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Return to Ravnica Standard


With the upcoming release of Return to Ravnica, the Standard format looks to be completely changed. With the rotation of powerhouse cards such as Ponder, Mana Leak, and every Phyrexian-mana spell, we can look forward to a format full of gold cards as being augured by Ravnica.

In such a new Standard format, I want to beat down and punish decks that lack focus (as typically is the case after a new set comes out).

The best weapon with which to do so is Zombies since you barely lose anything. Many great B/G spells have been spoiled for the deck.

Before Return to Ravnica, Zombies has a few problems. The 2-drop slot is not very good, and sometimes, you are a very clunky deck with mana issues.

Overgrown Tomb
Return to Ravnica changes all of this. Overgrown Tomb alongside Cavern of Souls and Woodland Cemetery give you twelve green sources for Zombies. You obviously gain access to the incredible Lotleth Troll and Dreg Mangler.

It’s not uncommon to have a curve of a 2-power guy into Lotleth Troll into a 3-power guy followed by a removal spell. This is an incredibly difficult start for anyone to keep up with, and you have some reach in the forms of Blood Artist with Killing Wave and Sign in Blood. Jarad, Golgari Lich Lord also provides some reach.

Sever the Bloodline and Vampire Nighthawk are considerations—Sever lines up very well against opposing Zombies, and Nighthawk has evasion. You definitely want Thragtusk somewhere in your seventy-five and potentially more Disciple of Bolas to go along with it for creature mirrors to grind them out.

Underworld Connections seems like a great sideboard card against control decks (albeit being a slightly more awkward Phyrexian Arena).

Another potential variant of Zombies is to touch red for burn spells and Falkenrath Aristocrat:

Your mana base is slightly more unstable due to the fact that you add four more M10-style lands and four more lands that can potentially hurt you.

Brimstone Volley provides an incredible amount of damage output, so I think it is rather easy to kill anyone from 10 life or so since they are forced to block your men every turn. Also, remember that Sign in Blood can target your opponent if he is at 2 life.

I don’t really like Rakdos’s Return in the main deck of either of these decks, but it is certainly a powerful card to sideboard in against control decks since they are likely not to be leaning on counterspells so much anymore. Abrupt Decay doesn’t really belong in the main deck of either of these since it’s a green, noncreature spell, meaning you only have eight sources to cast it with, and it is not a reliable kill spell against bigger guys such as Thragtusk.

Another aggressive deck that naturally comes to mind is a G/W beatdown deck.

Dryad Militant is a disruptive creature that certain decks must answer before they can do a bunch. Any Snapcaster Mage–based control deck loses a lot of value if the Militant sticks, and it turns Forbidden Alchemy and similar spells into much worse cards. (As a side note, damage- and toughness-based removal will be exiled by the Militant, but Murder and Wrath effects will not due to the fact that state-based actions can’t be checked during the resolution of a spell.)

The game plan is pretty obvious: Play under-costed men ahead of schedule while having resiliency to sweepers with planeswalkers and Gavony Township. I would aggressively mulligan to have a 1-drop of some sort in hand (a mana guy is preferable here).

Selesnya Charm is a consideration since all of the modes are relevant here. Giving trample to a soulbond-paired guy seems huge, since otherwise, it is relatively easy to chump-block. Similarly, Rancor may be good.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Thragtusk, and Trostani, Selesnya’s Voice all deserve consideration for the sideboard, as does Knight of Glory.

The last deck that jumps out at me as being a huge contender is a Bant Spirits update from Block.

The plan is to make a giant creature that the opponent can’t interact with very easily. This is essentially an updated list from Pro Tour: Avacyn Restored. Since I expect the metagame to be infested with a ton of creature decks, the deck above is a great choice to combat them—it’s very difficult to interact with hexproof creatures with Phantasmal Image and Phyrexian Metamorph both leaving the format.

I also envision Jund and Naya midrange decks making quite a splash based on the Block versions of the deck receiving better mana and more powerful cards in Return to Ravnica. I haven’t quite hammered out lists for these yet, but as more cards are spoiled, they will change a great deal.

Most of this will depend on how the metagame shakes out after the first few StarCityGames events.

The new Standard looks to be quite diverse, and good luck in building new decks.

You can leave comments here or on Twitter @jkyu06.

Thanks for reading!

As a bonus, here’s the Legacy deck I’ve been playing the past few days:

Credit for the design goes to Gerry Thompson, and you can read about it in greater detail in one of his recent SCG Premium articles.


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