With this past weekend’s SCG Invitational complete, the Dragons of Tarkir Standard format now has a high-profile competitive event under its belt. This event is especially impactful as a driver of the metagame given the high-stakes, super competitive nature of the event.
Compared to a normal Open event , the Invitational draws out more great players from farther distances. Expert deckbuilders left nothing on the table with their decklists, and the crucible of the tournament forged the strongest into solid decks that will live on into future tournaments. The high-profile nature of the event means that compared to a normal Open, it has more prestige, and it is more publicized, viewed, and shared, and will lead to a greater number of copycats and netdeckers. It’s all but certain that the top Standard decks from the SCG Invitational will become players in the metagame moving forward, and they will be most impactful during this coming weekend’s round of tournaments.
Today I’ll share ten decklists, taken from the Invitational, that represent the current top Standard archetypes and should be a part of everyone’s testing gauntlet this week. These particular decklists will be the most widely imitated going forward, so it’s important to be knowledgeable about them given the likelihood of seeing them across the table this week at local stores and perhaps this weekend at larger events.
For the competitor, these decklists are also very reasonable deck choices to play this week, and for the deck tuner they are great starting points for further experimentation.
Winning the SCG Invitational was Jacob Wilson with his innovative Abzan Control deck.
Enter Sidisi, Undead Vizier, which is a perfect fit into the Abzan Control strategy as a large creature and tutor, but which lacks suitable sacrifice fodder; Satyr Wayfinder fills this role.
The combination of Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Sidisi, Undead Vizier creates a critical mass of synergies in the deck to be supported by a full playset of Satyr Wayfinder, which is now an essential cog and roleplayer for the deck and, if widely adopted, for the archetype going forward.
A pair of Sidisi, Undead Vizier gives the deck significant tutoring power for powerful one-of cards. One-ofs include those that are unwieldy to play in multiples, like Wilson’s maindeck Garruk, Apex Predator, a great haymaker that plays very well against a metagame slanted towards midrange and control. In the sideboard, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon goes even bigger. It’s best against decks that go wide, like Jeskai Tokens and Devotion strategies.
Sidisi, Undead Vizier can also set up a tempo play with access to singleton Murderous Cut and Ultimate Price, or answer any permanent with Utter End. These removal spells are efficient but situational, and Sidisi, Undead Vizier provides reliable access to them without the need for multiple copies.
The sideboard contains some great silver-bullet hate cards, including Virulent Plague, a dedicated hoser against Jeskai Tokens which also punishes Hornet Queen, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Back to Nature is a powerful play against decks with many enchantments, especially R/W Aggro and Whip of Erebos decks. A single End Hostilities is a great tool against aggressive decks.
The sort of card selection provided by Sidisi, Undead Vizier excels in a controlling deck like Abzan Control with powerful situation cards. It opens up a great deal of deckbuilding space and creates opportunities for customization, especially from the sideboard.
It’s exactly the sort of super-charge the archetype needed to maintain its grasp at the top of the metagame. Wilson’s adoption of Satyr Wayfinder to power the delve on Tasigur, the Golden Fang and Sidisi, Undead Vizier represents a real evolution of the archetype and is likely the best configuration going forward.
Here's the deck Reid Duke played to the finals:
The card selection provided by Sidisi, Undead Vizier is also excellent in a synergistic deck like Sultai Whip. This graveyard-centric archetype leverages the graveyard-filling power of Satyr Wayfinder and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant to enable things like delve and Whip of Erebos, but both of these creatures are also great sources of exploit fodder for Sidisi, Undead Vizier. It’s a natural fit into the archetype.
Just like in Wilson’s deck, in Duke’s deck Sidisi, Undead Vizier enables an array of powerful one-of bullet cards.
Torrent Elemental is both a win condition and way to fight against attrition, so it earns a slot. Hornet Queen has been reduced to just one copy, making the deck less clunky. Silumgar, the Drifting Death is great against decks that go wide or those that rely on removal, and the new Dragonlord Silumgar is excellent against decks that produce powerful individual threats or against those without removal.
I’m particularly impressed by the ability to tutor for a Treasure Cruise in post-sideboard games.
Reid Duke’s decklist is the model for Sidisi Whip going forward. With Dragons of Tarkir additions, it has catapulted itself back into top-tier contention.
In my eyes the best deck before Dragons of Tarkir was G/W Devotion, fresh off its dominating performance at GP Miami.
Deathmist Raptor has natural synergy in this deck, which can produce manifest dorks in surplus and reanimate Deathmist Raptor from the graveyard at will. It provides the deck with a great source of board presence throughout a long game and is exactly the fuel necessary to outlast any opponent fighting a war of attrition. With two green in the cost, it’s also a great source of devotion for Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx..
Dromoka's Command is a versatile and powerful utility spell that’s a great fit into the G/W Devotion strategy. The best ability of all is making the opponent sacrifice an enchantment, which is excellent when applicable. The fight ability is a functional removal spell combined with the relatively large green creatures in this deck. The +1/+1 counter is a combat trick and a way to play around burn spells as removal and Bile Blight, and the card also has the ability to effectively counter burn spells.
New tools from Dragons of Tarkir make G/W Devotion a more powerful and robust strategy than it was previously. Personally I have had nothing but success with the archetype and have great things to say about it, so I can’t recommend it highly enough. It’s well positioned in a world of midrange and control decks.
Todd Anderson and his Roanoake crew have updated the Jeskai Tokens strategy for a Dragons of Tarkir world.
Anticipate makes the deck more consistent in all games, whether it be digging for Jeskai Ascendancy, a threat, or a Treasure Cruise. It also helps the deck better operate as a control deck in post-sideboard games. The change to the deck is subtle, but it’s impactful, especially in post-sideboard games where Jeskai often finds itself in a controlling role.
The standout card from Todd’s list is Dragonlord Ojutai, which has officially made its Standard debut. It’s extremely strong out of the sideboard of Jeskai Tokens, where it shifts gears as a large, standalone threat. Opponents will likely cut cards like Hero's Downfall in favor of cards like Drown in Sorrow, leaving Dragonlord Ojutai to run roughshod.
Coverage lauded it throughout the weekend, and I expect that if Todd had won the Invitational it would be very popular going forward. As it stands, the cat is out of the bag, but last weekend it was overshadowed by other Dragons of Tarkir cards.
Jeskai Tokens is well positioned in any metagame that is not prepared for it, and I expect it will be a fine option this coming weekend. Maindeck Silumgar, the Drifting Death is a problem, and Virulent Plague could be a sideboard issue, but the deck has the ability to overcome any issues with sideboarding of its own.
Abzan Aggro has been a competitor all season long, and it continues to perform after Dragons of Tarkir.
The hyper-efficient creature suite didn’t receive any updates from the new set, but Dromoka's Command gives it a great new tool to play with. All of the modes are great here, and it will often be able to set up a two-for-one.
As far as its metagame positioning, Abzan Aggro is strong against Sultai Reanimator, so the success of that deck is good news, but Abzan Control is not a favorable matchup. As an aggressive and proactive deck full of individually excellent cards, it has plenty of game against the field, and it will continue to be a player in the metagame as long as people play the archetype.
Mono-Red Aggro is great in any field full of control and slow midrange decks, and it found success at the invitational with a Top 8 finish.
Michael’s teammate also put up an excellent 7-1 or better Standard record with a nearly identical deck on his way to a 18th place finish, so the deck is the real deal.
I am slightly surprised by the inclusion of a full playset of the legendary Zurgo Bellstriker, but the card does hit quite hard and is much more robust than Firedrinker Satyr, which falls to things like Satyr Wayfinder and 1/1 tokens. It’s a better late game draw because it effectively has haste with dash. Dash returning the creature to hand also combines well with Foundry Street Denizen.
Another dash card is Lightning Berserker, which completes the one-drop creature package. It doesn’t hit hard early, but the fireball ability means it demands attention or will deal a ton of extra damage. With dash, it’s a very strong late game draw as a surprise Blaze-effect.
This deck also incorporates three Dragon Fodder to supplement the four Hordeling Outburst. These cards make Foundry Street Denizen excellent, as well as Stoke the Flames. They are also reliable sources of board presence that play well against targeted removal, and they are useful for helping to create a swarm of creatures to overwhelm blockers.
G/R Monsters made a big impact at this format’s inception, but it has been a minor player in the overall Standard picture over the last six months. Dragons of Tarkir offers many new useful tools, including two huge threats in Thunderbreak Regent and Surrak, the Hunt Caller, and removal in Draconic Roar and Roast.
Thunderbreak Regent is the perfect mana curve pal for Stormbreath Dragon. It creates value against targeted removal spells, so it’s right on this deck’s game-winning plan of dealing 20 to the opponent. Three free damage makes the job of Crater's Claws that much easier, and if uncontested it will end the game quickly as a large threat with evasion.
Surrak, the Hunt Caller effectively has haste in the majority of situations, and once in play it retains excellent value on its following turn with its ability to grant haste to future creatures. It adds an explosive damage potential to this green deck. It is an especially good follow-up to Goblin Rabblemaster, which will trigger formidable if a goblin stuck around the turn prior. This also opens up a turn three nut draw enabled by Elvish Mystic. It turns Thunderbreak Regent into Stormbreath Dragon.
Draconic Roar takes advantage of the eight dragons in deck. As a creature removal spell it’s always a Lightning Strike, so there is little downside in that sense, though it is poor against the rare creatureless control decks because it can’t target the opponent directly. Given this deck’s plan to use burn to close out games, the upside of this card is huge.
Kevin Jones has been advocating Jeskai since Khans of Tarkir hit Standard, when he won the first SCG Standard Open with the strategy. He played his deck to a 7-1 or better record at the Invitational, so it’s one I’d take note of.
This particular list is extra controlling and powerful with maindeck Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, powered by three Dig Through Time. Kevin plays just three Goblin Rabblemaster, while three Soulfire Grand Master give the deck great late game potential as well as valuable lifegain.
Control is best in an established metagame, so it’s no surprise that it wasn’t widely adopted at the Invitational, but some skilled players found success with control strategies. Christian Calcano played his U/B Control deck to a record of 7-1 or better en route to a 14th place finish.
Anticipate is superb in this deck. It’s a subtle but powerful addition to the deck that gives it a great deal of added play and ability to craft a game plan. It now more reliably can find the specific cards it needs at any given time, and it makes the deck all the more deadly.
Anticipate does come at the cost of two mana, so there is a tempo loss, so the best way to take advantage of it is to turn up the aggression and make the control deck pay for their lost time, as accomplished by decks like Mono-Red and Abzan Aggro.
Another take on control strategies is Esper Control. James Buckingham finished 7-1 or better in Standard with his Esper deck.
This deck is another beneficiary of Anticipate. For one, it allows for better access to colored mana, but in James’ deck in particular it provides more reliable access to an assortment of one-of cards, including Ojutai's Command, Utter End, and Foul-Tongue Invocation.
This last card is the most interesting, because it belies the existence of other dragons, in this case three Dragonlord Ojutai as the finisher of choice. A full four Silumgar's Scorn join four Dissolve to create a sizable counterspell suite.
Silumgar's Scorn has some variance attached to it, but it’s important not to underestimate just how strong it is as a Force Spike, especially against the unprepared. It’s hard to play against, because slowing down the curve to get an extra mana in play before casting spells is a major tempo loss, and may fail entirely if the opponent draws a dragon, which just gets more likely as the game goes on.
The deck will draw a dragon in the 7-card opener just under 40% of the time. Once the deck has seen 10 cards, whether from drawing or by casting Anticipate, it will have seen a dragon more than half of the time. The dragons are particularly strong with Crux of Fate as the sweeper of choice.
This deck also plays a pair of Narset Transcendent. Each +1 ability will hit around 50% of the time, so it’s a decent source of card advantage comparable to Domri Rade. The rebound ability is great with the one-of spells I mentioned, and it’s strong with the card draw and removal spells.
If you're planning to play Standard in the coming weeks, make sure you're prepared for these decks. Turn to the comments sections with any questions, criticism, or things to add!