Hello everyone! As a new set comes out, the creative juices start flowing in everyone’s minds. Will the next big deck be a tribal aggro build? Or maybe a cool Azor, the Lawbringer control deck? Nope. I’m here to tell you that boring old Temur Energy and Ramunap Red are the decks to play. It’s always better to be proact-

Wait. What’s that you say?

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Wow! Hold on everyone, we’ve got a wild week ahead of us!

Overall, I have to say I’m very happy with the bannings this week. I think that taking out Attune with Aether was extremely important to make sure that the Energy deck doesn’t dominate Standard again, and the banning of Rogue Refiner makes sense for the same reasons. Both cards just gave you a huge advantage when played alongside Whirler Virtuoso, Longtusk Cub, and Harnessed Lightning, and the fact that we -hopefully- don’t have to see that anymore is a relief for me.

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The other two cards banned were less expected I think, but I am still very happy with them. Naturally, with Energy gone, Ramunap Red would have dominated, and taking away two of its powerful tools gives new decks a better chance. As far as analyzing the bans, that’s as far as I’m willing to go, as I’m sure that’s what everyone will be talking about in the near future.

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Today, I want to go into what you should be playing in the first few weeks of Standard. With the easy options being taken away, we’ll have to dig a bit deeper.

My top two choices so far are decks that dominated last year, but fell off the radar once Temur started dominating.

BG Constrictor by Frank Skarren at SCG Invitational – 8th

Creatures (24)
3 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
4 Winding Constrictor
2 Tireless Tracker
4 Longtusk Cub
4 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
4 Walking Ballista
3 Verdurous Gearhulk

Non-Creature Spells (15)
3 Fatal Push
3 Blossoming Defense
3 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
2 Grasp of Darkness
4 Attune with Aether

Lands (21)
3 Hissing Quagmire
4 Blooming Marsh
4 Aether Hub
4 Swamp
6 Forest

Sideboard (15)
1 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
1 Manglehorn
1 Heroic Intervention
2 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
1 Gonti, Lord of Luxury
1 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
1 Ob Nixilis Reignited
2 Never / Return
2 Transgress the Mind
3 Yahenni’s Expertise

BG Constrictor is my first pick for what to play this weekend. In the first weeks of Standard it is almost always correct to be proactive. Constrictor is a deck that combines an explosive start with some disruptive elements and tremendous staying power. Here is the list I would play if I were to be in Dallas this weekend for the Open.

BG Constrictor by Riccardo Monico

Creatures (26)
2 Rishkar, Peema Renegade
4 Winding Constrictor
2 Glint-Sleeve Siphoner
2 Ravenous Chupacabra
4 Jadelight Ranger
4 Walking Ballista
3 Verdurous Gearhulk
2 Ripjaw Raptor
3 Merfolk Branchwalker

Non-Creature Spells (11)
4 Fatal Push
3 Blossoming Defense
2 Moment of Craving
2 Vraska’s Contempt

Lands (23)
4 Blooming Marsh
3 Ifnir Deadlands
2 Hashep Oasis
1 Arch of Orazca
2 Foul Orchard
6 Forest
4 Swamp

Sideboard (15)
3 Duress
1 Walk the Plank
2 Deathgorge Scavenger
2 Vraska, Relic Seeker
2 Lifecrafter’s Bestiary
2 Naturalize
1 Tetzimoc, Primal Death
2 Silent Gravestone

This deck is just a first draft, but I think it replaces what we lost fairly well. The deck gets rid of the energy package aside from the two Glint-Sleeve Siphoner in the main, as that card can fuel itself and is really good once you have a Winding Constrictor on the board. Jadelight Ranger is the best card in the new set in my opinion, and following up a Constrictor with this is incredibly powerful. Each instance of explore places a separate counter on the Ranger, so its possible for it to enter as a 6/5! Even without Constrictor, the card digs you to your threats or answers, and is overall just great value.

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The only list I saw that put up a good finish on Magic Online used three Ripjaw Raptor. I think the card is good, but it is entirely possible that Ravenous Chupacabra is just so good that having the full playset is worth it. Merfolk Branchwalker is a powerful two drop that can be a big beater, but it may end up being too small at its worse. I’m still not sure about the card, but I think for week one, having aggressively slanted creatures like this one in your deck is a safe choice.

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The removal suite needed some reworking, and I think Vraska’s Contempt is undeniably awesome at answering everything you need to deal with. Moment of Craving is certainly a risky choice, but looking at what people are likely to be playing week one, which is small-creature-based tribal decks, I think it is a great disruptive element. It also stops whoever is still playing Mono-Red dead in their tracks, which is an upside that shouldn’t be underestimated.

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The final card I want to talk about is Arch of Orazca. I wanted to limit this to one, as I feel that it is too bad when you get it in your opening hand and can’t hit BG on the second turn. I think the upside is worth it, as this shines tremendously against control, and also in grindy midrange battles.

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The sideboard is very likely not optimal, but I think it has answers to things you are likely to see during the first few weeks. Against control, we have Duress, Vraska, and Lifecrafter’s Bestiary, while against aggressive decks we pack cards like Deathgorge Scavenger and Walk the Plank. Tetzimoc, Primal Death can be great in midrange mirrors, and Silent Gravestone is great against God-Pharaoh’s Gift and The Scarab God. Finally, Naturalize is a good hedge against some wacky strategies like Improvise or Vehicles.

Speaking of Vehicles, lets get to my second recommendation!

Mardu Vehicles by Lawrence Vess at Grand Prix Atlanta – 4th

Creatures (19)
4 Glorybringer
1 Hazoret the Fervent
3 Pia Nalaar
3 Veteran Motorist
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Toolcraft Exemplar

Non-Creature Spells (16)
4 Heart of Kiran
2 Aethersphere Harvester
3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
3 Fatal Push
4 Unlicensed Disintegration

Lands (25)
3 Aether Hub
2 Canyon Slough
4 Concealed Courtyard
1 Dragonskull Summit
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Mountain
3 Plains
4 Spire of Industry

Sideboard (15)
1 Fatal Push
3 Rampaging Ferocidon
2 Chandra’s Defeat
2 Duress
2 Abrade
1 Cartouche of Ambition
2 Fumigate
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
1 Hazoret the Fervent

Mardu Vehicles didn’t lose a ton other than Thraben Inspector with the latest rotation, but it also didn’t gain much from Ixalan. I’m recommending this list because it has a very good aggressive gameplan and is guaranteed to be good. Here is what I would run:

Mardu Vehicles by Riccardo Monico

Creatures (20)
4 Glorybringer
1 Hazoret the Fervent
2 Rekindling Phoenix
3 Pia Nalaar
3 Veteran Motorist
4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Toolcraft Exemplar

Non-Creature Spells (14)
4 Heart of Kiran
2 Aethersphere Harvester
1 Chandra, Torch of Defiance
3 Fatal Push
4 Unlicensed Disintegration

Lands (25)
3 Aether Hub
2 Canyon Slough
4 Concealed Courtyard
1 Dragonskull Summit
4 Inspiring Vantage
4 Mountain
3 Plains
4 Spire of Industry

Sideboard (15)
1 Fatal Push
4 Duress
2 Abrade
1 Cartouche of Ambition
2 Fumigate
1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
2 Silent Gravestone
1 Hazoret the Fervent

Something you’ll notice is that very little changed from this decklist! The only thing I did was add a couple of Rekindling Phoenix to the mainboard and two Silent Gravestone to the sideboard. I think Phoenix has the potential to be fantastic, and is exactly what I’m looking for in the four drop slot of this deck. Mardu Vehicles is proactive and punishes slow starts, and that is super important in the first week of competition.

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I hope everyone enjoyed the article, and if you’re playing in a tournament soon, good luck! If I were to play this weekend, I would definitely jam my Constrictor deck, as I think it fits my playstyle the best and is a good choice for the expected metagame. I would advise you to play something that won’t lose to itself and can punish decks that do if you don’t like either of these two decks. See you next week!

Riccardo Monico

If you’re looking to play some Rivals of Ixalan limited this weekend like I am, check out Jonah Gaynor’s thoughts each mythic from the new set!

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