Today there are two things I want to talk about. The first is Standard, which currently consists of three decks that have separated themselves from the rest of the pack. I'm sharing my current list of each and why I think they are the best decks right now. Secondly I want to talk about an important topic for the Magic community right now, namely how to promote inclusiveness.
At its Pro Tour debut in the first couple weeks thereafter, Kaladesh offered several different decks. Aetherworks Marvel and various red/black decks were quite popular. Emerge was still a thing and a pair of control decks met in the finals. Now the metagame has mostly distilled itself to three decks: Red-White Vehicles, Black-Green Delirium, and White-Blue Flash. If you're not playing one of these three decks, you at least need to have a plan for combating each of them because collectively these three decks make up nearly 60% of the metagame! Let's consider each of these three decks individually, including my up-to-date lists for each.
This is the deck that changed the least from Shadows Over Innistrad to Kaladesh. Blossoming Marsh is really the only significant change. Noxious Gearhulk as a target for Traverse the Ulvenwald gives the deck a bit of added flexibility, but for the most part it's the same deck as before. Some versions run Catacomb Sifter, but most do not. I have found that card to be a bit underwhelming in the deck and prefer what all the other cards in this list are doing.
Some lists run a seventh Forest over the second Evolving Wilds, but I prefer the extra copy of Evolving Wilds because it makes Tireless Tracker better and gets us closer to delirium. The extra tapped land can sometimes be an issue, but second-turn Grim Flayer is really the only tempo play in the deck. Everything else can generally afford to be played a turn later and still be fine.
1 Emrakul, the Promised End
1 Noxious Gearhulk
4 Grim Flayer
3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
These are pretty standard numbers. Grim Flayer is the best two-drop play in the deck and stays good late while Ishkanah, Grafwidow is a card you absolutely have to cast on turn five against a lot of the more aggressive decks in the format, so running three has become the norm.
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
2 Mindwrack Demon
1 Pilgrim's Eye
2 Tireless Tracker
The numbers on these creatures are a bit more varied between lists. Kalitas is great against Prized Amalgam decks due to the exile ability. It's also great against any of the red aggressive decks, both because of lifelink and because of the fourth point of toughness.
Mindwrack Demon gets us to delirium for the follow-up Ishkanah, Grafwidow and the flying body is good against Archangel Avacyn, Smuggler's Copter, and Spell Queller. Tireless Tracker is a way to turn excess lands into cards and Pilgrim's Eye is the card you always want to have exactly one of since it fixes your mana and puts two card types in the graveyard after it chump blocks.
1 Dead Weight
2 Grapple with the Past
4 Grasp of Darkness
4 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Ruinous Path
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
3 Vessel of Nascency
You want to run a variety of card types among your spells for the purpose of delirium and for fueling Emrakul, the Promised End. This configuration is pretty standard. Some versions run less than four copies of Liliana, the Last Hope but I think the card is too important against all the Selfless Spirits and Veteran Motorists, not to mention being great at rebuying creatures from the graveyard in the mirror.
Some lists run Aether Hub, but I don't like it unless you're splashing black. Sometimes having that fourth energy for Harnessed Lightning helps, but only helping to cast a colored spell once will often backfire in a deck running so many color-intensive cards such as Veteran Motorist and Depala, Pilot Exemplar.
4 Depala, Pilot Exemplar
4 Thraben Inspector
4 Toolcraft Exemplar
4 Veteran Motorist
These numbers are all pretty standard. They're the most important creatures in the deck and you want to run the full four copies of each to maximize your chances of drawing them.
1 Archangel Avacyn
2 Pia Nalaar
3 Selfless Spirit
These are the flex slots. Pia Nalaar isn't necessary but drawing one is usually good. Unlike Depala, Pia Nalaar doesn't put us far ahead when she survives, so drawing multiples can actually be a hindrance. She's still good enough that I think the second copy is merited as she can fuel two vehicles on her own.
Selfless Spirit works great in the deck as a countermeasure to removal spells, especially board sweepers such as Radiant Flames or Kozilek's Return. Still, it can be a liability against Liliana, the Last Hope. Archangel Avacyn serves a similar role later in the game and can also be a house against Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, so I like the 3-1 split.
2 Fleetwheel Cruiser
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
2 Harnessed Lightning
3 Declaration in Stone
1 Stasis Snare
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
4 Smuggler's Copter
Of the non-creature spells, really only the removal spells are variable between lists. I went with three Declaration in Stone and one Stasis Snare because the stone is better against spiders, but if you expect to face more Avacyns than Ishkanahs, I'd go with two and two.
Unlike the previous two decks, this one's creature package is almost unanimously the same across all lists and straight four-of's from beginning to end. The lone Thalia, Heretic Cathar is not in every list, but I like it here because it's good against Ishkanah and works well with Reflector Mage.
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
4 Smuggler's Copter
Smuggler's Copter is basically a slam-dunk four-of in every deck that can support it, but Gideon is not. For instance, Red-White vehicles only runs two copies main. This is mostly a concession to Fleetwheel Cruiser being extra good in the vehicles deck and them already having Depala to pump their creatures. In UW Flash, Gideon is the best four-drop threat and also the best anthem effect, so four main deck copies are warranted.
4 Stasis Snare
1 Declaration in Stone
1 Revolutionary Rebuff
I like Stasis Snare a lot in this deck because we have enough other instant speed cards (Spell Queller, Archangel Avacyn) that gives us a good reason to pass with our mana untapped. Therefore, Stasis Snare is the most flexible removal spell for this deck and worth maxing out on. The last two slots can literally be anything. I chose one Declaration in Stone because it answers spiders effectively and can also deal with a second-turn Grim Flayer, but I can see running a second copy of Revolutionary Rebuff over it since it can often deal with the Ishkanah even better and if on the draw can answer the second-turn Grim Flayer. I think boarding out the counter on the draw is often correct.
All three of these decks are great right now and are different enough that one of them will likely appeal to you depending on your playstyle. If none of them do, Aetherworks Marvel can be good as long as White-Blue Flash is not a deck you expect to face a lot of. Emerge decks and Prized Amalgam are likewise playable, as is the nearly mono-white deck I played at the Pro Tour, or the green-white midrange deck. If your goal is to play the most powerful deck though, I would recommend one of these three lists.
Inclusiveness in the Magic Community
I was recently invited by Judges for Diversity to share my thoughts on inclusiveness in the Magic community. I responded by offering a pair of concrete ways in which members of the Magic community can be more inclusive. In light of all the discussions of inclusiveness surrounding the United States presidential election, now seems like an important time to elaborate on these ideas. In case you haven't yet seen it, here is the post I made:
Inclusiveness is a core value of both TCGplayer as well as Wizards of the Coast and Magic: The Gathering. A desire to make everyone feel included is the baseline, but isn't always enough to achieve inclusiveness. Good-intentioned people will often inadvertently make a person feel alienated or unwelcome. It is therefore important to listen to those who feel unwelcome and to change our social habits so as to no longer make these mistakes that cause people to feel this way, and there are a few relatively simple ways of doing so.
The first way is to look beyond a person's physical characteristics and to not even point them out. Consider things from their perspective. They may already feel different and are working an uphill battle to fit in. By pointing out that physical characteristic, you make that struggle unnecessarily more difficult for them. By why are physical characteristics even relevant? They shouldn't be. What matters is that you're both there to game together and have fun. So why not skip past the things that aren't relevant and move right into figuring out the things that are? Find out what they like about Magic, what other games they enjoy playing, whether they're looking for a regular group to play with, what formats they play, etc. In doing so, you'll be helping to promote inclusiveness rather than inadvertently working against it.
The second point is to assume everyone at a Magic event is there to play Magic. Sometimes a parent, child, friend or significant other comes to a Magic tournament and is not there to play Magic. We've all likely encountered this before and there is nothing wrong with this, but there is something wrong with assuming someone is one of these people when they are not.
Let me explain how why this is problematic. A friend of mine showed up to a PPTQ a few months ago after having registered online for the tournament. The event was filled to capacity and would need to use all the space in the store. As the event was about to begin, she was the only person asked to leave if she was not playing in the event.
Consider things from her perspective. She is the only female participant in the tournament and is singled out as someone who is not there to play Magic. Can you see how this is problematic and only serves to make someone feel alienated and unwelcome in the Magic community? She even had Pro Tour experience and was very likely the most competitive and most accomplished player in the tournament, yet she still has to deal with these types of gross assumptions. Imagine if that was her first tournament? How likely do you think she would be to continue playing Magic?
Now compare this scenario to one where the store employee had instead asked, "We're about to begin the tournament; have you registered yet?" She could then mention that she registered online and the entire unnecessary alienating comment could be avoided. As a player, you could go one step further when you see someone at an event that you haven't met before. You could ask, "I haven't seen you here before, do you usually play at a different store?" It is way better to assume everyone at a Magic tournament is there to play Magic than it is to assume even a single person isn't. Think about it. No one is going to be offended or feel alienated if you assume they are at a Magic tournament to play Magic and you happen to be wrong, but the reverse will almost undoubtedly cause the person to feel alienated and offended.
These are just a few concrete ways to avoid unintentionally working against the goal of inclusiveness. If you want to do even better, ask others in the community if they've ever felt alienated or unwelcome and what caused it. Then make a conscious effort to avoid doing the things that made them feel that way. We can't always see things from everyone else's perspective, but if we listen to each other and make efforts to make each other feel included and welcome, together we can make the Magic community the best it can be!