April Standard Deck Compendium: Know Your Enemy

Posted in Top Decks on April 4, 2013

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 to Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's exclusive Magic Online column. Over the course of the last week I played more than seventy-five matches of Standard on Magic Online. I played with every deck I deemed tier one in an effort to understand each archetype's strengths and weaknesses. With massive preparation under my belt, I traveled to Philadelphia to try my luck in the PTQ. There, 226 players showed up to battle with their favorite Standard decks and I managed to go undefeated throughout the entire day and secure a spot at Pro Tour Theros, which will be my first Pro Tour since 2010. Knowledge is power.

Today, I'm going to talk about the current state of Standard in an effort to arm my readers with the same knowledge I used to take down the PTQ. In my opinion, there are six tier-one decks in Standard right now: Aristocrats, Junk Rites, Red-White-Blue, Esper, Naya Blitz, and Red-Green. Last Sunday's Magic Online Standard Premier Events give us an excellent snapshot of the current state of Standard. Let's dive right in and take a look at some decklists.

Junk Rites

Junk Rites is the current boogeyman of the format. The deck plays like a midrange deck, but the endgame is nothing short of spectacular. Thragtusks and Lingering Souls create an impenetrable board state that can be broken wide open with Angel of Serenity or Craterhoof Behemoth. The two-pronged attack that Junk Rites brings to the table is difficult for most decks to deal with, especially in Game 1. I like bringing in a bit of graveyard hate and board sweepers to deal with Junk Rites' engines. They can easily ramp into their Angel of Serenity or Thragtusk, so it's unwise to overload on graveyard hate, but two or three copies of Tormod's Crypt, Rest in Peace, or Purify the Grave should be in heavy consideration when playing against this matchup. The Junk Rites deck also plays little in the way of spot removal, even post-board, so high-power two-drops that are weak to spot removal like Skirsdag High Priest are extremely well positioned in this matchup. I played against Junk Rites three times in the Swiss of the PTQ, but I had friends who had to face the matchup as many as five times over the course of the day. This is the most important matchup to test going forward.

Angel of Serenity

Initial versions of the deck have been evolving. It's becoming common for cards like Obzedat, Ghost Council or Lotleth Troll to be given main-deck consideration. Loxodon Smiter makes an appearance in some lists for his power against Red-White-Blue, Esper, and Naya Blitz. I like saving my spot removal against Junk Rites and not just firing it off at the first mana creature I see. Here are up-to-date versions of Junk Rites that Top 8ed Standard Premier Events on Magic Online last Sunday.

Obzedat, Ghost Council
Loxodon Smiter

infamousvko's Junk Rites

Download Arena Decklist

kuchinawa's Junk Rites

Download Arena Decklist

Yuchen-Liu's Junk Rites

Download Arena Decklist

aarongulevich's Junk Rites

Download Arena Decklist

Red-White-Blue Control

Red-White-Blue decks have been an integral part of the Standard metagame for some time. The deck is reasonably well positioned against green decks, especially the more aggressive varieties. Some versions of the deck still have access to Boros Reckoner/Blasphemous Act, one of the most potent tools for defeating the Junk Rites deck. The deck struggles a lot against Esper control, which can make it a dangerous choice for a larger event. However, players able to dodge the Esper match should be rewarded for playing with the best-positioned control strategy in the current format.

Boros Reckoner
Blasphemous Act

The deck has evolved over time and now some versions have traded in their Thundermaw Hellkites for Aurelia, the Warleader. Aurelia, the Warleader gives the deck the endgame punch it needs to close games quickly and reliably. Here is an up-to-date version of Red-White-Blue that Top 8ed a Standard Premier Event on Magic Online last Sunday.

Thundermaw Hellkite
Aurelia, the Warleader

robgladiator90's UWR

Download Arena Decklist

Bant Delver

Bant Delver is a bit of an oddity. The deck was relatively unknown last week, but it's quickly picking up steam and becoming one of the more popular strategies. The deck uses Delver of Secrets and Cloudfin Raptor to get an early advantage on board. Cards like Call of the Conclave and Selesnya Charm allow the deck to keep its instant/sorcery count high enough for Delver of Secrets, while simultaneously allowing the deck to play enough creatures for the Cloudfin Raptor to be relevant. Once the deck is ahead on the board, it uses a flurry of pump spells and tempo cards to offset the opponent and end the game quickly.

Selesnya Charm

I've found that the best way to attack this deck is to aggressively one-for-one it with removal. Killing every Cloudfin Raptor/Delver of Secrets means the deck is just some vanilla creatures, pump spells, and Geist of Saint Traft. As long as you can throw enough blockers in front of the Geist you should be able to live through the pump spells. The deck also has no spot removal, so inexpensive powerhouses like Skirsdag High Priest are very good. Here is an up-to-date version of Bant Delver of Secrets that Top 8ed a Standard Premier Event on Magic Online last Sunday.

Cloudfin Raptor
Geist of Saint Traft

KosherSammich's Bant Delver

Download Arena Decklist


Rakdos was the deck of choice for pre-Gatecrash Standard. The deck has evolved since then, but the general strategy remains the same. Gloom Surgeon makes an appearance thanks to his incredible power against Naya Blitz and Bant Delver of Secrets. The deck punishes players who rely on Planeswalkers and goes over the top of many midrange decks in the format. Unfortunately, the deck suffers against Junk Rites, and that's not really where you want to be in this format right now. I could see Rakdos making a big comeback if Junk Rites loses its throne, but I think the deck will remain a gambit until Junk Rites is hated out of the format. Here is an up-to-date version of Rakdos that Top 8ed a Standard Premier Event on Magic Online last Sunday.

Gloom Surgeon
Rakdos Cackler

Deekaay's Rakdos

Download Arena Decklist

Naya Blitz

Naya Blitz is the best truly aggressive in Standard. The deck continually posts strong numbers and its best draws are some of the scariest to come from an aggro deck in the history of Standard. However, the deck accrues no card advantage if you can prevent Champion of the Parish from becoming an Abyss. I recommend using spot removal as aggressively as possible. Also, take any offered trade immediately; the deck loses a lot of power if it's unable to trigger battalion. By aggressively one-for-oneing your opponent you should find this matchup get a lot easier. Boros Reckoner and inexpensive spot removal are the best cards against Naya Blitz.

Champion of the Parish
Reaper from the Abyss

Some lists have gone a little bigger as of late in order to include Hellrider or Boros Reckoner. Other lists are taking advantage of the small amount of spot removal being played by including Mikaeus, the Lunarch. Here are up-to-date versions of Naya Blitz that Top 8ed Standard Premier Events on Magic Online last Sunday.

Mikaeus, the Lunarch

PauloCabral_Br's Naya Blitz

Download Arena Decklist

edmontonwizard's Naya Blitz

Download Arena Decklist

Bant Auras

The Ghost Pants deck, as its lovingly called by those who play it, is a metagame deck that has enjoyed scattered success since Jon Stern won Grand Prix Atlantic City with it just a few months ago. The deck punishes midrange decks, but it suffers against decks like Naya Blitz, Red-Green, and control decks using Supreme Verdict. There's a lot of midrange in Standard these days, which makes this an excellent choice for grinding Magic Online events. However, you can be sure that you'll have to battle against at least a couple Naya Blitz and Supreme Verdict decks over the course of a larger tournament like a PTQ and it might be risky sleeving this up if you're on the hunt for a Pro Tour invite. Here's a list that recently Top 8ed a Magic Online Premier event.

Gift of Orzhova
Spectral Flight

Kane49's Bant Enchantments

Download Arena Decklist

Jund Midrange

Jund has managed to take on all comers and stay in the realm of tier one. Reid Duke played the deck to an undefeated record at the Magic Online Championship, giving the archetype a boost in popularity and a stock list for players to build off of. Jund performs well against aggressive and control strategies, but it can often get out-powered by midrange decks like Junk Rites. The deck has a surprising amount of game in any matchup, though, and I think it's an excellent choice for players looking to grind the remainder of the Standard season with a single deck. Lingering Souls in conjunction with Sorin, Lord of Innistrad gives Jund fits and the deck does have issues with Aristocrats in general. We'll have to see if Aristocrats picks up popularity in the coming week, but I assume Jund will remain a force to be reckoned with going forward. Here's a list that Top 8ed a Magic Online Standard Premier Event last Sunday.

Lingering Souls

ARO78's Jund Midrange

Download Arena Decklist

Bant Wolf Run

The Bant Wolf Run deck that Melissa DeTora piloted all the way to the Top 8 at Pro Tour Gatecrash is getting a new breath of life in a format where things are becoming increasingly focused on midrange strategies. The deck can get run over by Naya Blitz, but that deck is decreasing in popularity. The deck's ability to fight the midrange war effectively, even against Junk Rites in some cases, makes it an attractive choice for current Standard players. The deck performs very well against Aristocrats and Jund and I could see this becoming one of the most popular archetypes going forward. Here's a list from the Top 8 of a Magic Online Standard Premier event last Sunday.

Azorius Charm
Think Twice

Jokerstars Bant Control

Download Arena Decklist

Glory's Rise Reanimator

Most people I talk to say things like, "The combo is cute, but I don't think it's better than Junk Rites," when asked about Angel of Glory's Rise Reanimator strategies. There's some truth in that statement, but the Junk Rites deck relies heavily on a stable board state to achieve victory while the Angel of Glory's Rise deck can simply win out of nowhere when the opponent taps out. Cards like Supreme Verdict and Blasphemous Act will contribute to the downfall of Junk Rites and players may begin cutting graveyard hate from their sideboards. The moment this happens, Glory's Rise Reanimator will likely be the best choice for the next PTQ.

Angel of Glory's Rise
Blasphemous Act

I recommend learning this deck well so you're prepared to beat it by disrupting the combo with a timely spot removal spell on Fiend Hunter. Once you've learned it, you should keep your finger on Standard's pulse and be prepared to unleash the combo when no one is prepared for it. Here's a list that won a Magic Online Premier Event last Sunday.

Fiend Hunter
Burning-Tree Emissary

rex51515's Glory's Rise Reanimator

Download Arena Decklist