Sultai is the current deck to beat in Standard. It has game against every deck, and is able to improve post-board in almost every matchup. While Sultai isn’t the best at doing any one thing, it is the only deck in the format that can do everything. Sultai can curve a 2-cost 3-power creature into a 3-cost 4-power creature, counter spells, draw cards, kill creatures and planeswalkers, gain life, and sweep the board.
Here is the list of Sultai I would play if Mythic Championship Cleveland were tomorrow:
Let me run through the cards I’m not playing and why:
Carnage Tyrant seems a lot less necessary with the addition of Hydroid Krasis. Having access to one or two either main or in the sideboard isn’t crazy as it is still a powerful card, but I haven’t found it particularly important.
I’ve never liked Midnight Reaper main deck in Golgari or Sultai Midrange. I’ve found it pretty easy for opponents to ignore it when they want to, and prefer to have things outside the explore package either kill creatures or have a little more impact.
Assassin’s Trophy is a nice catch-all, but the cost is even higher than it used to be now that people can sink extra mana into Krasis. I’d rather have narrower cards that don’t give my opponent lands.
Karn, Scion of Urza is a decent value card, but I think it’s a little too weak when you’re behind. Vivien offers enough in the way of card advantage planeswalkers.
Incubation Druid is a big upgrade over the acceleration options Golgari had, but I still don’t think it’s good enough. The deck already has a lot of 2s, and it feels a lot worse to get this removed than Llanowar Elves because of the mana investment.
Growth-Chamber Guardian is a great way to grind out control decks, but it feels too clunky in the other mathcups. Squadron Hawk is an impressive card, but I think it should mostly be played with synergies like Hadana’s Climb or Rhythm of the Wild.
Vraska, Relic Seeker is one of the better cards in the mirror, but feels a little narrow to me for the sideboard. I could see playing one though.
Now that you know why I made the card choices I did, let’s talk in-game strategy. Here are some tips and tricks with the deck:
Make sure to really think about which half of Find // Finality is better. Sometimes a pretty good Finality is available, but Find will still be better. For example, if they have three small creatures out, but you have a Wildgrowth Walker and a Jadelight Ranger in the graveyard, it is probably better to Find those two than sweep your opponent’s board.
Try to cast Hydroid Krasis for even numbers. Try to cast other spells if you have an odd amount of mana. It is usually better to cast Krasis for odd numbers over doing nothing, but I would certainly try to avoid it.
With Golgari I used Memorial to Glory pretty liberally, but I’m a little more careful with saccing lands now that there are 4 X-spells in my deck.
If you really want a 4/3 but don’t like the card you see with Jadelight Ranger, it can be correct to top it with the first explore and bin it with the second.
I wouldn’t worry too much about threatening ultimate with Vivien in the mirror. Feel free to minus it on Krasis or whatever.
The mana in this deck is not trivial, so make sure to pay attention to your land sequencing. Sometimes you should shock over playing a basic to make future turns work out better. This is especially important for living the turn-2 Thief of Sanity dream.
Let’s break down the matchups for the deck:
The mirror is a weird mix of pulling ahead on board and trying to get more value for the long game. Try to put yourself in positions where your opponent slamming a Vivien wouldn’t be devastating.
This sideboard plan can make you more vulnerable to Vivien at times, but in grindy games this plan should give you a big edge. They have a decent amount of removal for Thief, but I’ve found it still snowballs in enough games.
Esper is a pretty bad matchup in game 1 as you have a bunch of blank removal. Try to apply as much pressure as you can, and use Vivien to answer Search and Contempt to hit Teferi.
Bringing in 11 cards completely swings the matchup. You are much better at interacting with them and have no blank cards. While sandbagging Duress is often a good strategy, I think it’s generally worth playing on turn 1 or 2 here to try and hit Search for Azcanta.
Wildgrowth Walker is an all-star here. It depends a lot on the hand, but if you have other plays I would consider holding it until you can play it with an explorer on the same turn. This avoids Skewer and punishes them for tapping out. The blue splash can make you take a bit of extra damage from your lands, but the Krasis can also give you a life cushion, so it should roughly balance out.
They’ll probably have Lava Coil here so they’ll be a little better at removing blockers post-board. Unchecked Experimental Frenzy can go over the top of you, so make sure to leave in at least a couple Viviens.
The key here is to race them. Apply pressure with Wildgrowth and your explorers, and try to take out as many of their threats as you can with removal and Vivien. The versions with Phoenix tend to be tougher for Sultai, so it’s good that they are on the decline. Krasis for 4 does give you a new angle to actually block their flyers.
Sideboarding is light, but this is still a pretty big upgrade as Find // Finality is quite bad. You can also bring in Cry of the Carnarium if they have Electromancer and Pteramander, or Hostage Taker if they have more Enigma Drakes and less Crackling Drakes (since killing Taker won’t give them an extra card).
The key to fighting Mono-Blue is to use your mana as well as possible while trying to waste theirs. Time your removal as inconveniently as possible for them. Keep in mind that they can Merfolk Trickster a Wildgrowth Walker in response to an explorer to prevent the trigger. Again, Krasis as a flying blocker is a big addition here.
Post-board you get to meaningfully lower the curve. It’s non-intuitive to cut so much removal against them, but I’ve found expensive sorcery speed removal to be very ineffective. There’s still six answers to Tempest Djinn in the deck, which I think is enough with Duresses to back it up.
The great part about Sultai is that it’s highly customizable, so you can continue to play it even when the metagame shifts. Add extra cheap removal for an aggressive metagame, or go big with Carnage Tyrants against a control metagame. Until next time, make like a Simic player, and adapt.