Today we're going to look at some of the Standard decks that improved the most from the addition of Core Set 2019. I'm going to discuss Mono-White Monument, Mono-Red Wizards and Grixis Aggro with Nicol Bolas, the Ravager, focusing on lists that have gone 5-0 in leagues on Magic Online this week.
Mono-White Monument no longer has a Vampire sub-theme, but the engine has gotten even stronger with the introduction of Core Set 2019 with two particularly notable additions, namely Mentor of the Meek and Militia Bugler.
The basis behind the deck is to play Oketra's Monument and then play out a bunch of small cheap creatures, producing a Warrior Token each time, and then casting Angel of Invention to pump the team and overwhelm the opponent in combat. Alternatively, you can cast Dusk to clear away any creatures the opponent has that would keep you from having a good attack. And if the opponent kills your creatures, most notably via a wrath effect, you can refuel by casting Dawn from the graveyard and also by eternalizing Sunscourge Champion.
The deck has always been highly reliant on resolving Oketra's Monument and having it stick around, but now Mentor of the Meek allows the deck to function without it by drawing cards instead of making Warrior Tokens. And since Mentor of the Meek triggers upon a creature entering the battlefield instead of casting it, it works in conjunction with Oketra's Monument too, allowing you to draw a card off each Warrior Token entering the battle as well! This added engine gives the deck a ton more staying power.
Militia Bugler is also a very welcomed addition to the deck. It clearly fits into the deck since the deck is chalk full of creatures, each of which has power two or less, and the deck also benefits considerably from a creature that replaces itself since each creature cast is drawing us cards off Mentor of the Meek and/or producing Warrior Tokens off Oketra's Monument. Militia Bugler can also help us to find Mentor of the Meek to get the engine going.
Remorseful Cleric and Suncleanser are to other additions to the deck that I think are mostly metagame considerations. Neither card adds anything especially significant to the overall strategy of the deck as far as I can tell, but the body on Suncleanser is good against red decks while its ability is good against Winding Constrictor decks and against decks relying on the energy mechanic. Remorseful Cleric is great against God-Pharaoh's Gift but also serviceable in a lot of spots against cards like Torrential Gearhulk or in the mirror to keep the opponent from refueling with Dawn.
One card I would like to put back into the deck is Aviary Mechanic. It has lots of synergy with Mentor of the Meek and Militia Bugler and is an engine by itself with Oketra's Monument, especially if you have two of them so they can endlessly bounce each other. I can see replacing Suncleanser, Knight of Grace or Remorseful Cleric with four copies of Aviary Mechanic and I think that would improve the deck even more. Despite Knight of Grace's synergy with an eternalized Sunscourge Champion, I suspect it might be the card to cut. It will all depend on which decks you expect to face in the metagame as to which of these three creatures gets cut for it. If you're unsure, you can hedge by shaving one of each.
The last addition is one copy of Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants to the sideboard. I'm guessing the player only ran one copy because they are hard to come by and quite expensive on Magic Online right now. I think it's likely correct to play at least a second copy since it has 12 targets to bring back from the graveyard and not shortage of targets to put counters on. The deck is a go-wide swarm style deck, so adding counters to creatures allows our creatures to size up with the opponent's creatures to avoid board stalls and allow us to continue attacking and blocking profitably.
Overall, I think this deck has improved quite a bit and is in my opinion one of the frontrunners for most improved archetype in Standard. Then again, there is a small chance I'm a little biased when it comes to favorably evaluating a resilient mono-white aggro deck that runs 28 white creatures.
Another deck that has gotten upgraded by the new set is Mono-Red Wizards.
I guess I should call this Mono-Red Wizards, but I suppose it is equally correct to call it Mono-Red The Flame of Keld since it runs both Wizard's Lightning and The Flame of Keld. It's a sort of mash-up of those two archetypes together. Given that the only main deck addition from the new set is Viashino Pyromancer (aka The Lizard Wizard), I'm going to identify the deck as Wizards.
Viashino Pyromancer is a very welcome addition to this deck. It really needed one more strong Wizard to turn Wizard's Lightning into Lightning Bolt more reliably, and Lizard Wizard certainly fits the bill. It also gives us another pseudo burn spell for chapter three of The Flame of Keld, so it kind of does everything this deck wants to do.
The other notable addition to the deck besides Viashino Pyromancer is Banefire. This is an excellent sideboard card, especially against control decks that aim to wrath our board and stabilize at a low life total. It is especially good against Settle the Wreckage as it can turn all those extra lands into extra damage. It can also win through a counter, so the game is certainly not over just because the opponent has cleared our board and has a hand full of counters and removal spells.
Mono-Red Aggro decks have been unquestionable tier one since the printing of Goblin Chainwhirler, so the biggest question is which build of the deck is the best version of Mono-Red. This list incorporates the best elements of The Flame of Keld version and the Wizards version and combines them into one deck and makes the best use out of the newest addition in Viashino Pyromancer. This deck also benefits quite a bit from Banefire in the sideboard since we are a more tempo-oriented version that aims to finish off the opponent with burn spells anyway. So this version is likely the frontrunner for best build of Mono-Red Aggro, but I can see a slower version with a higher curve perhaps proving to be more powerful and thereby an overall better choice depending on the metagame. This deck has a better temp game and better reach in the form of actual burn to the face, but the higher curve versions have more resilience against removal and life gain.
We've seen red decks splashing for black to bring back Scrapheap Scrounger, some of which also run Unlicensed Disintegration and a handful of sideboard cards such as Duress and Hour of Glory, but I have yet to see someone splash blue as well, at least until now.
This Red Aggro deck splashes black for Unlicensed Disintegration and Scrapheap Scrounger but also runs The Scarab God and Nicol Bolas, the Ravager! I would never have thought to replace Hazoret the Fervent with Bolas, but apparently it works. This build more closely approximates the slower versions of Mono-Red, going higher on the curve for four drops and five-drops. But instead of running Hazoret and the full set of Glorybringers, it splits the Glorybringers with The Scarab Gods and replaces Hazoret altogether with Bolas.
The additional colors certainly aren't free as it means you are running four Aether Hub and are reduced to only nine actual Mountains for your Dragonskull Summits (and now Sulfur Falls) to enter untapped. And Spirebluff Canal off the top of the deck will enter tapped, making it such that several of your lands will not actually give you that fourth of fifth mana you need when you are stuck on three lands with Bolas in hand or four lands with Glorybringer or The Scarab God in hand. Despite there being a real cost to adding blue to the deck, it may still be worth it, especially if the sideboard Negates and Jace's Defeats prove to be important sideboard cards for the metagame. If nothing else, it's a direction to consider when trying to determine the best Bolas deck, and also when determining the best Goblin Chainwhirler deck.
These aren't the only three decks that have gotten upgrades from the new set. To hear about updates from Blue-Black God-Pharaoh's Gift, Grixis Midrange, and White-Black Knights, check out Seth's article here. To see Seth pilot Mono Black Zombies go here. There are several decks that have gotten upgrades, and in the case of zombies, emerged as completely new archetypes. There is also likely a Grixis Dragons deck floating around waiting for the right build to emerge. It's early, so the ground is fertile for innovation and it's good to see Core Set 2019 is having an immediate impact on the format in several ways. I'm excited to see how the metagame develops and I'm also excited about continuing to innovate Mono-White Monument in particular.