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Standard: Do What You Want To

Week 1 of Hour of Devastation Standard results are in. Signed, sealed, and delivered. One thing is for certain—if the week 1 results are indicative of what this format is going to look like, I am beyond excited.

The week 1 Open results featured 12 different decks making up the Top 16! Unbelievable. Such diversity is exactly the kind of characteristic that every serious and casual Magic player ultimately desires to see in Standard.

Is it sustainable? It’s difficult to say. Likely not. With more information people will gravitate toward certain strategies and whittle down the field. But the thing that keeps me optimistic about the format is that there are a lot of different decks that look “good.”

Let’s take a stroll through the week 1 metagame.

A lot of the decks, Mardu, Temur Energy, R/G Pummeler, G/B Aggro, and Zombies are format port overs. In fact, I’ve written entire articles on most of these decks over the past six months! Today, I’m going to focus on what’s shiny and new and let you know how these new decks are likely to impact your tournament experience moving forward.

U/W Monument

Monument emerged as a player after the Marvel banning before Hour of Devastation was released. But since a lot of people have been sleeping on Standard until the release of Hour, I’ll spend a moment to talk about the deck and its role in new Standard. Best deck? It has certainly made a case for the title:

 

Jonathan Rosum, 2nd Place at an SCG Standard Open on 7/15/2017

U/W Monument may not have won the trophy, but it has established itself as the deck to beat in week 1. It was the most played deck on Day 2 of the event and was the only deck to put multiple copies in the Top 8. Also worth noting—the deck appears to have had a high conversion rate at cashing the event.

Pros

  1. The deck can bring solid beats and has sustainable late game and grind.
  2. It has multiple “plans.” Beatdown, grinding, and combo’ing with Westvale Abbey. It covers a lot of angles.
  3. It’s capable of going over the top of a lot of the decks in the format.
  4. It has access to permission against decks that can go bigger.

Cons

  1. The deck is a known commodity and people will be gunning for it.
  2. Abrade is good against this deck (kills Monument and Spell Queller) and more Abrade moving forward seems reasonable.

I like this deck a lot because it can attack from a lot of angles, does multiple things well, and doesn’t have a ton of inherent weaknesses. I expect this will be the level 1 “best deck” moving into the Pro Tour metagame.

Control Decks

Control appears to be well equipped in Standard at the moment. The week 1 metagame was won by a unique and innovative 4-color control deck. In addition to Control seizing the day and hoisting the trophy, there were multiple flavors of control all performing well.

4-Color Control

Michael Hamilton, 1st Place at an SCG Standard Open on 7/15/2017

If everybody is planning on attacking control by Shattering their Torrential Gearhulks, play fewer Hulks…

Michael Hamilton scrapped his artifacts in favor of more planeswalkers in anticipation of Abrade, and it paid off.

Who else would be at the top of this pyramid scheme?

The deck utilizes many planeswalkers in order to grind the opponent into submission.

Pros

  1. The deck has a lot of grind to it and plays powerful spells.
  2. The win conditions are immune to Abrade.
  3. The deck likely pulverizes nearly any midrange deck.

Cons

  1. I worry that the planeswalkers are vulnerable to Hour of Devastation in a traditional control mirror. Well, besides Bolas…
  2. The mana is clunky, which can cause consistency problems against faster, more streamlined aggressive decks like Mardu, Zombies, and Red Deck Wins.

Hamilton’s 4C was a perfect deck for the week 1 metagame and was brilliantly built and positioned. The jury is still out on whether this is the ideal way to build a control deck for the coming weeks.

Temur Control

Zach Allen, 9th Place at and SCG Standard Open on 7/15/20

Zach earned himself a 9th place finish with a sweet control deck. He plays at my local game store, RIW Hobbies in Michigan, and has been working on this style of deck for months.

One of the reasons that I’m skeptical of Hamilton’s control deck is that I feel like it would struggle against more typical control decks. In particular, Lumbering Falls seems problematic.

Pros

  1. Seems well positioned against opposing control decks.
  2. Hour of Devastation patches a big problem the deck had with a resolved Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.
  3. Good mana and creaturelands.

Cons

  1. Slow starts and awkward hands can lead to trouble against hyper-aggressive decks.
  2. The deck doesn’t go over the top, and relies heavily on Torrential Gearhulk and draw spells to close, which can lead to some games that are hard to win.

Emerge

Emerge is back. With Aetherworks Marvel out of the equation, this pseudo-combo style strategy has roared back with a vengeance. It also plays the graveyard angle well in a format without much graveyard hate.

4-Color Emerge

Zan Syed, 3rd Place at an SCG Standard Open on 7/15/2017

Or, U/R if you prefer:

U/R Emerge

Sean Ackerman, 23rd Place at an SCG Standard Open on 7/15/2017

Emerge got a hot new piece in Hour of Devastation:

Champion of Wits essentially gasses up the graveyard with Kozilek’s Return or graveyard creatures while also providing a body for emerge. It’s perfect.

Pros

  1. The deck is capable of truly absurd draws that steamroll people.
  2. It has a lot of flexibility and the ability to play largely at instant speed.
  3. It has a lot of card selection, which leads to higher consistency.

Cons

  1. The deck is fragile and can be inconsistent when the plan doesn’t come together.
  2. It’s vulnerable to disruption and removal that leaves the pilot without an emerge creature.
  3. It struggles with planeswalkers when it isn’t going off.

I like the graveyard synergies with Haunted Dead and Prized Amalgam in the Sultai version. It gives the deck more grind than straight Temur. Likely, Sultai is the way to go moving forward.

Red Aggro

Red aggro also made Top 8 with a really interesting and innovative build. It could be that playing red is just a great thing to do week 1, but the list looks pretty savage to me.

Mono-Red Aggro

Jonathan Job, 6th Place at an SCG Standard Open on 7/15/2017

In the Desert you can’t remember your name because there ain’t no one for to give you no pain…

I’m pretty sure these red Desert decks can give you some serious pain.

I love the way the Deserts are good in the deck already but also enable the ability to cast <> Eldrazi cards.

See you later, Obligator.

These are just great aggressive cards if you can cast them and I love the way the deck pushes the haste angle against control decks.

Pros

  1. When in doubt, beat down.
  2. Lots of big, beefy haste creatures can put most decks on the back foot.
  3. The deck pushes a linear angle that forces opponents to play your game or lose.

Cons

  1. For a beatdown deck, the mana costs are high and can lead to inconsistent draws out of the gates.
  2. The deck is pulling in a few different directions: Jackal Pups and Dragons.
  3. Inconsistency of draws can make the deck a dog to more focused aggro decks like Mardu, Pummeler, or Zombies.

I like the deck and what it does but I do worry that it is less focused than some of the other options. But I do think what the deck does is powerful and effective, which makes it a viable option moving forward.

Esper Aggro

I really like this deck list that nearly missed Top 8:

Donavon Maddasion, 10th Place at an SCG Standard Open on 7/15/2017

Pros

  1. The deck is aggressive and full of powerful and synergistic cards, which tends to be a winning formula.
  2. It has permission, which allows it to interact with some of the more broken strategies that would go over the top.
  3. Glory-Bound Initiate is gas.

Cons

  1. The deck gives up some of the explosiveness of Mardu (Unlicensed Disintegration).
  2. Abrade makes this strategy a little worse since it easily answers Heart of Kiran.
  3. Hour of Devastation is great against Gideon, Ally of Zendikar and Archangel Avacyn.
  4. Essentially, multiple new printings are strong against the archetype.

It’s kind of like Mardu Vehicles except playing blue instead of red.

The blue splash gives the deck kind of a fishy feel where it can interact with important “get me over” cards from the control decks. But the deck still has the ability to run an opponent over with Heart of Kiran and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

I’m impressed with the format so far in week 1. Obviously, there is a lot more work and testing to be done before the Pro Tour in a few weeks but I think that Standard is finally in a good place.

I’m looking forward to delving deeper into this format and seeing what it has to offer. If the week 1 results are any indication, I’d say it has a lot!

Discussion

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