New Standard Deck Updates: What's Still Playable?

Darin Keener • September 15, 2019

Back in the day, I was a much bigger NFL fan than I am now. That's probably because of that fateful decision in my childhood to be a Buffalo Bills fan (I've been suffering ever since), but the past couple of years my fandom has waned to the point where I haven't even bothered to watch the Super Bowl (whether I was playing Last Man or not). But there are times when I miss my fandom... watching Red Zone every Sunday, enjoying the playoffs, and old-school NFL recap shows with Dan Patrick and Chris Berman yelling "NOBODY CIRCLES THE WAGONS LIKE THE BUFFALO BILLS" and "YOU CAN'T STOP HIM, YOU CAN ONLY HOPE TO CONTAIN HIM".

You can't stop rotation. You can only hope to contain it.

A manly pile of your cards is about to be out of Standard. Lord knows that I'll be missing a bunch of these cards. Pour one out for Llanowar Elves, Ravenous Chupacabra, and Arcades, the Strategist . But we've gotta do the best we can and so I'm going to head back through my past year of Standard decks, and take inventory. What cards are leaving the main decks of each, and how hopeful am I that the deck will still be playable. Please note: not all of the spoilers for Throne of Eldraine are out yet, so I don't know everything coming. New cards may change some of these evaluations, so use your brain, and remember mileage may vary.

Boros Weenie

Leaving Standard: Dauntless Bodyguard, Skymarcher Aspirant, Adanto Vanguard, Benalish Marshal, Legion's Landing, Heroic Reinforcements.

Will It Be Playable? I doubt it.

There's no doubt that mono-white, mono-red, and most of the associated variants have been a huge part of the meta for the past year, and this was a very effective early build of that genre. But I'm not seeing enough power to carry white back to where it would need to be. The big loss is Benalish Marshal. The mana cost was easy with this manabase, and that's not even including History of Benalia which wasn't in this budget list and was one of the most important cards in the deck's final build. There are a couple of cards in ELD that look promising -- I'm especially suspicious of Beloved Princess, which is a lifelinker that has evasion after the early game. But I don't see a lord, and I think white will tend more towards knights than weenie.


Gruul Frenzy

Leaving Standard: Literally 99% of the freaking deck.

Will It Still Be Playable? Nah, fam.

Experimental Frenzy is so much fun, and allows any empty-handed player to do so many screwy things. I don't doubt that there could be another deck that could use it to good benefit. This is especially true since there are cards in ELD that care and encourage you to be mono-colored in your manabase with the Adamant mechanic. However, this deck ain't it. The creature list is down to Kraul Harpooner and Nullhide Ferox (which I think will find a great home in a mono-green Stompy list, especially early in the format).

Side note: I'm going to be so sad if there isn't an adequate replacement for Llanowar Elves. HOW CAN YOU DO THIS TO ME COME BAAAAACK LITTLE ELF. Okay, I'm fine. Everything is fine.

Golgari GreenGlow

Leaving Standard: Stitcher's Supplier, Dryad Greenseeker, Isareth the Awakener, Ravenous Chupacabra, Journey to Eternity, Phyrexian Scriptures.

Will It Still Be Playable? Quite possibly.

We've seen that there is a huge number of cards that stay in this deck, and I've run into reanimator decks on the fringes of Standard that are using Bond of Revival and Blood for Bones to grab copies of Vilis, Broker of Blood and (if you're willing to play a card you can't cast) Drakuseth, Maw of Flames. Much of this deck can be slotted into that one, so this might end up being an exercise for the reader to work out. There isn't a ton of graveyard hate right now, so you could definitely get far with this idea.

Three-Color Walls

Leaving Standard: Arcades, the Strategist, lots of random walls, Tetsuko Umezawa, Fugitive.

Will It Still Be Playable? No, sadly.

I've loved having this deck in Standard, and there's a Modern version that's not only playable but relatively cheap (but that's another article). But without Arcades, the Strategist and the way to make your big attack unblockable, it isn't happening. In recent weeks, I've been able to use Huatli, the Sun's Heart as a half-piece to the deck since she could both gain you lots of life and dissuade the opponent from attacking. But High Alert alone is not enough to do the job. I haven't seen many walls in ELD yet, so I think this ship has sailed.

GW Mox Legends

Leaving Standard: Mox Amber, nearly every Dominaria legendary creature.

Will It Still Be Playable? Nope.

When the card that's in the title of the deck rotates out, the deck's probably done. I knew something or someone would eventually break Mox Amber, but I didn't see the Kethis, the Hidden Hand as the card that did it. Well, it was a fun five weeks while it lasted.

Bant Midrange

Leaving Standard: Llanowar Elves, some of the manabase, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Healer's Hawk, Shalai, Voice of Plenty.

Will It Still Be Playable? Yes!

My first no-doubt yes in the list is probably not a surprise. The majority of this deck consists of cards from the past year, so you can definitely turn these remaining cards into something great. Hydroid Krasis is still a good card, and God-Eternal Oketra remains woefully underplayed in Standard for her power. What you want to be looking for in terms of updates involve manadorks that can replace Llanowar Elves (hopefully something better than Gilded Goose), and any finishers that could come along for the ride. I'm especially intriged with the proliferate subtheme. The Eldraine cards Wildborn Preserver and Wicked Wolf give themselves counters, so making them even bigger seems like a good thing indeed.


Boros Feather

Leaving Standard: Tocatli Honor Guard. Reckless Rage, Sheltering Light.

Will It Still Be Playable? Yes!

Not just playable, but GOOD! Feather decks have been a big part of the meta already, and the deck doesn't lose much. The biggest loss is Reckless Rage, which is a tailor-made removal spell for the deck that does literally everything you would want. We've seen good removal in ELD, but nothing yet that targets your own creature as well as your opponents. If you get that, you're golden. Sheltering Light has already been complemented or even superceded by Gods Willing, so you're good there.

UW Prison

Leaving Standard: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Seal Away, Ixalan's Binding. Settle the Wreckage, Treasure Map.

Will It Still Be Playable? Hopefully, and maybe even better?

The primary lock pieces of the deck (Narset, Parter of Veils, Rule of Law, and Teferi, Time Raveler) are still here along with Starfield Mystic, so you'd think there's a good chance. The deck even got a nice addition with Pacifism in M20. However, the two enchantments leaving the format are big ones. I like the idea of Trapped In The Tower as a Seal Away replacement, and there are a couple of HUGE additions to play with in Mirrormade and Dance of the Manse. I still think I need one more taxes-type enchantment and I'm good to go. This will be the first deck I work on when the new Standard format begins.


Sultai Yarok Field

Leaving Standard: Elvish Rejuvenator.

Will It Still Be Playable? Cautiously Optimistic

I don't think I understood how important Elvish Rejuvenator was to this deck. This was my first go-to deck in the "New Standard" events on Arena, and it doesn't quite work without Rejuvenator. Since we're playing so many taplands to make zombies with Field of the Dead, we need a card that allows us to not only find a land, but put it directly onto the battlefield. The answer (at least for now) is Circuitous Route. You have to play more taplands and it doesn't feel the best to play a four-mana card that doesn't really affect what's on the board, but it gets you making zombies on turn 5 and has done reasonably well in the 2020 queues on Magic Arena. I'd like to hope that a better card will come along in the previews, but if it doesn't you can still get some play out of what you have.

Final Thoughts

To wrap up, many of these decks share a common denominator to their continued effectiveness: the manabase. We've been spoiled for about six months in having a almost-perfect manabase with checklands and shocklands that have let us play darn near whatever we want to play in terms of colors. But the checklands (and Field of Ruin) rotating out are huge changes.

We've already been told by MaRo that there won't be a rare cycle of dual lands. But I'm still hoping for a rare land cycle that will bring more clarity to what we can and can't play. My guess (and again, I have no inside information) is that we're going to get a rare set of lands that care about mono-colored deck. I doubt that they're going to be at the power level of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx (and I wouldn't expect it since there aren't any cards with devotion), but the Adamant mechanic may come into play. We've already seen Tournament Grounds to help out the Knights deck, but maybe something like Witch's Cottage but stronger? Hard to say.

So that's where we are. Yes, it's sad that we lose a bunch of cards that we love. But every quarter, and every rotation, brings new situations and a new landscape to build and play. And it's that constant change that makes me (and hopefully you) love Standard. You can't stop change, you can only hope to contain it.

Go contain it, and as always...please drive friendly!