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Eight Burning Questions for Aspiring Standard Savants

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Well... Here they are:

  1. What does it mean for Dimir Control to be the best deck in Standard?
  2. So... Can Temur be stopped?
  3. Where did all the Red Decks go?
  4. Okay... So why wouldn't you just play Gruul?
  5. Can you tell me about The Akroan War?
  6. Is Lavabrink Venturer the best Gnarled Mass or what?
  7. Which enchantments and artifacts is Kogla, the Titan Ape smashing anyway?
  8. Is it time to bring back Naya?

What does it mean for Dimir Control to be the best deck in Standard?

Well, first off, to answer this question we must assume that Dimir Control is in fact the best deck in Standard.

Luckily, it is.

Wins a lot, as far as I can tell!

Here is a good reference point, to start:


Taking down the Standard Challenge just days ago, KVZA's Dimir Control is representative of the current crop of successful Dimir decks.

First off, this is a Yorion, Sky Nomad deck. There is all of one in the sideboard... But thanks to the Companion rule... Yadda yadda yadda.

While not a hard Yorion deck, KVZA's build is certainly cognizant of its availability. Many of the cards used to bridge the early turns are perfect for Yorion Blinks. Omen of the Sea is a favorite even if you're not touching White for Doom Foretold. And how great is getting a few taps out of Mazemind Tome (whichever they might be) before resetting?

I think that, other than getting a little more mileage out of a Planeswalker you've been working, the most exciting Blink is actually Solemn Simulacrum.

This is a deck with a lot of mana holes. So, while going from four to six is certainly an option for one of the Shark Typhoons out of the sideboard... More likely this is just going to give you looser operating mana. Or maybe you played the Solemn Simulacrum later and went from six to eight or something. Now eight is a casting cost worth tapping out for!

Speaking of Shark Typhoon, though... Can you imagine a deck that is so rich that its high end includes Shark Typhoon in the sideboard? When it starts on eighty? There are literally eighty cards better than Shark Typhoon... But not very many are lands.

One of the reasons Dimir has been so successful is its ability to present business as the game progresses. Most Yorion decks play more than 31 lands, but of course KVZA is cheating here with cheap cantrips like Omen of the Sea and Cling to Dust... And some additional Modal Double-Faced lands in the form of Jwari Disruption.

This is a take on all comers flexible Control deck. It does not particularly specialize. Twelve permission spells would be light for some Control decks in the past (that were a mere sixty cards). While Neutralize and Sublime Epiphany are hard counters... Jwari Disruption isn't and Negate is not the most consistent answer. This deck has good one-for-one interaction for most types of threats, but its default game plan is Tap Out. This deck uses mana on its own turn to draw Yorion; taps tons and tons for one of its Maximum Number of Ugins.

I think that with so many options your mileage is going to vary. But it is not going to be consistent in responding to a deck with more must-counter threats than it has hard counters. None of this detracts from Dimir's status as the best deck in Standard (at least for now), but it's path to the top is fraught with potential pitfalls.

So... Can Temur be stopped?

Yes.

It can be stopped by the aforementioned Neutralizes, one Sublime Epiphany... And in this case the Negates are actually pretty good.

Will it be stopped?

Sometimes (and by other folks).

But I think it's fair to say that Temur Ramp finds itself in a fortunate position for a format where a Control deck with permission is actually the best deck. Part of this is the severe decline in Red Decks; the other is that Temur can potentially draw and actually cast more must-counters than the opponent can actually counter.

A Genesis Ultimatum is of course like winning the lottery; but a hard-cast Ugin can be nice, especially when you're ahead on mana. Not for nothing, this deck can not only pick a fight with Shark Typhoon on the opponent's turn, it can pick a fight with a big Shark Typhoon, especially because of the presumption of mana advantage.

But the real trick, I think, is a combination of a little patience and a little Blue mana. I'd hazard that Temur's ability to counter counters with Mystical Dispute in Game 1 is better than the presumed threat-countering of Dimir; ditto on Jwari Disruption (which, again, can benefit from a mana advantage; and in multiple ways).

Besides being a Ramp deck that can resolve its big spells, Temur can enjoy the decline in Red Deck popularity.


Four copies of Fire Prophecy and a couple of Into the Roil are not going to reliably save you from a Fervent Champion let alone a whole Red Deck. They might keep you alive long enough to stabilize with Ugin... But you might still die to a hot hand.

Slower Green or White based creature decks certainly do more interesting things... But three to five mana threat permanents are just less scary for a Ramp deck to deal with than one- and two-mana ones with haste and an ever-looming Embercleave or Thane of Red Fell.

Where did all the Red Decks go?

It wasn't that long ago that the Red Deck was a viable foil for the dominant Dimir Rogues. We even got to the point that main deck Ox of Agonas was looking g-d reasonable.

Standard has become much more diverse in recent weeks, with at least two of the most popular archetypes packing Lovestruck Beast.

Not only that, but Lovestruck Beast + The Great Henge appears to be the preferred design structure. This is a two-and-a-half card combo that's really tough for Red Decks to beat. First of all, Belle is almost a real card. From the perspective of the Red Deck, Belle can trade with a fair amount of their actual cardboard. Terrible! Beast at 5/5 might as well be 5/17 on turn three. Unless they give you the block + option to finish it off with a burn spell (and probably a two damage burn spell at that)... Beast probably isn't going anywhere.

Which means when they untap...

If they drew it...

You're potentially dealing with 3/3 Scavenging Ooze the very next turn.

Terrible!

Bonecrusher Giant is bad for you. Sideboard cards like Klothys, God of Destiny can beat you at least three different ways. And the White decks might be even worse!

I fear the Red Deck's previous position in Standard was way less about it being good and way more about being an opportune home for Ox of Agonas during a window of extraordinary popularity for Ruin Crab strategies.

Okay... So why wouldn't you just play Gruul?

That's an excellent question!

If you're the type that would otherwise be interested in a Mono-Red or Mono-Green creature deck... You probably should.

To begin with, Gruul's mana is outstanding. Full stop.

After that, it gets to play with seemingly all the best toys from all the remaining viable archetypes. This is a deck that can play Mono-Green's best sequence (Lovestruck Beast into The Great Henge), recognize the crossover on Lovestruck Beast for the short Adventures chain, and upgrade Embercleave. Embercleave is pretty good on like a Red 1-drop. Have you ever seen it attached to a Questing Beast? Take nine. Seriously. Always nine.


Gruul's sideboard also runs circles around those of the mono-colored decks. It has Elder Gargaroth in case Mono-Red thought it had a chance, and Chainweb Arachnir for the straggling Rogues mages. It has good removal, card advantage, and flexible threats out of the sideboard. Even The Akroan War for the mirror!

Can you tell me about The Akroan War?

The Akroan War has emerged as a popular sideboard card for Mono-Red and even Temur variants... But it is most tightly embraced by Gruul decks. Some even run a copy or so main deck!

The Akroan War - especially when you're considering running it main deck - presupposes a Standard where creatures and creature combat matter. On its face it is a Threaten... And a kind of persistent one. Not persistent relative to a real Control Magic... But hella persistent relative to a Threaten.

The Akroan War subtly exploits one of the core fundamentals of Magic: All other things held equal, combat favors the defender. They swing with everything. You pick profitable blocks. Profit! If you had to let someone through, there is always Chapter Three to this Saga.

It doesn't have a particularly large amount of relevant text against the first two decks we discussed (which also happen to be two of the format's best)... But against the relatively common Mono-Green, White Weenie, and Gruul opponents? You still need to set up a little... But not a lot.

Is Lavabrink Venturer the best Gnarled Mass or what?

First of all, I am a big fan of PHILL_HELLMUTH MTGO decks:


But yeah!

Hell of a Gnarled Mass.

A different question might be whether you want a 3/3 for three when Feasting Troll King is a viable card to play, or against the blistering power level of a Temur... But at least White Weenie has Maul of the Skyclaves to square matters.

Which enchantments and artifacts is Kogla, the Titan Ape smashing anyway?

The aforementioned Maul of the Skyclaves could certainly be one!

Other options include the Mazemind Tome that they were milking, the Solemn Simulacrum that thought it was going to buy a turn chump blocking, or - and this is especially true for a mage who thinks Mono-Green is the best deck to play - someone else's The Great Henge.

While I don't think Mono-Green is the "best" deck, this build by NAMMERSQUATS is by far my favorite deck of the week:


It, of course, packs the main deck Kogla, the Titan Ape!

To begin with, this deck is so g-d unpretentious. Here's my stuff. It's not hard to figure out. My stuff is pretty big. I'm going to try to kill you with it, now.

Let's play not one but two classes of 7/6.

Love the high end Ugin (which is possibly a mirror breaker). Love cutting down to two Witch's Ovens.

Would sleeve Mono-Green Food up in a second, if we still had need for sleeves.

Is it time to bring back Naya?

To begin with, Naya hasn't put up a finish in about half a month.

But if people can produce with Erebos's Intervention, then certainly the OG Felidar Retreat deck can.


I love the curve here. There are multiple ways to get Felidar Retreat on the battlefield a turn early... But I love the three-mana Ramp spells even more. Three into five might not seem like it makes a lot of sense here, but three into four plus a land drop seems pretty good, doesn't it? And while Cultivate won't put an Evolving Wilds into your hand, any next land drop will fulfill this deck's promise.

Speaking of which, I think I'd tune the mana a little. With Rogues's pedal off the floor a bit, I wonder about adding 2 Evolving Wilds and doing away with both the second Mountain and second Plains. Running two of each other / extra basic was a fine safety net a couple of months ago... But maybe it's just not needed right now.

I can see a fast, dedicated Felidar Retreat deck giving fits to Dimir, and contending with almost everyone else; especially with access to the excellent sideboard.

Elder Gargaroth

LOVE

MIKE

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