Standard Showdown Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Top Decks on December 27, 2016

By Luis Scott-Vargas

Luis Scott-Vargas plays, writes, and makes videos about Magic. He has played on the Pro Tour for almost a decade, and between that and producing content for ChannelFireball, often has his hands full (of cards).

What can you expect at the recently-announced Standard Showdowns? That's the question I'll be answering today, as there's a wide range of decks you might face (or may want to play yourself). I'm going to take a look at decks categorized by midrange, control, aggro, and combo, giving you all sorts of options.

Midrange

Black-Green Delirium

To advance into Standard, you must make it past the Grafwidow. Black-Green Delirium is likely to be one of the most-played decks, if not the actual most played. It's powerful, resilient, and can adapt to play against anything it faces.

DeepFinesse's 5-0 Black-Green Delirium

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Gameplan:

Like all midrange decks, black-green doesn't have a firmly-defined role. Against control decks, it's the aggressor, and it tries to beat down with Grim Flayer, Tireless Tracker, and Mindwrack Demon. Against aggro decks, it opts to control the game with removal spells and Ishkanah, eventually closing things out once the board is stable.

Why it Works:

Traverse the Ulvenwald is a key part of this deck, as it not only increases the mana consistency but also can find whatever answers or threats are needed. Against beatdown, fetching Ishkanah is critical, and against control, Emrakul gives black-green a game-ender once its graveyard is stocked.

Grim Flayer is another important piece, as it fuels delirium, pressures the opponent, and can effectively block if needed. It's a very high-impact card for only two mana, and a staple of the archetype.

Play This If:

You like having all the answers at your fingertips. Black-Green Delirium doesn't have any truly bad matchups, and the only deck it doesn't want to face is Aetherworks Marvel. It's a solid choice and has the tools to defeat anything.

White-Blue Flash

Spell Queller and Reflector Mage may not have Collected Company any more, but their powers combined can still strike fear into the hearts of unprepared opponents. White-Blue Flash is another very popular deck, and one you should be ready for.

theGate's 5-0 White-Blue Flash

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Planeswalker (4)
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Sorcery (2)
2 Declaration in Stone
Instant (2)
2 Revolutionary Rebuff
Artifact (4)
4 Smuggler's Copter
Enchantment (3)
3 Stasis Snare
60 Cards

Gameplan:

Play to the board with cheap threats, then press the advantage with tempo-generating plays like Spell Queller and Reflector Mage. Like Green-Black Delirium, I would still call this a midrange deck, but it's further down the aggressive scale, as it leans more on pressuring the opponent than controlling the game. Playing largely at instant speed does make this deck very difficult to play against, and it can add to the board without exposing its creatures to removal quite easily as a result.

Why It Works:

High card quality combined with a focused game plan make this one of the most intrinsically powerful decks in Standard. Spell Queller, Reflector Mage, Smuggler's Copter, and Avacyn are all exceedingly powerful and good at punishing slow starts and expensive spells. Selfless Spirit protects Spell Queller, crews Copter, and can trigger Avacyn, giving the deck a lot of play while still not sacrificing on quality.

Play This If:

You like dictating the pace of the game. White-blue can go from being the defender to being the aggressor in a flash (literally), and it's a great deck if you can figure out the role you are supposed to play at any given moment. It's also a fantastic choice if you expect Aetherworks Marvel of any form, as that may be the most lopsided matchup in Standard.


Control

Torrential Gearhulk Control

Torrential Gearhulk Control decks are among the sweetest available in Standard, and there are a couple varieties to choose from. Here are two example lists, one white-blue and the other blue-red.

yellowcow's 5-0 White-Blue Control

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Tulio_Jaudy's 5-0 Blue-Red Control

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Gameplan:

I combined these decks because their game plan is the same: use one-for-one removal and card draw to get ahead, then close out the game with Torrential Gearhulk (which is part removal, part card advantage, part finisher, and all awesome). The two decks have different individual card choices and colors, but they play out very similarly.

Why It Works:

Torrential Gearhulk Control decks punish slow starts and synergy decks and go over the top of midrange. There are enough quality removal spells available that aggro is beatable, and Torrential Gearhulk is a card worth building around. These decks are vulnerable when targeted, but there are enough creature-based decks right now that most decks will have plenty of dead removal spells and concessions against aggro.

Torrential Gearhulk is the driving force of these decks, to be sure, but figuring out the right mix of removal and counterspells will be how you succeed. Reading the metagame is always important when playing an answer deck, and make no mistake, that's what Torrential Gearhulk decks are.

Play This If:

You dearly miss Snapcaster Mage and want to play The Iron Giant version of him. Alternately, play this if you love never tapping out, answering each threat one by one, and defeating the opponent in a long, interactive game.


Aggro

Red-White Vehicles

There are many different ways to build Red-White Vehicles, but the basic plan of assembling fancy cars, piloting them, and attacking the opponent persists across all versions.

AndySCWilson's 5-0 Red-White Vehicles

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Gameplan:

Pressure the opponent with one-drops and Vehicles, but do so without conceding the card advantage battle (or the car advantage one). Veteran Motorist, Thraben Inspector, and Depala all help you improve your draw quality, and this deck gets to attack while still having a lot of cards to work with. That's a powerful feature for an aggro deck, and one that's fairly unique to this Standard.

Why It Works:

The card pool available gives this deck the tools to sufficiently pressure the opponent without losing card advantage. All the ways to scry and draw extra cards combines with a powerful suite of one-drops to make a resilient and powerful deck. In particular, the synergies between Vehicles, artifacts, and their enablers make this deck a force to be reckoned with.

Play This If:

You like to live fast and want your opponents to die young. This deck is a great deck for the aggro player that is jealous of how many cards control draws, and is one of the decks that rewards good resource management the most. Plus, cars. Vroom.

Black-Red Aggro

If you are looking for something a little more aggressive than red-white, look no further. Black-Red Aggro is a madness-based beatdown deck that spends a lot of time with no cards in hand, showing that card advantage isn't everything.

joaoclaudioms's 5-0 Black-Red Aggro

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Gameplan:

Pressure the opponent while taking advantage of madness synergies to get discounts on both threats and removal. This might be the best Smuggler's Copter deck in the format, which is a real accolade.

Why It Works:

Bloodhall Priest is one of the most powerful cards in the format when used correctly, and Bomat Courier combines wonderfully with it. This deck also has access to Fiery Temper and Lightning Axe, giving it the best aggro removal tools possible because it's paid the price to be able to use them.

Play This If:

You like putting cards from your hand into your graveyard at an extremely fast clip and having the opponent follow suit. This is the most aggressive deck and plays much more similarly to aggressive decks from formats past, so if you liked Mono-Red or any of the previous Vampires decks, this is the deck for you.


Combo

Aetherworks Marvel

Standard doesn't usually have a combo deck, so it's very cool that I get to include this category. Aetherworks Marvel lets you cheat on mana, with the goal of getting to six energy and powering out something huge.

Sologo_cn's 5-0 Aetherworks Marvel

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Gameplan:

The most popular Marvel list on MTGO right now is a little different from the ones we saw at the Pro Tour. The deck is a Red-Green Ramp deck that uses Marvel to summon Emrakul while also playing to the board with Ishkanah, Planeswalkers, and various energy cards. Unlike the previous Ulamog versions, this deck often needs to activate Marvel multiple times to win, but is constructed such that it is able to do so.

Why It Works:

This deck doesn't pay a huge opportunity cost to play Marvel—it has Woodweaver's Puzzleknot and a lot of Emrakuls, but past that it's got plenty of "normal" cards. It can easily play a planeswalker, removal, Ishkanah game with the Aetherworks Marvel part of the deck used to go over the top in any long game.

Play This If:

You want more turn four Emrakuls in your life. This is a great way to fulfill your combo urges in Standard, which I once again have to stress is not always an option. Get it while you can!

What Should You Play?

As always, play the deck that speaks to you most. I've only included a sample of what's available, and if nothing here strikes your fancy, there are plenty of decks out there. Having solid options among midrange, aggro, control, and combo is already a good start, and I'm sure you can find a deck that plays the way you want to play Magic.

Enjoy!

LSV


Standard Showdown is four-week event celebrating all that is Standard, with local tournaments, cool prizes, and opportunities for bragging rights and brewing.

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