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A Standard Deck for Everyone


Karn, Scion of Urza
Hey everyone!

I have had plenty of time to play Modern and Legacy, but now I'm setting my sights on Standard to prepare for the Team Unified Standard RPTQ. Standard has a bad reputation due to the format quickly becoming solved. It's a breath of fresh air compared to Modern and Legacy where I'm always nervous my opponent will kill me from nowhere. Not perfect by any means, but think of it as a palate cleanser.

To help my teammates I want to be familiar with the major pillars of the format since no two decks can have the same card except for basic lands. For example, if player A has even a single Karn, Scion of Urza in their deck, player B and C cannot play it at all. This makes it difficult to overlap colors as Standard has a small card pool.

Building three decks without overlapping cards felt daunting at first, but now I see some opportunities. I'm pretty excited to play many of the decks I've seen so far. Not all of these decks play the expensive cards in the new set like Karn, Teferi, Lyra, and History of Benalia.

Karn has proven to be just as ubiquitous as expected, so I will begin showcasing lists with the powerful planeswalker. I unfortunately paid over $50 for my last copy, but it will hold value given the power across all formats including Legacy and Vintage.

Let's get to it!

I Hate Money and Want Karns

History of Benalia
This deck is sweet. I bought a bunch of Standard staples, but I was worried if I would be able to play them all at the same time. Now I no longer have that problem. It has just about every chase rare from Dominaria. Quite impressive the deck manages to be coherent after all that.

While everyone has their sights set on beating uw control, I can still harness the power of Teferi while being proactive. He naturally fits in the control shell, but it may be the ultimate haymaker for midrange.

History of Banalia has been compared to Kitchen Finks and Lingering Souls; this is a great place to be in a midrange deck. It forces your opponent to fight the knight tokens or take massive amounts of vigilance damage. This will naturally force the opponent into the mid game which is where this deck truly shines.

Knight of Malice easily becomes a 3/2 first strike with protection from Seal Away, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and Cast Out. Either player controlling a White permanent gives the knight +1/+0. The first strike is a great foil to the early aggression of opposing History of Benalias since a 3/2 first strike will eat the tokens for breakfast. I can hold back with the Knight of Malice for a couple turns while the saga runs its course.

Fatal Push is a great removal spell at the moment because it destroys opposing Knight of Malice and Heart of Kiran. Remember that History of Benalia going to the graveyard on the final chapter triggers revolt. Push answers the problematic early threats while Teferi, Cast Out, and Vraska's Contempt handles the haymakers.

Doomfall can also kill big legends and discard key interaction against control decks. It plays nicely with the protect the queen strategy. I'm all right trading my early turn to ensure Teferi, The Scarab God, and Lyra Dawnbringer stay alive.

Champion of Wits can cycle through Fatal Push against uw. I don't like playing many copies of Champion of Wits because I don't need the Careful Study effect too often. It gets weaker post-board as I have more targeted interaction and the deck is very mana hungry. It's the ultimate creature to return with The Scarab God as you draw four and discard two.

Glint-Sleeve Siphoner is powerful against uw Control, but weaker against the various Walking Ballista decks. She's in the Esper deck because it's less aggressive than bw Vehicles and needs multiple 2-drops. Toolcraft Exemplar, Heart of Kiran, and Scrapheap Scrounger aren't needed when there are so many game-ending 5-drops. She still keeps my opponent honest, needing to interact with my creatures all the way up the curve.

I personally enjoy beefy midrange decks in Standard because the sideboard allows me to pivot against any deck after sideboard. Seal Away, Settle the Wreckage, and Authority of the Consuls allows me to easily get to the mid game against Red decks. Duress and Negate disrupt control decks as usual. This idea has made Brad Nelson the Standard powerhouse he is today.

U/W Control

Torrential Gearhulk
The level 1 boogeyman of Standard that made waves on the SCG circuit. Time will tell if it stays on top. I would expect it to remain a key player due to the power of Teferi, Torrential Gearhulk, and Settle the Wreckage. It won't dominate because the opponent can play around the removal spells. An early answer to the deck has been to rush the board with threats and follow up with midrange haymakers. Karn and Vraska have currently been filling that role.

I tried playing History of Benalia in the maindeck, but it wasn't effective. This is because everyone has removal spells that would otherwise be ineffective. Once I entered the late game, the 2/2 tokens were too small to matter as I could win with a ham sandwich. It's great in the mirror because Negate is one of the only ways to fight it and forces the opponent to act first in the mid game. Lyra isn't good in the mirror because tapping low for it allows the opponent to resolve Teferi.

Ipnu Rivulet is a big help in the mirror because there are few ways to win the game and decking can be relevant. Be careful not to expose the Rivulet to a Field of Ruin as it's your ace in the hole. The fact I'm willing to play a monochromatic painland to provide an edge in the mirror speaks to the power of uw. It's also why I'm willing to play other decks because that's a pretty hateful strategy and is typically a race to the bottom.

Essence Scatter is a powerful removal spell, but falls short against the new wave of threats: Heart of Kiran, History of Benalia, and Karn, Scion of Urza. Creatures with vigilance is the natural answer to Seal Away, but these are able to be countered by Negate. I can't reasonably play three Negate in the maindeck so I'm hedging with a Syncopate.

The third Cast Out has low opportunity cost as it can be cycled, but answers the planeswalkers designed to be deployed after the sweeper turn. I trimmed on Hieroglyphic Illumination because I was often cycling it anyway. Turn four was for casting Settle the Wreckage and Cast Out.

B/W Midrange

If you asked me to name the "best deck" in Standard last week I would say this was a good bet:

This deck is a natural response to the dominance of uw Control so it may look different in the future as the format settles. A reactive deck can be wildly incorrect for a particular metagame, but you can only be so wrong with Toolcraft Exemplar into Heart of Kiran.

Gideon of the Trials is making an appearance here to crew Heart of Kiran or prevent damage dealt by Lyra and opposing Vehicles.

I'm happy to see Angel of Sanctions make an appearance in the sideboard as a way to get an edge in the haymaker stage of the game.

B/R Midrange

If you asked me about the "best deck" in Standard this week I would have to go with br. Simon Neilsen won Grand Prix Birmingham with br and there were FIVE more copies in the Top 8 along with several more in the Top 16.

This deck is similar to bw midrange; it takes powerful threats up the curve that threaten to quickly close the game. Unlicensed Disintegration helps the Red deck fight Lyras. Goblin Chainwhirler combos nicely with Soul-Scar Mage. The damage dealt to opposing creatures are turned into -1/-1 counters.

Time will tell if br is powerful enough to remain Tier 1. It was the breakout deck of the week, but I would be surprised if it retains this level of dominance.

B/G Midrange

Fellow Michigan magician, Stephen Dykman, played this strategy at SCG Baltimore and it looked great to me.

Winding Constrictor decks are typically very bad against Fumigate and Settle the Wreckage, but not when a planeswalker is waiting in the wings. Karn and Vraska are there to recoup lost card advantage after a sweeper.

The Constrictor threatens to get out of hand quickly if left unchecked thanks to +1/+1 and energy synergies. It doubles counters placed on artifacts making Treasure Map quickly flip. If the constrictor dies, the midrange threats don't need it to make an impact. The snake is a distraction you can't ignore.

Walking Ballista is not only great against small creatures, but it's a threat that doesn't need to tap to be threatening. If I want to play around Settle the Wreckage and Seal Away I can simply add a counter each turn.

Green's biggest advantage in Standard is the ability to easily destroy enchantments such as Seal Away, Cast Out, and Search for Azcanta. Thrashing Brontodon and Vraska are powerful threats that allow aggressive decks to interact without maindecking Naturalize. Artifacts out of the aggressive decks also aren't safe. It's a shame I can't play a three color deck with Vraska and Teferi.

If you look at how this deck operates it is similar to bw and br. Land early threats that generate an advantage and follow it up with Karn, Scion of Urza. Remember that treasures generated from Vraska and Treasure Map pump up the constructs generated by Karn. A Karnstruct if you will . . . 

We see Fatal Push as an answer to the successful formula of play early threats and follow up with Karn. It's not great against everyone, but they can be swapped for four Duress in the sideboard against control decks.

Now that I've shown you plenty of fun decks that play expensive mythics let's talk about how you can use your older cards.

Karn is For the Birds

I found some cool decks without Karn and the White staples so let's get to those.

While Chandra was weakened from the Dominaria rules update, she still shines against midrange creatures. Chandra may be stronger than before simply because she is less popular. I remember seeing Shalai spoiled and thinking she would be unplayable in Standard due to Chandra and Glorybringer, but now she sees play.

Whirler Virtuoso is still a powerful creature that hasn't been getting any love since History of Benalia was printed. I know this deck doesn't play Karn, but the thopter tokens pumping Karnstructs is pretty cute.

Harnessed Lightning is less popular even though it's one of the few ways to efficiently answer Lyra. Heart of Kiran also demands a clean answer. Harnessed Lightning is basically a good version of Cast Down in this format.

Goblin Chainwhirler is a very strong creature that was quickly dismissed as Mono-Red was foiled by White midrange. Just because the most obvious deck for Goblin Chainwhirler was a metagame bust doesn't mean it shouldn't find a home. The mana appears to be ambitious, but Sulfur Falls helps immensely. Chandra can also help with the Red mana. First Strike again helps fend off History of Benalia tokens on the final chapter. Chainwhirler is also in br so expect your 1-toughness creatures to survive less often.

Here we again see Goblin Chainwhirler combined with clunky removal. Vraska's Contempt can take down large threats while Chainwhirler takes down the early creatures. It a recipe to handle anything that comes at you.

Glorybringer wasn't great at the end of last Standard because it couldn't exert down The Scarab God. Now that Karn enters the battlefield and makes a Karnstruct, it can once against be poised for greatness.

Release the Gremlins is making a comeback because it can undo early damage done by Karn and his friends, too.

As the masses look to enchantment removal to answer control's kill spells you can play on a different axis. Red has some powerful removal spells I think are well positioned.

Green Aggro

The last deck I want to discuss is especially sweet. It hits hard and is surprisingly resilient.

Thrashing Brontodon makes an appearance to disrupt White's removal. The current enchantment removal only exiles the creature as long as it is on the battlefield. This means sacrificing Brontodon with the trigger on the stack will make the targeted creature never exiled in the first place. A helpful trick when Walking Ballista is the target.

Scrapheap Scrounger returns from a Fumigate or Fatal Push to crew Heart of Kiran and make Ghalta more affordable. Since the midrange decks are currently Black, there are less Magma Sprays than usual to worry about.

Walking Ballista is the only creature removal, but serves as a proactive threat and a mana sink for Llanowar Elves in the late game. It's a dumping ground for +1+1 counters on a Verdurous Gearhulk, too.

Steel Leaf Champion is the real payoff for playing a deck like this. Winding Constrictor decks often run into the issue of not playing well off the top of their deck, but each fatty you play demands an answer quickly.

Blossoming Defense can protect your large creature for a single mana and likely your opponent's entire turn is spent. This is especially crucial on the first turn they can resolve Teferi and put a creature on top of the deck.

I chose to feature a bg version of this deck because it plays Duress and Doomfall in the sideboard. My primary issue with the pure Green version is that it folds to Settle the Wreckage. Note that when Settle resolves after board all is not lost as there are many 6-drops to come in such as Vraska and Carnage Tyrant.

That's all I have this week. I'm going to try and find more cool decks to discuss for next time.

Thanks for reading!

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