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By: Sabi0, Kyle Lewis
Oct 16 2018 12:00pm

 Hello again readers. Week one of new Standard is now in the books. As expected, the guilds of Ravnica were out in force this weekend. In this article we’ll take a look at the most prominent strategies for each guild and which cards you can expect to see in the coming weeks.

Live at the Convocation Center:



March of the Multitudes was easily one of the most exciting cards to emerge from Guilds’ spoiler season. March is everything you could want in a token making spell: it’s instant speed, reasonably costed, the tokens have lifelink, and most importantly it has convoke. The power of a token making X spell with convoke can’t be overstated. A common problem with X spells is you typically want to tap out for them, so extra copies can end up stuck in your hand. With March, this vulnerability turns into a strength, as convoke allows you to chain copies together. The constant threat of a huge surge of creatures is very difficult to play against for controlling and aggressive decks alike. The biggest boon for players interested in giving this deck a try is we already have a list from the G/W master himself, Todd Stevens. This is what Todd played to a second place finish at the SCG Open in Columbus:


There isn’t much in Todd’s list to raise eyebrows. What we have instead is a very tight list of individually powerful and synergistic green and white spells. The go wide plan is out in full force with multiple copies of Emmara, Soul of the Accord and Trostani Discordant to compliment the March of Multitudes / History of Benalia plan. History is shaping up to be one of the defining cards of this Standard format. Demand for the card has surged and it’s finding play everywhere from aggressive and midrange white decks to the sideboard of Teferi decks. I also like that Todd padded out his curve with some of the strongest creatures available at spots where he would otherwise be light on options. Thorn Lieutenant is a potent and resilient early threat with late game applications, and little needs to be said about what happens when Lyra Dawnbringer hits the table. Flower/Flourish has been touted as one of the set’s strongest split cards. I like having access to something to smooth out your mana, and getting the option to cast it as a mini Overrun later seals the deal for me.   

People may be surprised to see Saproling Migration at the constructed tables, but the card turns out to be just what this token deck is looking for. Migration rounds out the decks two drop slot while also offering a respectable spell in the later turns. Migration also combos really well with one of the other sleeper hits of Guilds, Venerated Loxodon. Loxodon provides a lot of power and toughness for a very low cost. There will be times when casting a Venerated Loxodon will add 8 power to the board for only one white mana, which is insane. Even the absolute basement on this card as a 4/4 guy isn’t the end of the world. It turns out this loxodon deserves all the veneration it receives.  

The sideboard is about what you would expect. There’s lots of removal for the aggro decks, allowing Todd to add sweepers and play a big threat midrange game. I love the triple Vivien Reid in the sideboard. Vivien is a powerful card advantage engine on +1, a potent removal spell on -3 (hitting many of the formats best targets: Lyra, Niv Mizzet, Nicol Bolas), and a solid game ending threat with her ultimate. One might be surprised at just how many sweepers Todd has in his token deck, but against the aggressive red decks of the format, this is a good plan. Sweeping the board then playing one of your stand alone threats: Trostani, Lyra, Vivien, etc. will often be good enough to run away with the game. The sideboard plan highlights the deck’s core strength: a synergistic plan-A backed up by cards that can win single handedly.

Trophy Mages:


The weekend’s PTQ was taken down by MTGO mainstay Yamakiller running this green black deck:

This list is starting to crop up everywhere and will probably be sticking around for a while. Taking advantage of almost every good value creature in its colors along with a healthy dose of recursion, removal, and planeswalkers, this deck can generate a nearly endless amount of board pressure. Chaining explore creatures together smooths out the Golgari players draws, allowing for an above par mix of lands and spells. Plaguecrafter and Ravenous Chupacabra keep the best opposing threats off table, and can be bought back with The Eldest Reborn and Golgari Findbroker. Findbroker is really what makes this deck tick. For one thing, it’s able to hit every card in the deck save for Assassin's Trophy and Cast Down. After dumping cards into your yard with explore, or simply letting the game play out, Findbroker starts to resemble a Diabolic Tutor with legs. Having the option to get back explore triggers, removal, or a planeswalker, allows this deck to be adaptable while applying pressure. Perhaps the grossest part of this build is the synergy between Findbroker and Eldest Reborn. With this combo in place, you can use Eldest Reborn to recur a Findbroker and use the Findbroker trigger to buyback Eldest Reborn. Any deck hoping to play the card advantage game against Golgari will need to either disrupt this loop or be crushed by it. I like that Yamakiller’s deck didn’t play some of the weaker cards like Wildgrowth Walker or Seekers' Squire found in some of the other lists, instead opting for the raw power of the format’s best removal and a bunch of planeswalkers. I also like the inclusion of Llanowar Elves, which people have initially shied away from; I expect to see more of the OG elves as the season goes on.

In the sideboard you see the usual suspects: cheap removal, Duress, life gain, some sweepers. I like that Yamakiller didn’t bother with sweepers that hit his own cards, but I wonder if G/W won’t force decks like this to adapt things like Ritual of Soot. I’ll also mention Arguel's Blood Fast if only to restate how much of a beating it is for Teferi decks. I think any black deck should stick with two in the board for the foreseeable future, just to have a chance at scoring some free wins against control.


Red Deck (Still) Wins or Angels in the Midfield:


I count myself among those who expected to see Boros aggro decks swarming the top-8 reports of this weekend's events. As it turns out, the aggro decks of our brave new format still wanted to be mono red. We are again fortunate to get a top-4 Starcity list from Max McVety, a seasoned red player who also happens to be one of the best players on the tour for the past few years. Here’s Max’s list.

Max only opted to run three new cards in the main, but they are some of the most talked about cards of the set. Risk Factor was largely derided in the days leading up to Guild’s release. At my LGS, multiple players joked about having the chance to put Browbeat in their Standard deck. While ‘punisher mechanic’ cards are very often bad, in it’s day Browbeat was actually quite good. People rolled their eyes when I said this, but the card boasts two PT top-8s: one block and one Standard; the card was a four of in both decks. After carrying red mages to victory in limited and constructed Risk Factor seems to finally be getting the Browbeat family of products the respect they deserve. It turns out that taking 4-8 damage or letting your opponent draw 3-6 cards is actually pretty good, who knew? 

Runaway Steam-Kin was pegged as very strong by several notable players before release and, along with Chainwhirler, is probably why so many players decided to stay mono red. A two drop that can become a 4/4 within one or two turns is something burn is very much about. The fact that you can cash those counters in for extra mana if you need to is just icing on an already delicious cake.

Speaking of synergies, Experimental Frenzy aka the red Future Sight gives the deck some additional reach. Being able to go off with this and Runaway Steam-Kin sounds disgusting and is probably part of the reason Max opted for 3 total in his 75. I still have some reservations about this card. It’s not without its risk of awkward card sequences, it’s a nombo with Risk Factor, and it’s only really good after you dump your hand. The positives on this card, however seem great, I’m sure we’ll know within the next few weeks how to best optimize the numbers in a similar shell.

On the other side of the spectrum, we have Boros Angels. Brian Cooper used the deck to take down Sunday’s SCG Classic. You may not recognize the name, but Brian’s been playing Magic since Alpha and put up a deep run at GP Indy in 2016. I do have to mention that in both his Grand Prix deck and this deck he played a 61 cards, which goes against all my principles as a human being and causes me feelings of mild nausea. Regardless, here’s his list:

There isn’t a ton of subtly to this deck, but that’s really not what week one Standard is about. What it does have is powerful cards and you have to respect that. Resplendent Angel has been underplayed and this list does everything to make that card shine. I appreciate both the Lyra synergies and the ability to pop off a Deafening Clarion to trigger an angel token. Brian is right and smart for bringing this deck week one; if no one really knows what they’re doing, jamming History of Benalia and Baneslayer Angel is exactly where I’d like to be. That said, the build is far from perfect. The curve is kind of clunky, there’s nothing to smooth out your mana or your draws, the sideboard is largely unattractive, and once a deck like this gets behind it’s hard to come back. Decks like this usually don’t last deep into Standard formats, and I’ll be surprised if this one stays tier-1 for any serious length of time. If you need to win an event tomorrow, maybe give this deck a shot. Props to Brian for a great week-one call, but I wouldn’t look for this deck to carry you deep into the season.

Something Blue:


Dimir and Izzet fall into similar camps. Neither the Dimir Thoughtbound Phantasm tempo deck nor any of the Izzet spell decks managed to make waves (one Izzet Control deck did manage to  top-8 the PTQ.); however blue decks did put up serious numbers. These decks fall into three main archetypes: Jeskai Teferi, Esper Teferi, and Grixis Bolas. This list from LimitedPower 9-0ed the swiss portion of the PTQ:

In many ways, this is the Teferi plan we all know and love, but snaps to LimitedPower for doing something very bold and being rewarded for it. One of this decks win conditions is the combination of Azor's Gateway and Expansion/Explosion. This is really cool and reminiscent of control decks of old that relied on Stroke of Genius to win. A big Explosion puts your opponent in burn range and probably draws you into a second copy. You can then use the following one to end the game. You can even play around decking or mill out a control opponent by making them draw the cards. As we all know, Teferi doesn’t need any help ending the game, but having another option can be nice especially on MTGO where you do actually need to win the game in twenty-five minutes. I don’t know if Azor’s Gateway is here to stay, but it’s certainly cool. Even if Gateway ends up getting cut, Jeskai still looks like a solid Teferi plan. 

The wealth of professional lists week one is a real boon. Here’s the Esper build Jonathan Rosum played to a top-8 finish at the team open:



Rosum’s list doesn’t have any of the Jeskai deck’s cute technology (exempting Vona out of the board, which is very spicy). In fact, it looks fairly similar to the Esper decks we’ve seen for the past few months. The benefits of Watery Grave are of course very real, though Esper does have one fewer shock lands compared to Jeskai right now. The black mana rewards you with access to an excellent sweeper in Ritual of Soot along with returning favorites Moment of Craving, Vraska's Contempt, and Cast Down. Chromium, the Mutable is a good choice for an alternate win condition. It’s no Torrential Gearhulk, but it has flash and doges counters and spot removal, which is mostly what you want in a control finisher. The three control decks of the current meta are locked in a dead-heat for prominence right now, and Esper seems like as good a choice as any for the time being.

And now for something slightly different. SCG Tour mainstay Andrew Jessup delivers us his Grixis Control list staring Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.

Andrew skews much more to the UB side of things with Bolas being the only red card present in the list. Dream Eater is the next most interesting card here. Teferi has broken our brains and convinced us that control decks shouldn’t play cards that win the game, but as far as control creatures go, Dream Eater looks great. Eating an attacker, bouncing something and stacking your deck before going on to clock your opponent is certainly something I’m interested in. I have a tough time swallowing the idea that a Standard control deck doesn’t just want to be a Teferi deck, and Nullhide Ferox seems like a bit of a nightmare, but I’m looking forward to seeing if this deck has the chops to take down the current king of control.


Parting Thoughts or “You Skipped ‘Something Borrowed’”:

Standard is still very much in it’s developing phases and will be at least another week or so. In the meantime we have several interesting contenders that make it hard to go wrong, at least for the immediate future. Until next time readers, good luck out there.