I’ve spent the last 2 weeks playing Standard religiously on Magic Online. I don’t even have any upcoming Standard tournaments until December—I’m just doing it because I want to. I’m doing it for the love of the game. I’m doing it because I like to solve the puzzle. I like to figure out the metagame. I like to understand Standard, understand what the best decks are, and how to play with and against them.
I’m confident that these are currently the 3 best decks in Standard. If your goal is to win in the format at any cost, then you should be playing one of these 3 decks, or a variant of them. If you like to brew or play your own style of decks, then these are the 3 decks you should be gunning to beat above all others.
#3 Red/White Vehicles
This is Paul Rietzl’s list from the MOCS. I hesitate to post his list because he defeated me in that event—something I do not believe to be a nice thing to do. While I do not approve of his methodology, I must admit he made a wise choice in deck selection. This deck also made Top 8 of Grand Prix Providence in the hands of Osyp Lebedowicz, and 2 copies of the similar Mardu Vehicles also made Top 8 Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur, including winning the whole thing in the hands of Fumiya Matsumoto.
R/W Vehicles is a proactive, yet versatile deck. It gets to play an aggressive game plan with Toolcraft Exemplar and Vehicles, but it also has access to a grindier late game thanks to Gwen Stefani’s favorite 3-drop, Ain’t No Depala back girl. Depala, Pilot Exemplar and Veteran Motorist make the Vehicles enormous threats, especially if they ever get backed up with a Gideon, Ally of Zendikar emblem, and they also ensure that you keep the gas flowing throughout the game.
My favorite thing about this deck is that it gets to play Skysovereign, Consul Flagship, which I believe to be one of the best cards in Standard, and one of the sole reasons I abandoned my B/W deck that I wrote about last week. That deck was nice but had some serious issues beating Skysovereign.
The main weakness of R/W, and one of the reasons I do not believe it to be the singularly best deck in the format, is that it has a fairly loose sideboard. Outside of the all-powerful Skysovereign, the other options are a little loose goose, and personally I like to err on the side of tight goose sideboard choices.
#2: U/W Flash
This is duke12’s 2nd place list from the Magic Online Championship Series Playoffs last weekend. U/W Flash also put up huge performances at both Grand Prix, putting 1 copy into the Top 8 of Grand Prix Providence and an astounding 6 copies into the Top 8 of Grand Prix Kuala Lumpur.
U/W Flash has one of the best cards in the format in Spell Queller, which can single-handedly shut down decks like Aetherworks Marvel. It’s an aggressive Smuggler’s Copter deck, but has a lot of interaction with Spell Queller and Reflector Mage. It plays the best threat in the format in Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, and the trump in all creature matchups in Archangel Avacyn. It also has a phenomenal sideboard in that it can transition many different ways. It can go countermagic-heavy or it can transition into a Gisela/Bruna deck that plays a controlling role until it can assemble Brisela.
It’s really hard to play against this deck because so many of their cards can punish you in so many different ways. That’s the power of the flash ability, and this deck utilizes it well. They get to pass the turn on 5 mana and leave you guessing what to play around. It could be Archangel Avacyn, but maybe it’s just Spell Queller and cracking a Clue or playing Rattlechains, or even nothing at all. That fear is one of the deck’s biggest strengths in that it’s very hard to navigate the game against the deck and this deck is aggressive enough to punish making the wrong choices.
I imagine this will be one of the best decks in the format for a while, especially because it’s just playing some of the best cards in the format such as Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Reflector Mage, Spell Queller, Archangel Avacyn, and Smuggler’s Copter to name exactly 5.
#1: G/B Delirium
This is the best deck in the format. Since I picked this deck up on MTGO I’ve gone 4-1, 4-1, 4-1, 5-0, 4-1 in 5 Leagues with it, and that includes me making a bunch of mistakes piloting it. That’s a better than 80% win percentage, and the deck simply feels favored against nearly popular deck in the field. It has a powerful midgame and late game, and great removal and fixing to bridge the gap. I imagine this deck struggles against Aetherworks Marvel, but that deck is simply not a huge force in the metagame, thanks to its inconsistency and inability to beat Spell Queller and the various Torrential Gearhulk decks.
Last weekend, this deck dominated Grand Prix Providence, making up a full 50% of the Top 8, including both players in the finals, Seth Manfield and eventual winner Yichen Wang. It also won the Magic Online Championship Series (MOCS) playoff event in the hands of Lucas Blohon.
Here’s my current list:
Now that people aren’t playing as many Key to the City, Ishkanah is back to her old dominant self. Without as many Reflector Mages in the format, Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet and Mindwrack Demon also got a lot better, and Nissa is a perfect sideboard threat for midrange or control matchups.
The biggest upgrade, by far, however, is Grim Flayer. I used to be a serious Flayer hater, but since the advent of Kaladesh, that card has become very good. The main reason for its newfound success is actually Smuggler’s Copter. Smuggler’s Copter has caused smaller creatures with good abilities like Thraben Inspector to become way better than generic big vanilla beaters like Sylvan Advocate. All you need are creatures with good abilities that can crew Smuggler’s Copter, which means that Grim Flayer as a 2/2 is a reasonable body and is absolutely enormous at 4/4. With Grim Flayer being a reasonable card that can actually connect in combat, G/B Delirium has a much easier time assembling delirium, which means that early Emrakuls or Ishkanah can take over the game much more consistently than before.
All of these decks are very beatable, and this is shaping up to be a really good Standard format in that we will probably see shifts week in and week out as to what the best decks are as people tune their lists to beat the ever-adapting metagame. For now these are easily the top 3 decks, but who knows what the best decks will be in 2 weeks?
In the meantime, you can probably find me grinding Magic Online, trying to stay one step ahead. I don’t always succeed, but you can’t say I don’t try.