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Insider: Standard Innovation From the MOCS

Mike-Lanigan QS Magic the Gathering MTG

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If you like control, now is your time to shine. It has been said that Standard right now can be boiled down into choosing whatever twenty removal spells you'd like to play and pairing them with any number of powerful finishers. You can essentially play whatever four colors you wish with no repercussions, so building your deck to kill everything and win in the mid-game is the game plan for most competitive players.

If you like combo, Rally is always looming in the shadows ready to strike. This is a difficult deck to attack---you would think some number of hate cards would defeat a deck built on exploiting synergies, but that doesn't work out much of the time.

If you have Anafenza, the Foremost, or the new hotness Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet, they cannot combo kill you. They can, however, still play value dude after value dude until they find the Reflector Mage, the Azorius version of Flametongue Kavu. There's also Hallowed Moonlight, but I heard a story about Rally winning through three copies of that sideboard spell being cast. I think most of the time Rally helps you out by running inconsistently through its matches, but no doubt the deck is good.

Good old mainstay Abzan is there to save the day but we all know a pack of Siege Rhinos is no one's hero. Or R/B Dragons can be a fun way to go about your business of making a token army and then swinging with the "lower-powered" Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury.

But since none of those things are new and fun, what's a brewer to do? Never fear! Mike is here to save the day! Well, I'm just bringing you the data boiled down from the recent Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS), but I'll take the credit for shining light on the hidden gems from the event. Here we go.

Eldrazi Ramp

If you like a deck dedicated to big mana, now is your time to shine. Similar to other archetypes, there are multiple ways to build a viable Ramp deck.

With this version, our focus is on utilizing the two-mana creature accelerants to jump to four mana for Thought-Knot Seer, Explosive Vegetation, and Hedron Archive. With this sequence, you can achieve an amazing eight mana on turn five to cast World Breaker or Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. We haven’t seen this type of acceleration since Primeval Titan and Lotus Cobra were legal for Standard play.

After you've found enough mana, a card like Hedron Archive grants the deck the ability to draw into threats should the game go past your initial finisher. World Breaker gives the deck such inevitability as well. Having a recursive threat makes winning quite difficult for any opponent. I’ve noticed that the land destruction component from World Breaker plus Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger can really shut down an opponent’s ability to interact with you as well.

For me, the aspect of the deck that distinguishes this version from the previous ones is the inclusion of Oath of Nissa. The green Ponder allows you to search for the right creature for the situation. If you need to ramp, you might take Rattleclaw Mystic, but you could just as easily use the Oath to find a threat or disruption.

The other great thing about running creatures as your accelerants is that they act as great blockers against the aggressive decks. You do give them targets for their removal spells, but transitioning from ramping your mana to blocking to give you more time to survive is a huge boon.

Bant Company

The MOCS is a prestigious event and it draws the best players from around the globe to compete. So, when I say that many of them chose this archetype to compete with, it’s worth your time to take the deck seriously. The Ramp deck above may have taken second, but there were two different versions of Bant Company in the Top 8 as well as many others in the Top 32. This particular version was played by Standard expert Brad Nelson.

Collected Company is great in Standard right now. There are a ton a great three-mana creatures that not only present excellent stats but also provide card advantage or silver bullet-like abilities against specific matchups.

The biggest draw to this Bant version has to be Reflector Mage. That card is a beating and it’s no surprise that it’s seeing so much play in Standard. We will see what happens with the mana bases after rotation in a couple months, but if players can make it work, this card should be seeing a ton of play the entire time it’s legal.

While I’ve been jamming Temur Company to take advantage of Savage Knuckleblade, others have been running their Companies with an Abzan shell. This version takes what I liked about Temur and combines it with the ability to set back your opponent using Reflector Mage. I have found Harbinger of the Tides to be great as well but you may not need that in addition to Reflector Mage.

My red version gets Roast and Fiery Impulse while this version has access to Dromoka's Command as well as a plethora of white options in the sideboard. These two decks are similar and they both get a pile of counterspells in the sideboard which is great against decks like Ramp and any midrange control deck.

My Temur version has one more spell slot for some maindeck counters and I think that could be a good idea here as well. The best part about this type of deck is confusing your opponent when you leave open mana. Your opponent never knows whether you are leaving mana available for a creature with flash, Collected Company, or a counterspell.

Being able to play the game on your opponents turn is a powerful aspect to any deck, and although I have not played Bant Company, I would probably make those types of changes right away before bringing this deck to battle. Either way, the deck is great and I’ve watched many players have success with this archetype recently. Be ready to battle with or against it at your next event.

R/g Tokens

Tokens has my heart. This is a strategy that I am always drawn to. Whether it’s Commander, Cube Draft or Standard, I am enthralled with making a seemingly benign token army and then pumping your insignificant forces to make them terrifying.

R/g Tokens stood out to me in the Top 32, not only because it was the ninth place deck, but also because I was working on this strategy during Oath of the Gatewatch spoiler season, although my lists always started with Hordeling Outburst and Goblin Dark-Dwellers.

This version opts for a sideboard strategy of Den Protector plus Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. You'll notice four additional lands (!) in the sideboard to support the transformational sideboard and cast all the green spells contained there.

I like this deck because it can overwhelm the opponent who is trying to kill your creatures one-for-one. This deck spreads out its creatures into a mass of little dudes rather than single efficient creatures. Between Outnumber, Atarka's Command and Reckless Bushwhacker, there are a lot of payoffs for your token army.

Demonic Pact Control

Finally, we have the icing on the control cake. This gem was hidden at the end of the MOCS results. If you want to make all of your opponents’ removal spells dead draws, this is the deck for you.

This deck features sweet win conditions like Demonic Pact, Crush of Tentacles and Empty the Pits, alongside all the removal spells you could ever want.

It was surprising to me that there are no main deckplaneswalkers. It seems like a deck like this would be greatly served by adding Jace, Vryn's Prodigy // Jace, Telepath Unbound and maybe moving those Ob Nixilis Reignited to the main deck as well. I do love Oath of Jace in this deck as a way to draw and filter through the cards you don’t need.

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The MOCS provided us with plenty of great options for Standard going forward. We still have a couple months to work with this Standard format and there are a lot of unexplored options.

The main one I want to work on is how best to implement the Eldrazi. All of the Eldrazi that see play in Modern are also playable in Standard. I don’t think we’ve found the best build for these creatures yet and that’s an idea I’ve been tinkering with.

Until next time,
Unleash the Force!

Mike Lanigan
MtgJedi on Twitter
Jedicouncilman23@gmail.com

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