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5 Decks You'll Play This Weekend

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Grand Prix Costa Rica is this weekend, a great reason to look at how Standard is faring. The format's core seems to have settled, but there are several archetypes available, and every new tournament's a chance to send the format in a new direction.

Ambition's Costa

Costa Rica is not the CR most connected with Wizards. The CR most connected with Wizards is probably Chinese Restaurant. I don't know the actual name of the restaurant, but it's a mile from Wizards headquarters, and it offers mediocre service and okay food at a fantastic price. It took me awhile to understand what a lunch invitation to CR was — it wasn't Costa Rica, but how was I to know? Apart from the distance, lack of plane tickets, and lunch breaks being an hour, that is.

So, one CR sees Magic's makers regularly, and the other's about to see Magic's players. What decks are likely to show up? From May 16 to May 29:

Archetype Total
Bant Company 24
White Humans 22
Green-White Tokens 16
Naya Midrange 10
Red-Green Eldrazi Ramp 7
Abzan Aristocrats 6
White-Black Midrange 6
Four-Color Aristocrats 5
White-Black Control 5
Black-Green Aurora 4
Four-Color Company 4
Red-Green Goggles Ramp 4
Sultai Midrange 4
White Eldrazi 4
Grixis Control 3
The Rest 19

I'd say White is a fair bet to show up a lot. Maybe some Green too? Just to be different, maybe add some Blue as well:


Bant Company decks had been torn for awhile on how many Dromoka's Command and Ojutai's Command they could fit in without taking away Collected Company targets. The answer for many players has been to cut Archangel Avacyn, include Thalia's Lieutenant, and go all-in on Human synergies to compensate for the extra non-creature spells. Going the Humans route allows Knight of the White Orchid to fix Green and Blue mana — streamlining the mana base helps this deck out loads — and gives extra consistency in Thraben Inspector. Thalia's Lieutenant can pressure life totals by itself or by pumping the team; if it gets big, it's also a sort of Ratchet Bomb for the sideboard Profaner of the Dead, breaking ground stalls to let the team swing in. Thalia's Lieutenant also can be reanimated with Ojutai's Command; in a pretty aggressive format, that beats reanimating Jace, Vryn's Prodigy for the grossest thing you can do with the card.

The sideboard varies a bit among builds. Sigarda, Heron's Grace is a bonus for playing all Humans, and the rest of the listed sideboard is fairly stock; other players prefer Planeswalkers and Tragic Arrogance. I suspect the Grand Prix meta-game will favor one type of sideboard over the other — the faster type above or the midrange Planeswalker type.

This next deck determines a lot of the speed of the format:


This is now the normal configuration of the main deck and sideboard — the Battlefield Forges are only for the Needle Spires in the sideboard that come in for long matchups, paired with Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, as Sam Black explains here. The primary difference in deck construction is whether the main deck goes slightly bigger and has the Needle Spires in it or whether to go leaner and put the Spires in the sideboard. With that, I'm surprised there's little experimentation in Red spells, but as the deck is about speed and consistency, there's not much time in an average game to try anything too fancy. One player in Saturday's League results went for Shambling Vent and a single Anguished Unmaking instead of Needle Spires; another player had Reckless Bushwhacker in the main deck and Rending Volley in the sideboard. Apart from those two renegades, lists had Needle Spires but no Red spells. This deck's pretty much what it's going to be, but it's doing its job well.

While the Humans are static, the new kid on the block is still figuring out what it is:


I chose this list because it's about in the middle in terms of Creature vs. Planeswalker count. These are the most common spells the lists agree on, although normally there are more copies of Nissa, Vastwood Seer instead of Archangel Avacyn. As G/W Tokens has shown, Oath of Nissa can take a regular deck and make it super consistent, and the Naya Midrange lists are built around that idea, adding Tireless Tracker, Nissa, Vastwood Seer, and Nahiri, the Harbinger for more card selection. The deck doesn't ramp, but it's consistent enough with its land drops that it can main-deck Dragonlord Atarka anyway. It's that consistency that allows not only Dragonlord Atarka but all the other great threats in-color.

The sideboard Malevolent Whispers aren't stock for the list — they show up in the sideboard occasionally, but almost never as a three-of. They provide one of the best answers to ramp decks (which, because of archetype splitting, don't look as dominant in the table above as they are), and having that option — waiting for ramp to achieve its great finisher, then finishing them with it — is an option few decks can work into the game plan.

One deck that can work in loads of options is Grixis Control, at least how Shaheen Soorani builds it:


This is nearly identical to Oliver Tiu's semifinal list from Grand Prix Toronto, except it cuts a couple copies of creatures for two Dark Petitions. That's one of the biggest small changes imaginable, as it changes not only how long Shaheen can find answers, but it also means the singleton-heavy sideboard gets much better (especially as the singletons are all Black, leveraging Dark Petition's spell mastery mana). Past that, it's the same deck it's been — Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Goblin Dark-Dwellers are great utility while being big enough to finish a game, Chandra, Flamecaller can go over the top of almost any deck, and being the best Radiant Flames deck in the format has great advantages in a world where people expect Languish.

One Spicy Metaball

It's not just Tomoharu Saito who's doing well with this deck from Grand Prix Minneapolis. According to the coverage, he saw its success in Leagues and wanted to work with it. He might mean this list:


This version runs Twin Bolt main deck while Saito main-decked Spell Shrivel for the Grand Prix. Saito also chose the slower but one-sided Seismic Rupture for his sweeper, while this version prefers the instant speed of Kozilek's Return. Regardless, the plan is the same; play tempo spells in the early game, play Flash flyers when you don't need the tempo spells, and close the game out with Goldnight Castigators, drawing cards and applying pressure with Fevered Visions.

The key to understanding this deck is how much of its play is about tempo. By keeping early plays off the board, Goldnight Castigator's severe drawback isn't going to come up nearly as much as you'd expect reading the card in a vacuum. If Fiery Impulse and Clash of Wills have addressed the opponent's first two plays, then they're going to have nothing before getting clocked for four, and the first threat they land isn't likely to have Haste. So Goldnight Castigator deals eight damage before the drawback matters, all while surviving Languish and several burn spells.

Because of how underplayed Blue has been lately, the format has gotten used to jamming spells without concern for leaving up mana. That makes Clash of Wills and Spell Shrivel an effective tandem right now, especially as this deck can punish holding spells back by casting one of its eight flash flyers.

Also, the main deck's about $50 to build completely from scratch on CoolStuffInc. In between starting and finishing this article, I bought the parts to make this my Standard FNM deck for that reason alone. Okay, not just for that reason — winning with junk mythics, junk rares, and junk counterspells sounds awesome.

Conclusion

While the top of the metagame is well-defined, Naya Midrange is threatening to shake it up, and there are a few brews that expose some axes the top decks all fight on. And what brewing is going on might matter a lot more when Eldritch Moon gives out new treats. While I don't expect Costa Rica to shake up Standard, it should keep it moving while offering a few new takes. That's a good place to be this far into the format.


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