While Oath of the Gatewatch brought a lot to the table for Standard, Reflector Mage was the biggest gain for an individual archetype. Not much has changed for the Rally archetype week to week so I’m not going to go into detail about it. Jacob Baugh won with it, it should remain the #1 threat for the next few weeks, and don’t rely on the rest of the metagame to hate it out. Rally has enough versatility to avoid being pushed out of the metagame and control isn’t in a great place at the moment, so good luck!
Bant CoCo Looks Amazing
Andy Ferguson has been on point with his recent aggressive Collected Company decks. I’m super impressed with the consistency with which he’s been finding such solid, aggressive value decks. Instead of building underpowered piles of value that don’t actually accomplish anything, both his Abzan and Bant builds are good at actually ending games in a reasonable amount of time.
Let’s look at his 2nd place deck from SCG Columbus:
He has all the classic value engines from the past year-and-a-half of Standard with Jace & Ojutai’s Command, Den Protector & Deathmist Raptor, and Collected Company itself. I talked about why I liked this particular creature suite last week, and swapping in Jace only makes it even more impressive. While it doesn’t have big finishers, your swarm of creatures and Lumbering Falls are going to be good enough most of the time.
The sideboard feels a little awkward in spots (one Harbinger?) and would be my main focus if I was to pick up the deck. Looking over the main deck, it’s pretty tough to come up with any criticism for his choices—dropping Matter Shaper and having only 4 Lumbering Falls means you can move back to the fetch/battle land base.
If you want to beat this type of deck, the options are pretty clear. You can’t rely only on 1-for-1 trades into a draw spell, and you can’t rely on purely outclassing them on-board. You need to be able to engage with their engines and Sylvan Advocates. On top of that, you also need to deal with the fact that they can interact with you via Dispel and Ojutai’s Command. Traditional control options simply aren’t designed to hold up well against this type of strategy.
One option is to to move toward the BW Midrange Exile control strategy Jeff Hoogland was using last weekend. It made Top 8 yet again and has a good mix of relevant board stalls and removal to engage with these cards. Notably, none of the cards in the Bant build interact on a profitable angle against planeswalkers or a significant number of exile effects.
While cards like Anafenza and Kalitas aren’t the end-all be-all, they can hurt two of the deck’s primary ways to grind value and block reasonably. Reflector Mage is the main way for Bant to fight back but if you keep that in mind, I’m sure there’s still a way to play a “normal” midrange game.
The alternative is to grind so hard that the whetstone explodes and pummels the opponent with debris.
Mardu Green/4c Midrange/Scrooge McDuck Midrange
I hate all the names for this deck that I’ve seen, but by listing them all, I’m sure you get the gist of the deck I’m referring to. BBD wrote about the deck last week and not much has changed since then—it’s a hodge-podge of many of the most powerful cards in the format. While it’s slow and clunky, this is essentially what Abzan has evolved into—lots of cheap removal that just buys time until your biggest creatures take over the game. The difference is that instead of Abzan where your creatures are supposed to rumble, every creature in this deck can be effective without attacking or blocking.
This may end up as the future of control in this format, where you still run a set of creatures, but all of them are heavy-hitters or give you immediate value. In a way, Reflector Mage is the Jace or FTK test of the olden days. If your creatures aren’t cheap and don’t match up against them, then they may just not be worth playing.
What’s nice here is that your deck actually makes sense in the metagame. You can mostly ignore Reflector Mage and play the control game that Esper or Mardu likes to play. Unfortunately, Rally the Ancestors kind of stomps all over my game plan and makes me want some additional hand or stack interaction. You can see the heavy Hallowed Moonlight sideboard as additional help, but it’s frustrating to know how weak the deck is to the primary engine card in the best deck. Still, there are plenty of reasons to play the deck—it absolutely mangles the other midrange decks in the format, and even ramp has issues dealing with the amount of removal that this deck can put together.
What to play this week?
You should just be watching the Pro Tour! If you do plan on battling though, then Rally, Bant or Abzan Collected Company, and 4c Midrange seem like the best decks in the format right now. If you want an odder angle of attack, older Jeskai decks utilizing Mantis Rider and a more aggressive curve is probably in the best position to make an impact. Not only do you have cheap ways to interact with CoCo and Rally, you can survive getting pelted with removal and discard spells thanks to Treasure Cruise. Plus, the number of ways that people have to permanently deal with Mantis Rider has fallen off in the current climate.
No matter what you choose, pick something you actually know how to play—the format seems wide open. Best of luck!