We have arrived at Week One, so going in what should you expect to play against? I have already talked about the combination of Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian at length, but there really are many other decks in the format. It is not necessarily as easy as picking up a Standard deck from last month since the bannings hurt a lot of decks, and as a result I have been playing Standard nonstop to prepare for the Pro Tour, and wanted to share some lists that have impressed me.
Let's start off with something that should be familiar, Red-Green Energy. Not only did this deck not lose anything from the bannings, it also has gained some powerful tools. The deck did win the Players Championship in the hands of Joe Lossett, but Red-Green Energy still wasn't considered a tier one deck. But in a post-bannings world the deck should start being played much more than before.
The idea of the deck remains the same as always, start out with large undercosted threats, and then back them up with pump spells. There shouldn't be as many decks playing Liliana, the Last Hope, which is good news for Electrostatic Pummeler itself. This is the creature that wins the game by itself most easily. I have made room for four copies of Invigorated Rampage here. This is a much better trample effect than Built to Smash, which was in some of the previous versions of Red-Green Energy.
Invigorated Rampage has the flexibility of being an instant, yet it gives the same boost in power as Larger Than Life. Also, while usually you are going to use Invigorated Rampage on only a single creature, where being able to boost multiple creatures and give them trample is important and comes up regularly. The only real downside to Invigorated Rampage is not boosting toughness, but a lot of the time you are using it in conjunction with Uncaged Fury to kill the opponent, so the toughness of your creature doesn't really matter.
While Invigorated Rampage might be the most important upgrade to Red-Green Energy in Aether Revolt, there are some other new cards here too. Greenbelt Rampager can give you energy on turn one, and normally you have plenty of energy, so spending two to get him into play isn't a huge deal. Greenbelt Rampager definitely isn't your typical one-drop though. A situation that can easily come up is where you have an Electrostatic Pummeler in play, use energy to pump the Electrostatic Pummeler, and then play Greenbelt Rampage just to get an energy before bouncing it back to your hand.
There is definitely a little bit of room to maneuver with what creatures and pump spells you play here. Of the two-drops, I think you want the maximum number of Voltaic Brawlers and Servant of the Conduit, so I am only running two Longtusk Cub. Some lists play four Longtusk Cub, but I wanted to make room for a couple Lathnu Hellion in the main. Lathnu Hellion is a nice way to have an explosive start, and it very rarely comes up where you don't have enough energy to keep a Lathnu Hellion in play.
As for as the pump spells, I have liked the one copy of Highspire Infusion, but it has been hard to find room for more. This deck wants access to six trample effects, as you need them to push through annoying chump blockers. I ended up going down to two Blossoming Defense since it seems like this format might not be as removal-dense as the previous one. In addition, you have a threat with built-in hexproof in Bristling Hydra. The sideboard of this deck isn't as impressive as some of the other decks in the format, but it gets the job done. There are additional copies of cards like Lathnu Hellion and Blossoming Defense that can get swapped in, even though you could make arguments for playing them main instead.
Next up is a deck that was dominant in Standard, took some time off, but is now looking to make a full-blown comeback: Green-White Tokens. This deck is back in a big way, even though I'm sure there are still some players sick of it. Without Emrakul, the Promised End in the format anymore it is hard to attack the grindy late-game plan the Green-White Tokens deck can employ.
This deck does have some new additions, and that starts at the two-drop slot. Heart of Kiran is perfect for this deck. Having eight planeswalkers in this deck alongside Heart of Kiran is extremely important. The perfect curve is Heart of Kiran on turn two into Nissa, Voice of Zendikar on turn three into a fourth-turn Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Outside of the planeswalkers, most of the actual creatures can crew Heart of Kiran, so that shouldn't be an issue. Heart of Kiran is good enough to play as a four-of even though it is legendary.
The other new two drop is Walking Ballista. This card isn't just a two-drop, though, and in many ways is reminiscent of Hangarback Walker. It is a card you can play on turn two but just gets better as the game progresses. Putting additional counters on Walking Ballista with Rishkar, Peema Renegade or Nissa, Voice of Zendikar is great. There is also hidden value to Walking Ballista that might not be immediately obvious – It is an easy way to flip Archangel Avacyn, by having Walking Ballista already in play and removing all the counters, or cast Walking Ballista for zero the same turn as casting Archangel Avacyn. Walking Ballista also happens to be good against planeswalkers, and having one in play prevents the opponent from going off with Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai.
Moving up the curve, Rishkar, Peema Renegade is a perfect fit here. Sometimes it allows you to ramp out multiple spells – or even an Ajani Unyielding after sideboard – but the best part of Rishkar, Peema Renegade though is making your creatures bigger. Speaking of making your creatures bigger, there are two Oath of Ajani here. This card is at its best with lots of creatures in play, but casting Gideon, Ally of Zendikar on turn three is also pretty sweet. I don't think you want more than two though, that would be too much of a good thing.
Sram's Expertise is the new actual token generator. Initially I tried playing four of them, but you aleady have four Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and drawing multiples isn't actually that great. Usually with the first Sram's Expertise you have an additional spell to cast off it, but there will be sometimes you don't. Putting into play Oath of Ajani or Nissa, Voice of Zendikar off Sram's Expertise feels awesome. This deck definitely can go wide, and the planeswalkers are tough for control decks to deal with.
Surprisingly, Green-White Tokens has enough tools to hang with the combo decks. Sometimes you get an aggressive draw or can disrupt the opponent with an early Walking Ballista. Thalia, Heretic Cathar and Authority of the Consuls are additional ways to stop the Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian combo. Early testing indicates that Green-White Tokens has the necessary tools to become a powerhouse in Standard again.
The last deck I want to talk about is Aetherworks Marvel. Emrakul, the Promised End getting banned does mean Aetherworks decks take a hit, but there are some new cards in Aether Revolt that make that loss easier to stomach. Also, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is still around, which is still pretty darn powerful. This deck is actually straight blue-green, which is different from what we are used to out of Aetherworks decks, but utilizes Aether Revolt nicely.
In order to play Whir of Invention you need lots of blue sources, but I also don't feel like splashing is necessary. Rogue Refinier is often better than Whirler Virtuoso was, and drawing a card off it is pretty important. Metallic Rebuke is a card I would expect to see in any artifact-based blue decks, while Whir of Invention is much more of a build-around card, as it is here is to find Aetherworks Marvel. One of the previous issues with Aetherworks decks was simply not drawing Aetherworks Marvel itself, and Whir of Invention helps hedge against that.
The other artifact synergy card here is Glint-Nest Crane. Glint-Nest Crane also provides a way to find Aetherworks Marvel, as well as Puzzleknots and Renegade Map. In order to make the aforementioned improvise cards good, as well as Glint-Nest Crane, there needs to be a critical threshold of artifacts. Adding Renegade Map alongside Attune with Aether means you need to cut actual lands. Glassblower's Puzzleknot is a card that had been getting cut from Aetherworks decks, but with this much artifact synergy it is worth playing again.
As far as the big hits off Aetherworks Marvel, Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is the big one. Milling the opponent out is definitely one of the primary ways to win. There is also a Kozilek, the Great Distortion as a big hit off Aetherworks Marvel. These huge Eldrazi should get the job done if they come into play in a timely fashion. After sideboard, the threats diversify more – This deck can become much more card advantage based, and grindy if it wants to.
The creature package in the sideboard means that even if the opponent finds an answer to Ulamog, there are plenty of other creatures to worry about as well. Oblivion Sower helps you to be able to cast some of the larger threats naturally. Besides the threats, additional counters and another Whir of Invention make life difficult for control decks. The fact that you can play Whir of Invention at the end of the opponent's turn means that even if they counter it, you can untap and play an actual copy of Aetherworks Marvel from your hand.
The Shielded Aether Thief is a great blocker against aggro, and can draw you a surprising amount of cards. The other card that is great against aggro is Aether Meltdown, which is the perfect answer to an opposing Heart of Kiran. This helps make up for the loss of Harnessed Lightning and Kozilek's Return.
Thanks for reading,