After the release of Theros, the Pro Tour showed us how devotion could be used to great effect in Standard. Shortly after this, control demonstrated the weakness of devotion decks to sweepers and ended their short reign of terror. With control on top, it became the time for aggro to rise, as demonstrated at GP Santiago.

So, where is Standard now? Well, it’s actually a pretty diverse and interesting world out there. Today, I want to bring you a summary of the most successful and popular decks that you can consider playing in your upcoming events and talk about how they play out against each other.

Current Standard decks fall into one of four categories: aggro, bigger aggro, not-blue control, and blue-based control. Here’s a diagram to help explain:

carrie1

Let’s start by looking at control. There are two types of control decks in Standard at the moment, ones with blue and ones without. In shocking news, if these pair up against each other in a fight, then the control deck with counterspells and draw spells will win. I know, it seems wrong, but that’s just the way it works.

While the not-blue control decks lose out in the control face-off, they fare much better against weenie aggro decks. The very fast and aggressive creatures decks that run multiple 1- and 2-drop creatures are very strong against blue-based control decks, as the counterspells and four-mana sweepers are just too slow in many games. However, the non-blue control decks have more spot removal and cheaper board sweepers in the form of [card]Anger of the Gods[/card], giving them a good matchup against swarms of little creatures.

Weenie aggro decks have another weakness: bigger creature decks. If you want to beat creatures with creatures then you simply go a little bit bigger. These decks are, for the most part, still aggro, to give them a chance against the two control archetypes in the format, but will beat up on their smaller cousins. They do, however, weaken their control matchups to the point that I would expect them to lose. That being said, it does depend on what creatures they utilize. For example, GW presents a bunch of problems for blue decks—[card]Loxodon Smiter[/card], [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], and [card]Advent of the Wurm[/card] all make a mockery of their answers.

Really it is wrong to divide the creature-based decks so starkly, as they are more on a sliding scale from biggest to smallest—there is always a bigger fish—but this simplified things nicely.

Standard finds itself in a pleasing balance at the moment. If you look at the diagram above, you would say that the two types of creature decks both have two weaknesses, which means you should play one of the control decks, as they have two good matchups each. But in that case, you should be playing blue control because it wins in that matchup—at which point you can play aggro and crush them and thus you loop back to the start. Hooray for healthy metagames!

If you know what you are expecting at your next event, you can now choose a deck from the correct category to go ace it with. That being said, I’ve been seeing a mix of decks at my events and thus have been running a blue-based control deck, with two good matchups, and I just hope to dodge the other. This is definitely a time to run something you enjoy and feel comfortable playing, and right now you have a lot to choose from.

Blue-based Control Decks

There are two major decks in this category: Esper and UW. Esper gets to run spot removal, mostly in the form of [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card], and [card]Blood Baron of Vizkopa[/card], which is excellent right now. However, it gets access to these sweet cards at the expense of its mana base. While scry lands are pretty amazing for control decks, they do come at the expense of coming in tapped, which makes these decks really slow. Esper is the weaker of the two against the weenie aggro decks, but I’m not so sure any more that UW is much better for the loss of the more powerful spells.

For context, I’ve been running UW recently, as I wrote about a few weeks back. I really like the deck, but I’ve started desiring more scry effects, and the ability to kill planeswalkers without also sending my copy into exile (the additional clause on [card]Detention Sphere[/card] is pretty awkward in the mirror).

Anyway, if you fancy some blue-based control action, here are some lists to get started:

UW Control (This is my most recent 75)

[deck]Main Deck
3 Azorius Charm
3 Divination
3 Dissolve
2 Syncopate
2 Essence Scatter
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
4 Supreme Verdict
2 Celestial Flare
4 Detention Sphere
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
2 Aetherling
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Azorius Guildgate
2 Temple of Triumph
6 Plains
8 Island
Sideboard
3 Yoked Ox
2 Pithing Needle
4 Last Breath
2 Wear and Tear
1 Aetherling
1 Dispel
2 Negate[/deck]

Esper Control (William Jensen)

You can really vary how much black you have in this deck. I’ve seen lists with a lot more spot removal than this one, but this is a fairly standard, popular 75.

[deck]Main Deck
1 Aetherling
2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
4 Detention Sphere
4 Azorius Charm
3 Dissolve
2 Hero’s Downfall
4 Sphinx’s Revelation
1 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
4 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Divination
4 Supreme Verdict
2 Thoughtseize
4 Island
3 Plains
4 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Temple of Deceit
4 Temple of Silence
4 Watery Grave
Sideboard
1 Pithing Needle
2 Blood Baron of Vizkopa
1 Dark Betrayal
2 Doom Blade
4 Gainsay
2 Negate
1 Ultimate Price[/deck]

Non-Blue Control

There are two decks that spring to mind here. Mono-Black Devotion and Naya. Brad Nelson’s Naya list took down the SCG Invitation almost a month ago now. Having tried the deck, I’ve got to say that he must have run pretty good—I found the mana to be super awkward, as you need so many colors early in order to actually beat the aggressive decks. That being said, while it will lose game 1 against the blue-based control decks, most of its sideboard comes in to really give it a shot for games 2 and 3. It can even afford to use its sideboard this way as it’s designed to be great against the creatures decks already, and doesn’t really need to supplement that for games 2 and 3.

Mono-Black Devotion has fallen out of favor as people have adapted to it. However, turn 2 [card]Pack Rat[/card] is still really annoying. I was playing this deck online until Kibler killed MTGO, and I actually really enjoyed it. It really does eat creature decks for breakfast, so I was especially pleased the week after the Rakdos deck won the GP, as I played it in 3 out of 4 rounds in a Daily Event and just crushed it every time. [card]Whip of Erebos[/card] and [card]Gray Merchant of Asphodel[/card] are an awful lot of fun to play with.

I guess the biggest problem for this deck is that it relies on two enchantments to provide card advantage—[card whip of erebos]Whip[/card] and [card]Underworld Connections[/card]—and that means it’s easy to board hate for both pieces simultaneously. They are also both dependent on activated abilities, and [card]Pithing Needle[/card] is so good at the moment that everyone is boarding a couple. Still, the deck is still fun and competitive if you want to give it a go.

Naya Control (Brad Nelson)

[deck]Main Deck
2 Selesnya Keyrune
4 Loxodon Smiter
3 Stormbreath Dragon
2 Assemble the Legion
4 Chained to the Rocks
2 Advent of the Wurm
4 Selesnya Charm
2 Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
3 Xenagos, the Reveler
4 Anger of the Gods
4 Mizzium Mortars
1 Forest
4 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Sacred Foundry
1 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple Garden
4 Temple of Abandon
3 Temple of Triumph
Sideboard:
1 Pithing Needle
4 Mistcutter Hydra
2 Sunhome Guildmage
2 Assemble the Legion
2 Last Breath
2 Wear and Tear
2 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed[/deck]

Mono-Black Devotion (Brian Braun-Duin)

[deck]Main Deck
4 Desecration Demon
4 Gray Merchant of Asphodel
4 Nightveil Specter
2 Pack Rat
4 Underworld Connections
3 Devour Flesh
4 Hero’s Downfall
3 Ultimate Price
2 Whip of Erebos
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
4 Thoughtseize
19 Swamp
4 Mutavault
2 Temple of Deceit
Sideboard:
2 Pithing Needle
3 Lifebane Zombie
2 Pack Rat
1 Dark Betrayal
1 Devour Flesh
2 Doom Blade
1 Erebos, God of the Dead
3 Duress[/deck]

Creature Decks

The most diversity comes in here, but as I discussed above it’s a sliding scale of size, so I’m not going to divide them, but scale them.

Screen Shot 2013-11-18 at 4.29.50 PM

I selected the most popular/successful decks for this, but there are definitely more if you dig around. As I discussed above, each bigger deck can present different problems for different control decks. Mono-Blue, for example, is a pain against UW if it gets [card]Bident of Thassa[/card] online with a [card]Mutavault[/card] or two, while Esper can at least [card]Hero’s Downfall[/card] the pesky land to keep this potential draw engine in check.

If you opt for a weenie deck, you need to keep only aggressive hands—you need to put down a lot of pressure early or the control decks will be able to stabilize. That being said, the decks are full to the brim with 1- and 2-drops so that isn’t too much of a challenge.

I don’t have much to add here, creatures are creatures: curve out and turn them sideways.

GR Ramp (Hal Brady)

[deck]Main Deck
3 Arbor Colossus
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Elvish Mystic
2 Scavenging Ooze
4 Sylvan Caryatid
4 Voyaging Satyr
4 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Ruric Thar, the Unbowed
1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
4 Domri Rade
4 Garruk, Caller of Beasts
2 Xenagos, the Reveler
9 Forest
2 Mountain
4 Stomping Ground
4 Temple of Abandon
4 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Sideboard
4 Mistcutter Hydra
4 Nylea’s Disciple
3 Wasteland Viper
3 Burning Earth
1 Destructive Revelry[/deck]

Mono-Blue Devotion (Stephen Nicholas)

[deck]Main Deck
4 Cloudfin Raptor
4 Frostburn Weird
3 Judge’s Familiar
4 Master of Waves
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Tidebinder Mage
2 Cyclonic Rift
2 Rapid Hybridization
2 Bident of Thassa
4 Thassa, God of the Sea
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
19 Island
4 Mutavault
2 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
Sideboard
1 Pithing Needle
2 Aetherling
2 Domestication
1 Cyclonic Rift
1 Dissolve
2 Gainsay
2 Negate
1 Rapid Hybridization[/deck]

GW (Alex Gerlock)

[deck]Main Deck
4 Experiment One
4 Fleecemane Lion
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Voice of Resurgence
4 Boon Satyr
4 Advent of the Wurm
3 Gods Willing
4 Selesnya Charm
2 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
8 Forest
8 Plains
3 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Temple Garden
Sideboard
3 Mistcutter Hydra
3 Unflinching Courage
3 Celestial Flare
3 Rootborn Defenses
2 Polukranos, World Eater
1 Ajani, Caller of the Pride[/deck]

Rakdos (Luis Navas)

[deck]Main Deck
4 Blood Crypt
8 Mountain
10 Swamp
4 Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch
4 Mogis’s Marauder
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Rakdos Shred-Freak
4 Spike Jester
1 Thrill-Kill Assassin
4 Tormented Hero
3 Xathrid Necromancer
2 Doom Blade
4 Lightning Strike
4 Madcap Skills
Sideboard
2 Burning Earth
2 Dreadbore
2 Erebos, God of the Dead
2 Mizzium Mortars
1 Rakdos Guildgate
4 Thoughtseize
2 Whip of Erebos[/deck]

Mono-Red (Thomas Pannell)

[deck]Main Deck
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Chandra’s Phoenix
4 Firedrinker Satyr
4 Firefist Striker
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
4 Rakdos Cackler
2 Rubblebelt Maaka
4 Lightning Strike
4 Shock
18 Mountain
4 Mutavault
Sideboard
1 Rubblebelt Maaka
1 Burning Earth
4 Skullcrack
2 Act of Treason
4 Mizzium Mortars
3 Peak Eruption[/deck]

WR (Ben Lundquist)

[deck]Main Deck
2 Azorius Arrester
4 Boros Elite
4 Daring Skyjek
4 Dryad Militant
4 Frontline Medic
4 Precinct Captain
4 Soldier of the Pantheon
4 Boros Charm
4 Brave the Elements
1 Spear Of Heliod
3 Ajani, Caller of the Pride
10 Plains
4 Mutavault
4 Sacred Foundry
4 Temple of Triumph
Sideboard
3 Banisher Priest
4 Fiendslayer Paladin
2 Burning Earth
1 Pacifism
1 Warleader’s Helix
1 Wear
2 Glare of Heresy
1 Mizzium Mortars[/deck]

I hope you have found this walkthrough of Standard useful. I’m really happy at how diverse and healthy the meta is right now, so I wanted to share that enthusiasm with you. If you have a Standard event coming up, I really do recommend you play something you enjoy rather than trying to over-think this particular meta. I will see you again next week.

@onionpixie