Now is a terrific time to play Standard. The format is exciting, diverse, and supports a wide range of archetypes. If you’re looking to re-enter Standard (maybe the days of Temur Energy meant you took a bit of a break), or even put together your first competitive deck to start running with the big dogs, now is the time to do it.
Why is this? Not only are you going to be able to enjoy an intricate, rewarding format, you’re going to be able to do it on the cheap! Here are a couple of decks that will perform strongly without being too much of a hit to the hip pocket.
Electrostatic Pummeler was something of a contender while Attune with Aether was still legal in Standard and admittedly, the deck took a real hit when Attune was banned. It’s still hanging around Standard, however, and if you’ve got an itch to slam and jam with enormous monsters, this deck will be the tree branch to your bear’s back.
Rixile, 5-0 in a Competitive Standard League
Efficient green beaters, energy generators, and a combo-like finish of Electrostatic Pummeler plus pump spells gives this deck a focused and powerful game plan. Bristling Hydra is a resilient threat in the face of spot removal spells, and Hadana’s Climb provides a nice longer-term game plan. Additionally, with sweepers at an all-time low it’s an excellent time to be playing a creature-based strategy—not to mention one that laughs in the face of a stalled board!
From a price perspective, this deck is cheap—there are only five cards in it that cost more than 50 cents, and one of them is Blossoming Defense at $0.89! Hadana’s Climb won’t break the bank at $1.25, either. The core of this deck costs a pittance, with the overwhelming majority of its price tag wrapped up in just three cards.
Luckily, however, there are ways to work around this. While substituting cards for budget reasons will almost always affect your win percentage, it’s not a reason to avoid playing competitive Magic altogether. Just don’t forget, you will win fewer games of Magic by substituting cards—even if it’s only a 0.5% or 1% difference—but as long as you’re okay with that, no worries!
Deathgorge Scavenger, at $2.79, can be replaced with Silent Gravestone or Crook of Condemnation (although don’t forget that neither of these cards can be targeted with Larger than Life, unlike D-Scav). Rhonas, the Indomitable costs $9.99 on his own, but provides an important effect in enabling your Pummeler to trample through. Unfortunately, there’s no other repeatable trample enabler like Rhonas, but if all goes well you only need his ability once, anyway. To that end, consider cards like Appeal // Authority. You can even cast Authority off your Aether Hubs!
The final card to consider is Botanical Sanctum. At $9.99 each, a playset contributes the heftiest amount to the deck’s price tag. Woodland Stream is a rather poor substitute and definitely makes the deck worse, but in a pinch, it’ll do. In all honesty, you should consider splashing out on Botanical Sanctums—as Modern-playable lands that are unlikely to be reprinted any time soon, they will hold their value and should be a good investment.
We finally have a breakout tribal deck! While players around the world have tried and tried to get one of Ixalan‘s tribes to the top of the Standard tables, the Legion of Dusk finally got there and Vampires have begun to put up the numbers. It’s unsurprising, too, when you look at the insane synergies offered by some of these cards!
Fulgence, 7-1 in a Standard MOCS
Now that Rivals of Ixalan has joined us, we have access to Legion Lieutenant, the missing puzzle piece that finally pushed the deck over the top (alongside Radiant Destiny). This go-wide strategy also benefits from a lack of sweepers, and while capable of very quick starts, it can also win a drawn out game with an alpha strike backed up by Sanctum Seeker.
Given the high concentration of common and uncommon cards in this list, it won’t come as a surprise to learn that it’s not prohibitively expensive (although a little more costly than the Pummeler deck, admittedly). All of your Draft chaff from the last few months will help to fill out much of the deck. Aside from this, only eight cards cost more than a dollar.
The 1-of Legion’s Landing gives the deck extra late-game firepower, but given its $6.99 price tag could easily be excluded in favor of a third Vicious Conquistador. Authority of the Consuls is excellent against Mono-Red, but if $2.79 is too rich for your blood then Moment of Craving is also a terrific post-board option to neuter creatures and gain life.
I would, however, suggest paying for some key rares. Sanctum Seeker and Mavren Fein, Dusk Apostle are too important for this deck’s game plan to overlook. As they only cost $2.49 and $1.79 respectively, I suggest you snag ’em.
We come once more to the bane of any budget brewer: the mana base. Again, Concealed Courtyard, at $7.49, is one of the most expensive cards in the deck. You could consider more copies of Forsaken Sanctuary (or even just basics), but again I’d advocated biting the bullet and buying a playset of powerful lands that should only gain value in the future.
As for Ifnir Deadlands ($1.25) and Unclaimed Territory ($2.49)—if you’re digging through your draft chaff for other parts of the deck, perhaps you have these laying around? Otherwise, there’s only so much you can do. Basics might get you there, but they might not. Don’t forget that choices like this—while highly defensible in real-world terms—actively make your deck worse.
Finally, there’s Fatal Push. At $8.99, this card is not cheap, but if there’s one card I’ve talked about today that will hold its value, it’s Fatal Push. A powerful removal spell that even sees play in Legacy, Fatal Push can’t easily be reprinted due to its inclusion of the revolt mechanic. In the long run, it will be difficult to take a loss on this card, and while you can find other black removal spells to use as stand-ins, overall Fatal Push is a safe buy.
If you’re not playing Standard right now, you should be. The format is wide open and a ton of fun, and on top of that there are a multitude of cheap decks that will enable you to compete at a high level. If you’ve taken a break from Standard recently or are perhaps looking to make your debut to the format, I can’t emphasize enough that now is the time to do it, and building one of these decks will make an excellent starting point!