May Standard Compendium

Posted in Top Decks on May 23, 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

Welcome back to Perilous Research,'s exclusive Magic Online column. We've taken a bit of a hiatus from Standard since the release of Dragon's Maze on Magic Online. This week, I'm going to make up for lost time and present a complete Standard Deck Compendium, wherein I take a look at every archetype that has 4–0ed a Daily Event or Top 8ed a Premier Event since Dragon's Maze was introduced on Magic Online. Having complete knowledge of the top tier of the Standard metagame will give you a huge advantage in your next PTQ or other Standard event.

This article offers a glimpse at the current metagame in its entirety. You might find a deck that speaks to you. You might have a Eureka! moment where you invent a new deck that crushes the existing metagame. A comprehensive Standard overview provides you and your friends with decklists to playtest with and against, and gives you near-perfect knowledge when crafting your line of play against a particular deck.

Let's get to the decklists!

glochan87's Red-White-Blue

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The newest king of the format is Red-White-Blue. The deck has been around since the beginning of the format, but this past week has really catapulted the deck into the spotlight. A quick glance at the most recent Daily Event results shows that this deck is outpacing even Junk Rites at the moment. The deck has trouble with an early Voice of Resurgence, especially in Game 1, where it doesn't have access to Pillar of Flame. Fortunately, the deck can usually make the game go long enough that it doesn't really care if it two-for-ones itself a few times before stabilizing with Supreme Verdict and locking up the game with a massive Sphinx's Revelation.

Supreme Verdict
Sphinx's Revelation

I was unsure of Dragon's Maze's effect on Sphinx's Revelation decks, but it looks like Notion Thief is more of a boogeyman and not something that's being played in the current tier-one lists. This deck excels against the most aggressive Gruul and Naya lists, is around even against Junk Rites and Jund, and suffers less-than-stellar matchups against aggressive Selesnya/Bant decks and controlling Bant/Esper decks.

Notion Thief

echecetmat35's Junk Rites

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Red-White-Blue decks may be rising to power, but Junk Rites is still the deck to beat in this Standard format. The deck plays some of the most powerful cards in the format and can win out of nowhere with Craterhoof Behemoth. The deck performs well, especially in the first game, against most decks in the format. The deck is strongest against other midrange strategies or very top-end control decks, about even against the most aggressive decks in the format (winning the die roll is very important here), and weak to decks that can go over the top of it, such as combo Rites decks or Blasphemous Act with Blood Artist/Boros Reckoner.

Craterhoof Behemoth
Centaur Healer

Esponja's Act 2

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I showed up to the first PTQ of this Standard season with a secret weapon. Designed by Brad Nelson and tuned by myself through Magic Online testing, Act 2 caught the format off-guard and I was able to go 11–0–1 on the day and win myself a trip to Dublin. The deck can be incredibly aggressive when it needs to be and its matchup against the midrange decks, especially Junk Rites, are nothing short of amazing.

Falkenrath Aristocrat
Cartel Aristocrat

The newer versions tip their hat to the success of Sphinx's Revelation decks with some copies of main deck Sorin, Lord of Innistrad. Skirsdag High Priest is incredibly strong against Junk Rites and very reasonable against Red decks and Geist of Saint Traft strategies. However, the recent success of control decks makes the card less than stellar. This deck is strongest against Junk Rites and Naya/Selesnya midrange strategies, it performs very well against the most aggressive decks, but it can often stumble for a turn or get outpaced by good Burning-Tree Emissary draws. The deck is weakest against Sphinx's Revelation strategies, but they are certainly winnable.

Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
Skirsdag High Priest

qbob2's Gruul Aggro

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Gruul aggro has cemented itself as the aggressive deck of choice in the new Standard format. This deck hits the board very fast and powers its way through the enemy's defenses with Firefist Striker, Hellrider, Ghor-Clan Rampager, and a good burn suite. Decks like this are terrifying to play against. Sin Collector's printing has dramatically decreased the number of Centaur Healers in people's decks, which made this deck a lot better.

Firefist Striker

This deck is strongest against control decks (which now only play two copies of Supreme Verdict in most cases) that can be run over by its early aggression. The deck gets big pretty fast and can run over most midrange and aggressive decks before they have a chance to stabilize; the deck is weakest against Jund, which plays a lot of spot removal to easily maintain its life total before chaining Thragtusks.

Restoration Angel

Enrico's Naya Humans

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Naya Humans is still the most explosive competitive aggro deck. This deck seems like it could be in a good spot as the control decks move away from cheap spot removal as the format slows down. The deck preys upon big hands by getting on the table and winning before a game can be stabilized. The deck is strong against Bant Control, Geist decks, and most current versions of Junk Rites, but it can struggle with Boros Reckoner decks.

Champion of the Parish
Burning-Tree Emissary

manu_chao's Jund

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I chose this Jund list over some 4–0 lists because it looks like the perfect version to test against if you're looking for maximum resistance. The list is weaker against Junk Rites, but it punishes creatures hard in the first game and its post-board control plan is very strong. The deck is strong against Act 2 and aggressive decks, reasonable against most control decks, and weakest to Junk Rites in most cases. Jund is malleable enough that some versions will shore up weaknesses by sacrificing dominance in other matchups.

Olivia Voldaren

itsnotme's Borzhov Midrange

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Here's a deck I can get behind. This deck plays a lot of powerful spells that punish midrange and aggressive opponents with the majority of draws. The deck can also cause nightmares for control players by forcing a Supreme Verdict and following it up with a haymaker like Obzedat, Ghost Council or Assemble the Legion. This feels like a deck that could become big in the coming weeks. I haven't played enough with the deck to make any solid judgments, but it has good numbers and I like all the cards a lot.

Obzedat, Ghost Council
Assemble the Legion

naniha's Selesnya Tokens

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Sometimes you just want to make a board presence. No deck makes a board presence like the Selesnya Tokens deck. The deck smashes most control decks and every aggro deck, but it suffers in matchups that go over the top of it like Act 2, Junk Rites, and Jund.

Advent of the Wurm
Collective Blessing

DesolateMagic's Bant Control

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Bant control had a great week on Magic Online. A lot of the game's best and brightest have this pegged as the next big evolution of the Standard metagame. The deck can get run over by the most aggressive strategies, but it's late game is pretty unbeatable for just about everybody. This version plays Progenitor Mimic, but many versions are casting Ætherling this week.

Progenitor Mimic

usokui3's WBRG Rites

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I wasn't sure what to make of this list when I first saw it, but the deck won a Premier Event and I had never really seen a version that looked like this. I'm really impressed with the way the deck has been put together. The deck can combo with its Boros Reckoner, letting it destroy all the midrange decks. Against control, the deck can just force through Sire of Insanity, but that's easier said than done. I'm definitely impressed with this deck, but I'm worried that aggro matchups are near-impossible matchups without drawing Boros Reckoner.

Boros Reckoner
Sire of Insanity

hopefalls1's Junk Ghost Husk

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I really like this deck. It's essentially a much better version of the original Aristocrats deck. It doesn't have the explosive kill potential of Act 2, but all the cards in the deck are very powerful in the context of the strategy and the power level of each card individually is much higher here than in the Aristocrats decks. This deck mulligans well, especially for a "combo" deck. The deck will run over most control decks; it's very resistant to Supreme Verdict. The deck is much weaker against Junk Rites and Act 2 than other High Priest decks, but it's aggro matchups are even better, if that's possible to imagine.

Skirsdag High Priest
Varolz, the Scar-Striped

Schibba's Bant Auras

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This is probably the scariest thing in Standard. There are enough Supreme Verdict decks out there to cause this deck some problems and its far from consistent, needing to mulligan a lot of hands with healthy mixes of mana and spells. That being said, when this deck draws well it's just about unbeatable for the aggro and midrange decks. The format can oscillate at times and this is a great deck to have in your back pocket for the week no one is casting Supreme Verdict.

Geist of Saint Traft
Ethereal Armor

ShowTime_'s Gruul Midrange

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I'm not thrilled with most of this deck's matchups, but it does wonders against Junk Rites and Aggressive decks. An early Domri Rade can outpace most control decks and the deck has no shortage of cards that "force Supreme Verdicts. Decks like this are always going to be viable, but Jund's presence can do a lot to deter people from playing a deck like this.

Domri Rade
Ghor-Clan Rampager