The Top 8 Decks in Standard and How to Beat Them (Part 1)

While many of you enjoyed our review of the GP Memphis results, you have made it clear that you need more. What good are the results if you do not know how to react to them? Based on those performances, we will be breaking down the Top 8 decks in the current Standard format and the best ways to combat them.

#1 Sultai Midrange
Before Ravnica Allegiance was released, Golgari Midrange was the top deck in the format. The best card from that set was, of course, Hydroid Krasis. Naturally, Golgari utilized the newly legal Breeding Pool to play it and became Sultai. They have some of the best value creatures and best interactive spells in the format. Their weakness is that their non-Llanowar Elves hands can be slow to start. The interactive spells cost at least two mana and their creatures can struggle to race. As a result, the best way to beat Sultai is to play a deck like Mono-Blue Tempo that can stick cheap threats that line up well against expensive removal. If these creatures have evasion and you have cheap ways to defend them, it is not difficult to get under the Sultai deck. Alternatively, it is possible to go over them by playing Nexus of Gates. These decks play the Krasis game as well but they go massive with them. This matchup is reminiscent of Jund versus Tron in Modern.

#2 Mono-Blue Tempo
A much more recent development in Standard is the success of Mono-Blue Tempo. While Pteramander was a solid inclusion, the true key to the deck’s ascension was the great Sultai Midrange matchup. Being the top choice to beat the best deck does not mean it is devoid of weakness though. They may be able to present cheap, evasive threats and defend them well. But this does not matter if the opponent was not planning to block and cares little about answering your threats. The best way to take on Mono-Blue Tempo is to play a low-curve aggro deck such as White Weenie or Mono-Red Aggro. These decks simply do not care about Mono-Blue Tempo’s game plan. Hands with multiple one drops will get under counterspells and easily race. Another option is Izzet Drakes. It is a somewhat similar deck but is advantaged due to their fliers being larger and access to cheap spot removal in the form of Shock.

#3 Esper Control
The resident fun police of the format have a solid control package. They have a solid counterspell in Absorb, a well-costed board wipe in Kaya’s Wrath, and an amazing planeswalker in Teferi. The deck’s restrictive mana costs force them to run twenty-four dual lands but when it comes together it is hard to fight through. They have enough interaction that, unlike Sultai, they can reasonably interact with Mono-Blue decks. The majority of matchups for this deck are pretty even. The only two matchups that are a true struggle for this deck are White Weenies and Simic Nexus. White Weenie decks mainboard at least eight cards that grant indestructibility and run enough creatures to rebuild after a wrath consistently. Simic Nexus manages to beat them by going large like Gate decks do, but running hard counters to prevent interaction into the lategame. Going wide or going tall works as long as you can protect your threats against heavy disruption.

#4 White Weenie
These last couple entries have painted White Weenie in a very positive light; having a great matchup against two of the best decks is a great place to be. The maindecks are mostly stock but it is common to see these decks splash Blue for Negate or Red for Experimental Frenzy out of the board. However they build the deck, the result is that this deck has positive matchups against almost every top deck. So why is it only the fourth best deck? Sultai Midrange. While aggressive, White Weenie decks are not fast enough to seal the deal before Sultai’s large blockers and life gain come into play. The deck lacks reach so the game is mostly over at that point. This may be the most lopsided matchup among top tier decks in the format currently. The other difficult matchup is Izzet Drakes. Shock and Lava Coil put in a ton of work and it is difficult for White Weenie to attack through large fliers without a wide board.

I do hope that this gives you a better idea of how to combat the Standard format’s big four. Overall, Standard appears to be the healthiest it has been in quite some time. There is no card or archetype performing to the point that it deserves a ban. If you would like to participate in the poll that determines the included decks or influence future content please join our Facebook group. We will return tomorrow to close out the Top 8 and highlight their weaknesses and poor matchups. Until then my friends.

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