Diving into a New Format

New Standard

It’s the greatest time of the year for Magic players: new decks, new cards, and a new format. Standard has felt mostly solved since the mass banning leaving Sultai as the best deck in the format. With Uro sticking around, there’s probably more midrange dominance in the future, but for the present we have a fresh format. With all the excitement, it can be difficult to decide where to start in standard. The easiest path to figure out what will be good is to look at what cards remaining were important before rotation. The cards I would look at first are Embercleave, Uro, Titan of Nature’s Wrath, Lucky Clover, and Zenith Flare. While some of these cards were better performers than others, they all have shells that remain intact despite rotation. Lucky Clover and Zenith Flare decks are basically block decks. Uro asks for you to play midrange cards, and Embercleave asks you to play aggressive creatures. These requirements are usually available in all standard formats, so they should be able to be met in the future.

Mono Red Aggro

Mono Red is typically a great place to start in a new format, as it’s aggressive and generally very consistent with its threats and mana base. Because of this, building Embercleave into the deck becomes much easier, and the power of Embercleave gives the deck much needed reach in closing out games quickly. The following list is where I would start with Mono Red.

Creatures (28)

4 Akoum Hellhound

4 Fervent Champion

1 Fireblade Charger

4 Robber of the Rich

4 Kargan Intimidator

4 Anax, Hardened in the Forge

4 Bonecrusher Giant

3 Torbran, Thane of Red Fell

Spells (10)

4 Roil Eruption

2 Spikefield Hazard

4 Embercleave

Lands (22)

4 Castle Embereth

18 Mountain

Mono Red hasn’t changed much from last standard; there are just new one-drops and a new powerful two-drop. Kargan Intimidator has a nice aggressive 3/1 body, and it is backed up by a variety of modal options. Kargan Intimidator has the ability to give itself a type of evasion in order to make its pairing with Embercleave even more lethal. Another addition to the deck is Akoum Hellhound, Akoum Hellhound is a one-drop that frequently has two power by the second turn. Mono Red typically likes to play low land counts making landfall difficult to trigger. However, with the new modal land-spells, We can play Spikefield Hazard, which essentially allows us to play up to 24 lands. Roil Eruption is an exciting addition to this deck because the reach it supplies in the late game. It also provides the deck with an early removal spell to clear blockers, as Mono Red has been in need of a “Lightning Strike” to round the deck for a while. Lastly, the new mythic land-spell cycle asks for players to pay 3 life for them to come into play untapped, and Mono Red can easily take advantage of this life loss. I expect Mono Red to be very popular on the ladder in the early days of Zendikar standard. Believe in the Cleave!

BW Humans

Uro is destined to take over this format If left unchecked. Instead of building an Uro midrange deck, I decided to try to build a deck to interact with the opponent's graveyard while remaining aggressive. General Kudro of Drannith works to pump your creatures while being a potential removal spell for Uro. It also works to shrink the graveyard preventing Uro from making an “escape” later in the game.

Creatures (27)

4 Whisper Squad

4 Archpriest of Iona

4 Seasoned Hallowblade

3 Acquisitions Expert

2 General's Enforcer

1 Luminarch Aspirant

4 General Kudro of Drannith

3 Tazri, Beacon of Unity

2 Lavabrink Venturer

Spells (9)

4 Dire Tactics

3 Maul of Skyclaves

2 Inscription of Ruin

Lands (24)

4 Brightclimb Pathway

2 Indatha Triome

2 Savai Triome

1 Castle Locthwain

1 Castle Ardenvale

7 Plains

7 Swamp

Humans attempted to be a deck last standard, but it never really became a high tier deck. Maul of Skyclaves should be able to help this deck take the next step. This powerful equipment allows BW to have a finish similar to Embercleave. Maul of Skyclaves is not as explosive as Embercleave, but it is more versatile in this particular deck. Humans looks to flood the board, so in theory Embercleave would be great in this strategy, but being in BW, we don't have the option to play the Cleave. This isn't all downside though; there are times after a board wipe where you just don't have the creatures required to play Embercleave. Maul of Skyclaves is always 3 mana, and it is able to help you win as long as you have a single creature.

Party is a new mechanic in Zendikar Rising; the party mechanic asks you to have the four classic types of wizard, rogue, warrior, and cleric. If these requirements are met, effects cost less mana or some special effects triggers. This new human build looks to overlap the party mechanic with the human tribe. The main reason to try to combine these two tribes is Archpriest of Iona. Archpriest of Iona is a very aggressive one-drop that allows us to punch for two on the second turn of the game. Unfortunately, there isn't a human wizard that I found to be able to trigger it's second line of text, but a potential 3/2 for one mana is more than enough to reach the bar of making this deck. The second card we are using the party mechanic for is Tazri, Beacon of Unity. Tazri is a card advantage engine that is a potential 3 mana 4/6. The card advantage ability asks the deck builder to include many different colors in creating the deck. However, Triomes allow us to play additional colors, and it doesn't stretch our mana in any way. The only downside is the inability to play Temple of Silence once you decide to move in this direction. In this particular case, Triomes are much better in the deck due to Tazri, and it's definitely a discussion on which is better in a vacuum. I expect Humans to be able to interact with midrange decks, while being to run over control decks. Humans is one of my favorite tribes, so I hope this deck has the legs to make it to high mythic.

RW Cycling

The last place I would like to look for starting this new format is RW Cycling. RW Cycling is a linear combo deck that looks to get tons of cycling cards in the graveyard in order to power up Zenith Flare.

Companion (1)

1 Lurrus of the Dream-Den

Creatures (18)

4 Flourishing Fox

4 Drannith Stinger

2 Drannith Healer

4 Magmatic Channeler

4 Valiant Rescuer

Spells (24)

4 Zenith Flare

4 Boon of the Wish-Giver

4 Go for Blood

4 Memory Leak

4 Startling Development

4 Frostveil Ambush

Lands (18)

4 Needleverge Pathway

2 Raugrin Triome

4 Plains

4 Riverglide Pathway

4 Brightclimb Pathway

There aren't many new cards to add to this strategy from Zendikar Rising, but I believe the additions that are available are beneficial. The card from Zendikar Rising that got me excited about this deck is Magmatic Channeler. This card on the surface looks like an “Izzet spells” type card, however, it's ability to grow can be accomplished in this deck as early as turn three. A 4/4 for two might seem irrelevant to this archetype, but it's second ability allows us to dig even deeper for our Zenith Flare. The 4/4 body isn't completely useless either; this deck is forced to win by combat in many situations and another beater is always helpful.

The second addition is in the mana base. In the old version of the deck, the deck contained a variety of spells that were solely one-mana cantrips. This version looks to take advantage of them in the same ways, but it has the ability to cast them in extreme situations. The new flip dual lands allow us to have non-RW lands in our mainly RW deck. This could seem unimportant, but using a memory leak to grab an opponent's hate card could be the difference in winning and losing. I expect this deck to be good in the beginning of the format, but I would expect it to fall out of the meta once the format aged. The game plan is difficult to meaningfully change, so once people start playing hate cards it should fumble quite a bit. There's nothing like a 20 damage Zenith Flare to the face; I will definitely give this deck a try!


In the end, I believe this format will eventually wrap around Uro, but this is a great time to brew and have fun. I'll have more lists to try next week when we get the rest of the previews. Until then, feel free to contact me on Twitter with any ideas. Thanks for reading!

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