With a new set comes new brews and all sorts of wild fun for the first few weeks of Standard, which is exciting for a lot of people. But what about those people who want to keep playing what they were playing before, or people running low on wildcards in MTG Arena? Sometimes it can be easier to add new cards into existing decks when a new set drops, so today I've taken a look at what you can do to keep some of your favorite strategies intact moving into a new Standard format.
Sacrifice decks have gotten some improvements with the release of Ikoria. I recently Top 8'd a Weekend Championship with Rakdos Sacrifice, so that was at the forefront of my mind when diving into testing this week. A big draw to sacrifice decks in general is the consistency and resiliency of the archetype. Board wipes are often one of the most powerful ways to attack creature decks, but most of the time these decks are okay with their creatures dying. I started out with a couple ideas of cards I wanted to try out, including some powerful cards like Fiend Artisan, Lurrus of the Dream-Den and Weaponize the Monsters.
I started playing around with a Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger version of the deck and quickly realized that I still don't want to be playing cards like Mire Triton to support Kroxa. Fiend Artisan was an all-star from the minute I started playing with it and has made its way into all of the sacrifice decks I've been testing. In previous sets we've seen a lot of similar cards search for creatures with one converted mana cost greater than the creature you just sacrificed, like Prime Speaker Vannifar. The great thing about Fiend Artisan is that you just spend mana equal to the CMC of whichever creature you want to get. This lets you turn a Cauldron Familiar into a powerful card like Mayhem Devil in sacrifice decks. Additionally, it is an extra sacrifice source in the deck, which synergizes and plays well with the deck's overall game plan.
Another great addition to Rakdos Sacrifice is Lurrus of the Dream-Den. I didn't pay much attention to Lurrus at first because of the deck-building restriction built into this companion—Mayhem Devil is one of the best cards in the deck, and I don't want to play without it.
Quickly after figuring out where I want Rakdos Sacrifice to be, I decided it was time to have some fun with the new cards and actually play Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion. With the deck-building restriction, I was forced to cut Mayhem Devil and Woe Strider from the deck, which didn't feel great. This quickly led me to Mardu colors, where I had access to cards that fit in really well with the deck already like Corpse Knight and Cruel Celebrant. Rakdos Sacrifice quickly turned into Mardu Aristocrats, which meant I could add more cards like Dreadhorde Butcher and Gutterbones.
With all these gold-color cards, my next step was making the deck fit Hero of Precinct One. Corpse Knight and Cruel Celebrant both trigger Hero of Precinct One's ability AND Hero's tokens trigger Corpse Knight and Cruel Celebrant's abilities. Pretty much a slam dunk if you ask me. I didn't have much faith in this deck at the start—this was the closest I'd come to brewing a deck in years—but the core of the deck was really consistent and kept winning.
After winning with Mardu Aristocrats, I started to wonder what would happen if I went back to playing Lurrus of the Dream-Den in the main deck instead of as a companion so I could put Mayhem Devil back into the deck. I was really surprised how much I liked Hero of Precinct One, Corpse Knight and Cruel Celebrant—so much that I wanted to fit them into Rakdos Sacrifice. Mardu Sacrifice is much more aggressive than Rakdos in the games I've played, and Mardu has the capability of spiraling out of control with no hope for the opponent to catch up. We did have to cut down on some powerful cards like Midnight Reaper, but I think I want to be aggressive in a format where everyone is playing a tapped land each turn.
Like every sacrifice deck, there are handfuls of sequencing techniques that you can learn and practice to optimize your damage output in any given game, such as not bringing a Cauldron Familiar back on your opponent's end step if you can't attack with it, and instead waiting for that extra damage from a Mayhem Devil. The damage math in this deck is a lot more complicated because you have to figure in life loss due to Cruel Celebrant and Corpse Knight on top of Cauldron Familiar and Mayhem Devil. That's a lot of damage!
Mardu Sacrifice has a higher mana curve than Mardu Aristocrats, so I upped the land count in this deck. This better supports Woe Strider and Lurrus of the Dream-Den. Woe Strider needs extra land support to be able to escape in the mid- to late-game. Lurrus of the Dream Den is likely to draw a removal spell, so it's often important to be able to double spell the turn you play her. Having access to four or five mana helps accomplish this.
Overall, Mardu Sacrifice is where I'm landing for any events happening in the near future, but I think the various builds of sacrifice decks I've posted here all are very powerful options going into the new Standard format.
I believe there is also space in the format for an Orzhov Sacrifice deck to utilize Luminous Broodmoth, but I couldn't bring myself to abandon Mayhem Devil just yet. Orzhov Sacrifice might be something I explore as the format further develops.
I've talked a lot about Sacrifice, but what about other archetypes in Standard? It should be no surprise that Jeskai Fires survives into another Standard format and is just as powerful, if not even more powerful than before!
The first card from Ikoria that caught my attention for Jeskai Fires was Keruga, the Macrosage. This card fits perfectly into Jeskai fires, especially when you only have to swap Aether Gust for Brazen Borrower to fit the deck-building restriction. Keruga, the Macrosage is just another way to restock your hand, which is especially important in those matches where you play Fires of Invention and don't have Cavalier of Flame or Kenrith, the Returned King in your hand. Keruga is a threat you will always have available to you because he is a companion, and he has the ability to draw you a decent amount of cards.
The cool part about companion cards is that you are even still able to sideboard any two-drops you still want in the 75, and you would simply not reveal Keruga, the Macrosage as your companion in those post-board games. This is important for the matchups where you really want to see cards like Robber of the Rich and Tithe Taker coming out of the sideboard. Switching up that game plan is even straightforward because you are trimming some of the higher CMC cards in favor of these, so in a sense you can treat it as cutting Keruga, the Macrosage in favor of a more aggressive strategy.
Another new inclusion that I've liked in Jeskai Fires is Yidaro, Wandering Monster. Yidaro serves a couple functions in this deck. First, it cycles which makes the Jeskai Fires player see more cards and dig for a Fires of Invention. Outside of that, if Yidaro, Wandering Monster is cycled four or more times, you get to put it directly onto the battlefield. This has the potential to play three powerful creatures (or more) in one turn with a Fires of Invention in play. Playing Cavalier of Flame, Kenrith, the Returned King, and cycling Yidaro, Wandering Monster into play on the same turn is essentially lights out for the opponent.
The last two new inclusions are Raugrin Triome and Inspired Ultimatum. Raugrin Triome almost seems like it was built for Jeskai Fires—the deck is used to playing tapped lands, and this one just has more and more upsides. It taps for each Jeskai color and can even cycle to dig further into the deck for what is needed.
Inspired Ultimatum is a card that I am hopeful for. I think it is an inherently powerful card, especially when you are playing it for free with Fires of Invention. Seven mana is a lot to ask for, but it is a great way to refill your hand in various matchups. A lot of the format before the Ikoria release included various ramp and midrange decks. Games tended to go deep into the mid- and late-game, therefore I don't think Inspired Ultimatum is unreasonable in Jeskai Fires.
Finally, let's take a look at a deck that got one of the most powerful upgrades in Ikoria: Temur Adventures.
Song of Creation is the card I am most excited about coming out of the release of Ikoria. I saw a tweet about Song of Creation that said something like "Wizards made the deck Temur Adventures into its own card!", and after that I immediately wanted to put Song of Creation into Temur Adventures to double the value in this already high-value deck. Temur Adventures already had all the ways to gain card advantage over other decks, and now Song of Creation has both increased that card advantage and gave Temur Adventures the possibility to transform into a combo deck.
With Fae of Wishes being a staple, naturally turning Temur Adventures into a combo deck was fairly easy. The basis of the combo here is to draw most of the cards in your deck through Edgewall Innkeeper and Song of Creation, then use a Fae of Wishes to grab Jace, Wielder of Mysteries from your sideboard to win the game.
I've seen many combo decks arise from Song of Creation, but I like Temur Adventures because it diversifies what the deck is all about, and there are multiple ways to win the game. This makes the deck less susceptible to hate cards. You have the option to win the game how old Temur Adventures did—attack with creatures, gain card advantage, and interact with the opponent's permanents. Song of Creation can even help enable these plans and doesn't have to be utilized as a combo piece. In my testing, this is what made the deck so strong and resilient.
The deck is also some of the most fun I've had playing Magic in a while, if that's a consideration for you as well!
Song of Creation is the most important addition for Temur Adventures in the new set, however, we can't forget about the other additions to the deck. Ketria Triome and Genesis Ultimatum are great inclusions to the deck as well. Ketria Triome helps color fix in the deck, as well as allowing you to dig through your deck in the late game.
Genesis Ultimatum didn't stand out to me when it was first spoiled. However, it has been a great inclusion. I have one in the main deck and one in the sideboard for a Fae of Wishes option. This is just another high-value card that almost takes the place of Escape to the Wilds in terms of function. What I really like about this card is that it immediately puts everything you want onto the battlefield. This seems a little counterintuitive because you often want Edgewall Innkeeper triggers or to cast the first half of Adventure creatures, however it ends up pressuring the board well. Additionally, if you hit Song of Creation (or even Lucky Clover), you're set up nicely for the following turns to gain advantage or potentially combo out.
This felt like the most powerful deck I tested by far, and I am excited to see how the deck grows and evolves as the Standard meta develops. I think there is space in Standard for a version of this deck that heavily relies on ramp and the combo aspect of this deck, but for now I am really happy to have an alternate plan if my opponent has a way to attack the combo aspect of the deck.
I love seeing how Standard adapts (mutates, even) and changes with the release of a new set. We're only a couple days into the new format, but all of these decks seem really promising. I hope this helped you come up with some ideas for Standard moving forward, and I'll see you on the battlefield!