The Coolest New Decks in Standard
Seth Manfield won Pro Tour Ixalan with Sultai Energy, a deck that seemed to break the metagame during the first weekend of post-rotation Standard at SCG Dallas, but then quickly faded away from the spotlight. Seth realized that the time was right to bring it back, and it paid off. Many of the best Temur players in the room played the well-known four-color variant with The Scarab God to gain an edge in the mirror, but went further into black with Vraska, the Relic Seeker and even Fatal Push to gain more ways to dominate other Temur decks. The stretched mana of this deck is still very good but not perfect – or at least not as consistent as Temur's – and it surely cost some players games due not finding all of their colors on time. Furthermore, to make room for these expensive threats, players trimmed down on Glorybringer. With the most powerful red card being trimmed from the deck, why not just go full-circle and play Sultai and do away with the red entirely? It's a decision that paid off for Seth.
An alternative approach is to entirely cut blue from Temur and embrace the Jund life, one of several new decks to pop up in Standard recently
Giving up Rogue Refiner and Whirler Virtuoso is troubling, and it seems like a Jund deck cutting its two best sources of card advantage is moving in the wrong direction, but the deck does get to play a set of Glint-Sleeve Siphoner as its own Dark Confidant, which with menace and at the cost of less life is just better than the original in this energy deck.
To help make up for some of the lost card advantage, the deck also includes a pair of Live Fast, which is some down and dirty two-for-one card advantage at the cost of two life, like Night's Whisper, but with the upside of a pair of Energy attached, which could enable another activation from Glint-Sleeve Siphoner or pump a turn-two Longtusk Cub on-curve. Attune with Aether shows that a pair of Energy is worth paying a mana for, so Life Fast might not be as bad a deal as previously thought.
Seth's Pro Tour sideboard included a pair of Die Young, which is essentially a poor man's Harnessed Lightning for players without red, but it does have the very attractive upside of being able to kill Hazoret the Fervent, which made it a perfect card to sideboard in against Ramunap Red and Mardu as an answer to their God while still being effective one-for-one removal spell against their other creatures. I hadn't seen anyone take Die Young seriously and play it in Standard before, but Seth proved it's a very real card. It's a card that Energy decks like this one should start playing, but it's also indication that we should start take a hard look at any energy cards we have available, because they may be much more playable than we ever thought now that it has become so evident that energy is the best mechanic in Standard – and even one that some argue is a broken mechanic too powerful for the game.
To fill in the three-drop slot, the deck turns to a set of Deathgorge Scavenger. The card was a three-of in Seth's winning sideboard, and it looks like one of the biggest winners from the Pro Tour metagame. It has typically been used as a hoser against Red because of its ability to gain life (and playing it main deck surely helps that matchup), but it has gained a ton of value as a graveyard hoser against God-Pharaoh's Gift decks, which will certainly see a big increase in popularity after Pascal Maynard's finals finish. These decks do not have access to much removal, so it will be hard to get Deathgorge Scavenger off the board, which makes it more difficult to use Refurbish because it threatens any copies of God-Pharaoh's Gift in the graveyard. Deathgorge Scavenger will also drain the graveyard of creatures, which makes God-Pharaoh's Gift less useful overall, and is especially good against black versions that rely on Gate to the Afterlife.
This is also a good time to point out Abrade, which this list plays two of in the main deck, is another huge winner from the Pro Tour. Abrade is one of the very best cards against God-Pharaoh's Gift because at the low cost of just two mana it destroys the namesake card after the opponent has put work into reanimating it with Refurbish or digging for it with Gate to the Afterlife. The tempo generated by Abrade can be too much for these decks to Overcome, and it's also difficult to play around, especially for the white-blue versions that lack Kitesail Freebooter to clear the way. Abrade being a main-deckable card is especially troublesome for these decks because it can wreck them in game one, so it's a card that any deck with red should be loading up their lists with this week.
Jund midrange decks are a familiar sight in Magic and relatively simple to understand, but this Jund-colored mana ramp deck is something different entirely.
Breaking it down into its various parts, this deck is built upon the mana ramp core of Gift of Paradise, Spring // Mind and Cultivator's Caravan, which accelerate the deck towards casting its expensive and powerful spells. Hour of Promise is an acceleration spell that doubles as an expensive and powerful spell in its own right. The deck gets extra mileage out of its ability to search for Deserts by including a utility toolbox including Ramunap Ruins, Hashep Oasis, Ifnir Deadlands, and Scavenger Grounds to gain additional value, and the Zombie Tokens it creates gives the deck a significant board presence to threaten control decks or block against aggressive decks.
The deck relies on its eight battlefield creatures sweepers, which go up from Sweltering Suns to Hour of Devastation all the way to Star of Extinction, to clear the opponent's plays and buy time to take over the game with its key win condition Sandwurm Convergence, which sits at the top of the curve. The deck includes another Amonkhet Sealed Deck bomb with a copy of Cruel Reality as an alternative way to lock-down and grind out the opponent, along with a copy of Torment of Hailfire to deal massive damage to an opponent out of resources and kill them in one fell swoop. The deck supports this game plan with more creature removal, including Cut // Ribbons as an efficient removal spell that doubles as an alternative win condition to kill opponents with the large amount of mana this deck accumulates, and it gives the deck a legitimate burn plan supported by Unlicensed Disintegration and Ramunap Ruins.
The deck is rounded out by some creatures, headlined by the Glorybringer that is as much a removal spell as it is a threat. The deck also brings Sifter Wurm to Constructed, and the dream of using it to dig into a Sandwurm Convergence and gaining eight life sounds awesome.
I am not sure what to make of the deck, except that it looks like someone's wild deck experiment, and it sure looks cool.
The Pro Tour coverage showed off Four-Color Tokens, which combines the Vraska, Relic Seeker of Abzan Tokens with the Champion of Wits and The Scarab God of Esper Tokens to create a powered-up deck with the best of both worlds. Evolving Wilds and Renegade Map make the mana pretty simple, I like the sideboard plan of Adorned Pounder in this list, which allows the deck to get more aggressive against control decks and weather their removal with its eternalize ability, which creates double tokens with Anointed Procession.
Last week I shared an Anointed Procession deck that used Vizier of the Anointed as a card advantage engine, and now another player has finished 5-0 with the deck in a league. This version has an additional bullet for Vizier of the Anointed in Aven Wind Guide, which is used to push tokens past blockers. I've realized that this deck absolutely needs to include at least one copy of Angel of Sanctions, which is the most powerful embalm card there is and a perfect play on curve to follow Vizier of the Anointed, where it will remove a problem permanent and buy time to start generating value from the Vizier of the Anointed card draw ability. This week there was a 5-0 tokens list without Vizier of the Anointed with four Angel of Sanctions, so this deck may even want to include a playset.
Vizier of Many Faces seems like a great addition too, and in theory could be amazing in the deck because it's great proactively for copying your own Vizier of the Anointed, which allows it to find another creature – even another copy of Vizier of Many Faces – to keep the card advantage coming.
White-Blue Cat Tokens Monument
Oketra's Monument is a great token generator and plays well with Anointed Procession, but it demands that a deck be filled with white creatures, and because the deck can't afford to play token generating spells if it wants to get value from Oketra's Monument, the creatures need to have some synergy with Anointed Procession if it is to really be worth playing. This deck finds the perfect solution in embalm and eternalize creatures, which have their token-producing abilities doubled by Anointed Procession. The best of these are Sacred Cat and Adorned Pouncer, which happen to be Cats and therefore open the door for Regal Caracal, which is amazing with Anointed Procession. It's the perfect way to tie the various parts of this deck together, and it because it generates lifelink creatures, it opens the door for Crested Sunmare to slip in and give this deck yet another game plan and another card that is amazing with Anointed Procession.
The Pro Tour featured its own tribal Oketra's Monument deck, a mono-white deck that uses Ixalan's Vampires.
The deck takes a very aggressive approach in order to get the most out of the Vampires, which are designed to be attacking, whether it's Duskborne Skymarcher pumping attackers, Mavren Fein generating tokens, Adanto Vanguard gaining power and crashing into blockers, or best of all, Legion's Landing transforming into Adanto, the First Fort. Legion Conquistador provides the deck with a huge source of card advantage, and it works perfectly with Oketra's Monument. Angel of Invention isn't on the tribal plan, but it's an excellent threat that is extremely potent in tokens because of its +1/+1 anthem ability. The deck gains an extra anthem in Shefet Dunes, which may be the best card in the entire deck, especially when it first sacrifices Scavenger Grounds and then itself to provide anthems on two consecutive turns.
The Pro Tour also featured a very intriguing White-Green Aggro deck.
Rather than stick to any tribal affiliation, this deck takes a page from Ramunap Red and Mono-Black Aggro by playing all of the most efficient creatures and disruption in its colors. The concept behind the deck is to play cards that generate value, so the deck can grind out its opponents and never run out of pressure. Sacred Cat, Adorned Pounder and Resilient Khenra all provide value from the graveyard, while Merfolk Branchwalker will draw a land or provide a scry with its explore trigger. Oketra the True and Oviya Pashiri, Sage Lifecrafter convert extra mana into value. Rather than contain removal spells, the deck fights through creatures with Appeal // Authority, which is a very potent pump spell in a deck that's nearly entirely creatures.
The coolest deck of the Pro Tour has to be this White-Blue control deck built around cycling cards.
Drake Haven is the biggest reason to play cycling cards and the deck's main engine, but it goes even deeper with Abandoned Sarcophagus. It has the potential to generate a ton of card advantage in this deck with 20 cycling spells.