Standard Primer

Posted in Perilous Research on February 19, 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,'s exclusive Magic Online column. Standard has been in a state of constant change since the release of Fate Reforged. With each passing week, there seems to be a new format favorite. As the dust settles, it seems there are more competitive strategies popping up at a faster rate than archetypes are dying. In fact, this is shaping up to be one of the most, if not the most, diverse Standard environments in history. Today, we'll be taking a look at the most successful Standard strategies from the last week on Magic Online.

Valorous Stance | Art by Willian Murai­

The Rise of Red-White

Standard has reacted to the overwhelming amount of Valorous Stance we were seeing last week. Initially, Valorous Stance felt like it was a split card where one half was Terminate and the other half was Negate. Now, the threats we're seeing are a lot less heavy on the backend. Goblin Rabblemaster and Monastery Mentor are being favored over Brimaz, King of Oreskos, and Ashcloud Phoenix is being favored over Polukranos, World Eater. Valorous Stance pushed a lot of people onto the red-white decks, and the incredible power of those strategies has a lot of people proclaiming red-white to be the next big thing. Let's check out a decklist!

Crywolf102190's Red-White (4–0)

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Red-white decks have become Standard's new tier 1. The deck has access to all of the strongest angles of the Jeskai decks, but by cutting blue the deck gains access to Chained to the Rocks, which is probably the best spot-removal spell in the current Standard. The numbers in red-white are very malleable, and it's rare for two players to end up on identical lists. It's not uncommon to see Brimaz, King of Oreskos, four copies of Valorous Stance, or more aggressive creature setups. When playing against red-white, it's important that a player recognizes his or her role in a given game; the deck can easily win an aggressive game when the opponent gets too brazen, and it's well-suited to a longer game if opponents aren't applying pressure. The best advice I've heard for playing the matchup is to simply imagine we're playing a game of Limited where the opponent has a ton of removal spells. This should be the most important archetype to beat for players looking to test and practice the current Standard.

Rethinking Jeskai Strategies

Last week, Jeskai strategies seemed to be competing for the title of tier 1, but they've quickly fallen out of favor as players recognize the strength of the red-white strategies. There's little to no cost for dropping blue out of the deck at this point, and the added consistency and access to Chained to the Rocks have pushed Jeskai out of the picture.

What other strategies have continued to perform well in the face of so much red-white? Let's check out some of the other decks to put up undefeated records in daily events over the last few days.

DerrickJones's White-Blue Heroic (4–0)

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White-Blue Heroic aims to stick a creature that can be targeted with powerful Auras like Ordeal of Thassa. Once the deck starts assembling its Voltron, it can protect its hero with Feat of Resistance, Gods Willing, and Valorous Stance. The biggest change we've seen to the White-Blue Heroic decks in the last two weeks is the inclusion of Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest. The powerful legend from Fate Reforged allows the deck to win games seemingly out of nowhere and gives the deck an opportunity to battle through very difficult situations to assure victory. Shu Yun provides the deck with a body that absolutely must be dealt with, in a deck where the opponent would be wise to kill every warm body at the first possible opportunity.

Broadening the Color Palette

Torgiant's Four-Color Planeswalkers (4–0)

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One of the most interesting decks we've seen do well this week is a four-color control deck that plays a team of Planeswalkers that can often make an opponent feel like he or she has been ganged-up on in a multiplayer game. The deck seeks to use early mana acceleration to ramp into threats that are hard to deal with, and that can be protected by chump blocking with the mana creatures. The deck enters a nearly unbeatable situation when it's able to make it to the later stages of the game. Ramping into Elspeth, Sun's Champion is apparently still quite good in the new Standard.

Abzan Control

trasnmongifying's Abzan Control (4–0)

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Before Fate Reforged, Abzan strategies seemed to be taking over the Standard format. These decks seem to have split off into two distinct strategies: aggro and control. The control versions of the deck seem to be enjoying more success recently. Having access to board sweepers like End Hostilities, in conjunction with Planeswalkers and some of the format's most efficient threats, make this deck very strong against a wide-open field. Like the more aggressive version, the control deck gets a lot of free wins from combining Thoughtseize with a correct threat for a given situation. The sheer power of the cards available to the Abzan strategy make it one of the most threatening decks in the current Standard format.

Blue-Black Control

Mikeman29's Blue-Black Control (4–0)

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Blue-Black Control was already quite strong, but the introduction of Crux of Fate catapulted the deck into tier 1. It's hard to argue with the combination of card draw, removal, and countermagic. The deck can struggle with some of the most aggressive draws from opponents, but the removal package is now very well set up to deal with red-white opponents and the countermagic package is incredible against Abzan Control. This deck's leanness makes it a strong choice against Devotion strategies as well. We can expect this deck to do even better in coming weeks as the most aggressive versions of red strategies get pushed out of the format by red-white and Abzan decks.

Green Devotion

Papado90's Green Devotion (4–0)

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Green Devotion got a nice upgrade in Whisperwood Elemental, and the deck seems to be posting a lot of strong finishes recently. Whisperwood Elemental means the deck gets punished a lot less by End Hostilities or Crux of Fate while also making the deck better against spot removal. The deck still struggles against the most controlling opponents and Valorous Stance is very good, but those things seems to be waiting in the background right now. And a player with good matchups and intimate knowledge of the green devotion strategy can always go deep.

Red-Green Monsters

Mavignon's Red-Green Monsters (4–0)

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Red-Green Monsters aims to do a lot of what makes the red-white deck great, but do it a turn earlier. The threat base for the deck has been made virtually Valorous Stance proof. The deck has enough haste and threat stickiness to make control matchups not as bad as they might seem for a deck with this many mana creatures. Despite its superior speed, the deck is actually at a disadvantage in the matchup with red-white. This is a huge problem for the current red-green lists and will likely need to be addressed if the deck wants to stay competitive. Perhaps Polukranos, World Eater will make a reappearance when Valorous Stance starts getting cut from more lists.


Jakers1016's Mardu (4–0)

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It's becoming very clear that Goblin Rabblemaster is the best threat for its cost in the current Standard. This version of the Mardu deck takes full advantage of Brutal Hordechief to make races unwinnable for red-white opponents. The deck has a lot of ways to close games after making a single big attack in the form of burn spells, and Outpost Siege gets to play Khans and Dragons mode very efficiently with the amount of token production present.


Gui_BR's Red (4–0)

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Aggressive red decks have fallen out of favor as red-white and green-red decks get more popular. Red decks in the current Standard were trying to prey on decks with a lot of colors or clunky mana curves. Those things are becoming less common, and it feels like red strategies will need to get bigger in the coming week if they want to stand up to the heat.

Sultai Midrange

Yuanji's Sultai (4–0)

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The midrange Sultai deck takes full advantage of Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Torrent Elemental—two of the most powerful cards in Fate Reforged. Torrent Elemental provides the deck with tremendous late-game card advantage, while the deck's aggressive curve lets it stay competitive with the format's most aggressive strategies. This deck is somewhat unpopular at the moment, but this seems like exactly the type of strategy that could do very well in next week's metagame, with a strong plan against control decks and enough meat to fight any version of aggro.

Abzan Aggro

K1IN's Abzan Aggro (4–0)

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Aggressive Abzan decks have been declining in popularity as the more controlling versions of the deck continue winning events. The deck plays a combination of tremendously powerful threats, disruption, and removal that make no matchup truly unwinnable. Cards like Wingmate Roc have become a lot less impressive now that the format has so much removal and sweeper effects. Aggressive Abzan decks can make a comeback at any given moment, but the deck may need to start playing Whisperwood Elemental over Wingmate Roc if it wants to beat the new school of control strategies.

The new Standard is still a blank canvas waiting for your masterpiece. As more weeks pass, the format only becomes more diverse. This is a great time to get involved in Standard. Be sure to continue checking out Perilous Research in coming weeks to keep your finger on the pulse of the new Standard. And don't miss your opportunity to watch all the action unfold at Grand Prix Memphis this weekend, where Brian David-Marshall, Simon Gortzen, and I will be bringing you live video coverage of this incredibly exciting Standard format!

Knowledge is power!

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