Standard Decks That Are So! Almost! There!

Posted in Top Decks on June 14, 2016

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

Standard is in a great place right now. There are countless different decks that have done well at recent large events, and the most successful decks seem to change from week to week. There's a lot of room for innovation, and we're starting to see a lot of exciting new strategies, like Martin Müller's Mono-Blue Prison, do well in major events. As deck builders, we can't help but go to the drawing board.

When searching through Gatherer to find new deck ideas, I often find myself just a few cards short of an awesome new strategy. Today, I'm going to talk about some of the most promising Standard decks that are almost there and discuss what kinds of cards we should be looking out for in Eldritch Moon.

Tribal decks have the potential to be very powerful in Standard, where removal is often more expensive than it would be in a format like Modern. Recently, the Humans deck has been doing very well in Standard by playing threats at a faster rate than they can be kept off the table by the opponent. Unfortunately, decks like Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves haven't been able to find the same degree of success.

In Standard, there has been one major constant in terms of strategy over the last few years: stay ahead on board! The days of wiping the battlefield clean and rebuilding our advantage are mostly over. Sure, there are still some decks that can have success with this type of strategy, but even those decks need to be playing finishers that can close out the game quickly and efficiently. How can Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves establish the kind of pressure needed to snowball their way to victory?


Build-around cards are often very powerful when we can satisfy the necessary conditions. For example, Prized Amalgam and Relentless Dead are tremendously powerful cards that currently lack the necessary support to make Zombies a truly reliable Standard strategy. Let's start by taking a look at the best Zombies in Standard before discussing what the deck hopes to find in Eldritch Moon.

The major problem with Zombies right now is the lack of inexpensive creatures. Relentless Dead is the only two-mana Zombie that I'm remotely excited about playing with. If we're able to use our graveyard effectively, then Jace, Vryn's Prodigy could also be a good two-drop, but right now, cards like Prized Amalgam are underwhelming when we have to jump through so many hoops to make them worthwhile.

What the deck needs more than anything else is a few reliable and inexpensive creatures, ideally at least one that can reanimate itself from the graveyard. Once Zombies has access to this type of card and another one or two inexpensive Zombies, then it definitely has all the makings of a very successful strategy.

Let's take a look at what a Zombies deck would look like right now and then discuss what we'd like to change most.

JVL's Zombies

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Again, the major issue with this deck is that we only have one Zombie that cost two or less mana. It's going to be pretty difficult to find success with a pile of cards that cost three mana, and we're going to need something like Gravecrawler to make this deck truly competitive.


Moving on to Vampires, we find a deck that many people were quite excited about. Unfortunately, it fell just short of being good enough. What kinds of cards are we looking for to make a deck like Vampires into a playable Standard strategy?

JVL's Vampires

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Vampires seems to have the supporting cast that it needs already. There are plenty of inexpensive Vampires to fill a curve and go crazy with madness. Unfortunately, Vampires doesn't have the lord or lords that it needs to be a viable deck. It's no secret that Vampire Nocturnus was responsible for most Vampiric success in Standard a few years ago. Drana, Liberator of Malakir and Olivia, Mobilized for War are both pretty powerful, but they don't have an immediate impact on the game when they hit the battlefield. What the deck really needs is a way to grant big power bonuses or haste to the team.

With two of the best three-mana threats in Standard, it seems like Vampires comes up just a little short of having the necessary tools to be a truly competitive Standard deck.


The last tribal deck that's almost there is Werewolves. One nice thing about Werewolves is that they're also Humans, so we can push that angle if there aren't enough Werewolves to complete a good deck. If we're going the Humans route, then the deck needs better mana fixing more than anything else. If we're going for a more focused Werewolf plan, then we're going to need quite a bit of help.

Werewolves has access to the incredibly powerful Arlinn Kord and Collected Company, which may be the most powerful card in all of Standard. The major issue for the deck is that we need to be playing enough creatures to make Collected Company good while still finding room for Arlinn Kord and Howlpack Resurgence. Let's see what Werewolves would look like right now:

JVL's Werewolves

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To make Collected Company good enough, we need to play a lot of unexciting cards like Hinterland Logger, Breakneck Rider, and Kessig Forgemaster. However, if we can get enough two- and three-mana creatures in Eldritch Moon to fill out the deck, then we might have a very real competitor on our hands.

The deck would have a ton of synergy with the ability to pass the turn and flip Werewolves while leaving open Collected Company or Howlpack Resurgence. Decks that reward players for doing difficult combat math while also timing their interactions are some of the most interesting decks. Wouldn't it be awesome if Werewolves got the help it needed to be good in Standard?

Eldritch Moon delves deeper into the horrific world of Innistrad. There are sure to be plenty of Zombies, Vampires, and Werewolves to sink our teeth into. Which of these decks will find the help they need to compete in a new and exciting world of Standard? Don't miss all the exciting new cards as they're revealed in the coming weeks!

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