Guilds of Ravnica Standard – Decks You Need To Know Right Now!

Hi all, last weekend I fought some more PPTQ battles while the events at the Pro Tour dramatically unfolded. In this article I’ll be taking a closer look at some choice Standard decks coming out of the Pro Tour and discussing some of events I recently played in.

My deck

I didn’t really feel it was worth jumping ship from the Golgari deck I’d been playing previously. I played the deck at Grand Prix Lille to a moderately disasterous 4-3-1 record on day one, but I wasn’t dissuaded from the deck at all. I made some minor tweaks from the previous list I was running which my friend Matt Duggan advised me on following his PPTQ win a couple of weeks ago. I did watch some of the Pro Tour coverage on the Friday, just in case there was some crazy new tech doing the rounds (which we’ll get onto later). Although I saw a range of decks being played, there was no way to ascertain the full decklists at this stage, and with Golgari being the most popular choice for the event (22% of the field), I felt reassured that sticking to my guns was the right choice to make.

Lands (23)
Memorial to folly
Overgrown tomb
Woodland cemetery
Forest
Swamp

Creatures (24)
Llanowar elves
Merfolk branchwalker
Seekers’ squire
Wildgrowth Walker
Jadelight ranger
Midnight reaper
Golgari findbroker
Ravenous chupacabra
Carnage tyrant

Spells (13)
Assassin’s trophy
Cast down
Vraska, golgari queen
Vraska’s contempt
Vivien reid
Find/Finality
Sideboard (15)
Duress
The Eldest Reborn
Cast down
Moment of Craving
Wildgrowth walker
Vraska’s contempt
Plaguecrafter
Ritual of Soot

The Event

The event was held at Travelling Man, York and was attended by 32 players. This meant five rounds of swiss, followed by a cut to the Top 8. I travelled to the event with fellow Leeds player Lawrence Arnelll, who was giving his Boros Angels deck ‘one last outing’.

Swiss rounds

  • Round 1 vs Izzet Phoenix – 2-0 WIN
  • Round 2 vs Golgari Midrange – 2-0 WIN
  • Round 3 vs Golgari Midrange – 2-0 WIN
  • Round 4 vs unknown deck – 0-0-3 ID
  • Round 5 vs unknown deck – 0-0-3 ID

Top 8

I unfortunately lost 0-2 in the quarterfinals against Boros Angels. I played very poorly in the first game from a position of relative strength. I mis-sequenced my removal against Lyra Dawnbringer and an army of angels that resulted in me taking less damage initially, only to realise that Finality didn’t wipe the board as Lyra and all the angels had five toughness! In the second game, I mulliganed to five, drew all my Llanowar Elves and lands, and my only relevant spell, Vraska, Golgari Queen, got hit by an Ixalan’s Binding.

Despite my poor showing in the quarterfinals, Lawrence managed to take down the event so congratulations to him!

The second event

I drove up to Tea@Hart in Hartelpool on the Sunday to give it another go. I didn’t change my decklist. As most of the players I usually travel with were, at this point,  already qualified, I had to go it alone – but there were a few familiar faces at the venue. This event was attended by 17 players, just enough for five rounds of swiss followed by a cut to Top 8.

Swiss rounds

  • Round 1 vs Mono-red aggro – 2-0 – WIN
  • Round 2 vs Mono-blue tempo – 2-1 WIN
  • Round 3 vs Selesnya tokens – 2-1 WIN
  • Round 4 vs unknown deck – 0-0-3 ID
  • Round 5 vs unknown deck – 0-0-3 ID

Top 8

Again, a disappointing (1-2) loss in the quarterfinals against Selesnya tokens. After taking a relatively straightforward game one, I mulliganed into what turned out to be ‘not enough lands’ in game two and lost to a very fast start from my opponent. In game three, the crucial moment in the game involved me casting a Carnage Tyrant to stabilise the board but beign unfortunately trumped by my opponent playing The Immortal Sun. I could have cast Duress instead (but would have then been unable to play anything else with how my hand lined up) but I thought that playing the dino gave me the best chance to win. Oh how wrong was I!

Callum Bousfield eventually took down the event with his Jeskai Control deck so congratulations to him!

The decks you need to know about in Standard right now!

Having watched the Pro Tour, including a Top 8 featuring six aggressive Boros decks (mostly white weenie with a splash of red), now seems like a good time to reflect on the format’s landscape. Here’s my quick rundown of the decks I think you need to know about in Standard. I’ve put an example decklist in for reference, each one taken from the Pro Tour.

Boros aggro

Andrew Elenbogen – 1st place at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

Lands (20)
Clifftop Retreat
Sacred Foundry
14 Plains

Creatures (26)
Dauntless Bodyguard
Healer’s Hawk
Skymarcher Aspirant
Snubhorn Sentry
Adanto Vanguard
Benalish Marshal
Venerated Loxodon

Spells (14)
Legion’s Landing
Pride of Conquerors
Conclave Tribunal
History of Benalia
Sideboard (15)
Clifftop Retreat
Banefire
Tocatli Honor Guard
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Experimental Frenzy
Response / Resurgence

Gameplan: Obtain board advantage quickly (turns 2-3) with cheap aggressive threats and use them to quickly dispatch the opponent.

Strengths: Fast. In addition, Benalish Marshal and Venerated Loxodon allow things to ‘snowball’ out of control as early as turn 3. Cards like Adanto the First Fortress and History of Benalia provide multiple threats in a single card.

Weaknesses: Mass removal obviously does a good job against this deck. Casting Deafening Clarion on turn three or Ritual of Soot on turn four can completely destroy its plan and hopes of winning!

Key sideboard cards: Experimental Frenzy allows the deck to potentially rebuild the whole board straight away after being board-wiped. Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice breaks board stalls and Baffling End gets rid of pesky Wildgrowth Walkers

Golgari Midrange

Makihito Mihara – 8-2 at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

Lands (23)
Evolving Wilds
Memorial to Folly
Overgrown Tomb
Woodland Cemetery
Forest
Swamp

Creatures (24)
Llanowar Elves
Druid of the Cowl
Merfolk Branchwalker
Jadelight Ranger
Ravenous Chupacabra
Golgari Findbroker
Carnage Tyrant

Spells (13)
Assassin’s Trophy
Cast Down
Vraska’s Contempt
Karn, Scion of Urza
The Eldest Reborn
Vivien Reid
Vraska, Golgari Queen
Find / Finality
Sideboard (15)
Duress
Arguel’s Blood Fast
Wildgrowth Walker
Deathgorge Scavenger
Golden Demise
Thrashing Brontodon
The Eldest Reborn
Vraska, Golgari Queen

Gameplan: Leverage incremental advantages from explore creatures and planeswalkers to either apply too much steady pressure on control opponents or stabilise the board against aggressive decks before burying them in card advantage.

Strengths: Explore creatures help smooth draws and recover from mulligans. Between the creatures and planeswalkers there’s enough utility to fight the other decks while frequently getting ‘2-for-1s’ while you do it.

Weaknesses: Doesn’t really have a way to block flyers and isn’t great at ‘racing’ or putting the opponent away in the early turns. Tocatli Honor Guard can really stunt the deck’s ability to get to the late-game.

Key sideboard card: Wildgrowth Walker is key against aggressive decks. In addition, Duress serves as an important tool vs blue decks (including Mono-blue Tempo) and against Selesnya. Finally, you either want a sweeper or to play additional removal spells to avoid being trumped by Tocatli Honor Guard.

Izzet Drakes

Yuuya Watanabe – Top 8 at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

Lands (21)
Izzet Guildgate
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Island
Mountain

Creatures (15)
Enigma Drake
Arclight Phoenix
Crackling Drake
Goblin Electromancer

Spells (24)
Opt
Maximize Velocity
Shock
Chart a Course
Discovery / Dispersal
Lava Coil
Radical Idea
Sideboard (15)
Spell Pierce
Disdainful Stroke
Firemind’s Research
Entrancing Melody
Beacon Bolt
Murmuring Mystic
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Gameplan: Race the opponent in the air with Arclight Phoenix and assorted Drakes, sometimes in a single devastating combat step due to a high volume of cheap instants or sorceries used to set up key turns.

Strengths: Cantrips helps to smooth draws and fuel the gameplan. Very few other decks are great at blocking flying creatures, which only have to hit a couple of times. Phoenixes are also recursive providing a resilient source of pressure (or defence when needed).

Weaknesses: Not a lot of versatility. fFr example, if it isn’t able to implement it’s main gameplan and kill the opponent quickly it has no great answers to resolved planeswalkers and few ways to interact with a clogged battlefield on the opponent’s side. In addition, if Arclight Phoenix isn’t online, its gameplan can easily be stopped by removal spells to take out the other deck’s main threats – the drakes.

Key sideboard cards: Often a ‘battlefield’ package of Niv Mizzet, Parun and Ral, Izzet Viceroy is employed to diversify threats against decks that are packing tools to ‘kill all the drakes’. The deck also sideboards some counterspells to counteract the opponent’s trump cards in the matchup and/or to protect their threats.

Selesnya Tokens

Kenta Harane – 8-2 at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

Lands (21)
Arch of Orazca
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Forest
Plains

Creatures (14)
Adanto Vanguard
Emmara, Soul of the Accord
Trostani Discordant
Venerated Loxodon

Spells (25)
Legion’s Landing
Saproling Migration
History of Benalia
March of the Multitudes
Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants
Conclave Tribunal
Flower / Flourish
Sideboard (15)
Baffling End
Kraul Harpooner
Knight of Autumn
Nullhide Ferox
Vivien Reid
The Immortal Sun

Gameplan: Obtain and maintain board dominance by going wide with token synergies. While the deck can be aggressive, it isn’t reliant on being aggressive similar to the Boros deck and can adopt a more defensive role until it can secure lategame inevitability with March of the Multitudes.

Strengths: It is well positioned against every deck if the cards line up well. It has some cards that will pressure well/must be dealt with against control decks, cards that stabilise the board well against aggro, and a healthy amount of lifelink creatures helps it win races.

Weaknesses: Doesn’t really block flying, and unlike Golgari, doesn’t have great removal options making it potentially quite dead in the water to a single drake or a couple of Angels. In addition, the deck relies on being able to capitalise on synergy. For example, if you’ve drawn only Saproling Migrations but no Venerated Loxodon or Benalish Marshal, the saprolings probably won’t get you very farin the game.

Key sideboard cards: Crushing Canopy is an absolute must to shore up the deck’s big weakness to flyers. In addition, Tocatli Honor Guard and The Immortal Sun can be huge trumps in some matchups, particularly against Golgari.

Jeskai Control

Wilson Mok – Top 8 at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

Lands (26)
Clifftop Retreat
Glacial Fortress
Sacred Foundry
Steam Vents
Sulfur Falls
Island
Mountain

Creatures (3)
Crackling Drake

Spells (31)
Syncopate
Essence Scatter
Justice Strike
Negate
Revitalize
Search for Azcanta
Ionize
Sinister Sabotage
Deafening Clarion
Chemister’s Insight
Cleansing Nova
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
Expansion / Explosion
Sideboard (15)
Shivan Fire
Disdainful Stroke
Lava Coil
Negate
Seal Away
Invoke the Divine
Ixalan’s Binding
Lyra Dawnbringer
Ral, Izzet Viceroy
Niv-Mizzet, Parun

Gameplan: Plays the classic draw-go control and uses Teferi Hero of Dominaria and Explosion to put the game out of reach once stabilised.

Strengths: Creature removal spells are mostly dead against you game one and between Sinister Sabotage, Deafening Clarion, and Teferi, you have ways to deal with pretty much everything –

Weaknesses: – except a Carnage Tyrant. For this you need to bring in tech cards like Settle the Wreckage, Star of Extinction, or hang back with your Crackling Drake(s) to block the hexproof monster.

Key sideboard cards: As a lot of decks will cut removal spells against you, adding Niv Mizzet and Lyra Dawnbringer in the right matchup is big game. For example, decks that can recur Arclight Phoenix through removal/counterspells will soon find themselves brick-walled by your stronger flyers.

Mono-red Aggro

Etienne Busson – 8-2 at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

Lands (22)
22 Mountain

Creatures (21)
Fanatical Firebrand
Ghitu Lavarunner
Runaway Steam-Kin
Viashino Pyromancer
Goblin Chainwhirler
Rekindling Phoenix

Spells (17)
Shock
Lava Coil
Lightning Strike
Wizard’s Lightning
Experimental Frenzy
Sideboard (15)
Banefire
Lava Coil
Sorcerous Spyglass
Treasure Map
Fiery Cannonade
Fight with Fire

Gameplan: Deal 20 with fast creatures and good old fashioned burn spells.

Strengths: Fast and able to maintain momentum with cards like Runaway Steam-Kin and Experimental Frenzy. If your opponent’s board is getting too much to handle, there’s still the option of killing them with burn spells.

Weaknesses: Life gain. Even Jeskai Control is playing Revitalize in the maindeck, and with cards like Wildgrowth Walker and Lyra Dawnbringer common in the metagame, the deck can find itself totally shut out and taken out by these stabilizing threats.

Key sideboard cards: Lava Coil and Fight with Fire are important in killing the two aforementioned problem cards – it can also 10 the opponent in the late game. Treasure Map helps the deck go a little bigger and ensure better draws if the deck has to play a longer game.

Boros Angels

Martin Muller – 7-3 at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

Lands (26)
Boros Guildgate
Clifftop Retreat
Sacred Foundry
Mountain
Plains

Creatures (22)
Adanto Vanguard
Tocatli Honor Guard
Resplendent Angel
Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice
Rekindling Phoenix
Lyra Dawnbringer

Spells (12)
Shock
Lava Coil
Deafening Clarion
History of Benalia
Ixalan’s Binding
Sideboard (15)
Banefire
Dire Fleet Daredevil
Sorcerous Spyglass
Tocatli Honor Guard
Deafening Clarion
Fight with Fire
Ixalan’s Binding
Settle the Wreckage
The Immortal Sun

Gameplan: Curve out with some serious mythical knight/angel goodness and stomp the opponent down.

Strengths: Raw power. The deck plays pretty the best cards possible and many of them have evasion. If your opponent fails to answer them all in short order, you probably straight-up win.

Weaknesses: Missing a land drop before turn six is often a death sentence. In addition, your ideal play pattern of 2 drop on turn two, three drop turn three, four drop turn four can be outmanoeuvred by counterspells and players with answers will often be trading up.

Key sideboard cards: Banefire is important against control as your threats (other than Rekindling Phoenix) are clunky and die to (almost) everything. The deck is also much slower than the meta’s aggro decks, so Deafening Clarion on turn three is key in those matchups.

Mono-blue Tempo

Guillaume Gauthier – 10-0 at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica

Lands (20)
20 Island

Creatures (20)
Mist-Cloaked Herald
Siren Stormtamer
Merfolk Trickster
Warkite Marauder
Exclusion Mage
Tempest Djinn

Spells (20)
Curious Obsession
Dive Down
Opt
Spell Pierce
Chart a Course
Sleep
Wizard’s Retort
Sideboard (15)
Island
Selective Snare
Spell Pierce
Syncopate
Essence Scatter
Negate
Surge Mare
Warkite Marauder
Exclusion Mage
Jace, Cunning Castaway
Karn, Scion of Urza
Sleep

Gameplan: Deploy cheap evasive threats and attack while protecting them from removal while disrupting your opponent’s gameplan with counterspells. This deck has a similar plan to Delver of Secrets or Death’s Shadow decks in other constructed formats.

Strengths: With a plethora of cheap ways to protect your threats from opponent’s removal, the constant mana trade-ups the deck allows provides you a tonne of tempo to close out the game’. If you can protect an evasive threat suited up with Curious Obsessesion, you are very likely to win the game.

Weaknesses: The deck has only eight significantly threatening cards, so when it doesn’t draw either Tempest Djinn or Curious Obsession, Mist-cloaked Herald and Stormtamer Siren are far too weak to secure wins by themselves. Finally, your opponent favourably blocking your creature suited up with Curious Obsessions is a nightmare scenario which usually spends the end for the deck’s chances.

Key sideboard cards: Exclusion Mage helps you clear the board of blockers to prevent the aforementioned nightmare scenario. For example, a resolved Lyra Dawnbringer is actually very problematic for this deck. Sideboards commonly contain additional counterspells like Disdainful Stroke or Essence Scatter to shore up these matchups accordingly. The version listed above also tries to go a bit bigger with some planeswalkers in the right matchups.

In my opinion, all the Standard decks are close, and by large, each one has reasonably good game against the other. This is different to what we’ve seen in the past, and perhaps what we see here is the subsiding of the meta’s initial Golgari dominance.

It’s reasonable to expect a number of people to jump on the Boros train following the Pro Tour. I think it’s a good deck, but not as ‘head and shoulders’ above the rest as the results of the Pro Tour might suggest. If you want to make sure you have an edge against Boros, I’d recommend Golgari, Selesnya, or Mono-red. The green decks can defend very well against early aggression with either Wildgrowth Walker or lifelinking tokens of their own. Mono-red plays Goblin Chainwhirler which can really destory a deck relying, for the most part, on white weenies to secure the win.

I’ll leave you with another deck that i’m in the process of building which caught my eye recently. I’m considering playing it at a PPTQ but i’ll need all the cards before that can happen.

Selesnya Midrange

Ian Barber – Top 16 at Grand Prix New Jersey

Lands (23)
Arch of Orazca
Sunpetal Grove
Temple Garden
Forest
Plains

Creatures (18)
Llanowar Elves
Adanto Vanguard
Druid of the Cowl
Knight of Grace
Vine Mare
Carnage Tyrant

Spells (19)
Seal Away
Treasure Map
March of the Multitudes
Karn, Scion of Urza
On Serra’s Wings
Settle the Wreckage
Vivien Reid
Flower / Flourish
Sideboard (15)
Seal Away
Tocatli Honor Guard
Crushing Canopy
Ixalan’s Binding
Karn, Scion of Urza
On Serra’s Wings
Settle the Wreckage
Vine Mare
Vivien Reid

What’s next

Other than continuing the PPTQ conquest, it’s looking like it might be back to Modern for me very soon, with the RPTQ and GP Liverpool coming up. I’ve dabbled with some decks other than Humans so I could finally be changing my tune at these events.

You can find me on Facebook, Twitter (@Chris54154), at most PPTQs in the North of England, RPTQs and GPs in Europe, and some other large competitive events like Mega Modern and Legacy Masters throughout the year in the UK.

As always, thanks for reading, good luck and have fun in your next event!

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