We saw a variety of Standard decks in Indianapolis, and while the usual suspects — Dark Jeskai, Abzan, Atarka Red, Esper — were all present, they were far from the only decks to find success. Here's some of the cards that carved out their spot among Standard's best this weekend.
5. Sanctum of Ugin
Rarely does a colorless land look this good. An overlooked card for Standard when it was first released, Ugin's sanctuary is one of the key cogs of the Eldrazi ramp decks that have begun to sprout up in Standard. Josh McClain — who found some success with Green-White Eldrazi this weekend — said the deck would be unplayable without the Battle for Zendikar land.
It may not look like much on its face, but Sanctum represents a threat that also happens to tap for mana. It doesn't much matter if you counter the first Ugin or Void Winnower, because Sanctum guarantees that another will always be on the way. Add in the fact it can be searched out with Sylvan Scrying, and you have a land that is sure to be a staple of ramp decks for the foreseeable future.
4. Hardened Scales
Ever since Hardened Scales showed up at the Pro Tour, people have been trying to use this powerful card to good effect. Top 8 competitor and Day-1-undefeated player David Phelps did just that, and beat pro after pro on his way to the final rounds.
For starters, a first-turn Scales makes a second-turn Hangarback Walker a 2/2 — then a 4/4, 6/6, ad infinitum. But it gets crazier when you start thinking about Den Protector being 4/3 and more unblockable; and if you also have a Servant of the Scales, the den mother can have 7 or even 8 power — only blockable by Eldrazi.
Hardened Scales works so well with things your deck wants to do anyway, it's surprising it's only now broken through to the Top 8. No doubt this won't be the last time.
3. Secure the Wastes
Because of Secure the Wastes, “we are the best Gideon deck” were the words finalist Ray Perez, Jr. said during his deck tech. The Esper Tokens list, innovated by Fabrizio Anteri at the MOCS, is built to profit off the powerful white instant.
In the quarterfinals, Perez used an end-of-turn Secure, combined with a Sorin, Solemn Visitor +1 to knock Pro Tour Hall of Fame member Patrick Chapin out of the tournament. And it wasn't the first time; Perez had been doing this all weekend. In fact, he said one of the deck's strongest points is to combo Secure the Wastes with either Sorin or Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
Secure can surprisingly kill an attacker, can surprisingly even your board, or even surprisingly kill you opponent. In the early game, mid game, or late game, Secure the Wastes can do work.
Exile effects are all the rage in Standard these days, and Silkwrap is one of the best of the bunch. With the prevalence of Den Protector, Ojutai's Command and especially Hangarback Walker, exile effects have never been more necessary. What Silkwrap does is allow players to undo turns of work put into a Hangarback Walker all for the low cost of two mana, not to mention exiling Jace before the dual commands of Ojutai and Kolaghan can try to return it. The fact it takes care of Wingmate Roc tokens is just icing on the silkwrapped cake.
1. Den Protector
No matter how fast you are, sometimes you get on the grind. We've seen this card in grindy decks since Den Protector was a thing—Megamorph, Abzan, what-have you. And it did all that just fine all weekend. But it was the inclusion in Scott Kirkwood's Red-Green Landfall deck that showcased an even more explosive power out of Den Protector.
Playing for the Top 8 and in need of a big turn, Kirkwood cast Titan's Strength on his morph and then attacked with it. Before damage, he flipped his Den Protector face-up to get back Titan's Strength and replay it, getting in for even more damage.
And while those explosive scenarios are fun, sometimes it's fine to simply play the Den Protector as a 2/1. That's what Grand Prix champion Brent Clawson did in the finals, playing consecutive Den Protectors just to build an early board against runner-up Ray Perez, Jr. It may not have been the typical use of Den Protector, but the consistent pressure was enough to sent Clawson to the title in Indianapolis and show off the versatility of Den Protector at the same time.