Post-Aether Revolt/Bannings: State of Standard

With FNM attendance in an alarming downswing, Wizards has responded.

Standard as a format rarely, if ever, sees bans, since sets are usually carefully designed to work together. Wizards of the Coast’s recent choice to ban not only Emrakul, the Promised End, but Reflector Mage and Smuggler’s Copter, as well, was incredibly controversial. A lot of people would agree that Emrakul, the Promised End was fairly oppressive, and Smuggler’s Copter decks were running amuck But Reflector Mage‘s banning may have been a bit aggressive. Yes, control cards are always “unfun,” but they’re a crucial part to the sustained health of a meta.

It’s possible that Wizards made these bans because of the change in rotation intervals, going back to a full cycle instead of the bi-yearly system. The short cycles allowed for them to experiment with more overpowered, potentially aggressive cards in a more controlled environment, without worrying too much about ruining Standard. However, with the transition back to the norm, some new design choices became too risky to sustain a fun and balanced play environment. Wizards has also recently stated that they are going to attempt to print more “answer” cards in an attempt to once again balance the format. While Standard was planned years ahead of time, and the recent sets were created way before any of the recent events occurred, the printing of cards such as Fatal Push (which I have personally dubbed “the black swords to plowshares”) is definitely a step in the right direction.

Let’s move on to the state of Standard post-bannings/Aether Revolt.

The format seems to be stabilizing fairly quickly. It seems that GW Aggro, Saheeli Combo (or CopyCat), and various aggro/energy decks (Gruul and Orzhov are the most prominent) can definitely be expected to show their faces at tournaments (this is purely based on recent tournament results).

GW Aggro

Back in Shadows Over Innistrad Standard, the Bant Humans strategy with Collected Company/Reflector Mage was the format’s dominant deck. But after CoCo rotated out, it went on a downward spiral until Kaladesh, where it almost disappeared entirely. Smuggler’s Copter, Mardu, and Azorious aggro decks replaced it. However, with Copter out of the picture, it seems that people are exploring the old GW core once again. GW Aggro currently makes up a prominent percentage of the meta game (around fifteen percent). You should definitely expect this deck at FNM.

GW Aggro

Lands (25)
Canopy Vista
Fortified Village
Westvale Abbey

Creatures (18)
Archangel Avacyn
Selfless Spirit
Thalia, Heretic Cathar
Sylvan Advocate
Thraben Inspector
Tireless Tracker

Instants and Sorceries (2)
Declaration in Stone

Other Spells (15)
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
Oath of Nissa
Stasis Snare
Sideboard (14)
Appetite for the Unnatural
Blessed Alliance
Cataclysmic Gearhulk
Quarantine Field
Tireless Tracker

So why has it once again resurged?

The GW Aggro deck is a solid strategy overall. It can attack from multiple angles and is in colors that allow a multitude of sideboard options to prepare for any meta.

Archangel Avacyn is a powerful card that’s up against much of Standard right now. Without the prevalence of Emrakul, the Promised End, a higher curved deck like this can easily exist.

The addition of Thraben Inspector and Tireless Tracker provides some subtle card advantage (both early and late in the game) in the form of clue tokens, while also helping to smooth out the decks fairly high curve. Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar work in tandem to produce tokens and buff your creatures. If needed, Gideon can even act as an indestructible 5/5 in difficult situations to try and push through just enough damage to steal a win.

Saheeli Combo

With the prevalence of Emrakul, the Promised End out of the way (and thus Standard’s main combo deck, Marvelous Energy) and the recent release of Aether Revolt, the opportunity for a new combo deck to enter the meta became perfectly ripe.

Saheeli Combo is what you should play if you’re looking for a combo deck. Compared to Modern’s old Splinter Twin, it has already appeared in lists of top eight decks for various tournaments.

Here’s the generally accepted decklist:

Saheeli Combo

Lands (25)
Aether Hub
Inspiring Vantage
Port Town
Spirebluff Canal
Wandering Fumarole

Creatures (8)
Spell Queller
Felidar Guardian
Torrential Gearhulk

Instants and Sorceries (18)
Glimmer of Genius
Immolating glare
Harnessed Lightning
Radiant Flames

Other Spells (9)
Dynavolt Tower
Prophetic Prism
Saheeli Rai
Stasis Snare
Sideboard (7)
Archangel Avacyn
Dynavolt Tower
Flame Lash

The deck plays very similarly to General Jeskai Control, but has an incredibly solid combo finish. The addition of powerful draw spells and cantrips allow blisteringly fast combo assembly, and the fact that Saheeli is a planeswalker (one of the least interactable permanent types) just adds icing to the cake.

To learn more about how the combo itself works, check out our Card of the Month article.

While this deck could still work without powerful draw spells and redundancy, it definitely wouldn’t be as powerful as it currently is. Without cards such as Anticipate and Glimmer of Genius, the deck would play a more control-based game, utilizing the combo as a random win condition that wouldn’t always occur consistently. The additions of these two spells allows a pilot to sift through their entire deck with ease and swiftly assemble win conditions.

Torrential Gearhulk, on the other hand, provides powerful redundancy to the control aspect of the deck, and allows a pilot to attack from multiple angles if the combo doesn’t go as planned.

Saheeli Combo also includes efficient removal spells, such as Harnessed Lighting and Immolating Glare. These were added to combat Standard’s tendency of containing many low-to-the-ground aggro and creature-based decks.

We are definitely on the forefront of a new Standard meta game, as the format is once again shifting. While it may be too early to tell if these decks will stay at the top, they definitely have a lot of potential, and will likely remain formidable contenders for the foreseeable future.

Are there any up-and-coming decks we may have missed? Leave a comment below and tell us what you think.

And, as always, happy gaming, everyone!



Sylvan Studies Team
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