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Bet You Didn't See That Coming


In our predictions for the first week of Standard post-bans, my Top Level Podcast partner Patrick Chapin chose Mono-Black Aggro. I chose Temur Adventures.

In actuality?

The Top 8 of the 1,000+ player Red Bull Untapped International Qualifier looked like this:

  • Sultai Ramp *1111
  • Izzet Tempo 1
  • Orzhov Yorion 1
  • Temur Flash 1

In hindsight the bans created kind of an obvious context.

The most overpowered [remaining] card in Standard was banned; Wilderness Reclamation

The most powerful Control card was also banned: Teferi, Time Raveler

Gut punch to Combo, razor blade to Control... The obvious winner is Beatdown, right? Wait just a second. There is this other big family of decks! The one with lots of card advantage; lots of fundamental Magic: The Gathering skills; now with the time to develop its many edges since it's not under the oppressive thumb of a Wilderness Reclamation-powered Expansion // Explosion or paralyzed by Teferi, Time Raveler.

Call it Jund; call it mid-range; the current incarnations actually vary a little big. Part Big Spell decks, part Non-Blue Control decks (despite being a little Blue), the new kings of Standard didn't just win the giant Arena event; didn't just take five of the Top 8 slots; but all of the Top 4!

Know this one:

Sultai Ramp (and Sultai Ramp, and Sultai Ramp, and Sultai Ramp, and Sultai Ramp)

This is the version of Sultai Ramp that kazune kosaka used to win the Red Bull International Qualifer last weekend.

The curious configuration we see here is largely driven by this card (a clear contender for the most broken left in Standard):

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

This card is card advantage; lots of card advantage, self-contained. It's also life gain for humiliating the narrow margins of most beatdown decks. But it also - also - puts more lands into play! All in one card!

So, while Growth Spiral is gone from Standard, we still have a clear path to getting up to six or more mana for Casualties of War. Here kosaka played only two copies, and bolstered Uro's Ramp angle with a solo Cultivate. This made room for a key addition: Teferi, Master of Time.

While this incarnation of Teferi is a little less overpowered since you actually have to wait until turn four to cast it, it remains highly synergistic with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. Subtly, it rewards this build with the ability to filter through its many varieties of answer cards.

That's important: In either the faster or more lopsided matchups of just a week ago, a deck like this could have started off in a lot of trouble. If you just draw the wrong half - all your Heartless Acts and Eliminates, say - you might be desperately bluffing (and nothing else) against Temur Reclamation. Or - feeling so clever with your mild metagaming - you might have Aether Gust as an opening hand mulligan when up against Azorius Control.

Decks with a lot of different kinds of answers can be disproportionately ineffective in open fields. Sometimes you just have the wrong answer... You've got Aether Gust when they're casting Elspeth Conquers Death or trying to block a Stonecoil Serpent in a deck with only multicolored creatures. But the gift of time combined with a powerful filter engine has clearly paved the way for a dominant, now unfettered, archetype.

The card that makes this deck might be this unassuming two-of:

Extinction Event

You often see only two copies in this archetype, but kosaka ran three. It's not quite a Black Wrath of God, but it tends to be more than half of one. Not only do you get the better half of your opponent's battlefield, you can set your side up favorably. No matter how big your Hydroid Krasis, it's always even on the 'field, so Extinction Event can leave it but chop up the opponent's Lovestruck Beast and Pelt Collector. Or if you want to keep your Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath you can take out the Scavenging Ooze that would have been so pesky anyway; you might leave the Questing Beast, but if a 6/6 can't block a 4/4 what good is it?

Subtly, your Extinction Event is very good against their Uro! Exile!

The games between Sultai decks will usually go several turns because neither deck is particularly good at closing quickly. They can end it quickly with 6/6 or bigger monsters, but those need to get established first. A card like Extinction Event, that can surgically cut off the opponent's inevitability is actually quite a bit more relevant than you might expect for such a low cerature count mirror.

Not to mention it's a heck of a "get out of Nissa free" card.

It's important to recognize as you approach this Brave New World that despite the fact that a deck like the tournament winner's is labeled as Ramp... It ain't all that Ramp-y. Contrast with Top 8 finisher Nicolas King's:

King didn't play Teferi, Master of Time; instead opting for the much more powerful - and expensive - high end Planeswalker Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.

The meaningful changes start earlier, though. Four - all four - copies of Cultivate instead of just the one; and all four copies of Casualties of War at the six, as well.

Speaking of super powerful spells to resolve -- especially in the mirror -- check out King's sideboard. While he went with Casualties of War main on account of being Sultai... Sultai is actually more colors than Simic, and can borrow Simic's top end. Mass Manipulation is far, far, more deadly in Ramp quasi-mirrors. Who wants to destroy the opponent's Ugin, the Spirit Dragon when you can wait until they get it up 11 loyalty? Steal, Ultimate, shuffle up, am I right?

Temur Flash

While there were several Temur Adventures decks in the Top 16 and Top 32, the lone representative of that color combination in the Top 8 was Temur Flash. This archetype is arguably the perfect solution to the heavy dominance of Sultai Ramp... Just as Simic Flash was the best main deck at the time of Jeskai Fires.

With the exception of Nissa, Who Shakes the World, almost all your cards can be played at instant speed. So, you just leave up your mana and pass; the opponent either casts something into your permission mana... or doesn't. In which case you can just resolve your threat.

At that point you use your permission to keep that threat alive as much as to stop their development.

It's nice to see all those Temur Reclamation cards getting played in slightly different numbers, just subbing out four Wilderness Reclamations, isn't it?

Orzhov Yorion

Here we have an utterly intuitive deck.

It's 80 cards to accommodate Yorion, Sky Nomad in the sideboard; but plays the other three copies main deck.

Its primary removal spells - Glass Casket and Oath of Kaya - are permanents; which can be blinked (sometimes with great value) via Yorion.

And the bulk of the digital cardboard belongs to Yorion's playmates. Burglar Rat, Charming Prince, and Yarok's Fenlurker all get the party started at 2 mana, and all synergize exactly how you think they should with Yorion, Sky Nomad.

This deck can defend itself from creatures with creatures. Many of them take a card from the opponent on the way down, so they don't have to "win" fights in order to meaningfully slow down the opponent. This is especially true when you consider the asymmetrical impact of Doom Foretold.

Most of the opponent's permanents are just that: some permanent. Most of this deck's do more than one thing, so can afford to sacrifice a Burglar Rat that already messed up the opponent's grip.

The sideboard is full of all kinds of goodies... The Kaya's Wraths most of us assumed would be in the main deck... And a truly unexpected sideboard splash: Rotting Regisaur! Bet you never thought you'd see those two, side by side.

Izzet Tempo

Rounding out the Top 8 is the newest incarnation of Izzet Tempo. This deck puts together a lot of the one-of threats from the past several sets, combined with a generous level of one mana spells for Dreadhorde Arcanist. Many of those spells can help in unexpected ways, for instance triggering Prowess from the graveyard.

Temur Ramp

The biggest winner post Migrations, as we said up top; is Sultai Ramp.

But I do think you should familiarize yourself with another - more Ramp-y - kind of Ramp deck...

This strategy is absolutely wild. Some acceleration; some 187 guys; all dumped onto the battlefield simultaneously from Genesis Ultimatum!

You can get ahead or build value along the way; or you can double or triple down between Genesis Wave and Yorion, Sky Nomad.

This deck can take a minute to get started, but once it does, the game gets really exciting. Every Risen Reef can set up Cavalier of Thorns; both of them are drawing cards and building up the mana base along the way. Of all the decks that came out of the Red Bull tournament, this one seems most poised in its ability to go over the top of Sultai Ramp. No Top 8 this time... But I feel like this isn't the last we've seen of Leafkin Druid coming down after Risen Reef (but getting paid for it anyway).



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