"What should I play in Standard?"
This is a question I've had some trouble with in the past. You see, I had always interpreted the question as a way of asking for my opinion on the best deck. So I answered:
"White Weenie.""Mono-Red.""Esper Control."
These answers—I thought—were good. These were decks I had a great win rate with and others, both in tournaments and on ladder, seemed to be doing the same. Yet, inevitably, someone would give me this response:
"I can't win with this."
It was frustrating. I mean, I answered their question, right? Well, maybe not. What if they weren't asking my opinion of the best deck in the format, and actually just wanted to know the best deck for them. That's a whole different question. It's not just about a deck's raw power and positioning in the format. It's about the user and their strengths, weaknesses, goals and preferences. That's a lot to ask.
So what should YOU play in Standard? I'll answer your question with a question: Do you prefer going big or going small?
For those who want to go big, I think this Temur Flood list is fantastic.
While many other green decks in Standard are known for going big, this OmniFlood list goes over the top of them all. This deck has the typical lines of playing mana dorks or Risen Reef and other Elementals into a gigantic Hydroid Krasis, but it can also completely combo off, killing an opponent from an otherwise unassuming board position.
For those not familiar with the combo, you start out by casting Flood of Tears returning four cards to your hand, then put Omniscience onto the battlefield for free. From there you cast a free Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and use her minus ability to return Flood of Tears to your hand. Play out a couple more permanents, recast the flood, and voila—you've established a loop. If one of those permanents is a Risen Reef or an Omnath, Locus of the Roil you're able to draw your deck or deal infinite damage.
Flood of Tears's utility isn't limited strictly to wacky Omniscience combos, however. The card acts as a powerful board reset while letting you double up on the value from casting cards like Risen Reef, Cavalier of Thorns and Hydroid Krasis. Even without the other combo pieces, at ten mana it's possible to lock an opponent out of combat by returning Flood of Tears to your hand with Tamiyo, Collector of Tales and recasting it every turn.
-2 Omniscience -2 Flood of Tears -3 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales -1 Paradise Druid
+2 Aether Gust +3 Lava Coil +3 Healer of the Glade
This matchup is primarily about playing to the board. The real tension in the matchup is deciding when to trade your creatures for opposing attackers. I tend to do so fairly aggressively both to preserve my life total and limit the impact of opposing Goblin Chainwhirlers, but will decline trades with my mana creatures if it allows me to accelerate out an early Hydroid Krasis or Cavalier of Thorns. It's important to note that the deck has no permanent answers to Experimental Frenzy, so closing the game as quickly as possible is important after you've stabilized.
-1 Omnath, Locus of the Roil -2 Flood of Tears -1 Omniscience -2 Paradise Druid -1 Leafkin Druid
+2 Shifting Ceratops+1 Fry +2 Legion Warboss +2 Negate
Unless I see otherwise, I tend to assume my opponents are running a version of BBD's Esper Hero list, so be aware of differences and be ready to switch gears if things are dramatically different. This matchup is really about extracting as much value as possible from each and every card. It's definitely possible to beat them with the combo, but can be difficult to manage post-board between their varied discard spells, so maximizing threats like Hydroid Krasis is usually how to get things done.
-2 Omnath, Locus of the Roil -2 Paradise Druid -1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
+2 Aether Gust +3 Lava Coil
The Elemental mirror is one of my favorite matchups with this version of the deck. Each side is primarily focused on not letting the opponent get too crazy with Risen Reef because if left unchecked it can amass enough value to carry the game. Luckily, Flood of Tears into Omniscience is the ultimate trump. It doesn't matter how much value your opponent has gotten when you're going infinite.
Vs. Mono-Blue / Blue-Green
+2 Shifting Ceratops +3 Lava Coil +1 Fry
-4 Flood of Tears -2 Omniscience
These matchups can be frustrating and require a lot of patience. My best luck in these matchups has been through spending the early turns focusing on developing mana and avoiding tapping low unless the opponent has done the same. The plan then should be to focus on casting a large Hydroid Krasis, which will likely get countered but hopefully give you enough gas to fight through the rest of their countermagic.
Vs. Nexus of Fate
-2 Hydroid Krasis -2 Cavalier of Thorns -1 Flood of Tears -2 Leafkin Druid -1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales
+2 Negate +2 Shifting Ceratops +2 Legion Warboss +2 Aether Gust
Put on as much pressure as possible while trying to leave open mana when you have a card to disrupt their combo. Flood of Tears is generally a combo card only in the matchup, but it's often your best ability to race them. When possible, I try to force the opponent into tapping out to cast a Root Snare then use that opportunity to OmniFlood for the win.
Vs. R/G Dinosaurs
+2 Aether Gust +3 Lava Coil
-1 Omniscience -1 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales -2 Paradise Druid -1 Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Focus on developing your mana and trying to keep the opposing Marauding Raptors and Otepec Huntmasters in check. Flood of Tears acts as a huge tempo swing in your favor, as their creatures rely heavily on discounts and it can be difficult for them to replay their board.
Vs. Vampires/White Weenie
-2 Omniscience -3 Tamiyo, Collector of Tales -2 Paradise Druid
+3 Lava Coil +1 Fry +3 Healer of the Glade
These matchups are all about stabilizing the board. Flood of Tears acts as a pseudo-Wrath of God and lets you get even more value. You can generally win with a giant Hydroid Krasis. It's worth noting that some Vampires players will go very heavy on creature removal post board, which can actually make it hard to kill them without decking. If that's the case, consider siding back into the combo for game three.
If you prefer to go small, I think W/R Feather is another excellent deck.
With an average converted mana cost of 1.8, it would be easy to assume that W/R Feather is a pure aggro deck, intending to win the game on turn four or five. The deck is definitely capable of those draws, but more often than not, the first few turns of the game are focused on setting up and getting small amounts of value, then trading one-mana spells such as Gods Willing and Reckless Rage for spells your opponent spent three or four mana on.
One thing I've been impressed by in playing this deck is how much it has the ability to manipulate its draws. The Core Set 2020 additions of Temple of Triumph and Gods Willing combine with Tenth District Legionnaire to give you enough of the scrys to generally ensure you're drawing gas. On turns when you're planning to cast Gods Willing either way, casting it on your upkeep can help ensure your next draw step is a good one.
There are a few tricks with the deck that might not seem intuitive at first but can really help you to squeeze extra value out of your cards. One thing that surprised me was how often I ended up casting Shock targeting my own creatures, especially when a Feather is in play. The two most common are Shock on your own Tenth District Legionnaire for repeatable counters and scrys as well as casting Shock from hand targeting something on the opponent's side of the board, then attacking with Dreadhorde Arcanist and pointing the shock at your own creature so the spell returns to your hand in the end step.
Reckless Rage also works in somewhat of a unique manner. The spell requires you to have a target on both sides of the battlefield to be cast, but you don't get punished if one of those targets becomes illegal as the spell resolves. I've had this come up in two scenarios. First, If you cast Reckless Rage targeting your own Feather and your opponent's creature, Reckless Rage will still damage your opponent's creature and return to your hand on end step, even if your opponent kills your Feather in response. Second, if you have a board of only Legion Warboss and tokens and can't afford to let any of your creatures die, you can declare targets for Reckless Rage while holding priority then cast Gods Willing naming red on your creature in response. This will let Reckless Rage take out creatures on the other side of the battlefield while leaving yours unharmed.
W/R Feather is also one of the decks that is most improved by the London mulligan. The deck requires a somewhat specific mix of creatures and spells that target them for an opening hand to be functional. That said, you can generally get that mix in less than seven cards. More than ever before in Standard, with this deck I've felt like the games where I mull to five are still winnable. It's great.
-4 Adanto Vanguard -2 Legion Warboss -1 Reckless Rage
+1 Ixalan's Binding +3 Tocatli Honor Guard +3 Lava Coil
Focus on answering Runaway Steam-Kin and make sure that you have protection for your threats. Feather, the Redeemed is very hard for them to 1-for-1 pre-sideboard but they gain Lava Coil and Fry in post-board games, so you want to alter how you pace your threats with this in mind.
-3 Reckless Rage -2 Shock
+1 Fry +3 Prison Realm +1 Ixalan's Binding
There's generally no need to play around Kaya's Wrath in game one, but it's something to look out for in post-board games. Teferi, Time Raveler can really put a wrench in your plans. Sometimes it will be right to cast Gods Willing on a creature while Teferi, Time Raveler is on the stack, but I usually only do so if it means I'll be able to take him down after he ticks up to 5 loyalty.
-4 Adanto Vanguard -4 Legion Warboss -1 Shock
+4 Tocatli Honor Guard +3 Lava Coil +2 Prison Realm
Do your best to bully their mana production by killing mana dorks and Risen Reefs, hopefully getting value rebuying your removal spells with Feather, the Redeemed or Dreadhorde Arcanist. They will often build up a reasonable board, but you can usually close out the game with a Gods Willing naming green to attack past their army.
Vs. Mono-Blue / Blue-Green
-4 Adanto Vanguard
+1 Fry +3 Lava Coil
Try to cast your creatures on curve to get underneath their countermagic—there isn't removal you need to worry about in their maindeck. Be generally aware of which flash blockers they have at their disposal and have a plan for each of them before attacking.
Vs. Nexus of Fate
-2 Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin -2 Reckless Rage
+3 Demistify +1 Ixalan's Binding
This is a matchup where you really need to play the role of an aggro deck and can't afford to spend time durdling, so mulligan hands that can't present a fast clock. You're generally behind in game one, but a little bit of disruption in Demystify goes a long way post board.
Vs. R/G Dinosaurs
-4 Legion Warboss -3 Adanto Vanguard
+3 Lava Coil +3 Prison Realm +1 Ixalan's Binding
Focus on killing the creatures that reduce costs or grant haste and growing Tenth District Legionnaire. Sometimes both boards will clog up. You can use Gods Willing to save your blockers or to force through a giant Tenth District Legionnaire by granting protection. Be incredibly careful with Legion Warboss in game one—it does not line up well against Ripjaw Raptor.
Vs. Vampires/White Weenie
+3 Lava Coil +2 Prison Realm +1 Fry +1 Ixalan's Binding
-3 Legion Warboss -4 Adanto Vanguard
Focus first on controlling the board. Dreadhorde Arcanist is fantastic here, both at recycling removal spells and being a 1/3 blocker against opposing 2/1s and Vampire Tokens. Both decks really struggle to remove Feather, the Redeemed when Gods Willing is left open, so let it carry the game by recycling Reckless Rage until their board is demolished.
So there you go. Two decks. For two different playstyles. You should be set. Wait, what's that? You just wanted an updated Mono-Red list? Oh no…
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