The Standard format is pretty diverse right now despite how small it is. We are only working with one full block, one Core set and one expansion. For the most part it seems that Standard has been explored to the point where we really won't see any new decks until Fate Reforged gets released. However I do think that there are some cards that should be seeing more play in specific archetypes.
While most of these cards are not better than the staples of the format like Siege Rhino and Hornet Queen, they do fill specific roles and are good at fighting the problem cards of the format. Here is my list of cards in no particular order.
1. Fated Conflagration
Fated Conflagration has made appearances at times but I think it's great in the current format and should see more play. Practically every Planeswalker will have five or less loyalty the turn you cast it and plus it. Sorin, Solemn Visitor, Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, Chandra, Pyromaster, and Nissa, Worldwaker all start with five or less loyalty after an initial plus, and all immediately die to Fated Conflagration. This burn spell also kills most creatures including one of the most powerful creatures in Standard, Siege Rhino. Red decks usually have a hard time with five toughness creatures and Fated Conflagration is a versatile spell that helps immensely with this problem. It's a pretty flexible card being an instant. You can keep mana up during your opponent's turn to cast this but if you need to scry you have that option as well.
2. Hushwing Gryff
I have always thought Hushwing Gryff was a great card, especially in Modern, but it has applications in Standard as well. It shuts down Doomwake Giant, Hornet Queen, and Siege Rhino, all creatures that benefit greatly from their enters-the-battlefield triggers. The fact that this guy has flash makes it difficult to play around. You can Ambush a Goblin Rabblemaster if you need to, or just play a surprise attacker on your opponent's end step. At worst he is a two power creature with evasion which isn't terrible.
3. Purphoros, God of the Forge
Purphoros saw lots of play in Return to Ravnica Standard mostly because he was great in red devotion decks but he made an appearance in token strategies as well. As we know devotion is dead in Khans of Tarkir Standard, but token decks are still alive and well. Jeskai Tokens has been gaining lots of popularity lately and Purphoros has plenty of synergy with that entire deck. Goblin Rabblemaster, Hordeling Outburst, Raise the Alarm, Akroan Crusader, Launch the Fleets, Wingmate Roc and Elspeth, Sun's Champion are just some of the many cards in Standard that make tokens and there is surely a deck that can be built around them with Purphoros, God of the Forge. Purphoros allows for a fast kill and even if your opponent stabilizes, a Purphoros sitting on the board means that every creature or token producer you play becomes a threat even before you are able to attack with them. His ability can even be redirected to Planeswalkers which is extremely relevant in this format.
4. Anafenza, the Foremost
Anafenza saw play in the earlier days of Khans Standard in the Abzan Aggro deck that Mike Sigrist piloted to a Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir. Anafenza has become less and less popular over the past few months, mostly because players have finely tuned their midrange lists to a point where the aggro version of Abzan is not very good. However graveyard strategies have been seeing more and more play lately. The World Championship was won with a Sultai Reanimator list just last weekend and Abzan Reanimator took two Top 8 slots at the last StarCity Open. Even regular Abzan Midrange decks have begun to play Whip of Erebos in their maindecks or sideboard as a way to have a better lategame against slower decks. Graveyards are becoming more and more relevant making Anafenza very well positioned.
Here are some of the cards that become much worse when an Anafenza is in play: Satyr Wayfinder, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Whip of Erebos, anything with delve, all of the M15 Souls (Soul of Innistrad being the most relevant), and Pharika, God of Affliction. The best part is it only affects your opponent's creatures, meaning you can still play all of these cards in your deck if you wish.
5. Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Back when Khans was first released I was a huge advocate for Ashiok. I felt that it was very powerful in a slow format full of Coursers of Kruphix. While Ashiok hasn't really seen much play outside of Esper Control and occasionally UB Decks, I still think it's great in this format. Ashiok starting at five loyalty makes it very hard to attack and getting a free creature can be very threatening to your opponent. Sure there are cards that can outright kill him like Hero's Downfall and Utter End, but if Ashiok is left unchecked he can really take over a game. Against green midrange decks, stealing their Siege Rhino or Hornet Queen can give you a dominating board presence and your opponent will have to find a way to deal with the creature before dealing with the Ashiok, giving you even more turns with him on the battlefield.
Ashiok was played as a two-of in World Champion Shahar Shenhar's winning Sultai Reanimator deck and I thought it was a pretty awesome addition. The green creatures are great at protecting Ashiok and it's pretty hard to be able to Remove both the creatures and the Planeswalkers.
Ashiok is better now than he was back when the format was newer because more people are playing self-mill style reanimator decks. Sidisi, Satyr Wayfinder, and Commune with the Gods are all seeing play and these decks take a long time to win which means that decking an opponent with Ashiok is a real possibility.
6. Soul of Theros
The reason why I like Soul of Theros is because green midrange mirrors are pretty miserable to play and Soul of Theros breaks the mirror wide open. It's quite easy to add white to your Hornet Queen deck if you aren't doing that already. Soul of Theros will have a huge target on its back and it will probably die before you ever get a chance to activate it, but when it's sitting in the graveyard your opponent will be forced play around it whether you use it or not. The threat of activating a Soul of Theros will probably allow you to sneak in a ton of extra damage which could be enough to win the game.
Generally you will not want to just tap out for this guy on turn six. Soul of Theros is best when the game has gone long and you either mill it with your Satyr Wayfinder or cast it as your last threat when your opponent has depleted most of his resources. If you are able to untap with it, you will be hugely favored in the game.
7. Polis Crusher
Polis Crusher saw plenty of play in Block Constructed, and I think it's still an excellent card now. It dodges removal spells like Chained to the Rocks and Banishing Light and it can't be blocked by some of the more popular creatures in the format such as Doomwake Giant and Courser of Kruphix. It's poorly positioned against Hornet Queen but if you play Polis Crusher in a RG Midrange deck with maindeck Anger of the Gods (a card that should be maindecked in a deck that plays high toughness creatures and Hornet Nest) then that it shouldn't be a problem. Once this guy goes monstrous you can even start removing those pesky enchantments from the battlefield. This will not last very long because a 7/7 trampling attacker will usually end the game very quickly.
8. Back to Nature
While we're on the subject of enchantments I feel like I should mention Back to Nature. Most players are choosing to play cards like Destructive Revelry, Erase, and Unravel the AEther in their sideboards as ways to destroy enchantments, but I think Back to Nature is a great option in any deck that can support it. At worst it kills one of your opponent's enchantments but there will be times where you will get amazing value out of this card.
GB Constellation is a thing, and Back to Nature shines against that deck, but let's not forget that most green midrange decks play a lot of enchantments. Most of the reanimator decks are sporting Whip of Erebos, Courser of Kruphix, and Doomwake Giant. Mardu decks play Chained to the Rocks and Banishing Light. Back to Nature is so rarely played that no one will ever see it coming. Your Mardu opponent isn't not going to play all of the Chained to the Rocks in his hand and a well-timed Back to Nature will surely take him by surprise. Back to Nature is even pretty decent against UW Heroic. You can't stop their creatures from getting bigger but you can gain some card advantage at times by destroying an Aqueous Form and an Ordeal in a turn.
9. Deflecting Palm
Deflecting Palm is a sideboard card that I really like for the Jeskai or Burn mirror. It's pretty obvious what it does in the matchup but what makes it good right now is that no one will really see it coming. If you look at all of the successful red lists you will see that Deflecting Palm sees very little if not zero play. When no one plays a certain card, you can safely bet that none of your opponents will expect it. Deflecting Palm acts as a two-mana four-damage burn spell and when you're playing Jeskai, you can never have too many of those.
If you are sure that your opponent will not expect it, you can even side it in against non-red decks. When your plan is strictly to race, preventing damage from a Siege Rhino while also dealing four damage to your opponent goes a long way. However this trick will only work once because once you cast it, your opponent will play around it for the rest of the match. If you choose to board in Deflecting Palm against Abzan for game two, it's usually a good idea to board it out for game three.
10. Phyrexian Revoker
I think Phyrexian Revoker is a decent sideboard card that no one is playing. I wouldn't maindeck it due to the popularity of Hordeling Outburst and other tokens, but I like it as a sideboard card against Planeswalkers. Keep in mind that a Revoker will have a huge target on its back. It has a very high chance of dying, so the Revoker's main goal is to buy you time to either set up your board, or draw into removal for that named card. There are some cards that can't deal with certain Planeswalkers, such as Chandra, Pyromaster against a token deck, and Phyrexian Revoker is a way to overcome that weakness. I wouldn't play Revoker in a Midrange deck but I think it fits nicely into an aggressive shell.Wrapping Up
We are two months into our new Standard format and while it's defined for the most part, there are still plenty of cards out there that have potential to see play. I think all of these cards have their uses. They either play a certain role in some decks or are good against specific strategies. If you think the format is getting stale I encourage you to try out some of these cards.
Next week I'm going to be recording some videos. If there is a specific deck you want to see me play, please leave a comment and I'll play that deck if it gets a high number of votes. Thanks for reading and I'll see you next week!
Melissa DeTora@MelissaDeTora on Twitterwww.facebook.com/melissa.detora on Facebook