I lost two games of Magic on Sunday. Unfortunately, they were games two and three of the top eight at the Regional PTQ in Jacksonville, Florida. I was playing Temur Tower—a.k.a. the best deck nobody talks about—and my opponent was Chris Fennell on Four Color Saheeli Rai. (Whoever shares a draft pod at Pro Tour Amonkhet with Chris has me to thank.) It has been two years since I played in my first and only Pro Tour event—Pro Tour Fate Reforged in Washington, DC. (Technically it was in Maryland.) This was the closest I’ve gotten to returning. Rather than frustration, I feel confidence that I am on the right path and success will come soon.

But enough about me—let’s talk Standard! Grand Prix New Jersey and Barcelona go down this weekend, and further Standard grand prix follow next week in Shizuoka, Japan and Porto Alegre, Brazil. A supplemental ban announcement is scheduled for next week, which could upend the metagame, but at least GPNJ and GPBarca will use the current card pool. What should you play?

Current Standard has a three-deck metagame dance between Mardu Vehicles, Multicolor (generally not-black) Saheeli, and Golgari Constrictor. Temur Tower and Izzet Emerge hover just below the top tier, hoping to find the sweet spot of the metagame from week to week. You can try other things, but for the most part nobody does. I will not be attending any of the upcoming Standard grand prix, but I will break down how I selected my deck for last weekend’s RPTQ. If you’re still picking a deck for this weekend or next, you can follow my path, adjusting for your own preferences and the changing metagame.

I tend to watch Standard more than play it, but I have had solid success when I do wade into the format. In addition to general Magic skill, the biggest contributor to this success has been my awareness of the dynamic metagame. Before I choose my weapon, I ask this: what is everyone else trying to do? Like most questions, you can come up with general answers even if you don’t have specific answers. In an “established” Standard metagame (which basically means post-Pro Tour), most people are going to play one of two decks—the deck that won last week, or the deck that everyone is talking about this week. Figure out what those two decks are (or if they are the same deck), and figure out how to position yourself to have good matchups against them.

Going into the RPTQ, the winning deck from the week before at Grand Prix Utrecht was Mardu Vehicles. There was some sideboard innovation using oaths and planeswalkers, but for the most part it was the same deck. During the week, the darling deck of pro players writing about Standard was Four Color Saheeli. The new twist was using Oath of Chandra plus a few copies of Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Tamiyo, Field Researcher. For the tournament, I wanted to play a deck that was comfortable playing against both decks.

I considered playing Saheeli myself, but I really dislike that style of deck. Hiding behind various value cards while you wait to play two cards that randomly win the game on the spot is not my idea of fun or good Magic. You threaten to do something unfair to force your opponent to play fair at a disadvantage. I understand the power of constantly threatening a broken win—it wears your opponent down, makes them divide their attention, fight on multiple axes simultaneously, etc. You win by overwhelming your opponent’s decision trees. But I prefer presenting choices that are difficult to understand rather than too plentiful to process. As someone who doesn’t play Standard that often, I’d rather not waste my big tournaments on decks I hate. On top of that, I think the deck is too slow against a skilled Mardu Vehicles pilot—which I was certain to face a few times in the RPTQ.

Mardu was never really in the picture. I understand the deck and like what it’s doing, but I had two big qualms. First, the mana is awful. You’re basically a mono-white Gideon, Ally of Zendikar deck splashing Unlicensed Disintegration. Obviously the deck is more complex than that—you have various other uses of your red and black mana, and two of your best cards cost two generic mana. Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger are true power couple, soul mates, but the plan to use them to turn on your Spire of Industry is not very resilient. Both Heart and Scrounger are such potent threats, they demand answers fast. That means they get killed a lot. Scrounger seems like it can always come back, but if you want to use Spire of Industry to pay that black mana cost, it isn’t always so simple. Many games go smoothly, but a crafty opponent can make you divert tons of effort into keeping your mana fixed.

The second problem I have with Mardu ties into the first. With the move from Veteran Motorist (which demands reliable red mana anyway) to Walking Ballista, the deck loses its card filtering—and of course the banning of Smuggler’s Copter didn’t help. Depala, Pilot Exemplar also shows up a lot less. This means you’re pretty much stuck with your draw step. Not only does that make the deck weaker in long games, it exacerbates the mana issues that are my bigger critique. The deck is powerful when it works, feeling almost like Vintage Workshops, but I don’t think it works often enough for my tastes. Obviously it works plenty of the time, based on its rampant success, but I think the deck is doomed to lose its top spot in the metagame.

Instead, I went with a deck that really impressed me from the moment I saw that Shota Yasooka won an online league piloting it. That deck is Temur Dynavolt Tower. It had some success at Grand Prix Utrecht as well, but is still more of an emerging deck than an established one. It may never fully get there, but it is a remarkable deck. Dynavolt Tower plus Attune with Aether is another perfect match, and the two cards combine into an amazingly consistent engine. The Tower is incredibly well-positioned in Standard right now, even with all the gremlins running around eating artifacts. It mows down small creatures and planeswalkers, then it finishes your opponent. As it happens, both Mardu Vehicles and Four Color Saheeli are full of small creatures and planeswalkers.

Attune with Aether is more subtly powerful, but it essentially plays like a one mana Divination. Does that sound good in a deck full of removal and counterspells? For one green mana, you draw a basic land of your choice and make two energy, plus whatever more you get off Towers. This lets you play fewer lands while also fixing your mana, which means you draw more spells that you can cast. The benefit of the energy plus improved value of card you draw is easily worth a full card. How many mana-fixing spells are you happy to draw on turn twelve? This deck has plenty of games where drawing Attune late in the game with two Towers on board is fantastic. In that spot, the card is better than Lightning Bolt!

That’s the main reason I decided to sleeve up the deck. Also, Torrential Gearhulk is pretty good.

Temur Tower

Creatures (10)
Shielded Aether Thief
Rogue Refiner
Torrential Gearhulk

Spells (29)
Dynavolt Tower
Attune with Aether
Harnessed Lightning
Glimmer of Genius
Void Shatter
Natural Obsolescence
Incendiary Flow
Lands (21)
Botanical Sanctum
Spirebluff Canal
Aether Hub
Lumbering Falls

Sideboard (15)
Whirler Virtuoso
Bristling Hydra
Confiscation Coup
Natural State
Release the Gremlins
Pulse of Murasa
Kozilek’s Return

The big debate is whether to play Rogue Refiner.

The big knock against Rogue Refiner is that it “turns on” opposing removal. But you already have two creatures that opponents will happily throw their removal at—Torrential Gearhulk and Shielded Aether Thief. There are spots against Mardu where you draw a Refiner late at low life and can’t afford to open yourself to to Unlicensed Disintegration, but that’s a small price to pay. Most of the time, you’re happy to see it—or at least I am.

In the tournament I rattled off four quick wins, over Golgari Constrictor, two Mardu Vehicles, and one Temur Emerge brew, before double drawing into the top eight. I won every game, though I was aided against green-black when my opponent got a game loss for improper deck registration. Winding Constrictor is the matchup you don’t want to face, because their creatures can get too big to handle, but it’s still a reasonable matchup and the deck really gets punished by Saheeli. The overall metagame was dominated by Mardu and Saheeli, with Golgari and Temur Tower being the other repeat players. I felt good about my choice, played well, and came oh-so-close to snagging that coveted bue envelope.

What should you play this weekend at Grand Prix New Jersey or Barcelona? Plenty of Saheeli and Mardu will show up. If you like one of those decks, stick with what you know. I expect Golgari Constrictor will be making a comeback, though. The deck is powerful, and now that the metagame has shifted pretty clearly toward Saheeli and Mardu has become more powerful but less consistent, the black green decks are poised to adapt and rise again. That’s bad news for Temur Tower if it happens, but we shall see. I like the idea of Bristling Hydra in the Tower deck, and it should match up pretty well against Winding Constrictor decks, but I didn’t get to put that to the test at the RPTQ. If you want to play Tower, I’d look there, along with Confiscation Coup.

These may be the waning days of Saheeli’s influence over the metagame, especially if the ban hammer comes down on Felidar Guardian. It may also be the swan song for Scrapheap Scrouger, which is the other card I think is reasonably likely to get banned. If you like either of those cards, I suggest you play them now. But I also highly recommend Attune with Aether.

Good luck this weekend! I’ll be watching.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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