We’ve had about 2 days chock full of RNA Standard and I want to talk about some trends and lessons learned with specific cards and decks.
Let’s start with my deck that has really taken off in this nascent format: Mardu Humans
This deck is blindingly fast, resilient to most answers and sweepers, and has a high level of redundancy. Hero of Precinct One goes wide, fast, and is a mondo combo with Heroic Reinforcements. Judith, the Scourge Diva and Benalish Marshal are a redundant pair of anthems and can make the tokens from Hero incredibly strong. Fireblade Artist, Judith, and Footlight Fiend constitute a surprising amount of reach, along with a high haste count from Tajic, Legions Edge, Fireblade Artist, and Heroic Reinforcements. If you stumble at all this deck will kill you, and it can actually handle sweepers very well apart from Settle the Wreckage. This is a synergy deck with a lot of redundancy, and the pieces are all very strong individually. This makes it very hard to pick apart compared to other tribal decks, and the speed and resiliency make it a very good early format candidate. Even in bo3 where opponents can prepare better in postboard games, this color combination and manabase actually get access to cards like Experimental Frenzy, Theater of Horrors, Duress, Unbreakable Formation, Conclave Tribunal, Lava Coil, and a lot of other very solid answers for potential issues. This deck has been performing incredibly well across a variety of players with its largest weakness being a slightly stressed manabase, and I think will remain a force in the metagame as other decks get refined.
The next two things I want to talk about are the macro archetypes of Rhythm of the Wild decks, and Wilderness Reclamation decks.
Rhythm of the Wild is a very potent and powerful card, with a fairly hidden drawback. The card wants to come down before your other threats and power them up with riot, which is a massive upgrade to basically any green or red creature. The problem that these decks tend to run into is that because you need to play Rhythm first, and the best way to do that is with some form of mana ramp (usually Llanowar Elves) you can actually run out of real threats to cast, especially in the face of sweepers or efficient removal spells. Growth-Chamber Guardian is one of the better solutions to this problem as it combos with riot to be 2 mana 3/3 draw another one. However this alone is not a good enough source of fuel as 2 mana 3/3s can actually get outscaled relatively quickly. I think Rhythm decks need to be built with a lot more awareness of this card advantage issue, and should regularly include things like Zegana, Utopian Speaker, Domri, Chaos Bringer, and other threats that can replace themselves.The other thing to consider is for the decks that want to curve Pelt Collector->Zhur-Taa Goblin->Gruul Spellbreaker->Rekindling Phoenix->Skarrgan Hellkite, Rhythm actually doesn’t help your game plan. It can’t grow Pelt Collector, and taking that turn off can exacerbate the common problem of “monsters” style decks where they need to draw the right mix of lands and spells and mostly in the right order. Rhythm has a specific time where it needs to be cast, is neither a land nor a threat, and ends up sitting awkwardly in hand when you’re curving out. When you’re done curving out it doesn’t really do anything either, and you just wish it was another threat. Domri serves those decks much better, as Domri can be a refill when you’re done curving out and then still do what Rhythm does to haste up your fresh hand.
Wilderness Reclamation on the other hand has a very different problem. The card by itself defines a macro archetype, and is incredibly powerful every time you get it in play. Blue is a fairly obvious pairing with the card, as it gives you access to Growth Spiral to power it out early, and Nexus of Fate which is hands down the best abuse case for the card. From there people are fairly split, looking to white for sweepers and Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, or looking to red for Expansion//Explosion and/or Electrodominance. This core set of cards along with some card draw is fairly agreed upon and quite solid, but I think the big mistake is made when filling out the deck. People have been putting in counterspells to take advantage of the ability to tap out and still have that mana up, putting in cards like Hydroid Krasis to draw cards and gain life and you get to untap anyway, and putting in cards like Niv Mizzet, Parun to deploy Niv and immediately untap and protect him. I think a lot of this has good intentions but mostly misses the point of Reclamation. Reclamation is at its absolute best when you’re using it to double your mana, and none of these cards do that, and cannot fully abuse multiple copies of Reclamation at sorcery speed. Cards like Nexus and Explosion are the real payoffs, and the deck needs to be built around those to support them. Cards like Search for Azcanta, Discovery//Dispersal, Chart a course can help you dig to Reclamation or your payoff card, Fog effects like Root Snare or early red removal like Lava Coil can help buy you the time to get to your endgame. Precognitive Perception is the most powerful draw spell the deck has access to in order to keep chaining Nexus, since Perception can either be cast to dig and look 6 cards deep, or can be cast in-between Reclamation triggers to chain off each other and dig for Nexus. Teferi and Gift of Paradise (or Grow from the Ashes) can serve as secondary mana ramp to support Growth Spiral and Wilderness Reclamation. This archetype is essentially a combo deck and needs to be built on that paradigm.
My own current builds of these decks are here:
I streamed both Mardumans and Gruul Warriors on the 19th (VOD here) if you’re curious to see how those decks play out. If you want to see any of the other numerous decks I have built this spoiler season you can find them here. If you have any questions or comments, as always you can reach out to me in the comments here or on twitter @yoman_5. This new standard format is gas and I can’t wait to play more of it!
Adam “yoman5” Hernandez is an up-and-coming pro player, recently earning an invite to MC Cleveland with a top 8 finish at GP Milwaukee. He has a strong focus on figuring out key aspects of decks, matches, and gameplay, digging past the what to figure out the why. In addition to his written content, Adam regularly streams on Twitch.