Standard Decks That Are So! There! Now!

Posted in Top Decks on July 15, 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

Last month, we explored a number of Standard decks that were just a few cards short of being awesome. Today, we'll be revisiting those strategies to see if Eldritch Moon gave them the tools they need to succeed in the new Standard.

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.

Now, with the addition of Eldritch Moon, these tribal strategies have a lot more to offer deck builders as we try to raise the bar of competitiveness for the underappreciated tribes of Standard.


Let's start by taking a look at Zombies. Last time we spoke, it was pretty clear that a lack of inexpensive creatures made the Zombie deck too slow to function as an aggressive deck. The card-advantage engines were there, but the deck couldn't get onto the board fast enough to be a competitive Standard strategy.

Here's what Zombies looked like before we had access to Eldritch Moon:

JVL's Zombies

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Eldritch Moon's Cryptbreaker is exactly the type of card we were hoping for. Now the deck can get on the board on the first turn and use early turns to start building an undead army right away. Dark Salvation is a perfect removal spell if our plan involves flooding the board with Zombies.

Playing blue is no longer necessary for the Zombie deck. Getting access to Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and perhaps Gisa and Geralf is nice, but it may be better to keep the deck one color for consistency's sake.

JVL's EMN Zombies

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This is a deck that can effectively battle with the more aggressive decks in Standard while leaning heavily on Relentless Dead and Corpseweft against more controlling opponents. After sideboarding, the deck will likely have access to Duress, Distended Mindbender, Voldaren Pariah, and additional copies of Corpseweft to swing various matchups.

The nice part about a deck like this is that it's capable of playing any role. The deck gets to be aggressive, controlling, or heavily synergistic depending on what the opponent is trying to do. Some of the less exciting cards in the deck (I'm talking about the shambling contingent) may not be powerful enough for Constructed right now. If this ends up being the case, then these cards will likely need to be replaced with other low-mana options and the deck may need to include some colorless mana sources to play with cards like Matter Reshaper and Bearer of Silence.

JVL's Eldrazi Zombies

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This version of the deck may not be as focused on the Zombie plan, but it makes up for it by playing with much more powerful cards. The sideboard of this version of the deck is also a lot more impressive with access to Reality Smasher and Thought-Knot Seer, both of which are very strong when an opponent has so many removal targets early in the game.


Vampires were the most anticipated tribe when Shadows over Innistrad was first hitting the shelves. A lot of people assumed that Drana, Liberator of Malakir and Olivia, Mobilized for War would be enough to make Vampires competitive in Standard. Unfortunately, three-mana creatures that don't do a lot or any work the turn they enter the battlefield aren't that impressive, even when they're as good as the Vampiric mythic rares. The madness engine wasn't strong enough to warrant warping our deck around it, and we were forced to settle for strange aggressive Vampire strategies.

JVL's Vampires

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Now, there's a lot more to work with if we want to make the deck more focused on using madness effectively. Last time we checked in with Vampires, we were hoping for a card like Vampire Nocturnus. Unfortunately, the deck didn't get the big top-end lord we were hoping for. Instead, Eldritch Moon gives us a number of inexpensive madness outlets to go with powerful cards like Stromkirk Occultist. With cards like Stromkirk Condemned, Furyblade Vampire, and Olivia's Dragoon, we have enough inexpensive madness outlets to confidently play with cards like Incorrigible Youths. Think about it. We can be pitching Incorrigible Youths to Furyblade Vampire on the third turn to be attacking for unfair amounts of damage. All of the madness synergy means that we can make our Vampire deck much more aggressive. This is a strategy that I'm looking forward to working on. Once the numbers get perfected, it seems like there's a very powerful deck somewhere in the world of Vampires!

Very aggressive strategies tend to perform well in the early weeks of new formats, and I wouldn't be surprised to see Vampires have some success this weekend. This is the type of deck that's worth revisiting in the coming weeks, because there are a lot of different ways we can go about building a Vampire deck in the new Standard.

Here's an early take on aggro madness Vampires with Eldritch Moon:

JVL's EMN Vampires

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Werewolves looked like it could be a Collected Company deck the last time we checked in. Most of the seemingly Constructed-playable Werewolves had an appropriate casting cost, and it seemed crazy to not warp our game plan around Standard's most powerful card. Here's where we left off.

JVL's Werewolves

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Eldritch Moon changes the Werewolf game a lot, though. Ulrich of the Krallenhorde is definitely what I want to be doing with my Werewolf deck. Playing a tribal strategy that's trying to cast five-mana creatures without the ability to generate tokens or apply a lot of early pressure seemed ambitious to me. Instead, I feel that Werewolves would be best as a midrange strategy that gets to play with powerful cards all the way up the curve. Kessig Prowler reminds me a lot of Fleecemane Lion and seems like a great way to get ahead early and pressure opponents. Hanweir Garrison and Hanweir Battlements seem pretty good, and I'd like to give them a try in a shell that forces opponents to use their removal aggressively. Decimator of the Provinces reminds me a lot of Craterhoof Behemoth, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it become one of the most efficient finishers in Standard. It seems especially strong alongside cards like Ishkanah, Grafwidow. Here, Decimator of the Provinces is the perfect finishing blow for our Werewolves deck.

JVL's EMN Werewolves

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Eldritch Moon will drastically change the Standard landscape. Will the new additions for Vampires, Zombies, and Werewolves be enough to make these decks competitive in the new format? In the coming weeks, we'll watch as new creations smash into one another to forge a new and exciting metagame. What do you want to play in the new Standard?

Eldritch Moon Prereleases are happening this weekend, so be sure to find a store near you to try out all the new cards!

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