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The Best Deck in Standard

Now that I have your attention, I can be honest. I have absolutely no idea what the best deck in Standard is. In fact, I spent a large chunk of this past week getting absolutely annihilated while piloting most of the decks in the format. But fortunately, losing over and over again isn’t a complete waste of time. It certainly felt awful when I was doing the actual losing part, but I also learned a lot about the format, or at least I think I did. So while I don’t actually know what the best deck is at the moment, I should be able to piece together everything I learned about the format to figure it out.

Decks to Beat/How to Beat Them

One of the biggest factors in determining the best deck is knowing which decks you need to place a priority on beating. Having a good idea of which decks you expect to see play at the highest frequency and attempting to balance your deck’s matchups accordingly is a core fundamental of metagaming.

Deck: B/R Aggro

After this past weekend, it’s pretty clear that br Aggro is public enemy number one.

br Aggro was the deck my team played to a Top 4 finish at SCG Atlanta week one of this format, and the list has rapidly evolved since then. The deck has shifted to a more midrangey gameplan, shaving 1-drops to both accommodate their own Goblin Chainwhirlers and lessen the effectiveness of opposing Goblin Chainwhirlers. When I first wrote about Goblin Chainwhirler, I stated that I expected it to completely warp the format, and it looks like we’re getting our first glance at what that really means.


Going into last weekend, these new br lists were on everyone’s radar, but still managed to outperform expectations. br Aggro absolutely dominated GP Birmingham, taking home the trophy and occupying six of the Top 8 slots. In addition to that, br also had a strong showing in the MTGO PTQ with two copies of the deck in the Top 8 and four copies in the Top 16. We can draw a few possible conclusions from this.

Similar to a deck like Temur Energy, the malleability and overall power level of br aggro make it difficult to gain a significant edge over the deck even if you’re expecting it.

Despite knowing that the deck would be heavily played, players didn’t pay br enough respect when constructing their decks.

While I do believe that the versatility of br makes it difficult to be a massive favorite against the deck, there is definitely a non-negligible edge to be gained. I suspect that br’s success this past weekend can be primarily attributed to the vast majority of players not adjusting their decks properly in order to beat it. So what exactly should you be looking for in a deck when trying to ensure your deck has a good a good br matchup?

How To Beat it:

This is the part where all that losing I did actually has some value. By losing with and to br the amount of times that I have, I’ve been able to develop a pretty good understanding of what the deck wants to go up against and what the deck wants to avoid.

White Removal

Seal Away
Cast Out

The abundance of White removal in the format has lead to most decks packing some amount of Demystify effects, but br is one of the few color combinations that doesn’t have access to any enchantment removal. White removal spells are particularly effective against br as well because in any sort of long game br relies on its planeswalkers and resilient threats to do some heavy lifting. Cards like Cast Out and Seal Away clean these up quite nicely.

History of Benalia

History of Benalia

When paired with other aggressively slanted cards, History of Benalia presents a real problem for br. History provides a huge tempo swing early on, and the two points of toughness on the tokens is key since br relies on Chainwhirler and Walking Ballista to catch up since their first few turns generally consist of playing tapped lands.

Avoid Playing One-Toughness Creatures

Goblin Chainwhirler

I sort of just went over this, but if your deck is susceptible to getting blown out by Goblin Chainwhirler and medium-sized Walking Ballistas, you may want to look elsewhere for the time being. Playing a small amount is acceptable, but it still isn’t exactly ideal. If I were to put any one-toughness creatures in my deck at the moment, I would want them to either be good at any point in the game or able to provide nearly a card’s worth of value by the third turn. Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Llanowar Elves come to mind as good examples of this and are likely still okay to play in some capacity.

Avoid Playing Creatures That Are Bad Against Unlicensed Disintegration

Glorybringer
Verdurous Gearhulk

This is how br puts you in a bind. We’ve established that a large chunk of the good cheap creatures in the format are bad against them, and now I’m telling you that a large chunk of the expensive creatures in the format are bad against them as well. If you’re looking to spend more than three mana on a creature, that creature should probably be able to impact the board immediately. This way, you can still generate some value out of your high-costed threats. Good examples of this are Glorybringer and Verdurous Gearhulk.

Play Mono-Red

Hazoret the Fervent

A bit more direct, but it’s some of the best advice I could give you if you’re looking to beat up on br Aggro. The matchup has certainly improved a bit for br with the addition of Chainwhirler, but Mono-Red is still favored in the matchup. Between all of the come into play tapped lands, Scrapheap Scroungers, Heart of Kirans, and other clunky threats and removal spells, br is susceptible to getting run over early. And with only a few Soul-Scar Mages as possible answers, Hazoret the Fervent basically just gets to run rampant in any game it comes down. The only problem with this is Mono-Red does struggle a bit against a few other decks in the format. If you’re looking to give Mono-Red a try, BradPitKeeper’s 5th place list from the MTGO PT is a great place to start.


Deck: BW Vehicles

Like br Aggro, bw Vehicles was a deck that was highly anticipated going into last weekend. The deck had been performing well online and was fresh off a few solid performances at SCG Baltimore. But unlike br Aggro, bw Vehicles significantly underperformed this past weekend. It seems like the deck was decently represented, but there was only three copies of the deck in the Top 32 of GP Birmingham and only a single copy in the Top 32 of the MTGO PTQ. The deck appeared to be well represented, but it also seems like bw Players took some absolute beatings on the weekend. The only exception to this being Daniel Fournier going 12-0 on his way to taking down the MTGO PTQ with the archetype.


Despite this impressive feat from Fournier, my already low opinion of this deck has fallen even lower. Having access to some of the cards we identified as good against br gives it some game in the matchup, but the other portion of the deck is atrocious against what br is doing. But with that being said, I expect the deck to still see a decent amount of play and making sure you have a passable matchup against it isn’t irrelevant.

How to Beat it:

B/R Removal

Unlicensed Disintegration

The removal out of br lines up quite nicely against everything in this deck that’s not History or a Planeswalker.

Sorcerous Spyglass

Sorcerous Spyglass

Any take that can force WB to rely on its grindier cards can use Sorcerous Spyglass to great effect against them. They’ll be reliant on their Karn’s and Treasure Maps in order to keep up in longer games, and Spyglass is effective against both. It can even be used to stymie early pressure by naming Heart of Kiran if necessary.

Naturalize Effects

Thrashing Brontodon
Forsake the Worldly

With a ton of artifacts and enchantments in the deck, bw is susceptible to getting blown out by some good, old-fashioned, Naturalizes. If you’re playing Green or White cards, you’ll have your pick between a few like Naturalize, Thrashing Brontodon, Forsake the Worldly, and Invoke the Divine.

Deck: B/G Constrictor

This deck just never seems to quite go away. In fact, it’s probably better right now than it’s been in a while. With a copy of the deck in both the top 8 of the Grand Prix and the PTQ, GB Constrictor is definitely something to keep an eye on. The success of GB can likely be attributed to the format’s susceptibility to large Walking Ballistas or the power of Adventurous Impulse. Adventurous Impulse really ups the consistency of this deck, and it’s well crafted with a suite of versatile creatures in order to maximize the power level of the card. A pretty large portion of this deck is underwhelming, but being the best deck in the format at utilizing two of the most powerful cards is likely enough to make it a real player in the format. At the moment, having a favorable matchup against Constrictor wouldn’t be a requisite for me to play a deck, but it is a nice bonus.


How to Beat it:

Mass Removal

Fumigate

Like I said, Constrictor has been around forever at this point and one thing that has never really changed is the fact the deck is weak to sweepers like Fumigate. Saying that Green creature decks are weak against Wrath of God isn’t exactly breaking news, but it is still important to note. After boarding, they’ll be a bit more resilient to sweepers and load up on discard, but you should be a able to adjust your plan accordingly.

B/R Removal

Abrade

This is another deck full of creatures that don’t line up well against the removal out of br, and it’s getting easy to see why br had such a good weekend. This deck is full of one-toughness creatures and cards that are weak to Abrade, Unlicensed Disintegration, Chandra, and Glorybringer.

Don’t Skimp on Removal

Ravenous Chupacabra

There’s a trend here, but it’s important to understand that bg Constrictor is at its best against removal light, creature heavy opponents. If your plan is to just flood the board and you’re short on interaction, it will only be a matter of time before they just start mowing down your board with a Ballista. Ravenous Chupacabra is another tool they have to gain an edge in creature mirrors too, and with Adventurous Impulse they can find all of these cards fairly consistently.

Deck: UW Control

uw asserted itself as a major player early on in the format, but has lost some steam since then. It was the one of the most successful decks online prior to the first tournament, and it was the Standard deck for the winning team at SCG Atlanta. Part of the reason the deck started to fall out of favor was most people making the shift from Mono-Red to br Aggro. The early pressure of br combined with discard, planeswalkers, and Unlicensed Disintegration was a bit too much for uw to overcome. Unlicensed Disintegration was incredibly problematic for the deck because early lists were incredibly reliant on Torrential Gearhulk and Lyra Dawnbringer to stabilize against aggressive decks. This past weekend, the trend of stock uw lists performing averagely continued, but there was one major success story for the archetype.


As someone who considers themselves a pretty good deck-builder, I have to pay my respects here. This list is incredibly well tuned, and it’s absolutely no surprise to see Leo put up a great finish with the deck. I would be shocked if Leo didn’t have the best deck in the room last weekend. If the tournament was played 10,000 times, I would expect him to come out on top far more often than any other player. If what I said was true, and the most popular deck in the format was good against both cheap creatures and expensive creatures, then answer is to obviously just play no creatures. But as I mentioned, the old uw shells were reliant on their creatures to stabilize, so Leo was forced to make some drastic alterations to the deck in order to compensate for the lack of creatures. All the unique choices in this list clearly serve that purpose. The switch to more planeswalkers and Pull for Tomorrow over any Inspiration variants, allows the deck to use its mana better in the early game, and it still gives the deck enough power to put the game away. I wouldn’t surprised if this deck skyrocketed in popularity before this weekend, and having a good uw matchup would definitely be priority number two.

How to Beat it:

It’s easier for me and likely more beneficial for you all to just write this one in long form. The point I want to get across doesn’t lend itself to bullets too well. Most of the things that are good against typical control decks are still good. Difficult to interact with permanents, cards that provide card advantage, discard, and counterspells are still good. But boarding against control has always been more about your macro plan, and expecting your control plan from two weeks ago to be equally effective against this new iteration isn’t realistic. Two weeks ago, br Aggro would often beat uw Control by generating a massive a tempo swing by Doomfalling a Lyra or hitting a Gearhulk with an Unlicensed. Against these new decks, you may need to change your entire plan because you can’t generate these swings anymore. Determining play patterns that are conducive to you winning and adjusting your plan accordingly will be a necessity. An example of this may be br moving to a full set of Duresses in order to set up something like Duress into a planeswalker on five.

So after putting all of this information together, analyzing overlapping weaknesses between the major decks, and weighting matchup percentage by matchup priority, I believe that creatureless uw Control will be the best deck in the immediate future. The Standard metagame is constantly evolving and people are going to eventually adjust, but I don’t think people are ready to beat up on this deck quite yet. So if you plan on battling some Standard this weekend, I highly recommend picking up this deck and having a good plan for the mirror.


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