State of Standard

January 9, 2020

Thomas Holzinger

Shopkeeper, Writer, Player
21 from Salzburg, Austria
Top 8 GP Worcester
Top 8 GP Quebec City
Top 8 Team GP San Jose
Top 8 Pro Tour Avacyn Restored
Top 8 World Magic Cup 2013

More Posts (7)

So the Sealed Season is nearly over and since i am a fan of most constructed formats and i like Grand Prix in my home country (which happen to take place once in like every 4 or 5 years), i am really looking forward to play Standard in Vienna next week. My Standard testing started pretty early because of Pro Tour Theros, where our Team played a different take on Mono Blue with Vaporkins and stuff. It was not bad, but certainly not as good as the version other teams came up with. Congratulations to Jeremy and Pierre at this point again.

After the Pro Tour i started to test online with Nico Bohny’s BG Deck that he finished in the Top 16 with and changed it around a little bit to the following 75:


4 Overgrown Tomb
8 Forest
8 Swamp
4 Golgari Guildgate


2 Varolz, the Scar-Striped
4 Elvish Mystic
1 Reaper of the Wilds
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Dreg Mangler
4 Lotleth Troll
3 Lifebane Zombie
3 Polukranos, World Eater


3 Abrupt Decay
2 Doom Blade
2 Hero’s Downfall
4 Thoughtseize


2 Mistcutter Hydra
2 Skylasher
1 Lifebane Zombie
1 Golgari Charm
2 Duress
1 Doom Blade
1 Underworld Connections
3 Gift of Orzhova
2 Boon Satyr


The deck was quite cool, it had discard, removal and some nice threats as well, but the problem was that some times you just trade everything you have and in the end you have no way of making card advantage at all, which tends to be really bad in this format. Once mono black came up, i did not see any reason to continue with BG Aggro (although Brian Kibler has been working on a sweet version as it seems).

The obvious next step was to try the Mono Black Deck that rocked Grand Prix Lousville, which turned out to be great, but also very difficult in terms of sideboarding.
I really had troubles beating control and especially planeswalkers. I probably did not use my Hero’s Downfalls and Thoughtseizes correctly, but i thought I’d better try something else and if nothing works out, i can come back to Mono Black again.

So my friend Marc said he’s been playing a lot with Mono Blue and i decided to join him. After some time i had a version that was a mix of all the different Mono Blue Decks that did well the weeks before (both online and RL):


20 Island
4 Mutavault
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx


4 Frostburn Weird
4 Tidebinder Mage
4 Thassa, God of the Sea
4 Nightveil Specter
4 Judge’s Familiar
4 Cloudfin Raptor
4 Master of Waves


2 Bident of Thassa
1 Claustrophobia
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
2 Cyclonic Rift


3 Gainsay
1 Domestication
1 Aetherling
1 Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx
2 Dissolve
1 Bident of Thassa
1 Negate
1 Claustrophobia
1 Rapid Hybridization
2 Jace, Architect of Thought
1 Cyclonic Rift


The list was obviously not perfect, but it seemed okay in the online metagame and against mono black i felt ahead at first, but somehow my results got worse and worse. I managed to get some 3-1 results in Daily Events and even a 6-2 in a premier event, but the X-0 finish was still missing.

I did some Real Life testing as well, where i tried the RG Devotion and various other green decks, but in the end i was still sitting there with no clue about the format.

I started some brainstorming and talked to a lot of people and came to the following conclusion:

The format has control, aggro and midrange. I think it’s all about playing threats and/or having answers for them. Whoever runs out of threats or answers is most likely the one who loses. This might be the case in general, but the difference this time is that getting ahead is so important that not having an answer for let’s say Nightveil Specter when on the other side your opponent can handle your threat, it’s so crucial that a game can be decided at exactly that point of the game. Esper is a deck that can handle everything and has powerful threats and spells as well, BUT is weak to any agressive deck and it’s own manabase.
So there is no deck that has a real edge on everything else.

What you would need is something unfair, maybe a combo or something that doesn’t give your opponent a chance to interact.

Bant Hexproof, Turbofog, Human Reanimator were that kind of decks in the past (there are more and more of course).
Speaking of Reanimator we have another Graveyard enabler with Commune with the Gods and Deathrite Shaman as an accelerator that i thought would work with Whip of Erebos, but i did not see the biggest problem: You don’t have the typical “Midrange”-cards like Thragtusk, Huntmaster of the Fells, Lingering Souls or Restoration Angel which you can put in that kind of deck to have a gameplan B (no matter what your opponent is doing).

Those cards are all good in two ways:
-They can be used to defend yourself against fast decks.
-They can be used as win options against slower decks.

So this leaves us with the option of playing something less interactive, but more unfair.

My first thoughts were enchantments of course. Ethereal Armor is a strong card in the right deck.
To be honest, i tried everything:
Hexproof, Heroic, Pumpspells, Bloodrush+ Flesh // Blood, Auras, GW, GR, RW, Naya….

Everything has it’s weakness and the biggest problem are your creatures, since Heroic creatures can be powerful but playing Gods Willing and Ranger’s Guile doesn’t help you against all the the solutions in this format. So i tried Hexproof and found that Gladecover Scout and Witchstalker might not be enough. Fiendslayer Paladin is okay as long as you don’t face Esper, but double white is a problem when your maincolor is supposed to be green and sometimes you just get crushed by Anger of the Gods, Mizzium Mortars or Supreme Verdict

So you need something that is strong, consistent and has a little bit of flexibility (which gives you a lategame).

Benjamin Leitner told me to try Patrick Sullivan’s Red Deck Wins, who is known for his affinity to red decks. I had to play the MOCS Preliminary online and was willing to try a new deck, i finished 5-1 despite being super tired and making missplays nearly every turn. Okay-not every turn, but i played bad.

So i was like “Wow, this deck could actually be good”. I played a huge amount of online and even some Real Life Matches and found out that this deck is both fast, strong, consistent and not dead in the lategame due to Chandra’s Phoenix and Mutavault. But before i waste any more time, here is my final list that i would play if the GP was tomorrow :


4 Mutavault
18 Mountain


4 Firedrinker Satyr
2 Rubblebelt Maaka
4 Burning-Tree Emissary
4 Firefist Striker
4 Foundry Street Denizen
4 Rakdos Cackler
4 Gore-House Chainwalker
4 Chandra’s Phoenix


4 Shock
4 Lightning Strike
1 Hammer of Purphoros
1 Peak Eruption
1 Rubblebelt Maaka
4 Skullcrack
4 Mizzium Mortars
3 Flames of the Firebrand
1 Act of Treason


I have to admit the Maindeck is exactly the same as Patrick Sullivan’s, which worked perfect for me but i made some changes in the Sideboard.

SB guide:

+4 Skullcrack
+1 Hammer of Purphoros

-2 Rubblebelt Maaka
-2 Firefist Striker
-1 Foundry-Street Denizen

Blood Baron of Vizkopa can be a problem, but i would ignore that since Skullcrack can handle it a little bit and boarding Mizzium Mortars will often cause a dead card in your hand. If you expect Ratchet Bomb, more one mana creatures can be sided out.

Mono Black:
+2 Skullcrack
+2 Mizzium Mortars
+1 Hammer of Purphoros
(+1 Act of Treason

-3 Foundry Street Denizen (maybe even the fourth)
-2 Rubblebelt Maaka

This is one of your best Matchups preboard, but can be very difficult postboard, i haven’t found the perfect sideboard plan yet since i am not sure if Act of Treason (against Desecration Demon) is needed, but it can end a game out of nowhere.

Mono Red:
+4 Mizzium Mortars
+3 Flames of the Firebrand
+1 Rubblebelt Maaka

-4 Firedrinker Satyr
-4 Foundry Street Denizen

If they are some kind of Big Red or even splash white for Chained to the Rocks, you can bring the one Peak Eruption for a Firefist Striker

+4 Mizzium Mortars
+3 Flames of the Firebrand

-4 Foundry-Street Denizen
-3 Firedrinker Satyr

RG Monsters:

+1 Rubblebelt Maaka
+1 Act of Treason

-2 Foundry Street Denizen

You can change the sideboard and the plans a little bit and adapt it to the metagame you expect, but never side out Burnspells, since they make the deck playable.
Burnspells can be removal and winning options depending on your situation and together with Chandra’s Phoenix they give you a lategame as well.

This might not be the right playstyle for everyone, but you should give it a try at least, because I think it’s well positioned in the metagame and I normally refuse to play Mono Red

See you in Vienna!

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