We’re a couple of weeks into Midnight Hunt Standard. The games have been fun, the format seems healthy, and people are starting to figure out what the cream of the crop is. Today, we’re going to go off the trail of conventional thought for a bit and talk about three underrated decks in Standard.
Mono-Black has been on the fringe of the format since the first couple of days. Lots of players have flocked to it as an unconventional answer to the main threats in the format. Your plan is rather simple: you have few true win conditions, but your deck is chock-full of removal, making it very challenging for your opponents to ever win the game. In essence, your win condition is the opponent not winning.
Cards like The Meathook Massacre really help achieve this goal. Meathook can stabilize both the board and your life total, but it also helps chip away at the opponent’s life as the game drags on. A game dragging on is often the hardest hurdle for this deck to overcome; actually finishing the opponent off and not allowing them time to crawl back into the game is by far the biggest challenge to piloting the deck.
Your main win condition is Lolth, Spider Queen. She’s a great roleplayer in a control deck. Either providing card draw or providing plenty of board presence when you get into long drawn-out games, Lolth excels for us. Her spiders having menace helps to push through the last points of damage when you inevitably want to turn the corner.
Esper Stadium Control
Sticking to the control theme, we have Esper Stadium. This deck looks to be doing a similar thing to Mono-Black except it looks to win the game off of Strixhaven Stadium.
Not just a mana rock, Strixhaven Stadium is an alternate win condition card introduced in the set of the same name. You can win like normal dealing damage with bird or angel tokens, but the path to victory with the mana rock is to essentially set up three Alrund’s Epiphany in a row.
By attacking and hitting them with the birds, Stadium will reach the ten counters needed and you’ll win on the spot. The Stadium also serves as a mana source to combine with Teferi, Who Slows the Sunset.
Much like the last deck your plan is to answer most things that come your way, but unlike the last deck, you do that much more with permission than kill spells. This has its own strengths and weaknesses, of course. Against low to the ground decks that can more easily get under you and put you on the back foot, you’re really counting on finding Doomskar. Decks that are much higher on the curve—or are playing with mostly spells—are going to be a much easier matchup for your deck. In context, the Stadium deck is heavily favored versus the Mono-Black deck we just talked about, since it has far fewer dead cards.
This deck has some real promise, not least because I think your opponents will probably very easily over-sideboard artifact hate trying to stop the Stadium win-con in post-board games; we can simply pivot to a normal win condition, leaving them with a handful of cards that don’t matter.
This is a deck I briefly went over last week in my article on early frontrunners. The deck looks to get cheap threats on the board early and interact with what the opponent tries to do before closing the game out with the Goldspan Dragon/Alrund’s Epiphany package. This deck is a little unorthodox on first inspection; you play a lot of very cheap interaction and cheap creatures, but still have big spells like Goldspan Dragon and Alrund’s Epiphany. Stay with me though, because there is a method to this madness.
UR Tempo is hard targeting the Esika’s Chariot and Wrenn and Seven decks. While you can beat other decks fairly comfortably, your whole game plan is about abusing the axes that these decks play on. So, Goldspan Dragon and Alrund’s Epiphany are here as they’re the win conditions that finish the quickest against the aforementioned decks. While a tad incongruent with the rest of the deck, I think the package is needed—there’s some real impact in having powerful spells like this available in your deck.
While UR Tempo is a convincing build, the deck has had some real predators emerge, with Mono-White Aggro shooting up in popularity in the last week. That being said, if you see the Esika decks a bunch and you’re looking to answer them, then this is the deck for you.
Standard is currently so deep and so underexplored—for every archetype—that in a few weeks any of these decks could end up being top players. So go out, and see what the world of Standard has to offer! Tweet @masoneclark and let me know what you’re battling with.
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.