The 10 Best Decks in Standard

Feature Article from Seth Manfield
Seth Manfield
8/16/2017 11:02:00 AM
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It seems like for the past month or two I have been playing Standard nonstop. While I chose to play Ramunap Red at the Pro Tour and was successful in doing so, I have played just about every possible deck in the format at this point. It has been a while since I have made a list featuring the 10 best decks in Standard, mostly because there haven't been 10 good decks worth talking about! Before Hour of Devastation, we were in a Standard format with about five solid decks. That has certainly changed, and the format right now is a breath of fresh air.

#10 Red-Green Pummeler

The Red-Green Pummeler deck has fallen out of favor a little bit, which can likely be explained by the fact that Temur Energy is a pretty similar energy-based deck. However, this deck has Electrostatic Pummeler, and that card can be bonkers alongside of a pump effect. The main way to beat this deck is killing all the threats, especially the Electrostatic Pummeler.

There are only 20 creatures and you need to have at least one in play in order to win. This is why Bristling Hydra is very important, since removal-heavy decks will have trouble getting it off the battlefield. Fling and Invigorated Rampage provide a way to win at a moment's notice, while another two-drop some versions use of is Voltaic Brawler to up the threat count.

#9 Graveyard Decks (White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift and Sultai Reanimator)

There are two graveyard decks in the format, one based around God-Pharaoh's Gift and the other reanimating creatures. These decks are powerful, and the reason why players have cards like Scavenger Grounds and Crook of Condemnation in sideboards.

Both decks have trouble with discard spells like Transgress the Mind breaking up their combo. White-Blue God-Pharaoh's Gift is vulnerable to Abrade, but is also a little more consistent than Sultai Reanimator in my experience. These are decks that you can't sleep on.

#8 White-Blue Approach

Within the past week or two, White-Blue Approach has gained enough popularity to be considered a real contender. This deck has real game against the very best decks in the format. There are not many decks that have Fumigate in them, and that card is great at the moment. This deck draws a ton of cards so it can find the Approach of the Second Sun, but it runs into problems is when the opponent has countermagic or discard to interact with this win condition.

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Most players are playing lists very similar to this one of Dan Ward's, who really put the deck on the map at Grand Prix Minneapolis. The Authority of the Consuls in the sideboard signals that Ramunap Red is a problem matchup, and there needs to be some way to try to help after sideboard. Authority of the Consuls is probably the best sideboard card in the format against Ramunap Red, but sometimes it still isn't enough. Luckily there is some life gain in the main deck as well in the form of Blessed Alliance.

#7 Blue-Red Control

Another control deck! Blue-Red Control is a deck many players including myself had high hopes for, considering additions such as Abrade and Hour of Devastation to the deck. However, the Ramunap Red matchup is a real problem and that is ultimately why the deck isn't sitting higher on this list. Blue-Red Control does especially well against combo decks because it can counter the important cards, and win pretty easily from there.

This particular list has a couple of Dynavolt Tower, which is a bit unusual. I like having some three-mana sweepers, though generally I prefer Sweltering Suns to Kozilek's Return. Kozilek's Return is nice because it is an instant, and this deck does want to operate at instant speed as much as possible. However, that extra point of toughness against Zombies can be very important when trying to Sweep Away a Lord of the Accursed.

#6 Mardu Vehicles

This deck has been watching other decks improve while efficient artifact removal like Abrade enters the format. While Mardu Vehicles is still a solid aggressive option as players are cutting down on Abrade, it isn't nearly the powerhouse it used to be. There are certainly players, though, who have been playing Mardu Vehicles for the past year, and will not be giving the deck up until the next Standard rotation.

There was a time where there was a debate whether Glorybringer or Archangel Avacyn was the better five-drop in Mardu Vehicles, but I do think it is Archangel Avacyn, especially when playing Walking Ballista. Pia Nalaar and Aethersphere Harvester work nicely together, as creating two bodies from Pia Nalaar that can then crew Aethersphere Harvester is really nice. The major change Mardu Vehicles is undergoing is the number of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is dwindling.

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Gideon, Ally of Zendikar was considered the best card in Standard and the reason Mardu Vehicles was so good. However, against Ramunap Red sometimes it is easy to take the planeswalker off the board immediately. Still, if I'm playing Mardu Vehicles, Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is still a draw to playing the deck, and I wouldn't recommend playing less than three copies main deck.

#5 Red-Green Ramp

It's a pretty big leap from here to the top four decks, but Red-Green Ramp is plenty playable. It didn't have a strong showing at Pro Tour Hour of Devastation because of its poor Ramunap Red matchup, but the deck has been creeping back into the format. This is the deck to play if you want to play a ton of sweepers, plus it has a very powerful top end.

Ramp has been gaining more popularity as it generally has good matchups against midrange creature based strategies like Black-Green Constrictor and Zombies. However, like most Ramp decks, the deck is inconsistent. A missed land drop or not having the right ramp spell can mean the end of the game. Sometimes this deck isn't able to play Magic, but hey it looks great when casting Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger.

#4 Temur Energy

While there are combo and control decks in the format, creature decks are certainly the top dogs. Temur Energy hasn't gotten a lot of press lately, but it is still putting up big results. The deck is all over Magic Online, and has all the tools to fight creature-on-creature fights. After board, cards like Negate are very important depending on the matchup.

Most lists of Temur Energy are playing four copies of Whirler Virtuoso as it is really strong against Ramunap Red, and pretty much any creature that makes energy has some value here. It is easy to steal a game with a turn two Longtusk Cub and then ride it to victory. However, this deck has a pretty big top end with Glorybringer and Bristling Hydra. There is even one Elder Deep-Fiend here, which is a card that can be amazing against any Ramp deck. We are seeing most midrange decks play Skysovereign, Consul Flagship in the sideboard because of how hard it is to kill, and it can singlehandedly win a game.

#3 Black-Green Constrictor

There are a few different black-green builds. I'm not including the more delirium or energy-based versions, as they have been falling out of favor. At Grand Prix Minneapolis, I was one of three players on the Oath of Nissa, Catacomb Sifter build of Black-Green Constrictor, and of course Brad and Corey did significantly better than I did!

Decks like this are why Ramunap Red is no longer the top deck in the format. This deck has a ton of early drops, and cards like Catacomb Sifter and Walking Ballista prey on one-toughness threats. Catacomb Sifter in particular is very good because it makes two bodies, and that helps against cards that prevent blocking, as you can usually at least block with the Eldrazi Scion. I have liked the versatility Oath of Nissa provides, and in a deck like this it is better than Traverse the Ulvenwald.

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The sideboard is geared towards beating some of the more difficult matchups. Zombies isn't easy game one, but after sideboard cards like Yahenni's Expertise and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship can be backbreaking. Transgress the Mind is also a sideboard card we are seeing universally played in black decks, as the card is great against any fringe combo strategies or opposing sweepers like Fumigate.

#2 Ramunap Red

Mono-colored decks are extremely strong right now, thanks to being able to play Deserts and the fact that the Standard card pool is so large, you have plenty of cards to choose from even when playing only a single color. Ramunap Red doesn't have any terrible matchups, but one of the downsides to the deck is it is very reliant on hitting its land drops on time. Some games come down to whether you have that land on time to cast your Hazoret the Fervent. The four-drops are so powerful that they can make or break a game.

This is a pretty typical list at the moment, as many players have started to play three Soul-Scar Mage. I'm happy to see very few Village Messengers around. Shaving Abrades from the main deck is dangerous if Mardu Vehicles is popular, though it's true that deck has fallen off a little bit. The plan of going bigger after sideboard is still extremely important. Most Ramunap Red decks will have at least three Chandra, Torch of Defiance and some amount of five-mana creatures in most matchups. I'm a bit surprised not to see any Glorybringers in this list since it's a mistake to not play that card.

#1: Mono-Black Zombies

This one is actually hard for me to admit, as I believed at the start of this Standard format that Ramunap Red was the clear best deck. However, Zombies has been putting up very impressive results lately, and I believe that it is the current deck to beat. The deck also won the last Standard Grand Prix in the hands of Steve Locke – and he even went undefeated in doing so.

Locke isn't doing anything revolutionary here; his list is pretty typical. There are only a couple slots that are really up for grabs, and they are the one Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet in the main deck, along with a mix of threats to play in the sideboard. Zombies has mostly good matchups against the top decks, though it still struggles against some of the more unusual combo decks in the format. Zombies would much rather play against a creature deck like Black-Green Constrictor rather than something like White-Blue Approach of the Second Sun.

Thanks for reading,

Seth Manfield




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