What to Play in Standard

Posted in Top Decks on December 14, 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).

Standard is moving quickly, and the top decks from last week have changed. One of the most interesting things about Standard is how the metagame evolves week to week, with the Pro Tour being the jumping off point. The decks that are on top right now are a combination of familiar faces, new additions, and tuned versions of decks that have been around for a while.

Let's start with what I believe is the current best deck and the deck to beat.

Red-Green Marvel

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For completeness' sake, there is also a Temur version of the Marvel deck that uses Whirler Virtuoso as a way to stall the board:

Temur Marvel

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Game Plan: Play a midrange value game, accumulating energy while you do so. Once you find Aetherworks Marvel, spin the wheel in search of a giant Eldrazi. Even if you miss, hitting almost anything will buy you the time and energy you need to spin again.

Building a Marvel

The development of Aetherworks Marvel is an interesting one. It was a full 20% of the field at Pro Tour Kaladesh, but didn't actually dominate at the Pro Tour. It played cards like Glassblower's Puzzleknot and Contingency Plan and was completely focused on the combo. It even ran the full eight Eldrazi, meaning the deck was stuffed with cards that were practically uncastable.

Matt Nass's Temur Marvel

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Despite the name, this doesn't have a good backup plan.
Despite the name, this doesn't have a good backup plan.

The original Marvel deck couldn't win a fair game and was designed to only play unfair ones. That's all well and good when the opponent can't disrupt you, but unfortunately for most Marvel pilots at the Pro Tour, there was disruption aplenty. White-Blue Flash dominated the Standard rounds, and a big part of why Marvel didn't perform well was because it lined up so poorly against Spell Queller and friends.

Coming out of the Pro Tour, most people had written off Marvel, and it appeared we were heading towards a White-Blue Flash versus Black-Green Delirium metagame. After recent Grand Prix results, we can safely conclude that we are not headed in that direction at all.

Six Red-Green Marvel decks showed up between the Top 8s of Madrid and Denver, and even took down Madrid (losing in the finals in Denver). The recent iteration of Marvel solved many of the previous problems, leaving the deck as a robust ramp deck with a great high end.

The new Marvel deck is capable of winning long games thanks to Ishkanah, Grafwidow; Chandra; and hard-cast Emrakul, the Promised End, while still being competitive in short games thanks to Harnessed Lightning and Servant of the Conduit. All the while, Marvel itself is a card that can win the game very easily, making the deck dangerous at all points.

Why Is This Deck Great?

This Marvel deck is hard to disrupt, hard to outrace, and definitely what I'd be looking to play moving forward. It utilizes Chandra and Ishkanah better than any other deck, is very capable of casting Emrakul if the game drags out, and has a wildcard in Aetherworks Marvel. All that adds up to a very powerful and dangerous deck, one that I can wholeheartedly recommend.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Mardu Vehicles. If you can't go over the top of Aetherworks Marvel (and you can't), going under is a valid strategy, and Vehicles is poised to do just that.

Mardu Vehicles

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Game Plan: Pressure the opponent with one-drops and Smuggler's Copter. Finish things with recurring threats like Scrapheap Scrounger, clearing the path with Unlicensed Disintegration and Harnessed Lightning.

Getting Up to Speed

There have been many iterations of the Vehicles deck, and I currently have Mardu leading the pack. You easily splash blue for Ceremonious Rejection, as Grand Prix Denver Champion Matt Severa did, but I'd still classify that as Mardu Vehicles.

Mardu has pulled ahead of other Vehicles lists thanks to the power of Unlicensed Disintegration and Scrapheap Scrounger. Powerful removal and a recursive threat are worth some mana base sacrifices, and thanks to Aether Hub and Concealed Courtyard, those sacrifices aren't very large. Cultivator's Caravan even helps out, and overall this deck doesn't have as many problems casting its spells as you might assume.

The core of Vehicles remains similar across the various builds, but the reason I advocate this particular list is that maxing out on one-drops is critical to get to the right speed, and because Thalia, Heretic Cathar is critical at fighting Ishkanah.

Why Is This Deck Great?

Vehicles offers a consistent draw and a fast clock, both of which can serve you well. If the opponent doesn't have an early removal spell, this deck can easily run them over before they get their game plan going, and all that without sacrificing the late game. Thanks to Smuggler's Copter and Veteran Motorist, this deck rarely runs out of gas, and Scrapheap Scrounger and Gideon offer threats that are very hard to deal with. This is just the right mix of speed and power, and is one of the better choices right now as a result.

What About Black-Green and White-Blue?

These decks are certainly still playable, but I wouldn't look to play them over the decks I just talked about (or the Panharmonicon deck, which is a sweet deck itself). Black-green has never been well-positioned against Marvel, which I expect to be the most popular deck, and recently, white-blue hasn't felt great against Marvel either. The transition of Marvel into a midrange deck full of Chandras, Ishkanah, and Harnessed Lightnings has turned what used to be an easy matchup for white-blue into one that I think actually favors Marvel.

As a result, I'd steer you more toward picking up Marvels yourself or piloting some Vehicles this weekend. There are plenty of great decks, but these look like good choices right now, and they give you the option of midrange ramp or aggression, which is a pretty wide range.

Whatever you choose, make sure it's a deck you enjoy, and make sure you have enough practice with it to pilot it like a true veteran (or at the very least an apprentice).


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