Standard with Magic 2015

Posted in Perilous Research on July 24, 2014

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! Magic 2015 is finally here. Powerful new cards like Ajani Steadfast; Nissa, Worldwaker; and Garruk, Apex Predator loom over the Standard format. Today, we'll be taking a look at some of the best-performing Standard decks from last weekend in an effort to establish footing in the new Standard format.

With only one week remaining to practice and brew for Pro Tour Magic 2015, professional Magic players will be scouring the possibilities for Standard with Magic 2015 in search of the perfect deck for the weekend. The decks that perform well in the earliest Standard events with Magic 2015 will have a huge effect on the Pro Tour's metagame. Let's see what performed best at last weekend's Standard events!

Jund Monsters

Jund Monsters by Justin Murray (1st Place, SCG Event, London, US)

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Jund Monsters is one of Standard's most established decks at this point. The deck ramps into powerful spells and uses efficient and/or versatile removal to clear the way and maintain parity with tempo. It's extremely difficult to contend with the deck's best draws, but the combination of ramp, threats, and removal means we might only be drawing two pieces of the puzzle in some games.

Coming into the first weekend of Magic 2015 Standard, it looked like Black Devotion would be the biggest contender. Black Devotion was already the format's king, and the addition of Sign in Blood seemed to only augment its power. What is Black Devotion weak against? Planeswalkers, especially powerful ones. Sure, Hero's Downfall is a card, but we'll have already activated our Vraska the Unseen or Garruk, Apex Predator by the time our opponent could cast the Downfall. Playing a lot of Planeswalkers puts Jund Monsters into a great place against control and Black Devotion. Going forward, I wouldn't be surprised if one or more copies of Hornet Queen started showing up in these decks. Hornet Queen is extremely difficult for Black Devotion or creature decks without burn spells to overcome.

Black Devotion

Black Devotion by Dan Jessup (1st Place, SCG Open, Baltimore)

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Black Devotion is still the "best" deck in Standard. The combination of Thoughtseize, Pack Rat, removal, card draw, and consistent mana make this one of the most impressive Standard strategies. Magic 2015 gives the Black Devotion deck access to Sign in Blood and Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth, which solves the deck's Mutavault/Specter draws quite nicely. It's no surprise that the largest Standard event from last weekend was won by this archetype.

Going forward, we can expect a lot of experimentation with Black Devotion lists. Lifebane Zombie may become a main-deck consideration over Nightveil Specter, and the numbers on Underworld Connections and Sign in Blood will likely oscillate a bit before people settle on a right and wrong setup. With access to four Duresses in the sideboard and the format's best spot removal, Black Devotion is well poised to be the biggest deck at Pro Tour Magic 2015.

Selesnya Aggro

GW Aggro by Andrew Boswell (2nd Place, SCG Open, Baltimore)

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Sunblade Elf wasn't a card that I expected to make a splash last weekend, but it looks like the extra-playable one-drop creature is exactly what the green-white deck needed to push its way to the top. Green-White Aggro plays the format's most efficient inexpensive creatures and backs them up with instant-speed threats; reach in the form of Ajani, Caller of the Pride; and versatile tricks like Banishing Light and Selesnya Charm. Ajani Steadfast makes an appearance in the sideboard here for the matchups where boards will likely be at parity. Black Devotion is traditionally weak against Voice of Resurgence and aggression on the play. Will aggressive Selesnya decks have what it takes to go deep at Pro Tour Magic 2015? Only time will tell, but I expect this to be one of the better aggressive strategies in the coming months.

White-Black Midrange

White-Black Midrange by Lloyd Kurth (3rd Place, SCG Open, Baltimore)

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White-Black Midrange gets a huge buff with Magic 2015. Caves of Koilos gives the deck significantly better mana, allowing it to play Obzedat, Ghost Council in the main deck. Obzedat, Ghost Council is one of the most powerful cards in Standard, but its casting cost had previously made it somewhat rare. Now, with access to Temple of Silence, Caves of Koilos, and Godless Shrine, I imagine we'll start seeing a lot more decks that include Obzedat, Ghost Council. White-Black Midrange is the most obvious analog to the previous format that can take advantage of this, but we shouldn't be surprised if more aggressive versions of the deck start popping up. The deck played by Patrick Chapin and Paul Rietzl at Pro Tour Theros is an excellent example of what that deck might look like. White-Black Midrange was initially conceived as a version of the Black Devotion deck that performed better against the mirror and Sphinx's Revelation strategies. Obzedat, Ghost Council seems like the perfect card for a Standard Pro Tour and I wouldn't be surprised if we saw a lot of it in Portland.

Green Devotion

Green Devotion by Charley Murdock (9th Place, SCG Open, Baltimore)

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Green Devotion likely gets more from Magic 2015 than any other deck. Reclamation Sage is incredibly well-positioned in the current Standard format. Against other green decks it kills Courser of Kruphix, against white decks it destroys Banishing Light and Detention Sphere, against Black Devotion decks it snipes Underworld Connections without letting the opponent get ahead—even if he or she already drew a card. Hornet Queen is a beating against Black Devotion. Imagine you're playing the Black Devotion deck and your opponent makes five flying/deathtouching bodies. Nissa, Worldwaker combos with the Darksteel Citadel and allows the deck to have some very absurd turns thanks to Garruk, Caller of Beasts; Polukranos, World Eater; and Chord of Calling. Chord of Calling, a Modern favorite that's been reprinted in Magic 2015, gives this deck a toolbox. Against burn strategies the pilot can search up Nylea's Disciple at instant speed to sway the tides of battle. Genesis Hydra gives the deck another card-advantage engine and something to dump our mana into with Nissa, Worldwaker or Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. I expect versions of this deck to likely cut Chord of Calling from the main in favor of Domri Rade; the effect of the red-green Planeswalker in this deck seems too good to pass up. It shouldn't be difficult to splash three or four copies of Domri Rade off eight lands and the Burning-Tree Emissarys.

Blue Devotion

Blue Devotion by Dylan Donegan (7th Place, SCG Open, Baltimore)

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Blue Devotion was the best aggressive strategy before Magic 2015, and it gets to play with one of the new set's most exciting cards. This version of the deck doesn't use Jace, the Living Guildpact, but I expect many future versions will start to include the newest blue Planeswalker. Jace, the Living Guildpact seems best in a deck that's trying to apply consistent pressure. The Devotion and scrying capability offered up by a Planeswalker with that much loyalty means that the Blue Devotion deck will get to perform the one-sided Timetwister much more often than other decks that might want to play with the newest Jace. Main-deck Domestication is becoming common in the Blue Devotion decks. Stealing Courser of Kruphix, Nightveil Specter, Boros Reckoner, and other threats from the opponent while gaining devotion is quite nice. Blue Devotion tends to perform very well against creature-based strategies, where Master of Waves and Thassa, God of the Sea tend to dominate games. The deck is pretty even against Black Devotion. The big problem with the Blue Devotion deck is that it's very weak to Supreme Verdict strategies. Supreme Verdict doesn't seem like it's in a great place, with all the new Planeswalkers in Magic 2015, but if it turns out to be popular then we can expect Blue Devotion to be less dominant as the format's aggro deck.

Naya Aggro

Naya Aggro by Stephen Reed (5th Place, SCG Open, Baltimore)

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Sometimes, we go into a new format and we expect people to be experimenting. In those situations, playing the most aggressive strategy available is often a recipe for success. This deck can play a huge portion of its creatures as pump spells, making it very hard for the hardworking blockers of the format. There's a lot of pressure available here, and I believe this deck may be more than a flash in the pan. Super aggressive strategies are common at the Pro Tour level, and I wouldn't be surprised if a decent amount of decks that look like this showed up.

Standard with Magic 2015 is still in its infancy. This weekend, we'll continue to watch mainstream decks adapt and be introduced to new and exciting strategies as they unfold. Next week, everything we know will be thrown into upheaval as the best players in the world descend upon Portland, Oregon, with hopes of being crowned Pro Tour champion. Watching Pro Tour coverage gives us a unique insight into the game's evolution. We'll watch the best players from around the world with the newest Standard decks. I suggest everyone who isn't qualified have pizza parties where the Pro Tour is available for viewing. Pro Tour–themed pizza parties are widely considered the best kind of pizza party. Next week, we'll be taking a look at the greatest Magic Online –only format of all time, Vintage Masters, and discussing my adventures therein.

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