The Preliminary Gauntlet for Post-Rotation Standard, Part 2: Ramp, Control, and Aggro

Earlier this week I provided an Abzan and a Jeskai deck for the post-rotation Standard format. Today, I’ll complete the gauntlet with a ramp, control, and aggro deck. I built my decks with cards from Tarkir Block, Magic Origins, and the Battle for Zendikar (BFZ) cards that were spoiled on Monday August 31.

Temur Ramp

Green Devotion is dead. Without Nykthos, Elvish Mystic, Sylvan Caryatid, Courser of Kruphix, Xenagos, Polukranos, and Genesis Hydra, the ramp deck as we knew it is no more. However, Dragonlord Atarka and Rattleclaw Mystic are still around and there’s an Eldrazi theme in BFZ. So, we need a ramp deck in our gauntlet. I brewed up a version that uses the ferocious mechanic. The plan is to go turn-two Rattleclaw Mystic, turn-three Savage Knuckleblade, turn-four See the Unwritten into Surrak and Dragonlord Atarka.

• Whisperer of the Wilds and Shaman of Forgotten Ways are no Elvish Mystic or Sylvan Caryatid, but they are the best replacements we have right now.

• Surrak and See the Unwritten may seem weak compared to Polukranos and Genesis Hydra, but remember that Ondrej Strasky had both in his Top 8 deck from Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir.

•  Omnath, Locus of Rage is cool and all, especially when you take into account that Whisperwood Elemental is an Elemental, but I still prefer Dragonlord Atarka.

•  Ulamog is great if you can cast it, but 10 is a lot of mana. Whisperer of the Wilds and Shaman of Forgotten Ways help, and a random mana from Sarkhan Unbroken does too, but still. Cheating Ulamog into play via See the Unwritten is more promising, but you don’t get to exile permanents in that case. For now, I put one copy in the sideboard against midrange or other ramp decks. If BFZ offers more good mana ramp (perhaps an Eldrazi Temple or Everflowing Chalice reprint) then things may change.

• It is possible to go for a version with Draconic Roar and Thunderbreak Regent instead of Surrak and Wild Slash, but double-red would be a strain on the mana base.

• The sideboard contains a transformal plan: against control decks with Disdainful Stroke and the like, you can board out all the expensive cards and Whisperer of the Wilds to add Hangarback Walker, Deathmist Raptor, and Evolutionary Leap. I considered adding Collected Company as well, but it’s too awkward with Hangarback Walker.

Esper Dragons

Esper Dragons will survive the rotation. The deck loses Thoughtseize, Hero’s Downfall, Dissolve, and Temples, but there are still enough control tools around. In particular, we retain Silumgar’s Scorn to build around.

• Ruinous Path is the Hero’s Downfall replacement. Sorcery speed is a huge downside for a deck that wants to keep mana open for countermagic, but it’s good that we don’t have to resort to weaker cards like Silumgar’s Command to deal with planeswalkers.

• Despise may be a poor man’s Thoughtseize, but they have seen play before: see Ivan Floch’s Top 8 deck list from Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, for instance.

•  Clash of Wills and Disdainful Stroke are worse than Dissolve, but still perfectly playable.

• This deck will probably miss Temples the most because games tend to go long with Esper Dragons and the free scry 1 in the late-game adds up. I retained 27 lands because the deck is so mana hungry, but that may be one too many.

• The interaction between the new BFZ duals and fetchlands is great for Esper, Grixis, Jund, Naya, and Bant. Thanks to Prairie Stream, Polluted Delta can now fetch a white source, which makes it easier to cast Dragonlord Ojutai. It could also make it easier to splash Sorin, Monastery Mentor, Utter End, and Mastery of the Unseen like Ricardo Nunes Martins did in Sao Paulo, but I haven’t explored that route yet. Either way, we want more Flooded Strand, which also allowed me to add a fifth delve spell in Murderous Cut.

Atarka Sligh

Aggressive red creatures and burn spells will always be around, although there are substantial losses in the rotation. Red players lose Lightning Strike, Searing Blood, Stoke the Flames, and Eidolon of the Great Revel, which weakens the prospects of a burn-heavy strategy after the rotation. Moreover, Atarka Red loses Foundry Street Denizen, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Mana Confluence. Nevertheless, a red aggro deck remains feasible:

• Without Cinder Glade, I wouldn’t have splashed Atarka’s Command. But Cinder Glade should enter the battlefield untapped on turn three, making it a good enough dual for the green splash. I even added 2 Windswept Heath to fetch it!

• Goblin Glory Chaser is no Foundry Street Denizen, but you need a decent amount of 1-drops for a deck like this.
Hordeling Outburst has gotten a little worse when it can no longer help convoke Stoke the Flames, but it still deserves to be included.

• The one-of Roast and Fiery Impulse are not ideal, but you have to add something in absence of Lightning Strike. I also considered Titan’s Strength in those slots, which could also be okay depending on how the metagame shakes out.

Concluding Thoughts

This wraps up my gauntlet, which hopefully gives you an early idea of the decks to beat in the new Standard.

I would’ve liked to include a synergy-based or combo deck as well, but the good ones we have right now in Standard (Blue/Red Artifacts, Blue/White Heroic, Green/White Constellation, and Abzan Rally) lose too much in the rotation, and Blue/Red Tutelage is only winning 37% of its matches online so that doesn’t convince me to include it either.

Mono-White with Knight of the White Orchid and Archangel of Tithes is an option, but it loses Brimaz, Soldier of the Pantheon, Banishing Light, Nykthos, and Elspeth in the rotation, so it needs many replacements from BFZ. I could envision a BW Warriors deck with Bloodsoaked Champion, Chief of the Edge, Seeker of the Way, and Brutal Hordechief, possibly with a red splash for Crackling Doom, or a GB Elves deck featuring Gnarlroot Trapper, Dwynen’s Elite, Shaman of the Pack, and Sylvan Messenger, but these decks aren’t good enough for Standard right now, so unless there are good Warriors or Elves in BFZ, I’m skeptical.

If none of those decks pan out, then I hope that BFZ will contain the tools for a devoid aggro deck with Ghostfire Blade, a landfall engine deck with Animist’s Awakening, or some other cool archetype.

Either way, the new Standard so far is looking like a paradise for brewers.


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