Standard has come a long way since the days before Amonkhket and the banning of Felidar Guardian. These changes to the card pool have opened up room in the field for a variety of decks to thrive, and last week I identified over 20 different decks that have found success in tournaments since the changes. A new week has brought new decks from online and paper events, so today I'll cover the new contenders that have appeared.
The combo void left by the banning of Felidar Guardian has been filled by a new deck filled with Amonkhet cards. It's centered around New Perspectives, which allows cycling cards to be chained together to draw through the deck. In the past, a similar effect was seen on Fluctuator, which had to be banned in Standard because it was the centerpiece of a degenerate combo deck that filled the graveyard with cycling creatures and killed the opponent with Haunting Misery. This new incarnation combines New Perspectives with Shadow of the Grave to recur all of the cycled cards in the graveyard and use them to draw deeper into the deck, which will draw into another Shadow of the Grave for massive value, and eventually to a third or fourth copy and the ability to draw the entire deck.
Amonkhet cycling cards are more powerful and offer much more value than the vanilla Urza's block cyclers, which all cost two to cycle and had no cycling effects, so this deck uses both Shefnet Monitor and Vizier of Tumbling Sands to actually generate mana during the process of drawing through the deck with New Perspectives. Mana production is ramped up further by Weirding Wood, which accelerates into New Perspectives and also doubles the mana production of Vizier of Tumbling Sands, all while replacing itself with a clue, which is important because the deck needs to stay at seven cards in hand to cycle for free.
The mana the deck accrues while going off provides the necessary fuel to cast multiple Shadow of the Grave, and an excess of mana that it ultimately uses to cast its win condition, Approach of the Second Sun. It's then drawn into again with cycling and then played a second time to win the game. It the deck is empty when cast, then after resolution Approach of the Second Sun will simply become the top card of the deck, which can be drawn with a single cycle. Against decks that can hold up a counterspell and stop Approach of the Second Sun, Sphinx of the Final Word provides an alternate win condition immune to the counters and removal of control, and it paves the way for casting a counterspell-proof Approach of the Second Sun.
The cycling cards in the deck that don't generate mana serve as fantastic support cards, which makes the strategy viable. Cast Out is a versatile answer to permanents like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Aetherworks Marvel. Haze of Pollen provides a Fog effect, which against aggressive decks will serve as a Time Walk and buy time for New Perspectives. Renewed Faith cycles for a small dose of extra life, and in a pinch if can be cast for a bigger chunk that will also often buy an extra turn.
When the New Perspectives plan is under significant disruption by the opponent, specifically against blue control decks, the sideboard provides a set of Drake Haven that allow the deck to transition into a fair deck that simply grinds out the opponent with an endless stream of 2/2 Drake tokens. Kefnet the Mindful is similarly difficult for control to deal with, and it threatens them with both massive damage and endless card advantage.
This deck is an exciting entrant to the metagame, and while it is definitely a one-trick pony, it's also quite consistent in what it does and won't fizzle out, and doesn't have the chance of missing the mark like Aetherworks Marvel. Its relatively slow speed and reliance on one card may be its downfall, but the deck's power can't be understated.
Standard has seen a complete turnaround for Aetherworks Marvel decks, which went from top deck to non-starter after the banning of Emrakul, the Promised End. Now the banning of Felidar Guardian has allowed it to retake its former position as the best unfair deck in the metagame, and early results show it thriving against the Mardu-dominated metagame. Temur Marvel is the most popular, and Bant has a following, but the fastest-growing Marvel deck is Sultai Marvel.
This deck combines the Aetherworks Marvel plan with a delirium core powered by Vessel of Nascency that supports Ishkanah, Grafwidow, just like the Red-Green Marvel decks that used the Spider to beat Mardu last year. Black offers Fatal Push as efficient removal that's easy for the deck to revolt, but more exciting is the deck incorporating a new reanimation plan with Liliana, Death's Majesty, which can be used to reanimate any of the large creatures, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger included, that it gets into the graveyard with Vessel of Nascency or the planeswalker's ability. This decklist has even incorporated Oath of Jace to give it a way to discard something to reanimate. It gives the deck a great new angle of attack and an alternate route for cheating expensive threats into play, so it's a promising addition. Black also provides access to powerful creatures like Noxious Gearhulk and Demon of Dark Schemes, which can be cast but are also a great consolation hit off Aetherworks Marvel and fine reanimation targets.
Black gives access to great disruption from the sideboard, like discard that helps immensely against the control decks that typically give Marvel decks trouble. An interesting sideboard innovation that has appeared is Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, which can be a great source of card advantage against opponents that are likely to cut creature removal against a deck without good targets. Others turn to Bristling Hydra as a threat that could win the game by itself against a control deck.
All variety of Marvel decks are on an upward trajectory as one of the best strategies in the new metagame, but the current speed of Sultai Marvel means it might pull ahead of the rest, especially with black sideboard cards like Dispossess to win the Marvel mirror matches.
Black-Red Discard Aggro
There are now Pro Tour Qualifier tournaments on the second day of each Grand Prix event, and the Top 8 decks from the Standard PTQ this past Sunday at Grand Prix Richmond have been made available. Sticking out from the rest was this Red-Black Aggro deck that has moved away from the typical artifact-centric deck that we have seen since Kaladesh to embrace Amonkhet's discard theme. Artifacts are still part of the equation, and they enable the all-important Unlicensed Disintegration.
The most impressive artifact is Key to the City, which creates a bridge to the discard strategy as a centerpiece of the deck. It triggers Flameblade Adept, and it's a madness outlet for Fiery Temper and even Alms to the Vein as another source of damage. It also pushes in a ton of damage when targeting creatures like Bloodrage Brawler, which serves as a great role-player and discard enabler. Dread Wanderer joins Scrapheap Scrounger as a source of value from the graveyard, but the biggest payoff for embracing discard is Hazoret the Fervent, a discard enabler and massive threat that this deck will often have turned on immediately.
You can check out the rest of the decks from the PTQ top 8 here.
White-Green Rhonas the Indomitable
Anyone who has played enough Amonkhet has become familiar with the near-unstoppable force that is Rhonas the Indomitable, an efficient and powerful threat with an ability that produces extra damage and makes combat a nightmare for the opponent. There's no Amonkhet God with more potential in Standard, and this deck attempts to make the most of it.
Rhonas the Indomitable is the perfect ferocious enabler for Lambholt Pacifist, which the deck uses as its main creature and source of battlefield presence. When flipped, it will even enable Rhonas the Indomitable to enter combat, but to make sure its God is reliably in the red zone, the rest of the deck supports it in various ways. Heart of Kiran is an easy way to get a four-power creature, so from that base the deck builds up a planeswalker base of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar, and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Large creatures like Gisela, the Broken Blade and Archangel Avacyn also have four power, while Rishkar, Peema Renegade and Verdurous Gearhulk can bring smaller creatures up to size. The deck makes great use of new cards Angel of Sanctions and Cast Out, which give it more quality disruption than green-white decks have had in the past.
There's a lot of value in just getting aggressive and putting a lot of power and toughness into play, and this deck does that without sacrificing card quality by including some of the best cards in all of Standard. With some tuning and testing against the developing metagame, this deck could have what it takes to compete.
Four-Color Copy Cat-less
The banning of Felidar Guardian doesn't necessarily mean the death of Saheei Rai, as this deck demonstrates. This Four-Color Copy Cat core has transitioned away from the combo and embraced its role as a midrange deck that can win fair square, as it did in many of its games even with the combo. There haven't been massive changes to the cards, and in fact the deck can almost be looked at has having simply swapped Felidar Guardian with Glorybringer.
Glorybringer has a huge impact on the battlefield and is great at killing the opponent, and it's the best target for Saheeli Rai's -2 ability, as the copy will exert and kill a creature and hit the opponent before being exiled. Glorybringer is a great midrange card, and one made better by Traverse the Ulvenwald finding it and Servant of the Conduit accelerating into it.
This deck also uses Nissa, Steward of Elements very well. It's creature heavy, so the 0 ability is strong, but the +1 is also great as a way to stop flood and dig into action. Later in the game Nissa is also a great mana sink and additional win-condition that is very useful without access to the combo kill. Another addition is Manglehorn, which acts as a Traverse the Ulvenwald bullet against Mardu or other artifacts, and one that is great to copy with Saheeli Rai for more value.
Four-Color Copy Cat decks would typically sideboard into more of a fair midrange deck, so this version is very much like an old version that is built pre-sideboarded. This opens up some room in the sideboard for more specialty tools, and Amonkhet has provided some great ones. Sweltering Suns is a fantastic sweeper that this deck needs to slow down the onslaught from the new Zombies decks that have entered the metagame. Magma Spray is also great in this matchup for permanently exiling their threats, as is Cast Out.
Another version of the Four-Color Copy Cat-less concept pushes the planeswalker idea further with a bigger assortment of them.
It's clear that the core cards of the Four-Color Copy Cat shell are some of the best in Standard, even without the combo to support. The have the potential to live on in Standard supporting a different strategy and win condition, and these decks show some of what's possible.
What do you make of these decks? What new Standard decks have you built or come across? Share your thoughts and ideas in the comments, and I'll answer any questions.