Tag Archives: Standard


Players new and old tend to approach the concept of Magic finance as “how can I make my hobby cheaper or free?”, only to realize that most of the conversation in that sphere is between vendors. In honor of Game Day Weekend (and a month of [NEW SET] singles pouring into the market), I’m going to tell you which Standard deck I recommend for the upcoming format. This is for the people who want to play in FNM, PPTQ, and 5k level events but don’t have the time, energy, or resources to learn and buy-in to the entire format. These are not going to be “budget” decks, but a key component in my selecting them is that they are cheap enough to give you a good shot at breaking even. I’m also going to mention at the end what cards from the newest set belong in previous iterations of this series that are still Standard legal.

Standard is in a pretty strange place at the moment. Despite the fact that Saheeli combo didn’t have the dominant showing at the Pro Tour that it had at previous events, it still feels like the deck only has a few weeks left to live. Mardu Vehicles, which comprised 75% of the PT Top 8, is a powerful deck, but one that is still within the bounds of reality. Some previous archetypes (Eldrazi, Aetherworks) feel like they just haven’t been “figured out” yet, while BG has morphed into a series of varietals. Missing from the environment so far is one of competitive Magic’s proudest mainstays- Red Deck Wins. In truth, Mardu Vehicles is perhaps a more sophisticated take on this strategy, although it leans heavily on the eponymous new mechanic.

Red Deck Wins has a proud history of tournament success, stretching back to the earliest days of competitive Magic- although it has won multiple recent Pro Tours as well. The original recipe of 20 Land, 20 Creatures, and 20 Spells is somewhat present, although formats tend to skew more towards creatures or spells depending on the relative strength of the card pool available. Currently we are in a format where the creatures are better than most of the spells, so those even thirds get rearranged by necessity. Additionally, some of the better creatures and spells on curve for red pull towards black.

This is definitely a rough draft, although the beauty of RDW (and aggro, to a large degree) is that you get to highly value consistency rather than individual impact. I think a finalized list probably doesn’t have as many 4x, but it’s also possible that you just shave a few lands to add a card or two you like. While there isn’t a 15 card sideboard, Kari Zev’s Expertise is a must, as well as Transgress the Mind and Tears of Valakut. It’s also possible to cut something like the Bloodhalls to make room for a small Energy package, including the Lathnu Hellion, Harnessed Lightning, some Aether Hubs, and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner.

The point of a deck like this is to get in 20 damage as quickly as possible, which means limiting the number of dead cards in hand. Typically playing Terminate effects in these decks is a trap, but Unlicensed does 3 most of the time as well, so that makes it infinitely more viable. Additionally, the deck as is can be built VERY cheaply (because we aren’t playing Heart of Kiran!), so this is a perfect way to ease into MODO or get a quick Game Day win. We’ll talk about MODO next time. Until then, good luck at Game Day!



LOOKING BACK: I still REALLY like the RG Energy deck– I think it presents a very real threat in a way that a lot of budget-friendly decks don’t typically have access to. Obviously I like today’s new deck, but I still heartily endorse Electrostatic Pummeler. I don’t have a finalized list that I like (I’ve started to splash blue, although that raises the price tag when Spirebluff Canals get involved), but the only MUST HAVE playset from Aether Revolt so far is Invigorated Rampage. Some decks seem to prioritize Rampage over Larger than Life, both of which are basically tied for second place behind Blossoming Defense (which isn’t actually better, but protects your combo). Try some different iterations and see what you think! RG Energy might be the perfect FNM deck, especially if we see some seismic action with the second B&R announcement.

PROTRADER: The Best of the Rest

There is a narrative structure to Magic releases, and although it has changed a bit over time, the major points are all largely the same. As in:

  • Spoiler Season
  • Prerelease
  • Release
  • Pre-Pro Tour Environment
  • Pro Tour
  • Post Pro Tour Environment
  • (NEW!) Post Pro Tour B&R announcement

In this system, interest, excitement, and (most importantly) attention are directed at the new release. The last few weeks of a lame-duck Standard format tend to see drops in participation and innovation, and prices on existing cards soften (even more on cards rotating out). One of the most important (and simultaneously, most difficult) things to do during the first few steps of that cycle are to pull OUT OF the gravitational pull of a new set, and focus on which existing cards may be undervalued. Margins are hugely important when it comes to Standard, so its vital to pull the trigger when the time is right. Some of what we discuss today will be informed by what happened at the Star City event over the weekend, as well as expected responses and metagaming course corrections. I think you’ll see what I mean as we get started.

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PROTRADER: Week 1 Plans

Before anything else, sell your Saheelis.

…Like, right now.

…As in “Stop reading, open a new tab, and go to your preferred buylist”.

…I’ll give you permission to wait until FNM if you prefer to stay local, but THAT’S IT.

You good? Okay cool. So now that that’s out of the way, let’s talk about our gameplan for the next couple of weeks. For those of you who are newer (or are self-taught) in the realm of modern-day Magic finance, this is a somewhat volatile time. We are right now in Week 1 of a new Standard (despite no old sets actually rotating), meaning that we don’t know the shape of format in full. We have a couple weeks until the Pro Tour, which has traditionally been the first key definition for a format, despite the tendancy of PT metagames to be very clearly standalones. I’m not going to try and predict the Pro Tour this early, but I want to try and key in on everything prior.

There are two kinds of new format spikes- ones predicated on speculation (Saheeli! Did you sell those yet?), and ones informed by the format as it shapes and develops (Boros Reckoner). The former tend to be planeswalkers, which probably speaks more to the difficulty in evaluating the “new” card type. Finding the next Boros Reckoner is more difficult, but there has historically been a longer window of time for discovering it- Aetherworks Marvel could probably fit into this category also.

Since we aren’t losing any cards, the evaluation process is a little more concrete- we know what most of the playable removal spells are, meaning we only have to compare new ones to preexisting options. Of the new class, Shock and Fatal Push are probably the only new cards that see significant play in the future- other than maybe Battle of the Bridge. With that in mind, we have a slightly easier time figuring out what threats can get past the existing removal- knowing now that there’s an upside to having a converted mana cost of 5 or more.

One of the cards I like, that will serve as an example of what I’m talking about, is Herald of Anguish (the only thing that I don’t like about this card is its current $9 price tag). The toughness is higher than 3, the converted mana cost is above 4, and it has both a free incremental effect and an activated ability. While we don’t know yet how much Improvise will reduce costs, we can assume that Herald will not often cost the full 7. This feels like one of the better finishers in the format, even in a deck without a heavy artifact theme. I’m not saying that Herald is the only good card, just that it is important to go through all of the stats when evaluating a card. I will say also that this set has been underwhelming to me personally, but if you see a card you like let me know in the comments.

This is not a Boros Reckoner, but it sort of is.

Looking through the set as a whole, I don’t see much else that can’t be evaluated entirely in a vacuum. One of the reasons why Revolt as a mechanic is appealing in older formats is the compatibility with fetchlands, something we don’t really have access to currently. If Thopter tokens (or, for the time being, Clues) are something that have a wide proliferation, then some of the fringier options may rise in stock. Likewise, a seemingly bulk option like Aethergeode Miner could very sneakily be an engine for Revolt or energy. Clues feel like the missing piece of the puzzle in that they are artifacts that can die at will, so start to watch for Tireless Tracker to have a late career surge.

My last piece of advice for this weekend is to be aggressive starting Saturday night or Sunday. If you watch the prices on Friday you’ll see them start to come down as stores flesh out their inventories and smaller shops and individuals try to undercut each other on TCGPlayer. They are doing a 3% kickback this weekend, so if you find something you like, wait until early Sunday (as in, before the Falcons beat the Packers) and pull the trigger then. It’s likely that the SCG event this weekend features mostly old decks (as well as some amount of Saheeli Combo), so I don’t expect a new card to blow up on coverage this soon. As the weekend goes along I’ll post what I’m seeing on the forums, so look for that. Til next time!


PS- The reason you REALLY need to sell Saheeli is that the card has basically tripled in price before this deck has had any play time- the strategy will need to basically occupy the entire Top 16 of this weekend’s event to justify the increase. If the deck is somehow that good (and can maintain a high level of success), then a piece gets banned in a few weeks anyways.

PROTRADER: The Time To Buy

Okay, so good news/bad news. The good news? THIS is the the historical best time to buy Magic cards. Right now! Pretty much now-ish until the first week or two of January. Now it’s worth mentioning that Aether Revolt releases on January 20th, but I don’t think that will hurt us now. The bad news, of course, is that for a lot of people this is the absolute worst time to be spending lots of money on Magic cards for yourself. That’s why we are going to have to be smart and make sure we are putting a lot of thought into our targets. We’re going to parse what we can from the spoiled cards we’ve seen so far, and then use the rest of the data at our disposal to make informed decisions from there.

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ProTrader: Magic doesn’t have to be expensive.