Two weeks ago we saw the first Standard GPs of the season, with events in Lille and New Jersey. Both events featured great storylines, legendary players competing for top spots, and a diverse metagame. I’m not going to spend a lot of time taking a look back at the results of the weekend, since many others have already done great analysis there. But I will say that in this diverse meta, Jeskai shined. Faster midrange decks featuring angels, both Selesnya and Boros variants, also had great weekends. Golgari was the most popular deck on Day 2, and Arclight Phoenix decks gained popularity as well. Mono Red, while putting very few decks into Day 2, won GP Lille. All of these decks are reasonable choices and look to gain popularity due to their positive finishes last weekend. This means that we should have a good idea of what the meta might look like next week, and we can start tuning decklists for this expected meta.
If you plan to play Standard this weekend, you need a plan for any of the decks listed above. I’d expect to play against Jeskai Control, Golgari, and an Angels list at least once in any given event. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Mono Blue tempo, Mono Red frenzy (with Rekindling Phoenixes), or Arclight Phoenix decks. So how do we tune our existing decks? I’ve got you covered there.
Popular white decks include builds of Selenya Tokens, Selesnya Angles, Boros Aggro, Boros Angels, or White Weenie. All of these decks are aggressive, creature based decks that rely on powerful curves and efficient removal to get the job done. If you haven’t already, I highly recommend leaning into Tocatli Honor Guard. Tocatli Honor Guard not only blocks well against the aggro decks, but turns off most of Golgari’s creatures and Crackling Drake’s enter the battlefield abilities. I played in an event a few weeks ago, and got matched against Abzan Explore two matches in a row. Having main deck Tocatli Honor Guard in my aggressive angels deck sealed both matches for me easily.
I’d also look to find room for Remorseful Cleric. The 2/1 flier doesn’t look great on its surface, but it makes the recursive threats from the various graveyard decks (Golgari, Arclight Phoenix) a lot less potent. It’s also a flying threat, which matches up well against Golgari decks.
Illustrated by Sara Winters
Illustrated by Grzegorz Rutkowski
Ok, I’m cheating a little bit here. There aren’t a lot of powerful Mono-Blue spells that have impressed me all too much (at least not ones that can go in a variety of decks), so I’m going to talk about the smartest dragon on Ravnica, Niv-Mizzet. He has impressed more than I thought he would. As a control finisher, he always at least replaces himself and deals damage, and if you can start casting spells you feel almost unbeatable. Look for Niv-Mizzet to start being a real contender for Torrential Gearhulk replacement in Standard moving forward.
Illustrated by Svetlin Velinov
Did you know that Vraska’s Contempt is a good removal spell? It was a pillar of the previous Standard format and hasn’t really moved into the limelight this season yet. I have a feeling it is about to, though. With how much the best decks are relying on recursive threats from the graveyard, I want nothing more out of a removal spell than one that makes the creature gone for good. Arclight Phoenix and Rekindling Phoenix are gaining in popularity, and Vraska’s Contempt is the perfect foil. Planeswalkers are also headlining many of the formats’ decks, including Golgari and Jeskai Control. Having a clean answer to planeswalkers that takes care of the recursive threats in other matchups is very valuable flexibility, and why Vraska’s Contempt needs to start seeing more play.
Illustrated by Clint Cearley
Everyone’s favorite red card is back and just as great as it has been for the last year. Rekindling Phoenix does everything a red four drop should do – it attacks well and ends the game fast, it is resilient to removal, and it blocks many of the major threats in the format (Arclight Phoenix, Crackling Drake, Resplendent Angel, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, to name a few). We didn’t see too many copies of this phoenix at the beginning of the season, while everyone was trying out the new cards, but recent trends leave Rekindling Phoenix in an amazing spot. Red decks that can support the mana should play this bird, and ones that can’t show consider reformatting the mana so that they can. Beware Lava Coil, but otherwise, Rekindling Phoenix does everything.
Bonus Red Card
Lava Coil is an extremely efficient removal spell, and one that permanently deals with sticky threats like the phoenixes or anything from the Golgari deck. It cleanly deals with the Drakes as well. Play more copies of Lava Coil! I’d want all four in my 75 if I’m playing a red deck for now.
Illustrated by Jason Rainville
Illustrated by Wesley Burt
My green card suggestion isn’t exactly a #HotTake, but it is a powerful card that looks to be in a great place given the expected influx of control decks. Carnage Tyrant is the control killer and should be the top end of many green midrange decks. As other archetypes start incorporating more copies of The Immortal Sun as a way to shut down Golgari’s pack of Planeswalkers, Carnage Tyrant is the best six-mana threat that’s left. Play lots of copies of this card. It ends games fast and is good against other midrange and control decks.
Illustrated by Yeong-Hao Han
The Immortal Sun. It does a little bit of everything. It draws cards, turns off Planeswalkers, and makes all of your spells cheaper so you can cast all of those extra cards that you’re drawing. This artifact should start showing up in sideboards to help crack open midrange mirrors. If your only way to deal with this card is Planeswalker based (Teferi, Hero of Dominaria in White-Blue decks, and Vivien Reid and Vraska, Relic Seeker in Green decks), I’d look to add a couple copies of Invoke the Divine or Thrashing Brontodon to make sure you aren’t completely cold to this card. It will run away with the game if left unchecked for a few turns.
Illustrated by Kieran Yanner
All in all, Standard is still wide open. No one deck is overwhelming the best, so you can play whatever you want. No matter what you play, make sure to come prepared to answer these powerful threats.