The Top 8 Decks in Standard and How to Beat Them (Part 2)

Deciding on the Top 4 for yesterday’s article was quite easy with the GP Memphis results. However, it was much more difficult to decide on the rest of the Top 8 for today. Thanks to feedback from our Facebook group we nailed it down though. From a Grand Prix winner to a deck that you may have forgotten, these are the decks that round out Standard’s Top 8 and the best ways to take them down.

#5 Rx Midrange
We saw Big Red decks on the periphery of the format during Guilds of Ravnica Standard but they never quite broke through. They were mostly overshadowed by more aggressive red decks. That is no longer the case in Ravnica Allegiance Standard. The new set brought forth the Rakdos and Gruul guilds to boost the archetype. With these updates we saw a Rakdos build take the trophy in Memphis and a Gruul build made Top 4. I reached out to the newly minted GP Champion Jody Kieth for insight. He explained that the best way to beat these decks is to play a Nexus deck. It is a somewhat similar situation to the Sultai versus Nexus matchup. They just go too big for midrange decks to contend with. It is worse for Rx Midrange as their interaction does not line up as well as Sultai’s; Negate is huge in the matchup. Mono-Red Aggro can also be an issue because Rx Midrange lacks the lifegain effects that keep Sultai from being burned out in the late game. I have been told that Mono-Blue matchup is significantly better than it is for Sultai though.

#6 Nexus Decks
There are a few flavors of Nexus decks but they function much the same. They want to ramp, make creatures irrelevant, and then take an absurd number of turns before smashing you with a Hydroid Krasis. Currently the top two choices are Simic Nexus and Nexus of Gates. Simic Nexus plays for the long game via fogs, bounce effects and counterspells. Nexus of Gates is more focused on ramping, wiping the board, and ending the game shortly after. Despite these slight differences, their matchup spreads are quite similar. The way to beat them is to avoid the late game and just kill them, ignoring their hand full of cards. The best way to do this is Mono-Blue Tempo as they come out fast and their counterspells line up very well against the expensive interaction. Another solid option is White Weenies. Their creatures are so fast and numerous that they can overwhelm the Nexus deck’s interaction; bonus point if they splash Blue for Negate out of the board.

#7 Mono-Red Aggro
Now we come to the archetype that seems to always be playable in Standard. They want to get in for a significant amount of early damage and then deal the last few points with burn before things get too hairy. With solid aggressive creatures and four inferior Lightning Bolts to pick from, the deck has quality options to pick from right now. It is held back to a degree by the amount of mainboard lifegain in the format but is still quite underrated. They are simple, easy to play, and quite effective to the chagrin of opposing players. The largest barriers to their success are the decks that mainboard ten or more lifegain effects; Sultai Midrange and Esper Control. These decks are able to buy additional time and shut the door on Mono-Red. Sultai does this with well-sized early blockers and late game Krasis to take them out of burn range. Esper Control does this with a wrath, a counterspell, and even spot removal that have lifegain stapled on. Red decks versus lifegain, a story as old as the game itself.

#8 Izzet Drakes
Our final slot goes to Izzet Drakes and if a week ago you told me it would be only eighth, I would not have believed you. Drakes mostly fell flat in Memphis; sneaking a single pilot in at 32nd place. Regardless, it is a deck you should be prepared to face and the best way to beat it is piles of removal. Apart from Pteramander, their threats are more costly than those in Mono-Blue. Therefore, it can be difficult for them to stick a threat and hold up mana to defend it. This leads to them having a very poor matchup against Esper Control. They may be able to protect their creature for a turn or two but Esper just has so much interaction. They also have a difficult time against Rx Midrange decks. The opposing threats, particularly Rekindling Phoenix, are difficult to deal with outside of Lava Coil. While Rx Midrange has their own playset of Coil as well to answer the large drakes at a mana advantage. It will be interesting to see if Drakes can bounce back from this.

And with that, we close out our Top 8 Standard decks. I hope that going into your next tournament you can look this over as a guide on what to play. Not just choosing x archetype to beat y and z decks. For example, you can beat Mono-Red without playing Sultai or Esper. Just emulate their lifegain focus in your sideboarding strategy. Tomorrow we will be taking our first foray into Legacy with Michael Kidd. Until then my friends.

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