A Pinch of Spice: Three Standard 2022 Decks from the Weekend Tournaments

Over the last weekend, the first tournaments featuring cards from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms took place, giving us a first look at what the competitive formats might look like going forward. Thus far, much of competitive Standard and Historic look pretty much the same as before. Even Standard 2022, the new MTG Arena format which only includes cards that will be legal post-rotation, seems to be falling into some familiar archetypes- Izzet Dragons, Mono Green and Mono White Aggro are all doing quite well so far- although they look quite a bit different without access to powerful cards from Eldraine, Ikoria, and Theros.

In spite of the popularity of familiar archetypes, the release of a new set always brings some innovation, and Adventures in the Forgotten Realms is no exception. In particular, the Standard 2022 format has seen a number of new decks cropping up, and some of those got to see play in competitive events over the weekend. In this week’s A Pinch of Spice, we’re going to take a look at a few of the more unusual decks that were still able to perform admirably at the competitive level. All of the decks we’re looking at today are from the Standard 2022 format, as unfortunately there aren’t many new archetypes running around in current Standard or Historic, and I wasn’t really able to dig up any decks from this weekend’s tournament scene that both performed reasonably well while also being unique enough to bother with.

As with previous installments of this series all of the decks we’re going to be looking at are built for best-of-three tournament play. As of right now, the Standard 2022 queues on MTG: Arena are best-of-one only, so if you’re going to try them out on the ladder, you may find it beneficial to swap in cards from the sideboard or make other maindeck changes for the (typically more aggressive) best-of-one meta.

Standard 2022

Righteous Valkyrie
Righteous Valkyrie Art by Chris Rahn

Orzhov Angels by Phillip M 

Creatures (19)
2
Loyal Warhound
4
Luminarch Aspirant
4
Youthful Valkyrie
4
Righteous Valkyrie
3
Skyclave Apparition
2
Legion Angel
Spells (10)
2
Emeria's Call
2
Vanishing Verse
3
Inscription of Ruin
3
Starnheim Unleashed
Enchantments (7)
4
Firja's Retribution
3
Rampage of the Valkyries
Lands (24)
4
Brightclimb Pathway
4
Cave of the Frost Dragon
4
Plains
4
Shineshadow Snarl
8
Swamp
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Bloodchief's Thirst
2
Vanishing Verse
2
Guardian of Faith
4
Umbral Juke
2
Legion Angel
3
Shadows' Verdict

This time around, we’re going to go through the decks in order of how well they performed in their respective events. This particular deck took 3rd place at this weekend’s Hooglandia Open tournament featuring Standard 2022. Although it doesn’t have many cards from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, midrange creature decks like Orzhov Angels haven’t had much opportunity to flourish in current Standard. The resilience of fast aggressive decks like Mono White and Mono Red mean that midrange decks are kept under pressure, while absurd over-the-top spells like Emergent Ultimatum and Alrund's Epiphany make it extremely difficult for them to keep up in the late game.

Standard 2022 offers a much friendlier environment for midrange decks, and decks like this Orzhov Angels pile may turn out to be a real competitor in the new format. This deck is built upon the powerful angel cards from Kaldheim, which combine good rate creatures with strong removal such as Firja's Retribution and Rampage of the Valkyries. These cards, when paired with existing mono-white staples like Luminarch Aspirant and Skyclave Apparition, provide enough aggression to pressure slower decks while keeping aggressive decks off the board long enough to overpower and outsize them.

Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients Art by Anna Steinbauer
Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients Art by Anna Steinbauer

Mardu Midrange by William Davies 

Planeswalkers (4)
3
Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients
1
Lolth, Spider Queen
Creatures (20)
2
Blackbloom Rogue
2
Forsworn Paladin
4
Luminarch Aspirant
2
Nullpriest of Oblivion
4
Nighthawk Scavenger
4
Skyclave Apparition
2
Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats
Spells (8)
2
Emeria's Call
4
Deadly Dispute
2
Crippling Fear
Artifacts (8)
1
Leather Armor
1
Reaper's Talisman
4
Spare Dagger
2
Maul of the Skyclaves
Lands (20)
4
Blightstep Pathway
4
Brightclimb Pathway
4
Needleverge Pathway
2
Plains
4
Shineshadow Snarl
2
Swamp
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Reidane, God of the Worthy
3
Check for Traps
2
Fracture
2
Vanishing Verse
1
Weathered Runestone
2
Elite Spellbinder
1
Crippling Fear
2
Shadows' Verdict

This deck was also a high performer at the Hooglandia Open, managing a 5th place finish at the Standard 2022 tournament. This deck runs more cards from AFR than the last, and it also runs three copies of a planeswalker that’s barely been played since it was released in Zendikar Rising: Nahiri, Heir of the Ancients. The end result is an odd midrange pile that runs a smattering of equipment (including four copies of the new, seemingly insignificant card Spare Dagger) and a range of value producing creatures from Nullpriest of Oblivion to AFR’s Forsworn Paladin.

One new card that seems to be showing up in a lot of these Standard 2022 piles is Deadly Dispute, a sacrifice-fueled draw spell that’s reminiscent of Village Rites but creates a treasure at the cost of one additional generic mana. This AFR common seems to be pulling its weight, and many of the AFR cards with treasure synergies seem like they might be playable in Standard 2022- especially with Goldspan Dragon still legal in the format.

Kaya, the Inexorable Variant Art by Dopaprime
Kaya, the Inexorable Variant Art by Dopaprime

Abzan Snow by Gonzalo Dominguez 

Planeswalkers (4)
2
Kaya the Inexorable
1
Lolth, Spider Queen
1
Professor Onyx
Creatures (5)
3
Tangled Florahedron
2
Spirit of the Aldergard
Spells (19)
1
Pelakka Predation
3
Flunk
4
Vanishing Verse
1
Search for Glory
2
Soul Shatter
2
Starnheim Unleashed
3
Doomskar
2
Blood on the Snow
1
Harness Infinity
Enchantments (8)
4
Glittering Frost
4
Binding the Old Gods
Lands (24)
2
Arctic Treeline
1
Brightclimb Pathway
2
Darkbore Pathway
4
Necroblossom Snarl
3
Snow-Covered Forest
1
Snow-Covered Plains
5
Snow-Covered Swamp
2
Snowfield Sinkhole
4
Woodland Chasm
Cards (60)
Sideboard (15)
2
Ray of Enfeeblement
4
Check for Traps
4
Skyclave Shade
1
Witherbloom Command
1
Crippling Fear
2
Cragplate Baloth
1
Harness Infinity

Finally, we have a snow-based deck that finished 11th at the Insight Esports Tier 1 Open. This deck is on a grindy, controlling plan that aims to keep the board clear with spot removal and sweepers like Doomskar and Blood on the Snow long enough to take control of the game with its powerful suite of planeswalkers. We’ve seen snow control decks like this pop up from time to time in regular Standard, usually built with Yorion, Sky Nomad as a companion.

In Standard 2022, however, there are no companions and the power level is a fair bit lower in general. Sweeper heavy decks like this one were at their worst when the best aggressive decks in the format have cards like Selfless Savior functioning as protection for their key creatures. However, Standard 2022 does not include Selfless Savior or Alseid of Life's Bounty, meaning that decks like this one, piles of sweepers and removal backed by a top-end wincon, may have more of a shot in the format.

It’s interesting to note that all three of the deck’s we’ve discussed here run Vanishing Verse in either the maindeck or the sideboard. It’s a powerful removal spell for sure, and without access to the longtime staples Heartless Act and Eliminate, it looks a lot more appealing than it has in current Standard. I suspect that Vanishing Verse will be good in Standard 2022 for as long as it hits the most important threats, and with Mono Green and Izzet Dragons (which relies heavily on the mono-colored Goldspan Dragon and Iymrith, Desert Doom) emerging as the early frontrunners, there’s no lack of verse targets for now.

Paul

Dude from Vermont who likes to play Magic and Escape from Tarkov. Musician, writer, and gamer. Submit feedback or corrections to @Paul on the Discord.