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Looking Ahead to Theros Standard

This incarnation of Standard will soon be over and the Wheel of Time will continue to turn, moving us into the next cycle of Magic. Once Theros is released, we will be thrown into a Brave New World of Greek mythos combined with Ravnician (that’s a word right?) flavor.

These two worlds seem at first glance to not synergize with each other, but there will undoubtedly be powerful interactions between cards we don’t know just yet.

Even though there are many unknowns as far as Theros is concerned, one strategy I find useful is to examine the current Standard format, as well as Block Constructed, to establish a baseline for what strategies might be viable post-rotation. With this mindset, you can pick up cards you might need in trade much cheaper now than once they become real decks in the new format.

Block Decks

Most decks in the current Standard metagame are filled with Innistrad block cards. Most of these decks will not survive rotation.

There is one deck in particular though, that is formed mainly from cards that will continue to be legal. By now, everyone has most likely played against Monored but if not, it’s not that far off from the G/R aggro decks we’ve been seeing all season.

This is likely a great starting place for the format post-rotation. Not only is it cheap, but certainly we will get a couple red cards good enough to improve it.

Here is a list that might help you see the beginnings of this deck.

Mono-red
by Ari Lax

As of now, I would not be happy to play this in a Standard event, but luckily we have a new set to look for updates from.

There are a couple cards from M14 that I would want in this deck. Chandra’s Phoenix seems decent, but only if there are a couple of good burn spells in Theros. Shock is an option, but I doubt it would be good enough.

The main card I want to add immediately would be Mutavault. Obviously Mono-red is a fairly straightforward strategy, but with a curve this low, you gain some virtual card advantage because you will be drawing more spells than lands.

A sweeper can set this deck back enough that it cannot recover, so this deck’s presence in the format may depend on how good the control decks are.

Esper

Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze, which was Return to Ravnica Block Constructed, had many decks utilizing the same strategy. While this strategy did not win the event, it did put many players in the top eight.

I would suspect that these Esper Control decks try to take over the metagame once it rotates. It is always unfortunate to me when current decks that see play survive rotation because I am always looking forward to something fresh and new. Take a look.

Esper Control
Top 8 deck by Matej Zatlkaj

These cards together in the same deck is nothing new. Certainly this iteration of the deck is unique because it is from a Block Constructed event, but we all know how powerful these cards are based on their play in Standard.

Keep in mind that all of these lands are still legal post-rotation so a deck like this is very possible. It is doubtful that Guildgates will be commonplace outside of control or midrange strategies, but we could have a format where every deck needs them to operate efficiently.

Typically, some type of blue-white control deck is playable in Standard, but it is almost a certainty that this will be a staple deck in the format. Hopefully we will see some different cards to battle against from Theros though to change it up a little bit.

Tokens

The last deck likely to make a strong showing initially is the winning deck from Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze. This deck is based around the core concept of making token creatures while at the same time staying resilient against control.

Craig Wescoe demolished the top eight full of control decks with his list so that may keep the hoards of players from flocking to Esper Control’s bandwagon. That is my hope at least. Here is the winning deck list.

G/W Tokens
Top 8 deck by Craig Wescoe

Now that’s an aggro deck! This deck has an amazingly low curve of rather large creatures to beat down with but does not sacrifice the ability to fight through removal. You don’t have much direct removal outside of five-power or greater creatures, but considering how fast you will get damage in, I’d say most of the time your opponent will be on the back foot.

Of the decks listed so far, this is the one I would be most likely to play. I doubt people are going to forget about this deck existing at the beginning of the new format, but if so it should be good enough to wreck some events with.

Domri and Dragonmaster

The only other deck idea I wanted to talk about today was that of G/R Dragonmaster. After looking over the deck closely, it seems that many of the cards will rotate. The idea behind the strategy is solid though and I think it could remain as a viable deck if we get some new cards to replace the ones rotating.

The main factor drawing players to the deck should be Domri Rade. His effectiveness keeps going up and up in my book. Every time I see him played, he just takes over the game.

You may not draw a card every time you use his first ability, but just the knowledge of what that top card is can help you sculpt your turn accordingly. The card advantage doesn’t hurt when it happens either. I doubt the mana will support both Boros Reckoner and green cards, but if so, combining him with Domri is also a colossal beating.

The other reason I like Green Red post-rotation is because you can build it like Fires of Yavimaya from back in the day. Many authors explored this strategy when Kalonian Hydra was spoiled, but no deck was able to successfully use the new mythic.

The best way to play the Hydra in my opinion is in conjunction with Ogre Battledriver. Not only do your creatures gain haste, but they also all get a free Teetering Peaks pump when they attack. As long as your Battledriver lives, you will crash in for huge chunks of damage on the next turn.

This deck does need a bunch of cards from Theros to make it playable, but it seems likely to me that they will be there. Keep your eyes open for this strategy to make an appearance.

That’s all for this week. Over the next couple of weeks we will be taking a look at some sweet Theros cards. I can’t wait!

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

Post categories: Free, Rotation, Strategy, Theros


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Mike Lanigan

Mike Lanigan

Mike Lanigan is high school math teacher by day and a shop owner by night. His tournament grinding may have slowed a little, but his love of the game has not. Mike's goal is to bring you a mix of perspectives from shop-owner insights to finance tips to metagame shifts and everything in between.

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57 thoughts on “Looking Ahead to Theros Standard

  1. Naya aggro and Dega midrange are a couple other block decks that I can see being ported to standard after rotation.

  2. I’ve been playing a Mono Red deck build that is fairly similar to the Mono Red Block deck you mentioned http://www.mtgtop8.com/event?e=5476&d=231654.

    It’s more of an Blitz strategy. Only key pieces it loses at rotation are Hellrider, Stromkirk, and Lightning Mauler. You’ll notice the lack of burn spells. Hopefully Theros will give me some good replacements for those.

    But I’ll be honest, Legion Loyalist is a house.

  3. So excited about Magma Jet right now!

    Good info on the other decks guys. I’m surprised about the legion loyalist comment though, it always seems underwhelming to me.

  4. I built that Domri deck you mentioned earlier today. I tested it a bit and found it to be pretty powerful. There’s a lot of synergy in this deck, and it can also go reasonably fast against control.

    4 Elvish Mystic, 4 Experiment One

    2 Gyre Sage, 2 Scavenging Ooze, 3 Kalonian Tusker, 3 Mizzium Mortars

    4 Domri Rade, 4 Dreg Mangler

    3 Exava, 3 Corpsejack Menace

    4 Kalonian Hydra

    24 Lands

    Esper / American control will remain strong it seems. I have no idea why the list in the article doesn’t play Jace, I found him to be crucial in all of my builds. Although we should note that the control decks do lose quite some power with the rotation of Augur of Bolas, Snapcaster Mage and Restoration Angel. New cards like Blood Baron, Boros Reckoner and Izzet Staticaster do a reasonable job but there’s an obvious difference in power.

    RDW will still be playable in Standard, but since you are including Mutavault (hence 2-3 more lands than block) and maybe some Burning Earth, it will probably become slightly bulkier, maybe going up to four with Chandra, Pyromaster. The Selesnya deck will also remain a strong contender.

    Here are the other decks I’ve been playtesting, aside from the ones already mentioned:

    RBW Midrange: Dreadbore, Boros Reckoner, Blood Baron, Aurelia, Rakdos’s Return

    (viability will depend on Theros duals)

    Naya Hexproof: Gladecover Scout, Ethereal Armor, Madcap Skills, Unflinching Courage, Boros Charm (depends on new hexproof creatures and auras)

    Grixis Control – control variant with more disruption

    GWB Midrange: Elf, Voice, Scavenging Ooze, Trostani, Archangel of Thune, Obzedat. This deck exists to beat aggro.

    Naya Aggro: my pet deck, boasting the Ghor-Clan + Boros Charm combo. Experiment One, Voice, Domri, Reckoner.

    White Weenie: the usual stuff + Mutavault, Banisher Priest, Ajani, Gideon and Brave the Elements.

    Big Selesnya: going one step above Selesnya tokens. Everything from Elvish Mystic and Gyre Sage to Garruk, Caller of Beasts and Angel of Serenity.

    1. Wow. It seems like you have really been working hard to get a head start on the new format. That list seems extensive. I really like the idea of Kalonian Tusker in the GR Domri deck. Going with a base green seems like it could be solid. My worry with the other decks though is the mana. It’s hard for me to imagine they are consistent enough with just the Rav Block duals.

      1. I agree. That’s why I’m most anxious about Theros duals 🙂 They’re confirmed to exist, and I assume they aren’t super bad like the Kamigawa ones.

        Since Thoughtseize just got revealed, every black deck just got a bit more viable. Thoughtseize + Lifebane Zombie seem pretty strong.

  5. I feel like I have been taking the opposite approach also. Instead of starting with block, I\’m looking at stuff in the current Standard that loses the least and/or is getting replacements. Some decks look poised to be gutted but every day brings more spoilers. I feel twice as good about decks with Chandra\’s Phoenix now that we have Magma Jet. I like this analysis a lot, and I\’ve always said that this block season, more than most, is going to be a good harbinger of what Standard will bring. We have a set with strong 2-color strategies and it\’s incorporating a set with strong mono-colored cards. Devotion seems very possible in a two-color deck especially with cards like Reckoner and Nightveil Specter. I like the mere premise of this article, frankly. Strong work.

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