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Rising to the Top


Hello, everyone! We now have our first official taste of what is being played in Standard thanks to the Magic Online (MTGO) PTQ that happened on November 22. This week, we'll be taking a look at a few decks from this event and see what makes these decks tick. Let's get started.

Jeskai Fires

We'll get started by taking a look at the deck that won this tournament, Jeskai Fires. Here's the decklist:

Fires of Invention
Fires of Invention can make for some very powerful turns. While it is very limiting in only allowing two spells to be cast, and only on your own turn, being able to effectively use double the mana you currently have in play means you're able to cast more powerful spells twice as often as your opponent. Plus, another benefit is that you don't need to meet the color requirements of those spells. You only need to have a number of lands in play equal to or exceeding those spells converted mana cost (CMC).

Considering that Fires of Invention costs 4 mana to play, you'll likely be facing a battlefield that's pretty hostile towards you. Deafening Clarion is a great way for you to clear out the majority of opposing creatures before you're able to get out your big threats. Once you have Fires of Invention in play, casting big creatures such as Cavalier of Flames or Cavalier of Gales. Each of these Elemental Knights are very powerful and act as great blockers for you. If you're able to cast Deafening Clarion once you have a Cavalier or two in play, you'll be able to potentially wipe out some of the opposing creatures while giving your creatures lifelink, allowing you to gain a huge amount of life.

Sphinx of Foresight plays a big part in setting things up for you when playing this deck. If you're able to reveal Sphinx of Foresight from your opening hand, you'll be able to scry three cards at the beginning of your first upkeep. That can go a long way in helping you craft the perfect few first turns. If you're in need of a certain color of mana, you can use the scry ability to help find that color right away. If you don't happen to find what you need, you can always ship those top three cards to the bottom of your deck in the hopes that the next few cards will be better.

Rakdos Knights

Next up, let's take a look at the 14th place deck, Rakdos Knights. Here's the decklist:

Blacklance Paragon
One Knight I really like is Blacklance Paragon. Blacklance Paragon has the ability to give one of your Knights deathtouch until the end of the turn when it enters the battlefield. This can be a great way for you to take out your opponent's biggest threat that you would otherwise have trouble dealing with. If you don't have any other Knights in play, you can flash in Blacklance Paragon and give itself deathtouch, so it can easily act as a two-mana kill spell.

Another Knight I like in this deck is Stormfist Crusader. Not only is it difficult to block, thanks to it having menace, but it also helps shore up any problems you have in finding new threats and in dealing those last few points of damage needed to finish off your opponent. Keep in mind that the upkeep ability affects both players, so if you find yourself behind in life points, you might want to utilize the lifelink that Murderous Rider offers.

As we've seen in other decks, building up a large force of attackers can really be worthwhile, allowing you the opportunity to flash in Embercleave for just two Red mana. By equipping it to an unblocked attacker, you can take advantage of the double strike Embercleave offers to deal additional unexpected damage to your opponent. Alternatively, you can equip it to a blocked creature, allowing you to destroy the blocking creature with the damage you'll deal during the first strike damage phase.

Mono-Blue Tempo

The final deck I have for you this week that walks the line between aggro and control. Let's take a look at Mono-Blue Tempo:

Castle Vantress
Mono-Blue Tempo decks have been contenders in Standard for quite a while now. Before the latest round of bannings happened, decks such as this one hovered right at the edge of playability. Is now the time that this style of deck will come back to the forefront? I think it certainly could be.

The majority of the creatures in this deck have flash, which allows you to hold up your mana on your opponent's turn to use on counterspells. If your opponent plays nothing you need to counter, you have the ability to flash in Brazen Borrower, Brineborn Cutthroat, or Spectral Sailor. This allows you to control the tempo of the game. You choose what your opponent gets to have in play, or whether to put your own threats into play instead.

One thing to always keep in mind is the activated ability on Castle Vantress. Using this ability to scry two cards can be vitally important in keeping the flow of counterspells and threats coming your way. I'm more of an aggressive player, so when I play a deck like this one, I always find myself forgetting to use the scry ability on Castle Vantress. Don't be like me. Remembering to use this ability will allow you the ability to win more often.

Wrapping Up

I think everyone will agree that Standard feels like a much more open place than it did prior to the latest bannings. Right now, there's no clear "best deck" in the format. This is a great time to get back into Standard if you took the last month or two off.

What do you think of these decks? Do you have any suggestions for improvements? Let me know by leaving a comment below or email me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com. 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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