Standard Matchmaker

Posted in Top Decks on March 6, 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. Last week, we explored the new Standard environment and took a look at some of the newer decks that have come to fruition with the release of Born of the Gods. Today, we've got a lot of data and tons of decklists to sift through. We'll be exploring the new Standard environment and discussing the archetypes therein.

Today's Standard environment is extremely diverse. We've traveled from a world where Black Devotion decks seemed to dominate and found ourselves in a new and extremely diverse Standard environment. When formats become this wide open, it affords us the opportunity to play a deck we enjoy. We'll certainly enjoy better results by playing a deck that keeps us engaged. Each of us needs to find the right deck for us, and today we'll be leaving no stone unturned in our quest to understand and identify every top-tier strategy in Standard.

"I think... if it is true that there are as many minds as there are heads, then there are as many kinds of love as there are hearts."

—Leo Tolstoy

Tolstoy spoke of players who preferred being aggressive, controlling, or somewhere in between. The right deck speaks to us. The cards feel right. There's an unspoken connection. Fidelity is a virtue in Magic. The players who stick with a particular archetype consistently are rewarded for their mastery. For example, Craig Wescoe is all about White Weenie, and that preference has helped him enjoy a great deal of success, including a Pro Tour victory. Finding your archetypal soul mate isn't easy, but the joy and growth we can experience from this type of relationship is worth the wait.

Let's take a look at the handsome suitors Standard has to offer:

aytor_92's White-Black Control

Download Arena Decklist

Our first potential mate comes from the end of last season, but continues to make big waves in the current Standard environment. White-Black Control has quickly become one of the most popular decks on Magic Online. The deck plays similarly to Black Devotion, but it has a nice edge in the mirror thanks to Blood Baron of Vizkopa and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. The deck aims to use spot-removal spells to slow the game down to a point where it can take over with card advantage from Underworld Connections or simply dominate the board with Blood Baron of Vizkopa; Desecration Demon; or Elspeth, Sun's Champion. There's a lot of play here too; sequencing removal and balancing the value of Pack Rat activations make this the perfect match for the player looking for haymaker beauty and interesting conversations on sunset strolls.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Desecration Demon

BobbySapphire's Esper Control

Download Arena Decklist

Maybe we're looking to take things slow. Esper Control is the shy romantic that wants to take its time before sealing the deal with a huge Sphinx's Revelation. If we're looking for a control deck, Esper is a fine option. Black gives the deck access to some nice inexpensive spot removal and Blood Baron of Vizkopa is huge in post-boarded matches against aggressive white strategies and Black Devotion.

Sphinx's Revelation
Blood Baron of Vizkopa

Rindsgerd's Naya Auras

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Some of us are just looking for that perfect magical connection. As Devour Flesh becomes less popular, we're starting to see aggressive Aura strategies enjoy some success. It makes sense; these decks have a lot of power available to them and I wouldn't be surprised if this deck picks up some steam as the Black Devotion and White-Black control decks wane a bit in popularity. There are many very powerful Auras in the current Standard environment and Boros Charm makes this deck reasonably resilient to Supreme Verdict. Those looking to get into a long-term relationship with Auras are sure to see their ups and downs, but it might just be worth it for those good times.

Ethereal Armor
Boros Charm

Pwnyxpress's Esper Tempo

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The chemistry of the mana can be rough at times, but the best draws from the Esper Tempo strategies are hard to compete with. The deck enjoys some of Standard's most powerful spells, but its awkward mana curve can leave something to be desired for those in search of consistency. The deck aims to apply pressure early before trading away its board and taking the game over with Ephara, God of the Polis; Obzedat, Ghost Council; or one of its Planeswalkers.

Ephara, God of the Polis
Obzedat, Ghost Council

kaOz.Zeh's Jund Monsters

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Jund Monsters is for that hopeful lovebird who wants to grind out creature mirrors by going slightly bigger with the ability to beat control opponents with big cards in post-boarded games. Jund Monsters has enjoyed a lot of success in live tournaments, but, despite a decent following, the deck hasn't really been putting up great numbers on Magic Online. The deck is well-positioned in the current field, but the mana can be rough at times and it leans very hard on a few specific cards in the control matchup.

Polukranos, World Eater
Stormbreath Dragon

BigJake64's Boros Burn

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Burn is our perfect match if we're looking for a hot and steamy fly-by-night affair. The deck aims its burn at the opponent's face from the get-go and can occasionally clear up the board by casting Satyr Firedancer and unloading some spells. There's a lot of longevity here and the strategy is very well positioned against a field with markedly less Azorius Control and Black Devotion. We can expect this deck to enjoy a lot of success if players continue to move away from Gray Merchant of Asphodel and toward Blood Baron of Vizkopa.

Lightning Strike
Satyr Firedancer

Garruk17's Blue Devotion

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Maybe our surfing soul mate is riding the waves of tempo offered by the latest version of Blue Devotion. Blue Devotion strategies are splashing white for Ephara, God of the Polis and Detention Sphere. Ephara gives the deck another Thassa, God of the Sea or Master of Waves. Now, with this newfound power level, we can expect the Blue Devotion strategies to be one of the most successful decks in Born of the Gods Standard. The deck still demolishes creature mirrors with unrivaled tempo, but the long game against slower decks is very impressive thanks to Ephara, God of the Polis. This deck may suffer a bit if we continue to see enchantment removal in people's main decks, but that's a trend we'll need to watch before we change anything in these decklists.

Thassa, God of the Sea
Master of Waves

Whiles's Black Devotion

Download Arena Decklist

Are we looking to rekindle old flames? Black Devotion continues to be the most successful deck in Magic Online's Daily Events, but it's also the most-played deck by a fairly wide margin. The Black Devotion deck needs to be scared of a lot of decks with Blood Baron of Vizkopa now. Sure, Devour Flesh answers the problem, but most Black Devotion decks are only playing one or two copies. Underworld Cerberus is beginning to be adopted by the Jund Monsters decks and that card is possibly the worst nightmare for the Black Devotion deck. There's a lot of power here, and the good times aren't over yet, but we can expect this deck to struggle if the best cards against it continue to catch on.

Devour Flesh
Gray Merchant of Asphodel

Suken's Gruul Monsters

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Maybe we just need to chill out with some fatties and take big hits out of our opponents' life totals. If that's the case, then we should be calling up Red-Green Monsters and taking it for a spin at our next Standard event. The synergy in this Red-Green Monsters deck is unbelievable. Courser of Kruphix puts in overtime alongside Domri Rade and Chandra, Pyromaster.

Domri Rade
Chandra, Pyromaster

bladeogre58's Azorius Control

Download Arena Decklist

Perhaps we're just not looking for anything physical. Azorius Control, the most dedicated control strategy in the current Standard environment, is significantly more interested in drawing cards and clearing the board than getting into any sort of altercation. Two copies of Elspeth, Sun's Champion are all the deck needs to finish off the opponent. A copy of Elixir of Immortality ensures there'll always be more cards to draw.


myyamagat's Rakdos Midrange

Download Arena Decklist

Are we looking to come in hot and only heat up with time? It was only a matter of time before aggressive/midrange Rakdos strategies started being successful again. The deck has access to some of the format's best aggressive threats and it follows them up with a great midgame plan in the form of Herald of Torment; Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch; and Desecration Demon. The deck applies enough hasty pressure to cause real problems for the Black Control strategies and a strong flying endgame combined with a lot of Lifebane Zombies, Thoughtseizes, and removal make the deck very good against the bigger green decks, too. The deck may not be the best against the most aggressive and controlling opponents, but it does a very good job of beating everything in the middle.

Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch

BuenGordo's Bant Control

Download Arena Decklist

There are different kinds of slow relationships. Maybe we're looking to take things slow, but prefer long walks on the beach while being serenaded by the crashing waves to thoughtfully architected conversations. The Bant Control deck plays very similarly to the White-Blue version of the deck, but it gets access to Urban Evolution; Kiora, the Crashing Wave; and post-sideboard Mistcutter Hydra. Time will tell if the splash is truly worth it, but the deck has a lot of card advantage and it should be able to outlast most in the long haul.

Kiora, the Crashing Wave
Mistcutter Hydra

We've met a lot of potential soul mates for the coming Standard season. Hopefully, we've all gotten a glimpse of our muse. Remember, a wide-open format means that playing a strategy we're comfortable with is more important than playing the accepted "best" deck. There are sure to be many more fish in the sea beyond the decks in this article. Next week, we'll take a look at the Modern format in the wake of Pro Tour Born of the Gods and Grand Prix Richmond. In the meantime, we'll keep searching for Standard deck that gives us the emotional support we need.

Knowledge is power!

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