Picking Up the Pieces

Posted in How to Build on January 24, 2017

By Jacob Van Lunen

Jacob Van Lunen began playing Magic in 1995. He has participated in organized play at every level of competition and was a member of the winning team at Pro Tour San Diego in 2007, thanks to an innovative draft strategy. As a writer, Van Lunen has had more than three hundred Magic strategy pieces published

I'm more excited about Aether Revolt Standard than I have been for a new Standard format in years. There are a lot of exciting things that could happen with the recent banning of Smuggler's Copter; Reflector Mage; and Emrakul, the Promised End to coincide with the release of one of the most powerful sets ever. There's a new boogeyman emerging in the wake of these bannings: a seemingly harmless 1/4 Felidar Guardian becomes a wave of infinite kittens alongside Saheeli Rai.

Standard's new infinite combo and the invalidation of the format's most popular decks make for a fresh landscape of potential new strategies. Still, it's important that we don't discard all the hard work that everyone's already put into old Standard's most potent weapons. Even without banned cards, many of these strategies seem well-positioned to attack a raw landscape. Today, we'll be taking a look at some Standard strategies that might be successfully updated for this new and exciting format.

Blue-Black-Red (Grixis) Control

The Standard format has come a very long way since Pro Tour Kaladesh, but it's valuable to realize that the actual winning deck from the last Pro Tour was completely untouched. The deck gets a lot of great upgrades with the release of Aether Revolt. Let's look at Shota Yasooka's Grixis Control deck from Pro Tour Kaladesh.

Shota Yasooka's Grixis Control

Download Arena Decklist

Aether Revolt gives us a lot of new weapons for our control decks. Disallow is one of the best counterspells we've had in years (we can use the card to counter spells, planeswalker ultimates, and solve countless corner-case problems), and Yahenni's Expertise is an amazing sweeper that combos nicely with Liliana, the Last Hope and Transgress the Mind. Fatal Push is a very efficient one-mana removal spell. With all the new weapons in Aether Revolt, it seems better to play a Blue-Black Control deck. The new cards mean we're not sacrificing the same amount of power for the consistency we get as a two-color deck.

Torrential Gearhulk seems like a great way to be ending games in this format, and I expect to see a lot of it at the top tables in the first few weeks. This deck aims to kill relevant threats and counter key cards before turning the tables on opponents with a game-ending Construct.

There are a lot of good inexpensive creatures in Aether Revolt, and the removal suite available to us matches up very well against what we can expect to see. The deck may have trouble with Scrapheap Scrounger, but it seems like one of the most potent weapons for the new Standard at first glance. Here's my take on Blue-Black Control for the new Standard.

Blue-Black Control

Download Arena Decklist

White-Blue Flash

White-Blue Flash was a dominant force in the early stages of last Standard season. The tempo created by Spell Queller and Reflector Mage backed up by the sheer power of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn was enough to dominate most opponents, especially when you were on the play. The deck no longer has access to Smuggler's Copter or Reflector Mage, but that doesn't mean it won't exist anymore. Let's take a look at the White-Blue Flash deck that Joey Manner used to make the Top 8 of Pro Tour Kaladesh!

Joey Manner's White-Blue Flash

Download Arena Decklist

Baral's Expertise seems like one of the best ways to get Gideon, Ally of Zendikar into play against an empty board, and Walking Ballista seems like a great card for the late game that combos nicely with Archangel Avacyn while preventing opponents from comboing by threatening to kill Saheeli Rai when she goes to 1 loyalty. Selfless Spirit seems a lot worse in a world with Walking Ballista and likely more copies of Liliana, the Last Hope.

In general, the deck seems less concerned with aggressive starts than previous iterations may have been. Thalia, Heretic Cathar is better than ever in a new Standard where people won't be punished by Reflector Mage for playing more expensive creatures. Additionally, Thalia, Heretic Cathar prevents Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai from killing us by ensuring that all additional tokens will be entering the battlefield tapped. Speaking of Felidar Guardian and Saheeli Rai, this type of deck could easily splash to play the combo in its sideboard, and even the presence of red mana could make opponents play around a combo that isn't there. Let's take a look at what a more traditional build could look like with Aether Revolt:

White-Blue Flash

Download Arena Decklist

Green-White Tokens

Green-White Tokens was one of the best decks way back in Shadows over Innistrad Standard. Since then, a lot of players have tried to update the strategy for subsequent formats with varied success. Aether Revolt gives the deck a lot of new toys that could catapult it back atop the Standard metagame. Let's look at Steve Rubin's Green-White Tokens deck that he used to win Pro Tour Shadows over Innistrad.

Steve Rubin's Green-White Tokens

Download Arena Decklist

Heart of Kiran is pretty absurd alongside Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; the new Vehicle lets green-white be more aggressive than ever before while also protecting planeswalkers. In fact, I think Heart of Kiran is likely better in green-white than in any other shell. Rishkar, Peema Renegade is one of the most powerful cards in the new set and it happens to combo nicely with Lambholt Pacifist. One of the biggest problems with Green-White Tokens in the past was that it often had trouble catching up in games where it fell behind. Sram's Expertise helps the deck get back in the game in a way that the deck was previously unable. The deck likely also wants to play Ajani Unyielding in the sideboard as an "Ob Nixilis" against midrange decks without countermagic. Green-white, with a bit of tuning, seems like it has the potential to be one of the best decks in the new format. Let's take a look at Green-White Tokens with Aether Revolt!

Green-White Tokens

Download Arena Decklist

Black-Green Delirium

Before Aetherworks strategies put it in its place, Black-Green Delirium was a dominant force in the old Standard. The new set gives the deck a lot of new tools, and the absence of Reflector Mage and the addition of Fatal Push make Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet better than ever. I'm personally very excited for Gifted Aetherborn, and I'd like to build an aggressive version of the deck that uses Verdurous Gearhulk to its fullest potential. There's definitely a great midrange version of the deck that can chain Ishkanah, Grafwidow, but that deck seems like it could have a lot of trouble with the format's control strategies. Let's start by looking at Eric Froehlich's aggressive version of the deck from Pro Tour Kaladesh.

Eric Froehlich's Black-Green Delirium

Download Arena Decklist

Losing Smuggler's Copter is frustrating in a deck like this, but it opens up a lot of space for new toys. Catacomb Sifter was mostly used to ramp into Verdurous Gearhulk while also crewing Smuggler's Copter, so that's another easy cut. Walking Ballista is great here, serving as a beautiful answer to early fliers and Saheeli Rai, and providing the deck with some much-needed damage to finish off opponents with a little remaining life. Rishkar, Peema Renegade is one of the best cards in the new set, and it fits beautifully here. This deck has all the necessary tools to beat the format's more aggressive strategies while also being able to grind control decks out of the game with Scrapheap Scrounger. The new cards give us enough tools to drop delirium altogether. If we wanted to play less interaction and sacrifice our aggro matchup for more sheer power, we could make this into a +1/+1 counter deck that uses Winding Constrictor. Let's look at Black-Green Aggro with Aether Revolt!

Black-Green Aggro

Download Arena Decklist

The new Standard format promises to be one of the most exciting in recent memory. The loss of Smuggler's Copter; Reflector Mage; and Emrakul, the Promised End certainly hurt the best decks from last Standard season, but it definitely didn't kill them. There's a ton of room for innovation, and this column barely scratched the surface of what's available in the new Standard. What deck are you hoping to play in the new Standard?

Latest How to Build Articles

HOW TO BUILD

January 27, 2020

Gavin Verhey's No Longer Secret (Lair) Year of the Rat Commander Deck by, Gavin Verhey

Gavin Verhey got his hands on Secret Lair's Year of the Rat drop and immediately began plotting on how to infest his Commander games with the cute vermin. And now a look at @GavinVerhey...

Learn More

HOW TO BUILD

August 23, 2019

Personalizing Commander 2019: Primal Genesis by, Cassie LaBelle

As a fan of Magic's story and flavor, there are few products I look forward to more than the yearly Commander decks. Unlike normal sets, which highlight a single Plane and time, the Comma...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

How to Build Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All