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Finding the Fun in Zendikar Rising Standard


Hello everyone. It's that time of week, again, when I search the internet for fun looking decks that you can use in your local tournaments, at a Friday Night Magic event, or just for fun against your friends. So, without further delay, let's get started.

Mono-White Aggro

We start this week by taking a look at a Mono-White deck that features a fair amount of ways to gain extra life. Let's take a look at the deck.

On turn one, you'll want to come out strong with any of your 1-drops. While both Alseid of Life's Bounty and Selfless Savior can offer you some protection in the later game, I prefer to start with Speaker of the Heavens. Since Speaker of the Heavens has vigilance, it can act as both an attacker and a blocker. Since it also has lifelink, you can find yourself able to use its activated ability to create a 4/4 Angel creature token with flying in just a few turns. This timeline gets accelerated when you add Luminarch Aspirant to the equation. Now, your attacker/blocker gets bigger by the turn, allowing you to gain more life each time it attacks or blocks.

Additional synergy can happen once you get a copy of Heliod, Sun-Crowned onto the battlefield. Heliod allows you to put a +1/+1 counter on a target creature or enchantment you control. By placing these counters on a creature with lifelink, you help ensure that that creature will be able to gain you additional life each time it attacks or defends. That additional life will make it more difficult for your opponent to defeat you. Things can get really crazy when you have Linden, the Steadfast Queen on the battlefield, as each creature that attacks has the potential to become bigger with a +1/+1 counter from Heliod. Alternatively, you can place all of these counters on an evasive threat and hit your opponent for a big chunk of damage.

One other combo to keep in mind can help you out in the later game if you're in need of blockers. If you already have a copy of Castle Ardenvale in play alongside Daxos, Blessed by the Sun, you can create a 1/1 Human creature token each turn and bolster your life total with Daxos's static ability. If Heliod is also in play, that 1/1 token can become a 2/2, allowing you to block more effectively. Also, remember that Heliod can grant lifelink to another creature, which will allow you to gain additional +1/+1 counters. That could be just enough for you to be able to put the final nail in your opponent's coffin.

Mono-Red Control

Next, we'll take a look at an unusual Mono-Red deck. Let's start by looking at the decklist.

Most of the Mono-Red decks I show you here are of the aggro variety, so this deck is very untraditional. Perhaps that's why I find it so intriguing. This deck has no one-mana creatures, none of its creatures have haste, and the majority of its spells that cause direct damage can't target a player. Yet, despite all of these differences, it still has many of the trappings of a traditional Red deck.

Some people would call this a Big Red deck, while I've chosen to label it as a control deck. That's because of all of the spells this deck has to deal with an opponent's creatures. Scorching Dragonfire, Soul Sear, Shredded Sails, and Storm's Wrath are all able to burn away numerous creatures your opponent might control. With the use of these spells, you'll be able to minimize the amount of life lost from your opponent's attacks. That will serve you well once you get to turn five.

turn five is the earliest you'll be able to cast your ultimate finisher, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. With 5 mana available, you can use four of that mana to cast Irencrag Feat. That will give you 7 mana that you can use with your remaining mana to cast Ugin. You can then use Ugin's -X loyalty ability to clear the battlefield of potential attackers. Follow that up on future turns with Ugin's +2 loyalty ability, dealing three damage either to an opponent's newly cast creature, or directly to the opponent's life total.

Gruul Adventures

The final deck I have for you features a pair of Artifacts that enable you to dominate matches. Let's take a look at the deck.

Gruul Adventures is likely the best deck to play currently in Standard. While it may have its rivals for that position, no other deck can come back from a seemingly behind position to become completely overwhelming like Gruul Adventures can. A lot of that has to do with the power of the innocent-looking Edgewall Innkeeper. With a single copy of Edgewall Innkeeper on the battlefield, you'll be able to draw an additional card whenever you cast a Creature that has an Adventure. Card advantage leads to winning more games. That card advantage will help you find two very important cards.

The first of these cards is The Great Henge. This important Artifact does three separate things that help contribute to you winning more games. First, it ramps your mana production by adding two Green mana when you tap it. Second, you'll gain two points of life when you tap it. Third, any nontoken creature that enters the battlefield under your control gains a +1/+1 counter and you get to draw a card, giving you more card advantage. So, your threats become easier to cast thanks to the additional mana. They enter the battlefield as bigger threats thanks to the +1/+1 counter. And you gain life and draw a card as additional benefits. This makes The Great Henge worth casting, no matter what its cost ends up being.

The other card you'll want to find quickly is Embercleave. By attacking with four creatures, you can reduce the casting cost of Embercleave to a mere two Red mana. I believe it will often be worth making an attack like this, even in the face of larger opposing creatures, because of the value you get from having Embercleave on the battlefield. Once cast, it auto-equips to a creature of your choosing. Since Embercleave has flash, you can cast it after blockers are declared. This might allow you to kill a blocking creature while your creature equipped with Embercleave remains alive due to Embercleave granting double strike. The equipped creature also gets a +1/+1 bonus and trample, allowing you to often deal damage to your opponent, even when blocked. Embercleave will often end games in a hurry once it's on the battlefield.

Wrapping Up

All of these decks feature cards and play patterns that excite me, and I'm looking forward to trying each of them out on Magic Arena. Let me know what kinds of decks you'd like to see more of here in the upcoming weeks.

What do you think of these decks? Do you have any suggestions for improvements? Let me know by leaving a comment below. Also, feel free to share this article with your friends anywhere on social media. And be sure to join me here again next week as I continue my search for innovative decks in Standard. I'll see you then!

-Mike Likes

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