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An Introduction to New Standard - Pt. 1


I've been jamming a lot of Standard now that we have a new set in the mix. In helping to usher in the era of Theros Beyond Death to the rest of current Standard, I'll be spending some time throughout the coming days exploring the format by looking at the viable decks and recommending lists I'd register were I to be aiming for a trophy or a prize this coming weekend. And then there are all those players looking for a signature archetype for the coming months.

I'm here to help.

Meow Mix

I may as well start with the decklist I most believe in at the moment:

This has been a pleasure in the best-of-one queues on Magic Arena. I mean, for me. I imagine my opponents are miserable.

The big draw to this deck is that inexperienced opponents - and since combo Magic has been mostly gone for a long, long time, most opponents are inexperienced - will give away games constantly by underestimating the crazy reach of Cauldron Familiar in conjunction with Mayhem Devil and company.

Jund and Golgari Food decks have been around for a while now, so what we're really talking about here is upgrading via new cards.

Woe Strider

Woe Strider is everything this deck wants. Escape allows it to become a recursive threat, it gives you another redundant piece of the main motor, and it's very hard to interact with in a way where the damage isn't already done by the time it goes anywhere.

Massacre Girl

It also makes a fine friend for Massacre Girl, as sometimes they only thing preventing you from stabilizing via Lady Plague Wind is one more creature dying, and this is yet another way to kill off something for an insanely low cost relative to the rest of the deck's angles.

Woe unto those that sleep on the Strider.

The other new addition to my list for the archetype is this degenerate thing:

Agonizing Remorse

Being able to blow a hole in an opponent's plan by disrupting it this efficiently is sort of weird. Standard has enough combo gusto at the moment - did you see this decklist? - to where it's probably a necessary tool; a least of all evils kind of thing. Duress and Sorcerous Spyglass are cool and all, but they're not lifting a couch this big without more help.

Vraska, Golgari Queen

Vraska feels dorky every time she eats a transparent three-mana counterspell or gets juked out of her shoes by a Frilled Mystic, but it has enough synergy with the strategy beyond being just a pain-in-the-ass planeswalker, combined with a lot of flexibility, that it feels weird to take her out of the deck. At a single copy, unless I was hoping to lower my curve to combat a more aggro metagame around me, she may as well just hang out.

Murderous Rider
Thrashing Brontodon

Murderous Rider is the killing machine it was intended to be, but every iteration of this list just gets more and more combo-dedicated. At some point, it may just turn into another Woe Strider.

On the other hand, The Dinosaur(TM) has that stock that keeps rising. Theros loves to do the enchantment dance, and Don the Bronto loves to stomp on that bullcrap. Note that sacrificing it to blow up your own Trail of Crumbs or Witch's Oven is a niche way to get that last Mayhem Devil trigger across the finish line.

Don't forget to do some Treacherous Blessing experiments.

Treacherous Blessing

Oh my!

Castle Locthwain

I've seen decks that are high on this card, but I rarely have the time or mana to activate it. Trail of Crumbs makes for a much more efficient engine, but if your mileage varies and you need to up the count, make sure your Swamp numbers make sense so you don't blow yourself out on some early turn some day in a game that counts. If you ask me, more Swamps means less Golden Geese right out of the gate, but you do you.

Assassin's Trophy

I like jamming best-of-one, where a flexible card like this means a lot more. If you're sideboarding, play more Riders or Casualties of War or Status // Statue or whatever you want. Giving my opponents over the course of a tournament day a dozen lands doesn't sound like the way to win a nine-round event, but in a single game of winner-take-all against Rando Calrissian, I'll dance.

If I was playing a paper tournament tomorrow, this would be my list:

Sideboard conservatively; this is a hybrid midrange deck in some respects (like swinging Korvold over for the old knock out ring-a-ding to the gob), but it gets the majority of its wins from its attrition combo engine. Put in the reps, and don't try to change what the deck's about.

Adventures in Maybe Hitting

Next up, let's talk about what happens when adventures... go wrong. Or right, depending on what kind of wacky Magic you like.

Remember when Standard had no combo archetypes for like twenty years? Oh man, good times.

My Pro Magic Guerilla mate obeycelestia has been slinging this weapon about over the weekend. It made some rounds on reddit and its catching some momentum.

Lucky Clover
Underworld Breach

The general jig is to load your graveyard up, use Lucky Clover and Underworld Breach to net mana and more mill before eventually drawing and milling through the deck and using the Thassa's Oracle as the win condition.

Thassa's Oracle

It's a nifty stack of tricks; however, what's more interesting to me is what it plans to do in the face of hate, should it become a prominent archetype. It doesn't take a lot of Duress effects and Ashiok, Dream Renders to really mess with a deck this all in on its game plan.

Speaking of adventuring, this build is a cousin off shoot of another adventure build - sans giant combo plan and plus "Giant aggro" plan - obeycelestia had been running about the Magic Arena ladder with lately. Get your adventuring gear on, gang.

I've obsessed over the joy of Mastermind's Acquisition in best-of-one, and now obey has taken up the spiritual successor:

Fae of Wishes

Much like a deck of my construction with such an effect, the sideboard is total circus, but nevertheless the archetype is still a legitimate option. It really doesn't take all the luck in the world to win games when all your cards sort of start as their own Divinations.

One word to the wise: the deck seems to lack the reach to beat the attrition-based matchups of the format. It's lacking in the trample department (Beanstalk Giant, you failure), and that keeps it from being able to close the deal sometimes. But if you must play a creature deck and you can't stand the idea of Witch's Vengeance laughing at your stupid Knights every Game 2 and three, this is an archetype to tinker with.

A Day in the Life

It wasn't a full month ago that I was poking fun at the White aggro deck that snuck in a result or two despite its low impact creatures and incorrigible linearity.

All it takes is one card, people. One card.

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

I'm not laughing now, am I?!

This deck is now a steamroller with chainsaws for gloves. Heliod is the MVP card of the set so far in terms of taking an archetype to new levels. No other new card gives its home more previously un-had boom than Heliod does for the White weenie dork deck.

If you want a deck that takes the Jund Food deck and leaves it for dead in the street, look no further than this murderer's row of dorks.

Ajani's Pridemate
Alseid of Life's Bounty
Daxos, Blessed by the Sun

A far cry from the semi-cute days of the ill-fated Soul Sisters pseudo-successes of the past, this is a life gain deck with teeth. The amount of life gain per turn this deck can crank out, all while continuously building its advantage, is kind of unbelievable. That's what I get for talking trash about White.


And I don't even want to talk about this thing.

I'll see you soon for more new Standard decks for you to jump in on in the new format. And for the theory lovers, I'm working on something for you as well.


The Rascal

The "Indestructible" Danny West

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