Today I'm going to talk about a couple Standard strategies that have stood out in my early testing. In fact, this format has taken me by surprise in that it has lived up to my expectations – and the bar was set very high! We are seeing many new decks emerge around the fact the mana bases can play more colors now.
The first deck I want to talk about revolves around Gates. Initially I don't think there were many players at all who expected a Gate-based strategy to actually be a competitive Standard deck. After having played a lot with the deck I think it has a ton of potential, and more specifically preys on midrange strategies. Initially I thought a straightforward Temur Ramp approach would be better, but now I believe ramping into Gates may actually be more effective than a more traditional approach. This list comes courtesy of Yuuya Watanabe.
The first thing I like to do when testing a deck for competitive play that has not yet been fully established yet is to play best-of-ones. This way I can throw the deck out if it doesn't past the test – and many decks don't – but the Gates deck passed. I have never lost to Golgari with this deck and have played many games of the matchup on MTG Arena.
What is this deck trying to do? The early gameplan is clear – get as many Gates into play as possible. From there, your cards get exponentially more powerful. This list is Temur, so it makes sense to play the 12 on-color Gates, though I am considering even adding a couple! It is a delicate balance, as having some untapped lands is important.
Incidental forms of lifegain are key against the aggro matchups; triggering your Plaza Harmony can certainly be the difference. Gift of Paradise giving you a life buffer is also important. The first few turns often need to be spent ramping so you can untap later on with lots of mana and make the insane plays the deck is capable of. A card like Gatebreaker Ram is a three-drop, but normally you don't want to cast it until later when it is absolutely huge.
Gates Ablaze can be great on turn three if you play Gates the first couple turns and then have an untapped land on turn three to Pyroclasm away an opposing board, but that situation doesn't come up all that often. More often, you are casting this to Sweep Away the board after casting your Circuitous Routes to ensure enough Gates are actually on the battlefield. Gates Ablaze is extremely important in the deck, as it gives you a way to beat go-wide creature decks. Notably, one Gates Ablaze isn't going to kill your Gatebreaker Ram as it will always be large enough to survive.
Guild Summit is a card I actually will play on turn three, especially if not under much pressure early on. Being able to get Guild Summit into play more or less means you just don't run out of gas, and when the deck looks absolutely absurd are normally the games a Guild Summit enters play early, and your hand is always fully stocked because of that. These gate oriented cards are in fact good enough to make it worth putting a number of come into play tapped lands into your deck.
I have been asked multiple times about why Shimmer of Possibility is in the deck, and players fail to remember this is essentially an Anticipate upgrade (for the most part). Digging four cards deep into your deck is a big deal, especially when looking for something specific. There are often games where you just need to find a Gates Ablaze to stabilize, for instance.
Hydroid Krasis is a really strong card ramp decks now have access to, and one we definitely want to be playing. Casting this with access to six mana is generally pretty good, let alone when you get to play it even later in the game. The other big ramp payoff is Mass Manipulation. I don't think this card is quite as important as Hydroid Krasis, and I could see cutting one copy if the metagame shifts away from decks like Golgari. Casting a big Mass Manipulation look generally pretty absurd, though it does require lots of mana. The best part about this card is that it answers planeswalkers, which the deck really can't effectively answer otherwise.
Right now, I'm sticking with this main deck because I have been winning with it. There are a couple small changes I can see making like cutting one Mass Manipulation and adding an off-color Gate or two. The next step is developing a sideboard – which is where things get tricky. Here is what I currently have, though it is not as heavily tested as the main.
3 Spell Pierce
4 Growth-Chamber Guardian
2 Gateway Sneak
1 Crushing Canopy
2 Lava Coil
The most difficult matchups are going to be control and combo. A deck like Turbo Fog is very difficult to beat in game one because you don't have the appropriate amount of interaction until the Counterspells get brought in from the sideboard. Gateway Sneak is another form of card advantage that can be used to supplement the Guild Summits that are already in the deck. Growth-Chamber Guardian provides another threat versus control, which is important as there aren't actually that many threats in the deck.
The next deck I want to talk about is the Esper Hero deck. Unlike the Gates deck, this is my inspiration that other players have started playing and tuning. Here is my original list.
There is a lot going on in the deck, but there is one clear goal in mind – make Hero of Precinct One shine. The way to do this is playing as many multicolor spells as possible, and in fact this version does not play mono-colored spells besides Hero of Precinct One. My process for building the deck was simple – I did a search of multicolor options from the Esper color pie. It turns out there are a lot of good ones, though, and you don't have to struggle to find enough good multicolor cards.
We have a surveil package in the deck as well. Thought Erasure already makes sense to clear the way for your high-impact creatures like Hero of Precinct and Thief of Sanity. This can be huge to take away an opposing removal spell. Main deck disruption also means you have a realistic chance of beating a deck like Turbo Fog in game one. There are also some Discovery // Dispersal, which allows the excuse for Disinformation Campaign. I would like a little bit more surveil honestly, but that doesn't make this bad.
There are two different planeswalkers with Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Dovin, Grand Arbiter. We know about the strength of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and having access to a way to gain lategame card advantage makes her very important here. Dovin, Grand Arbiter hasn't been seeing a ton of play, though here it is at its best as casting this after a turn two Hero of Precinct One can lead to some degenerate draws.
This really is a deck that looks a bit all over the place on paper, but in practice plays out surprising smoothly. To protect your planeswalkers there is certainly a removal suite, with Mortify standing out specifically there. It is possible to cut the surveil package or go more down that path, and I can't honestly decide which is right without more repetitions with the deck.
What I can say is this is another deck that has exceeded early expectations, which means it is time to create a sideboard. A lot of the best multicolor spells in Esper naturally made it into the main deck, though there are still some good ones in the sideboard:
3 Basilica Bell-Haunt
2 Kaya's Wrath
2 Deputy of Detention
2 Unmoored Ego
1 Disinformation Campaign
1 Thief of Sanity
1 Chromium the Mutable
The idea is to continue the same multicolor theme after sideboard, as it will rarely make sense to start sideboarding out Hero of Precinct One, since the deck is built around the card. Basilica Bell-Haunt is a great all-purpose spell and having access to additional lifegain is a big deal. This does create even more discard effects, which can have reduced benefits depending on the matchup.
Kaya's Wrath isn't in the deck because it is multicolored – the card is just good. It's an effect you really want to have access to against decks like Boros Aggro. It's the type of card that any deck that can cast it should seriously consider, even in the sideboard of a creature strategy. Another card I want to mention is Deputy of Detention. I put it here because I do believe it is a strong card that deserves a home, but the jury is still out. The best applications for it remain when playing against opposing tokens.
There is an anti-control package, which right now involves typical catch-all effects such as Duress and Negate. There is also one Chromium, the Mutable which is a gamebreaking on-color spell if you can get the necessary amount of lands in play to cast it. This is another deck I am excited about, and I plan to continue to play with both Esper Hero and Temur Gates more and continue to update them as I go.
Thanks for reading,