What comes before the first week of a new Standard format? You guessed it, week zero! We are one week away from the official release of Guilds of Ravnica, but now that the spoiler is available there is a lot of brewing and speculation already. Most players are keeping an eye on proven cards and archetypes that are already known quantities and didn't lose a lot from the rotation. I want to talk about some of the more apparent deck choices, that we can expect players to want to pick up early in the new format.
What Happens to Goblin Chainwhirler?
One of the first questions worth asking is what happens to the best deck from the previous Standard format? Red decks have been dominating for some time now, though we know a lot of the cards will be leaving the format. Goblin Chainwhirler, however, isn't going anywhere anytime soon. There are also plenty of one-toughness creatures running around that Goblin Chainwhirler is well-positioned against. So are there enough supporting red cards for red decks to continue to thrive? I believe there are.
While Red-Black Aggro was the most popular red deck, there was also another red deck we have seen catch on in recent weeks: Wizard Red. This deck utilizes the Wizards tribe alongside The Flame of Keld and burn spells. The deck does lose some important elements like Bomat Courier and Soul-Scar Mage, but there is also a promising addition from Guilds of Ravnica. Here is one way to build the deck:
The curve for this deck is extremely low, which means you also get to play a low land count. There are no longer strong payoffs like Hazoret the Fervent or Chandra, Torch of Defiance at four mana, so you can happily stop the curve at three. Some of the card choices are recognizable from previous versions of red decks. Before the existence of Goblin Chainwhirler, Fanatical Firebrand was a staple in red decks as a flexible card that can both attack and be used as removal. We may once again see it now that some of the one-mana creatures from older versions of the deck are gone.
Ghitu Lavarunner has always been one of the key Wizards in this deck, and we want to be able to consistently get a couple spells in the graveyard to turn it on. With Soul-Scar Mage gone, the deck is relying on Ghitu Lavarunner and Viashino Pyromancer to turn on Wizard's Lightning, and I do think eight creatures to turn it on is enough. Rigging Runner is the other solid option at the one-drop slot, though you optimally want to play it after already starting with a different one-drop on the first turn so as to turn raid on.
The biggest addition from Guilds of Ravnica is Runaway Steam-Kin. I believe this card will end up being extremely strong in this sort of deck - this card was built to be played in a red deck. The deck has so many cheap red spells that getting counters on it is quite easy. The fact that you can use it to produce mana is also quite nice, even if it doesn't come up that often. Expect Runaway Steam-Kin to be a four-power, two-mana play that is way ahead of almost all the other two-drops in the format.
The last creature I want to touch on is Guttersnipe, another way you can close out games besides attacking with creatures - a lot of the time the burn spells are getting pointed at the opponent's head, and a couple Guttersnipe triggers can be the difference-maker. It's also excellent alongside The Flame of Keld.
Lightning Strike and Wizard's Lighting are the easy inclusions; we know about how strong those are. Shock is also still fine, as one-mana burn is still going to be quite useful. A card I'm trying out also is Warlord's Fury. It's not in the deck because of its ability to provide first strike, as that part isn't very relevant. It is basically here to cantrip, as another card that goes well with cards like Runaway Steam-Kin and Guttersnipe. I suspect the red decks we see do well in week one will look something like this one.
Perhaps the deck that is losing the least from the rotation is Turbo Fog, and that is quite scary. Let's keep in mind how this was a breakout deck at the last Pro Tour and not just for its ability to prey on red decks - it was also finding wins against control as well! Creature decks should represent a large part of the format still, and that is where Turbo Fog shines.
To be fair, Turbo Fog does still lose some important cards, but at the same time it gains some reasonable replacements for them. The core cards like Search for Azcanta, Gift of Paradise, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Nexus of Fate all are untouched. We lose one of the Fog effects in Haze of Pollen, but luckily Pause for Reflection is in Guilds of Ravnica! This is a big deal, though it isn't quite as strong as Haze of Pollen because it is three mana and doesn't cycle and the convoke aspect of the card really isn't relevant.
Glimmer of Genius and Hieroglyphic Illumination are card draw spells a lot of blue decks are losing, including this one. However, Chemister's Insight looks to be a strong card draw spell in Guilds of Ravnica. The ability to jump-start the card is going to come up quite a bit, especially in grindier matchups.
The loss that there really is no replacement for is the cycle lands. This deck did played quite a few of them. On the bright side, Chemister's Insight is a good way to exchange lands for cards, and with Chart a Course, Search for Azcanta and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria still in the deck there should be enough card advantage.
Since Pause for Reflection isn't a two-mana Fog, I believe it is correct to have some Settle the Wreckages instead of the full eight Fog effects. Being able to permanently answer opposing creatures can end up buying you a number of turns, rather than the temporary answer provided by a Fog effect. Karn, Scion of Urza is a planeswalker this deck can take full advantage of, as the deck really wants to get a planeswalker into play and then sit behind it while taking additional turns. While we did lose the cycle lands, Temple Garden is certainly a nice addition.
It has been a while since we have seen white creature strategies actually succeed. Part of the issue has been that the creatures don't line up particularly well against Goblin Chainwhirler. However, the format could be shifting so that playing one-toughness creatures is a perfectly fine option again. White actually has access to a number of good aggressive elements. Let's take a look at a potential list:
This is about as aggressive as you can possibly take a white deck. The idea is to make these small creatures into heavy-hitting threats. Venerated Loxodon and Benalish Marshal provide important ways to grow your creatures. Venerated Loxodon has a ton of potential behind it, and might be the most powerful convoke creatures in Guilds of Ravnica. There are some starts where you can play a Venerated Loxodon before the opponent even has a chance to cast a Goblin Chainwhirler.
Skymarcher Aspirant and Dauntless Bodyguard are both hard-hitting, two-power one-drops. This deck wants to try to get the City's Blessing, and at that point Skymarcher Aspirant has that nice bonus. Pride of Conquerors is often how you close out games since the deck is mostly creatures and ways to grow them. We may see quite a bit more Adanto Vanguard in the new format, as it can be very tricky to answer.
Legion's Landing is a card that we haven't seen too much recently, but the power level is certainly there. This deck can flip the card pretty reliably, and against other aggressive strategies having access to lifelink is a big deal. If this deck isn't able to attack with three creatures at some point, you probably just had a bad draw. History of Benalia is a way to get multiple creatures on the board. The card works extremely well with both the Knight theme and working towards achieving the City's Blessing. Once again, the sweet spot is three mana, as you really don't want or need any more than that. The convoke cards are generally pretty easy to cast later on in games, though tapping creature can mean missing out on damage.
Conclave Tribunal is a card I'm still reserving some judgement on. Having access to some flexible removal is always nice, so I am playing two copies at the moment. This is a card that will have to compete against Ixalan's Binding, and the two are very close in terms of power level.
Thanks for reading,