Owen’s a Win – Khans Standard

Khans Standard is upon us and I welcome it with open arms. The most obvious thing to do now is play green. The green cards are totally ridiculous and there is no longer Lifebane Zombie and Tidebinder Mage keeping those honest green mages down. It’s almost frustrating how good green will be in the new format, it has an obvious built-in defense against aggro with cards like Courser of Kruphix and Sylvan Caryatid as well as insane long-game potential against control with cards like Nissa, Worldwaker. Here’s a rough sketch of what the power-house green decks should look like moving forward:

Obviously this isn’t a complete deck list but it’s an outline for what kind of core to expect. You can play cards like Arbor Colossus or Hooded Hydra which are clearly both powerful but they have wildly fluctuating values based on the metagame. Arbor Colossus was popular when Stormbreath Dragon and Nightveil Specter were common, but didn’t see success when Hero’s Downfall and Doom Blade were prevalent.

I chose to include the 8 fetchlands here even though they do not fix your mana because of their synergy with Courser of Kruphix. Once you have Courser, not only do they not cost you life, they just behave as normal lands would. How they differ is where you get the value—they allow you to shuffle your library at any moment. One of the only ways you can lose in a grindy game when you control Courser of Kruphix is that you play a land from your deck and reveal a land off the top forcing you to draw a worthless card.

With fetchlands in the format you can stockpile uncracked fetches, and each turn you can either shuffle to get a land to play off the top or shuffle away dead lands. You can even leave a stack of fetchlands in play and wait until you get a second Courser of Kruphix so you turn a profit on life for each fetch that you had. I doubt this will be a common line of play but if you’re against a burn deck it’s well within the realm of possibilities that it’s correct.

One direction you can take the deck is to add red. There’s a ton of value to be gained by adding Xenagos, Sarkhan, and Stormbreath Dragon. With the existence of Sylvan Caryatid, Rattleclaw Mystic, and Wooded Foothills it almost seems too obvious:

I wouldn’t be surprised if a version of this deck within 6-7 cards becomes a stock list for the next year of Standard that everyone knows is the best deck in the format. The deck has power, consistency, and synergy. It’s not only a mish-mash of all the best cards that exist but it also isn’t weak to anything, and with Rattleclaw Mystic joining the party to help Elvish Mystic and Sylvan Caryatid I can’t see how the deck fails. I’ve chosen to include 1 Hooded Hydra for deception since people will soon be accustomed to those pesky morphs from the green deck always being Rattleclaw Mystic. It’s good to make people keep guessing so you’re not exploitable.

The next most obvious deck in my eyes is Mono-Black Aggro:

This deck is also pretty great. Once again I’ve chosen to include eight on color-fetch lands that can’t ever get their second color but I have a more concrete reason here and that is to fuel Murderous Cut. When I saw Murderous Cut, it was love at first sight. This card is so sweet. I can definitely see a future in which I’m building decks with 4 Thoughtseize 4 Hero’s Downfall 4 Murderous Cut 4 Bloodstained Mire 4 Polluted Delta and just figuring the rest out later. I know I should be talking about Mono-Black Aggro here but I just can’t help myself, deep down I want to play a black midrange deck. I think even I know it’s unlikely for Gray Merchant of Asphodel to be a big role player in this new Standard environment because Khans is a tri-color set and that doesn’t play nicely with the devotion mechanic.

History has shown that when you have access to three different 2/1 creatures for 1 mana in the same color that not only is that deck going to be competitive but it is almost always successful as well. Bloodsoaked Champion is a card that reminds us all of Bloodghast or Gravecrawler and once again we can look to history to show us that cards like this are always influential. Of course Last Breath and Magma Spray will be present, but that doesn’t stop this guy from being completely against decks that don’t have access to these cards or decks that do have them but don’t draw them. That’s all without mentioning Anger of the Gods and Banishing Light which are sure to be commonly-played cards in the coming months.

Speaking of one-color aggressive decks, Rabble Red has dominated Standard since its introduction at Pro Tour M15 and has shown no signs of stopping since. Goblin Rabblemaster is an absurdly good Magic card and it’s hard for anyone to deny that. One card that jumps out at me is Hordeling Outburst. I’m sorry to say it’s not as good as Spectral Procession, it’s not even in the same stratosphere at that card, but that doesn’t mean that it can’t still be really good. Spectral Procession was a format all-star and it was dominant whenever it was played. Plus it’s worth noting that Spectral Procession was printed with Windbrisk Heights and in a color that could make better use of the tokens.

All that nonsense aside I feel Hordeling Outburst will see play and be powerful in new Standard. It works extremely well with both Goblin Rabblemaster and the spicy Foundry Street Denizen. I could see this card being played with Obelisk of Urd, Hall of Triumph, or even a card as awesome as Dictate of Heliod. As a curve topper in a mono-red aggro deck it seems like a perfect fit. It makes you resiliant to one-for-one removal like Murderous Cut and it’s a fine followup to a mass removal card like Anger of the Gods or End Hostilities.

One of the biggest draws to Hordeling Outburst is its synergy with Foundry Street Denizen and that means it will usually only be used in a 1-color deck. Foundry Street Denizen desperately wants a high density of Mountains and red creatures and that’s difficult to do in a two-color deck. Plus Standard has a ton of mono-red aggro and that’s only going to get worse with a smaller card pool. The deck stays at the same power level but all the other decks get worse? A dream come true for a red mage. The green matchup will be problematic but that’s all well and good. I like that we’ve already got a metagame that’s interesting:

It’s worth noting that Hordeling Outburst is also totally awesome with Stoke the Flames.

I haven’t even touched blue here, which we all know will be a player. Control is always viable in Standard and although we don’t have access to Sphinx’s Revelation (thank god) any more they still have Divination and End Hostilities. It’s clear people will play control but it isn’t obvious to me exactly how they will go about it. The tools are certainly there, you can play Drown in Sorrow or Anger of the Gods as sweepers, and with access to all the Temples, painlands, and fetchlands, I would be stunned if there wasn’t a three-color combination that could help control cards to compete in Khans Standard. Control has always struggled with planeswalkers and they keep making great ones. At least before we had access to Detention Sphere or Planar Cleansing, so you had a chance to beat them but now it’s much harder. I envision the control decks will have cheap countermagic and even possibly maindeck a card like Negate. It’s awful against fast aggro of course, but if you know you’re going to get paired against decks with FOUR Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker you have to have some kind of strategy to beat it or just die.

I’m looking forward to the future of Standard—I’ve brewed a few decks for this article and I can’t stop thinking about what other possibilities exist. These are foundations for new decks, but there are a ton of new cards that cost three different colors of mana that will surely warp the format. With Mana Confluence around, the possibilities are endless and the power level is through the roof. The best way to build decks from here on out might just be to put 4 Mana Confluence and 4 Sylvan Caryatid in your deck and only play all the best cards that exist and hope your mana works out. After all, it worked for Pat Chapin at Pro Tour Journey into Nyx. As always in Magic, when one player chooses hyper aggro and the other chooses an extravagant three-color, pain-fueled mana base the aggro player has the advantage. So at least there will always be that push/pull between power level and consistency. I usually want to be on the consistency end of things, but seeing some of these cards from Khans, they are completely ridiculous. I have also noticed that most or many of them gain life so it’ll be tough for those decks to auto-lose to aggro of any flavor.

Owen Turtenwald
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