The Early Standard

How many of you have ever heard of magic-league.com? Magic League is, according to their website, an independent, online Magic: the Gathering community. What they have, is organized tournaments, generally 3 rounds, in whatever format is popular. These tournaments are played out on non-official products that let you play Magic over the internet. These products often update much sooner than Magic Online, as well as being completely free. This has a few advantages, the major one for you and me being that they’ve hosted tens of tournaments with BFZ Standard, Modern, and even Legacy/Vintage. Today, I’ll be looking at some of the Standard lists in preparation for the Pro Tour in Milwaukee.

The first list we’re looking at is from a Magic League Trial (a larger tournament than their average 3 round tournaments), where this list went 5-0:

GR Ramp by Taylor123

[deck]
[Lands]
18 Forest
7 Mountain
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Explosive Vegetation
3 Hedron Archive
4 Nissa’s Pilgrimage
4 Nissa’s Renewal
3 Nissa’s Revelation
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
2 Conduit of Ruin
4 Kozilek’s Channeler
4 Omnath, Locus of Rage
4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Whisperer of the Wilds
[/Creatures]
[/deck]

These 60 cards went undefeated in new Standard. Yup, that’s correct – no sideboard. Who needs to sideboard when GRUUL SMASH EVERYTHING ANYWAY.

I mean, I would definitely suggest using a sideboard, but that’s somewhat of an accomplishment. Magic-League isn’t exactly the online version of the Pro Tour, but it has proven to produce some solid lists here and there. For example, the Mono Blue Devotion deck that dominated a Pro Tour could be found in the Magic League trenches well before that PT.

Also notice the lack of fetches and Cinder Glade, which are easy upgrades to the all-basic manabase. We do want a lot of basics with the amount of search we have for them, but 25 might be overdoing it. A simple upgrade, leaving the same ideas intact, would be something like this:

GR Ramp by Jay Lansdaal

[deck]
[Lands]
2 Blighted Woodland
4 Cinder Glade
9 Forest
3 Mountain
2 Sanctum of Ugin
1 Windswept Heath
4 Wooded Foothills
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Explosive Vegetation
3 Hedron Archive
4 Nissa’s Pilgrimage
4 Nissa’s Renewal
3 Nissa’s Revelation
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
2 Conduit of Ruin
4 Kozilek’s Channeler
4 Omnath, Locus of Rage
4 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger
4 Whisperer of the Wilds
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
4 Radiant Flames
3 Retreat to Kazandu
3 Gaea’s Revenge
4 Dragonlord Atarka
1 Void Winnower
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Now, that sideboard is absolutely not the optimal sideboard, but it has to be better than no sideboard at all, right? Void Winnower is probably the oddest card in the sideboard, but it seems like a solid way to prevent your opponent from casting some important spells (Ulamog, Conduit of Ruin, [card]See the Unwritten[/card]) in the Eldrazi mirror.

Why is this deck good at all? Well, when most list I’ve seen so far are 4-5 color piles of midrange-y “let’s smack all the good cards together with some fetches and duals”, jamming a near infinite supply of Ulamogs down someone’s throat seems like a fairly solid plan. Everything in this deck ramps to the normally-far-out-of-reach 10 mana, and with Conduit of Ruin and Sanctum of Ugin, you can find plenty of threats once you get there. All the “Nissa’s X” spells help find more Ulamogs while ramping and thinning your deck – and most importantly, keeping you alive in the case of Nissa’s Renewal and [card]Nissa’s Revelation[/card].

I also like the combination of Kozilek’s Channeler and [card]Whisperer of the Wilds[/card] (who might finally get their time in the sun since we previewed it on this here website), with Whisperer tapping for two after casting a Channeler. Whisperer and Conduit of Ruin are a great combination too: with any of the 4 mana double ramp spells like [card]Explosive Vegetation[/card] and Hedron Archive they let you go the classic 2>4>6 into Ulamog (with a mana to spare). Casting a very hungry Eldrazi right after your opponent resolves his first [card]Siege Rhino[/card] (or brought their second to light, whatever) is something I’d like to do during my average Magic game – how about you?

Since there weren’t any other Standard trials yet, we’ll be looking at 3-0 lists from this point onwards. The first one I’d like to show you is this one:

[deck]
[Lands]
2 Bloodstained Mire
1 Canopy Vista
1 Cinder Glade
2 Flooded Strand
2 Forest
2 Island
1 Plains
4 Polluted Delta
4 Sandsteppe Citadel
1 Shambling Vent
1 Smoldering Marsh
1 Sunken Hollow
1 Swamp
4 Windswept Heath
[/Lands]
[Spells]
3 Abzan Charm
4 Bring to Light
1 Crux of Fate
1 Kolaghan’s Command
1 Languish
3 Ruinous Path
1 Sultai Charm
1 Utter End
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Deathmist Raptor
4 Den Protector
1 Dragonlord Ojutai
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
1 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
4 Siege Rhino
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
2 Dispel
4 Duress
4 Arashin Cleric
1 Negate
1 Abzan Charm
2 Languish
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

This is one of those lists that the Ramp deck preys on, but it’s one of the more solid versions I’ve seen so far. Jace works great with the increased land count, filtering land you don’t need, and if you do need to discard spells, [card]Deathmist Raptor[/card] might give you some value, or [card]Den Protector[/card] can get them back for you.

I am a little hesitant to give this Jay’s Sign Of Approval(tm) when there are so many 3 cost removal spells, and aside from Jace no realistic two drops, but the sideboard does seem to address that somewhat. Three copies of Ruinous Path with only 16 black sources is also somewhat ambitious, so perhaps slicing one of those for a [card]Reave Soul[/card] improves that somewhat, but other than that, I like the look of this one.

One of the things this list shows, is that a lot is possible with fetches and duals you can fetch with them. It also shows that it’s hard to fit in a bunch of colorless lands or creature-lands and have enough basics to not fall far behind while fumbling with your manabase. Manabases are probably the hardest they’ve been to build in a long time, and spending time on them is worth the effort, as maximizing your manabase to get the most value out of it goes a long way to combat color-screw and mana flood in decks like these, with 27 lands and 5 colors to grab.

The second list I liked, but that’s probably not so exciting is this Mardu Dragons list:

Mardu Dragons by seeBanane

[deck]
[Lands]
2 Battlefield Forge
4 Bloodstained Mire
2 Caves of Koilos
1 Evolving Wilds
3 Mountain
4 Nomad Outpost
3 Plains
4 Shambling Vent
3 Smoldering Marsh
1 Swamp
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Crackling Doom
3 Draconic Roar
2 Foul-Tongue Invocation
1 Kolaghan’s Command
2 Mardu Charm
1 Murderous Cut
2 Outpost Siege
1 Roast
1 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
3 Wild Slash
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
1 Dragonlord Kolaghan
2 Hangarback Walker
2 Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury
4 Soulfire Grand Master
4 Thunderbreak Regent
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
1 Fiery Impulse
2 Rending Volley
1 Arashin Cleric
2 Self-Inflicted Wound
2 Radiant Flames
1 Outpost Siege
1 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
2 Utter End
1 Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
1 Tragic Arrogance
1 Kolaghan’s Command
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

Losing the full set of [card]Stormbreath Dragon[/card]s hurts, but this list isn’t even playing four of the obvious replacement: [card]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/card]. Instead, we have more removal, and [card]Outpost Siege[/card]s making up for the smaller amount of Dragons.

Notice how this list is playing 27 lands as well. I think you could probably shave at least one. This list has more colored sources than necessary, but having 4 Shambling Vents and the [card]Outpost Siege[/card]s do help alleviate flooding, so having more than the previously played 25 lands might be fine. [card]Soulfire Grand Master[/card] is also a workhorse when it comes to helping you when you’re flooding out, because having it out means suddenly you don’t mind having 7+ mana when you draw a [card]Mardu Charm[/card].

One of the main attractions to this deck to me is that you are playing a midrange type deck with actual cheap, solid removal in [card]Wild Slash[/card] and [card]Draconic Roar[/card]. That gives you a lot more game against Mono Red and decks like Abzan Aggro, which I’m sure we’ll see variants of in this new Standard format. For example, variants like these:

Abzan Aggro by A4G

[deck]
[Lands]
3 Canopy Vista
4 Caves of Koilos
3 Forest
4 Llanowar Wastes
2 Plains
4 Sandsteppe Citadel
4 Windswept Heath
[/Lands]
[Spells]
4 Abzan Charm
4 Dromoka’s Command
2 Valorous Stance
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
4 Anafenza, the Foremost
4 Deathmist Raptor
4 Den Protector
3 Hangarback Walker
4 Heir of the Wilds
4 Siege Rhino
3 Warden of the First Tree
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
3 Wingmate Roc
3 Arashin Cleric
1 Ultimate Price
3 Duress
1 Tasigur, the Golden Fang
2 Self-Inflicted Wound
2 Hidden Dragonslayer
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

I’ve seen a lot of lists mess around with Ruinous Path, but BB is really rough on the mana since [card]Windswept Heath[/card] can’t fetch black. This deck just plays only double green cards, letting you use [card]Warden of the First Tree[/card] and have plenty of untapped lands. In the above list, I would probably even switch out the third Caopy Vista for another basic Forest, but other than that, the list looks fairly solid to me. I like [card]Heir of the Wilds[/card] with the Anafenzas and [card]Siege Rhino[/card]s, and between it and [card]Deathmist Raptor[/card], whatever blockers your opponent has does not really matter. You also have some good, cheap removal, which is a luxury in this Standard, it feels like.

The question for Abzan Aggro is really whether it’s worth trying to fit in Gideon (possibly with [card]Knight of the White Orchid[/card] like Brad Nelson has proposed in one of his recent articles), or if we keep the curve low like this list, and go aggressive Boswell-style.

The last list we’ll be looking at is a bit of an oddball, but it’s in my favorite colors, so here we go:

Bant Awaken by Foomanjew343

[deck]
[Lands]
1 Canopy Vista
4 Flooded Strand
3 Forest
1 Haven of the Spirit Dragon
3 Island
2 Lumbering Falls
1 Mage-Ring Network
2 Plains
4 Prairie Stream
2 Tranquil Cove
3 Windswept Heath
[/Lands]
[Spells]
2 Clash of Wills
3 Dig Through Time
2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Ojutai’s Command
2 Planar Outburst
3 Scatter to the Winds
4 Stasis Snare
2 Valorous Stance
[/Spells]
[Creatures]
3 Den Protector
1 Dragonlord Dromoka
3 Dragonlord Ojutai
4 Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy
2 Nissa, Vastwood Seer
[/Creatures]
[Sideboard]
2 Dispel
2 Disdainful Stroke
3 Mastery of the Unseen
2 Retreat to Kazandu
1 Planar Outburst
1 Tragic Arrogance
2 Whisperwood Elemental
1 Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
1 Blighted Cataract
[/Sideboard]
[/deck]

This deck looks like a pile at first sight, but I think it shows how powerful Awaken can be. This deck plays some slight inefficient cards in Scatter to the Winds and Planar Outburst, but if the game goes long, this deck can grind out value like the best of them. The Awakens are obviously great, but Jace, Nissa, [card]Den Protector[/card] are all cards that scale very well as the game goes long. This deck almost feels like it could use some ramp, but I think the plan is just to drag the game on to the point where you simply have made so many land drops that you overpower your opponent with the extra value out of your cards.

This deck also gets to play 4 Stasis Snare, which seems like one of the better removal spells if [card]Dromoka’s Command[/card] isn’t overly popular. I do wonder if one of them shouldn’t be a Quarantine Field, to fit the theme of scaling better and better over time…

That is all I have for now, I hope you liked this dive into some early Standard lists, and good luck at your first FNMs and other tournaments. I’ll be practicing as much as possible for the Pro Tour in Milwaukee, so hopefully I learn enough to be able to share things with you guys.

Jay Lansdaal
@iLansdaal on Twitter