The first weekend of Neon Dynasty Standard is in the books. There’s still a tremendous amount of uncertainty when it comes to best decks, but in this installment of the Power Rankings, I’ll give you a picture of what you might face when you queue up for a Standard match this week.
White Weenie is still fast and punishing. While it lost Faceless Haven, Luminarch Aspirant remains legal as one of the strongest cards in the format. Meanwhile, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Elite Spellbinder provide effective disruption.
Mono-Red wasn’t much of a player prior to Neon Dynasty, but with the release of Kumano Faces Kakkazan and Rabbit Battery as quality one-drops, I think it can be a major player. Den of the Bugbear, Shatterskull Smashing and Sokenzan, Crucible of Defiance allow you to take value from your mana base while the classic recipe of cheap creatures and burn spells is as strong as it’s ever been.
Gruul and Naya beatdown decks were winners from the recent bannings, and even picked up some new options in Kamigawa. With hard-hitting threats and tons of haste damage, these decks are capable of some of the most punishing starts available in Standard. I’m seeing three main versions out there. One is Werewolves, another is a non-tribal Gruul deck, and a third is a Naya Humans deck featuring Luminarch Aspirant and Halana and Elena, Partners.
6. Jeskai Hinata
Jeskai Hinata is arguably the most exciting breakout strategy centered around the Kamigawa cards. The primary combo is to pair Hinata, Dawn-Crowned with Magma Opus. If you choose six distinct targets, the Opus will only cost you two mana, which is a game-winning play. Other interesting spells to pair with Hinata include Lorehold Command and March of Swirling Mist.
Mono-Black was a loser from the banning of Faceless Haven, but a winner from its natural predator of Izzet Turns exiting the format completely. This deck employs the powerful board sweepers Blood on the Snow and The Meathook Massacre. It generates value from a sacrifice theme that includes Shambling Ghast and Deadly Dispute. It has a naturally great setup against opposing creature decks, and can transform after sideboarding into a heavily disruptive anti-control configuration.
4. Blue Control
Control decks lost Divide by Zero, but a side effect of its banning is that Hullbreaker Horror is now more powerful than ever. If you can walk the line between preparing for aggressive creature decks, black midrange decks and control mirror matches, then Izzet, Azorius or Esper Control can be great choices.
Mono-Green isn’t as fast as Mono-White and Mono-Red, but it has more staying power, its threats hit harder, and the efficiency of Blizzard Brawl is hard to match. Your opponents need to stop you at every single point on the mana curve, which becomes nearly impossible when Snakeskin Veil works its way into the equation.
Mono-Green appears to be one the most highly-played decks right now. Whether that will stand the test of time, or whether it’s a holdover from the pre-Kamigawa format is an interesting question.
While I have my doubts about the lower-ranked decks, I think the top two positions remain pretty solid.
Izzet Dragons is strong and proactive. Now that Izzet Turns is out of the picture, this has become the best way to make use of Expressive Iteration. Goldspan Dragon remains one of the best threats in the format, and will almost always lead to a win if it isn’t answered immediately.
1. Orzhov Control
Orzhov Control continues to put up numbers in the Magic Online Standard Challenges. In a world of “fair” Magic, Orzhov might just be king. Vanishing Verse and Rite of Oblivion give it answers to everything, including the new cycle of legendary Dragons from Kamigawa. Sorin the Mirthless, Lolth, Spider Queen and a wide range of other powerful threats give the Orzhov shell a reliable stream of card advantage. In addition to straight Orzhov, I’ve seen people having success with blue and green splashes as well.