Every Standard format has its nuances. There are small edges to be gained here and there by mastering how to sequence your cards properly or how to play around the right things at the right time. Frequently, these skills are honed by playing enough of the format and getting the interactions drilled into you. Having played hundreds and hundreds of games testing for the Pro Tour and other Standard events over the past few weeks, here are some I picked up.
#1) Sequence Your Lands Properly to Play Around Drawing a Shadowland
One of the big keys for decks like GW Tokens, or other decks that utilize the new shadowlands, is learning how to sequence your land drops to maximize their value. One big tip is to always plan for what would happen if you were to draw a shadowland on the next draw step. Having as many lands enter the battlefield untapped as possible is a worthy goal for every deck, and sequencing your lands properly can sometimes be the difference between casting a 5-drop on turn 5, or playing a land tapped and casting an inferior card instead.
The easiest thing to keep in mind when playing with lands like these is to hold onto at least 1 basic or battleland as long as you possibly can. For example, let’s say I’m playing GW Tokens and I have a Canopy Vista in play already and it’s my turn 2. I want to cast a Sylvan Advocate. My lands in hand are a Forest and a Westvale Abbey. It seems natural to want to play the Forest here. It provides better mana and the natural tendency is to sandbag a Westvale Abbey as long as possible to disguise it from your opponent.
It turns out that playing Westvale Abbey is often the correct play. The reason is simple. If you draw Fortified Village on the next turn, having a Forest still in hand means that you can play the Village on turn 3 and the Forest on turn 4, and be able to curve out properly with a 3-drop and a 4-drop. If instead you play the Forest and then draw Fortified Village, the Village will almost certainly enter play tapped, and can mess up the curve.
There are plenty of other situations where land sequencing plays a huge role in how you properly curve out. For example, in decks like Esper Control or Jund, it’s often best to play an Evolving Wilds before something like Shambling Vent or Hissing Quagmire because it makes future battlelands come into play untapped faster.
#2) Learn Active Player, Non-Active Player Order for Transform Cards
Those who played a lot with Huntmaster of the Fells the last time there was an Innistrad block in Standard probably learned this lesson quite well. It’s not quite as important to know in this Standard format, but will almost certainly become more important if they release more transform cards in Eldritch Moon.
The key here is to remember that if each player has abilities that trigger at the same time, those abilities go onto the stack in what is called APNAP order (Active Player, Non-Active Player). What that means is that the active player, or the player whose turn it is, places their abilities on the stack and chooses targets, and then the non-active player does the same afterward. Because of how the stack resolves, where the last item placed on the stack resolves first, this means that the abilities for the non-active player will resolve before those of the active player.
If that sounded confusing, here’s how it works in practice. If two players have Werewolves that are going to transform because no spells were cast in the previous turn, one player’s Werewolves are all going to transform before any of the other player’s werewolves do. This is determined by whose turn it is. The active player, or player whose turn it is, goes second. This can be important in situations where things like Dromoka’s Command play a role. Lets say you have a Duskwatch Recruiter and your opponent has a Lambholt Pacifist. You can say go, and in your opponent’s upkeep, you get to transform your Recruiter first into a 3/3, then use Dromoka’s Command to make it a 4/4 to fight your opponent’s Lambholt Pacifist while it’s still a 3/3 before it transforms into a 4/4 itself.
I had this exact type of scenario happen during day 1 of Grand Prix Toronto. My opponent and I both had creatures die when we both had Avacyn in play. During the next upkeep, which was unfortunately my upkeep, both Avacyns were set to transform. My opponent’s Avacyn flipped first, which forced me to cast a second Avacyn from my hand to give all of my creatures indestructible before my opponent’s Avacyn destroyed them all. Sadly, this meant that I had 2 copies of the front side of Avacyn in play and had to lose one of them to the legend rule. But had it been my opponent’s upkeep instead of my upkeep, my Avacyn would have transformed first. This would have been relevant because I could wait for it to transform and then play the Avacyn from my hand after it had transformed but before it dealt 3 damage. I would have been left with all of my creatures surviving the damage because of indestructible and 2 copies of Avacyn in play—one on each side.
#3) Learn What Tricks Bant Company Represents When They Pass the Turn
Bant Company preys on unprepared players. People who don’t know which cards it is capable of playing or how to properly play around those cards lower their odds of beating it. But having a strong understanding of what they might have and how to properly leverage your cards against that knowledge goes a really long way toward beating the deck.
There are basically four and a half cards they could have when they say go. They could play Bounding Krasis, Collected Company, Dromoka’s Command, or Avacyn. I say four and a half because they could also have Ojutai’s Command, but that card is less popular now and usually only is a 1-of at most in the deck.
It’s always important to check their mana and see which of those options they have available to them. Sometimes they don’t have access to double white, which means Avacyn isn’t a concern and it’s generally safe to attack with flying creatures. It’s also important to note that the reverse side of Duskwatch Recruiter (Krallenhorde Howler) reduces the cost of creatures, meaning that Avacyn only costs 4 mana with a transformed Recruiter and Bounding Krasis only costs 2.
Bant Company is one of the most powerful and popular decks in Standard. Familiarizing yourself with all of their tricks and interactions will easily increase your win percentage by a significant amount in this format.