For those who aren't familiar with The Road Not Taken by Robert Frost I really do recommend reading it, and I am not even much for poems. When preparing for a Magic tournament usually there is time to test out some brews, but not all of them. There are always going to be some cards or decks that get left on the sidelines; they could be very good, but unfortunately haven't been tuned or tested enough. Prepare for lists that have potential, and may just need a few tweaks in order to be the next breakout Standard deck.

This first list is one of my own: a deck that has access to a lot of card advantage, and can play out like a Legacy deck, but other times the deck can fall flat. The deck I am referring to is Grixis Delve and here is the decklist:


There is clearly a lot going on here, and there is quite a bit of synergy. The first goal of the deck is to make Abbot of Keral Keep actively good in a deck that isn't purely a red aggressive deck. That is something that I do believe this deck accomplishes. The most likely turn that Abbot of Keral Keep gets cast is turn three, which means that there needs to be a high density of one-mana cards. There are not only quite a few one-mana cards but there are also a lot of lands in the deck that you don't mind hitting either. The deck is able to fully take advantage of the prowess creatures like Abbot of Keral Keep and Monastery Swiftspear.

This deck can certainly cast a number of noncreature spells in one turn, as that is one of the perks of putting Treasure Cruise in the deck. While there aren't actually very many creatures here, the ones that are here are great. The reason why there aren't more creatures is that this deck really wants a ton of noncreature spells to enable prowess and help with delving. The core creatures are the aforementioned prowess guys, along with the delve creatures in Gurmag Angler and Tasigur, the Golden Fang, but of course there are also four copies of Jace, Vryn's Prodigy. While there may be a way to build the deck with a budget in mind, this is not it.

This deck can flip a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy at will, as there are a ton of fetch lands and ways to put cards in the graveyard. Even a deck like Jeskai Black has trouble flipping a Jace, Vryn's Prodigy on turn three, but this deck doesn't. One of the key cards in the deck is a card that doesn't see a lot of play, and that is Magmatic Insight. Magmatic Insight helps the deck do everything it wants to be doing, drawing cards, putting multiple cards in the graveyard, and triggering prowess. The reason why this card isn't played more is that you do need to have a land to pitch to it, but the deck does have twenty-six lands.

After having played some games with this deck it does have a lot of potential, though there is still more work that needs to be put in. Kolaghan's Command has over performed, as having a way of bringing back creatures is important. The deck plays a lot of the best spells in Standard as Duress and Fiery Impulse are both very popular right now. The sideboard could likely be changed a bit, and I wish the manabase wasn't so painful, but I'm not sure there is a good way to avoid that.

Another deck with black and red cards in it that jumps out as a deck that is going under the radar is Black/Red Aggro. This deck can also have a dragon element to it, and the list which Eluna went undefeated with during MTGO Standard Champs seems well put together. This is it:


We have seen versions of Red/Green Aggro do well, but for some reason Black/Red hasn't been seeing as much play. It is true that the strategies are very different as this deck does have a bigger top end, which I do believe is correct. First of all, not enough decks are playing Draconic Roar and it may be the best removal spell in the format, assuming you have enough dragons to support it. This deck does have one-mana creatures, but there aren't any Monastery Swiftspears. This is actually a creature-based aggro deck, and therefore the prowess from Monastery Swiftspear wouldn't be very powerful in this deck. However the deck does get to play with Bloodsoaked Champion, and that card can actually be a huge pain for any control deck to deal with effectively.

The deck is playing some new cards from Battle for Zendikar, and one that stands out in particular is Drana, Liberator of Malakir. Here is a card that was hyped a lot going into the release of Battle for Zendikar, but since black aggro decks haven't been super popular, this card hasn't seen a ton of play. Clearly though there is something to be said for having a number of flying threats, as this deck can just go over the top of a deck like Green/White Megamorph. The other three-mana creature in the deck is Flamewake Phoenix which, when combined with the dragons, means that there really is a lot of creature diversity. While Forerunner of Slaughter doesn't seem particularly exciting in the deck it is important to be able to fill out the curve, and add to the amount of haste creatures.

Traditionally though black and red are played for the abundance of removal in the colors, and this decks removal suite really is impressive. Murderous Cut and Roast are both well positioned right now, especially with Abzan Aggro being such a popular deck at the moment. In addition, there are even more ways to deal with the problematic green creatures coming out of the board, as there are four copies of Self-Inflicted Wound. This is one of the best sideboard cards in the format right now, and really should be seeing more play. There are also Complete Disregards and more copies of Fiery Impulse so that the deck has whatever the best removal spells in a given matchup are after game one.

Now I want to go ahead and talk about perhaps the two most popular colors in Standard right now, black and white. There is a lot you can do with these two colors in the format, and here I have a deck that makes full use of processors from Battle for Zendikar. I have seen a few lists similar to this that have Wasteland Strangler, but this version goes one step further with Blight Herder. Here is the deck:


There are certainly some similarities with this deck to other black/white-based decks in the format, such as Esper Tokens, but there is no deck quite like this one. It is always nice to be able to play a straight two color deck, as the manabase is suddenly pain free, and the deck can run four Shambling Vent along with a couple copies of Blighted Fen. Blighted Fen has been very impressive especially with decks like Esper Dragons rising in popularity. There is a bunch of removal in the deck, and the goal is to be able to deal with all of the major threats the opponent presents.

The method of dealing with the opposing creatures is to exile them. Silkwrap and Stasis Snare have already proven to be good enough for mainstream Standard play, and while there is some vulnerability to Dromoka's Command, that vulnerability is worth it. Being able to deal with threats like Mantis Rider and Hangarback Walker cheaply is super important. The only two-drop in this deck is Seeker of the Way, and being able to start on Seeker of the Way and follow up with a removal spell is great. Utter End and Quarantine Field are the more expensive forms of removal, which can not only take care of creatures, but any type of annoying permanent.

This deck needs to have ways to deal with opposing copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Transgress the Mind is another card that can serve as an answer. Transgress the Mind provides a way of exiling cards that isn't a straight up removal spell, as this card can deal with opposing forms of card advantage like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise as well. Oftentimes with this deck the game will go long and any form of card advantage is extremely important. Here there are the full four copies of Read the Bones, which I don't think is much worse than a card like Painful Truths in Esper Tokens, and in some spots Read the Bones will be better. Most of the time the scry two is very important as you are looking for specific spells.

The threats are able to utilize the theme of exiling cards, as Wasteland Strangler is a built in two-for-one and is pretty insane against a deck like Jeskai Black where they have a ton of low toughness threats. Blight Herder will also normally have two cards it can process, and at that point it becomes a threat that is better than Wingmate Roc in the deck. While Wingmate Roc is in the board there are matchups where it will be hard to raid, and Blight Herder providing three additional creatures is a pretty powerful effect. Beyond these creatures the deck does of course have Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, so that there will be enough threats to close out the game, and this one is always tough to answer.

The sideboard has been pretty sweet, especially the copies of Infinite Obliteration. There are decks like Ramp that have a lot of trouble with that card, and remember that it is another way of enabling the processors.

The last deck I want to talk about is a four-color green midrange deck that is Temur based and takes advantage of both Rattleclaw Mystic and Beastcaller Savant. Here is the list of Captain Sarang from MTGO Standard Champs:


This looks very similar to a deck that Brian Kibler almost played at Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar, and it does of course have some sweet dragons in it! The deck is full of big creatures, and the spells are sweet too. Draconic Roar, Jeskai Charm, and Stubborn Denial provide a nice addition to a very strong suite of threats. This deck simply wants to play a mana-creature and be off to the races. Woodland Wanderer is a card that is criminally underplayed at the moment, as a four-mana, huge creature with vigilance can be hard to deal with. The deck is splashing white so that the converge on Woodland Wander isn't an issue and it allows you to play Mantis Rider as well.

While green decks like this have seen some play they haven't really fully broken out with notable finishes. I do expect that to change, as there is obviously a ton of power here, it just comes down to what the best way is to utilize the green monsters is. Going the dragon route is certainly reasonable, as we see not only Thunderbreak Regent, but the full amount of Icefall Regents as well. Icefall Regent can be a tempo play even if it ends up dying, which can be the difference in the game. Since the deck has eight mana guys it really wants to come out of the gates quickly and take the initiative, rather than settle in for a long and drawn out affair. The sideboard shores up a lot of the game one holes, as one of the issues with the deck is a poor matchup versus Red Aggro, but cards like Surge of Righteousness and Radiant Flames go a long way there. The deck can also sideboard Exert Influence which has proven to be a powerful card in just about any four-color strategy.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield