While Guilds of Ravnica has yet to be released in paper Magic, our vigilant Magic Online grinders have already been playing through the new Standard format for a week. And the results are rather … aggressive.
By now, people have generally figured out that Runaway Steam-KinRunaway Steam-Kin is a powerful option for a Mono Red Aggro deck. And that Flower // Flourish is a great for Selesnya decks to have a high land count while also giving them access to a powerful finisher at the top of their curve. And that History of BenaliaHistory of Benalia is way better than the amount of play it saw last format. And that Pelt CollectorPelt Collector into Kraul HarpoonerKraul Harpooner is an effective alternative curve to Llanowar ElvesLlanowar Elves into Steel Leaf ChampionSteel Leaf Champion for Mono Green Stompy decks.
So where does this leave our brave readers who want to venture into this aggressive new world of Magic Online leagues (or perhaps a release weekend PPTQ)? I think you’d want to play some powerful stuff that is somewhat well suited to beat aggro decks. Generally, powerful anti-aggro midrange decks have had success early on in the format. And how wrong can we really go by just jamming the best spells?
So here are 4 deck suggestions that try to do exactly this!

Path of Mettle

A new aggro deck on the horizon

Now that the all-powerful Kaladesh block has rotated out, we can start to seek out overlooked cards from the previous year. We already know from Search for AzcantaSearch for Azcanta and Arguel’s Blood FastArguel’s Blood Fast how great these cheap transform enchantments can be. Path of MettlePath of Mettle is an often forgotten one, but powered by new Boros cards it could have its place in the metagame, especially if people feel like they can play X/1’s again.
My first encounter with this version of the deck was when I was watching a late-night stream from Buttons Gaming, just zapping around Twitch channels. I came in as his opponent ultimated Ajani, Adversary of TyrantsAjani, Adversary of Tyrants. The emblem stayed in play for 10 turns until Buttons had finally ground through it and won the game. That made me realise that this deck doesn’t have to rely on curving out, it can also muscle out the opposition in the late game, similarly to how RB Aggro operated last format.
One big change I made to Buttons list was to change up the mana base with the addition of 4 Boros GuildgateBoros Guildgates to enable maindeck Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler. I’m always a big proponent of functional manabases and spend a lot of time making sure I’m not getting too greedy with the spells I want to cast.
While you might think that playing 4 tapped lands in an aggro deck is heresy, think about RB Aggro from before the rotation again. That deck played 4 Canyon SloughCanyon Slough and sometimes even some Cinder BarrensCinder Barrens. And it was totally fine, because while the deck sometimes got free wins by curving out, you certainly didn’t need to as the deck had more than enough staying power if the game went long.

Boros Path by Simon Nielsen

Creatures (26)
Fanatical FirebandFanatical Fireband
Rigging RunnerRigging Runner
Sunhome StalwartSunhome Stalwart
Swiftblade VindicatorSwiftblade Vindicator
Direfleet DaredevilDirefleet Daredevil
Goblin ChainwhirlerGoblin Chainwhirler
Tajic, Legion's EdgeTajic, Legion's Edge
Aurelia, Exemplar of JusticeAurelia, Exemplar of Justice

Spells (10)
IntegrityIntegrity
Lightning StrikeLightning Strike
Conclave TribunalConclave Tribunal
Path of MettlePath of Mettle
Lands (24)
Sacred FoundrySacred Foundry
Clifftop RetreatClifftop Retreat
Boros GuildgateBoros Guildgate
11 MountainMountain
PlainsPlains

Sideboard (15)
Experimental FrenzyExperimental Frenzy
Deafening ClarionDeafening Clarion
Justice StrikeJustice Strike
Lava CoilLava Coil
ShockShock
Rekindling PhoenixRekindling Phoenix
Direfleet DaredevilDirefleet Daredevil
Path of MettlePath of Mettle does ask us to fill up our deck with creatures that meet certain requirements, but luckily most of these would see play in a regular Boros deck anyway. And I’ve found that the pay-off of a flipped Path of MettlePath of Mettle really rewards us. You can even completely switch your game-plan and sit behind a wall of first strike blockers while Metzali, Tower of TriumphMetzali, Tower of Triumph keeps any flyers at bay. And while they’re not dealing you any damage, they take 2 each turn until they die.
I think Aurelia, Exemplar of JusticeAurelia, Exemplar of Justice is another primary card of new Standard. It works so well with Mentor cards and first strikers where it can push through significant damage the turn it comes into play, then proceed to be a 4/5 vigilance, trample flyer. That sometimes even mentors up your creatures. It doesn’t die to most red spells and lots of other removal including Justice StrikeJustice Strike, Cast DownCast Down and Seal AwaySeal Away. I think playing 4 of her is not a hard decision at all.
The deck started out with Knight of GraceKnight of Grace, but black isn’t especially popular in the current metagame, so it was often just 2/2 first strike. Somebody pointed out to me that Sunhome StalwartSunhome Stalwart is often just the same card, but with a very relevant mentor ability. Sometimes you just want to run out Rigging RunnerRigging Runner on turn 1 to enable Path of MettlePath of Mettle. Sunhome StalwartSunhome Stalwart is the perfect follow-up to that and really likes to receive a counter from a turn 3 Tajic, Legion’s EdgeTajic, Legion’s Edge.
Speaking of which, apparently Tajic has been underwhelming, because it often just runs into a trade when you play it. An alternative option is Legion WarbossLegion Warboss which has similar features of being a pseudo-haste creature that can enable an early flipped Path of MettlePath of Mettle and it also happens to be a great follow-up to Sunhome StalwartSunhome Stalwart but for different reasons.
I also just want to point out how bonkers of a sideboard card Experimental FrenzyExperimental Frenzy is. Miles better than Vance’s Blasting CannonsVance’s Blasting Cannons, it not only runs around corners of a control-deck but also lets me board into a bunch of removal against aggro and bury them in card advantage.

 

Lyra Dawnbringer and friends

Mono White Weenie?


If you are looking for ways to beat aggro-decks, Lyra DawnbringerLyra Dawnbringer is usually your best bet. Before rotation there was this Mono White Angels deck consisting of a basis of Knight of GraceKnight of Grace, History of BenaliaHistory of Benalia, Resplendent AngelResplendent Angel, Shalai, Voice of PlentyShalai, Voice of Plenty and Lyra DawnbringerLyra Dawnbringer. A tribal angels deck, if you will.
None of that stuff has rotated, so it’s time to update it in a new light. Here is first a green-white take, which should be an aggro killer:

GW Angels by Simon Nielsen

Creatures (24)
Knight of GraceKnight of Grace
Thorn LieutenantThorn Lieutenant
Resplendant AngelResplendant Angel
District GuideDistrict Guide
Shalai, Voice of PlentyShalai, Voice of Plenty
Conclave CavalierConclave Cavalier
Lyra DawnbringerLyra Dawnbringer

Spells (14)
FlowerFlower
Conclave TribunalConclave Tribunal
Baffling EndBaffling End
History of  BenaliaHistory of  Benalia
Lands (22)
Sunpetal GroveSunpetal Grove
Temple GardenTemple Garden
PlainsPlains
ForestForest

Sideboard (15)
Baffling EndBaffling End
Sorcerous SpyglassSorcerous Spyglass
Vivien ReidVivien Reid
AssureAssure
March of the MultitudesMarch of the Multitudes
Ajani, Adversary of TyrantsAjani, Adversary of Tyrants
Knight of AutumnKnight of Autumn
Settle the WreckageSettle the Wreckage

I already covered the significance of Flower // Flourish in my intro. Selesnya is the guild with the best mana solely because of it, and I wonder how far we can actually push it. Being able to run essentially 12 good duals is huge.
I also love how this deck has no 6-drops yet no shortage of things to do once it hits 6 mana. The way this is set up it should be very good at never getting mana screwed or mana flooded. But I can see that not working out, as most of our mana sinks can be destroyed if the opponents wields lots of 1-for-1 removal.

Another approach to this archetype would be Boros so that we get access to yet another magnificent angel: Aurelia!
This is from Magic Online user Bertram in the published 5-0 lists.

RW Angels by Bertram

Creatures (22)
Adanto VanguardAdanto Vanguard
Aurelia, Exemplar of JusticeAurelia, Exemplar of Justice
Knight of GraceKnight of Grace
Lyra DawnbringerLyra Dawnbringer
Shalai, Voice of PlentyShalai, Voice of Plenty
Resplendent AngelResplendent Angel

Spells (13)
Lightning StrikeLightning Strike
Conclave TribunalConclave Tribunal
Deafening ClarionDeafening Clarion
History of BenaliaHistory of Benalia
Lands (25)
Clifftop RetreatClifftop Retreat
Sacred FoundrySacred Foundry
MountainMountain
12 PlainsPlains

Sideboard (15)
BanefireBanefire
Deafening ClarionDeafening Clarion
Ixalan’s BindingIxalan’s Binding
Seal AwaySeal Away
Settle the WreckageSettle the Wreckage
Shalai, Voice of PlentyShalai, Voice of Plenty
Sorcerous SpyglassSorcerous Spyglass
It’s self-explanatory how powerful it is to curve Aurelia into Lyra but the trick I really want to highlight here is how great Deafening ClarionDeafening Clarion is in this deck. Not only can it make sure you don’t die before you start dropping angels, but the cheesy tacked on lifegain mode can actually be used to trigger your Resplendent AngelResplendent Angels! Plus since you can choose both modes it works wonderfully with Adanto VanguardAdanto Vanguard, as not only does it survive the 3 damage, it also regains most of the life you paid straight away!

Golgari Midrange

Assassin’s Trophy in Standard?


I’ve seen so many attempts at building Golgari midrange decks that include Llanowar ElvesLlanowar Elves. Not only is it hard to make the mana work for turn 1 Elves and double-black spells in the same deck but these grindy Midrange decks just don’t want to be topdecking Llanowar ElvesLlanowar Elves once they reach the later parts of the game that they’re aiming to get to.
Instead, I really love Dryad GreenseekerDryad Greenseeker. Adored for M19 Limited and largely overlooked for constructed, this little guy provides a steady stream of card advantage throughout the game and makes sure you hit your land drops while also being a decent size for blocking small creatures. This is the package that I’ve wrapped it all in:

BG Midrange by Simon Nielsen

Creatures (16)
Dryad GreenseekerDryad Greenseeker
Jadelight RangerJadelight Ranger
Thrashing BrontodonThrashing Brontodon
Doom WhispererDoom Whisperer
Golgari FindbrokerGolgari Findbroker
Ravenous ChupacabraRavenous Chupacabra

Spells (18)
The Eldest RebornThe Eldest Reborn
Vraska, Relic SeekerVraska, Relic Seeker
Arguel’s Blood FastArguel’s Blood Fast
Dead WeightDead Weight
Cast DownCast Down
Vraska’s ContemptVraska’s Contempt
Assassin’s TrophyAssassin’s Trophy
FindFind
Lands (26)
Overgrown TombOvergrown Tomb
Woodland CemeteryWoodland Cemetery
Golgari GuildgateGolgari Guildgate
Memorial to FollyMemorial to Folly
ForestForest
SwampSwamp

Sideboard (15)
Tetzimoc, Primal DeathTetzimoc, Primal Death
Plague MarePlague Mare
Ritual of SootRitual of Soot
Thrashing BrontodonThrashing Brontodon
DuressDuress
Sorcerous SpyglassSorcerous Spyglass
Arguel’s Blood FastArguel’s Blood Fast
Vivien ReidVivien Reid
Ravenous ChupacabraRavenous Chupacabra

Initially I also had Field of RuinField of Ruin in here, as I really like to have my lands perform additional duties when I am so good at picking them up. That version also had Josu Vess, Lich KnightJosu Vess, Lich Knight as the 4-drop, as that card has the same properties of dodging removal as Aurelia while also being a manasink (especially when we get hit by Assassin’s TrophyAssassin’s Trophy).
Instead I’ve come around to Golgari FindbrokerGolgari Findbroker. It’s a very decent body, gets back removal spells for almost anything, including Dead WeightDead Weight to kill small things on tempo. And I can’t resist the temptation to try and loop it with The Eldest RebornThe Eldest Reborn, a card I believe will see much more play now that we are post rotation.
Naturally, playing Golgari FindbrokerGolgari Findbroker stops us from running Field of RuinField of Ruin, but I will accept that. I believe that Memorial to FollyMemorial to Folly picks up the slack as a value-land, and especially in combination with Findbroker it lets us access almost anything out of our graveyard in the very lategame (or just loop Findbrokers in the grindiest of games)
Not playing District GuideDistrict Guide wasn’t an easy choice, but I already have Dryad GreenseekerDryad Greenseeker and Jadelight RangerJadelight Ranger doing its job, and I think Jadelight RangerJadelight Ranger is better as it can put a permanent into the graveyard for Findbroker to get back on curve. This deck has answers for basically everything, especially postboard, and would be the go-to option for any Jund fan out there.

 

Teferi is still around

Control is here to stay for a while


In spite of all these new and exciting cards we must not forgot that Teferi, Hero of DominariaTeferi, Hero of Dominaria is most likely still the best card in standard. It’s just hard to build around, mostly because the manabases in current control decks aren’t great. UW Control suffered a lot from the loss of Cast OutCast Out, and the mana base isn’t even that good, as you have to run 4 Meandering RiverMeandering River to support double blue and double white.
Esper has the better control tools, but without Hallowed FountainHallowed Fountain and Godless ShrineGodless Shrine it becomes ambitious to try and splash Teferi into a deck that already has double blue and double black.
But with Jeskai we have access to IonizeIonize the rare single blue CancelCancel-variant. This means that we get to run way fewer blue sources than the other variants, and as such our manabase is banging. Granted, IonizeIonize is worse than Sinister SabotageSinister Sabotage, but I’d rather be able to cast my spells consistently.

Jeskai Control by Simon Nielsen

Spells (33)
Disdainful StrokeDisdainful Stroke
Expansion/ExplosionExpansion/Explosion
Chemister’s InsightChemister’s Insight
Lava CoilLava Coil
Deafening ClarionDeafening Clarion
Justice StrikeJustice Strike
IonizeIonize
Seal AwaySeal Away
Search for AzcantaSearch for Azcanta
Shivan FireShivan Fire
Essence ScatterEssence Scatter
Lightning StrikeLightning Strike
Teferi, Hero of DominariaTeferi, Hero of Dominaria
Settle the WreckageSettle the Wreckage
SyncopateSyncopate
Lands (27)
Steam VentsSteam Vents
Sacred FoundrySacred Foundry
Field of RuinField of Ruin
Meandering RiverMeandering River
Glacial FortressGlacial Fortress
Clifftop RetreatClifftop Retreat
Sulfur FallsSulfur Falls
IslandIsland
PlainsPlains
MountainMountain

Sideboard (15)
Disdainful StrokeDisdainful Stroke
Lava CoilLava Coil
Deafening ClarionDeafening Clarion
Ixalan’s BindingIxalan’s Binding
Justice StrikeJustice Strike
Rekindling PhoenixRekindling Phoenix
Lyra DawnbringerLyra Dawnbringer
Dire Fleet DaredevilDire Fleet Daredevil
NegateNegate

An incredible advantage of going with red is that our removal spells are so much more suited to beat aggro. They are cheap and efficient, and we even get to play a 3-mana sweeper. Between the incidental damage from IonizeIonize and Lightning StrikeLightning Strike to the face, Expansion // Explosion can just act as an additional win-condition.
What I really love about this deck though is the ability to board into Rekindling PhoenixRekindling Phoenix and Dire Fleet DaredevilDire Fleet Daredevil against midrange decks to outmuscle them and beat down on planeswalkers, which can undeniably be troublesome for this version of control.

Hopefully these lists will provide a good starting point for your own exploration of the format. I think all of the ideas are solid, even if they are untuned at their current state. Best of luck!

This article was written by Simon Nielsen in a media collaboration with mtgmintcard.com

Simon Nielsen

Author Simon Nielsen

More posts by Simon Nielsen