The 2014 TCGplayer.com Standard State Championships were held around the country last weekend. Fifty states times eight top 8 players each equals a whole lot of decklists to pour through. A number of the decks have already been posted to the deck database, and I have scoured them all. Today I'll share the decks that caught my eye with their innovations.
UR Ensoul Artifact
This deck seeks to abuse Ensoul Artifact and Shrapnel Blast, two cards that are quite powerful in their own right but hard to utilize because of their artifact restriction. This deck overcomes that restriction by utilizing the best cheap artifacts available and building synergies around them.
Any deck with Ensoul Artifact and Shrapnel Blast clearly must be aggressive to get the most out of those cards, and this deck is built with that in mind. As a 0-cost card, Ornithopter is the first choice of artifacts, and with flying evasion it's the best target for Ensoul Artifact. Phyrexian Revoker does fine work on offense as a 2-mana 2/1, and it works to hate out planeswalkers.
My favorite card here is Ghostfire Blade. As as 1-drop, it's a fine cheap artifact to power Ensoul Artifact and Shrapnel Blast, but it shines when equipped to the cheap artifact creatures. It goes on to work well with any of the other cast of supporting creatures, including Goblin Rabblemaster and Dakra Mystic. Enter Chief Engineer, which combines with cheap artifact spells to enable explosive starts and a package of high-end artifact finishers, Juggernaut and Scuttling Doom Engine.
A set of Lightning Strike works as removal and combines with Shrapnel Blast to create a formidable burn package for destroying planeswalkers or finishing off the opponent.
This deck is aggressive and powerful, and with a lot of synergy it looks like a fun choice for future Standard events. In the correct metagame and with the proper tuning, I could see this sort of strategy competing with the top tier.
Black Devotion is back, and this version replaces all of the Return to Ravnica block favorites with the best available equivalent cards to produce a final design that does the original deck justice.
Replacing Pack Rat is Pain Seer, which does a great job of snowballing a game early if left uncontested. A suite of nine maindeck removal spells and set of Thoughtseize work to make that dream a reality.
Replacing Nightveil Specter and Lifebane Zombie is Herald of Torment, which with evasion and 3 power puts the opponent on a fast clock while providing two Devotion to black. Paying one life for three is a great trade in racing situations, particularly when Gray Merchant of Asphodel is tipping the balance further. The Bestow ability grants flying evasion to any of the the Grounded creatures this deck plays and is especially valuable with Pain Seer.
In the 4-drop slot, Desecration Demon has been replaced by Squelching Leeches. This card wasn't quite good enough with Mutavault around, but with a full 24 basic Swamps in the deck Squelching Leeches will always be a 4/4 if cast on turn 4. It scales upwards in power as the game goes on, and it will quickly end a game in the stalled topdeck war scenarios this attrition-based deck so often finds itself in.
The Delve cards are great here in the midgame onwards. Murderous Cut is a straightforward removal spell that compares to Hero's Downfall but comes with the potential for a huge tempo gain when cast for a single mana. Empty the Pits has the potential to win a game outright, and it seems perfectly fit for an attrition-focused monoblack deck like this one.
This deck takes the ramp aspect of Monogreen Devotion to the max with a core of Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, Voyaging Satyr that is supplemented by two Karametra's Acolyte. This creature package combined with Nykthos Shrine to Nyx gives the deck a huge amount of ramping power, and the best draws will be able to generate massive amounts of mana early in the game to cast a powerful top-end that includes a full set of the X=spell Genesis Hydra, which can generate tempo and card advantage.
This deck uses a full maindeck playset of Hornet Queen, which this deck can cast as early as turn 3 with a nut-draw. All of the mana acceleration makes going over the top a great approach and allows this deck to consistently overpower opponents. Two Arbor Colossus also sit high on the curve and holds down the skies to combat cards like Butcher of the Horde, Mantis Rider, and Wingmate Roc.
Nissa, Worldwaker is a reliable win condition, and with a high Forest count it doubles as a very potent source of mana acceleration.
Seven fetchlands are played for their synergy with Courser of Kruphix and work to give this deck modest card-selection abilities.
Another take on Green Devotion uses Eidolon of Blossoms as a card drawing engine and splashes into black for Doomwake Giant to control opposing creatures:
Green midrange strategies formed the majority of the top 8 decklists, and they stretched across wedges from Temur to Abzan and Sultai and into allied shards like Naya. The remaining decks I'll share today are Green Midrange variations that stand out from the rest:
Abzan was the most diverse of the green midrange decks. Take a look at these variations
Abzan Anafenza Midrange
This is a relatively vanilla Abzan Rock deck light on synergies but high on individual raw card power. This decklist is notable for its use of three Anafenza, the Foremost. Cutting Brimaz, King of Oreskos eases the white mana requirements and allows white to be splashed from a strong Golgari core. Anafenza, the Foremost is the more reliably casted three-drop, and sacrificing some power for consistency is often a great move to make. It's also arguable that Anafenza, the Foremost is just as powerful as or even more powerful than Brimaz, King of Oreskos because it has a similar ability to snowball, and in a pure damage sense they both add one power a turn. The +1/+1 counter boot from Anafenza, the Foremost may also allow an otherwise Grounded attacker to fight through a blocker, which is more valuable than one damage.
Another build using Anafenza, the Foremost took first in New Hampshire:
Abzan Reanimator/ See the Unwritten
Abzan has lots of tools for playing a reanimation strategy. Endless Obedience appears to be an ideal card because Convoke works well with cheap enabler creatures like Satyr Wayfinder and Courser of Kruphix. It's also a great tempo follow-up to Hornet Queen because the four tokens reduce the cost to just BB. Endless Obedience is fine for returning Siege Rhino, but it shines when returning Hornet Queen or one of four Ashen Rider to overpower opponents.
Whip of Erebos adds another angle of reanimation and is an ideal way to use the top-end reanimation targets. Hornet Queen tokens of course stay in play after Hornet Queen is removed from the game, and Ashen Rider gets to destroy something permanently when it enters play.
Playing 7 reanimation targets is a tough sell with just two reanimation spells available, but See the Unwritten changes the equation by providing another means to cheat those creatures into play. Instant speed provides some value, and the Ferocious ability is capable of generating incredible card and tempo advantage when triggered; Siege Rhino fulfills the Ferocious requirements of See the Unwritten, so this combo provides the deck with a great 1-2 punch for taking control of a game.
A pair of Resolute Archangel comes in from the sideboard as an additional reanimation target, likely replacing a pair of Ashen Rider against aggressive burn-filled decks that are less focused on generating board presence and more on attacking life total. They also could just be added to the maindeck package to increase the odds of hitting any high-end reanimation target. As a 4/4 they also conveniently trigger Ferocious on See the Unwritten.
Abzan Pridemate Midrange
This Abzan deck revolves around Ajani's Pridemate. This card is quite interesting as a two-drop supplement to Fleecemane Lion that's also capable of scaling upwards throughout a game while it works offensively or defensively. The natural lifegain pairing is Courser of Kruphix, which can work double duty combined with Windswept Heath. There is also synergy with Siege Rhino. Together these 8 cards provide ample support for Ajani's Pridemate, and one of each combines on curve to create 4/4 or potentially 5/5 Ajani's Pridemate as early as turn 4. The rest of the lifegain duty falls on the cycle of common dual lands that come into play tapped but gain one life, Blossoming Sands, Scoured Barrens, and Jungle Hollow. Whip of Erebos in the sideboard also gains life.
Temur Chord of Calling
This Temur Midrange Ramp deck is built to abuse the clever idea of combining Chord of Calling with Goblin Rabblemaster. This turns Goblin Rabblemaster into a ramp spell, and with Convoke it's also a great way to protect Goblin Tokens from blockers.
The deck uses Chord of the Calling to create redundancy in its best creatures that don't necessarily demand a playset, like Stormbreath Dragon, Polukranos, World Eater, and Surrak, Dragonclaw. It also uses a small toolbox package with a single Keranos, God of the Storms maindeck a Reclamation Sage in the sideboard.
This is certainly an idea worth exploring. To start tuning I'd want to try the full set of Goblin Rabblemaster, and I'd add more 1-of creature options like Hornet Queen and Clever Impersonator.
Another approach to Temur is to play it like a superfriends-style midrange control deck. Frank Lepore wrote about his success with the archetype last week http://magic.tcgplayer.com/db/article.asp?ID=12081 , so it's no surprise that some similar decks put up results at States.
This version leans on 3 Kiora, the Crashing Wave as a way to control the board and supplement the removal capabilities of 3 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker. It also uses Soul of Zendikar as a way to generate more value. A stream of 3/3 tokens can snowball a game out of control if Soul of Zendikar is unanswered, and in attrition battles it's excellent for getting value from the graveyard. This deck is light on mana acceleration with just 4 Sylvan Caryatid, so it uses four Magma Jet as a way to slow down opponent's early creatures and smooth draws.
Here's another take on the archetype:
This deck is full of mana acceleration, and in addition to a set of Rattleclaw Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid it plays an extra 4 Elvish Mystic. The idea here is to play an early mana acceleration spell to lead into a powerful follow-up threat ahead of schedule before the opponent can establish enough of a foothold to combat it. This deck is significantly more aggressive than the last version, and uses a full set of Goblin Rabblemaster to generate pressure as early as turn 2 while eschewing Courser of Kruphix altogether.
This deck foregoes Kiora, the Crashing Wave and Chandra, Pyromaster in favor of more proactive and aggressive planeswalkers:
A full set of Xenagos, the Reveler creates aggressive board position while coming with the option as serving as mana acceleration when combined with the many cheap early creatures in the deck, including Goblin Rabblemaster.
Nissa, Worldwaker functions similarly to Xenagos, the Reveler in its applications. It's sometimes used for creating a stream of 4/4 creatures (which effectively have haste if the ability is used on a land played on an earlier turn), or occasionally works as a mana source when combined with some number of the 4 Forests and 4 Wooded Foothills to find them.
The real star here is Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, which is an important removal spell for clearing out early plays before transitioning into a quick clock to close out a game.
Keranos, God of Storms is an important sideboard card in this ramp strategy because it's a powerful payoff worth ramping towards but avoids most removal spells. It's a key part of the sideboard plan against attrition and control strategies.
Sultai is another direction to take Green Midrange. BUG control was a defining strategy of Theros block constructed, so before Khans of Tarkir was spoiled this archetype was widely predicted as an early frontrunner for top deck in the post-rotation format.
The following take on Sultai Midrange stays true to the overall block strategy of utilizing planeswalkers but updates the build with the best new cards, notably AEtherspouts as a pseduo-Supreme Verdict to buy time, Dig Through Time as card selection, Murderous Cut as mana-efficient removal, and Sultai Charm as a versatile tool:
Naya Midrange Aggro
Another option for green midrange is to depart from Khans of Tarkir wedges and into Shards of Alara allied shards.
This aggressive Naya midrange deck leverages Brimaz, King of Oreskos, Goblin Rabblemaster, Wingmate Roc, and even Seeker of the Way to generate board presence and close out games. A planeswalker package including Elspeth, Sun's Champion complements the creatures and offers the deck a diverse threat base. A full suite of creature removal fills in the supporting role and powers Seeker of the Way, including a full set of Magma Spray maindeck for fighting commonly played creatures including Goblin Rabblemaster, Seeker of the Way, and Elvish Mystic. This Naya deck is efficient and built to be well-positioned against the metagame, so it's a strategy I'd recommend giving a try if you're looking for something beyond the ordinary.
The Khans of Tarkir Standard metagame is just starting to develop, and these TCGplayer Standard States results show that format is deep and there are numerous ideas to explore and paths to go down. The Pro Tour this weekend will really be telling and do a lot to evolve the metagame forward. My eye will be on that event, and I'll be back next week to report on the results and what they mean for the future of Standard.
What TCGplayer Standard States decks are interesting to you? What do you expect to see succeed at the Pro Tour this weekend? Share your thoughts on the comments.