I have come to a conclusion that you should understand if you want to play Standard: If you are not playing a variant of Energy, then you are ok with being an underdog when you walk into the room.
I spent the last two weeks during my free time jamming countless games on MTGO with various Standard decks, courtesy of many friends that pay attention to this format. I played roughly 20-30 leagues in their entirety trying to find a way to beat the boogeymen of the format.
I had minor success with Ramunap Red and Approach of the Second Sun decks, but with the Energy variants my win percentage was always significantly better than the other decks. I churned through Pro Tour Ixalan deck lists as well as the GP decks from the previous weekend (Atlanta, Warsaw and Shanghai), and the majority of people doing the best were playing an Energy variant or Mono Red. Can you see where I’m going with this? I thought you would.
At this point and time, I would like to point out that the only image that came across my mind while looking through the various deck lists was this:
I can point you in the direction of the many alternatives that may lead you to the path of success, but I would rather point you to the paths of least resistance. Let’s start with the most streamlined version of the deck piloted by the most popular duo in professional Magic right now, the Bash Brothers, AKA Brad Nelson & Corey Baumeister:
By far the most A to B of the Energy variants, Temur leans heavily on closing out games through Glorybringer, Bristling Hydra and Whirler Virtuoso, which is by far the best card in the deck. Brad and Corey’s sideboard includes what is becoming the industry standard in River’s Rebuke giving them access to a one-sided Upheaval.
Following up after Temur is one that many have started to drift away from, but provided Seth Manfield with some hardware:
This list recently made Top 8 of the MOCS, leaning heavily on the interactions enabled by Winding Constrictor, both with energy counters and +1/+1 counters on many of the creatures in the deck. Sultai allows Hostage Taker to play the role of Confiscation Coup and blanks removal spells out of opposing decks with Blossoming Defense. Mana and Energy sinks in the forms of Walking Ballista, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Longtusk Cub provide inevitability, giving this deck a lot of game versus the rest of the field.
Now that we’ve talked about the two shards of energy decks, let me introduce you to the last iteration of said Energy variants. If you were looking for the Standard equivalent of Legacy’s Czech Pile, this is it. Combining the cards and removal from the base Temur deck and adding the raw power of black cards, whether they be The Scarab God, Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, Vraska, Relic Seeker, or Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Four-Color Energy is the greediest. Its mana base leans heavily on Attune with Aether and Aether Hub. For reference, here is Yuuya Watanabe’s list from his top 8 in Shanghai.
As you can see Yuuya went for the additions of only Vraska, Relic Seeker and The Scarab God as his black splashes. Both cards provide so much more to what was already one of, if not the, best decks in this Standard format. It would not surprise me if by the release of Rivals of Ixalan we see the inclusion of White to this already deck for other options as Attune provides that flexibility within this archetype. In any case one can only hope that Rivals gives us an alternative to the boogeymen of the format.
At the end of the day, I’m not going to tell you to only play an Energy variant. Even if you’re trying to win the last Championship Trial of the season, I wouldn’t tell you to play those decks. And even if all your friends have been doing well with an Energy variant and they have the cards for you to play it at your next event, I still wouldn’t tell you to play any of those decks. Instead, I’ll ask if you want to win your next Standard tournament:
Good luck at your next Standard event.
Keenan Davidson is a two-time Pro Tour competitor and Midwest grinder from the Madison, Wis. area.