You want the deck to beat in Standard right now? Look no further. This adaptation on energy is the top dog in Standard, and the Jessup brothers, along with their friends and teammates, made sure that everybody knew it last weekend. Getting 1st and 3rd in a tournament is an amazing feat for a pair of brothers, and this deck is taking over the format.

On the surface, this is still an energy midrange deck, making Winding Constrictor a powerhouse. While you don’t have all the synergies that Constrictor had last season in cards like Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, you do get extra energy and a few more synergies with counters.

Walking Ballista is the big payoff for playing Constrictor. Spending 4 mana for a single counter is expensive, but getting two counters is a steal. With a Snake in play, Ballista shifts from a good card to a nearly unbeatable one.

Nothing in Standard takes over the game as effectively and for so little mana as Longtusk Cub. While an unchecked Cub can win the game in a few turns, that clock speeds up in ridiculous ways with a Winding Constrictor. Just a single Snake allows each Cub hit to generate three energy and two +1/+1 counters. With so many energy cards in the deck, Cub gets up to 6-10 power and starts to force chump blocks early.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is your other early play and can make sure you stay ahead. With plenty of energy enablers, Siphoner can start to draw extra cards as early as turn 3 and bury the opponent.

Moving into blue gives you access to Rogue Refiner. We’ve already seen many great ways to use energy laying around, so a 3/2 for 3 mana that draws a card is an absurd rate.

Rishkar, Peema Renegade is the only other card in the deck outside of Ballista and Cub to create +1/+1 counters. The extra mana can be used in a variety of ways, such as pumping Ballista, and curving Constrictor into Rishkar threatens lethal on turn 5 without any help.

A new addition to the deck and the biggest reason to go into blue is Hostage Taker. Many are already calling this the best card in Ixalan. A 2/3 for 4 isn’t too shabby, and it’s actually not so easy to kill since Grasp rotated out and Fatal Push needs to be triggered. While Hostage Taker is vulnerable to red removal in particular, the tempo and value it offers really shine. This clears out a blocker for Cub and friends to get in damage. If you have lots of mana laying around, you can just cast their creature before they have access to a removal spell and they’ll never get it back. If they don’t have the removal spell, that’s often lights-out. And what if you start bringing Hostage Takers back from the graveyard?

The Scarab God makes sure that the late game is always covered. Bringing back Rogue Refiners buries the opponent in card advantage, and returning Hostage Taker is such an absurdly powerful play that there’s no coming back from it.

On the spell front, we’re going with cheap and tempo oriented. Attune with Aether is a no-brainer in a 3-color energy deck to pump your Cub as early as turn 2. Fatal Push gives the deck an amazing tempo removal spell that Temur doesn’t have. Finally, Blossoming Defense is incredible when people aren’t prepared for it, and remains strong even when they are. Hexproof to protect your big threats or Hostage Takers from removal is awesome, and stopping red’s creatures from rendering you unable to block is a huge blowout.

Sultai Energy looks to be the best deck in the format right now, and it only gets better after sideboarding. You have great tools to slow down aggro, and being able to board in Duress, Spell Pierce, and Negate against control decks just makes the matchup feel silly against these powerful creatures. Be prepared to beat this deck going forward, because you’re sure to face it any time you have a good record!

Sultai Energy

Andrew Jessup, 1st Place at Standard Open