In Standard, you can do whatever you want! Standard is a great format right now—all archetypes are playable, and there’s no one deck running away with the game. You can just pick up the strategy you know best and do well with it.

Ixalan didn’t impact the format much. Granted, it gave us great cards like Hostage Taker, but didn’t really add anything new like the energy mechanic and Ramunap Ruins did.

To help you get started, I’ve narrowed down the metagame to the best deck within each archetype:

Aggro

Ramunap Red

Tad Macaraeg, 2nd Place at SCG Dallas

Ramunap Red is nothing new.

The only Ixalan card that makes an appearance in this archetype is Lightning Strike, which is a solid replacement for Incendiary Flow.

I could easily see playing 4 more 1-drops in the form of Rigging Runner, and keeping the plan to go big post-sideboard. Tad opts to play the full 12 removal spells and to go a little slower without these very aggressive 1-drops.

Tad was the only player to reach the Top 8 playing this deck, despite Ramunap Red being the most played deck on Day 2. This means that while the deck is very good, it is beatable—you just need a plan for it, and some cheap interactions.

Midrange

Sultai Energy

Andrew Jessup, 1st Place at SCG Dallas

Andrew and his brother Dan finished 1st and 3rd, after some “bashing bros” in the semifinals. This shows a clear dominance of the tournament, and puts this deck on everyone’s radar as a target for the upcoming World Championship Standard event.

This is a variation of B/G Constrictor that splashes blue for card advantage creatures like Rogue Refiner, Hostage Taker, and The Scarab God, as well as some potent sideboard cards like Negate and Spell Pierce. Without Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, the deck isn’t as explosive as it used to be, so the Jessups chose to go slower and don’t even bother playing Verdurous Gearhulks.

Winding Constrictor, despite lacking some enablers for +1/+1 counters, is still a powerful turn-2 play since it’s a good blocker versus Ramunap Red and combos well with Walking Ballista. It’s also an energy enabler, making Longtusk Cub and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner even better than they already are.

Hostage Taker is the best card from Ixalan, and this deck exploits it perfectly thanks to Blossoming Defense, which protects it so it can provide guaranteed card advantage the turn after. Blossoming Defense is also a huge 1-mana play versus Ramunap Red, since it’s great versus all of their removal spells, Earthshaker Khenra, and Ahn-Crop Crasher.

This deck is in contention with 4-Color Energy (the old Temur Energy splashing for The Scarab God) for “the best midrange deck” in Standard, but I want to give the award to Sultai since I think it’s better positioned against Ramunap Red.

Control

U/W Approach

David Thomas, 4th Place at SCG Dallas

David Thomas and Jim Davis both made the Top 8 of SCG Dallas, but David defeated Jim in the quarters thanks to Gideon of the Trials. The planeswalker is a must in this deck, since it’s a good blocker and a win condition for the mirror match.

Settle the Wreckage is the newest tool in this archetype, and it’s a good one. Whenever a control player passes the turn with 4 mana up, they could have: countermagic, Glimmer of Genius, Settle the Wreckage, Farm // Market. So you never what you’re going to run into, giving the control player a sizable edge. I’m not convinced that 3 Settle the Wreckage is the proper number, since the card seems clunky, but it’s definitely better in multiples. There are a number of decks, however, that will exploit every single land you give them for free (Ramunap Red has Ramunap Ruins, Sultai Energy has Walking Ballista, 4C Energy has The Scarab God), so the drawback isn’t as free as it might seem.

Search for Azcanta is another excellent card advantage tool. That it’s a ramp spell also is a huge bonus. This deck is very mana hungry, and a 2-mana play that can turn into an Island a couple of turns later is nothing to sneeze at when you need to resolve 7-mana cards to win the game. The ability is also great, seeing as Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin hits more than half of the cards in the deck.

The sideboard needs to be tested, since David had 0 Authority of the Consuls and Jim had 4. I like something in between, since you want 1 Authority to keep the many haste creatures at bay, but you also don’t want to draw too many of them since the second and the third copy won’t do much.

This was the best control deck coming out of last weekend’s event, but I’m sure there’s room to explore U/B Control, as Nassif has shown us during his recent streams.

Combo

Esper Gift

Brennan DeCandio, 8th Place at SCG Dallas

God-Pharaoh’s Gift is has been present in the metagame since Hour of Devastation came out, but it never stood out. I’m not a combo guy myself, and no a fan of this deck, but Brennan DeCandio is a good player and chose to play this homebrew to a Top 8 in a big event, so the deck is definitely worth a look.

He chose to run an Esper version over the most common U/W configuration, which has Trophy Mage and Refurbish. Brennan doesn’t play either of those cards, and tries instead to grind the game out with removal spells and card advantage.

I would have never imagined that Seekers’ Squire would make a splash in Standard, but here we are, jamming every creature possible, because they will inevitably come back as 4/4s with enters-the-battlefield abilities!

I can’t wait to see what more we learn at Worlds this weekend.