to race them.
On the Draw
On the Play
This matchup is tricky and I haven’t yet figured out how to sideboard. At this point, I’m fairly sure that Coup is great. It’s the best answer for the problem cards like Skysovereign, Consul Flagship. Try to kill mana creatures on sight, as the tempo advantage they create can be impossible to overcome. Always be wary of an opposing Glorybringer and play in a way you don’t get blown out by it. For example, the turn-4 Tracker + land play is quite weak if they can follow up with Glorybringer.
Sideboarding here changes so much based on what you expect them to do. I’d sideboard this way for every game 2, but be flexible for game 3. If they keep in aggro cards, put in Magma Sprays and on the draw even sweepers. If you see more of a control version, bring in the extra Negate and I’d even consider bringing big Chandra, Flamecaller. I honestly don’t know the correct plan from their side, as if they keep in the aggro cards, it’s easy for you to beat them with sweepers and Magma Sprays. It’s basically one big mind game and you have to hope that you can figure it out.
I’m not 100% sure whether Harnessed is better than Cut. I think the instant speed and ability to kill Torrential Gearhulk is more important than the chance of killing them with Cut // Ribbons. Overall, I think this matchup is pretty good, and I really don’t understand people who still play U/R.
This matchup is a lot of fun to play. You’re trying to race them while disrupting as much as you can. Skysovereign, Consul Flagship is your best card as it kills them fast while picking off random tokens for free. Radiant Flames and Chandra are pretty good, as they sweep all the tokens while keeping your creatures intact. I was tinkering with keeping Magma Spray in, as it’s nice if you can kill Blisterpod or finish off Anointer Priest, but in the end I don’t think it’s worth it for these corner-case scenarios.
Tips and Tricks
• When playing lands, try to keep Forest as your last land drop. First, you have Cinder Glade in your deck, so if you draw it you want to be able to reveal. Second, you often want to go turn-4 Tracker into Forest + Attune. In post-board games, the same applies to Mountain and Magma Spray.
• Initiate it a tricky card. There will be plenty of times where you should decline to take off a counter. Like I said, the deck is mana hungry so having access to extra mana can be big. Another cool trick with the card is that you can crew Flagship in response to its triggered ability. You play Initiate, target itself, then crew before the ability resolves.
• When you go to +1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance, think about holding or playing land. You always want to have access to 5 mana in case you flip Glorybringer, but you also want to be able to play a land drop in case you hit Tireless Tracker.
I’ve had a blast exploring the new Standard. While I think the top 4 decks (Mardu, B/G, Zombies, Temur) are really strong, there is still a lot of room for improvement and we might see some new decks in the future. What do you think? Is there a hidden deck that’s going to break the format open? Are you enjoying playing this new Standard format? Let me know in the comments!