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A First Look At Post-Ban Standard


Last week, the banhammer fell heavily on Standard, with Teferi, Time Raveler, Wilderness Reclamation, Growth Spiral, and Cauldron Familiar all being banned and taking many of the top-tier decks in Standard along with them. While the format will undergo another shakeup in about a month when Zendikar Rising is released and Standard rotates, today, we're going to do a quick checkup on where Standard is right now and see what our new post-ban format looks like.

While a week isn't a ton of time in an absolute sense, thanks to Magic Arena, we've actually had several qualifiers each day, along with a large Red Bull Untapped event and Magic Online leagues, which means we actually can get a pretty good sense of where Standard stands at the moment. What's working and what's not in our post-ban format? What decks should you expect to play against (or perhaps play with) over the next month leading to rotation? Here's a rundown. Oh yeah, and you can see the whole post-banning Standard meta over on the Standard Metagame page.

Tier One

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The more things change, the more they stay the same. While may of the bannings we've seen in Standard this year have focused on Simic or ramp cards, it's just over a week past our latest round of bannings, and the top deck in the format is pretty clearly a UGx deck that ramps. Sultai Ramp, fueled by Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and Hydroid Krasis, is pretty clearly the most played (and perhaps best) deck in post-banning Standard. After making up 18.5% of the huge Red Bull Untapped event this past weekend, the deck managed to put five players into the Top 8 and four into the Top 4, winning 56% of its matches along the way. It also won the SCG Tour Online Qualifier over the weekend, making up half of the Top 8 in the 111-player event while consistently being the most played deck (occasionally making up over 50% of the meta) during daily SCG Tour Online Challenge events. While things could change over the coming weeks, Sultai Ramp being the best deck from now until rotation is a safe bet. If there's good news, it's that the deck is likely gone at rotation as it loses Hydroid Krasis, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, and Casualties of War, which along, with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, make up the core of the deck. For now, Sultai Ramp is the clear top deck in the format, and if you're building for post-ban Standard, you'll need to keep it in mind because you'll be playing against it often.

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While not as heavily played as Sultai Ramp, Temur Adventures is the only other deck that is currently in the conversation for being top tier in post-ban Standard. It has consistently been the second most played deck (beyond Sultai Ramp) at events. And while the deck has struggled to put people into the Top 8 at big events (missing the Top 8 completely at the Red Bull Untapped event and only putting one player into the Top 8 at the SCG Championship Qualifier), if we move past the Top 8 and look at win percentages, Temur Adventures has actually been even better than Sultai Ramp, winning over 58.5% of its matches at both events, which is pretty absurd. In more recent events, Temur Adventures has even beat out Sultai Ramp in terms of metagame percentage (the Tuesday SCG Challenge was won by Sultai Ramp, but Temur Adventures made up 35.7% of the field and won an astounding 64.2% of its matches). If any deck can unseat Sultai as the top deck in the format over the next month heading toward rotation, this is the one. More importantly, unlike Sultai Ramp—which will likely die at rotation—almost all of the important cards from Temur Adventures stick around. If you're looking to buy (or craft) a deck for post-banning Standard with an eye toward being as competitive as possible, I'd probably skip Sultai Ramp and build Temur Adventures instead. Its win percentage suggests it's at least as good as Sultai (and maybe better), and rather than having a deck for the next month, you'll have one for the next year.

Tier Two

After the top two decks, things become much, much more muddled, and there is a pretty big drop from the top two decks in the format to the next group. While there is a big list of decks that have shown some promise in the week since the bannings, none of these decks has managed to consistently compete with Sultai Ramp or Temur Adventures in terms of metagame share, win percentage, or high-end tournament finishes. Decks that deserve mention in tier-two category include Mono-Red Aggro, Temur Elementals, and Mardu Winota. Below these three, decks like Rakdos Sacrifice, Temur Flash, Orzhov Yorion, and Mono-Green Aggro all have arguments that they deserve tier-two status. The problem with all of these decks is that they haven't been consistently good at big events, which makes figuring out just how competitive they are a challenge. 

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While Mono-Red Aggro has performed inconsistently in SCG Challenges, it did perform reasonably well at both the Red Bull Untapped and SCG Qualifier this weekend, with a win rate a touch over 50%. 

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Meanwhile, Temur Elementals was probably the third-best deck of the huge Red Bull Untapped event, winning almost 55% of its matches as the fourth most played deck in the field, although it performed much, much worse in the SCG Qualifier, where it only managed to win 41.3% of the time. Why exactly the deck had such wildly different win percentages at events happening essentially at the same time with a similar meta isn't clear, although it might have something to do with the fact that the SCG Qualifier had significantly less Mono-Red Aggro and significantly more flash decks than Red Bull Untapped did.

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Mardu Winota is very similar to Temur Elementals, except it only sees about half as much play. By the numbers, Mardu Winota was great at the SCG Qualifier, winning 59% of its matches, but performed a lot worse in the Red Bull Untapped event, with a 47% match win percentage. The good news for Mardu Winota is that unlike the 41% win rate that Temur Elementals posted in the SCG Qualifier, its "bad" performance wasn't that bad. It's not unreasonable to think that Mardu Winota is currently the third-best deck in the format behind Sultai Ramp and Temur Adventures.

Tier 2.5

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Immediately following the bannings, it looked like there was at least some chance that Rakdos Sacrifice would remain at least a solid second-tier option in post-ban Standard, with the deck posting solid win rates (in small-ish sample sizes since not many players actually played the deck) at the Red Bull Untapped and SCG Qualifier events. More recently, thought, the deck has started to slip. While people do still occasionally play the deck, the deck hasn't found much success at all in more recent SCG Challenges. While it maybe have been a second-tier option a week ago, Rakdos Sacrifice is currently more in the tier 2.5 range and seems to be dropping toward tier-three status. 

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When Teferi, Time Raveler was banned, the immediate reaction from many people was that Flash decks might be very good, or even too good, without the planeswalker's static ability to keep them in check. While both Dimir and Temur Flash saw some play in the days after the banning, the results weren't great, and it seems like players have quickly move away from the flash archetype altogether. Apparently, Teferi, Time Raveler wasn't the only thing holding the archetype back. 

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As for Orzhov Yorion, at this point, it is pretty clearly a third-tier deck. While it was one of the 10 most played decks at both the Red Bull Untapped event and the SCG Qualifier, it posted horrid results in both, including a pitiful 21.5% match win percentage in the SCG Qualifier. Part of the appeal of Orzhov Yorion was that the constant stream of discard made it a decent option against Wilderness Reclamation decks. And without decks like Wilderness Reclamation (or the aggro decks that were popular to try and compete with Temur Reclamation) in the format, the deck doesn't appear to be very competitive at all. After posting horrible win percentages at the most recent big events, the deck has dropped in play considerably as players look for more competitive options. 

Tier-Three Options

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In looking for other decks that have shown at least some signs of being competitive in our post-banning format, the list isn't super long. The mono-colored aggro decks (Mono-Green, Mono-Black, Mono-White)—which were popular ways to try to get in under Teferi, Time Raveler and Wilderness Reclamation—have more or less disappeared completely as Sultai Ramp, with its seemingly endless sweepers, removal, and lifegain, took over the top spot in the format. At this point, all of these decks reside firmly in the lower tiers of the format. Various Izzet and Jeskai Prowess decks have shown some promise, although at this point, they are extremely fringe. Occasionally, non-Sultai builds of ramp show up, link Bant or straight Simic, although both builds are far less popular than Sultai is. Meanwhile, Jeskai and Dimir hold the control mantle, although in reality, Sultai Ramp is the best control deck in the format, with any other color combination lagging far behind. 

The Spice

So far, we've been focused mostly on the top decks of post-ban Standard, but with the newfound freedom to have permanents stick on the battlefield and not lose to Wilderness Reclamation on Turn 4, there have also been some spicy decks floating just below the surface. All of the below decks have posted a winning record at a recent event, which suggests that at least some have some potential to be competitive, even if they haven't fully caught on as legitimate top-tier options yet. 

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Mutate is a great example of a mechanic that has greatly benefited from the banning of Teferi, Time Raveler; after all, the entire idea of mutate is to mush together a bunch of different creatures into one mega-creature, which means if Teferi, Time Raveler bounces your mutate pile, it's really bouncing a bunch of creatures rather than just one. Grixis Mutate is one of the most unique decks to develop post-banning. Unlike Simic Mutate, which is essentially another take on Simic Ramp, Grixis Mutate is essentially a midrange combo deck looking to beat down with big mutate creatures thanks to the +1/+1 counters on Chamber Sentry and Stonecoil Serpent (which stick around once something mutates on them) and then drain the opponent out of the game in one big mutate turn thanks to Insatiable Hemophage! The deck went 6-2 in this weekend's Red Bull Untapped event, which is a very solid record for a really sweet rogue deck.

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Sacrifice-based Aristocrat decks are trying to find their way forward now that Cauldron Familiar has been banned. While the bannings have doubtlessly reduced the archetype's power, the upside is that it has opened up the possibility of different kinds of Aristocrats decks outside of just Rakdos, Jund, and Mono-Black. An example is Orzhov Lifegain Aristocrats, which goes into white for cards like Teysa Karlov to double up death triggers, Luminous Broodmoth (which also sort of doubles up death triggers, in its own strange way), and one-drops like Garrison Cat and Hunted Witness. In theory, the deck can make a big board of random creatures, play a Woe Strider, and sacrifice everything twice to generate a ton of Cruel Celebrant triggers, which themselves get doubled by Vito, Thorn of the Dusk Rose. If you're looking for something synergistic and sacrifice-based, the deck looks like a ton of fun, and based on its 4-3 finish in the Red Bull Untapped event, it should be at least semi-competitive.

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If midrange is more your style, how about Mardu Giants? While it is probably a stretch to consider the deck a true tribal strategy, Realm-Cloaked Giant does only destroy non-Giant creatures, so there is sort of a reason to play a bunch of Giants together in the same Standard deck. In reality, the deck is a solid midrange build overflowing with good removal, some card draw, and—of course—Giants to close out the game. We played the deck a bit on stream recently, and Tectonic Giant was extremely impressive, dodging a decent amount of removal and—now that Teferi, Time Raveler isn't around to bounce it—often getting the chance to attack a few times to generate additional card draw or damage. While the deck list could probably be tightened up a bit (playing so many three-ofs usually isn't optimal),  I was surprised at how competitive the deck was against some of the top-tier decks in our post-ban Standard format.

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Last but not least, we have Mono-Blue Devotion. Technically, adding this one to the list is cheating a bit—as far as I know, it hasn't posted a winning record at any events recently, even though it has been played a few times. But the deck is so much fun to play that it deserves mention anyway. Nyx Lotus is an extremely powerful card, but it didn't match up well with Teferi, Time Raveler. Now that Teferi is gone, its mana-producing power can finally be realized. The idea of the deck—which is actually very similar to that of an Against the Odds deck we played right after Theros: Beyond Death was released, is to play a bunch of cards with blue mana symbols, keep tapping and untapped Nyx Lotus with Corridor Monitor to make an absurd amount of mana, draw the entire deck with Gadwick, the Wizened, and then finally win with Thassa's Oracle's enters-the-battlefield trigger! If you're missing combo in Standard now that Temur Reclamation is banned, this is a good starting point, although be warned that the deck has so far been more fun than truly competitive.

Conclusion

All in all, there is no doubt that Standard is currently much better than it was a few weeks ago. While Sultai Ramp and Temur Adventures are clearly the two top decks in the format, there are a bunch of second- and third-tier options and even some spicy under-the-radar decks that have proven to be competitive. While this will probably move around a bit over the next month, it seems likely that this will, more or less, be the meta until rotation. So if you're brewing, make sure to have a plan for Sultai Ramp and Temur Adventures!

Anyway, that's all for today. What have you been playing in post-ban Standard? How much do you think the format has improved as the result of the most recent round of bannings? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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