Insider: Standard Going into the Invitational

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With week one of Standard in the books, it's time for things to really get interesting. This weekend we'll see more innovation at the Star City Games Invitational, and the week after it's time for the Pro Tour. What was immediately evident from Baltimore is that white is the best color in Standard. If you slept on pre-ordering these and you want to play Standard, your wallet will be hurting soon...

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The past few formats have seen red decks come out on top, though this time white is bringing the most generically powerful spells to the table. Human Aggro put up the best results in the tournament, though ultimately Bant Company came out on top.

That said, the theme of week one was very similar to the week ones where we see red win, and that is to keep things simple. Human Aggro, regardless of splash, is just a generic beatdown deck. Bant Company is just dedicated flash, and the white-black decks mostly just play powerful generic answers. The spiciest deck from the Baltimore Top 8 was Todd Anderson's Thing in the Ice brew.

As a control deck that saw success despite having wasted sideboard slots, I could definitely see this deck being tuned to beat up on Humans and Bant Company. Specifically, Todd was unhappy with the Eldrazi Obligators, and some Fiery Impulse in the sideboard would go a long way towards heavily skewing the Humans matchup.

Despite Bant Company winning the event, I do think Humans is the deck to beat going into this weekend, and I think the best list will be derivative of Kellen Pastore's second place list.

Mono-White Humans

This for two reasons. The first thing this deck has going for it is it sticks to one color. There were two Azorius, and one Selesnya, Humans decks in the Top 8, and plenty peppered in the Top 64---I don't think it's by accident that the mono-white build came out on top.

Not only do the blue and green builds not get a ton of sources of their splash colors, but they also introduce enter-the-battlefield tapped lands into a very aggressive deck. Your ideal curve involves deploying three creatures by turn two, and jamming a million basic Plains is your best avenue for this.

The other thing I like about Pastore's list is the absence of Archangel of Tithes.

Make no mistake, Archangel is great in play, but the issue is that it it's a four-mana creature that doesn't generate value. As such, you lose a ton of tempo when you cast Archangel and it gets hit by Declaration in Stone or bounced by Reflector Mage. Going forward I expect the mono-white build eschewing Archangel to be the best aggressive build of Always Watching decks, and with the meteoric spike in the price of Archangel of Tithes I believe that card to be a sell right now.

There were a ton of Orzhov decks in the Top 64 of Baltimore, and there wasn't a ton of direction for how to construct the deck. Mostly the plan was to play a bunch of really good generic spells to be ready for anything.

Indeed there are plenty of white cards that are excellent to just jam in any deck, with black mostly contributing gold cards. Players will continue playing Anguished Unmaking and Sorin, Grim Nemesis, and going forward it will be easier to assemble their supporting cast.

A big card that saw a lot of sideboard play this weekend that I expect to start migrating to the maindeck is Tragic Arrogance. This card is great when it comes to taking care of any extra copies of Always Watching in addition to killing most of your opponent's creatures. It's also excellent against any token strategies, and also can end up breaking some clues that you left your opponent with Declaration in Stone. I think Tragic Arrogance is a great penny stock right now.

Another white card that I think is undervalued right now is Eldrazi Displacer. I understand that Modern Eldrazi hinged heavily on degenerate lands, but there's a reason the Displacer list ended up being the best. This card is a four-of in the Roanoke crew's Orzhov Eldrazi deck because it's great at disrupting your opponent as well as generating more ETB triggers on your side.

Displacer is going to see significant Standard play, and could even end up in a Modern deck with with Eye of Ugin banned. It's worth about three bucks now, and I see that at least doubling in the next couple of weeks---especially if the card has a good Pro Tour.

The SCG Invitational will give us more direction this weekend for the future of Standard, and if these positions are good they'll start to move right away. More data will be coming in to give us a better idea of what to expect at the PT, and indeed whether Always Watching will be to this Standard as Tempered Steel was to its block constructed.

If Always Watching has another great weekend, it could also double or triple from its $3+ price. With the deck being so easy to build an play, growth here wouldn't surprise me in the least.

You'll want to lock in your specs this weekend to make sure the cards ship before the Pro Tour, so it will be important to tune in this weekend, both for Standard and Modern stocks.

With regard to Modern, I expect a good weekend for Jund/Abzan and Snapcaster Mage. I will be in the booth for the Invitational, and next week I'll be breaking down those results for predictions for the Pro Tour specifically. Will it be a white Standard, or will the other colors come out to play?

Thanks for reading.

-Ryan Overturf
@RyanOverdrive on Twitter

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