Standard Takes Shape

Posted in Top Decks on November 1, 2012

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

Hello and welcome to another edition of Perilous Research here on The new Standard format is beginning to take shape and Magic Online gives us a bird's-eye view of all the action. Most decklists are still pretty unique, but the first dominant archetypes of the format are beginning to take shape.

Last week, midrange black-red-green decks seemed to be emerging as the dominant archetype in the new Standard. These Jund decks have continued to enjoy success, but aggressive green-white decks and black-green-white decks built around Unburial Rites have proven themselves to be just as deadly in the new Standard format.

Magic Online gives us an advanced look at the metagame that's only available thanks to the incredible sample size of data we have available thanks to everyone battling online. Let's take a look at the archetype breakdown of 4–0 decks in Standard Daily Events that occurred October 27–October 29.

Midrange Jund decks have established themselves as the archetype to beat. It's often dangerous when a deck like this enjoys a lot of success early in a format—this deck doesn't really have a lot of weaknesses. It certainly has a lot of less-than-stellar matchups, but nothing is unbeatable when you're playing powerful creatures, good removal, and tons of card advantage. Let's take a look at one of the recent 4–0 lists:

DokFaust's Black-Red-Green Midrange

Download Arena Decklist

This deck seems like a nightmare to play against. The newest midrange Jund decks use their early turns casting ramp and efficient spot-removals spells. Once the Jund deck has enough land it just starts to churn out an endless stream of hard-to-deal-with threats that can end the game entirely by themselves. Huntmaster of the Fells is great at stabilizing the game all by itself. Vraska the Unseen is very dangerous—it is usually played to destroy a permanent, and, thanks to the deck's amazing board presence, it usually gets to destroy another permanent while the opponent struggles to establish some kind of board presence of his or he own. Rakdos's Return is usually played on the turn where you have enough mana to make the opponent discard his or her entire hand. The midrange Jund deck can cast all of its cards without a care in the world once the opponent has no cards in hand. This is probably going to be one of the best Standard decks for quite a while and is definitely a good choice if you're trying to decide which Standard deck you want to build for the new season.

Vraska the Unseen

Aggressive green-white decks were beginning to make a splash last week. This week, the archetype has proven itself to be one of the best strategies in the new Standard format. Let's take a look at what I believe is the best 4–0 green-white deck from last weekend's daily events:

FilipeCosta's Green-White Aggro

Download Arena Decklist

The newest green-white decks are brutally aggressive. The successful green-white decks are looking more and more like this list. Silverblade Paladin is the real MVP of this deck; the card lets the deck have the most explosive draws available in the format. Additionally, cards like Rancor, Revenge of the Hunted, and Selesnya Charm all become significantly more powerful when you have such easy access to Double Strike. Opponents will be forced to use removal spells when they're behind instead of attempting to get back into a game with something like Huntmaster of the Fells or Centaur Healer. The game can just end out of nowhere when the green-white deck is lucky enough to have a tapped-out opponent. Selesnya Charm is finally a four-of in a mainstream Standard deck, and it comes as no surprise. The uncommon Selesnya instant is one of the best cards from Return to Ravnica and I believe it will become a staple in Standard for the entirety of its legality. The options offered by Selesnya Charm are all pretty incredible: It gives the deck a reasonable way to kill Wolfir Silverheart, the pump mode is actually very strong in the current Standard, and the instant-speed creature can link up with Silverblade Paladin when an opponent tries to make a big play by destroying the soulbonded creature to get a good block. This is the type of deck that 2010 Jacob Van Lunen would have been very excited to play.

Silverblade Paladin
Revenge of the Hunted

But 2012 Jacob Van Lunen has different tastes. These days, I'd much rather flashback an Unburial Rites than miracle a Revenge of the Hunted. Unburial Rites decks were second only to Jund Midrange last week, and they seem to have been successful in spite of the large amount of hate we've been seeing in sideboards. I'd like to look at a really interesting take on black-green-white Unburial Rites:

SlimHeavens's Black-Green-White Unburial Rites

Download Arena Decklist

SlimHeavens really broke the mold with this Unburial Rites deck. Angel of Serenity has become the go-to threat for Unburial Rites decks in this format. SlimHeavens still has Angel of Serenity, but I'm much more interested in the inclusion of Craterhoof Behemoth. The deck plays a lot of creatures and four copies of Lingering Souls. It doesn't take much of a board presence to kill someone with Craterhoof Behemoth. Think about it: if you have as little as three Spirit tokens in play and cast Craterhoof Behemoth, you're attacking for much more than 20 trampling damage. I expected Craterhoof Behemoth to be a huge factor in the new Standard, but this decklist is the first I've seen of it in the 4–0 bracket since the Return to Ravnica release. I'm sure this isn't the last we've seen of Craterhoof Behemoth and I feel like the card's power level will be directly linked to the amount of Electrickery we see in the coming weeks.

Craterhoof Behemoth

Despite what seems like an insurmountable number of Thragtusks in Standard, some Red players have managed to enjoy success with the most loved and most hated archetype in the history of the game:

Vagoster's Mono-Red

Download Arena Decklist

Vagoster's Mono-Red deck is extremely focused on reducing the opponent's life total from 20 to 0 as fast as possible. There are a lot of lessons to learn from this list. One copy of Thunderous Wrath is pretty nice. It's pretty bad in your opening hand, but the card increases in power as the game progresses and a single copy greatly reduces the chance that you'll end up with one stuck in your hand. Hellrider is another important cog in the newest Mono-Red engine. Hellrider has some nice synergy with Mogg Flunkies, and it's usually good enough to get the opponent into burn range or finish him or her off entirely.

Thunderous Wrath

Red-white-blue decks are in an interesting place right now. Many lists would look similar to each other if you looked at most of the lists as a full seventy-five cards. However, the choice of main deck inclusions couldn't be more diverse given the available card pool. I'd like to take a look at ATOMsoukatsu's red-white-blue deck:

ATOMsoukatsu's Red-White-Blue

Download Arena Decklist

This may not seem like a tempo deck, but it plays the tempo game better than any other deck in the new Standard. This deck takes better advantage of Geist of Saint Traft than all the other decks in the current Standard format. Opponents get punished for leaving back blockers. Feeling of Dread may seem like an odd choice, but it's extremely difficult to race an opponent with Geist of Saint Traft and/or Thundermaw Hellkite when he or she has access to a card as swingy as Feeling of Dread.

Geist of Saint Traft
Feeling of Dread

The last deck I'd like to look at is Bant Control. This deck seems to be the favorite among Standard eight-person grinders on Magic Online and that's usually a pretty good sign that it's poised for a hostile takeover of the format:

pyromaniac4290's Bant Control

Download Arena Decklist

This deck is well-positioned in the current Standard. The deck plays a lot of Planeswalkers, cheap removal, some efficiently costed creatures, and Wrath of God effects. Perhaps the most impressive part of this deck is its ability to lock up a game as early as the fifth turn. Usually, there's some combination of plays that can be made for the aggro deck to punch through the last 2 points of damage. This deck has no such holes; it locks up the ground with incredible efficiency and eventually takes the game over with its Planeswalkers.

Wrath of God
Garruk, Primal Hunter

Hopefully this column gave you a solid understanding of the new Standard format. Be sure to tune in next week for a recap of the first few weeks of Return to Ravnica Limited on Magic Online. Join me for an in-depth look at the guild archetypes and a discussion on drafting three, four, or five colors.

Knowledge is power!

Latest Top Decks Articles


August 2, 2018

Team Trios Constructed at the Pro Tour – Modern and Legacy by, Simon Görtzen

Pro Tour 25th Anniversary Coverage Begins Today! Tune in to for four days of Pro Tour coverage celebrating Magic's 25th Anniversary, beginning TODAY (August 2) at 2 p.m. ...

Learn More


July 31, 2018

Team Trios Constructed at the Pro Tour – Standard by, Simon Görtzen

Tomorrow, I'll board a plane to Minneapolis, Minnesota, to cover Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. On Thursday, August 2, the $150,000 Silver Showcase kicks off the action with a once-in-a-lifet...

Learn More



Top Decks Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All