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The New Rivals of Standard

Written by Billy Mitchell on . Posted in Competitive Magic, Standard

The New Rivals of Standard

Billy Mitchell

Billy Mitchell is an L1 judge and competitive player from the Philadelphia area. Outside of Magic, Billy is a high school math and science teacher. He can be found on Twitter @badluckbandit.

On Monday, January 15, 2018, we had yet another round of bannings. There have already been a number of articles, tweets, screams from mountain tops, and such and my voice isn’t able to add much depth in that area. As much as complaining feels good in the moment, it isn’t going to make me feel better. Like I said before, you can choose to be bitter or better. Let’s take the road to be better.

So where do we start? With the removal of key pieces of both Temur Energy and Ramunap Red, I think it is important to reevaluate the most powerful cards in Standard. In card pools as limited as Standard, players will gravitate towards these cards and their respective decks in the first few weeks. This will give some targets in terms of deck building. So what are the best cards in this new format?

Approach of the Second Sun and Settle the Wreckage

These two cards are likely going to be a package deal so let’s just treat them as such. If there is a white control decks, these are likely to be the headliners. I’m hoping there will be some number of midrange-aggro decks with Temur Energy knocked down a peg. This would open for Settle the Wreckage to do what it does best: wreck. The card is difficult to play around and Approach of the Second Sun punishes players for trying to draw out the game.

Search for Azcanta and Torrential Gearhulk

The blue half of the control hallmarks are this combination of Modern cards. There should be no debate on how powerful these cards are going to be in Standard. They are very easily two of the best sources of cards advantage available in the format and will be terrorizing players for the next few months at least.

Ravenous Chupacabra

If you haven’t already, please listen to Patrick Sullivan’s rant on this card. This will be a format-defining card and an absolute tyrant of this format. With Temur Energy taking a hit, expect to find Bristling Hydras in the bulk boxes meaning that this beast will be eating whatever it pleases. Imagine this getting recurred over and over again! If only there were something in Standard that could recur creatures…

Vraska’s Contempt

There is a big difference between destroyed and exiled. The Scarab God will be a major pain in the early parts of this format. Since that is already an established pillar of Standard, expect to see many players default to a UB strategy. Exiling The Scarab God, Hazoret the Fervent, and Zetalpa, Primal Dawn are going to be key as players attempt to throw whatever the deem the most powerful at you. It will trade up for many of the major threats you care about and is not embarrassing against the more aggressive decks in the format because of the life gain stapled onto the card.

Hazoret the Fervent

If you think Ramunap Red is dead, you’re probably dead. Thanks to banning of Ramunap Ruins, we likely won’t call it that anymore. Expect there to be some iteration of the Mono-Red deck with Hazoret the Fervent at the helm. Also expect her captaining an aircraft in some form of RW Vehicles. I think one of the big winners of these bannings has to be Vehicles but I’ll get to that a bit later. Regardless, Hazoret is likely the best thing you can do for four mana and she can’t be consumed by any hungry hungry hippos chupacabras.


While I have some concerns about it, I do think Temur will exist in some form post-banning and likely in the form of RG or RB Monsters headlined by Glorybringer with either Ravenous Chupacabra or Rhonas the Indomitable on backup vocals. Glorybringer is too efficient of a card to not see play and will quickly find a new home. Each shell would provide their own benefits so we might have to see how the metagame evolves to see which shell would be better. Either way, Glorybringer will continue to be the premier flying threat in the new Standard.

Carnage Tyrant

Here he comes and he’s ready to destroy some wizards! I think this format will be a series of removal in the form of Ravenous Chupacabras, Glorybringers, and Vraska’s Contempt. Having a hexproof threat is a valuable asset. I had this thought when Ixalan originally game out but I believe this will be a less hostile environment for it.

Thrashing Brontodon

This is my pick for most impactful card from this set. This card is the junk police which is what I love to see when deck building. It has a wildly efficient body for the aggro decks and an ability that fills a lot of gaps between the main deck and sideboard. Remember that Anointed Procession, Search for Azcanta, God-Pharoah’s Gift, Hidden Stockpile, Walking Ballista, Heart of Kiran, Legion’s Landing, Torrential Gearhulk, Verdurous Gearhulk, and Oketra’s Monument. These are all cards that are not only main decks cards but key pieces of their archetypes. This card is an all-star in the making.

The Scarab God

Have no delusions: The Scarab God will be the key part of the best deck once people realize what is going on. If people are scrapping for advantages, The Scarab God will be their first stop. If you don’t know why, please reread Ravenous Chupacabra and Torrential Gearhulk. Remember that both those cards, as well as Vraska’s Contempt and Search for Azcanta are either blue or black. There will either be a creature-heavy value deck or a control deck featuring The Scarab God and I expect it to be terrible to play against.

Heart of Kiran

As I alluded to earlier, I think Vehicles are the biggest winners from these bannings. Abrade was certainly a problem for the deck and Ramunap Red and Temur Energy taking up so much of the metagame share adversely affected how successful Heart of Kiran could be. Outside of the possible RG Monsters deck, I don’t think there will be a clear inheritor of the “Oh crap does my opponent have the Abrade” title. This would provide an opportunity for Heart of Kiran (and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship) to return to a presence in Standard. And while we’re talking about a lack of Abrades…

God-Pharoah’s Gift

GPG is back people! Well it never went anywhere but my expected decline of Abrade will allow the deck to flourish. I am expecting to see UW and UB variants on this strategies. Both should be powerful but it’s a matter of whether you want access to Zetalpa, Primal Dawn and Angel of Invention or The Scarab God and Ravenous Chupacabra. I’m leaning towards UB myself but I could very easily see the case for gaining some life with Angel of Invention if the format begins very aggressive.

What else?

Well this is where we start our deck building process. We have identified the 13 cards that will likely shape the new Standard format and can now starting crafting a 75 with these cards in mind. Between now and Saturday morning, expect to see players rushing to solve the format before SCG Dallas. If you’re battling, you would be wise to consider something consistent for week 1.
How many of the cards on our list do we think will make the top 8 at SCG Dallas? Tweet me @badluckbandit and let me know.

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