This is it. The time has come to actually play Battle for Zendikar Standard. There will certainly be archetypes that will carry over from the current Standard format to Battle for Zendikar but, at the same time, expect to see a bunch of new decks or decks that haven't been seeing a lot of play become popular. This is the best time to brew and come up with new ideas as very little has been established and there will be some huge metagame shifts.
I want to go over a few different decklists I have been working on. These are decks that are either completely off the radar or got a ton of new cards from Battle for Zendikar. Still, these decks are prototypes, they don't have sideboards, and there is plenty of room to work on them. I have been talking a bit about how to configure an Eldrazi deck, and here is what one might look like:
This is what a Green/Red Eldrazi Ramp deck looks like. The deck has a lot of ramp elements, but there are also huge payoff cards once you have accumulated enough mana. This deck is somewhat comparable to a Green/Red Devotion deck, as it contains mostly creatures. In fact the deck is only creatures and a few noncreature ways to ramp. From Beyond and Hedron Archive are the four mana rampers, and each is quite powerful. There aren't more of them because both Beastcaller Savant and Shaman of Forgotten Ways encourage playing as many creatures as possible. This means that not only does this deck want to play a ton of creatures, but there are additional mana based incentives not to play big non-creature spells like, say, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. While you might otherwise want to play Ugin, the Spirit Dragon there are alternative ways to build the deck without Beastcaller Savant and Shaman of Forgotten Ways that could enable that to happen.
Personally though I think the late game here is more than powerful enough. Dragonlord Atarka is still the best threat in the deck because it is "only" seven mana, and can win the game by itself. Like Green/Red Devotion the deck has Whisperwood Elemental as well. There are some huge creatures that are great manifests in the deck, with the best being Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. There are three copies of the ten mana spell, as usually when you cast it the game ends very quickly. There is also a Conduit of Ruin to help find Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger. This is the one deck in the format that can realistically get up to ten mana. There are even six and seven mana plays in the deck that help you get to ten. Whisperer of the Wilds can produce two mana later in the game, activating Spawning Bed, Oblivion Sower, and Shrine of the Forsaken Gods turning on are all examples of how casting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger can be made easier. The game plan revolves around ramping until you have access to ten mana and then things get crazy.
The deck does have a full twelve accelerators for two mana. It is possible that this number is too high but you really do want to have a play on two, as there aren't any one mana plays in the deck. On three we have perhaps the best accelerator in the deck, Shaman of Forgotten Ways, and Nissa, Vastwood Seer. There aren't that many actual lands in the deck, so Nissa, Vastwood Seer helps with hitting land drops. Flipping Nissa, Vastwood Seer is also a legitimate thing the deck can do. Having a card like Nissa, Vastwood Seer that can also be a threat later on is nice in a deck that can potentially flood out. Similarly the four mana ramp spells in Hedron Archive and From Beyond are great for acceleration purposes, but also have other uses as well. The deck usually has ways to use its mana each turn.
This is a deck I really do recommend trying out. It may not be top tier yet, but there is certainly a lot of potential here. It is true that it is possible to get Overrun before your engine can get going, but later in the game this deck can make plays unlike any other deck in the format.
Moving on, here is a bit of a different take on a Red/Green deck. This is an aggressive Red/Green Landfall list:
While I do expect both Red Aggro and Atarka Red to remain popular, this is another option for Red/Green Aggro decks now. This is perhaps the best way to make use of landfall in Standard, as there were a number of cheap creatures with landfall that were printed in Battle for Zendikar. To start out, the one-drops are pretty self-explanatory. Scythe Leopard is reminiscent of Steppe Lynx, and is a one-mana 3/3 with a fetch land. The deck not only plays twelve fetch lands but there is a playset of Evolving Wilds in order to create as much redundancy as possible with fetching. The deck does play Zurgo Bellstriker as another one-mana creature, which is just simply a powerful enough card to play even without additional synergies.
There are actually a number of different options in terms of two-mana creatures and I really don't think you can reasonable play more than twelve two-mana guys. Two of the two-mana creatures have landfall and can get up to four power very easily, these are Makindi Sliderunner and Snapping Gnarlid. Both of these creatures should be attacking for four on turn three, and are the creatures that incentivize the deck to be landfall oriented. The deck also has Abbot of Keral Keep which is just a solid guy that you can play in the later turns; normally hitting a land off Abbot of Keral Keep isn't too bad, as it triggers landfall.
Then there are also three mana landfall creatures, and these are the creatures I'm the most unsure about. Undergrowth Champion seems like it has the potential to be a game changer, especially in aggressive matchups. Still, you really need to trigger landfall a couple times after playing Undergrowth Champion to make playing him worthwhile. The fact that the deck does have three-mana creatures means that it does have a bit more late game when compared to other aggressive red decks. Part of the reason is that, in this deck, you don't mind flooding a little bit as the lands do a lot more than in a traditional red deck. There is one copy of Tunneling Geopede as it is one of the best ways to burn out the opponent, and all you need to do is hit land drops.
This deck does rely heavily on its creatures as some top notch burn spells just rotated out. Still, there are some solid options that are still available. The best spell in the deck is Atarka's Command as it generally can lead to huge blowouts. The key piece about Atarka's Command in this deck is that you can put a land from your hand into play and create a surprise landfall trigger. There are also four copies of Wild Slash to give the deck some additional one-mana plays. The late game spells are a couple extra burn spells in Exquisite Firecraft and then two copies of Outpost Siege. This is a deck I don't mind maindecking Outpost Siege in, as it is a card that allows you to play a long game against just about any deck in the format.
Okay, so there are a couple different options if you want to be straight green/red but here is a deck that not only has green and red, it has a couple other colors as well. I actually expect for control decks to start moving in the direction of adding more colors to their decks. The new nonbasic lands allow manabases to have more versatility and options in terms of colors. This is one way to build a control deck:
Here is Four-Color Control. There is obviously a lot going on with the list, as with a full four colors there are a number of different cards the deck has access to. I will say first though that I am not saying black shouldn't be in this type of deck. There are of course a number of good black cards and there are various viable ways to build a control deck of this style. The creatures are all very good, and can become win conditions in the late game.
This format doesn't actually have that many two-drops in it, and I expect Hangarback Walker to see play in a lot of different decks, as it is such a powerful card. There are eight two-mana creatures including Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, which is a good number in a deck like this. Out of the creatures, the one that may stand out the most because it's a new card, is Woodland Wanderer. This is one of the incentives to play four colors as it will consistently come into play with four counters. There are some dragons as well to help close the game out, and this deck can actually protect Dragonlord Ojutai pretty well.
Moving on there are a bunch of interactive, controlling spells. I like having access to so many different types of removal as, based on the opposing deck and situation, oftentimes you will need a very specific answer for an opposing threat. The deck has Dig Through Time and Anticipate to help search for these specific answers. It is very hard to play around cards coming from a four-color deck, because it is difficult to know what you are up against unless you know the list of the opponent. The manabase is so flexible that you are generally threatening to find the fourth color with a fetch land even if all four colors of mana aren't immediately in play. The deck plays a lot of fetch lands and basics in order to allow even this four-color manabase to have all its lands come into play untapped. This is a huge shift from a format where control decks were filled with Temples.
There really are a number of different ways to build control decks, but I have been very happy with how this deck has performed. There is one more deck I want to talk about, and this is a deck that has existed for a little while now but perhaps hasn't gotten the credit it deserves. Here is Jeskai Dragons:
Jeskai Dragons is deck that has been around, but other dragon decks like Green/Red Dragons and Esper Dragons have been favored over it. Now I expect that Jeskai Dragons will have its time to shine. Though there are actually not any cards from Battle for Zendikar in the deck, there were also not many cards that this deck lost from the rotation. This deck can play both Thunderbreak Regent and Dragonlord Ojutai together, which makes for a sweet one-two punch. Both Draconic Roar and Silumgar's Scorn have tested well, and more often than not you will have a dragon in hand or in play.
For players looking to pick up a Jeskai deck I don't recommend trying to go back to Jeskai Midrange. There will still be a lot of Abzan decks in the format which incentivizes playing a deck with flying threats and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy plus Ojutai's Command. Expect Jeskai Dragons to be one of the sleeper decks early on, but it will be an important part of the metagame.
Thanks for reading,Seth Manfield