Amonkhet Standard, Now With Fewer Cats!

Chris VanMeterStandard

Whenever a new set comes out, we hope for some shakeups in the Standard format. Existing strategies get some new options, and with a little luck, some entirely new strategies will leap to the forefront of the format and keep everyone on their toes.

Amonkhet was released a week and a half ago, and with it, a whole slew of awesome cards was injected into the Standard format. During opening weekend, there were plenty of reports flowing in about the state of the new Standard. While I had hoped that the community would be abuzz about the newest brews, all I heard was:

“Why play anything but Saheeli Rai and Felidar Guardian?”

The ability to play a grindy, midrange game while threatening lethal at any time was just too good, and the following Monday’s Banned & Restricted announcement yielded no reprieve. Settling in until after the Pro Tour for another announcement seemed the only option. At least Glorybringer was seeing play, as decks like this destroyed that first Friday Night Magic and in subsequent Magic Online tournaments.

4-Color Saheeli

4 Felidar Guardian
2 Glorybringer
4 Rogue Refiner
4 Servant of the Conduit
3 Whirler Virtuoso

4 Attune with Aether
2 Chandra, Torce of Defiance
1 Nahiri, the Harbinger
2 Nissa, Steward of Elements
4 Saheeli Rai
4 Harnessed Lightning
2 Oath of Chandra
4 Oath of Nissa

4 Aether Hub
4 Botanical Sanctum
1 Game Trail
2 Spirebluff Canal
5 Forest
1 Island
2 Mountain
1 Plains

1 Oath of Chandra
2 Authority of the Consuls
2 Bristling Hydra
2 Manglehorn
1 Natural Obsolescence
3 Negate
1 Shock
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
2 Tireless Tracker

This strategy dominated Magic Online so much that, two days after the B&R announcement, Wizards issued an addendum, banning Felidar Guardian in Standard.

Since then, there have been a few large events and a lot of brewing happening. Many of the most successful decks in Standard currently are those that saw the most play before Felidar Guardian was printed – namely, Mardu Vehicles and B/G Delirium. Additionally, the combination of the Felidar Guardian ban and the addition of Amonkhet and Aether Revolt cards (remember, we haven’t played with Aether Revolt in Standard without the Saheeli combo) have opened some awesome new strategies.

Check out this Mono-Black Zombies deck that Top 8’d the Sunday PTQ at Grand Prix Richmond:

4 Metallic Mimic
4 Cryptbreaker
4 Diregraf Colossus
4 Dread Wanderer
4 Lord of the Accursed
4 Relentless Dead

4 Liliana’s Mastery
1 Fatal Push
3 Grasp of Darkness
4 Dark Salvation

21 Swamp
3 Westvale Abbey

1 Fatal Push
2 Scarab Feast
2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Liliana, Death’s Majesty
2 Dispossess
1 Lay Bare the Heart
2 Never/Return
4 Transgress the Mind

Zombies has been a fringe player in the last few Standard formats, but with the addition of a new “lord” with Lord of the Accursed, an aggressive, resilient threat in Dread Wanderer, and a super anthem in Liliana’s Mastery, we are going to see a lot of the undead in the next few months.

Another strategy with a lot to gain from the Felidar Guardian ban is Control, particularly decks that take advantage of Torrential Gearhulk. Playing a long, attrition-based game is back in style again now that we don’t have to worry about surprise combo-kills.

Here is another cool deck from that PTQ Top 8:

4 Torrential Gearhulk
1 Kefnet the Mindful

4 Censor
2 Commit-Memory
4 Disallow
4 Glimmer of Genius
4 Harnessed Lightning
4 Magma Spray
3 Negate
2 Pull from Tomorrow
1 Sweltering Suns

9 Island
4 Mountain
4 Aether Hub
1 Canyon Slough
1 Fetid Pools
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Wandering Fumarole

2 Dragonmaster Outcast
3 Thing in the Ice
1 Brutal Expulsion
2 Dispel
3 Essence Scatter
1 Negate
2 Release the Gremlins
1 Sweltering Suns

Torrential Gearhulk is such a powerhouse, but don’t let that take away from the real star of this deck. Censor is everything that a control deck has needed in Standard. It’s extremely elegant, and while it has the air of Miscalculation and Force Spike, it’s entirely in a league of its own. There are a few things that make Censor so good:

  1. Cycling for U. This lets you keep land-light hands and start cycling as early as turn one to try and hit your land drops. Having such a low cycling cost also lets you use your mana efficiently in the late-game when the one-mana tax effect isn’t going to be very good.
  2. Force Spike effects are well-positioned in Standard. This format is all about curving out, and countering a crucial creature or Planeswalker can be devastating for the opponent. Cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Liliana, Death’s Majesty are going to impact the board in such a way that it’s not easy to catch back up.
  3. The fear is real. Having Censor in your deck puts the fear of Force Spike in your opponents. They will play around it whenever they can afford to, which will translate into extra turns and draw steps for you.

I am excited to see what comes out of the Pro Tour and what brews everyone is working on for Standard. Personally, I plan on casting the Memory side of Commit/Memory with my Torrential Gearhulk on as many end steps as possible.

Let me know what Amonkhet Standard brew you are working with via Twitter (@Chris_VanMeter) and let’s see if we can break this Mardu and Delirium mold that everyone thinks Standard will become.

Header design: Justin Treadway
Header art: “Felidar Guardian” by Jakub Kasper