Compulsive Research – Standard Gold


Zaiem Beg

Recently, I have found myself giving the same rundown of the current Standard metagame to several different people. This may have to do with big relevant Standard tournaments coming up like Regionals and Grand Prix: Seattle, but other than Regionals (which one can argue is only marginally relevant, as the road to Worlds via Nationals is an extremely tough one), Standard has not been a relevant format for years. With Standard PTQs firing up, this is no longer the case.

With the impact of Alara Reborn yet to be determined, this is a great time to jump into Standard and really dive into the format, as the format is somewhat undefined with Alara Reborn finding its way into new and existing archetypes. This is a little Standard primer for those gearing up for Regionals, PTQs, or your local Grand Prix.


Josh Utter-Leyton, 3rd place, Superstars 5K

What’s their plan?

Faeries is an aggro-control deck. Most spells are played at instant speed, with the exception of Bitterblossom. Turn two Bitterblossom allows the Faeries player to ride their token to victory, putting pressure on the board while having powerful countermagic in Spellstutter Sprite and Cryptic Command. Mistbind Clique is often dropped during the opponent’s upkeep, serving as a Mana Short effect while also providing a clock.

How do you beat it?
There are several deck strategies that successfully attack Faeries. The deck has no mass removal except for Infest out of the board, so decks that can put a lot of pressure on the board early with cheap creatures that fight well through 1/1s like Doran, Wren’s Run Vanquisher, and Knight of Meadowgrain backed with more pressure are a handful for Faeries to deal with. Or playing your own Bitterblossom with Glorious Anthem to make tokens 2/2s is another way to apply pressure.

Decks that can successfully utilize Volcanic Fallout also put tremendous pressure on Faeries, which can help flip Bitterblossom from a win condition to a liability. Cards with the unearth mechanic like Hellspark Elemental also help put pressure on Faeries, as unearth is an activated ability and cannot be countered with Spellstutter Sprite (though it can still be “countered” by Cryptic Command by either bouncing the unearthed creature or tapping it for the turn before attackers are declared).

Another strategy, and not one that I’ve seen in use recently, is to play instant speed threats that they must answer during the end of their turn, followed by another must-answer threat if they’ve tapped out to deal with the first. For example, playing Cloudthresher at the end of their turn, forcing them to use the mana to counter it, then untapping and playing another Cloudthresher or Chameleon Colossus.

Boat Brew

Robert Miller, 2nd place, Superstars 5K


What’s their plan?
Play early drops like Figure of Destiny and Mogg Fanatic, then use the mid-game card advantage engine with Ranger of Eos (usually fetching two Figures of Destiny), Siege-Gang Commander, and Reveillark to bring back more Figures of Destiny and Siege-Gang Commanders. Mind Stone helps accelerate early to get to the more expensive Commanders and Reveillarks.

How do you beat it?
Boat Brew really is a middle of the road deck. If you can get ahead and stay ahead, as Kithkin does, then Boat Brew is too slow to catch up and they won’t be able to get the late-game engine online. The other option is to play a solid control game with Plumeveil and [card]Wall of Reverence[/card], then play more powerful spells like Broodmate Dragon. Boat Brew can out-midrange the other midrange decks in the format, but the further you go to the extremes of the aggro/control spectrum, the less potent Boat Brew gets.

Though take note: red decks need not apply. Burrenton Forge-Tenders tutored via Ranger of Eos and Reveillark make Mountain-based decks weep.

Black/White Tokens

Luis Scott-Vargas, 2nd place, Pro Tour Kyoto


What’s their plan?
Play a solid early, mid, and late-game with cards that are suited for all three stages. Knight of Meadowgrain and Kitchen Finks are fine early game cards, and with Bitterblossom and Spectral Procession, being able to trigger Windbrisk Heights is not difficult. Getting Ajani Goldmane or Glorious Anthem puts the opponent on a surprisingly fast clock, and Cloudgoat Ranger is a terrific late-game spell.

How do you beat it?
Plumeveil and Wall of Reverence are problems for the deck, as they make attacking awkward. Keep them off their game plan with sweepers like Infest or Volcanic Fallout, then play more powerful spells late game. Five-color control is very good at this, as they discourage attacking and can keep the board clear, then play Broodmate Dragon or Cruel Ultimatum, putting the tokens player hopelessly behind.

Another card that can be a big problem is Gaddock Teeg, since it shuts off Ajani Goldmane and Spectral Procession as well as Wrath of God out of the board. Teeg-based decks with ground-pounders can be a serious problem for tokens, because tokens has to draw a Terror or Path to Exile, or they will lose. With Meddling Mage now in Standard, naming their spot removal can make their game plan pretty iffy. If they supplement it with Stillmoon Cavalier, the game becomes yet more difficult.

Green/Black Elves


What’s their plan?
Play efficient creatures that hit as hard as possible as quickly as possible. Bramblewood Paragon works with almost every card in the deck, and Wren’s Run Vanquisher trades or kills just about everything. Treetop Village allows them to attack after mass removal’s been played, and Profane Command provides late game reach and card advantage. Some versions play Garruk as well, giving Elves an Overrun effect.

How do you beat it?
Stall them out until you can play more powerful spells. Boat Brew is good at this, as is B/W tokens after sideboard. Cards like Elspeth and Siege-Gang Commander + Reveillark flip the game around and put Elves on the defensive. Wrath of God is another classic answer to the deck. Because there’s not a lot of hand disruption in the format right now (many decks that could play Thoughtseize are electing not to), cards like Elspeth and Wrath of God are likely to hang around in your hand, so usually you can safely build a plan around casting that spell with the comfort of knowing that it’s probably not going to get stripped from your hand.

R/B “Blightning” Aggro

Kyle Boddy, 1st place, Grand Prix Trial

What’s their plan?

As close to a pure aggro deck as you’ll get in the format. Beat down with early drops like Figure of Destiny, Tattermunge Maniac, and Hellspark Elemental, then burn out the opponent with cards like Flame Javelin, Incinerate, and Volcanic Fallout. Terrors are also played to deal with problematic Burrenton Forge-Tenders or random blockers. Some versions don’t play Blightning, despite the deck’s namesake.

How do you beat it?
Burrenton Forge-Tender and life gain are both great answers. Kitchen Finks does double duty by gaining life and blocking a creature, which is why some Blightning decks play Magma Spray. I’ve even seen some decks play Dragon’s Claw, which is actually very good in the mirror. Green decks that can play huge guys can outrace Blightning (Chameleon Colossus, for example) as well. I actually don’t think this deck is very well-positioned right now, as too many decks have good ways to beat it, although it does do quite a number on Faeries.

Five-Color Control

Gabriel Nassif, 1st place, Pro Tour Kyoto

What’s their plan?

Vivid lands and Reflecting Pool let the deck play any spell they want in Standard with essentially no mana restrictions. The cost is playing a turn behind, as the Vivid lands do come into play tapped, but it opens up playing the most powerful cards in the format. Plumeveil, Volcanic Fallout, Wall of Reverence, and Cryptic Command deal with threats until they can play Cruel Ultimatum or Broodmate Dragon, which should break the game wide open.

How do you beat it?
Have a strategy that doesn’t care if they resolve Broodmate Dragon or Cruel Ultimatum, or puts them too far behind to do anything about your board. Mono-Blue Mill is probably the best at this, as they just don’t care about any of the spells 5cc plays.

Wilt-Leaf Liege is pretty good against Cruel Ultimatum. Planeswalkers are generally problems for Five-Color Control, as it forces them to act. Land destruction like Fulminator Mage can make their mana awkward, and Fulminator Mage + Reveillark puts a strain on their mana bases.

In Alara Reborn, Anathamancer looks to be a very potent “burn spell” as well.


Cedric Phillips, 6th place, Pro Tour Kyoto

What’s their plan?
It’s pretty straightforward. Play guys, make them bigger by playing more guys or Glorious Anthem, and reduce their life total from 20 to 0 as quickly as possible. There’s not a lot of subtlety here.

How do you beat it?
The deck doesn’t have a lot of reach, even versions that play red for Ajani Vengeant. Playing the control game and killing Wizened Cenn takes away a lot of their potency, and playing mass removal followed by a threat that trumps theirs (Cloudgoat Ranger, Reveillark, Siege-Gang Commander) should set up favorable late game situations.

Mono-Blue Mill

Bill Stark, top 8, Grand Prix Trial

What’s their plan?

Use cards like Sanity Grinding, Howling Mine, Twincast, and Jace Beleren to whittle away the opponent’s library. Evacuation, Plumeveil, Boomerang, and Cryptic Command stall the game to get to that point. Yes, it’s a competitive mill deck, and it has some very strong matchups against decks like Five-Color Control and B/W Tokens.

How do you beat it?
Because Mono-Blue Mill is focused on dealing with creatures and keeping them off the table, decks with burn have a pretty favorable matchup. Unearth cards like Hellspark Elemental and Shambling Remains benefit from the mill strategy. Decks that also play Demigod of Revenge make things even more difficult. Mono-Blue Mill does prey on midrange creature decks and 5cc, but has a difficult time with decks that have any reasonable amount of reach.

That’s where we stand now with Standard, which should provide a reasonable gateway into the post-Alara Reborn Standard format. As is usually the case with a new set, people are putting Alara Reborn cards into existing archetypes rather than creating new ones wholesale. But as PTQ and Grand Prix trial results come in with the new post-Reborn format, I expect at least several decks to be born out of, well, Reborn. The cascade mechanic is bordering on broken, and Bloodbraid Elf and Anathamancer both look very powerful and are “the real deal.”


10 thoughts on “Compulsive Research – Standard Gold”

  1. I think that a Jund aggro deck can be made or born post-Reborn. I won’t be surprised to see some top 8 with it since ARB has provided some really powerful cards such as the Bloodbraid Elf, Maelstrom Pulse and Anathemancer.

  2. GW agro based decks have been doing very well lately also. In fact GW tokens won the first round of the MOCS.

  3. I don’t know why my deck still isn’t getting any respect as Jason pointed out. GW Tokens is everywhere.

  4. So, while I enjoy seeing these primers, as stated above some of the decks like Ramp and GW are on rise, especially GW Tokens since it has strong match-ups versus both BW Tokens and Boat Brew. Also, alot of these lists you posted are rather out of date. And I’m not just speaking from AlaraReborn cards being added.

  5. How is this different then Gerry Thompson’s “Standard Round Up” just a few weeks ago, other then being less indepth?

  6. You use the word “they” a lot. You should work on that, in my opinion. I get that it’s a convenient way to refer to “this deck” and “the opponents playing this deck”, but it just seems overused.

  7. Philip torres greene

    yeah the new bw list is quite powerful when it comes to winning matches it used to lose against due to the high count of persisty men. and with the 7 main deck hand disruption it puts itself in a mental step forward so it can play around the opponent very often imo a deck to be worried about

  8. I think its funny how a lot of players pronounced five color control dead with the printing of Anathemancer. Just because Price of Progress exists does that mean people play all basic lands in legacy? The answer is no, pure and simple. As for G/W tokens, I really think you should’ve gone in-depth to give people some tips on beating this beast, as it is a much harder matchup than b/w tokens for a lot of decks, especially since they have dauntless escorts for wrath effects. G/b elves? Really? I’m honestly surprised that elf players haven’t given up and picked up a set of pools abnd some vivids yet. I wouldn’t even say that deck is within the top 8 standard decks anymore, honestly.

  9. Excellent article. Very in depth and helpful. I really appreciate the organization (“What’s their plan?” and “How do you beat it?”). Channelfireball is fast becoming my favorite site for strategy articles. Thank you all for tagging your articles for easier access when I want to come back to an older article. Keep up the great work.

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