Grand Prix Cincinnati Standard Primer

Posted in Top Decks on March 20, 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. The new Standard season is in full swing and this weekend we'll have an opportunity to watch the format be played on a grand scale in Cincinnati, Ohio. Grand Prix Cincinnati comes on the heels of the largest Constructed Grand Prix ever, and it's sure to be an exciting event. Standard has been evolving since the release of Born of the Gods. Cards like Pack Rat have become less format defining, and a number of new aggressive strategies have entered the fray. Today, we'll be taking a look at the new face of Standard in preparation for Grand Prix: Cincinnati.

Standard is in a good place right now. The Black Devotion decks, while still successful, are significantly less of a factor than they were a few weeks ago. Red-Green Monsters has become the most successful deck in the format on Magic Online, but new breeds of aggressive burn strategies are becoming more prevalent every day. Let's take a look at what's been winning in Standard recently.


AvaraxGonnaGitYa's Zoo

Download Arena Decklist

I wrote about this Naya Zoo deck a few weeks ago. Brad Nelson designed the deck to be strong against Black Devotion and Courser of Kruphix decks. The deck is tremendously powerful, but the mana base makes it a bit inconsistent at times. Blue Devotion is a very difficult matchup because of four main-deck copies of Tidebinder Mage and Master of Waves. The deck plays a lot of very powerful cards and has the ability to end games out of nowhere by combining Boros Charm with Ghor-Clan Rampager. I played the deck for a week on Magic Online and had a few very nice win streaks, including a 10-0 evening of battle. We can expect this deck to do well in the coming weeks if Blue Devotion strategies continue to flounder.

Boros Charm
Ghor-Clan Rampager

Red Deck Wins

gooddeelz's Red Deck Wins

Download Arena Decklist

The Red Devotion strategies that did well last season have struggled to remain relevant in the face of Bile Blight and post-board Drown in Sorrow. Fortunately, more aggressive versions of the strategy are beginning to enjoy some success on Magic Online. The deck struggles against most draws from Red-Green Monsters and Blue Devotion, but a very good Black Devotion and Control Matchup make it a force to be reckoned with.

Boros Reckoner
Burning-Tree Emissary

Naya Auras

GodlikeNg's Naya Auras

Download Arena Decklist

Naya Auras has become one of the most successful decks in Standard. The deck successfully combines Hexproof bodies with big enchantments to run away with the game. The diminished number of Devour Flesh being played helps this deck's cause a great deal. Red-Green Monster decks will have nightmares trying to contain the Aura strategy. The deck can be inconsistent and may be weak against Control strategies with Supreme Verdict, but incredibly strong matchups elsewhere make this a very real contender in the upcoming weekend's Grand Prix.

Ethereal Armor
Unflinching Courage

Red-Green Monsters

DreamWizard's Red-Green Monsters

Download Arena Decklist

I still have trouble believing that Courser of Kruphix is a real Magic card; it's just so good, and it combos so nicely with the already well-positioned Domri Rade. Red-Green Monsters aims to ramp into some very impressive threats while grinding ahead in the card advantage war with cards like Courser of Kruphix and Domri Rade. Red-Green Monsters is a startlingly consistent strategy that does exceptionally well against the most aggressive strategies while struggling against some of the Supreme Verdict decks.

Courser of Kruphix
Domri Rade

Black Devotion

FactFiction's Black Devotion

Download Arena Decklist

Black Devotion has fallen out of favor in the last few weeks. The deck has no truly bad matchups, and the most aggressive White Weenie decks that used to be a problem are no longer a factor. We can expect various iterations of Black Devotion to make a big push in the upcoming weekend. Variations on this strategy have been extremely successful at the last few Standard Grand Prix events in North America, and we shouldn't expect that to change.

Gray Merchant of Asphodel
Pack Rat

Golgari Graveyard

desolutionist's Golgari Graveyard

Download Arena Decklist

Here's a very interesting deck! We've seen this a bit on Magic Online in the last couple of weeks. It seems like graveyard-based Golgari strategies have the tools they need to succeed against the most creature-centric strategies currently being played. The deck has a lot of powerful cards that aren't seeing a ton of play right now, including Herald of Torment and Lotleth Troll. A lot of the deck's cards can take over a game if left unchecked and it stands to reason that this deck will be very strong against decks that favor threats over removal.

Herald of Torment
Lotleth Troll

Esper Control

Vosearcher's Esper Control

Download Arena Decklist

Esper Control is in a very good place right now. This version of the deck is well-positioned against Red-Green Monster variants. The deck can struggle to beat itself at times because hitting the first four to six land drops (depending on our draw) is so important. That being said, I feel like some version of Esper Control is likely to win Grand Prix Cincinnati. The format feels very ripe for a true control strategy to come in and stomp everybody.

Sphinx's Revelation

Azorius Control

MGatica's Azorius Control

Download Arena Decklist

Azorius Control is a more consistent Control deck that loses out on a lot of efficient spot removal and Thoughtseize for the sake of smoothness. The deck demolishes Blue Devotion and the top of the deck can be very good against Black Devotion, but that matchup usually requires a timely topdeck or two. Post-sideboard Archangel of Thune means the deck can actually close matches instead of drawing every other round. This deck has what it takes to win the tournament, but the pilot will need to be on his or her opponent like a hawk with slow-play judge calls if he or she wants to make it through fifteen rounds without getting drawn out of the tournament. Remember, the first draw will likely put us in a position where we'll be playing against a lot of Esper/Blue White mirrors that will threaten future draws.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Archangel of Thune

Jund Monsters

Jun.I's Jund Monsters

Download Arena Decklist

Red-Green Monsters is very strong, but the deck gains some additional power at the expense of some consistency when we add black. Untapping with Reaper of the Wilds one the battlefield makes it very difficult for our opponent to get out from underneath our general card power level. This deck has garnished some very impressive tournament results in the last month and it seems like it's making a push to tier one.

Reaper of the Wilds
Stormbreath Dragon


rage_jl's Burn!

Download Arena Decklist

Redzone91's Burn!

Download Arena Decklist

Red-White Burn decks have been enjoying a good deal of success as Elixir of Immortality and Gray Merchant of Asphodel become less popular. The deck can also struggle with Courser of Kruphix, but there's a lot to be said for Chandra's Phoenix against the Monster strategies. RedZone91 decided to include a few main-deck copies of Blind Obedience in the list that seem like incredible tools when we're working with Chandra's Phoenix and Ash Zealot, and playing against a reasonable amount of haste. Extort is a very powerful effect in a deck like this and I've been very impressed with Blind Obedience in my limited testing with the strategy.

Ash Zealot
Chandra's Phoenix


munkeemanometal's Junk

Download Arena Decklist

This deck is very similar to the deck I played at Pro Tour Theros . Courser of Kruphix is a great card that I definitely would have played if it were an option. The deck can stumble a bit, but the combination of good disruption, efficient removal, and strong creatures make this deck similar to Black Devotion in that it doesn't really have any truly bad matchups.

Courser of Kruphix
Underworld Connection

White-Black Control

Dauec's White-Black Control

Download Arena Decklist

White-Black Control decks seemed to be in vogue about three weeks ago, but the popularity of the strategy has decreased significantly in the face of Monster decks that have more trouble with the Black Devotion version of the strategy. The deck is like a slightly worse Black Devotion deck with a slightly better Black Devotion mirror. There aren't any White Weenie decks to punish with Blood Baron of Vizkopa anymore, but the new Zoo strategies are similarly colded by the five-drop.

Blood Baron of Vizkopa
Hero's Downfall

Blue Devotion

Proplayer77's Blue Devotion

Download Arena Decklist

Blue Devotion is going to be in a difficult spot this weekend. There are sure to be a lot of Supreme Verdicts sweeping boards in Cincinnati, and most of the decks that aren't casting Supreme Verdict will have four copies of Polukranos, World Eater to gobble up the Blue Devotion player's board. Black Devotion is by no means a good matchup, although it isn't terrible, either. The deck does an excellent job of shutting down the most aggressive and midrangey strategies and will likely do well if it's able to curve out and dodge control for the tournament.

Thassa, God of the Sea
Ephara, God of the Polis

Black Aggro