This past weekend, we were met with our first Standard Pro Tour in years. While this isn’t the first “big event” back, this is one of the first large paper Standard events that people have paid attention to since the original dissolution of Pro Tours way back in the day. With that, we’ve had many new eyes from players who picked up the game since 2019 who have not seen real professional paper Standard yet.
I’m not entirely in-tune with the “Arena crowd,” but if they’re anything like the old guard of Magic fanatics, a lot of them are going to be eyeing up the Pro Tour results for some hot tech and new spice. Since I’m one of those types, and because it’s my role here to do so, I’ll be going over a couple of my favorite finds from last week’s Pro Tour as well as some methods to get into those strategies on a budget. Unlike my normal Arena-focused Standard budget pieces, we’ll be focusing on paper today, so sorry in advance for those that don’t have 50 extra rare wildcards sitting around. Let’s get to it.
Standard Five-Color Ramp by Philippe Gareau
Around the end of Brothers’ War season, there began to emerge some domain-based ramp decks that were looking to jam out Atraxas by hard-casting them alongside whatever other midrange nonsense they were up to. With the release of March of the Machine, this strategy became a lot more prolific as not only were more ramp cards introduced in Invasion of Zendikar, but also the suite of huge threats was bolstered via the inclusion of Etali, Primal Conqueror. Combining these elements with some of the premium removal spells in the format has created a pseudo-control ramp strategy that is the undeniable king of the endgame. Churning out threat after threat while maintaining a grip of cards in hand and dispatching any opposing threat with ease makes any deck looking to tangle in the later turns of the game a bit of a joke as they quickly become overwhelmed in card advantage and card quality.
Budget Standard Five-Color Ramp by Darren Magnotti
Moving into the realm of the cheaper, it turns out that the only “expensive” parts of this deck were the Atraxas, Leyline Bindings and lands. We get to maintain the entire suite of ramp spells in Topiary Stomper and Invasion of Zendikar, which work in tandem to flood the field with basics in short order. These then power out the main win conditions, Etali and Herd Migration, which are carried over from the original version, The Kami War for some additional utility and everyone’s favorite angry jelly bean, Omnath, Locus of All. The main thought behind these five-color threats is their ability to secure multiple cards’ worth of advantage over time to emulate the sheer draw power of Atraxa. While it’s a tall order to replace the words “draw five cards”, these threats work all the same to mitigate the primary weakness of most ramp decks: running out of gas and drawing the wrong cards in the wrong order.
The removal suite also carries over almost entirely. While Leyline Binding is far and away the best removal spell in the format, Seal from Existence more or less gets the same job done, trading mana cost for built-in protection. Ossification and Go for the Throat clear the board of any early-turn pests, and Archangel of Wrath can help you turn the corner with ease as its ability to pick off multiple creatures and recoup some life will stabilize a good number of board states. Sunfall is one of the real unsung heroes of this deck, filling a similar role to the Angel where it can turn what looks like a losing board state on its head. Creating a massive Phyrexian token while also exiling creatures over destroying them makes this one of the best wrath spells we’ve seen in a long time.
Long story short, the Five-Color Ramp deck is here to step on people, as most ramp decks ought to do. Taking advantage of some Commander-centric designs to mitigate its biggest weakness, this deck is able to keep the hits coming turn after turn without sacrificing much in terms of interaction or adaptability. While this deck may not be poised to completely take over the format, it has every capacity to become a pillar of the format moving forward.
Grixis Singularity/Singular Hidetsugu Combo
Standard Grixis Singularity by Adriano Melo
A much more spicy approach to the Pro Tour that’s also been popping up in the Arena queues lately is a peculiar combo/midrange pile that’s being dubbed Grixis Singularity. It’s a classic Grixis midrange deck, that includes a two-card combo of Hidetsugu and Kairi and Explosive Singularity, which, when set up properly, allows you to put Explosive Singularity on top of your deck via Hidetsugu’s first effect, sacrifice the team up and use its second effect to deal a combined 20 damage to the opponent out of nowhere.
The deck works for the same reasons that Grixis Midrange works; it’s a consistent deck loaded up with interaction, bomby threats and enough card selection to reliably find what you need, when you need it. The combo allows for some flexibility against some of the matchups that the midrange plan traditionally struggles with, such as the white/X control decks, without being too distracting from anything that the midrange portion would typically excel against. Hidetsugu and Kairi is also just a generically strong card in this deck, synergizing with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse (as if she needed it), filtering draws as well as Fable of the Mirror-Breaker could, and providing some nominal card advantage when it’s not “doing the thing.” One of the major benefits to the Grixis version is the capacity to get two-for-ones out of a majority of your spells, which Hidetsugu manages perfectly.
Budget Standard Grixis Singularity by Darren Magnotti
In terms of budgeting the deck, this one is a little more painful than the Ramp deck was. Because a majority of the Rakdos Midrange shell is so expensive, I’ve decided to lean more heavily into the combo aspect of the deck. Sheoldred and Fable are obvious cuts, being replaced with Wandering Mind to generate some additional card advantage and a more diverse suite of spells that both help dig for the combo and enable it. Cards like A Little Chat and Make Disappear will make the combo happen, while Impulse and Volcanic Spite really get to work finding the necessary pieces. A collection of two-for-one spells that can fill all of the holes we were missing with the omission of the expensive mythics and rares is all we can really ask for when we’re playing around in the most popular color combination in the format.
One of my least favorite things to do in the Budget World is to cut all of the good cards from a goodstuff pile midrange deck and then pretend that it’s going to play out the same, because that isn’t a very honest approach. In this season of Standard though, that Rakdos Midrange shell is nearly unavoidable, so you definitely need to prepare to lean heavily into some sort of niche if you’re looking to omit it from a deck that “could” otherwise play it. I think that instead of trying to one-for-one emulate the strategy, it’s better to just lean into the thing that we do have access to for all we’re worth. It might not produce a stronger end product, but the point isn’t always to be as competitive as possible. This deck is completely serviceable, and capable of winning games in the environment that I’d expect it to see play in – the lower tiers of the Arena ladder and FNM paper events, and if we can have some fun with a silly combo while also making that happen, then why not do that.
I’ve received a couple of messages over the last few months after I put out something like this that’s more meant for learning or entertainment than for gaining a competitive edge, so I think that it’s important to stress the point of a budget deck sometimes and get the message out there that we’re building starting points, not end goals. If you watched the Pro Tour this weekend and were inspired to get into the format, you shouldn’t have to feel turned off by the hundreds of dollar price tags stapled to each of the deck lists. Magic is a game for all, and making sure that that remains true is why we’re here in the first place.
That’s all for this one. I love digging through the Pro Tour deck dumps whenever they come out because there’s always a handful of diamonds in the rough. Whether we see what we saw in Pioneer where a D Tier deck took the event by storm, or what we saw in Standard where the decks we knew would be good got to prove themselves, the event itself is one of the highlights of the year for nearly every player. We can only hope that they continue to deliver the sweetness as we keep heading out to the battlefield. Until next time, stay safe, play smart and thanks for reading.