Today I want to look over the 10 Standard decks I believe have the capability to win a big tournament. I will try not to incorporate too much of my own biases (like my love for White-Blue Panharmonicon), but to instead represent the metagame as a whole. Which decks right now are on the rise in popularity? Which are not? There are also more decks than just the top few, part of what makes going through 10 decks fun, is talking about some decks that many players may not even know exist!
This format really has come full circle! Flashing back to Pro Tour Kaladesh, this was actually the deck I played to unspectacular results along with many others. Then for a couple weeks Aetherworks decks fell off the radar completely. This helped contribute to success from decks like Black-Green Delirium that have a poor Aetherworks matchup. White-Blue Flash was the theoretical reason the Aetherworks decks fell off the radar, until versions of Aetherworks started popping up that have a good Flash matchup! First it was Red-Green Aetherworks, and now the deck has evolved to include Whirler Virtuoso and sideboard cards.
If I were to play a Standard event right now this is the deck I would be most worried about playing against. This version of Temur Aetherworks can seemingly turn bad matchups into good ones. The split between Emrakul, the Promised End and Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is smart. You don't want to play too many of these cards because they can clog your hand up when drawn in multiples. However, just the ability to find either or even have both in play at once means that they should both be in the deck. This is the best version of Aetherworks Marvel Standard has seen so far.
This includes all the red-white-based Vehicle decks. Personally I believe the best Vehicle decks are the ones that play Scrapheap Scrounger. This is a deck that can run over anything else on a given day. There are a lot of slower combo decks in the format that really have trouble keeping up with a deck like this, which consistently curves out. The fact that Black-Green Delirium is on the decline puts Vehicle decks in a better spot in the metagame, as Matt Severa demonstrated when he won Grand Prix Denver.
This version is based in red-white but splashes black and blue. Cultivator's Caravan helps smooth out the mana, while being great alongside lots of one-drops and artifacts. The fact that a lot of the creatures in the deck are three power to crew the Caravan make it even more attractive. I'm surprised that some Vehicle decks play Smuggler's Copter as the only vehicle since there is normally going to be a creature around to crew the Cultivator's Caravan. The Ceremonious Rejections in the board are a good way to prevent Aetherworks Marvel from ever hitting play.
White-Blue Flash has decent matchups against most of the top decks. This deck hasn't ever overwhelmed me in terms of its power, but it is going to be a solid choice no matter what. The deck has lots of disruption with counterspells plus Spell Queller, and this is the best home for Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, arguably the best planeswalker in Standard. This archetype really rewards knowing the deck inside and out, and having good sideboard plans.
Always Watching has been picking up more play here as a maindeck option. I am surprised to see only two copies of Reflector Mage, but in order to add new cards to the deck like Declaration in Stone and Always Watching, you do need to cut something. Always Watching doesn't work with the Gideon tokens, but it is a good way of winning the mirror in game one simply by having larger creatures. After boarding, I would expect lots of players to bring in cards like Natural State and Fragmentize. Most White-Blue Flash decks play Spell Shrivel over Void Shatter, because there really aren't enough blue sources to consistently have Void Shatter mana turn three.
From first to fourth in about a week, Black-Green Delirium seems to be getting attacked from every angle. Both Aetherworks Marvel and White-Blue Panharmonicon beat up on Black-Green Delirium pretty well, though there are still good matchups like White-Blue Flash and Vehicles. The issue is that the bad matchups are really bad and the good matchups are only pretty good. So where does Black-Green Delirium go from here? There are certain cards the deck can go to in order to help the bad matchups a bit, as Joe Bernal showed at the recent Invitational.
This is clearly a very different version of Black-Green Delirium compared to what we are used to. Vessel of Nascency and Grapple with the Past – both of which can be slow - are gone. Joe is playing almost all four-ofs and is clearly going for redundancy. Without Vessel of Nascency there needs to be an enchantment, and Dead Weight is here to help make the aggressive matchups even better. Rather than going up to Noxious Gearhulk and Emrakul, the Promised End this deck aims to be fast, with more Tireless Trackers and Mindwrack Demons to go along with both Sylvan Advocate and Grim Flayer. I'm not sure Black-Green Delirium needs to change this much, but I like some of the innovations here. Appetite for the Unnatural is important to have in the sideboard now to destroy a Panharmonicon or Aetherworks Marvel.
Okay I can't wait any longer! Sure, this deck has just surged in popularity, but it's not just me, the deck has been putting up results. Unfortunately, there isn't as much of a surprise factor here as there was a couple weeks ago, so players will now know what the deck is trying to do. Of the top strategies in the format, this deck is most afraid of Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger entering play or a quick start from the Vehicles decks. I'm not going to talk too much about this deck, because that would be beating it into the ground at this point. I do like it in the current metagame, and here's where I'm at with the list right now.
Of the control decks, Jeskai is the one which has been putting up the best results. Grixis Control has dropped off completely since being the winning deck of Pro Tour Kaladesh. There certainly are other control options that utilize cards like Dynavolt Tower or Metallurgic Summonings, but those cards are not typically seen in Jeskai Control. Torrential Gearhulk is one of the main win conditions, and we are seeing Nahiri, the Harbinger gain popularity in this deck too.
This is one of the decks that on paper has great matchups across the board, but it loses to itself fairly often because of the mana base or the opponent finding a way to get a planeswalker into play. The game plan of control decks right now is to play draw-go, because they believe card advantage spells like Glimmer of Genius creates enough of an advantage the later the game goes. Anticipate is key in order to bridge the gap from two mana to the bigger cards and Radiant Flames in the main deck is important to stay honest against the aggressive decks.
This is the White Weenie deck of the format. For most of this Standard, Thalia's Lieutenant decks were pretty much dead. Very recently, there are new versions of Thalia's Lieutenant decks emerging. This deck is straightforward to play, which makes it attractive for aggressive players to get in under the slow decks in a world where a lot of the decks are grindy and complex. The deck is nearly mono-white save for adding black mana to bring back Scrapheap Scrounger, activate Shambling Vent and sideboard Transgress the Mind in the sideboard.
Unlike the previous Standard format, this deck can't play only humans for creatures. Toolcraft Exemplar is perfect for the deck as oftentimes it is a one-mana 3/2, but it doesn't work favorably with Thalia's Lieutenant. In order to get the necessary amount of humans in the deck you have to dig for creatures that haven't seen much Standard play like Stern Constable. In the end this is a solid deck, but isn't as powerful as it used to be.
Continuing along an aggressive route, Black-Red Aggro is another deck that doesn't see a ton of play but has the tools needed to contend with the top decks in the format. This deck initially was one of the most popular decks, looking back at Pro Tour Kaladesh, but then dropped off in popularity. But it now is starting to see more play, since it answers decks like White-Blue Flash and Mardu Vehicles quite efficiently. Unlicensed Disintegration could be the best removal spell in the format, and this deck plays enough artifacts to take advantage of it fully.
This deck is good against creature decks because of the removal suite. Fiery Temper can be cast for its madness cost very easily, and Lightning Axe is a strong removal spell while also being a madness enabler. The madness subtheme here allows the deck to produce card advantage and Bloodhall Priest is an extremely important card to have access to, in order to close out games. The deck also has a lot of one-drops, so the plan is to come out of the gates quickly while having reach with cards like Key to the City if the game goes long.
Prized Amalgam decks do still exist even though they are not played in high numbers. Blue-Black Zombies does see some play, but I believe the Black-Red version to be more popular. The deck plays a lot of the same removal as traditional Black-Red Aggro, but the creature base is very different. Madness is great alongside discard outlets, and so are cards like Prized Amalgam and Haunted Dead.
The main deck here is pretty tight, and all the cards work together in unison. Cryptbreaker ties together the zombie theme while being everything the deck could possibly want. The card draw effect means that you will always have enough cards to discard to bring back Haunted Dead. The sideboard shores up some of the decks bad matchups, as we see lots of hand disruption. The Aetherworks decks are going to have a lot of trouble if their Aetherworks Marvel is stripped away with something like a Distended Mindbender.
Last up is Red-Green Energy Aggro, a deck I have been closely following for a while now. It is an impressive archetype, and there are a few different directions you can go with the deck. Personally, I like playing Electrostatic Pummeler while maximizing pump effects. The other option is to not rely as heavily on the Electrostatic Pummeler and play more of a midrange game. Or you can opt to try and find a middle ground by adding in Verdurous Gearhulk.
Eight pump spells is below average for the deck, but Verdurous Geahulk provides another way to buff up Electrostatic Pummeler. After all the hype surrounding Verdurous Gearhulk when Kaladesh was first released, it has not yet lived up to expectations so it is good to see the card starting to find a home in archetypes it wasn't seeing play in before. Caleb seems to have decided that the best way to combat White-Blue Flash is to sideboard Clip Wings, though I'm not convinced that is the best plan for the matchup.
Thanks for reading,