The Fab Five—Standard's New Tier One

Posted in Perilous Research on August 27, 2015

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

Welcome back to Perilous Research, DailyMTG's exclusive Magic Online column. Standard with Magic Origins has produced some of the most exciting and powerful Standard decks we've ever seen. With weeks' worth of data and testing logged, we're finally starting to see an established metagame. Today, we'll be taking a look at the five most successful Standard strategies from Magic Online this week.

It's finally time for the World Championship. Starting today, 24 of the best Magic players in the world will be pitted against one another in a grueling four-format tournament. When the dust settles, the final four will play Standard through the elimination rounds to decide the 2015 Magic World Champion!

The most eagerly awaited portion of the World Championship is Standard. The format has been in a constant state of flux since Pro Tour Magic Origins. However, over the last week we've seen five distinct archetypes rise up from the masses on Magic Online to firmly dig their heels in atop the Standard metagame.

Let's discuss the powerhouses of the current Standard metagame!

Th00mor's Jeskai—5-0 Magic Online Championship Qualifier

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Jeskai decks enjoyed mild success in the earliest weeks of Magic Origins Standard. More recently, the deck has surged in popularity and established itself as one of the decks to beat in Standard. The current Standard seems to be all about Hangarback Walker, and the newest versions of Jeskai are the most efficient answers to the Magic Origins artifact. Magma Spray, Jeskai Charm, and Revoke Existence all allow the Jeskai pilot to get Hangarback Walker off the table without giving the opponent any thopter tokens. The deck's threat suite is viciously efficient, and the combination of burn and card draw/selection gives the deck tremendous kill potential—even when the opponent is at a seemingly safe life total. Ojutai's Command is better than ever alongside Jace, Vryn's Prodigy, which smooths out awkward draws while fueling Dig Through Time in the process. Ojutai's Command works even harder in postboarded games, where it can be used with Arashin Cleric to effectively seal up victory against the most aggressive red decks. Jeskai is quickly rising in popularity; wise players will assuredly be prepared for the matchup this weekend.

_lluks_'s Devotion—5-0 Magic Online Championship Qualifier

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Green Devotion still offers up the most powerful game plan in the new Standard. Simply racing to cast Dragonlord Atarka is still one of the most efficient ways to win a game. The deck goes over the top of sweepers like Languish with many of its cards, and other board sweepers are becoming rarer and rarer in Standard main decks. We've seen two big innovations for Green Devotion strategies in the last week. First, we're starting to see Gather Courage show up in more sideboards; the convoke pump spell from Magic 2015 may seem lackluster, but the ability to essentially counter an opposing burn spell for zero mana often gives the pilot enough breathing room to stick a fatty and pull ahead while remaining at a healthy life total. A single copy of Rogue's Passage has also become stock in these lists, where it's very easy to get ahead on the board but often difficult to race chump blockers and burn spells from the opponent. Devotion has been the archetype of choice for many of the World Championship competitors, and the Standard portion of the event will—without any doubt—orbit around a deck's ability to combat Green Devotion strategies.

IamD3vastat1on's Abzan Control—5-0 Magic Online Championship Qualifier

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Xerk's Abzan Aggro—5-0 Magic Online Championship Qualifier

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Abzan strategies that take advantage of Hangarback Walker have been a force to be reckoned with since Grand Prix London, where these types of decks dominated the field. Abzan Control and Abzan Aggro continually look more and more like each other. Eventually, it seems likely that a happy medium between the two strategies will be achieved. The most impressive part of these decks is the mean card power level. There isn't a single card in an Abzan deck that looks anything less than spectacular, even by itself. Other decks are trying to abuse synergies and get cute, but Abzan players are comfortable just playing the best cards available for a given mana cost and jamming them together into an impressive juggernaut of destruction. Some of the best (and perhaps most hyperbolic) Standard players in the world have been using words like "unbeatable" to describe Abzan with Hangarback Walker. Prove it, gentlemen.

Samtama's Wider Red—5-0 Magic Online Championship Qualifier

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Red decks had a gangbusters performance at Pro Tour Magic Origins. Since then, things have gotten a lot more difficult for red players. Arashin Cleric has started to show up in a lot of sideboards, and some players are even double-dipping with Ojutai's Command. As a result, red players have needed to find a more effective strategy to overcome the hate. People needed to cut something for their life gain cards, and usually that something was some type of inexpensive board sweeper. With cards like Drown in Sorrow getting cut from sideboards, it only makes sense that the newest versions of the red deck have found great success in "going wide" with token producers that happen to combo nicely with Stoke the Flames and Foundry Street Denizen. It's still hard to say which version of the red deck is best positioned for a given tournament, but from the look of the sideboards we've been seeing win big events on Magic Online, it definitely feels like some degree of token production is the place to be.

Sniesk's Red-Green Dragons—5-0 Magic Online Championship Qualifier

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Red-Green Dragons aims to make the most powerful plays available in the current Standard on a given turn-arc.Goblin Rabblemaster is backbreaking on turn two, especially against non-red opponents. Similarly, a turn-three Thunderbreak Regent puts the opponent under a very fast clock, especially when they can expect a hasty Stormbreath Dragon to be thunderously charging its way into the red zone on the following turn. The deck aims to grind its way through a long game with Den Protector and Deathmist Raptor. Its major issue at this point in time is its weakness to Hangarback Walker. As a result, some number of Magma Spray has become stock for Red-Green Dragons right now. One of the most exciting aspects of this deck is the severity of the incidental damage it's able to deal. Cards such as Draconic Roar and Thunderbreak Regent take big chunks out of the opponent's life total simply by being played where they should be. The deck naturally softens up its opponents before finishing off games in the air with some Dragons or by firing off a huge Crater's Claws.

The World Championship promises to be one of the most exciting Magic tournaments in recent memory. Be sure to tune in for live action as the event unfolds. Will these five Standard strategies remain the decks to beat after this Sunday? Or will a new king of Standard claim the throne?

Knowledge is power!

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