While others have already covered red aggro, Dinosaurs, and other assorted tribal decks, one deck from the past Standard hasn’t been getting much press. God-Pharaoh’s Gift made a huge splash at Grand Prix Denver and then kind of fell off as Standard was wrapping up and Temur Energy overshadowed it. What’s interesting is that the core strategy of the deck is all still here, and reanimating Angel of Invention is likely better now because of mono-red.
Here’s a sample version of the U/W Gift deck:
This hybridizes the two common ways of getting Gift into play, and Chart a Course is effectively a blue Tormenting Voice when you need it to be and a straight draw-2 otherwise. You could focus entirely on either mode: Gate or Refurbish, but putting them together seemed simple enough. Vona, Butcher of Magan is an interesting addition since you get another lifelinker for Gift and you can exile the biggest threat the opponent has afterwards. This gives you a unique approach to deal with the various Gods and Vehicles you previously had no answer to game 1.
One drawback about this style of deck is the prominence of Abrade in the new format. You can beat the card, but it requires that you jump through a few hoops, and that’s in part why I’ve stuck to U/W, to increase the consistency of casting Angels and Gearhulks as a plan B. Siren Stormtamer would’ve been perfect if it protected Gift as well, but unfortunately it only helps keep your Minister and Angel alive. Still, you need to play a certain density of creatures and they help enable raid when you want it.
What I like about this is while your game 1 isn’t the best against red, you have a clear plan of action, and some trump cards. Meanwhile, for games 2 and 3 you have Glory-Bound Initiate and Aethersphere Harvester to help defend early and gain life. Attacking with a Glory-Bound that’s been eternalized by Gift is quite the sight.
Against big decks like Dinosaurs, all the builds I’ve seen give you plenty of time to set up Gift. Their biggest threats can’t even compete with yours, and if they go wide, Gearhulk and Vona do a good job of slamming the door on them. Of course, this is one of those times where you end up theorycrafting because nobody’s pseudo-tribal decks are going to look the same. You can go with a light touch and only include a couple of key Dinos or go all-in with the lord package. How quickly you have to turn the corner will be dictated by that, since you have no good way to engage the cost-reduction lords early.
As for Temur Energy, one of the keys in this matchup is going to be whether they run main-deck countermagic. If they do, then it will be difficult for the Gift deck, since they rely so heavily on getting an early Angel into play. On the other hand, if Gift comes online, then the only significant threat they have against you is Glorybringer. Your threats are all superior due to their extra text—trading 4/4s is not a big deal when you draw a bunch of cards or erase a permanent in the process. Cards like Whirler Virtuoso only buy time and are not a serious threat, while Bristling Hydra is another card that loses value because of how many chump blockers you can develop.
As for other decks in the metagame, it honestly comes down to how much main-deck artifact removal they run and how much pressure they can apply. Game 1 against Torrential Gearhulk decks will be a challenge, but they are limited to how many hard counters they run and can be better dealt with via sideboard. If a blue control deck is tier 1, then cards like Spell Pierce become more attractive and the same goes for splashes, like black for Duress and various sideboard cards such as Hostage Taker or Fatal Push. You could also retread the Jeskai route, which we already know provides Chandra, Chandra’s Defeat, and Glorybringer.
If you aren’t interested in playing with this type of artifact strategy, then other options are still available. One is green-white-X ramp, which lost very little ramp. Cards like Hour of Promise are still quite powerful, though they lack the payoff of Eldrazi. You still have a variety of large Dinosaurs, Glorybringer, and other assorted end-game threats.
Let’s take a look at a sample list.
As you can see, this is definitely a rough draft and very soft to mono-red aggro. But I would not be surprised if such a deck were viable if mono-red fell in popularity—Ramp still goes over the top of decks like Temur Energy and G/B Constrictor. That’s without going deep with cards like Bellowing Aegisaur, which enables a fun combo with Walking Ballista.
By losing Shrine, you actually don’t want an incredibly high curve. One important question to ask is how many colors you really need in the deck.
Obviously, green is a must-have, but everything else is debatable. Red seems like an obvious secondary color because of Abrade and Harnessed Lightning, along with Chandra and sideboard options. White has lost much of its impact, with only Fumigate being of note,, and while it is important with certain gold Dinosaurs, there is not much else for the deck. Blue gives you Spring // Mind, which can be a significant secondary ramp and draw spell, as well as the possibility of sideboard countermagic and Torrential Gearhulks.
At first glance Ixalan may not seem too impactful, but the deeper you go and the more you try to maximize your synergies, the more things start to look quite different. Besides, unless you’re attending the Pro Tour where there’s a major time crunch, there’s no harm in being optimistic about some of these. You never know when you may stumble along the next Faeries, even if it takes another set for it to become a competitive deck.