The first large-scale Standard event of the season has closed, and today we’re taking our first look into what the meta game for the upcoming months might entail. Let’s take a look at the Top 8 deck lists that were featured.
Will Pulliam, 1st Place
As is the norm with the first SCG event of the season, the aggressive decks have done well. Exceptionally well, actually. Looking up and down these mono-red lists is kind of surreal, they’re different than mono-red lists of the past. These aren’t just chocked full of any and every burn spell they can get their hands on, these lists are filled with good, solid cards.
Light Up the Stage, Runaway Steam-Kin, Goblin Chainwhirler, and Chandra, Fire Artisan are all cards that would see play in other red decks if burn wasn’t the best shell for them. Not to mention, the cards that get included in the Sideboards such as Risk Factor, Rekindling Phoenix, and Experimental Frenzy. On that note, I find it shocking that the first place list excluded Experimental Frenzy from their entire 75.
It was actually impressive to see Pulliam beat Collins Mullen in the finals after Mullen had resolved an Experimental Frenzy. The card produces so much card advantage, especially when paired with Runaway Steam-Kin. Staring down a double-barreled Runaway Frenzy is a bad place to be, especially in the Mono-Red mirror.
Props to Pulliam for piloting the deck fantastically, proving to me, a man who has held a deep loathing for Mono-Red my whole life, that this deck is more than burning face and turning creatures sideways.
Collins Mullen, 2nd Place
In terms of Mono-Red lists, this is a list that is similar to something that I would pilot. The two big differences in this and Pulliam’s 1st place list is the inclusion of Risk Factors in the mainboard, and packing a playset of Experimental Frenzy in the side. Were it me, I would have shaved on burn spells in favor of Chandra, Fire Artisan, but that’s why Collins Mullen took 2nd place, and not me.
Other than those changes, however, the two decks so far are more or less the same. When red has so many good solid cards, you don’t need a second color to make them better.
Ethan Gaieski, 3rd Place
Once more, with passion.
The last of the Mono-Red decks to Top 8, the first favored Chandra, Fire Artisan in the main, the second favored Risk Factor, the third, Experimental Frenzy. I find it pretty interesting, personally, as the decks are pretty much the same, save for the three or four main board slots, and the three or four Sideboard slots. If it were me who were designing the list, I would play a 3-3 split on Risk Factor and Chandra, sporting a play set of Experimental Frenzy in the side.
These Mono-Red decks have a lot of things in common, but I believe that speaks volumes to the power and synergies that these decks have, showing that there is a correct shell to fit these cards into due to the nature of Standard, especially the first week. Everyone was bringing their test deck, and the aggressive decks will naturally feed on any decks that aren’t prepared for it. If you want to survive these early weeks, you have to be prepared for Mono-Red.
Zach Allen, 4th Place
One word I would use to describe this deck; wow. I know I was just talking about mono-red having a surplus of good cards, so let’s talk about the good cards in white blue and black.
This deck has 24 ‘answer’ cards. Four hand disruption spells, six counter spells, and 14 removal spells. The remaining ten non land cards in the main board are card advantage. This deck has answers for just about everything. The six counter spells that it plays have built-in utility, Absorb gaining life to help against the aggressive decks, and Dovin’s Veto as an end all for counter spell wars in the control mirror, also answering planeswalkers 100% of the times that one gets placed on the stack.
There are also 13 cards that generate incidental life gain. This is perhaps the most crucial part of this deck. It has cheap answers for the threats mono-red produces, and its answers will almost always two-for-one the mono-red player by trading a card for a card and gaining life to essentially counter burn spells. This is the kind of preparation that I would expect and that I respect out of a week one Standard deck. Don’t be caught unprepared, always pack some amount of fire-resistant cards.
Zachary Kiihne, 5th Place
This is an interesting list to see at the top, as the only mainboard changes that were made from last season’s Selesnya Tokens was the inclusion of Gideon Blackblade in the main, along with the Return to Nature and Prison Realm in the side. The deck didn’t need to adapt much it seems, save for the addition of one more, very powerful card.
It’s not struck me before the amount of versatility that Gideon can promise. He grants vigilance against the creature decks, lifelink against the aggressive decks, and indestructible is useful in most every game you’ll come by in one way or another. All of this packed onto one above curve body makes for a solid include.
I could be wrong, but it feels that this list is a dog to control unless they can stick a Tithe Taker and protect it for at least a few turns. It feels that’s the only real way the deck has to fight control, which makes me wonder why the deck doesn’t play all four. We’ll see what space this deck has for evolution in the weeks to come.
Harlan Firer, 6th Place
I was speaking with one Patrick Weiss the other day about the power of Teferi, Time Raveler and Vivien, Champion of the Wilds. Granted, it was for a Wilderness Reclamation deck that looked to abuse Hydroid Krasis, but the shell compiled by Harlan Firer works too.
Frilled Mystic has had a soft spot in my heart since I saw its spoiler, but it’s always suffered from a problem. It’s pretty obvious what you’re up to if you pass the turn with two blue and two green mana open. This deck fixes that problem by giving all of your spells flash, meaning you represent everything in your deck when you pass with open mana, not just the threat of a counter spell. This makes fighting control and other creature decks much easier, as your opponent has to choose when they would like to counter your spells, and it makes combat steps a lot trickier for your opponent to correctly calculate.
This deck has good threat density with built-in answers with Deputy of Detention, Knight of Autumn, and Shalai, making it more of a mind-game match up than anything.
Edgar Magalhaes, 7th Place
Our second control deck to see the light of Top 8, this one only slightly different from the last. What surprises me is the inclusion of Teferi, Time Raveler in the main board. This list has only eight sorceries, four of which are Thought Erasure that is ideally played before Teferi, and then get worse and worse each turn after. It does allow you to Thought Erasure on your opponent’s draw step, which is both relevant and good, but it’s definitely not as abuse-able as other sorceries. Kaya’s Wrath get’s a lot better as an instant, and will put players in awkward positions often.
Some spicy tech that I notice is the two Vona, Butcher of Magan in the side. This can be game-ending against midrange decks, if they attack with anything that has less than four power, Vona can be flashed in to eat it and gain life, then you can untap, attack to gain four more life, than blow up the most relevant threat on the field. This seems like a very solid Sideboard inclusion, and props to Edgar for remembering a card that has more or less begun to fade into ambiguity.
Rudy Briksza, 8th Place
There is a two card difference between this list and the previous Bant Midrange list. The first is Rudy dropped the fourth Hinterland Harbor for a third Glacial Fortress, and the second is Rudy dropped the one of Deputy of Detention in the Sideboard in favor of a second Knight of Autumn.
When both decks in the Top 8 have the exact same non-land main board, you know a deck is finely tuned. It’s actually astounding and impressive that not just this deck, but the pilots were able to do so well with such similar lists. It speaks volumes to the versatility the deck has at its disposal.
And there you have it, the first Top 8 of the season. The big takeaway for me is just how powerful of a format Standard has become. There are so many powerful cards with powerful answers to them, that the format has a lot of wiggle room to adapt and grow should the pilot respect and prepare for the aggressive decks. In the upcoming months of Standard we’ll be able to see just how good or bad this format actually is, but only time will tell.
Don’t judge a Standard season by it’s week one SCG Top 8.