Monday, 25 May 2009

The best decks in Standard

By Jim Marlow

Hey everyone,

I thought i would write this article because having been confused as to how best beat all the different types of decks that were going round regionals i have spent a lot of time thinking of the current standard environment, and i think having spoken to lots of people and seen a few regional tournaments i think i finally have a decent understanding, so here goes.

As far as i can tell almost every deck in standard can be separated into 3 categories, these are.

1) spectral/windbrisk decks
2) decks that cant beat these decks
3) situational decks

I'll go through them 1 by 1.

1) spectral procession / windbrisk heights decks

These decks are fairly self explanatory. There are obviously quite a few variations, which basically involve which secondary colour you want to use; black, red or green. Regardles of the second colour, all of them rely on the engine of spectral procession or cloudgoat ranger and heights to gain card advantage.

Each of the heights decks are very strong right now. I think mono white is probably the weakest of these, followed by boat brew, with b/w and g/w being tier 1, although i wouldnt want to pick between them.

Mono white is the weakest because, although all of the decks are weak to wrath, the mono deck lacks any depth to try and avoid or work wround the wraths. Boat Brew doesnt so much play round wrath as it does play reveillark and ranger of eos which mean it can recover from wraths by gaining huge card advantage, but at a cost of being a little slower and clunkier than the other types of heights decks, which makes is slightly worse.

B/W uses thoughtseize and tidehollow sculler as a light permission suite to find the wrath effects, as well as having bitterblossom as a constant source of tokens, and uses the persist mechanic of murderous redcap and kitchen finks with ajani to make it very resilliant.

Likewise, the green white version used the new dauntless escort to give some resilliance to wraths, but other than the green white attempts to be far more explosively fast than the other heights deck to give the opponants the least chance of drawing and playing wraths as possible, with cards like garruk and overrun coming out from under windbrisk heights.

I think if i had to play one of these decks it would definately be the black/white version. It's ability to continually produce tokens rather than relying on drawing cloudgoat ranger or procession is a constant threat, while both the persist guys and thoughtseize/sculler means this deck is really hard to wrath. Also, zealous persecution gives it a great edge in any heights mirror, where the winner is usually whoever has the biggest spirit tokens.

2) Decks that cant beat these decks

Obviously this is quite a broad category because the token decks have been winning pretty much everything right now, but basically by decks that cant beat tokens i mean two types of deck - aggro decks that attempt to race tokens, which is just a bad decision, or controlling mid range decks that cant wrath enough times.

Examples of decks in this category would be - Red deck wins/blightning, jund aggro. I also think 5cb goes in here but im not entirely sure yet, it may be better than i give it credit for.

As i said, these decks mostly get rolled by the white decks, and why? Well basically things like red try to race the control decks, but red cant race a deck that spits out all the guys that the white decks do, especially with forge tender there.

These decks can compete with the white decks, but are serious dogs, and if they ever get behind they have lost already.

Also there are mid range type decks - like elves or ramp, plus 5cb. These decks are slightly better fared against white, especially jund or 5cb, but its very dependent on build, and bascically it depends on whether the white guy can find forge tenders or if you can find wraths, and how many there are in your deck.

3) Situational decks

Although every deck could go in this category, by this i mean pretty marginal decks that will either crap out entirely or wipe the floor with everyone, because it has a boat load of either really good matches or really bad ones.

Examples of these would be sanity grinding - which is obviously great in in control environments; turbo-fog, which is pretty much 80-90% in token heavy meta's, and to some extent faeries, which is very close to being in the above category, but it's match against tokens is not awful, depending on the number of cliques you find, but the problem is that if everyone is playing against a token meta and playing R/x, fae is getting boned too.

These decks are pretty risky, and are very dependent on both the metagame and the skill of the pilot.


So what should you play in standard right now, well the easy answer is b/w tokens, its gotten a lot of hype this season and i think its pretty justified.

If you cant bear face playing white however, then i think you dont really have a choice to play with at least red, green and black in your deck, why?

Well basically if you are not playing white then you need at least 6 wraths in your deck, which mean jund charm, infest, volcanic fallout and maelstrom pulse is a half-wrath. Also, you need to have some kind of game versus control, which pretty much means anathemancer is a must, hes probably the best creature in standard right now.

So, i would recommend some kind of g/b or jund deck, but you need to build them knowing that you will hardly ever be the beatdown, so just max out on wrath effects for all the token matches. Also, g/b or g/b/r have the possibility to play banefire or profane command as win conditions against turbo-fog, which probably should be in the back of your mind.

Personally, i would definately play jund colours, beause anathemancer is sick, magma spray is important for the mirror type matches and against persist b/w, plus it gives you access to jund charm and volcanic fallout, which g/b does not, and broodmate dragon is the best finisher for the rare control matchups.

If i were to play a tournament tomorrow, here's what i would take.

4 x kitchen finks
4 x anathemancer
4 x chameleon colossus
2 x broodmate dragon
2 x cloudthresher

3 x garruk wildspeaker

3 x jund charm
2 x volcanic fallout
4 x maelstrom pulse
4 x magma spray
4 x rampant growth

24 land

4 x infest
2 x banefire
2 x pithing needle
3 x thoughtseize
2 x thought hemorrhage
2 x primal command

Hope you like the list.

Sorry im tired,



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  1. Talking about the best decks in standard...

    Andy (can I say Beard?) - If you are reading this, please can I have my Thought Haemorrhages back on Thursday, if you're at FNM? I need them for my deck.


  2. Paul,

    I realised I had them about half way back to Leeds. I'll bring 'em on Thursday for you.