The first two weeks of Guilds of Ravnica Standard is in the books, and this is what the Standard metagame looked like after the first week! I grabbed the top decks from both SCG Standard events: the standard portion of the Team Open and the Standard Classic, along with the first MTGO PTQ. We see that Mono Red was the most popular archetype, with Golgari decks and assorted flavors of control the next two most popular.
In the following week we saw Golgari gain traction and cement itself as the rock of the format, at least for now. Six out of the Top 8 decks from the October 14th online PTQ were Golgari, and the deck put another six players in the Top 32. The next most represented archetype was Jeskai Control, putting a deck into the Top 8 and another seven copies in the Top 32. After that, no single deck showed up more than three times. Going into PPTQs and other events this weekend, you definitely need to have a plan against Golgari, as it seems to be the most popular deck, and a particularly resilient one at that.
There are many different ways to build the Golgari deck, but the core of most of these decks seems to be explore creatures backed up by Ravenous Chupacabra, and then some powerful six mana spells. Carnage Tyrant, Vraska, Relic, Seeker, and Find // Finality are powerful spells that take over the game when they resolve, and this is what the Golgari deck is often building towards. Usually there are two ways to pressure midrange decks: either go under them or go bigger than them.
Fast decks can often find success against midrange decks – if you can take advantage of the midrange deck stumbling, you can deal a lot of damage before they can respond. Having reach to close out the game when the midrange deck starts to stabilize is also important, which is why red is often the starting point for aggressive strategies. Your opponent will never feel completely safe sitting at five life against an opponent playing Shock, Lightning Strike, Wizards Lightning, and Risk Factor. Speaking of Risk Factor, it and Experimental Frenzy give these burn decks an unreal amount of reach. It’s really crazy how much direct damage red has access to right now. If you want to play an aggressive red deck, play four Risk Factor and four Experimental Frenzy. They’ll make it so easy to close out games against midrange and control decks.
The other fast color, white, is a little harder to figure out. March of the Multitudes is a powerful card, no doubt, but the Selesnya shell hasn’t quite settled yet. Usually, these decks play History of Benalia and Shalai, Voice of Plenty alongside March of the Multitudes. They look to play a relatively fair game, like Golgari, but tend to be more aggressive as they want to end the game before Golgari decks can get their engines online. That being said, it seems as though Golgari decks will more often then not be able to control the game until the point where they can start casting their haymaker spells. Playing Selesnya decks into the more powerful Golgari decks seems like a tough ask. However, there is a secret, a diamond in the rough, and I’m gonna let you all in on the secret…
Illustrated by Sara Winters
Tocatli Honor Guard. A card that most players completely forgot about. But this Torpor Orb wannabe is the perfect card for creature based white decks right now, and it gives you a way to fight through Golgari. How does a two mana 1/3 turn a slightly unfavorable matchup into a favorable one? I’m glad you asked. Go look up a Golgari deck right now. I’ll wait. Now, look at the creatures it plays. Look at them carefully. What does almost every creature in that deck have in common? They all have enters the battlefield abilities. Explore creatures without explore are mediocre for their cost. Ravenous Chupacabra is a four mana 2/2. This means that Golgari decks are forced to spend a premium removal spell, maybe even an Assassin’s Trophy, on the white deck’s two mana 1/3. That lets the white deck play its big stuff sooner, giving it an edge even if Tocatli Honor Guard bites the dust. I’m telling you, it’s the real deal. Play four of this card in creature based white decks this weekend.
There are a handful of archetypes that go bigger than Golgari. A solid combo deck could do it, but I think we’re a few iterations away from anything like that. A ramp deck could do it, too, but it’s in the same boat. That leaves us with control, the classic go bigger than midrange deck. Jeskai control has been the most popular way to play control, and for good reason. The manabase is solid, the deck has access to the cheap red removal, the expensive white sweepers, and the most powerful Planeswalker in Standard: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. The deck almost builds itself, and it has seen a good amount of success. Expansion // Explosion seems to be the real deal, and is where I’d want to be if I were to play a control deck. My decks would look to be base Izzet, using Ionize and Lightning Strike to soften opponents so Explosion can finish the job. I don’t play a lot of control, so I’d look to control experts to get a full decklist from. I will say that Star of Extinction is a cute way to deal with Carnage Tyrants and Azcanta, the Sunken Ruins though…
Another way to go over midrange decks is to just build a bigger midrange deck. What about a Golgari deck that just does bigger stuff? That could be all you need to tilt the scales in your favor. What bigger stuff could I mean? Golgari decks already play a bunch of six mana spells, so how could they get bigger? Honestly, I just want to see more copies of the big bad dino himself, Carnage Tyrant. This hexproof dino is very tough to deal with, survives Finality, and laughs in the face of Vraska, Relic Seeker. I can’t think of a much better thing to be doing on my sixth turn of the game against another Golgari deck than casting Carnage Tyrant. That’s why I want to try to do it on turn five. Versions of Golgari playing Elvish Rejuvinator and Druid of the Cowl have been cropping up, and I think that is the perfect shell to jam four Carnage Tyrant and go to town. You still get to play your explore creatures, Golgari Findbrokers, and Find // Finalitys… You just also get to play the meanest dinosaur in Standard, and that sounds sweet to me.
There you have it, my recommendations for this weekends’ Standard. Golgari reigns supreme for now, but it’s a very beatable deck, and we are nowhere close to finding the best deck for this Standard. As for me, I’m playing four Tocatli Honor Guard tomorrow, while my teammate Campbell is going to try to cast as many Carnage Tyrants as possible.