There’s nothing quite like a spoiler season to get me hyped up about Standard. For the first time in a while, I was eagerly seeking out the new cards and thinking about all the different places they could fit into in the new format.
My first mistake was assuming that Ravnica Allegiance would bring about a new Standard format. My second mistake was expecting Nexus of Fate to get banned. Without the banning of Nexus of Fate, Standard has little room to grow. The cards printed in this set work best as improvements for existing decks and archetypes, without making much room for many new decks.
The decks I would expect to see at the beginning of this Standard format are:
- Nexus of Fate powered decks
- Rakdos Burn
- Mardu Aristocrats
- Bant Tokens
- Golgari Midrange
- Esper Control (with or without Nexus of Fate)
- U/R Drakes
Aside from Rakdos Burn and Mardu Aristocrats, all of these decks have existed in some iteration in recent Standard. The deck I would take to a tournament this weekend would be Mono-Red, and it’s not a particularly close decision.
If you’ve been playing Standard since the release of these cards online, then you are familiar with the impact they’ve had on the deck. Not only were the red decks gifted speed and (more) card advantage, but the other cards printed in the set also benefit you.
The introduction of Breeding Pool and Wilderness Reclamation will make U/G/x Nexus of Fate strategies one of the best in the format. And Hallowed Fountain will hoodwink people into thinking semi-tested control decks are what they should be bringing to the table early on.
Mono-Red has traditionally preyed on both of these strategies, in particular against Nexus of Fate. While both Mono-Red and Nexus/Reclamation decks have sped up, Mono-Red will come out on top here. Especially in best-of-one Magic, but also in best-of-three. Here are my best-of-one and best-of-three Mono-Red lists:
The deck forgoes Risk Factor and Experimental Frenzy because speed is key. Arena will naturally lend itself to giving you slightly more lands on average than paper. Flame of Keld is hard to interact with without access to a sideboard and allows you to steal games that are slipping away.
The increased land count in the best-of-three build accounts for the inclusion of Experimental Frenzy and my sideboard plan, which allows me to extend my reach. Access to Experimental Frenzy is a must in the predicted metagame. Post-board games are almost always going to go long, and Experimental Frenzy is your best strategy here.
Some cards I could see making it into this deck in the future are Legion Warboss and Rix Maadi Reveler. The inclusion of Rix Maadi Reveler opens the door for more sideboard options like Drill Bit. I don’t think it’s necessary in this build of the deck currently, but there is potential for it.
Last thing: the decks that once kept it in check (G/W Tokens and Golgari Midrange) didn’t gain anything aside from Growth-Chamber Guardian. This is understandable as they are not featured guilds in this set. But previously, the medium-sized creatures and life gain were close to unbeatable for Mono-Red. With the downswing of these decks and the uptick of expensive spells, Mono-Red is already seeing some success.
It’s going to be difficult for a deck to be successful in this format and have the capability to beat the different angles that Mono-Red will be hitting from.
In my mind, the printing of Wilderness Reclamation was a mistake. While it may not be favored against Mono-Red, I think Nexus of Fate is going to be a powerhouse in this format. If I were to register a Nexus of Fate deck this weekend, this is what it would look like:
Nexus of Fate
Being creatureless game 1, with minimal interaction, is the best direction for this deck. But should you shift this list to best-of-one I would consider playing a Nezahal, Primal Tide in the main over the Warrant // Warden.
Wilderness Reclamation is going to be difficult to interact with, particularly in best-of-one. Keep in mind that you can cast Nexus of Fate in your opponent’s end step to stack your turns. I considered playing The Mirari Conjecture in the main deck, but I wasn’t thrilled with the choice or sorceries available to me. I’ll contemplate the inclusion when the metagame is more defined and we have an impression of how well cards like Cleansing Nova fit into the format.
Once we have a better idea of what to expect, our sideboards can be tuned. But until then, covering a broad spectrum while being realistic is how I’d approach building your 75.
Recently, I wrote about my approach to the best-of-one ladder grind. Since then, Wizards has announced the introduction of best-of-three in Constructed ranked. But with the end of Arena pre-season coming up in a few days, I’m not only looking at the format with best-of-three in mind—I’m also considering the best decks to take to the best-of-one ladder once the new season starts.
Aside from the decks I’ve mentioned above, here are some other lists that I’m excited to keep working on and try out on the ladder:
I really wanted access to Lava Coil, but with the expected dominance of creature-light strategies, it is probably right not to play it in this list right now.
I would also consider playing 1-2 Unbreakable Formation here.
Coming up with this deck and playing with it has been delightful. It’s rare that you get to enjoy a deck in competitive Standard and win games with it, so this was nice.
I was initially excited to play with Theater of Horrors, and I think it has a place in Standard but I’m not sure if this is the best shell or the best time for it. I could see it being stronger in a Mardu Aristocrats deck.
I look forward to playing with the Rakdos guild more. I think there’s room for a Rakdos Midrange deck that utilizes some more controlling elements.
The idea of this article was to provide some insight into how I’m assessing Standard—improved, but not very different. Hopefully, you have a better grasp of the upcoming Standard format and how you plan to approach it yourself.
Good luck at your next event!