One thing I've loved about this Standard format is that it has felt like Modern, where when one deck starts to show a level of dominance, the other decks adapt to it and it falls back to just being "another deck in the metagame" again. No decks are establishing themselves as truly dominant, and the metagame is constantly evolving. Decks also don't seem to be disappearing from the format, like we've seen in the past when dominant strategies like Temur Energy would push out whole swaths of archetypes. Early on, the format featured decks like Jeskai Control, Golgari, Boros, and Mono-Red and those decks all still exist today, in constant flux of playability.
For instance, I've been addicted to the thrill of the Izzet Phoenix strategy lately, and it went from being easily the best deck in Standard to being just another deck. The format adapted pretty well to it, and as a result I've had to make some pretty sizable changes to my list in order to catch up to it. Chances are, an updated version of the deck that has adapted to the shifting metagame will once again be the best deck in Standard at some undisclosed point in the future, and I'm hoping to be ahead of the curve when it happens.
I think that currently, there are a number of cards that should be seeing a lot of play in Standard, because they attack the current metagame very well, but I haven't seen a lot of them yet. The playability of these cards might shift in a few weeks as the metagame adapts, but right now, these are all cards that I would be looking to put into all of my decks if at all possible.
If my experiences on MTG Arena are to be believed, decks like Mono-White Aggro or Boros Aggro are quickly dwindling from the format as decks like Izzet Phoenix and Golgari have preyed on them fairly well. Mono-Red Aggro seems to have mostly disappeared as well, as it is another deck that can have issues beating Wildgrowth Walker or lots of cheap removal into enormous Crackling Drakes.
The format seems to have slowed some, and more grindy strategies seem to be ruling the roost. The various versions of Jeskai Control are all my picks for the best deck in Standard, with metagamed versions of Golgari not far behind. Past that, I've even been seeing a huge surge of people playing decks like Grixis or Dimir Disinformation Campaign decks on MTG Arena, arguably the grindiest strategy there is.
My pick for cards that should be seeing more play is based on a metagame where grindy strategies are currently on top. I would not be surprised if, in a few weeks' time, decks like Boros trend back and start dominating again, but in the meantime, I would strongly suggest playing more with these cards.
The Wardaddy, they call him. Once nothing more than a lowly recruit, this Goblin-that-could has worked his way up the ranks of the Boros Legion over the 14 years of Ravnica sets and is now living large as the boss. Yeah, it's been that long since Ravnica first came out. Legion Warboss might be nearing retirement soon at this rate.
At first, this card was compared favorably to Goblin Rabblemaster and was expected to be a dominant and defining part of Standard, but that never really panned out. We live now in a different era and the inability for Legion Warboss to trade up with bigger creatures itself is a real problem, when any old 2/3 or larger will defeat it in combat. Rabblemaster was frequently trading with Siege Rhinos while the Goblin Tokens punched through for more. Warboss can't exactly do that.
However, the card is still very powerful, and it is the best threat after sideboard against decks like Jeskai or Grixis control, especially if your deck is such that they would normally side out Deafening Clarion or Ritual of Soot against you. For example, I now play 2-3 copies of this card in the sideboard of my Izzet Phoenix deck specifically for Jeskai and Disinformation Campaign decks.
Legion Warboss comes down quickly, ends the game quickly if left unchecked and is easy to protect itself with countermagic because you can slip it in early enough and then just ride it to victory. Alternatively, in matchups like the Jeskai mirror match, you can play it on turn five and protect it with Negate or force them to spend a Counterspell while still being able to hold up a Negate for their turn.
It also has one huge benefit against the Grixis decks that pushes it over the top and was the final straw in my decision to put it into the sideboard of every single red deck I play now. It completely messes up The Eldest Reborn, which is their most powerful and important card. If you can play a Warboss and get a token out of it, even if it later dies, they have to spend a full card to kill that token or "waste" their The Eldest Reborn's first chapter killing it. Some versions of the Disinformation Campaign decks are entirely based around setting up for The Eldest Reborn and playing a bunch of Legion Warbosses will mess with that plan significantly, especially if they've sided out Ritual of Soot against you. That is big game.
Ah yes, the old Karn Tyrant. Not to be confused with Carnage Tyrant. I think Karn is an extremely powerful card and I'm surprised that it has seen as little play in this format as it has. Now that the format has started to shift toward grindy decks being more prevalent, I imagine we should also see an uptick in Karn play. Karn -2 protects Karn from a Teferi tuck by virtue of the construct being able to finish off Teferi afterward, and Karn's +1, -1 form of card advantage is quite powerful selection in games that go long. Karn's -2 can also just create pretty reasonably sized creatures in decks that also play Treasure Map, which is also a powerful card that is seeing a lot of play now.
Fellow writer, KMC-Genesis teammate, and the 2015 World Champion Seth Manfield also agrees that Karn is the nut, as noted by his GP Milwaukee Golgari list featuring multiple copies of the potent planeswalker.
I don't have any specific scenarios to back up why Karn is great now, other than to simply state that he starts at a high loyalty, provides never-ending advantages when he is able to stick around, and costs less than most of the other current crop of planeswalkers, allowing him to fit nicely into the curve. There actually aren't a whole lot of decks overloading on ways to kill planeswalkers these days, which is why I think Teferi and Jeskai Control are both dominating so hard right now, meaning that Karn should survive in most games long enough to reap those benefits. History of Benalia is also being played far less now than at any other time in this Standard format, which is one deck capable of pressuring Karn easily or being fast enough to ignore it entirely.
I'll be honest, I've never understood why people don't play a lot of Karns, so maybe I'm just biased here, but I think if there was ever a time to start playing a bunch of the Scion of Urza, now is the time.
We are living in a Niv-Mizzet world right now. Niv-Mizzet is the most powerful card in Standard and decks based around Niv-Mizzet are at the top of the format right now. The most recent Standard Grand Prix was won by a Jeskai Control deck playing the full four copies of Niv-Mizzet, Parun in the main deck and was even fueled by Treasure Map to power it out faster and Dive Down to protect it. Playing against Niv-Mizzet is the new standard in Standard.
I think Golgari decks should all be looking at Plaguecrafter more closely, as it is a card that both deals with Niv-Mizzet without them drawing a card but can also kill Teferi, Hero of Dominaria as well, which is another powerful game-breaking card out of the Jeskai decks.
The Game Plan for a number of decks against Golgari is to play cards like Niv-Mizzet or Crackling Drake, and then ruin their Ravenous Chupacabra, Vraska's Contempt, or Vivien Reid -3 activation with a Dive Down to protect it. Plaguecrafter is the perfect card in that it kills these creatures without Dive Down being able to do anything, and it doesn't get hit by Disdainful Stroke or Negate, and often dodges cards like Syncopate as well. Having a Jeskai deck cast Teferi, +1 it, untap two lands at end of turn and then hold up Disdainful Stroke is a pretty standard play pattern and Plaguecrafter blows up their spot.
The other advantage Plaguecrafter provides is that it is planeswalker removal on a creature. In Golgari, having something attached to a creature is enormous. You can find Plaguecrafter with Vivien Reid Duke. You can return it to your hand with Find // Finality or Memorial to Folly. It gets picked back up by Golgari Findbroker (but not Golgari FinalityBroker). It's renewable and reusable, and that's a pretty strong threat against all these Niv decks.
Plaguecrafter also has the added bonus that it kills Carnage Tyrant in the mirror match after a Finality, yours or theirs, which is pretty strong. It's possible to play around this line of play sometimes, but not always.
Embarrassing fact: I didn't realize this card wasn't "Sorcerer's Spyglass" until months after it came out, and to this day I still have to mentally remind myself every time I type or say it to call it Sorcerous Spyglass instead. Who knew that the spyglass itself contained the power and that it wasn't just a glasswork tool of a powerful magic-wielder? Apparently, everyone except me.
Tell everyone to start playing Karn and then put Sorcerous Spyglass on the list two spots above it? Yep, that's how I roll. I'm a self-defeating Prophecy.
In reality, I think Spyglass is extremely powerful right now. I would sideboard in Sorcerous Spyglass simply to deal with Teferi alone while playing against Jeskai with Izzet Phoenix, even though most Jeskai decks these days only play three copies of the powerful rift-mender. That's how good Teferi is and how powerful it is against the Phoenix deck. I'd bring in a narrow answer for exactly three cards in their deck and feel good about it. However, now a lot of Jeskai lists are playing Treasure Map as well, which is a nice one to shut off, both to shut down their card advantage and their ability to ramp into Niv-Mizzet. At worst, it can sometimes hit a flipped Search for Azcanta. Just make sure to name Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin. Naming Search for Azcanta doesn't do much.
I also think that Sorcerous Spyglass is a valid card to board in against Golgari if you struggle to beat Vivien Reid. Vivien Reid is often one of their only cards that will deal with an artifact or enchantment, so much like how The Immortal Sun is often safe against Golgari because they can't use the Vivien Reid that would destroy it, Sorcerous Spyglass operates in that same space.
As the format shifts toward grindy, midrange threats and planeswalkers, having a cheap, proactive answer that also provides information about your opponent's hand is extremely valuable. Often, simply knowing what is in their hand and what I need to play around has been nearly as valuable as shutting off Teferi, the most important card in their deck, stranding multiple copies in their hand, ruining their planned play for the next turn, and shutting out their only reasonable avenue to winning the game. Not quite, but almost.
Have you ever wanted an answer to the Nivical Mizzet that didn't trigger their Niv to draw a card (and thus deal one point of damage), but also embarrassed them thoroughly by also making it impossible for them to subsequently cast the additional copies of Niv-Mizzet in their hand and deck?
Then have I got the card for you. Hint: it's Ixalan's Binding.
The love child of Cranial Extraction and Oblivion Ring has been an on-again, off-again staple of Standard since it was printed. It has waxed and waned significantly in how much play it has seen and how good it is in the format, as metagames shift. Right now is one of those times where it is really, really good. I would recommend playing this card, post-haste.
Niv-Mizzet is the most powerful card in the format, and Teferi is back to his annoying ways again. Ixalan's Binding respectfully says "Thank u, next" to these plays and more. Disinformation Campaign got you down? Let's get rid of that one and salt the earth so nothing will ever grow again. Nicol Bolas proving to be a pain in the Grixass? By Ixalan's power I bind you! The Eldest Reborn planning on bringing sexy back once chapter three hits? It's time to call on the one Oblivion Ring to rule them all and in the darkness, Ixalan's Bind them.
Ixalan's Binding is the perfect answer to all kinds of problem cards in the format, also including top 40 hits like Crackling Drake, Treasure Map, Experimental Frenzy and more. When the format slows down enough to where you can afford to spend four mana on a piece of targeted removal – and when Golgari is basically the only deck in the format that plays ways to remove Ixalan's Binding – then there's a pretty good chance Ixalan's Binding is going to be pretty good. It's one of the best possible removal spells against Jeskai, Grixis, and Izzet Phoenix. It also isn't bad against Mono-Red, sometimes even being a back-breaker against them. It really only struggles against Golgari and white aggro strategies. While Golgari is still popular, the reinforcements have been a lot less heroic lately.
I don't think that you should throw all five of these cards into one deck. Far be it for me to advocate for some gross amalgamation of Mardu playables that one might loosely refer to as a deck. However, if you're playing a deck that can reasonably cast one or more of these cards, I would strongly recommending putting them into your deck, as I think they are at an all-time high in terms of Standard playability in this format.
In the meantime, you can catch me on MTG Arena, Diving Down my Niv-Mizzet and hoping against hope that nobody takes my advice and Plaguecrafters me.
- Brian Braun-Duin