Looking through Kaladesh, there are a lot of cards that have the potential to make a significant impact on Standard. With that said this is the first week — inevitably there will be some cards that players try out hoping to make them work, but there is a failure rate to this strategy. Rather than speculate on what brews people may come up with when getting ready for the first week, my strategy is to focus on the decks I already know are good.
Most of the clearly powerful strategies start with archetypes that were viable before Kaladesh. One of the most powerful strategies for the past few months has been trying to put Emrakul, the Promised End into play as quickly as possible. Expect to see a reasonable amount of Temur Emerge decks which maximize the power of Kozilek's Return. Here is a working list:
This deck definitely lost some cards, like Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, but the core of the deck remains intact. There are two different ways to go with this type of strategy: go all in and play multiple copies of Emrakul, the Promised End, or diversify your threats. Here there are a bunch of emerge creatures; beyond a playset of Elder Deep-Fiend there are also two Wretched Gryff and a Lashweed Lurker. One of the new additions here is Filigree Familiar, a card that fills an important role.
Filigree Familiar works as both a value play and a creature to emerge off of. Creatures with an added benefit when they die make sense, and the card draw is important. Since Jace, Vryn's Prodigy is no longer in the deck, flooding and not having enough gas is a bit of an issue. Drawing cards off Filigree Familiar and Wretched Gryff helps mitigate this issue. What this all means is that Pilgrim's Eye is no longer necessary. Pilgrim's Eye saw a surprising amount of play for such an underpowered card, but that was because it was the best three-mana threat of its kind. Not only is Filigree Familiar a more powerful card, but it is also an artifact, which means you really aren't losing much by swapping out Pilgrim's Eye. It will be interesting to see early on if this is a swap players are interested in.
The creature base here is definitely different than before Kaladesh thanks to Servant of the Conduit. This is perhaps the best mana accelerator in the format, and will definitely see play. Most green decks will at least consider playing this card. While it doesn't allow you to play Elder-Deep Fiend before turn four, Servant of the Conduit can emerge Wretched Gryff on turn three. The fact that you only get two uses from it is fine since at that point it might as well be sacrificed to an emerge creature.
Being able to assemble delirium, maximize Kozilek's Return, and play huge threats is a proven recipe for success. This deck finished second in the last Pro Tour and it can be argued that the deck actually improved with the addition of Kaladesh. Bant Company is out of the picture, likely the worst matchup for Temur Emerge. The only thing that will keep Temur Emerge in check is an uptick in aggressive decks. Even then, there still isn't any high-quality graveyard hate to stop the shenanigans; the only option is pretty much win before this deck gets to seven or eight mana.
Temur Emerge and Emrakul, the Promised End decks in general may very well be public enemy number one. Another archetype that should remain intact are White Aggro decks. These decks may be forced to play a slightly different creature base now but the concept is very much still the same.
While some of the human creatures did rotate out they can be replaced, and in some cases, by superior options. The white aggro deck will still be one of the fastest decks in the format, but it simply won't have as many one-drops. The one-mana creatures here are still powerful and this version is able to be a bit less all in than previous versions of Mono-White Humans.
Smuggler's Copter is going to play a major role in Kaladesh Standard and I expect players to try to slot it into almost any aggressive deck imaginable. While not an actual human creature that really isn't all that relevant as it is still the exact type of card this deck wants. Smuggler's Copter stays in play after sweepers, it can loot lands away so that the deck doesn't flood — the biggest issue with the archetype. There aren't as many humans so Thalia's Lieutenant isn't quite as powerful, but that is a necessary sacrifice.
Rather than play straight mono-white, these decks will aim to splash or even be straight two colors. Playing Inspiring Vantage is essentially free and a nice upgrade to Battlefield Forge. While the Reckless Bushwhackers are what I'm splashing for, I'm sure that others will try other options.
Since the deck isn't quite as aggressive, Hanweir Militia Captain is here as a four-of. This deck can get four creatures in play fairly easily and at that point Hanweir Militia Captain will take over the game. One key reason why this deck seems well-positioned is that Languish, the number-one problem for this strategy, has exited the format. Fumigate will see some play but not nearly as much as Languish did.
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is still one of the best Planeswalkers in the format and definitely should be somewhere in this deck.
I expect White/Red Aggro deck to see a decent amount of play. Branching outside the human creature type there will definitely be dwarf decks based around cards like Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Veteran Motorist, which can play a different set of creatures entirely. The human aggressive decks are what I would look to be the aggro choice at first but they now will need to fight with dwarfs for the best aggressive creature type. In order to combat these aggressive decks there should still be playable control decks. What will control decks look like with Kaladesh?
A personal favorite deck of mine for the past few months is W/B Control. We definitely lost some cards but the deck is still very real.
This should look familiar, as most of the cards have been played in the W/B Control decks that have been doing well for a while now. The deck lost Languish but Fumigate can get the job done, though I wouldn't recommend playing more than two. Now that vehicles are in the format having instant speed spot removal is in many ways more effective than overloading on mass removal. Fumigate is necessary in order to stop the go-super-wide strategies, but a lot of the time it will get boarded out.
The Planeswalker package is pretty straightforward. There are four Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; the deck wants to put a permanent into play on turn four even more now that Languish isn't around. The rest of the Planeswalkers have also been proven to be effective and Liliana, the Last Hope returning creatures is pretty relevant. The deck lost Read the Bones, so rather than play a worse card draw spell, Planeswalkers can be the primary form of card advantage. Putting a Planeswalker into play and having it stick around a couple turns is even better than just straight up drawing extra cards. The deck also plays a ton of early interaction, and some creatures to gain life.
Grasp of Darkness is still one of the best removal spells in the format, as instant speed is king, especially with vehicles running rampant. Without Ultimate Price, Blessed Alliance is the other two-mana removal spell that does a lot more as the game progresses. It's already seen a decent amount of play in Modern and I expect it will be an important role-player in Standard as well. Being able to deal with the opponent's early plays is definitely important so as not to fall too far behind.
As far as three-mana removal is concerned Oath of Liliana can provide plenty of value for this deck as after casting it early in the game there definitely can be a stream of Planeswalkers to follow, and the extra creatures it creates are very relevant. There are also some other spot removal spells but I prefer playing more Anguished Unmaking than Ruinous Path. There are going to be troublesome permanents that go beyond just Planeswalkers and creatures, which is where a card like Anguished Unmaking really shines. This deck is meant to be versatile and be able to deal with any threat. Anguished Unmaking helps facilitate that.
The other piece to this deck is transitioning creatures to the maindeck. There are some very high-powered creatures in this color combination, and since removal spells seem to be on the decline it makes sense to maindeck high-powered cards that can take over the game. Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is one of those cards. Versus Temur Emerge it causes major issues for the emerge creatures, and against aggressive decks the lifelink and Zombie Tokens are game-changing. When Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet dies to a removal spell, it sucks, but the risk of that happening is not great enough to not play it.
The other creature is a new one that players seem to have mixed opinions of. Angel of Invention can simply be a Baneslayer Angel but you can also use the fabricate against removal-heavy decks to diversify your threats — even if Angel of Invention dies, you still get value. Extra tokens can be important with not only emblems made by Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, but they can also help transform Westvale Abbey. Casting a single Angel of Invention brings you much closer to being able to transform Westvale Abbey, which is important now that Secure the Wastes isn't in the deck.
W/B Control variants may actually be the most popular control decks right now though it is not like other control decks can't establish themselves. These are three archetypes that should be on most players' radars this weekend but that doesn't mean that there won't be new brews whose pilots think they have good matchups against these decks.
Thanks for reading,