It has been a while since I've written an article because work has been very busy and I don't like to brew with new sets. I prefer to let the first weeks of tournament results dictate where I spend my time.
Now that we have had a couple weeks to digest Kaldheim's place in Standard I have played about twenty decks on Arena to get a feel for the format in its infancy. I expect plenty of metagame shifts in the coming weeks.
Today I'm going to talk about what I've learned so far, what decks have piqued my interest, and what fell short. My goal is to get into fighting form for upcoming Kaldheim Qualifiers.
Let's get to it!
Since Blightstep Pathway allowed Rakdos to have more consistent mana I was drawn back to Kroxa and friends. There are plenty of ways to build Rakdos because most of the threats rely on a specific synergy such as utilizing the graveyard or sacrificing permanents.
I liked Filipa Carola's take on the deck. She finished 6-0 in an SCG Satellite and many players also did well with her list over the weekend. There are very few four-ofs because many of the threats and enablers have high diminishing returns.
Rakdos Sacrifice | KHM Standard | Filipa Carola, 6-0 SCG Satellite
- Creatures (19)
- 1 Ox of Agonas
- 2 Bonecrusher Giant
- 2 Immersturm Predator
- 2 Rankle, Master of Pranks
- 2 Valki, God of Lies
- 3 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
- 3 Mire Triton
- 4 Woe Strider
- Planeswalkers (1)
- 1 Liliana, Waker of the Dead
I like Rakdos in an open metagame because Rogues can slice through slower control and ramp strategies and make it to the top tables. It's nice to be able to effortlessly escape in Game 1.
My results were decent with Rakdos, but it's no secret I'll have to face Klothys, God of Destiny more now that everyone knows Rogues and Graveyard strategies are popular. If you register a Rakdos deck in the near future I would advise adding Pharika's Libation to the sideboard to fight the powerful enchantment. It's also a nice way to kill Goldspan Dragon before they attack so no treasures are generated.
Immersturm Predator has impressed me so far. It can exile cards from the graveyard at instant speed when it doesn't attack which fizzles the Klothys trigger and is easier on the mana compared to Rankle. If the top of your curve is Immersturm Predator and The Akroan War it's possible to make Jegantha, the Wellspring your companion.
I like The Akroan War in this metagame because it can steal large Green creatures as well as Yorion. Masked Vandal is a strong new option to interact with artifacts and enchantments, but cannot stop The Akroan War at instant speed. There is now an option to play fewer Wilts which bodes well for Rakdos mages. Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider is the one new threat to consider when playing The Akroan War as your sagas don't do anything when it's on the battlefield.
Rakdos is here to stay - at least for the short term. It can have trouble against Ramp decks that go over the top and largely ignore creature interaction. It has a target on its back so I'm going to look elsewhere for now. There are enough archetypes in Standard it's important to play your favorite deck at the right time.
I've been having a lot of success with Robert Vaughan's Jund Sacrifice list from last weekend's Kaldheim Qualifier where he made the top 4.
Jund Sacrifice | KHM Standard | Robert Vaughan, Top 4 Kaldheim Qualifier
- Companion (1)
- 1 Jegantha, the Wellspring
- Creatures (23)
- 2 Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
- 3 Immersturm Predator
- 3 Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
- 3 Valki, God of Lies
- 4 Bonecrusher Giant
- 4 Skyclave Shade
- 4 Woe Strider
- Sorceries (4)
- 4 Claim the Firstborn
- Enchantments (3)
- 3 The Akroan War
- Lands (24)
- 1 Forest
- 2 Mountain
- 3 Swamp
- 2 Temple of Malice
- 4 Blightstep Pathway
- 4 Cragcrown Pathway
- 4 Darkbore Pathway
- 4 Fabled Passage
Valki has been terrorizing Eternal formats, but it has been just powerful enough in Standard. I prefer three Valki in Rakdos decks because even the control decks play Yorion and Goldspan Dragon.
One thing I've noticed with Jund Sacrifice is I often hold onto the goat token from Woe Strider for Village Rites instead of scrying. When Rakdos is popular I want to play a version of the deck that leans on sacrifice synergies to play around opposing Claim the Firstborn and The Akroan War.
Claim the Firstborn is good against creature decks, but it can also target your own creatures to grant haste against control. The ability to be aggressive in matchups where creature interaction isn't good is surprisingly effective thanks to Skyclave Shade. The door can be shut by casting a shade with kicker or escaping Woe Strider to attack for five out of nowhere.
The other piece of the aggressive plan against Control and Ramp is Kazuul's Fury. It synergizes with my stealing effects against creatures, but also deals plenty of damage by throwing a creature with five or six power.
The sideboard has interesting options with the additional color. Masked Vandal is powerful because exiling enchantments can deal with an opposing Klothys. I don't have to destroy The Akroan War at instant speed because I have plenty of sacrifice outlets.
Toski, Bearer of Secrets has been impressive so far when I need a 4-drop to replace The Akroan War against control. I draw a card for each creature that damages a player which means the opponent needs to deal with my pesky Skyclave Shades. I will get an immediate card back before Toski is exiled to Elspeth Conquers Death or Extinction Event.
Klothys is strong against Control decks and the mirror for different reasons. I'm able to control the size of opposing graveyards against Rakdos, but I can also ramp into Korvold.
The slow burn of draining for two each turn against control helps make the incremental damage better. I also need at least seven cards to board out against control to replace Claim the Firstborn and The Akroan War.
This deck is currently my frontrunner. It's very fun and I've won a lot so far. As I write this article, I'm #268 on the ladder.
I was able to go from Platinum to Mythic losing only one match with Temur Ramp. My list was very close to a list Mauro Labate played to a 6-0 finish in an SCG Satellite.
Temur Ramp | KHM Standard | Mauro Labate, 6-0 SCG Satellite
- Planeswalkers (4)
- 4 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
- Enchantments (4)
- 4 Shark Typhoon
- Lands (23)
- 2 Mountain
- 4 Forest
- 4 Island
- 1 Barkchannel Pathway
- 1 Riverglide Pathway
- 3 Fabled Passage
- 4 Cragcrown Pathway
- 4 Ketria Triome
The traditional Temur Adventures list is glutted with 5-drops: Goldspan Dragon and Terror of the Peaks. The more controlling version of Temur Ramp plays additional interaction up the curve and is only interested in casting Goldspan Dragon in the mid game.
I noticed in my Standard testing most decks are very weak to Ugin. Many of the Ugin shells are currently monochromatic control decks. The most impressive of those shells was Mono-Red because it was able to use Goldspan Dragon's treasure to cast it ahead of schedule. It was only natural we would arrive at a more dedicated ramp deck with control elements.
Fire Prophecy has been important in making early plays more consistently than Temur Adventures. I have always had a soft spot for Temur Adventures, but it's frustrating how often it loses to itself. My rule with Fire Prophecy in the early game is to bottom Ugin and Genesis Ultimatum because I'm likely to draw another copy by the time I can cast them.
Shark Typhoon is not only a great hit with Genesis Ultimatum, but it also allows me to create threats at instant speed. It helps me transition nicely into more of a Blue deck after sideboard against strategies packed with counters.
Koma, Cosmos Serpent is surprisingly effective against control decks. It has many abilities including being uncounterable. The serpent tokens can be sacrificed to tap opposing Goldspan Dragons which dramatically changes the matchup against Izzet Tempo. It's not only a Limited bomb.
Jwari Disruption looked bad to me at first, but I am now sold. It's an additional land drop as well as additional interaction to cast with Goldspan Dragon. I'm also in the market for interaction on turn two.
In metagames where Green decks are preyed on by three-color Yorion decks I would play Temur Ramp. I also like my Rakdos matchups. Rogues and Gruul can be challenging. If you like this style of deck I would recommend it as Bonecrusher Giant helps your problematic matchups after board.
What Didn't Work?
After sharing decks that actually brought me a good amount of success, I went through plenty of archetypes that didn't fare as well.
Gruul Aggro is a pretty safe choice, but I don't like the current builds. It's something I'll explore further in the coming weeks. Goldspan Dragon performed very poorly for me as it functioned mostly as an expensive Questing Beast. The deck's curve tops out at five mana making the treasures less useful than in other decks. I would prefer up to four Embercleaves at the top of the curve.
Naya Adventures has some nice tools and is close to something I would register. I tried versions that focused heavily on card advantage generated by creatures with adventure, but it was too slow against decks without creatures. If Bonecrusher Giant and Giant Killer don't generate a 2-for-1 you're in for a rough time.
I was happier with Naya Adventures decks that looked more like Gruul splashing Showdown of the Skalds. Brushfire Elemental as an early threat is important to making an impactful curve against non-creature decks.
There are currently a lot of opinions on the internet about Naya Adventures playing Showdown of the Skalds in the maindeck or sideboard. I would personally prefer to play it in the main, but it's possible the right answer is less than four copies. Games slow down after sideboard which is where Showdown shines. Naya had a rough weekend despite the power level being high so I'm going to sit out until the lists become more solidified.
Rogues has its fair share of great matchups, but Rakdos and Gruul being prevalent makes me want to play another strategy. I would love to say something like "when there are fewer Gruul and Rakdos decks, pick up Rogues," but Red cards are so powerful in Standard that won't happen.
I have yet to try playing a couple copies of Valki in Rogues, but it might be good enough. It's not a rogue, but is a non-human to make Of One Mind Cheaper. There's a chance Valki belongs in every Black deck due to its high power level. A common mistake players made against me was not immediately killing my creatures and I would get the discount on casting Of One Mind. A similar mistake to letting big creatures survive to cheat in The Great Henge against Gruul and Food.
I also tried some Party Tribal decks that were a little too inconsistent for me. There are some games where it looks unbeatable even through disruption, but it doesn't do the thing often enough for me.
That's all I have for today. If you're reading this wondering if getting back into Standard is right for you, I would say it is. The addition of Kaldheim has made every color playable. There currently is not a single dominant deck or a card so powerful the other decks are warped. You can play aggro, control, tempo, and ramp.
I'm not yet 100% sold on any deck to play this weekend, but I hope Jund Sacrifice continues to treat me well. I can't wait to play paper Magic again, but Arena has been pretty fun in the meantime.
Thanks for reading!