Hello!  I’m so excited to be writing to you this week about the Khans of Tarkir Standard metagame! We have a lot of data to go over this week, so lets get right on into it.

By now, many of you have already seen the top performing decklists from the SCG Open in Edison, New Jersey. The Jeskai Tempo deck in particular, piloted to an open series victory by Kevin Jones, is considered by some to be the ‘breakout’ deck of the open. Backed by 16 burn spells, including [casthaven]Jeskai Charm[/casthaven], and a few card advantage spells in [casthaven]Dig Through Time[/casthaven], [casthaven]Steam Augury[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Chandra, Pyromaster[/casthaven], Kevin’s deck maximized it’s small creature base — and in this case, the new powerful planeswalker [casthaven]Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker[/casthaven] — to pressure his opponents by attacking with must-answer threats and then burning his opponents face for the kill.

In case you’ve been living under a rock:

Jeskai Tempo

Creatures (11)
Goblin Rabblemaster
Mantis Rider
Seeker of the Way

Spells (25)
Lightning Strike
Magma Jet
Stoke the Flames
Jeskai Charm
Steam Augury
Dig Through Time
Banishing Light
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Chandra, Pyromaster
Lands (24)
Island
Mountain
Plains
Battlefield Forge
Flooded Strand
Mystic Monastery
Shivan Reef
Temple of Epiphany
Temple of Triumph

Sideboard (15)
Ashcloud Pheonix
Disdainful Stroke
Magma Spray
Negate
Narset, Enlightened Master
Keranos, God of Storms
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Anger of the Gods
Temple of Enlightenment

[casthaven]Seeker of the Way[/casthaven] is an interesting card choice here. The prowess ability is powerful and best suited in tandem with a critical mass of spells. And if those spells can clear the way for Seeker to connect, prowess provides mana efficiency in extra damage and lifelink to help you race, all while giving your opponents tricky combat math, and headaches over their life total crashing down from out of nowhere. [casthaven]Mantis Rider[/casthaven] proved itself to be a difficult card for green devotion decks to manage, as they have only a few real answers to it with [casthaven]Arbor Colossus[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Hornet Queen[/casthaven]. And unless they quickly find and cast either answer, Mantis Rider will have connected for a substantial amount of damage. Only a three mana investment, Mantis Rider puts real pressure on the green ramp deck to quickly come up with a way to combat the pesky insect-man. Maybe we will see [casthaven]Plummet[/casthaven] in green sideboards going forward?

This Jeskai deck used some cool Khans of Tarkir cards to great effect, and that was exciting to watch this past weekend. This deck is fresh and powerful, but only one of the interesting lists we came across the many standard events. And with only one weekend under our belts, and a Pro Tour imminent, it would behoove us to not consider the wider picture.

For starters, here is the top 8 breakdown, by archetype, for each standard tournament published on SCG this past weekend:

  • Aggro — 23 (22.1%)
  • Tempo — 12 (11.6%)
  • Midrange, Green Devotion — 20 (19.2%)
  • Midrange, other — 41 (39.4%)
  • Graveyard — 2 (1.9%)
  • Control — 6 (5.8%)

I grouped each midrange deck together, but between them all are Abzan, Mardu, Temur, G/R Monsters, and even Sultai was in the mix. The aggro decks were mostly mono-red and mono-black, with a few R/W and U/W Heroic decks, and a few one-of lists, one of which i’ll be going over in a minute. Tempo is obviously only grouped by Jeskai. Devotion decks ranged from mono-green to green-blue, green-red, and green-black.

One thing that immediately stands out for me is the lack of control decks at the top tables, as well as the difference in control builds within the grouping. They range from Sultai builds, to Esper, and even a Mardu and Boros build across the six lists. It seems many mages were sick of playing control in the previous format and wanted to capitalize on a format freed from Supreme Verdict. Not only that, aggro and midrange strategies picked up a great mix of new cards to play around with! Moreover, when considering the most powerful cards already in standard pre-rotation were [casthaven]Goblin Rabblemaster[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Courser of Kruphix[/casthaven], it makes absoulte sense to focus on these strategies for week one. Typically, when a format is fresh, aggressive strategies dominate the beginning of a format, which often will set the stage for how a control deck can effectively react. It did not appear to be the best weekend to be jamming End Hostilities into your control deck.

Now let’s look at some some lists that caught my eye amongst the sea of usual suspects.

Boros Control

Creatures (4)
Brimaz, King of Oreskos

Spells (31)
Chandra, Pyromaster
Elspeth, Sun’s Champion
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Banishing Light
Chained to the Rocks
Anger of the Gods
Magma Jet
Last Breath
Fated Conflagration
Lands (25)
10 Mountain
Plains
Battlefield Forge
Temple of Triumph
Wind-Scarred Crag

Sideboard (15)
Goblin Rabblemaster
Stormbreath Dragon
Deicide
Fated Conflagration
Magma Spray
Hammer of Purphoros
End Hostilities

This list is really cool. David Fulk’s big Boros deck only runs 4 copies of Brimaz for creatures and leans on his 11 planeswalkers to end the game. Notably, Brimaz dies to neither [casthaven]Elspeth, Sun’s Champion[/casthaven] nor [casthaven]Anger of the Gods[/casthaven], making the cat king an ideal creature to both pressure an empty board and survive the decks board wipes. His sideboard is almost entirely dedicated to opposing control decks, having the capability to sideboard into a deck full of Rabblemasters, [casthaven]Stormbreath Dragon[/casthaven]s, and [casthaven]Hammer of Purphoros[/casthaven] once the opponen sides out their spot removal. It looks perfectly suited to prey upon devotion decks.

Sultai Planeswalkers

Creatures (10)
Sylvan Caryatid
Courser of Kruphix
Prognostic Sphinx

Spells (25)
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Garruk, Apex Predator
Kiora, the Crashing Wave
Nissa, Worldwaker
Bile Blight
Dig Through Time
Hero’s Downfall
Sultai Charm
Sign in Blood
Thoughtseize
Lands (25)
Forest
Swamp
Island
Opulent Palace
Polluted Delta
Temple of Malady
Temple of Mystery
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Sideboard (15)
Nylea’s Disciple
Dissolve
Negate
Pharika’s Cure
Liliana Vess
Nissa, Worldwaker
Drown in Sorrow

This is a similar list the one i’ve been working on these past few weeks. It was good to see one that made it to the top tables. This list has many more card selection spells than mine, running [casthaven]Sultai Charm[/casthaven], [casthaven]Sign in Blood[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Dig Through Time[/casthaven] to find the right answer. Often the problem with my list was the lack of velocity, which this list more than makes up. Also, the [casthaven]Nylea’s Disciple[/casthaven]s in the sideboard is a cute idea against red-based decks that like to race, so i’ll be keeping an eye out on that idea as well.

Another Sultai list that cuaght my eye was Dylan Farmer’s ramp deck.

Sultai Ramp

Creatures (12)
Embodiment of Spring
Sylvan Caryatid
Courser of Kruphix

Spells (25)
Kiora, the Crashing Wave
Dictate of Karametra
Aetherspouts
Dig Through Time
Sultai Charm
In Garruk’s Wake
Read the Bones
Villainous Wealth
Lands (23)
Forest
Island
Swamp
Llanowar Wastes
Opulent Palace
Polluted Delta
Yavimaya Coast
Urborg, Tomb of Yawgmoth

Sideboard (15)
Hornet Queen
Mistcutter Hydra
Sultai Ascendancy
Empty the Pits
Murderous Cut
Silence the Believers
Sultai Charm
Drown in Sorrow
Stain the Mind

This deck is wacky and looks really fun to play! The combo of end-step [casthaven]Dictate of Karametra[/casthaven], untap and [casthaven]Villainous Wealth[/casthaven] for a ton seems hilarious, awesome, and surprising as a kill condition. Also, it combo’s so well with [casthaven]In Garruk’s Wake[/casthaven]! Once you untap with Dictate out, its very likely you’ll be doing more powerful things than your opponent with all your mana. All you have to do is get there and untap, which makes the matchup against aggro decks pretty weak. It’s definitely a one-trick pony, almost a combo deck, which I find very exciting and is a deck i’d love to try in the near future. But is it good enough to be consistently competitive? It might depend upon the metagame.

One more I think is worth mentioning as a fun odd-ball deck is DJ Keesee’s Izzet Artifact Aggro.

Izzet Artifact Aggro

Creatures (18)
Ornithopter
Phyrexian Revoker
Scuttling Doom Engine
Generator Servant
Goblin Rabblemaster
Illusory Angel

Spells (19)
Ghostfire Blade
Springleaf Drum
Ensoul Artifact
Lightning Strike
Shrapnel Blast
Stoke the Flames
Lands (23)
Darksteel Citadel
Island
Mountain
Shivan Reef
Temple of Epiphany
Temple of Triumph

Sideboard (15)
Phyrexian Revoker
Magma Spray
Negate
Chandra, Pyromaster
Arc Lightning
Harness by Force

This is the best M15 draft deck i’ve ever seen. No, wait, it’s in Standard! But man, is it close to being fully comprised of M15 cards! I’m shocked this deck made it to a top 8 finish, but perhaps the combination of fast starts and an unexpected decklist gave him quite a bit of advantage. The deck can be ridiculously explosive with the right draws, mostly centered around cracking a generator servant for some combination of Illusory Angel, Goblin Rabblemaster, Ornithopter, and Ensoul Artifact on turn 3. So it hits real hard real fast, and there’s something to be said for that. But you can probably hear it between these words that i’m skeptical. After all, i’m not an Affinity guy in moder, and this list reminds me of the modern metal menace.

So, there you have it. Some data, some lists, and hopefully a few ideas off the beaten path from the big finishers this weekend. It’s going to be very exciting to see what happens at the Pro Tour, what the best minds in the game come up with. I for one can’t wait, and until then, i’ll be running some of these lists in a gauntlet.

After a ten-year lapse from Magic, where his favorite combo was Tradewind Rider with Stasis, Derek is back to learn the new-border variant of the game. While less frustrating cards have been printed, he now has to get used to planeswalkers, and people rolling dice when he resolves Hymn to Tourach. He qualified for the Junior Super Series in 1999 at Pro Tour New York, then used his collection to finance his college education. Years later, he works in the fashion industry as a stylist, consultant, and sometime-matchmaker for brands. He loves all things black leather, and is out to journal his level-ups with hopes of playing at the highest competitive level of the game. You can reach him at [email protected]

 

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