Guilds of Ravnica has brought with it a plethora of sweet build-around cards. More often than not, build-arounds don’t make it to the top levels of Standard playability, but there are always exceptions. I’ve scoured the card image gallery to find the most sweetest build-around options in the set—let’s see if we can get these engine cards humming!
You’ll remember that I said “sweetest,” not “most powerful.” Still, Drowned Secrets completes a trio of reasonably potent recursive mill effects, working alongside Psychic Corrosion and Patient Rebuilding to go to town on opposing libraries. Let’s live the dream and bring mill back to Standard.
As much of the deck as possible is blue to trigger Drowned Secrets early and often. As a result, this deck has little difficulty with card advantage and soft interaction, not to mention counterspells. And as unimpressive as you might find the cheaper milling enchantments, it’s difficult to overlook the power of Patient Rebuilding as an engine card.
The glaring weakness of this deck is resolved permanents. Blink of an Eye does some work, but it needs more lasting answers. For that reason, a suite of powerful black removal spells has been1 included, and while six may not seem like many, remember that the four copies of Mission Briefing represent extra removal when necessary.
Trading 1-for-1 may not be a viable strategy in the traditionally aggression-focused opening weeks of a format, but nonetheless this deck is something to keep in your back pocket. Ritual of Soot or even Golden Demise are great options if it looks like the format is going to be low to the ground.
Post-board, a creature package should catch most opponents off-guard. They’ll board out their removal and all of a sudden they’re hemorrhaging value to Thief of Sanity and Hostage Taker. Mnemonic Betrayal may be too cute, but I can’t get over the idea of casting Yawgmoth’s Will, target you.
Abzan Tokens saw moderate amounts of success thanks to Anointed Procession and Hidden Stockpile. Unfortunately, Goblin Chainwhirler was unleashed on the world and the deck promptly rolled over and died, but if the optimists among us are to be believed, there won’t be so many chains being whirled post-rotation. Even if there are, Divine Visitation solves the issue by making your 1/1s flying 4/4s instead.
The challenge in building this deck is making sure it can still hold its ground when it doesn’t have a Divine Visitation out, and that it can set up sufficient defenses to support a turn 5 do-nothing play. Gumming up the ground early with Hunted Witness and Saproling Migration is what it’s all about, and we get to play one of the best removal spells ever printed in Assassin’s Trophy.
There are enough powerful Saproling cards in Standard to support a strong Saproling sub-theme, and it’s plain to see just how good they all become post-Visitation. Three instant-speed 4/4s for 4 mana? Yes please. Slimefoot and Tendershoot Dryad are little engine cards in and of themselves that will help keep you alive until the big 5 mana enchantment arrives.
There’s a somewhat experimental suite of top-end cards. Leonin Warleader seems insane if it actually ever gets to attack, and the new Vraska is the perfect way to grind against slower decks thanks to the abundance of tokens available for sacrifice (and goes to 6 loyalty!). Huatli, Radiant Champion has seen play in weird token decks before this, so she’s worth giving a chance to as well.
The sideboard is split between grindy engine cards like big Vraska, Dawn of Hope, and Arguel’s Blood Fast. Achieving the city’s blessing for Golden Demise is trivial enough, while Knight of Autumn is just too flexible not to jam into every green-white sideboard ever.
Overall, the idea of paying for 1/1s and getting 4/4s instead seems ridiculously powerful, and is definitely an idea worth testing out in the opening weeks of this new Standard format.
Any card that rewards you for playing the game you were going to play anyway is always worth a second look. Firemind’s Research is all about jamming your deck full of instants and sorceries—something I’m always happy to do—and offers the excellent payoff of either card advantage or extremely powerful removal/direct damage. Happily, there are tons of excellent blue and red spells to use while racking up those charge counters.
Blue-Red Firemind’s Research
Rather obviously, this is a pure control deck. Firemind’s Research has the potential to be a win condition in and of itself, and burning opponents out from range is highly achievable when backed up with Lightning Strike and Banefire. But that’s not the plan A. As you can see, cards like Shivan Fire, Beacon Bolt, and Ral, Izzet Viceroy make it clear that we’re very interested in controlling the board.
The deck’s spells are pretty evenly split between cantrips and removal. Raw card advantage is achieved with Firemind’s Research and another new favorite: Mission Briefing. Mission Briefing makes another appearance here, synergizing perfectly with Firemind’s Research and offering extra value out of those interactive spells (you can even kick Blink of an Eye!).
The deck’s weakness to big creatures like Lyra Dawnbringer sees multiple copies of Fight with Fire in the board, while small creatures can be mopped up with Fiery Cannonade. The most exciting part, however, is taking a leaf out of the Dimir deck above and including a post-board suite of creatures. An opponent that boards out all their removal may have a hard time dealing with Wee Dragonauts beatdown!
I don’t know if any of these decks will truly take off, but these are the ideas that need to be tested as we head into a new format. The exciting prospect of breaking this unexplored format means that there’s never a better time to stress-test these supposedly bulk rares and see if we can make something of them!