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An Introduction to New Standard - Pt. 3

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The great trilogy of your introductory Standard options for the new season must come to an end, but we shall do it in climactic faction. It is recommended you look over the first few installments to catch up on the goings on. You need to look at all the available options. There's no reason to decide what you're going to do before you're informed of all the important information. What are you, a US Senator?!

Distant cough.

Come for the news jokes, stay for the decklists. Loosen your tie and let's get to work.

Follow these links for Part 1 and Part 2!

Critical Mass of Sets Red

A really cool thing is going on with Red right now where it's growing its identity into more interesting strategies than, you know, Lightning Bolt variant redundancy.

Experimental Frenzy
Phoenix of Ash
Merchant of the Vale

Check it out! These cards aren't Lightning Bolt!

By this many sets in almost every Standard in history, some ridiculous Red aggro deck would be near the top or standing alone at the top of the highest competitive metagames.

The reason is simple: Red's color pie has been historically so narrow that its fundamental "fast damage aggro" identity became automatically viable once the format had enough sets pushing cards in that strategic direction.

Here are some cards that I think of when contemplating historic Mono-Red Aggro/Red Deck Wins decks during large formats (as opposed to smaller Standard formats):

Keldon Megaliths
Eidolon of the Great Revel

Kargan Dragonlord

So why don't we just have some ridiculously good Red deck now that a whole bunch of sets are legal in Standard now?

There are reasons. They are threefold.

Trinisphere

Firstly: Red's color pie has gotten much wider. That means we're likely to lose the super top end of Mono-Red Aggro as we've come to know it. This is actually a good thing, as Red has needed some color pie growth for basically the entirety of Magic's lifespan.

Second: Life gain has been the traditional way to play good defense against Red stuff. Life gain is all over the place right now between various Cauldron Familiar decks and Heliod aggro. A buffet of Food is a hard thing to overcome when it's open 24/7. This Standard is basically a Golden Corral (except more dignified).

Third: A lot of the Red deck candidates have mechanical themes that are very distracting for deck-builders. We have Knights, we have Devotion, and so forth. Which Red deck you're down with likely comes down to your goals: I'm not sure which lists are best-of-one engineering and which are born of traditional paper Magic, but rest assured they are not the same, prospective Red player.

Here's some Red upside your head:


Embercleave remains the big enabler star of the moment, but even with the obvious cost reduction effect, the world's fanciest Giant Growth isn't exactly the kind of trick the great and oppressive Red Aggro decks of yesteryear hung their hat on.

Translation: For now anyway, this is just a Red deck. It will not ruin our lives.

Subject to change if this next set with all the big chubby creatures makes Act of Treason the new hotness. I think we're safe, though.

Embercleave

Just don't lose to this card. It's the most telegraphed play in the format now and there's just no excuse.

Dumpster Fires

The Fires decks have come in a few varieties, but as someone who doesn't like losing various flavors of mirror matches, I can only recommend the most ambitious version. Ken Yukihiro built it, Zvi endorsed it, and Pro Magic Guerilla's own JFamous never puts the damn thing down.


Well, this is our lives now.

The main reasons to sticking with this deck for a while are the following:

  • Strong matchup against other more lame Fires of Invention decks. (Three colors? Puh-lease.)
  • It has four Niv-Mizzet Reborn.
  • You're playing some combination of Brawl and Commander in a Standard tournament.

Sold!

And above all that? You have a fine time of beating Jund Food, all things considered.

So why wouldn't someone play this deck?!

Flash the Cash

Oh right.

Since Standard is now run by the same colors that run Commander, even without Oko, Thief of Joy, Simic is always a strong option. Plus it's great against the deck that's great against the other decks that are great against...

Please let this format stay like this forever. Please, Santa.

Gifts Given




I could go on all day.

Basing your Magic strategy around Green and Blue is still ace, even without Oko. All those focus groups that were into Commander have finally crept all the way into our tournament space. As long as you're willing to start on Simic, you can do whatever you want in the fringes. Even as I was doing this article series this week, I started to see tons more Sultai on Magic Arena. Everyone is in a mad dash to figure out what the best "Faeries" deck in this Standard looks like. This subgroup has more selection than any other in the format because, well, Green is bananas.

My version comes equipped with the ability to go tribal midrange in sideboard games. Going wide without losing most of your relevant creature sizing is a cool way to ruin their plan for your big targets.

Sinister Sabotage
Mystical Dispute

I also don't want to play counterspells in Magic at the moment. Like, maybe if I'm Cubing or whatever, but you know. Not here.

The ramp versions have a much easier time doing something relevant against infinite Cauldron Familiar chump blocks than the Flash version, and like it or not, that's going to be a pretty major thing these few months.

Nissa, Who Shakes the World

I suppose all of this is to say: Play a proactive Flash deck if you must (think more Scion of Oona, less Delver of Secrets), and be willing to have a configuration that goes up the curve. The days of playing secret service bodyguard to a single - incrementally less pathetic by the turn - dork and winning are about over.

The Final Formula

So after looking at this boatload of reasonable archetypes to start the season of with, I feel like there's one more class of decks to throw in: the ones that I didn't mention in this series but that do have some smart players working on them. In no particular order, I can call to mind: the resurging Hero of Precinct One Esper deck, yet more attempts to break Wilderness Reclamation in conjunction with Expansion // Explosion, new enchantment-based decks going for busted draw patterns with Setessan Champion, Gruul aggro and midrange beatdown decks, whatever the incorrigible mill players are in love with, Orzhov hand disruption stuff, and whatever the niche tribal bits are in the margins (Elementals probably?)

We could go on forever.

The final formula for the top end of this format is going to come down to how the Food, Flash, Fires dynamic plays out with the Theros Beyond Death alterations, combined with the viability (or lack thereof) of the new contenders, plus any surprise decks and whatever dynamics they can throw in that we could never have seen coming.

Pretty impossible to tell the future from here? Yeah, kind of.

So what can we do?

Well, that's easy.

It's time to make a decision.

Who are you going to be this season? Who is your fighting game main? What is going to be your signature weapon?

Sleeve that ish.

(~_^)

The Rascal

The Indestructible Danny West

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