For the time being, Standard appears to be constrained by the raw speed of the Mono-Red deck and the power and consistency of energy variants. If you want to do something different, you’ve got to find a way to go bigger than energy while maintaining enough of your early game to keep pace with the Red deck. Slaxx appears to have done exactly that with this interesting deck:
Blue-Black Midrange - Ixalan Standard | Slaxx, 5-0 Standard League
- Creatures (21)
- 2 Champion of Wits
- 2 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
- 2 Hostage Taker
- 3 Kitesail Freebooter
- 4 Gifted Aetherborn
- 4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
- 4 The Scarab God
We’ve seen control in this format before, but this is no Search for Azcanta deck. There are no counterspells, Glimmer of Geniuses, or Torrential Gearhulks. Those cards, while powerful, are just too slow in a format where you can be dead on board the turn you cast Glimmer of Genius. Instead, Slaxx has opted for a creature-based plan that ensures that you can keep pace with the Red deck, even if their falter effects let them force through damage.
The key to all of this is early creatures. Champion of Wits and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner let you sculpt your hand against midrange decks while serving as reasonable blockers against Mono-Red. Gifted Aetherborn may just be the best possible card against Mono-Red in the format, serving as a blocker that dodges most of their possible removal spells that can eat most of their creatures in combat. As you go further up the curve, Hostage Taker and Vraska's Contempt serve as answers to Hazoret the Fervent and other indestructible creatures. The key is that you have cheap answers like Duress and Fatal Push backed up by cheap blockers, curving out into value plays like Hostage Taker, The Scarab God, and Gonti, Lord of Luxury to actually let you pull ahead.
Against energy, your cheap blockers serve as reasonable threats. You can stay at parity on the board while slowly pulling ahead on cards. The key is that, unlike energy decks, you have hard answers to the threats at the top of the curve. Glorybringer, The Scarab God, and any other creature-based threat are all vulnerable to Vraska's Contempt and Hostage Taker, and on top of that you have a Scarab God of your own to rebuy your key midrangey threats.
If you’re looking for something new to try in Standard, this is deck that appears to do a great job of walking the line between midrange and control. It goes just a little bit bigger than Temur Energy variants, but without giving up too much ground against Red decks. This seems like a great place to be in the current Standard format, and I can’t wait to see if people can do more with this creature-oriented style of deck.