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The Opposite Ends of Standard


This is a pretty great week. I got to have an incredible time during the weekend at the Prerelease. My favorite season, fall, started off with some beautiful crisp, cool air, and I was able to break out my scarf. And, I got to be the first guest on a really cool Magic podcast hosted by my friend DeQuan Watson and his co-host Brian Allen called "Color of Magic", where we talked about race and Magic and more.

During the show's 'Dinner Table Talk' segment, Brian asked me, "What decks would you recommend for this weekend?"

A big question. This is basically a question I'm asking every weekend, and I had a fairly split answer for him.

Right now, for me, I think it swings from two very huge extremes from full on control to full on beatdown from two decks that I think couldn't be more different from each other.

The Control

At the very top end of the controlling spectrum is a Bant Ramp deck that has acquired the moniker Bant Golos. Piloted by Bryan Gottlieb to a 1st place at a recent Fandom Legends event, this deck is fairly straightforward and has a very simple game plan using numerous ramp cards to build up an absurd mana base, with Realm-Cloaked Giant as a potent sweeper, and a kill fueled by the grinding of Field of the Dead or a massive, flying Hydroid Krasis.

This is not a classic control deck with countermagic (though it boards Negate and Veil of Summer), but it plays such a powerful game of inevitability, on the backs of Hydroid Krasis and Field of the Dead, that it is hard to find a better late game to compare it to. Technically a very controlling Midrange Control deck, this archetype is hard to fight against, and resilient to many avenues of attack.

Here is his winning deck:

Of course, his deck has become widely adopted online, and so we're seeing a ton of innovation happening as we go along.

I feel like the one common thing that has emerged from most people is the emergence of Agent of Treachery in the sideboard, not only to steal opposing Field of the Dead, but also as a generally powerful card in the midrange fight against any Hydroid Krasis opponent. One innovation I absolutely loved seeing was a Fae of Wishes in the mix of the main deck to be able to get an advantage in the mirror while also being strong otherwise. Brad Nelson's build included a Jace, Wielder of Mysteries for breaking the mirror open.

For my own part, I think that I want to actually make sure that I don't got so far down the rabbit hole in fighting the mirror that I don't end up neglecting the other side of the equation. My instincts, wild as this may sound, are to cut a single Teferi, Time Raveler from the main for a second copy of Plaza of Harmony, and to follow Bryan's lead with both Knight of Autumn and Match of the Multitudes. I may be biased because of my experience with more aggressive decks in this format, but I wouldn't want to be caught flat-footed.

This isn't a massive world-changing build by any means; sometimes the original is just so good, it is hard to improve.

The Beatdown

On the entire other end of the spectrum is a deck the I've been playing a great deal, ever since I pegged one card in it "The Card to Watch" in my "The Red Review" for Throne of Eldraine: Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.

Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

This is just a crazy card. The amount of damage that it produces is just so shocking, sometimes it is hard to believe what is happening. It is especially frightening when combined with triggers from Cavalcade of Calamity or creatures that have gone wide. I find it bizarre that a number of builds of the deck choose to only run three copies, when I've been so wildly impressed by how this card plays.

Another thing I've seen a great many versions of this deck do is play almost entirely 1-drops in the deck. While powerful with Cavalcade of Calamity, I've preferred an approach that reduces the 1-drop count from sixteen to ten, but has access to a few more powerful cards in exchange. This does necessitate a slightly higher land count, but I haven't found myself minding that one bit.

One surprise that I've found is that I'm really enjoying Fervent Champion in the deck, despite having nearly no way to make use of the bonuses of the card. One excellent element of the card is the extra draw it provides the deck to deal a great deal of damage. Two Fervent Champion create a minimum of five damage by turn two, and the first strike is incredibly relevant if you drop a Torbran or help out with a Shock.

I still like a few Tin Street Dodger in the deck to round the deck out, not only because it can get in those last few damage, but also because I think that ten 1-drops is the bare minimum the deck can run. Joining them are another throwback to pre-rotation builds, Scampering Scorcher, which can steal a game in conjunction with Cavalcade of Calamity or Torbran, Thane of Red Fell.

Here is my current list:

One of the hardest things about this build was balancing the higher casting cost cards. There are, without counting Light Up the Stage, ten 3 CMC spells and four 4 CMC spells. This brings the mana needs of the deck up a fair bit, but it also can mean that the deck can roll out slower. Adding an extra Castle Embereth as a land is a way to help this, but there can still be some slightly sluggish starts at times. In many ways, this gets balanced out, in part, by the extra power of the fourth Torbran and the inclusion of Legion Warboss.

Legion Warboss makes for a great combo with Torbran and with Cavalcade of Calamity. Oftentimes versus a controlling deck, you could have either of these cards ready to deploy, and a Warboss just turns the world into something crazy for the opponent to deal with. You are still incredibly fast, despite not having as many very cheap cards, but you are all the more resilient to hate.

Most of the sideboard is pretty self explanatory, with two important cards that might seem a little odd. Cosmotronic Wave and Embercleave both serve the purpose of getting a Chandra's Spitfire to connect. I've loved Embercleave for that purpose, but a second one felt like too much, so Cosmotronic Wave makes the cut, doubling as removal for small critters as well (or bigger ones in conjunction with Torbran).

Claim the Firstborn is a great tool when engaged in a nail-biting race, but is also a great way to steal a game with an opponent's Hydroid Krasis. Claim the Firstborn can also be very powerful in those matchups with Chandra, Acolyte of Flame, where you can easily take two creatures in a clutch moment.

I won't be playing either of these decks this weekend, as I'll be hosting a housewarming party. Rest assured, even if I'm not going to be sleeving up Torbran for my weekend, it's still going to be lit. Good luck in any events that you head to!

- Adrian Sullivan

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