I've been going deep on Standard lately—mostly in vain. The Temur deck is squeezing out fringe strategies.
Last weekend, at Grand Prix Phoenix, I talked to dozens of players about their thoughts on Standard. In particular, I was chatting it up with other pros who were qualified for Pro Tour Ixalan. The consensus assessment of the format was that Temur was the "deck to beat" going into the PT next weekend.
The overwhelming majority of players I talked to who were attending the event also stated that they were likely to play some variation of Temur Energy or were at least seriously considering it as an option.
If we're looking to capitalize on Standard singles, it makes a ton of sense to craft our investing strategy around the presumption that Temur is the format-defining deck.
To begin with, cards from the Temur deck itself. For instance, I love Bristling Hydra and Glorybringer as cards to pick up and hold until after the event. These are the premier rares from the deck and will likely be in high demand after the Pro Tour.
Glorybringer is a nice "double dip" because it's also prominently featured in Ramunap Red's sideboard and in BR Vehicles. These are cards that will likely go into a large percentage of the predicted post-PT-metagame decks.
One interesting aspect of the current best decks in Standard is that they are comprised mainly of efficient commons and uncommons. While I don't think the uncommons are particularly good investments (they don't have a ton of room to move and grow), they are at least worth considering.
These are the two uncommons that I could see having the best chance to gain some value in the short term. Both cards have crossover applications across multiple archetypes. Harnessed Lightning is a mainstay in any Izzet or Jeskai control deck. Longtusk Cub is an auto-include in any energy-based archetype: red-green and/or Sultai.
Another card that we should be focused on is Confiscation Coup:
Coup is a really important card in the energy decks. It gives the most popular Temur version a great answer to opposing The Scarab Gods against Sultai or Temur-splash-black. It is also the best answer the deck has to a fast Hazoret the Fervent. This card is seeing a ton of play right now and quickly becoming format-defining.
If I had to pick a card that was likely to gain significant percentage, this is one of the safest picks I've been able to deduce based on what I'm anticipating at the Pro Tour.
Ramunap Red Specs
The other "Best Pick" that I have come up with is Rampaging Ferocidon. The card had a big weekend, whether you realized it or not. Brandon Burton (sandydog on MTGO) won the Online PTQ playing a version of Mono-Red that was maindecking this nasty little Dinosaur. The card has long been regarded as an automatic sideboard inclusion in Ramunap Red, but moving it to the main is a big game. It solves a lot of problems either directly or indirectly.
The card is pretty gas. It's a 3/3 for three that has three extremely relevant abilities. The menace makes it hard to block in a deck that has a lot of removal and "can't block" effects. Obviously, a red deck doesn't want an opponent to gain life, which makes that ability great. Lastly, the incidental damage that occurs when the opponent plays their own creatures adds up over a match from a deck that is all about dealing 20 quickly.
It is also worth noting that the card punishes Whirler Virtuoso and Oketra's Monument decks in a huge way. This is important because these strategies are inherently strong against Red Deck Wins. It is a red card that hedges against red's biggest weaknesses.
Don't be surprised if this card spikes because a lot of people are looking to pick them up surrounding PT hype. I picked up a bunch for cheap at GP Phoenix and I fully expect to be happy about that decision.
Here's another random Mono-Red sideboard gem:
I've been experimenting with this card out of the Mono-Red sideboard against Temur. Temur tends to focus on bringing in better removal post-sideboard (Chandra's Defeat) which makes trying to grind them with Chandra, Torch of Defiance or Glorybringer kind of awkward.
I found that they were so good at gumming up the board and killing my creatures that I often wanted to have a lot more reach after sideboard. Four damage for four mana is about the best rate that a red deck can get in terms of reach.
Given that these are from a Planeswalker Deck, it's possible they'll be reasonably difficult to acquire if the tech picks up any steam. It's not a particularly awesome Magic card, but it is hard to track down.
Monument: The Anti-Temur
If we assume that Temur will be the most popular and format-defining deck, we might also think about what strategies are inherently good against Temur.
I haven't seen Oketra's Monument make a big splash yet, but it is certainly a deck that has some good options against Temur. In fact, it is one of the better decks against the best deck. Is it possible that Monument will surge into the spotlight and be the talk of the tournament?
Dusk // Dawn is an absolute beating against a deck trying to play large creatures. The Dawn half allows for an endless stream of card advantage down the line.
Monument cards seem like a potential place to look for some Standard value. The deck gets some really interesting cards when it is rebuilt for the current metagame.
In the same vein, Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort is an extremely powerful effect in the Monument deck. The payoff of ramping into a Kjeldoran Outpost that makes lifelink tokens is tough to beat in a long game. A lot of grind. I'd be surprised if there wasn't a great Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort deck in some way, shape, or form.
Last but not least, Oketra the True is another synergistic Monument card. It blocks forever. It hits hard. It survives Dusk. It creates tokens. It seems like a great high-end card to have.
I do believe that Temur will make up a huge percentage of the metagame at the PT. Based on what I've heard from other players, it appears that Temur is the front-runner best deck going into the event. This creates a dynamic for investing where we can do a couple of things.
- We can invest in Temur cards because it will be the "staple good deck" almost no matter what.
- We can invest in cards that could be well positioned against Temur decks.
- We can invest in both sets #1 and #2.
In all actuality, I think doing both is smart. The strategies that are viable in a Temur metagame will form the collective pool of cards that are actively good, and thus those likely to have positive value coming out of Pro Tour weekend.