RNA Standard – State of the Union Address

By: Myles Miller

Good news, friends: you don’t have to be into politics to care about this particular address. It’s been 3 weeks since the release of Ravnica Allegiance and I’m here to give you an update on the State of the Union. By which I mean we’re going to take a look at the current shape of the Standard format! There have been quite a few major events over the last few weekends, and my goal here is to break down some of the decks that are currently performing well at the top tables throughout the Magic world. We’ve got some existing decks with sweet new upgrades, and a few entirely new decks.

 

What’s Old is New Again

If it ain’t broke, why fix it? When a new set is added to Standard, sometimes all you need to do to stay competitive is make slight changes to the deck you were already playing. Cut a few cards here, throw in some new spice there, and you’re good to go. Let’s take a look at a few decks that were doing very well in Guilds of Ravnica Standard, and see how they’ve adapted to the new format.

Sultai Midrange, by Anthony Devarti. SCG Open, Indianapolis, 1st place

2x Carnage Tyrant

3x Hydroid Krasis

4x Jadelight Ranger

4x Llanowar Elves

4x Merfolk Branchwalker

2x Midnight Reaper

2x Ravenous Chupacabra

1x Seeker’s Squire

4x Wildgrowth Walker

3x Vivien Reid

2x Cast Down

3x Find//Finality

2x Vraska’s Contempt

4x Breeding Pool

1x Drowned Catacomb

4x Forest

1x Island

2x Memorial to Folly

4x Overgrown Tomb

2x Swamp

2x Watery Grave

4x Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard

1x Crushing Canopy

3x Cry of the Carnarium

1x Disdainful Stroke

4x Duress

2x Negate

1x Tendershoot Dryad

2x The Eldest Reborn

1x Vraska’s Contempt

Golgari Midrange was arguably the best deck in Guilds of Ravnica Standard. With an efficient curve, the ability to buy back creatures from the graveyard, and a whole lot of Exploring to keep draws consistent, this deck was hard to beat. But even the best can get better. This archetype has added a third color for one huge benefit: Hydroid Krasis. As it turns out, cutting Vraska, Relic Seeker from the top of the curve in order to play Hydroid Krasis has been a very effective change. Even if your Krasis gets countered, you still get to draw cards and gain life. The ability to reuse this effect by getting the Hydroid Krasis back with Memorial to Folly or the first half of Find//Finality can really swing a game in your favor. Having access to blue mana has the added benefit of enabling the use of counterspells in the sideboard just to make certain matchups, like control, more flexible.

Izzet Drakes, by Brad Carpenter. SCG Open, Indianapolis. 8th place.

4x Crackling Drake

4x Enigma Drake

4x Pteramander

1x Beacon Bolt

4x Chart a Course

4x Discovery//Dispersal

3x Dive Down

4x Lava Coil

4x Opt

4x Shock

3x Spell Pierce

1x Blood Crypt

8x Island

4x Mountain

4x Steam Vents

4x Sulfur Falls

Sideboard

2x Disdainful Stroke

2x Entrancing Melody

2x Fiery Cannonade

2x Niv-Mizzet, Parun

2x Ral, Izzet Viceroy

2x Shivan Fire

1x Star of Extinction

2x Treasure Map

The Little 1/1 That Could: Pteramander has been added to the existing Izzet Drakes shell to increase the number of threats from 8 drakes to 12 total hard-hitting fliers. He doesn’t pack quite as much power as the drakes can, but a 5/5 with flying is certainly a beating. Cutting Goblin Electromancer from this deck means it loses some of the flashy, powerful turns this deck was capable of producing by casting a bunch of spells in one turn, but instead trades that potential for consistency and a greater number of serious threats.

Azorius Aggro, by Max Magnuson. SCG Open, Indianapolis. 4th place.

4x Benalish Marshal

4x Dauntless Bodyguard

4x Deputy of Detention

1x Healer’s Hawk

4x Hunted Witness

4x Snubhorn Sentry

4x Tithe Taker

4x Venerated Loxodon

1x Conclave Tribunal

4x History of Benalia

4x Legion’s Landing

1x Unbreakable Formation

4x Glacial Fortress

4x Hallowed Fountain

13x Plains

Sideboard

3x Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants

3x Baffling End

1x Island

3x Negate

2x Spell Pierce

3x Tocatli Honor Guard

Monowhite Aggro was another popular deck before the release of Ravnica Allegiance. Over time, this deck added red mana in order to play cards like Experimental Frenzy or even Heroic Reinforcements to close out games. But now, we’ve seen this archetype take a slightly different direction by splashing blue instead of red. Having blue as the second color allows for the deck to include a powerful new tool: Deputy of Detention isn’t the most aggressive creature in the deck, but it’ll remove any pesky permanent that’s in the way of the aggressive strategy of an otherwise monowhite deck.

 

New Kids on the Block

Ravnica Allegiance adds 5 new guilds, including the completion of the shockland cycle that was started in Guilds of Ravnica. With all these new cards entering the format, it’s unsurprising that we should see some entirely new decks become competitive. Let’s take a look at some of Standard’s newest spice.

Esper Control, by Jonathan Hobbs. SCG Open, Dallas. 2nd place.

4x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria

4x Absorb

1x Cast Down

2x Chemister’s Insight

2x Cry of the Carnarium

3x Kaya’s Wrath

2x Moment of Craving

3x Mortify

2x Negate

2x Precognitive Perception

2x Search for Azcanta

3x Thought Erasure

3x Vraska’s Contempt

1x Warrant//Warden

4x Drowned Catacomb

4x Glacial Fortress

4x Godless Shrine

4x Hallowed Fountain

4x Isolated Chapel

1x Plains

1x Swamp

4x Watery Grave

Sideboard

4x Basilica Bell-Haunt

3x Duress

2x Hostage Taker

1x Kaya’s Wrath

1x The Eldest Reborn

4x Thief of Sanity

I can’t adequately express how much I’d been waiting for this day. Esper Control is my favorite flavor of control, and now with the addition of Godless Shrine and Hallowed Fountain, it’s time for this deck to really shine. Jeskai is old news. Deafening Clarion is out. Niv-Mizzet, who’s that? Armed with new cards like Kaya’s Wrath and Absorb, and format-defining powerhouses like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Search for Azcanta, and Vraska’s Contempt, it’s no real surprise that control players have chosen to go with Black as a third color instead of Red.

Esper Midrange, by Wyatt Darby. SCG Open, Indianapolis. 7th place.

4x Basilica Bell-Haunt

4x Deputy of Detention

4x Hero of Precinct One

2x Hostage Taker

2x Lyra Dawnbringer

3x Seraph of the Scales

3x Thief of Sanity

2x Dovin, Grand Arbiter

4x Discovery//Dispersal

4x Mortify

4x Thought Erasure

4x Drowned Catacomb

4x Glacial Fortress

4x Godless Shrine

3x Hallowed Fountain

4x Isolated Chapel

1x Swamp

4x Watery Grave

Sideboard

1x Cast Down

2x Consecrate//Consume

1x Disdainful Stroke

2x Duress

2x Karn, Scion of Urza

1x Moment of Craving

3x Negate

1x The Eldest Reborn

2x Vraska’s Contempt

We just talked about Esper Control, but here’s a different take on that 3-color combination. Wyatt Darby created this powerful brew that takes advantage of Hero of Precinct One’s ability while playing powerful standalone cards like Thief of Sanity and Seraph of the Scales to overwhelm opponents with card advantage. With 23 dual lands in the deck, it’s relatively easy to play so many multicolored spells and really take advantage of everything the white/blue/black color combination has to offer.

Nexus of Gates. By Drake Sasser. SCG Open Dallas. 12th place.

4x Hydroid Krasis

4x Circuitous Route

4x Expansion//Explosion

4x Gates Ablaze

4x Growth Spiral

4x Guild Summit

4x Nexus of Fate

2x Spell Pierce

4x Wilderness Reclamation

1x Forest

1x Island

3x Azorius Guildgate

1x Boros Guildgate

1x Breeding Pool

4x Gruul Guildgate

4x Izzet Guildgate

4x Plaza of Harmony

3x Selesnya Guildgate

4x Simic Guildgate

Sideboard

3x Archway Angel

4x Gatebreaker Ram

2x Lava Coil

4x Negate

2x Niv-Mizzet, Parun

If you told me a month ago that a Guildgate deck would be viable in Standard, I wouldn’t have believed you. This deck essentially functions as a ramp-style strategy that hurls big spells at opponents one after the other. Guild Summit is a very powerful card-draw engine that lets the deck keep its foot on the gas all game long. Speaking from personal experience, there are few things more backbreaking in a long, grindy game of magic than your opponent playing Guild Summit very late in the game, and tapping 5+ additional guildgates to refill their hand. Combine this with an efficient board wipe in Gates Ablaze with win conditions like Expansion//Explosion and Hydroid Krasis, and you’ve got a unique and potentially very powerful deck.

 

End Step

These are only a few of the decks putting up winning results at tournaments. At this point in the format, almost any deck can be competitive. Have you made changes of your own to an existing Standard deck with new RNA cards? Or perhaps put together your own brew from scratch? Let us know in the comments, or bring it out to this week’s Friday Night Magic at Battlegrounds! See you there!

Pass Turn.

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