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Contenders for Ikoria Standard's Top Tier


Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths cards arrived on MTG Arena last week, and they wasted little time stirring up the meta. In a world without Players Tour and Mythic Championship tournaments, it will be up to the Arena grinders to solve the meta. There are opportunities for those on the edge of innovation to reach high Mythic ranks and win some of the many MTG Arena tournaments that have started popping up to fill the void left by paper Magic events.

After just a few days playing the format, here are the contenders that are emerging for Standard's top tier.

Popular streamer crokeyz wasted no time in climbing to the top of the MTG Arena Mythic ladder with this companion-based build of br Sacrifice. The aggressive-slanted Rakdos deck ended the Theros Beyond Death season as a top tier choice, and it has gained steam from the new set. Many players, including myself, thought that the loss of Mayhem Devil and Midnight Reaper would make the companion cost of Lurrus of the Dream-Den too much to pay, but crokeyz has proven otherwise.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

This cat is literally and figuratively a nightmare. Getting to play Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger from the graveyard is brutal in grindy games. Without Mayhem Devil and Midnight Reaper available, this deck dials in on Priest of Forgotten Gods. Thankfully, she has new fuel sources in Whisper Squad and Serrated Scorpion. Whisper Squad is a great mana sync while also being a great source of creatures to sacrifice. Serrated Scorpion greats more incidental damage to get the opponent to zero, while also giving you a nice life boost that is difficult for aggressive decks to race. Call of the Death-Dweller serves as a way to get back Lurrus if it dies, but it can also get back a Kroxa and a Serrated Scorpion. This deck can deal you a ton of damage without attacking you, and that is what puts it over the top.

Rising to the challenge of Lurrus Sacrifice is another established top tier deck with a new companion.

Thirty lands. This is what Magic has come too. When your turn five is the best turn five in the format, and you should win every time you get there, having half your deck be lands begins to make sense. Keruga, the Macrosage guarantees you will always have at least one turn five play, so all you need is another busted card like Kenrith, Returned King or Cavalier of Flame with your Fires of Invention to have a busted turn that should carry you to victory. Since we can only cast two spells per turn, it isn't like we need to draw that many spells, and some of these lands actually do stuff! Raugrin Triome can be cycled, Castle Vantress can scry, and basic Swamp can let Kenrith recur a creature from the graveyard, and all of this is made possible without ramp by the amazing enchantment, Fires of Invention.

Keruga, the Macrosage

Keruga's deck-building cost isn't difficult to meet in Jeskai Fires. Bonecrusher Giant and Brazen Borrower have Adventure spells attached to them that can be played on turn two. Deafening Clarion helps you catch up if the opponent plays a bunch of early creatures. The concern that companions become free cards are justified here, because Keruga adds a ton of consistency to a powerful deck that was already bordering on being too consistent.

Narset of the Ancient Way

Narset of the Ancient Way is a new tool for Jeskai Fires. Since the deck can only cast two spells per turn with Fires of Invention in play, Narset allows the deck to remove a threat by discarding a spell, which makes the [-2] ability the thing you will use her for the most in this deck. My favorite thing about Narset of the Ancient Way is how she can discard a dead card like Deafening Clarion in a control mirror, and use it to pick off a Narset, Parter of Veils or Teferi, Time Raveler on the opponent's side of the table.

While Keruga Jeskai Fires is adding more lands to lean into the powerful turn five it can generate, a new contender in Standard is trying to put even more power and toughness on the table on turn four. If you want to see new decks in this article, you can rejoice. Ikoria is going to offer more than a few companions to existing strategies.

In case you hadn't noticed yet, all the decks here are companion decks. Gyruda, Doom of Depths requires you to play cards with even mana costs only. You can have odd cards like Mystical Dispute and Teferi, Time Raveler in your sideboard, but you cannot use Gyruda as a companion if you board them in after Game 1. You can sideboard the fourth copy of Gyruda into your maindeck if you like.

Gyruda's trigger puts four cards from both libraries into the graveyard, and then you get to put a creature with an even converted mana cost onto the battlefield for free. If you hit another Gyruda or a Spark Double to copy Gyruda, you get a new trigger. Thassa, Deep-Dwelling and Charming Prince can also create new triggers, but you have to wait for an end step to see the trigger. In a perfectly arranged deck, you could mill out both players on turn four with the play pattern of ramp, ramp, Gyruda.

Gyruda, Doom of Depths

Most of the time you will get one or two Gyruda hits, and then a fizzle. Other big monsters like End-Raze Forerunners and Dream Trawler occupy slots in the deck so you can make an absurd board state. In my recent YouTube video I ramped on turn two and turn three, cast Gyruda on turn four, and ended the turn with 33 power in play. That is an insane ability to cheat on mana, and decks like Gyruda Ramp and Jeskai Fires completely invalidate a huge amount of "fair" decks from Standard play. For example, how is a Mutate deck or an Aura deck supposed to compete with this?

Standard has become a format consisting of broken turn fours that cheat on mana as much as possible, and the only decks that live in that world either kill faster, or go bigger. There are other decks that can do this, such as Temur Elementals and decks built around Winota, Joiner of Forces. I am very curious to see how Magic players will adapt and innovate in Ikoria Standard.

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