Know Yourself: Standard’s Image Problem & the State of Standard

 

Hello Everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of my weekly column, Know Yourself. Boys and girls, squirrels and frogs, we need to have a conversation about standard. Again.

And no, standard isn’t walking into another ban worthy combination of cards, but I think the fact that I felt I had to preface with that explains the larger problem at hand pretty succinctly. Standard is dying at the local level due to a horrible image problem, and we as a community need to fix it.

Standard as a format has definitely had its fair share of problems, and more than its fair share of critics, but I feel that the bad rap has descended from complaining to downright absurdity. The bans have broken consumer trust in ways I’ve never seen a game do before, and the card quality truly feels as if it is much worse for wear than in the past. But, people are crapping all over the format with so much bravado that no one realized that it has gotten seriously awesome over the past couple of weeks, and is in much need of some loving from the community.

Evan Erwin, Mr. Orange himself, Mr. One man hype train full of fun times good laughs said recently on his podcast/ show that standard is a “Gross wasteland of awfulness and no one really wants to play it.”

That I feel is sort of the seminal response to talking about standard anymore. My local game store replaced standard with chaos draft of pauper events due to the sheer lack of attendance at any and all standard events. And while I love pauper a whole bunch, it doesn’t quite feel the same, and chaos draft is the epitome of a “just for fun” kind of format. But while that may be my own personal reality, that isn’t the case everywhere. I am certainly in my own boat of “savvy trader who builds all the decks” with three current standard decks in brand new sleeves and nothing to do with them, and I LOVE standard.

And While I could sit and wait for Dominaria to give standard the obligatory power level shot-in-the-arm, I really don’t feel like waiting around to tell you that you could be having an awesome time. Standard is in a great place right now, and while that may have some to do with the number of eyes on it being reduced slightly, it is also due to the sheer number of deck archetypes available. Let’s run down some of the top contenders, and then go through some odder archetypes.

 

Mono Red Aggro

While rampaging ferocidon and ramunap ruins were shown the door at the start of this format, Mono Red still sits atop its shiny hill burning our faces off. Hazoret the Fervent still sits atop her throne as the biggest, baddest, and initially most underrated god from Amonhket (Much Like Thassa, mind you) and continually bashing our faces off with that magnificent spear of hers. While I’ve never had a problem with there being a “best deck”, the fact that mono red has risen to the top of the pile is more likely a symptom of standard’s growing problem about card rates. (that being the idea that if everything kills everything else, all that really matters in mana cost = efficiency ratio, which red has in spades) But fear not, for the deck is not unbeatable, only popular.

 

Grixis Energy / G/B the Roc

Energy Midrange still sits upon the top tables, now with more Glint-Sleeve Siphoner! This bad bob is the best bad bob we’ve had in years, and in combination with the best finishers in the format in The Scarab God and Glorybringer, along with amazing utility cards like Abrade, Supreme Will, and the best removal spells in harnessed lightning and Vraska’s contempt, the deck is just as strong as ever, albeit with slightly worse mana. Swap those out for the green Jadelight Ranger/ Winding Constrictor / Verdurous Gearhulk combination, along with the mana from servant of the conduit makes for a more classical G/B the roc deck, some going to far as to splash blue for The Scarab God as well, along with sideboarding countermagic.

 

U/B Control / Grixis Control

When it rains, it pours, and swap out the efficient creatures for a whole lot of counter magic and removal along with torrential gearhulk, combined with the frankly amazing search for azcanta, and you’ve got quite the control deck to be worried about. A classic draw go deck with lots of ability to grind far into the late game, this is certainly another strong contender in the format.

 

So where does that leave us? Well, in a sea of wide open, interesting decklists sitting just under the big three, begging to be thrown into the spotlight. Outside of the three atypical dominant archtypes, there are multiple other, powerful archetypes dwelling beneath the surface begging to be played and tested and refined even more. For example, there is: Mardu Vehicles, U/W Auras, U/W Cycling, U/W approach, U/G merfolk, G/R monsters, and Esper God Pharaoh’s Gift. The format really is wide open, and a whole lot of fun if you’re willing to experiment with interesting cards to get the win. (Tendershoot Dryad in abzan tokens? Yes please!) I’ve even brewed two cheap, budget friendly powerful decks that you can play in my previous articles, so what are you waiting for?But what do you think of standard?

Let me know in the comments, and I’ll see you next week!

-Forrest W.

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