Standard Comes Full Circle

Posted in Perilous Research on June 18, 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

Hello and welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. Modern was the toast of the town for the last few weeks, but Standard is back under the spotlight with Grand Prix Providence just around the corner. Today, we'll be taking a look at the current state of Standard in an attempt to re-familiarize ourselves with the format.

With Standard on the backburner, the format seems to have oscillated to a place similar to where it was following Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir. Esper Dragons is back and enjoying a lot of success. Red-green ramp strategies are taking advantage of the stranger brews.

That's the twist. The format's core looks a lot like it did right after the Pro Tour, but there are a whole bunch of fringe strategies that force players to stretch their sideboards.

Just a few weeks ago, Standard was all over the place. The format was perhaps as diverse as it's been in recent years. Now, it seems players have found their way to the most-tested weapons in the format. Decklists for the major archetypes are quickly evolving to matchup very well against the majority of fringe decks.

Let's take a look at some of the decks that went undefeated in daily events this week. We'll start by focusing on the decks that are most important to familiarize yourself with:

Standard's Top Dogs!


mk63's Abzan

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Abzan strategies like this one are pretty hard to compete with. I've been on a similar deck ever since Lucas Siow won Grand Prix Toronto with something like this. The deck has all the right answers; the format's best threats; and Elspeth, Sun's Champion to beat everything in between. It's hard to argue with this deck's power level, and it's very important that you learn how to play your turns to force them into being inefficient with their mana. Personally, I think this is the deck to play this weekend in Providence. If you're not going to play Abzan, then I'd be absolutely certain to play something that beats it. Whip of Erebos seems like the most effective game plan to beat the current versions of Abzan, but Whip of Erebos is a dangerous tool when we're playing against Dromoka's Command decks; and that might be a big enough factor to scare people from cracking the whip. All things point to Abzan being incredibly well-positioned.

Esper Dragons

convery's Esper Dragons

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Esper Dragons has handily established itself as the best control deck in the current Standard. The deck plays great disruption and removal, and takes full advantage of the fact that Dragonlord Ojutai isn't falling victim to Crackling Doom or Foul-Tongue Invocation anymore. Dig Through Time is a brutally powerful Magic card and it's hard to count out the deck that uses it best. The deck will show up, and players that are playing it well and getting good matchups should get very deep in their respective events. It's certainly worth noting that Esper Dragons struggles in a lot of the fringe matchups; Collected Company alongside Deathmist Raptor is nightmarish, for example.


pokerswizard's Red

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Red decks have experienced a resurgence. Like Abzan decks, Red easily destroys the fringe decks that are starting to pop up. Cards like Searing Blood and Goblin Rabblemaster do a good job punishing players with smaller creatures and fewer removal spells. Red "should" be the best deck in the format in a lot of cases, but the success of Red largely hinges on how much everyone expects Red to show up. Players can pack a bunch of good hate for the matchup, but the format is wide enough now that a lot of people don't have as much sideboard space for the Red matchup specifically.


orgneone's Red-Green

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Red-Green is the epitome of "going over the top." Dragonlord Atarka demolishes the weird creature decks. The deck struggles against board-sweeping effects, and sometimes finds itself behind in the card advantage war. Still, the deck's most explosive draws let it operate in a gear that's unavailable to the rest of the format. Red-Green plays a lot of ramp creatures and often loses a lot of resources to cards like Crux of Fate. Playing a lot of ramp creatures can lead to lackluster draws too. It's not too uncommon to find your single top-end threat Thoughtseized, and you're left just fighting with a bunch of tiny bodies.

Those decks seem to be the big players. Red-Green has actually been the winningest deck on Magic Online this week, followed by Esper Dragons, and then Abzan. From here, we find a lot of decks that aren't seeing as much play recently. All of these decks went undefeated in Daily Events this week. We'll start by looking at the most established of the backcourt.

Mardu Dragons

nether1004's Mardu Dragons

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Ben Stark put on a pretty good show with Mardu Dragons in Toronto. The deck enjoys a lot of trump moments against some of the format's biggest hitters. It's worth noting that while every card in Mardu Dragons is very powerful in a vacuum, Mardu Dragons prevails where other rogue strategies can find themselves losing a lot of games simply because they're playing worse cards. Crackling Doom does great work against Dragonlord Ojutai and Silumgar, the Drifting Death.

Bant Heroic

pat0presidente's Bant Heroic

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Bant Heroic is tremendously difficult to play correctly, and the deck can be a bit draw dependent, but a strong Bant Heroic player has the ability to sway a lot of the supposedly bad matchups. The good matchups for Heroic often feel like byes, especially against a patient and efficient Heroic player. Foul-Tongue Invocation and Crackling Doom seem to be the best main deck tools to defeat Bant Heroic.

White-Green Company

OluwaJueeze's White-Green Company

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With Mastery of the Unseen and a whole slew of instant-speed threats and answers, the White-Green Collected Company decks are starting to do some very good work against the control decks in the format. The deck can find itself outclassed by Red-Green and, to some extent, Abzan decks. For a while, we saw a lot of different decks adopting the Deathmist Raptor plan. Now, it's been established, for the most part, that Deathmist Raptor is at its best in a White-Green Mastery of the Unseen deck. This deck has the Mastery of the Unseen gear, but it's much more focused on early aggression.

Obelisk Humans

Vault2's Humans

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The last deck we'll be looking at is Obelisk Humans. When it draws very well, this deck can be a menace. Unfortunately, the deck is playing a lot of less-than-spectacular cards and it heavily relies on the opponent stumbling to some degree. I don't think Humans will be a significant factor this coming weekend, but the deck is picking up some traction on Magic Online, and it could be a popular choice this weekend.

Standard is extremely diverse and this weekend will surely introduce some new archetypes to the canon. What deck do you think is the best positioned for this weekend's Grand Prix? Don't miss your chance to be a part of the action. Check out live coverage as it unfolds right here on!

Knowledge is power!

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