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5 Decks You Can't Miss This Week: #MTGKTK Standard


This is it: Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. What wedges are we expecting to see battling it out at the top tables? Which Planeswalkers will we see squaring off alongside our favorite Magic teams and personalities? Khans Standard has been interesting to watch develop; there hasn't been one deck that's clearly put up dominant results just yet. That said, there are a few decks that have been making a lot of noise and putting up consistent results that will be level one of the Pro Tour metagame. Let's take a look.

One of the top performers over the last few weeks has been a Jeskai Tempo deck featuring Mantis Rider prominently as a threat applies a quick clock and holds down the fort. Quick, aggressive creatures backed by effiient removal is a great plan in a new format and this deck is the premier example heading into the Pro Tour. Let's take a look at PRESUNTOJUBLAY's take on this Standard staple:

The creature base is the foundation this deck is built on. Goblin Rabbemaster and Mantis Rider threaten to end games quickly, while Seeker of the Way is incredible in racing scenarios. Sarkhan is your end game threat once your opponents have burned some of their removal spells or sweepers on your smaller guys.

The whole gameplan is to use your burn to clear the way for your powerful creatures and then throw Jeskai Charms and Stoke the Flames at your opponent's face until their dead. The edge that this has over more traditional two-color aggressive decks is that your threats are individually more powerful and you gain access to powerful late-game cards like Dig Through Time to find the burn spells you need to close the game out.

If you expect a lot of aggressive decks, this seems like a great place to be without giving up too much against decks that can go bigger. You have burn to stall out aggressive starts and mana creatures, as well as threats that can dominate a race.

But what if you don't want to play fair Magic? There have been a few fringe combo decks in Standard over the past few seasons, but Jeskai Ascendancy is the kind of combo card we haven't seen since Splinter Twin. This is an effect that's breaking eternal foramts, so it stands to reason there should be something busted we can do in Standard. This is Caleb Durward's take:

You have to do a lot more work to set up the combo in Standard, but the threats are less powerful and you've got more time to find all the pieces. Your plan here is to dig through your deck with Commune with the Gods and various cantrips for mana creatures, a Jeskai Ascendancy, and a Retraction Helix, and a Dragon Mantle.

Here's how the combo works: you Retraction Helix one of your guys and bounce the Dragon Mantle. Then you use another mana creature to cast Dragon Mantle, pumping your guys, untapping your team, looting, and then drawing a card. Rinse and repeat until you find Twinflame to make more mana creatures or Briber's Purse to start netting more mana as you loot through your deck. Eventually you'll have a handful of enormous mana dorks and find your Burning Anger to hit your opponent for the full 20 points in one shot.

This is a deck that is capable of going off as early as turn four. This deck is very fragile. You're vulnerable to every type of disruption, so you're not beating someone who sets out to beat up on this combo deck. Consequently, Sylvan Caryatid is secretly one of the best cards in the deck because it's a safe target for Retraction Helix and Dragon Mantle that doesn't open you up to two-for-ones. Whether it's realistic to asseble the combo through all of the disruption and powerful threats available in Standard remains to be seen, but I'm pretty sure I'm happy in a world where there's a viable four-color combo deck in Standard.

The biggest trio of cards heading into the Pro Tour is almost certainly Elvish Mystic, Sylan Caryatid, and Courser of Kruphix. These were powerful cards in previous Standard and Block formats, and are one of the most solid bases on which to build a deck in the new format. These fit into Monsters style shells featuring Goblin Rabblemaster and Polukranos just as well as they various three color midrange decks and devotion-fueled ramp decks. The Green decks that have seemed most successful in the new format are the devotion decks that utilize Genesis Hydra and Chord of Calling to dig up powerful singletons and overwhelm opponents with Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. Here's an interesting take on Green-Black Devotion by redhairedguy:

The gameplan is the same as it's always been. Curve mana guys into midrangey threats and then overwhelm your opponent with Nykthos. When other people are casting Mantis Rider and you're casting Hornet Queen, you've got to feel pretty good about your odds of overpowering whatever it is that they're doing, particularly with access to something like Genesis Hydra with a built in two-for-one.

That's not the most exciting thing about this deck though. The exciting part is Doomwake Giant and the constellation engine. This is a fantastic way of briding your way from middling amounts of mana to the enormous Nykthos turns. You can but roadblocks in the way while sculpting your hand or setting your opponent back, all the while setting up advantages that quickly snowball out of control. Doomwake Giant in particular quickly turns into a one-sided wrath when you start chaining together Eidolon of Blossoms into Courser of Kruphix.

Lastly, the power of singleton creatures in this style of deck should not be understated. With both Chord of Calling and Genesis Hydra available, you can fairly reliably find those singletons if the game goes long. This means that the stock of cards like Nylea, Reclamation Sage, and Nylea's Disciple in the maindeck goes way up, since you won't often be stuck with them when they're dead, but can dig to them when that's your one out.

There's no arguing that these decks are powerful enough to take down a Pro Tour, but we'll have to wait and see what flavor is most popular. Black with Doomwake Giant[/card, Red with Planeswalkers and [card]Stormbreath Dragon, or some other combination altogether. I'll certainly be paying attention to what kind of things are being cast off of Nykthos this weekend.

One thing we haven't seen much of in Khans Standar is a traditional Blue-based control deck. It's hard to build counterspell control decks when the metagame is unknown, particularly when Sphinx's Revelation just rotated and End Hostilities costs five. There's been some speculation about Blue-Black or Sultai control, but ALUCARDH608 has had some success with more traditional Blue-White deck:

The gameplan has to change a lot when you can't just Elixir of Immortality into infinite Sphinx's Revelations and Aetherling is no longer an option. There are a number of really important questions that need to be answered before a real control deck can be built for this format. What's the right mix of removal spells? Banishing Light versus Suspension Field versus Last Breath is a real question, and that's not even getting into casting Devouring Light off of Elspeth tokens. Is Jace's Ingenuity good enough? Is Dig Through Time better than Treasure Cruise? Perhaps most importantly, is End Hostilities good enough?

As far as win conditions go, Elspeth more than proved herself last season and Prognostic Sphinx is a card that defined Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. These are cards we haven't seen very much of, but they're still brutally powerful and capable of ending games in very short order.

I don't know if this is the shell we'll see this weekend, but I certainly hope to see more Blue cards than we have in previous weeks.

Finally we get to the midrange decks. There are all manner of midrangey beasts packed with powerful cards. Abzan with Siege Rhino, Sultai with Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, or Temur with Savage Knuckleblade. Those aren't the ones I'm interested in. I'm more interested in what the Mardu midrange deck has to offer. Let's take a look at this build by BLUEMAGICTIME:

This is the midrange deck I'm most excited about because it has all of the most powerful tools. You have all the most efficient removal, the best top end threats, you even get both Sorin and Sarkhan as resilient tools against aggro, control, and midrange alike. The ability to play Goblin Rabblemaster alongside Thoughtseize, Murderous Cut, and Crackling Doom is certainly not to be ignored.

Other midrange decks are just playing a pile of good cards backed by Sylvan Caryatid. This one is different because it's playing the best cards. Brimaz and Rabblemaster backed by removal just ends games. Ashcloud Phoenix gives you longevity and reach against grindy matchups. Sorin gets you back out of the red zone against aggro. Sure, you don't have Siege Rhino, but it's not clear that Butcher of the Horde is a downgrade. It's not like you won't have a billion tokens to feed him.

The real trick to this deck is going to be figuring out the right combination of Hero's Downfalls, Banishing Lights and other removal spells. You get to play any piece of removal you could possibly want, but we don't have any Doom Blades or Ultimate Prices as the clear choice for most generic, efficient piece of removal. Choosing one option over another has real costs in this format, and choosing incorrectly means that you won't be able to kill that Sarkhan or Stormbreath Dragon when you really need to. This deck seems to have all the tools, but you have to choose them very carefully.

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