The State of Standard: Pre-PT HOU

Chantelle Campbell Standard

It’s been a few weeks since Hour of Devastation was released, and the new format is in full swing. Teams have begun their testing gauntlets, and Standard leagues continue to be some of the most popular tournaments on Magic Online. With the Pro Tour looming on the horizon, I wanted to dive into what we might expect to see in Kyoto, and how the metagame might shake down.

Current Metagame

W/U Monument
Jonathon Rosum | 2nd, SCG Cincinnati | July 16, 2017

4 Bygone Bishop
4 Cloudblazer
4 Hanweir Militia Captain
4 Selfless Spirit
4 Spell Queller
4 Thraben Inspector
3 Dusk // Dawn
2 Metallic Rebuke
4 Oketra’s Monument
2 Stasis Snare
1 Irrigated Farmland
4 Island
9 Plains
4 Port Town
4 Prairie Stream
3 Westvale Abbey

Sideboard
3 Angel of Sanctions
2 Fragmentize
3 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Negate
2 Nimble Obstructionist
2 Stasis Snare

After the banning of Aetherworks Marvel late last season, W/U Monument quickly emerged as one of the most powerful decks in the format. While the deck didn’t pick up much from Hour of Devastation (maybe a few Nimble Obstructionists in the board), the strong synergies inherent in Oketra’s Monument, Hanweir Militia Captain, Bygone Bishop, and Dusk // Dawn continue to make this a top deck – if not THE top deck – in the new Standard format. The deck can quickly reload after a board wipe, and Dusk // Dawn’s one-sided wrath effect accompanied by Spell Queller (often for two mana!) can take out most threats to your game plan.

While Monument is full of raw power, it is not unbeatable. The deck has trouble overcoming the right combination of board wipes and pressure, which can make decks like B/G Counters and R/G Ramp troublesome. If you are familiar with how the deck operates, you can effectively play around over-committing to Dusk // Dawn or walking into an opposing Spell Queller. If you’ve tested the matchup and have a plan of attack to keep the deck from snowballing out of control, you should be alright.

 

U/R Control
Patrick Narsavage | 2nd, SCG Standard Classic | July 16, 2017

4 Torrential Gearhulk
2 Magma Spray
2 Abrade
3 Censor
3 Essence Scatter
4 Harnessed Lightning
3 Disallow
3 Supreme Will
4 Glimmer of Genius
3 Hieroglyphic Illumination
3 Hour of Devastation
4 Aether Hub
1 Fetid Pools
9 Island
4 Mountain
4 Spirebluff Canal
4 Wandering Fumarole

Sideboard
2 Dispel
2 Dragonmaster Outcast
2 Magma Spray
3 Negate
3 Thing in the Ice
1 Sweltering Suns
1 Summary Dismissal
1 Chandra, Flamecaller

One effective strategy in the fight against Oketra’s Monument is U/R control, which has access to a variety of sweepers including Sweltering Suns; Chandra, Flamecaller; and Hour of Devastation (which gets around that pesky Selfless Spirit). Modal cards like Abrade and Supreme Will give the deck a flexibility that it lacked before Hour of Devastation. Being able to keep up your mana on turn three to counter a pesky threat or dig for more answers if your opponent doesn’t present anything worth countering is incredibly powerful. Additionally, Abrade’s ability to deal with both artifacts and opposing creatures gives you an answer to almost every opposing deck.

 

Mono-Red Aggro
Tom Ross | 1st, SCG Atlanta | July 23, 2017

4 Bomat Courier
4 Falkenrath Gorger
2 Soul-Scar Mage
4 Earthshaker Khenra
1 Kari Zev, Skyship Raider
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Ahn-Crop Crasher
1 Hazoret the Fervent
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
4 Built to Smash
3 Magma Spray
4 Abrade
3 Foreboding Ruins
11 Mountain
4 Ramunap Ruins
1 Smoldering Marsh
4 Sunscorched Desert

Sideboard
3 Blazing Volley
1 Chandra’s Defeat
1 Magma Spray
2 Harsh Mentor
1 Invigorated Rampage
2 Aethersphere Harvester
1 Eldrazi Obligator
2 Hanweir Garrison
1 Kari Zev’s Expertise
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Aggressive decks are often a popular choice as formats begin to develop, and this Standard metagame is no different. Ramunap Ruins and Earthshaker Kendra seem to be providing the tools that Mono-Red was missing to push it over the top, and with Sunscorched Desert to sacrifice to your Ruins, players have little fear of flooding out. The high number of colorless sources has brought back powerful mid-sized Eldrazi like Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher, but Ross opted for blisteringly fast speed with Built to Smash and a slight black splash to bring Scrapheap Scrounger back from the graveyard. While Built to Smash will be a known quantity for players to navigate around going forward, the deck might be fast enough that it doesn’t matter.

While I believe that the above decks will represent the most popular aggro, mid-range, and control decks as we go into the Pro Tour, there are many other decks rising in popularity.

 

Up-and-Comers

W/U God-Pharaoh’s Gift
Olivetti | 1st, MTGO Standard PTQ | July 21, 2017

3 Mausoleum Wanderer
4 Thraben Inspector
4 Minister of Inquiries
4 Angel of Invention
3 Cataclysmic Gearhulk
4 Champion of Wits
4 Refurbish
4 Strategic Planning
4 Gate to the Afterlife
3 God-Pharaoh’s Gift
4 Ipnu Rivulet
2 Irrigated Farmland
4 Island
5 Plains
4 Port Town
4 Prairie Stream

Sideboard
2 Crook of Condemnation
3 Declaration in Stone
4 Dispel
2 Fragmentize
1 Linvala, the Preserver
3 Void Winnower

The new hotness, W/U God-Pharaoh’s Gift, recently took down an online PTQ. The deck’s ability to stall out the early game with Mausoleum Wanderer, Champion of Wits, and Gate to the Afterlife gives it time to run out God-Pharoah’s Gift and make opponents answer its threats twice. This engine relies on Minister of Inquiries, Strategic Planning, and Champion of Wits to dig for answers and fill up your graveyard and Refurbish for additional God-Pharaoh’s Gift value. The deck is incredibly graveyard dependent, and if it continues to increase in popularity, graveyard answers like Crook of Condemnation and Scavenger Grounds could see increasing play to counteract its powerful synergies.

 

R/G Ramp
Patrick Paris | 3rd, SCG Standard Classic | July 23, 2017

4 Walking Ballista
3 Matter Reshaper
2 Thought-Knot Seer
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
1 World Breaker
2 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
2 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
3 Abrade
4 Beneath the Sands
1 Kozilek’s Return
3 Sweltering Suns
2 Hour of Devastation
4 Hour of Promise
1 Evolving Wilds
5 Forest
4 Hashep Oasis
2 Mountain
3 Ramunap Ruins
1 Sanctum of Ugin
4 Sheltered Thicket
4 Shrine of the Forsaken Gods

Sideboard
2 Magma Spray
1 Abrade
2 Tireless Tracker
1 Crumble to Dust
2 Thought-Knot Seer
2 Hour of Devastation
4 Reality Smasher
1 World Breaker

Beneath the Sands, Hour of Promise, and Deserts have brought Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger out of hiding. The Deserts’ colorless mana production also allows this ramp strategy to play all sorts of Eldrazi, and it can transform into a midrange deck post-board with full playsets of Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher. Red provides a diverse range of board wipes, including new addition Hour of Devastation, to deal with a variety of aggressive and mid-range strategies.

 

Four-Color Emerge
Zan Syed | 3rd, SCG Cincinnati | July 16, 2017

4 Champion of Wits
4 Elder Deep-Fiend
4 Grim Flayer
4 Haunted Dead
1 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
4 Prized Amalgam
3 Grapple with the Past
4 Kozilek’s Return
2 Strategic Planning
4 Traverse the Ulvenwald
4 Vessel of Nascency
4 Blooming Marsh
4 Botanical Sanctum
4 Evolving Wilds
4 Forest
1 Hissing Quagmire
2 Island
1 Lumbering Falls
1 Mountain
1 Swamp

Sideboard
2 Bontu’s Last Reckoning
1 Distended Mindbender
4 Fatal Push
2 Liliana, the Last Hope
1 Manglehorn
2 Negate
1 Never // Return
2 Tireless Tracker

Emerge became a popular strategy in previous Standard seasons, but the addition of Champion of Wits has pushed it back into the forefront. The ability to wipe the board early with Kozilek’s Return and then recur it with Elder Deep-Fiend as your opponent begins to re-establish a board presence is incredibly powerful against the variety of go-wide strategies currently circulating. However, this deck also has trouble against the graveyard hate in the format, and as other graveyard-based strategies grow in popularity, Emerge could suffer as well.

 

The Old Standbys

With all these new and exciting strategies running around, it’s easy to forget about the popular mainstays. There are still a lot of players sleeving up Mardu Vehicles, Mono-Black (and B/W) Zombies, B/G Counters and Temur Energy. While these tried-and-true strategies aren’t necessarily putting up the numbers that they were last season, their pilots will have had a lot of time to practice, and their familiarity with these decks can prove troublesome for players who have overlooked them, or who have shifted their sideboard strategies to focus on other matchups. Mardu Vehicles’ ability to pivot from aggressive beats to Planewalker control is still incredibly powerful, and the ability for Zombies to grow out of range of red sweepers can prove problematic. B/G Counters has been cited as a rough matchup for W/U Monument, and an unanswered threat from Temur Energy can run rampant.

The sheer number of decks currently floating around the Standard metagame is a promising sign of a healthy format. Whether a pro team or two solves this Standard next weekend remains to be seen, but being prepared to face no less than ten unique decks is a hefty order. I’m excited to see how the meta will shake down in Kyoto – whether one of these decks emerges victorious or a new strategy rises through the ranks. As I prepare for my own RPTQ in a few short weeks, I know that the insights gleaned from the Pro Tour will shape Standard for months to come.