Standard evolves relatively quickly these days, with many online tournament results and statistics at our fingertips. We see this evolution resolve rapidly through Magic Online Challenges and leagues, Star City Games events, and on the Arena Ladder. It’s often difficult to know what to play from week to week when formats evolve as quickly as they do nowadays, so how do you decide what to register for your next tournament?
I usually start by looking at the most recent tournament data, including the Star City events and the MTGO Standard Challenges. This past weekend, both Top 8’s had a large variety of decks, from aggro decks to Sacrifice to Rogues. That’s pretty good news for a lot of players, because there’s room for us to play the decks we have most experience with.
You can also try to metagame for your next tournament based on what the most successful decks were the previous weekend. Mono-Red Aggro put the most decks into both Top 8’s, so if many people bring Mono-Red to the next tournament, you can register a deck that beats it.
While I would never advocate for anyone to register a deck they’re uncomfortable with, here are my top three decks that I would recommend for the upcoming weekend. These are the decks I’ve enjoyed playing the most while testing for my Rivals Split, and I hope you like them as much as I do.
If you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Mono-Red Aggro had a stellar weekend, and I’m often a fan of “just playing the best deck.”
Mono-Red Aggro has a big target on its back after winning the Star City event this past weekend. But that doesn’t stop it from being one of the most powerful decks in Standard with access to the most powerful card in the format: Embercleave. Mono-Red can support Embercleave better than Gruul Aggro, and it can cast it sooner. This deck can have explosive, powerful, and unstoppable aggressive draws, but it has plenty of play in the late game, which is necessary against a lot of decks in this format.
But just how did Mono-Red Aggro get back to the forefront of the format? The deck has done a good job of capitalizing on the current state of Standard: going under the Sultai Ultimatum decks and having cheap and efficient removal for the Mono-White Aggro decks. It’s also no surprise that Embercleave decks are at the top of the metagame, and that the best Embercleave deck of them all is the one taking down tournaments. Throne of Eldraine’s power level is significantly higher than that of other Standard sets, and Embercleave is one of the only broken cards still legal in the format. There aren’t many effective ways to deal with Embercleave at instant speed other than removing the creature Embercleave is trying to attach to, which makes it an efficient threat in Mono-Red Aggro.
Another key card in this deck is Bonecrusher Giant. Some of the most powerful cards in Standard are those with multiple functions and that allow for complex decisions. Bonecrusher Giant functions as a removal spell and a threat, and it forces opponents to take damage from targeting it.
But the card that really makes Mono-Red Aggro a notch above the rest is Goldspan Dragon. This card has almost single-handedly pushed Aggro/Midrange to the front of the format. Like Stormbreath Dragon and Glorybringer, Goldspan Dragon has been an efficient top-end threat to Gruul and other red-based decks in Standard.
Mono-Red sprung up in popularity following Mono-White Aggro’s success in previous weeks, with many copies in Top 8’s across Arena and MTGO events. The metagame changed rapidly in a week and Mono-White Aggro declined in popularity — will the same thing happen to Mono-Red this week? What should you play if you’re looking to beat Mono-Red?
Gruul Aggro has started to fall a bit out of the metagame in the past few weeks, largely because of its poor matchup with Sultai Ultimatum. However, if we are gunning for Mono-Red Aggro, Gruul Aggro is where you want to be.
While Mono-Red has some advantages over Gruul against the rest of the metagame, Gruul has the upper hand in the head-to-head, largely because of anti-aggro cards like Lovestruck Beast. Lovestruck Beast is one of the best ways to combat other aggressive decks, and it can put pressure on slower decks as well. Gruul Aggro has a lot of big creatures that outclass Mono-Red’s options and double as excellent blockers that are hard to remove. Cards like Questing Beast, Lovestruck Beast, Kazandu Mammoth, and Bonecrusher Giant can all be a problem for your Mono-Red opponent.
I often like to choose a deck that beats the best deck, but it’s important to consider your other match-ups as well. Gruul has a pretty poor match-up against Sultai Ultimatum, which may still be popular depending on what tournament you’re looking to compete in. You’re pretty even against Dimir Rogues and can be favored against Mono-White Aggro as well. Good news for Gruul players: you have plenty of sideboard options and can tune your list based on which decks you expect to face. You’ll be favored in other aggressive match-ups if you add more removal, and you can hold your own in grindy match-ups with sticky threats and evasive creatures — like Klothys, God of Destiny or Toski, Bearer of Secrets.
There is pretty much a deck for everyone in Standard currently, but what should you avoid registering this upcoming weekend?
What Not to Play
While there are a handful of options to choose from in Standard, there are a couple decks I would advise against playing this weekend. I expect most people to be playing Mono-Red Aggro, so I would not play any decks that have a poor Mono-Red match-up.
The two decks I’d be most hesitant about registering this weekend are Mono-White Aggro and Dimir Rogues. Mono-White was at the top of the metagame two weeks ago, which is why Mono-Red was so successful this past weekend. Dimir Rogues has also fallen out of favor as aggressive decks have become more prevalent. These decks were both effective and successful when decks like Sultai Ultimatum were at the top of the heap because you could go under them or counter all their spells while putting on pressure. As the meta shifts away from these slower, clunkier decks in favor of faster, more aggressive decks, you’ll want to look for decks that are better equipped to deal with an onslaught of damage.
Aggro is the way to go this weekend — now you just have to decide if you want to play Mono-Red Aggro or the deck that beats it! I’m planning on playing Mono-Red this weekend, mainly so I can put Embercleave into play as quickly as possible.
If you aren’t comfortable playing an aggro deck this weekend, there are a few other options: Sultai Ultimatum, Naya Showdown, and Jund Sacrifice are all reasonable choices as well. Whatever you choose to play, good luck, and have fun!