Top 8 Ravnica Allegiance Standard Decks for Week One
Week 1 Standard tournaments aren’t what they used to be. Going into this weekend, we already have a vague sense of competitive metagame archetypes, thanks to heavy streaming of Arena. We even have decklists courtesy of a 1992 MS Paint program revamped to play card games, probably better known as MTGO. If you’re playing Standard this weekend, these are the decks you should be considering (and looking out for)!
Just like last time we were in Ravnica, when the full set of 10 Gates unlocked the powerful, Tier 3 deck of Maze’s End Turbofog, Ravnica Allegiance has also unleashed the power of… Gatebreaker Ram?
The Gates deck looks mighty clunky on paper, but what it lacks in speed it makes up for in raw power. Gates Ablaze is typically a hard, 3-mana sweeper, Gatebreaker Ram is a 3-mana 8/8 with upside at minimum, and Gate Colossus alongside Guild Summit provide card advantage that makes control mages peer over enviously.
Ily, seems to be aggro decks, where it can sweep away threats, gain life in a massive burst, and turn the corner very, very quickly. However, Guild Summit is easy for control decks to interact with and Gate Colossus can be exiled with Vraska’s Contempt, so the control matchup does seem to be a bit of a challenge.
For anyone looking for a slower, more controlling budget option, the Gates deck is an excellent choice!
7. Mono Blue Tempo
Monoblue Bad Cards was a powerful, linear, and frustrating deck to play against before RNA, and not much has changed with RNA’s release. It’s still going to play a T1 Siren Stormtamer followed by a T2 Curious Obsession with Dive Down/Spell Pierce protection. Every. Single. Game.
A combo better than Splinter Twin
The Monoblue deck gets to upgrade any copies of Essence Scatter with Essence Capture, and some pilots have also been testing the new Sphinx of Foresight, but other than that, it’s pretty streamlined. This is actually another good budget option for anyone who wants to punish players durdling around with big clunky new cards on Week 1. While Monoblue can certainly lose to itself by drawing the wrong third of its deck, it is a relatively consistent, powerful tempo deck.
6. Mono White Aggro
Like Monoblue, Monowhite didn’t pick up many new tools from RNA, but also like Monoblue, it didn’t need them.
Monowhite, sometimes with a light red splash, looks to go wide early with cards like Dauntless Bodyguard, Adanto Vanguard, and History of Benalia and then deliver crushing amounts of damage by slamming Benalish Marshal and Heroic Reinforcements . The White deck has the strength of its creatures becoming large and resilient in combat; it’s very difficult to profitably block a 5/4 Knight Token or a 3/1 indestructible attacker. The deck even has good removal in Conclave Tribunal, can go tall with Venerated Loxodon, and has some late-game ability to hit the last couple of points with a flipped Legion’s Landing.
Monowhite is a great White take on aggression, and hyper-aggressive decks are great for punishing jank Week 1.
5. Esper Control
Finally, a deck that wasn’t played before Ravnica Allegiance except by diehard Esper fans who lied to themselves about how bad the manabase was.
Esper Control is back, and is looking to unseat Jeskai as the format’s premier control deck. Esper got a great set of tools from RNA (aside from the desperately needed shocklands). Absorb is the counterspell that control needs to weather the onslaught of aggro in a fast format, Precognitive Perception is a flexible draw spell that can Dig six cards deep, and, of course, the crème de la crème: Kaya’s Wrath. And all that is in addition to the powerful cards it already had, such as Vraska’s Contempt, Moment of Craving, and Chemister’s Insight.
It’s been a long time since we’ve had a hard four-mana sweeper in Standard, and for good reason: they’re really strong. Not only that, but the mana in Esper is now good enough to curve Turn 3 UU Counterspell into Turn 4 WWBB wrath. With Teferi, Chromium, and Thief of Sanity out of the board, Esper Control has all the tools it needs to take control of the game and close it out against any opponent.
4. Hero of Precinct One Decks
As we’ve seen in the past, sometimes a card is so good, it gives rise to a brand new archetype. Enter Hero of Precinct One. Hero is essentially Young Pyromancer, except it doesn’t die to Chainwhirler and it triggers off Gold cards. So do we have any Gold cards worth playing it alongside? What’s that? We’re in Ravnica? So the real decision is just which pushed Gold cards we want to jam in a shell together? Great!
Esper, Mardu, Abzan, and Bant decks built around Hero have all been having success online. Because we have the wonderful mix of powerful Gold cards and good mana, we don’t have to make any sacrifices in card quality while still maximizing the strength of Hero.
Hero decks each play out a little differently depending on the colors. Esper is an aggressive midrange deck with disruptive elements, Mardu looks to also abuse Judith and is the most aggressive of the bunch, Abzan looks to grind with Trostani and planeswalkers like Ajani and Vivien, and Bant gets to play Hydroid Krasis.
While every version of the Hero decks might not stick around, I expect some iteration of Hero to be a viable option for Standard going forward.
3. WIlderness Reclamation
Wilderness Reclamation is the most powerful, potentially broken card in Ravnica Allegiance. The four-mana enchantment that essentially doubles your mana if you’re playing instants is a threat that you must have a plan against going into this weekend. While the most talked about interaction is with Nexus of Fate, some pilots have ditched R&D’s worst idea for a Buy-a-Box promo in history in favor of cards like Expansion//Explosion to straight-up kill their opponent with fire instead of boredom.
Acceptable Proxy for Wilderness Reclamation going forward
Every deck and every color has strategies to interact with Wilderness Reclamation, but pilots need to make sure they’re utilizing those in mainboards or sideboards this weekend. I strongly believe that, in this metagame, Negate is maindeckable. Esper also has Mortify, and Red is looking to kill before they get their engine online. The real question that tournaments this weekend will begin to answer is whether all these answers are enough to keep R&D’s “Hey, we haven’t banned cards in a while and Standard is looking good, let’s have some fun and risk nuking it!” enchantment in check.
2. Mono Red Aggro
Monored always looks good at the beginning of the format, but the last couple of Standard formats have seen strong aggressive red decks throughout their lifespans. The current iteration of Monored has edged ever closer to Burn, and it looks to be quite strong. The addition of another Bolt effect in Skewer the Critics, combined with a red almost-Ancestral Recall in Light up the Stage has led to a land-light, mana-efficient monster that can kill on Turn 3 in Standard.
Week 1 always demands respect for red decks, but this red deck requires more than just respect. If you’re in Green, you’ll want Wildgrowth Walkers and Hydroid Krasis. Esper should max out on Absorb, consider some number of Revitalize, and run mainboard Moments of Craving. Monored is really good (and also quite budget!) and requires focused hate to be beat. If you’re not ready this weekend, you will lose to Monored.
1. Hydroid Krasis Decks
BG Midrange was the king of the last Standard format, and Green Midrange looks poised to hold onto the throne thanks to Hydroid Krasis. Krasis and Growth-Chamber Guardian are the most-played cards in MTGO decklists from the new set, and that’s no mistake. Krasis is an absolute powerhouse in Standard and looks to be the premier midrange threat of the format. In this deck dump alone, there were Bant, Sultai, Temur, and Simic decks featurng the Jellyfish Beast. The card draw and life gain from Krasis are uncounterable, and the giant flampling beast you get if the spell resolves is no slouch either.
BG Midrange with a light blue splash for Krasis also unlocks cards like Negate, Disdainful Stroke, and even Thief of Sanity out of the sideboard. With access to Breeding Pool, the addition of Blue doesn’t hurt BG’s consistency. Hydroid Krasis is so good that it’s also made Temur and Bant midrange playable as well, with Red granting access to Skarrgan Hellkite and Rekindling Phoenix, and White providing Trostani and Knight of Autumn.
You should get very used to seeing (and hopefully casting) Hydroid Krasis in Standard. The rise of Krasis should lead to an increase in popularity of cards like Vraska, Golgari Queen, which can kill it, and keep Vivien Reid’s stock high as well. It could even lead to a resurgence of Hostage Taker, which allows you to cast the Krasis, but just kills it if your opponent answers the Hostage Taker.
This Standard format, while still extremely young, is showcasing a diversity of archetypes. Impressively, the power level of this format also looks to be extremely high, and yet we’re still seeing a variety of decks. It’s an exciting time to be playing Standard! What will you sleeve up this weekend?
Ryan Normandin is a grinder from Boston who has lost at the Pro Tour, in GP & SCG Top 8's, and to 7-year-olds at FNM. Despite being described as "not funny" by his best friend and "the worst Magic player ever" by Twitch chat, he cheerfully decided to blend his lack of talents together to write funny articles about Magic.
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