May 14, 2015

An Uncontrollable Standard

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Welcome back to Perilous Research, DailyMTG.com's exclusive Magic Online column. Since Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir, the Standard format has been in a constant state of evolution. Today, we'll be taking a look at the most successful Standard strategies in recent Magic Online events in an effort to better understand where the format currently stands.

Initially, in Dragons of Tarkir Standard, Esper Dragons and other control strategies seemed to establish themselves as the tier 1 decks, but recent events have proven that the format has a lot of depth. There's no solution to the new Standard, but there are always new approaches.

The control strategies have begun to wane in popularity as the Abzan strategies have adapted for the matchup. Control decks are also struggling with the new onslaught of Collected Company strategies that threaten to drop two must-kill threats onto the battlefield at instant speed.

Standard has become a hostile environment for control decks, and this zeitgeist has opened the door for a number of strategies to start putting up impressive performances.

Let's take a look at the most successful strategies from recent Magic Online Events.


Return to Devotion

Surfkatt's Atarka Green Devotion – 4-0 Standard Daily

Green Devotion strategies struggled against board-sweeping effects like Crux of Fate in the early weeks of the new Standard format. Generally speaking, it's incredibly difficult to maneuver around board sweepers when playing a deck with a lot of creatures that produce mana, the strength of playing expensive spells early is mitigated by the massive card/battlefield advantage gained by opponents with cards like Crux of Fate.

Recently, with the decline of control's popularity, Green Devotion decks are putting the hurt on all of the fair decks that intend on fighting a reasonable war with the deck. The Abzan matchup can be close, but Green Devotion strategies are naturally dominant in matchups where the opponent isn't interacting with us, meaning that the new wave of Collected Company strategies all find themselves in a very rough spot when they're forced to do battle with Dragonlord Atarka.


Atarka Red

Snake Pliskan's Atarka Red – 4-0 Standard Daily

Red decks did a lot of the pushing that made the control decks struggle. Atarka Red in particular is exceptionally strong in game one against the control strategies, and they're struggling more and more to find the requisite 7–9 card sideboard plan to sway the matchup. Atarka Red has a strange relationship with the Abzan matchup. I've seen the match go both ways, and it usually comes down to land/spell ratios and how many Siege Rhinos aren't responded to with Atarka's Commands. I really love that the singleton Become Immense is stock at this point.


Protector Midrange

Randizzle's Abzan Midrange – 4-0 Standard Daily

Lucas Siow won Grand Prix Toronto with an Abzan Midrange strategy like this one. Den Protector is absurdly strong in the current metagame, and the deck's combination of the format's most efficient threats, removal, and disruption mean that it has a reasonably strong matchup against any opponent. Courser of Kruphix is likely more powerful than Anafenza, the Foremost in a vacuum, and these versions of Abzan have proven themselves to have a better win percentage when playing against the field at large.


Aggressive Abzan

IBelievable's Abzan Aggro – 4-0 Standard Daily

Abzan Aggro is in a strange place where it doesn't have any bad matchups, but it doesn't have any great matchups either. The deck gets a lot more free wins than the Abzan midrange versions, but it often lacks the longevity and versatility of its more midrange sibling. The deck's simplicity is its beauty and it's hard to imagine a world where this combination of cards won't be winning matches.


Tenacious Temur

MattGalles42's Temur – 4-0 Standard Daily

When the Temur deck draws well, it's basically unstoppable. The latest versions of the deck apply very quick pressure and punish low life totals with four copies of Crater's Claws. Hooting Mandrills is often very inexpensive and combos quite nicely with Stubborn Denial and Temur Ascendancy. Make no mistake, Temur is still a very powerful option in the new Standard.


Mardu Dragons

Trexgameeater's Mardu Dragons – 4-0 Standard Daily

Ben Stark surprised the world with Mardu dragons at Grand Prix Toronto, and the deck has been instrumental in punishing Dragonlord Ojutai and Heroic strategies with Crackling Doom and Foul-Tongue Invocation. The deck uses the format's most efficient removal to control the early turns of the game, and establishes big leads with Goblin Rabblemaster—Standard's most underplayed gem at the moment—and a number of Dragons at the top end. Stormbreath Dragon in particular is very strong at the moment, especially considering that most Abzan lists play one or zero copies of Ultimate Price in their main deck.


Four-Color Company

FMD's Four Color Company – 4-0 Standard Daily

Collected Company is a really powerful card. Some players have started to push the envelope with what's possible when using Collected Company. Four-color versions of the deck may have some consistency issues, but the power level is absolutely obscene. Flipping into a pair of Goblin Rabblemasters represents an attack for 12 on the following turn, so the deck is very good at punishing board sweepers. Ojutai's Command is generally underplayed, but makes an appearance here as a tremendously versatile card. It was only a matter of time before the card made an appearance alongside cards like Seeker of the Way, Rattleclaw Mystic, and Fleecemane Lion.


Dancing Jeskai

Menp777's Jeskai – 2nd Place Standard MOCS

This season's Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) is in the books, and control decks got smashed by Abzan and strange new creations. Perhaps the most exciting deck to come out of the MOCS is the 2nd-place finishing Jeskai deck that plays three copies of Stratus Dancer. The deck does very well against the current Standard metagame and I wouldn't be surprised if we started seeing more of it in the coming weeks. Some numbers may change here, but the general strategy is very strong given the number of expensive and/or high-impact spells that people at playing. I would definitely play a fourth copy of Goblin Rabblemaster somewhere, probably over the second copy of Hordeling Outburst.


White-Green Company

Panoma's White-Green Company – 5th Place Standard MOCS

Another exciting deck that made a run at the championship in the MOCS was Panoma's White-Green Collected Company deck. The deck applies very quick pressure and continues mounting an offensive with Deathmist Raptor, even after the board has been cleared. The deck isn't great against Dragon decks, but Hidden Dragonslayer lives up to its name in those matchups. This seems like a sleeper deck that could be very strong in the coming weeks if the format evolves in a specific way.


Standard with Dragons of Tarkir may be one of the best Standard formats in the last few years. We can expect the top decks to continue changing in reaction to one another. Next week, we'll dive into the new Modern landscape and explore my favorite new Modern strategies involving Dragons of Tarkir!



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