Insider: What to Expect From Standard

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Lots of players will be out and about around the world this weekend rushing to get the newest cards for their Standard deck. Journey Into Nyx offers players a diverse array of exciting new tools to use.

There are five new gods that all appear to be ‘build around me‘ type cards, interesting new possibilities for preexisting decks, as well as Mana Confluence opening up possible multicolored decks. These new text boxes are eagerly waiting to see how many decks they can fit into. All of this is just scratching the surface of the set.

My initial impression is that there are no individual cards so powerful that they will completely change the landscape of Standard. Certainly Standard will be shaken up a bit, but most of the ingredients will stay the same.

I hate to tell you, but if you thought Mono-Black Devotion and Esper Control were falling to the wayside with the release of Nyx, you are sadly mistaken. Even decks that have not gained much from this set, like Boros Burn, GRx Monsters, and Mono Blue Devotion, will still show up from time to time.

Looking at the big picture, you should expect to play against many different decks even though Mono-Black and Esper seem to be the only ones still competing for best deck. They are powerful enough strategies to continue to dominate even with the majority of the world focusing on building the best aggro deck to beat them.

If you are interested in continuing to crush players with Mono-Black or Esper Control, there are an overwhelming amount of articles on any site you’d like about how each of those decks could be updated. Check those out if you need some inspiration for updates.

New Kids on the Block

Despite the best decks looking poised to continue to be king of the hill, there are a few new strategies enabled by JOU cards that seem powerful enough to impact the format. The first is centered around the heroic mechanic. With Theros block fully in the mix now, we have a critical mass of playable cards so our synergy can be as good as it will most likely get.

Starting the game with a mere Nivmagus Elemental or heroic guy may seem like a draft-winning play, but we are not used to that being viable in Standard. This is one of those times where we need to change our perspective quickly. Hidden Strings is the glue that holds this deck together. It’s the enabler that lets you target your creatures multiple times per turn, generate extra mana, tap your opponent’s blockers, and create some heroes.

Decks relying on synergy do fall flat on their face sometimes but there are a lot of redundancies in this deck so consistency is not as much of a problem as it would normally be. Trait Doctoring, for example, helps you draw an enabler more often, but the only reason it is in the deck is because it is a cheap spell with cipher. When this deck is drawing well, your window to disrupt them goes by quickly, so make sure you are packing some early interactive spells.

Next up on the aggro block is an update to the fringe Rakdos deck from this past season that centered around Exava, Rakdos Blood Witch. JOU has granted this deck some major upgrades.

The sligh curve of this deck creates an efficient game plan of utilizing all of their mana each of the first four turns of the game. The cheap removal will disrupt your plan, so they can swarm over you. Even if you kill their creatures, their cheap bestowed creatures will start attacking you right away. I’m not sure this deck has what it takes to stick around in Standard, but it’s a great place to start.

My favorite part about this deck is how well it interacts with Prophetic Flamespeaker. Bestow may be a bit expensive to work well with Flamespeaker because you won’t have much mana left to spend, but your average mana cost is so low, there are plenty of cheap plays to make with the extra cards from the Chandra-esque ability.

This may or may not prove to be the best home for Prophetic Flamespeaker, but that mythic rare is worth trying to find the best home for. If this version doesn’t end up getting you anywhere, the next place to check would probably be in the realm of bloodrush.

Another card that demands attention is Athreos, God of Passage. Everyone has their own ideas about how to take advantage of this three-mana god. Here is Chapin’s take on the puzzle.

Twenty. Four. One-cost aggressive creatures. Never in my life have I seen a format with so many powerful one-drop creatures--it's not far from Legacy Zoo. On top of that, both Xathrid Necromancer and Athreos, God of Passagereward you for playing such a low curve of creatures.

Drown in Sorrow and Anger of the Gods are still in the format so I doubt this deck will dominate the format anytime soon, but it’s worth being aware of so you don’t walk into an aggressive metagame that you aren’t prepared for.

Regardless of whether or not this is the best way to build around Atheros or not, building around him is definitely worth spending time on. The two best decks are going to have a problem beating a resolved Atheros. A staggering amount of aggro creatures plus hand hate has been enough to win tournaments in the past and I see no reason why it would stop being true today.

Last up is an archetype that may push all of these aggressive decks to the back burner. Before JOU’s release, Standard gave way to a Hexproof deck once in a while but it was never a huge part of the meta. That should change now that we have Bassara Tower Archer.

How is an aggro deck supposed to defeat a deck with untargetable lifelinking creatures? You could play Deicide and hope you draw it, but that's just about your only option. Aggro decks may be extremely good right now, but their counters are even stronger.

With a consistent array of hexproof creatures, this deck can become a staple in the metagame. Naya Hexproof is attacking a soft spot in the metagame and is poised to make a big impact. The reason is because it is not only good against the control decks but also the aggro decks. Most of the games this deck will lose will be to itself and with 12 hexproof creatures, those instances should decrease in frequency.

I've been looking into creating different versions of this hexproof deck as well. It's possible that the red cards should be removed or maybe another color should be added in place of red. There are many possible builds for this deck. Even the white parts of the deck could be replaced by black since Gift of Orzhova can be cast with black mana.

When thinking about weaknesses this deck may encounter, Devour Flesh immediately comes to mind. The great thing is that the deck is playing more creatures, so even when you don't draw Voice of Resurgence, you can still protect yourself. Abrupt Decay seems like it may pose more of a problem than Devour Flesh though because destroying one of your key auras in combat can create blow-out situations. Deicide could start seeing play and that could reek havoc on this deck as well.

Take note of the Ajani, Mentor of Heroes in the sideboard. The one-of-a-kind, green-white planeswalker was suggested as an option for this deck by a friend of mine, and I think he would be a great inclusion. It needs some testing, but I would even like to see what he's like in the main deck as well.

Putting +1/+1 counters on your hexproof guys seems sweet and plussing to draw almost any card in your deck seems great as well. Costing five mana is a bit much, so we would need to add more lands in order to incorporate him, but it may be a better option to grind out games against some decks.

Summarizing the Standard Landscape

Any tournament you plan to attend in the next couple of weeks will be filled with a plethora of different decks. All of the top 8 staple decks from Pre-Nyx will still be there and some new decks will jump into the fray as well. No matter what deck you decide to battle with, make sure you are prepared for anything. Gaining experience against a wide assortment of decks will grant a huge advantage.

Hexproof seems like the deck that improves the most from Nyx, so don't leave home without preparing to fight the untargetable.

Until Next Time,

Unleash the Aggro Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter

6 thoughts on “Insider: What to Expect From Standard

  1. I’ve been out of touch with Standard lately – the format just hasn’t excited me much, and I get a sense things may not change significantly with Nyx. That being said, I am paying very close attention to the use of Temples. I find it interesting that some of the lists you presented above run full sets of Temples while others do not.

    As Standard rotates later this year, do you think all decks will resort to leaning heavily on Temples for their mana fixing? I have to imagine this will be the case, though I suppose an alternative could be a massive resurgence of mono-colored decks jamming Nykthos and Devotion-based strategies. Which do you think is more likely? How can I carefully hedge against both? Perhaps buying more Temples AND buying some Nykthos?

    1. Depends on what we get for lands in M15 and the fall set.

      I feel like mono-U Devotion will be dead come the fall and mono-B builds will shift more to aggro, though neither of those decks is running more than 1 Nykthos right now anyways (black has cut it completely). If it’s still going to be a thing, I think some sort of monsters brew will be best poised to take advantage of it with Sylvan Caraytid and the other green mana dorks.

      1. Keep in mind that the Monsters archetype is unplayble in most Standard formats. I guess it’s relatively similar to previous Jund, but nowhere near the same power level.

  2. Mike,

    Always love to see an article on Naya Hexproof. It’s so good in the current format. I’ve been on it for awhile. Couple of changes I think would improve the current list.

    Land: Adding the Sacred Foundry back, and cutting from Scrylands instead to fit in the Mana confluence. It’s critcal to drop your creatures early, and sometimes having to wait that extra turn on the Scry leaves you dead. Also, with the addition of Bassara Tower Archer, digging with Scry’s isn’t as important as it was. As you were generally spending that time digging for creatures.

    Creatures/Spells: Eidolon of Countless Battles is a cut here. While, it’s great in theroy when you’re thinking auras, it’s a win more card. I would opt for instead 2 Ajani, Caller of the Pride and 1 Gift of Orzhova. Both cards can out right win the game, even when you’re behind.

    Sideboard: I feel like Ajani is too high on the curve. I think better results would come from replacing them wiht two copies of Gift of Orzhova. Also, I would cut the Mistcutter’s in favor of Ajani’s Presence. Being able to survive a verdict outside of Boros Charm is really important with Esper still having a heavy presence. Also, it’s much better than it’s predocessor, Mending Touch, because the +1/+1. So it’s never a dead card.

    Thoughts on those changes?

    1. My version is still under construction, I was basically showing everyone what other people are playing so they would have a good idea about what to expect. I will be working on the deck though, and I do like your suggestions.

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