The State of Kaladesh Standard

by Zen Takahashi on 13 October 2016, Thursday

Zen Takahashi

The State of Kaladesh Standard

Hello everyone!

The Pro Tour is this weekend and I am very excited! I am not able to share what I will be playing just yet, but as of writing this article I have decided on my deck and feel quite good about it. Over the next couple of days, I hope to tune it more to get it ready for the event.

Instead, today I will be going over how I perceive the Standard metagame at the current moment and how I expect players will respond to it this weekend.

The "Pre" Metagame

In the past, there has always been two SCG Open tournaments prior to the Pro Tour. The results of these events largely solidify the metagame going into the event, and teams and individuals will base their gauntlet testing off the decks that did well over the two weekends.

However, for this Pro Tour there was only one SCG Open – and it was on release weekend. Generally we find that the first SCG Open of the season has much more unpolished decklists as people haven't had enough time to test yet and are also unsure of what other people will bring to the table. By the second SCG Open, people have more of an idea of what the format consists of and we see much more tuned decklists as people adapt their curve to the speed of the format while sideboards become more tuned to fight the more visible enemies.

Because of this, I expect that various teams may find themselves with inbred testing and/or fighting an unexpected enemy. With two weeks of preparation by top level players, I expect the lists played at the Pro Tour will be far more tuned than those we saw at the SCG Open, even for the successful archetypes.

Smuggler's Copter

While I do expect Smuggler's Copter Aggro decks will be the most popular archetype, I wouldn't be surprised if they were significantly different to those that did well in the first SCG Open. This means that many people may find themselves preparing against the wrong lists as they either didn't update them or didn't update them in the correct way – hence preparing against an inbred list that doesn't actually end up reflecting what will be played.

This overall lack of information means that much like Week One, the metagame going into the Pro Tour is much less defined than it usually is, and players who are able to correctly identify how people will react to the initial results will be rewarded.

Level 0 (Smuggler's Copter Aggro Decks)

W/R Vehicles


R/B Aggro

W/R Humans

W/G Aggro

As always, the first week was dominated by various aggro decks. This is historically the case, and something I have discussed extensively in the past.

Radiant Flames Fumigate

Almost certainly these decks will make up a significant portion of the metagame and W/R Vehicles will likely be the most popular deck at the event. People will come prepared for these aggressive strategies, but they're much more resilient than past aggro decks as they can minimise the impact of sweepers such as Radiant Flames and Fumigate with a diverse threatbase with cards such as Smuggler's Copter and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar.

Inventor's Apprentice

W/R Humans and R/B Aggro are the most aggressive of these decks, with a lower curve and much more emphasis on getting your opponent dead as soon as possible. However, they also are predominantly based around small creatures which makes them the most vulnerable to hate cards. I suspect that these may have been great on Week One when people had much clunkier decks so being hyper aggressive was the key to winning, but I think they are hit the hardest by the rising stock of anti-aggro cards.

Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

On the other end, W/G Aggro is the slowest but also the most resilient of these decks. With a playset of Smuggler's Copter and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar in the main deck, you're already much more resilient at fighting hate cards. Post board you're able to get access to key cards such as Nissa, Vital Force, and the general larger size of your creatures makes you much less vulnerable to Radiant Flames and other burn spells as you can grow your creatures out of range – especially with Verdurous Gearhulk.

Fleetwheel Cruiser Depala, Pilot Exemplar

W/R Vehicles, which sits in the middle of the spectrum, was the most successful aggro deck at the SCG Open. It has a low curve that allows you to be very aggressive, but the Vehicles and Depala, Pilot Exemplar also give you a lot of reach. This combination makes it hard to beat as you'll have to be low on the curve to stop them from beating you on an aggressive draw, but you'll also need to find ways to turn the corner in the late game as they can keep generating a ton of incremental advantage and fight through your initial removal spells that may have stopped them in the early turns.

Level 1 (Midrange Decks with Removal)

B/G Delirium


Bant Control

U/R Fevered Visions

Jeskai Flash

The response to aggro decks have traditionally been control decks with a lot of cheap removal that can keep trading one-for-one until they turn the corner in the late game with a powerful win-condition or amassing a ton of card advantage. However, since the rotation of Sphinx's Revelation and the narrower nature of removal spells, and with aggro decks also getting much more resilient threats, we haven't really seen a control deck that is able to beat the aggressive strategies as they aren't able to generate enough card advantage and/or close the game quickly enough.

Sylvan Advocate

Instead, the recent trend have been these midrange strategies that adopt cheap removal spells in combinations with creatures that are slightly larger than the aggro deck's so they can go “over the top”. These slightly larger creatures help road block the small creatures, and then they can gain inevitability later in the game as they can have a larger board presence and/or can generate more incremental advantage. Sylvan Advocate is a good example of such a card as it blocks well in the early turns and then becomes a larger threat as the game progresses, allowing the midrange deck to further extend its lead as the game goes long.

Historically, teams have largely favored being on Level 1.

This was seen in the last couple of Pro Tours in the form of W/G Tokens, B/G Delirium and U/B Zombies. Often the most successful team is the one that is able to find the Level 1 deck that is also well positioned against other Level 1 decks.

Kor Firewalker

A key example is Burn at Pro Tour Fate Reforged, which was the perfect response to an Abzan-heavy metagame. Overall Burn was the best performing deck, but the most successful Burn list was Team MTG Mint Card's that packed 4 GWs in the sideboard as they correctly identified that others will also pick up the deck.

Spell Queller Fevered Visions

Due to this, I like Jeskai Flash the least out of the decks above. The heavy reliance on Spirits makes you vulnerable to Liliana, the Last Hope from B/G Delirium as well as all the burn spells in U/R Fevered Visions. U/R Fevered Visions is the most appealing to me as you can largely ignore the removal spells the other decks play as you can close games by throwing burn spells directly to the face, though I can see the Bant Control deck's Blessed Alliances being a headache to play against.

B/G Delirium and U/R Fevered Visions are both role players from the previous format so I suspect they'll be popular at the Pro Tour – especially with those who didn't have much time to prepare.

Level 2 (Over the Top Decks)

Temur Aetherworks


U/B Colossus

Temur Emerge

Grixis Emerge

U/B Zombies

B/G Zombies

Elder Deep-Fiend Emrakul, the Promised End

The Level 2 decks are trying to go “over the top” of other decks by enabling very powerful actions. They're not necessarily combo decks, but rather trying to set up for a powerful set of plays to win the game. This may include setting up Emerge for Elder Deep-Fiend, or finding ways to mill yourself to cast Emrakul, the Promised End.

These decks traditionally perform poor against the Level 0 aggro decks as you don't have enough time to set up but you're favoured against the Level 1 midrange decks as they're slow enough to give you time to set up and they don't have enough disruption to stop you.

Playing one of these decks is essentially trying to “level” the field by playing a deck that is well positioned against the decks people will play to beat the most popular decks. It almost makes it like Rock, Paper, Scissors. However, in general this strategy usually isn't sound, as the Level 0 decks are the most popular – you wouldn't want to pull out Rock if there is a higher chance of them having Paper over Scissors. Still, playing one of these decks can often put you better positioned against the pro players who usually lean towards the Level 1 decks.

I believe the key to succeeding with this strategy is to try mitigate your vulnerability to the aggressive decks, even if that may be at the expense of some power. You don't really have to prepare for other Level 2 decks as few people choose to be on this level. Instead of being worried about other people potentially going over the top of you, try to find ways to sacrifice a bit of that setting up to shore up your aggro matchups.

Gnarlwood Dryad

Owen Turtenwald's Turbo Emrakul deck at Pro Tour Eldritch Moon is a great example of this, as he was able to improve his Bant Company matchup by adopting Gnarlwood Dryad while still maintaining his game plan of ramping into an Emrakul, the Promised End.

Aetherworks Marvel Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

On this premise, Grixis Emerge and Temur Emerge are the decks I like the most because they get access to Kozilek's Return and casting an Elder Deep-Fiend to flash it back doesn't take too much setting up to do. In comparison, Temur Aetherworks Marvel also plays Kozilek's Return, but needs to hit an Emrakul, the Promised End or Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger from an Aetherworks Marvel to be able to flash it back and that is a lot more hurdles you have to cross.

Which Level Do You Wish To Be On?

Anyway, I hope you enjoyed this overview on the current Standard metagame. I expect that over the weekend we will see a lot of new decks emerge, as well as more tuned versions of previously successful decks. I'm very excited to see what everyone will bring to the table, and I can't wait to see how my deck will matchup against the field!

Until next time!

Zen Takahashi

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