The Defining Synergies of #MTGELD Standard

Throne of Eldraine Standard has been turbulent, with multiple Fandom Legends tournaments in the books (congratulations to Bryan Gottlieb for winning two) and lots of deckbuilding having already occurred, the metagame is beginning to shape itself. There are a handful of frontrunners in the Standard format, a lot of which come from Eldraine itself – a testament to the set’s power level, especially with powerhouses like War of the Spark still in the format.

The frontrunners of this Standard come in the form of six pairs of somewhat synergistic cards. If you’re not playing at least one of these pairs in your 75, you need a really good reason.

*Honk*

Oko is even better than he looked in spoiler season. Combined with the Goose (and often Wicked Wolf), he acts as a swiss army knife of sorts by gaining life, neutralising threats, and creating threats. With the advent of three-mana planeswalkers in 2019, I did not expect Oko to be as powerful as he is, but very few decks can deal with him effectively when cast Turn 2 on the play. 

Gilded Goose acts as a Birds of Paradise allowing things like PV’s Four-Colour Wolves deck to splash as much as it needs to.

Four-Colour Wolves

4 Paradise Druid

3 Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves

4 Nightpack Ambusher

4 Gilded Goose

4 Curious Pair

4 Wicked Wolf

4 Oko, Thief of Crowns

3 Garruk, Cursed Huntsman

2 The Great Henge

4 Once Upon a Time

2 Overgrown Tomb

1 Godless Shrine

1 Hallowed Fountain

2 Temple Garden

4 Breeding Pool

1 Plains

1 Island

1 Swamp

7 Forest

4 Fabled Passage

Sideboard

3 Thrashing Brontodon

3 Negate

2 Veil of Summer

1 Find // Finality

2 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

4 Devout Decree

In addition to the green cards and Oko, the deck takes liberties with its mana (splashing via a stretched manabase, two mana creatures and Once Upon a Time) to cast Tolsimir, Friend to Wolves and Garruk, Cursed Huntsman. Both cards create Wolves to be pumped by Nightpack Ambusher (the Wolves also gain life and instantly fight with Tolsimir on the battlefield) and act as powerful game-winning threats on their own. The only piece of this deck I’m not 100% convinced by is The Great Henge. Though proven to be powerful, the best it’s going to cost is about five, and at that point it starts to lose a lot of its appeal.

The ramp creatures and Once Upon a Time ensure early acceleration, and the food package of Oko, Goose and Wolf is supplemented by Curious Pair – a seemingly innocuous card that glues the deck’s strategy together by slowing down aggro decks long enough to reach the late game.

Another route one can go is to forego the Wolf synergy and just play a pure Simic Midrange deck.

4 Gilded Goose

4 Leafkin Druid

4 Paradise Druid

3 Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft

4 Wicked Wolf

4 Voracious Hydra

4 Hydroid Krasis

4 Oko, Thief of Crowns

4 Nissa, Who Shakes the World

4 Temple of Mystery

4 Breeding Pool

3 Castle Garenbrig

4 Island

10 Forest

Sideboard

3 Veil of Summer

2 Shifting Ceratops

1 Brazen Borrower

2 Aether Gust

3 Lovestruck Beast

2 Agent of Treachery

2 Disdainful Stroke

I have seen a selection of decks similar to this – the above list is Brad Nelson’s which he took to 4th place in last week’s Fandom Legends event. This acts as more of a ramp deck with twelve mana dorks and Nissa, Who Shakes the World ramping into eight Hydras (Hydroid Krasis and Voracious Hydra). 

Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft is a little off-base here, but gives the deck much-needed mainboard interaction for problematic permanents such as Questing Beast, Doom Foretold and Fires of Invention. This list maximises Oko – not only does he do all the things I previously mentioned, but here his +1 turns your 3/3 Forests from Nissa into 6/6 creatures, and can even enlarge your Krases (or Krasises, or Kreese – Simic is not my mother tongue). 

I have also seen lists splash white and black for various reasons, and even run a Feasting Troll King engine, but none of these things look as good as the pure Simic version to me. It is going to be difficult to argue against someone registering 4 Oko, 4 Goose and 4 Wolf at a standard event this season.

Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Field of the Dead

This should not be a surprise to most. At the end of last Standard, value Golos, Tireless Pilgrim decks were appearing in multiples, and though those decks have lost access to some differently-named lands for Field of the Dead, they gained a wide variety of tools. The Fandom Legends caster’s cup was won by Bryan Gottlieb.

4 Arboreal Grazer

4 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim

4 Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off

4 Hydroid Krasis

4 Teferi, Time Raveler

4 Growth Spiral

4 Once Upon a Time

4 Circuitous Route

4 Field of the Dead

1 Simic Guildgate

2 Forest

1 Blossoming Sands

2 Breeding Pool

2 Fabled Passage

1 Golgari Guildgate

2 Hallowed Fountain

2 Island

1 Izzet Guildgate

1 Plains

1 Selesnya Guildgate

1 Castle Vantress

2 Temple Garden

1 Temple of Malady

1 Temple of Mystery

1 Plaza of Harmony

1 Boros Guildgate

1 Tranquil Cove

Sideboard

3 Knight of Autumn

2 Negate

1 Planar Cleansing

2 Veil of Summer

1 Unmoored Ego

2 Aether Gust

1 March of the Multitudes

2 Deputy of Detention

1 Time Wipe

I’m not too fond of the sideboard (and I believe Bryan isn’t either) given the current metagame but the eight four-ofs and 28 lands that make up the main deck is particularly pleasing to a fan of symmetry like myself. This maindeck is basically perfect, with Once Upon a Time doing so much work here and living up to the hype. Not only does it increase the number of keepable hands, but it can:

  1. Increase the chance of Turn 1 Arboreal Grazer, which is a powerhouse against aggro decks
  2. Grab Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off for a Turn 4-5 board clear
  3. Grab the necessary lands to cast your spells

I have had great success with this decklist, and this would be one of my top recommendations for the current format. Another approach I have enjoyed is utilising Karn, the Great Creator.

4 Risen Reef

3 Cavalier of Thorns

4 Hydroid Krasis

4 Arboreal Grazer

3 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim

2 Yarok, the Desecrated

4 Karn, the Great Creator

4 Growth Spiral

4 Once Upon a Time

4 Field of the Dead

4 Fabled Passage

3 Forest

3 Island

1 Swamp

2 Breeding Pool

1 Overgrown Tomb

1 Watery Grave

1 Temple of Malady

1 Temple of Mystery

1 Thornwood Falls

1 Dismal Backwater

1 Jungle Hollow

1 Castle Vantress

1 Castle Garenbrig

1 Stomping Ground

1 Temple Garden

Sideboard

1 Bolas’s Citadel

1 The Great Henge

1 Grafdigger’s Cage

1 Sorcerous Spyglass

1 Meteor Golem

1 Golos, Tireless Pilgrim

1 Pattern Matcher

2 Veil of Summer

2 Oko, Thief of Crowns

4 Healer of the Glade

Three Golos in the main is a necessity so Karn can grab the fourth, but the Elemental package works perfectly with Field and, when combined with Field and Karn, allows the deck to attack on multiple axis. Bolas’s Citadel and The Great Henge are perhaps a little too greedy as wish targets, but in games where your life total is not too important (or postboard games with 4 Healer of the Glade), Citadel takes over.

Fae of Wishes // Granted and Fires of Invention

The parallels between Fires of Invention and Wilderness Reclamation are significant. Each of them effectively doubles your mana but requires some deck building restrictions. Also, each of these deck building restrictions are easily overcome by something else in the format – before, Nexus of Fate, and now, Fae of Wishes // Granted. 

However, I would argue Fires is vastly easier to utilise. Not only does it allow for two free spells every turn (and leaves open mana for activated abilities) but Fires also fixes your mana – you can play anything in the entirety of Standard with these two cards. Granted can allow you to get an answer to whatever in the format is causing you trouble, and cast them instantly. There are multiple ways to maximise this highly flexible toolbox engine, such as what WaifuGate played in the first Fandom Legends tournament.

3 Fae of Wishes // Granted

4 Narset, Parter of Veils

4 Teferi, Time Raveler

3 Sarkhan, the Masterless

2 Saheeli, Sublime Artificer

1 Kasmina, Enigmatic Mentor

1 Ugin, the Ineffable

1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno

4 Fires of Invention

2 Justice Strike

2 Shock

4 Deafening Clarion

2 Time Wipe

1 Plains

2 Temple of Triumph

4 Steam Vents

2 Mountain

4 Sacred Foundry

3 Temple of Epiphany

4 Interplanar Beacon

2 Island

1 Castle Vantress

4 Hallowed Fountain

Sideboard

2 Dovin’s Veto

1 The Elderspell

2 Lava Coil

2 Mystical Dispute

1 Mass Manipulation

1 Sarkhan the Masterless

1 Time Wipe

1 Command the Dreadhorde

1 Casualties of War

1 Disenchant

1 Planewide Celebration

1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno

Here, the Fae + Fires engine is combined with a deck similar to Jeskai Walkers from pre-rotation Standard. Narset, Parter of Veils maximises your chances of Fires on Turn 4 and Sarkhan the Masterless gives you a proactive game plan. The planeswalker that really shines here is Teferi, Time Raveler. Not only does he stop Fires from being countered (one key method of beating the deck) but also synergises with the main plan via the following play pattern:

  1. Cast Fires of Invention and cast Granted, grabbing the necessary silver bullet
  2. The next turn, cast your silver bullet and then Teferi, bouncing your Fires to your hand
  3. Now you have 4-5 mana (minimum) and no restrictions, allowing you to cast a third card, likely a big planeswalker like Sarkhan.

Not many decks can beat this plan if the silver bullet is effective enough. With access to every card in Standard, the deck is highly adaptable and I expect something like this to remain in the forefront of the metagame for the rest of this season.

Another approach with Fires is to focus less on the wish package and just trying to go over the top of people with proactive creatures. I worked on a list with elementals for a while, but Yoman5 seems to have found the best iteration of this deck, foregoing the wish package entirely and running a more powerful sideboard.

4 Wildborn Preserver

4 Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp

4 Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft

2 Questing Beast

4 Sphinx of Foresight

4 Cavalier of Flame

4 Cavalier of Gales

4 Fires of Invention

4 Growth Spiral

4 Breeding Pool

4 Fabled Passage

4 Steam Vents

4 Stomping Ground

4 Temple of Epiphany

1 Forest

2 Island

1 Mountain

2 Castle Vantress

Sideboard

4 Fry

1 Chandra, Awakened Inferno

3 Flame Sweep

3 Veil of Summer

2 Thrashing Brontodon

2 Aether Gust

This deck has many mana sinks for when Fires is resolved. Wildborn Preserver acts as a constantly growing two-drop that can come down early and Cavalier of Flame almost always closes out the game when paired with a few other creatures. The Sphinx of Foresights also seem ideal here, maximising the number of keepable hands and increasing the chance of Turn Three or Turn Four Fires. I have seen other Fires lists (including some interesting ones combined with some of the other engines in this article like Golos, Tireless Pilgrim and Field of the Dead) and I am excited to explore this archetype more, possibly trying again with the Elemental package.

Castle Locthwain and Murderous Rider // Swift End

I would make the argument that Murderous Rider is the best three-drop black creature in the history of Magic, and I don’t think that is hyperbolic at all. The reason for this is not the slightly disappointing 2/3 body, but for the Hero’s Downfall variant – so it wins on a technicality, but as is often peddled by a friend of mine, “A win is a win.”

4 Priest of Forgotten Gods

3 Spawn of Mayhem

4 Ayara, First of Locthwain

4 Gutterbones

4 Knight of the Ebon Legion

4 Murderous Rider // Swift End

4 Rankle, Master of Pranks

4 Orzhov Enforcer

4 Lazotep Reaver

2 Drill Bit

19 Swamp

4 Castle Locthwain

Sideboard

1 Disfigure

3 Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage

1 Spawn of Mayhem

4 Noxious Grasp

2 Drill Bit

4 Rotting Regisaur

It is better to illustrate the power of these cards with a decklist, like xfileMTG’s above. This incredibly streamlined deck (props to Felix), is probably the best iteration of aggro in the format, and puts mono-red to shame. On every spot of the curve there is power, plus the deck can attack from multiple angles with the Aristocrat-like engine of Ayara, First of Locthwain and Priest of Forgotten Gods. The real haymaker here, though, is Castle Locthwain. As an unquestionably powerful land that gives the deck a free draw engine without sacrificing space for power, the Castle pushes the deck just over the edge from playable to powerful.

This list plays only black to maximise Ayara, but I have seen Golgari and Rakdos lists adding a second colour to solve problems with the deck.  The Golgari list below draws inspiration from VTCLA who has had success with multiple iterations of the deck. 

4 Pelt Collector

4 Knight of the Ebon Legion

4 Gutterbones

4 Blacklance Paragon

4 Order of Midnight // Alter Fate

4 Murderous Rider

4 Questing Beast

4 Spawn of Mayhem

3 Assassin’s Trophy

4 Overgrown Tomb

4 Temple of Malady

1 Castle Locthwain

8 Swamp

8 Forest

Sideboard

3 Duress

4 Noxious Grasp

1 The Great Henge

1 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

3 Find // Finality

3 Disfigure

Here, the Aristocrats engine is substituted for some green cards. Pelt Collector is an ideal third one-drop, Assassin’s Trophy kills problematic permanents (including, notably, Field of the Dead), and Questing Beast is an absurdly pushed creature and acts as a perfect top end for the low-curve deck. I can’t imagine what a white or blue splash would do to the mono-black base but I do wonder if there’s something to explore there.

Teferi, Time Raveler and Thought Erasure

Since the printing of Teferi, Time Raveler, some form of Esper deck has been viable in Standard. The main reason for this is that the shell of Teferi + Thought Erasure combined with other strong cards in Esper colours is powerful enough to attack basically any strategy that Standard throws at it. This time around, the Esper lists combine the two controlling cards with a proactive combo-attrition plan of sorts, maximising all the words of Teferi and Thought Erasure via Dance of the Manse:

3 Murderous Rider

4 Teferi, Time Raveler

1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General

4 Kaya’s Wrath

4 Thought Erasure

3 Dance of the Manse

4 Golden Egg

4 Guild Globe

1 Wishclaw Talisman

3 Doom Foretold

4 Oath of Kaya

2 Plains

1 Island

4 Godless Shrine

4 Watery Grave

3 Fabled Passage

2 Swamp

4 Hallowed Fountain

4 Temple of Silence

1 Castle Vantress

Sideboard

2 Devout Decree

2 The Elderspell

3 Duress

2 Disenchant

3 Noxious Grasp

2 Dovin’s Veto

1 Realm-Cloaked Giant

Dance of the Manse was not high on many peoples’ lists of cards they expected to see doing well this Standard, especially this early. However, Bryan Gottlieb (who is on fire at the moment) won the first big Standard event of the format with a decklist similar to the above, and Carlos Romao refined it (as above), adding Liliana, Dreadhorde General to give the deck another angle of attack. 

The deck is quite complex, mainly due to Doom Foretold being a bizarre but brilliantly positioned card, especially against decks like the Simic midrange deck that deploys one threat at a time. This deck has one of the most powerful topends in the format (Dance for X=6 is incredible) but the sluggishness and linearity of the deck means it can easily be punished by another fast, proactive gameplan (especially one that isn’t punished too much by Kaya’s Wrath).

I believe the Dance combo to be the best way to build Esper at the moment, but as the format settles down I would expect a more pure, traditional controlling build of Esper to emerge.

4 Murderous Rider // Swift End

4 Fae of Wishes // Granted

4 Teferi, Time Raveler

4 Narset, Parter of Veils

1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General

3 Glass Casket

4 Oath of Kaya

4 Thought Erasure

4 Kaya’s Wrath

2 Epic Downfall

1 Drown in the Loch

4 Godless Shrine

4 Watery Grave

4 Hallowed Fountain

4 Temple of Silence

4 Fabled Passage

2 Swamp

2 Plains

1 Island

Sideboard

3 Noxious Grasp

1 The Elderspell

1 Dovin’s Veto

1 Drown in the Loch

1 Realm-Cloaked Giant // Cast Off

1 Glass Casket

1 Witch’s Vengeance

1 Time Wipe

1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General

1 Duress

1 Ashiok, Dream Render

1 Aether Gust

1 Devout Decree

Like in the Dance decklist, Murderous Rider synergises very well with Teferi, as you can kill something, cast the Rider and then get both modes back by bouncing them with Teferi, drawing a card in the process. I would rather play Rider than Hero of Precinct One here, as Hero is a bad topdeck and I expect games with this deck to go a lot longer. I don’t recommend this deck at the moment, but something of this form is worth keeping in mind.

Edgewall Innkeeper and Lovestruck Beast // Heart’s Desire

When I began writing this article, these two cards were not on my radar, but since then I have heard some extremely positive things about these two cards. I have yet to test them out myself, but Edgewall Innkeeper reminds me of multiple recent card advantage engines centred around a new mechanic that have been printed recently (Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Risen Reef) – and it only costs one mana. 

Since you’re already playing green in this deck, Lovestruck Beast // Heart’s Desire is an easy addition because Edgewall Innkeeper also allows it to attack. Note that the Beast can block whether or not you control a 1/1. The amount of games you win with Turn 1 Innkeeper likely eclipses the alternative, and thus Once Upon a Time (that can also grab any adventure) is exceptional here (and, I believe, ideal in almost any deck that wants a particular creature early).

Unsurprisingly, @Yoman_5 has found another hole in the format and decided to attack it via a Selesnya deck using adventures combined with a lot of the cards from Guilds of Ravnica:

4 Edgewall Innkeeper

4 Faerie Guidemother // Gift of the Fae

4 Giant Killer // Chop Down

4 Shepherd of the Flock // Usher to Safety

4 Lovestruck Beast // Heart’s Desire

4 Venerated Loxodon

1 Trostani Discordant

4 Conclave Tribunal

4 Once Upon a Time

4 Raise the Alarm

2 Flower // Flourish

2 Castle Ardenvale

4 Temple Garden

7 Plains

8 Forest

Sideboard

3 Gideon Blackblade

3 Vivien, Champion of the Wilds

3 Questing Beast

2 Devout Decree

2 Glass Casket

2 Knight of Autumn

Some of the inclusions in this deck may seem a little underpowered, but the less powerful adventure creatures like Shepherd of the Flock // Usher to Safety are a lot more powerful when the creature half draws a card. This deck is reminiscent of the Selesnya tokens decks that I was very fond of from the last year of Standard, where Flower // Flourish was incredible, and I expect that card to continue to impress here (and would run more copies if not for Once Upon a Time).

Another approach to the adventure archetype that has had success is the Jund list from lordtupperware.

4 Beanstalk Giant // Fertile Footsteps

4 Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp

4 Edgewall Innkeeper

4 Foulmire Knight // Profane Insight

4 Lovestruck Beast // Heart’s Desire

4 Murderous Rider // Swift End 

2 Order of Midnight // Alter Fate

4 Once Upon a Time

2 Legion’s End

4 Lucky Clover

4 Fabled Passage

6 Forest

1 Blood Crypt

2 Mountain

4 Overgrown Tomb

1 Stomping Ground

6 Swamp

Sideboard

1 Assassin’s Trophy

4 Duress

2 Legion’s End

4 Noxious Grasp

2 Shifting Ceratops

2 Veil of Summer

This list goes a lot heavier on the adventure synergies, running four Lucky Clover on top of the Edgewall Innkeeper and splashing red for Bonecrusher Giant // Stomp. This deck is a pure value deck, and with the current absence of a good Mono-Red deck in the format (sorry, Cavalcade of Calamity fans) a value deck with defensive creatures seems incredibly well positioned at the moment. This deck feels a little soft to a Turn 2 Oko, which might become a more important benchmark for the format as lists continue to be refined, perhaps meaning decks like this fall into obscurity.

Warning: Casting Swift End with Lucky Clover on the battlefield and only one legal target will cause the copy to kill the target, countering the original spell on resolution and sending the Murderous Rider to the graveyard rather than exile. 

I have also come across Abzan, and even Simic adventures lists, but these look like they are trying too hard to synergise and don’t just play already excellent cards, like the two lists above. Brazen Borrower // Petty Theft is the only adventure I would dip into blue for and I don’t think that is enough for this archetype.

What Isn’t Included

When Throne of Eldraine was first fully spoiled, Simic Flash looked to be a frontrunner for a good week one deck in the new format. Brazen Borrower and Once Upon a Time would help supplement the Nightpack Ambusher and Brineborn Cutthroat “engine” of sorts and allow for the deck to have a higher power level than it did in the past format, and the deck only really lost Merfolk Trickster to rotation. However, the deck has been unimpressive, struggling to effectively answer many of the format’s pillars (Teferi, Oko) and being overshadowed by the Simic food-based decks. If you’re in these colours, I would recommend going down the Oko route.

The other engine I have heard some (somewhat questionable) buzz about is Improbable Alliance combined with various draw spells (especially The Royal Scions). I have seen Izzet versions running Arclight Phoenix (and some foregoing the ex-Modern staple) and Grixis versions utilising Nicol Bolas, Dragon God, but none of these have impressed me. Each of these seem like weaker versions of the other archetypes in Standard. 

These six engines are incredibly powerful, and I don’t think it is right to leave home without one of them, or at least without a reliable plan to attack each one. I have seen (and tried) lists containing two, three and even four of these engines at once and I can’t wait to see how each of these engines are further utilised during this Standard season.

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