Guilds of Ravnica has invigorated me to play Magic after a long and dull period of M19 Draft and Black-Red Aggro dominating Standard. Today I am introducing two decks I built and tested for the brand new Standard Constructed format. There is an online PTQ coming up, or perhaps other local events in your area. Magic Online Leagues are littered with red aggro, whether it be mono-colored or Boros. I suspect that there are multiple reasons why the majority of the metagame is red:
- Budget concerns
- Limited published deck lists from MTGO, paper events, and strategy websites
- Mono-Red is fun and fast to play
The first deck that I built was inspired by the Pro Points podcast with Sam Black, Michael Sigrist, and Paulo Vitor. They described a deck built around Doom Whisperer. The combo involved having two Dimir Spybug on the battlefield, life parity, and then playing and using Doom Whisperer as many times as necessary to deal lethal damage. I took a look through all of the legal cards in Standard, and I made a note of all the cards that interacted with the graveyard and surveil.
Some people stay away from playing cards like Narcomoeba and Creeping Chill at all costs. Frankly, this conservative approach is a respectable one. You should only play high variance cards and combo decks when they are extremely strong. I found in my playtesting that if I was able to play a Doom Whisperer on turn 4 or 5 at 20 life, or at 10 life with an Enhanced Surveillance in play that I would immediately win. You can expect to drain your opponent for 9 life and put three Narcomoeba into play the turn that you cast Doom Whisperer or copy it with Lazav, the Multifarious. Even if your opponent kills your Doom Whisperer, you can put another one on top and end up with several flyers that will kill them over the next few turns.
The key differences in my version compared to the original inspiration are that I do not think that Dimir Spybug is a good or necessary card and that I value cards that surveil repeatedly.
Individual Card Choices
Enhanced Surveillance/Search for Azcanta/Nightveil Sprite – These cards are all good turn-2 plays to set up the next few turns and hopefully start gaining small advantages. The enchantments are good, but I do not want to draw too many of them (note that Enhanced Surveillance does stack but one is almost always enough).
Discovery // Dispersal – This card is nice because you can cast it for either blue or black mana—the current mana fixing is worse than you may be used to and all multicolor decks are prone to color screw now. This card can also remove random expensive permanents on the flip side.
Bone Dragon – This is a cute card. It is nice to have another big flyer to copy with Lazav. I cannot imagine playing more than one because it’s so taxing on the graveyard.
Against aggressive decks I recommend adding removal spells and Blood Operative. Even though it dies to Goblin Chainwhirler, it’s still good. You should probably remove the Narcomoeba, Creeping Chill, and Enhanced Surveillance package to make room. Most decks make themselves slower and more interactive after sideboarding, so you don’t want to be as all-in. You can choose to keep Narcomoeba and/or Creeping Chill if your opponent is playing many creatures that trade with Narcomoeba or a lot of direct damage burn spells that are weak against Creeping Chill.
Against control decks add Disdainful Stroke, Arguel’s Blood Fast, Blood Operative, and Vraska’s Contempt. I like to remove Thoughtbound Phantasm because it does nothing by itself and we will face a lot of disruption in sideboarded games. Along the same vein I would trim Enhanced Surveillance and Creeping Chill, but Narcomoeba is still a decent threat against slow decks and insurance against the popular card The Eldest Reborn.
I do sideboard in Blood Operative against almost every deck. Nonetheless, it is not a good main deck card because we are trying to “combo kill” as consistently and quickly as possible in the first game.
I built the second deck after playing several Leagues with U/B Dredge, and having medium results against red and good results against control. I wanted to exploit the metagame of mostly aggressive creature decks.
This deck is similar to Blue-White and Esper Control decks from the end of last Standard season. Guilds of Ravnica replaced Disallow with Sinister Sabotage and Glimmer of Genius/Hieroglyphic Illumination with Chemister’s Insight. The most significant appeal of Jeskai is the new card, Deafening Clarion. Clarion is the perfect turn-3 sweeper against red aggressive decks. While I was adding red to my deck I did add Justice Strike, which is slightly better than Seal Away or Lightning Strike most of the time, and Ionize, which is worse than Sabotage but easier to cast. I would still play Jeskai if Deafening Clarion was the only playable red card. An early sweeper is crucial against the current aggressive decks—Settle the Wreckage, Ritual of Soot, and Cleansing Nova are simply too slow most of the time.
Individual Card Choices
Lyra Dawnbringer – It is nice to have a win condition other than decking via Teferi, and Lyra dodges a lot of the toughness-based removal currently being played.
Ixalan’s Binding and Blink of an Eye – These are catch-all answers to random noncreature permanents that you may not always be able to anticipate or answer. Blink of an Eye also functions to protect your Lyra Dawnbringer and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria against removal spells.
Zero Field of Ruin – It would be convenient to have Field of Ruin in extended games. The fast-paced games where you need to cast your spells on time are much more common and this deck has a R/W 2-drop, a UU 3-drop, and a WW 4-drop. In the sideboard there is Sorcerous Spyglass to answer troublesome lands.
Shalai, Voice of Plenty – This card is a necessity against how red decks sideboard against control. In a sideboarded game many people will have the maximum number of Risk Factor and Banefire, which are both answered cleanly by Shalai. She also works excellently with Lyra Dawnbringer.
Sideboarding with Jeskai Control is intuitive, and a nice, relaxing time to reflect on the past game and take some deep breaths. Against creature decks add more sweepers, and against control decks add counterspells and additional threats. Remove Syncopate most of the time when you are going second. There is often a song and dance if you go to game 3 during which your opponent will not know how much removal to have in their deck. If you did not see much you can try to have all four Angels. If you saw multiple removal spells, you may consider having zero.