I played a lot of Standard this past week.
I wanted to put in extra effort for the upcoming Set Championships because it has implications for the first real-life paper Pro Tours again.
While my status in the Rivals League has afforded me an invite to the Regional Championships, I’m far less excited about that than going to an actual Pro Tour again and seeing friends from other parts of the world.
One thing I noticed about this format is that it’s snowbally like many Standard formats.
There are tons of haymakers being thrown around and playing to the board is vital.
I didn’t know what to play because most of the stock decks were solid and tough to beat.
The most important thing to me seemed like having the play.
While I won’t reveal what I’m playing before the Set Championships, I will say it’s not a stock deck, and my current comfort level is lukewarm. It feels fine but nothing too special.
I started brainstorming the most impressive cards in Standard, and here is the list of cards that impressed me the most over the course of testing.
The best sideboard card in Standard: Ray of Enfeeblement
I thought about skipping over this one, but I think it earns a spot as it’s currently the best sideboard card in Standard.
Looking at the metagame share on MTGGoldfish, you can see that Esper, Runes, and White Aggro are players in the metagame.
Ray of Enfeeblement does nice work against a lot of the creatures in Runes, and it kills all of the most problematic creatures in Esper and White Aggro. Ray is a solid necessary card for any black deck.
Early in our testing we decided that Strangle didn’t cut it against a lot of threats in this format.
Four toughness was common.
Incidentally, a lot of decks playing red can produce Artifacts at ease between treasures and blood tokens.
While it’s important to have some support for it, it’s still a solid instant-speed-removal spell against Runes even just as a shock.
This is a weird one to have on my list. It doesn’t have a popular home, but it’s undoubtedly one of the most powerful cards in Standard.
It comes in and out of red deck lists and always seems a little worse than it actually is.
I chose to include this one because of how powerful it can be, even though it’s not a key part of the format right now.
This is probably the most controversial card on my list, as some people weren’t even playing it in Esper.
However, this format is about sticking threats that snowball, and this is the best two-drop in the format for soloing opponents who can’t answer it.
The Meathook Massacre
Truthfully, I was a doubter of The Meathook Massacre for a long time.
I thought the card was a bit overrated and overplayed.
Right now, if anything, it might be underplayed.
It’s such a strong card in long grindy games as the value from triggers adds up a ton.
Esika’s Chariot is underrated right now.
The original idea of pairing Ob Nixilis with Esika’s Chariot to copy Planeswalker tokens was a cute idea, and while Ob Nixilis seems to not be as busted as it looked, Esika’s Chariot is still one of, if not the best, best four-drops in the format at closing games.
It can win games on its own or without much help.
While many people are lower on this card because of The Meathook Massacre, I think this is a curve out and make them want to have it in the format, and Chariot is one of those questions that you simply have to answer.
Showdown of the Skalds
This is the most powerful card in Runes, which in my opinion, is the best stock deck in the format, and maybe the best deck in the format.
The deck doesn’t give much breathing room, has tons of synergy, snowballs incredibly well, and is unbelievably resilient mainly because of this card.
When you’re playing against Runes, every turn you’re thinking “just don’t draw Showdown this turn and I’ll be okay.”
Raffine, Scheming Seer
This is the most efficient creature in the format. It does so much at three mana.
While it requires a commitment to the Esper colors, it’s typically not a very aggressive archetype nor difficult to build around.
Esper has been dominating Standard for the last few weeks and this is the reason why.
It clocks quickly, smooths draws, and demands an answer almost immediately.
This was the most impressive card in Standard when casting it for the first time, and that’s what makes it third on my list.
The Wandering Emperor
This was actually the most difficult card for me to place on my list.
It could have gone anywhere from first place to out of my top 10.
I couldn’t leave it off the list because it’s such a powerful card and a must-include in white decks that aren’t Runes.
I noticed while playtesting with some of the all-time best players that it got a lot worse when people figured out the play patterns.
However, it was still doing heavy work and also gives you so much value when you don’t even have it.
It’s a mono-colored card that demands respect and has such a high ceiling that it had to be pretty high on the list in the end.
The best card in Standard: Fable of the Mirror Breaker
This was easy. This format is about snowballing.
It doesn’t need to be damage or cards, but Fable of the Mirror Breaker is the best three-drop in the format, and this is a turn-three format.
Whoever has the best board after turn three almost always wins and being on the play and casting a Fable is about as far as you can possibly pull ahead in Standard outside of some busted Runes draws.
Fable is the glue to almost every red deck, and that’s what put it at the top of my list.
Honorable Mention Standard: Wedding Announcement
This got pushed out of the list because it’s more of the same.
It’s a strong turn-three play that snowballs nicely, but it’s less good than a card like Fable when drawn in the midgame because it can have a non-existent to minimal impact when behind.
It may be burnout, but this Standard format is a bit snowbally for my taste.
The battlefield is super-important!
So when you’re on the draw you either better be faster than your opponent or able to have clean answers for their threats that can take over the game.
Going bigger than the opponent seems to be a fool’s errand.
It’s usually better to be a bit leaner and have cheap interaction and powerful threats.
Wish me luck this weekend, I think I’ll need it.