Right now, mana bases in Standard are very constraining—all of the decks are either mono-colored or belong to one of the guilds from Guilds of Ravnica. With Ravnica Allegiance, this is about to change, as Standard will be introduced to the remaining 10 shocklands (or at least it would be a real curveball if it wasn’t).
In today’s article, I’m going to explore the decks that I believe you should pay attention to once these dual lands become available. I don’t know what cards are going to be released yet, so I’m not going to focus on the details of each list, but instead try to provide a general overview of things that currently could work but don’t because the mana base doesn’t support it.
Ever since Guilds of Ravnica was released, I’ve wanted to play Goblin Chainwhirler + Status // Statue. Without either a B/R or a R/G dual land, however, it was impossible to make the mana work. Now that we have both of them, I can finally play my 4-mana Plague Wind combination.
While you could theoretically slot this combo into any deck that is almost mono-red, the best place for it might be Ben Weitz’s Big Red deck:
The key here is that you’re not losing much by playing Status // Statue outside of the combo. The deck already suffers from not being able to deal with big creatures (such as Doom Whisperer) or problematic artifacts/enchantments (Azor’s Gateway, Search for Azcanta, Treasure Map), so Statue is a welcome card. You naturally have Legion Warboss and first strikers in the list, which means that you get to cast regular Status once in a while. On top of that, if you draw Goblin Chainwhirler + Status, you kill all their creatures for 4 mana. Of course, this play is vulnerable to instant-speed removal, but a lot of the decks that can’t beat a Plague Wind (White Weenie builds, Selesnya, R/G) also happen to not be able to interact.
As new cards are released, we can also tune the deck a little bit more, but here’s a possible version using only the dual lands from Ravnica Allegiance:
This gives you 10 sources for Status, plus the four Treasure Maps. Statue is harder to cast, but I’d try the mana base like this first and then adapt if it proves too hard. Realistically speaking, you probably want to go heavier on a second color at least for sideboard options, but this is how I’d build it if I wanted to keep it basically mono-red.
Another possibility is to tweak R/G Monsters. R/G Monsters is already in this format, and it’s obviously only going to get better. Here’s a 5-0 list from fredericonibene:
This has Dinosaur subthemes, but isn’t a dedicated Dinosaur deck. Unless they print new Dinosaurs, I don’t see any real reason to hard commit to the tribe rather than just be a “Monsters” type deck.
While having four extra dual lands that enter the battlefield untapped is certainly going to be a big help, I personally don’t love this deck—it’s a bit one-dimensional to me—but it’s possible that, with enough new cards, it becomes good. Gruul Spellbreaker is certainly powerful and would fit right in here, and if we see more cards of this power level then R/G Monsters might be a strong contender.
Finally, there’s a card that has made some waves before but ultimately never worked out: Sarkhan’s Unsealing. With Stomping Grounds back in the mix, we can give it a try again. It’s very good with the green creatures, but the green deck is extremely green mana hungry, so it can’t afford to play any Mountains.
Here’s a list from Riley Knight’s article:
By adding essentially four more green sources to the deck, we get to play some more creatures that trigger Sarkhan’s Unsealing. Consider this adaptation:
This is a more aggressive take, enabled by the possibility of playing Steel-Leaf Champion. Playing one Mountain in my Gigantosaurus deck feels very weird, but I wanted to be able to find it with Thunderherd Migration. It’s possible that the deck should swap Migrations for Drover of the Mighty, and then eschew the Mountain altogether.
The first application of Hallowed Fountain is simply a better Jeskai mana base. The second is Esper.
Due to mana base concerns, Esper has been mostly supplanted by Jeskai. Now that we get both Hallowed Fountain and Godless Shrine, all mana bases are equal, so we can let the actual cards dictate which colors we’re going to play.
At this point, there are a couple of different versions of Jeskai being played. The first is the Niv-Mizzet version. This version obviously cannot be morphed into Esper since Niv-Mizzet requires red. The second version is the Fight With Fire version, which also cannot be morphed because of its namesake. The more “traditional” Jeskai deck is the one that can instead be Esper, but it still won’t be built in the same way. Most Jeskai decks are U/W with a red splash for Deafening Clarion and some spot removal, but I believe most Esper decks will be U/B with a white splash for Teferi and Absorb.
Here’s an example of a U/B deck that exists and would probably splash white if the white duals were available:
This is a deck that can probably benefit from playing Teferi over either Karn, Scion of Urza or some number of The Eldest Reborn, and Absorb over Sinister Sabotage. There’s also this U/B/r version from the MOCS:
The only red cards in the main deck are three Nicol Bolas and one Beacon Bolt, and just one Lava Coil and one Star of Extinction in the sideboard. Is Teferi better than Nicol Bolas and Beacon Bolt? In my opinion it very likely is, which means this deck would probably be better served by being Esper instead of Grixis once the mana bases equalize (though Grixis is obviously going to get new tools as well. For example, Bedevil, so it’s going to have its merits).
The main issue of playing Esper instead of Jeskai is that your sweepers are bad. Deafening Clarion is the best sweeper in Standard, and you can’t play that without red. Instead, you have to play the inferior Ritual of Soot and Golden Demise. You could rely on the white sweepers, but they all cost double-white, and the mana base is not going to be that good even with a bunch of duals, since a lot of the good black and blue cards are double-black or double-blue. Besides, the white sweepers right now aren’t great. You can’t play a lot of Cleansing Novas since it costs 5, and Settle the Wreckage isn’t as efficient as it used to be, especially against cards like Gruul Spellbreaker.
In general, there are three situations where I think Esper will overtake Jeskai:
- They print a good Orzhov or Azorius sweeper. If you have something good to replace Deafening Clarion, then the only remaining reason to be red over black is Niv-Mizzet.
- Planeswalkers become more popular. The black cards are just better than the red cards at dealing with planeswalkers, and I think Vraska’s Contempt is enough of an upgrade to Ixalan’s Binding.
- Control becomes very popular. Historically speaking, black control decks have always beaten non-black control decks, because the sideboard options for black are too good in the control mirror. You get to pair black disruption (Thought Erasure) with cheap threats that draw cards (Arguel’s Blood Fast) and that makes you pretty unbeatable in any sort of control mirror. Niv-Mizzet is a powerful control card you don’t have access to, but The Eldest Reborn and Thought Erasure both deal with that, so if control decks are very popular, then the black versions will be better.
Current WW decks have the option of splashing green or red. We’ve seen both, with red being the most common for its powerful anti-control sideboard options. Once we get Hallowed Fountain, we could see blue supplanting that, as Negate is a very powerful sideboard tool against control as well. Is it better than Experimental Frenzy and Banefire? My instinct says no, but if we get another good Azorius card, then it could be.
Merfolk in Standard had two main problems. The first is that the mana base simply can’t support an aggressive 2-color deck. The second problem is that there isn’t a real reason to play Merfolk as opposed to another swarm-based aggro deck (such as White Weenie or Boros). Breeding Pool, for the most part, fixes the first problem—you can now have twelve duals if you count Unclaimed Territory, which should be enough. The second problem is tougher.
At this point, I don’t think we know enough to say whether Merfolk will be a deck. Simic’s keyword adapt has to do with counters, so we can expect a lot of counter synergies in the set, which should be good for Merfolk, since it can run explore creatures and cards like Deeproot Elite. We’ve also seen two cards that can already be slotted in Merfolk: Zegana, Utopian Speaker and Incubation // Incongruity. I particularly like Incubation // Incongruity, since the ability to remove a problematic creature (like a Lyra) is something these decks often lacked. I think we need more than this for Merfolk to overcome the other creature decks, but I remain hopeful. Here’s a sketch:
Another thing Breeding Pool does is facilitate a blue splash in B/G. You can already do that with Watery Grave, but now it’s even easier. That deck runs a lot of counters on its creatures, so there could be Simic cards that are worth playing—Zegana, Utopian Speaker might already be good enough as is.
Basically everything that I said about Hallowed Fountain in U/B decks applies to Blood Crypt as well, if the Grixis cards happen to be better than Teferi. Personally my money is on Teferi, as its power level is just through the roof and we already know we have Absorb, but obviously there are things they could print that would change it—Bedevil is a good start. If anything, Nicol Bolas certainly got a bit easier to cast.
Blood Crypt also opens the gates for all sorts of red decks splashing black. B/R dominated the last Standard format, and with the right tools in Rakdos it can do so again. So far the best Rakdos card (Bedevil) isn’t good for mono-red, but there could be a version with Rix Maadi Reveler—it’s the type of card that, much like Scrapheap Scrounger, you can easily play with only eight dual lands, as it’s still castable even if you can’t spectacle it.
Another potential place for Blood Crypt is in U/R decks with Discovery // Dispersal. These decks can already use Watery Grave to cast Dispersal if they want to, but Blood Crypt is better, as it effectively allows your Mountain to cast the Discovery side. This might seem irrelevant, but I think there’s a good chance the damage you take sometimes is worth it for the mulligans you don’t have to take and the turns you don’t have to skip because you’re constrained on blue mana.
Like Hallowed Fountain, Godless Shrine facilitates any Esper deck you want to play. Also like Hollowed Fountain, it can be used as the splash color in White Weenie decks, with Duress taking the place of Negate. At this point, you can build White Weenie with any secondary color you want, so the decision between Experimental Frenzy/Negate/Duress as your control card is going to depend on what else you want to play.
If you pay attention to your creature types, you can also play a version that’s a little heavier on black and gives you access to main deck disruption, which is very powerful. For example, take a look at this build:
Both Knight of Malice and Kitesail Freebooter are Humans, as is your most color-intensive card (Benalish Marshal). The mana is still not going to be incredible, though, and having Unclaimed Territory is going to make curving out triple 1-drops harder (since only Dauntless Bodyguard is a Human), so it’s probably not worth it, but it might be if we see some good, aggressive Orzhov cards.
There’s also a possible Vampires build, with the biggest draw being that you can now probably (finally!) play Sanctum Seeker in a deck where the creatures are mostly white. Having Radiant Destiny, Legion Lieutenant, and Sanctum Seeker in the same deck gives you a lot of lords, which justifies going all-in on Vampires as opposed to just playing good stuff. Here’s what I’d try:
Overall, even though we haven’t seen many cards from Ravnica Allegiance yet, I’m pretty excited to start brewing in this format. Having the full 10 duals means that you can get pretty crazy in what you play, and that’s not even counting any of the new cards.