Hello everyone! I’m back with another list compilation and this time we’re doing it on an extremely underappreciated mechanic: Zendikar Rising’s Party mechanic (a full party consists of up to one each of Cleric, Rogue, Warrior, and Wizard). Party never really got a foothold as a small synergistic creature decks couldn’t really survive in Standard, but I can’t really remember why.
Nevertheless, Standard 2022 unlocks the ability to try a breadth of new strategies, but admittedly, I never even considered making a Party deck. That is, until I faced one. I was so confused when they played a Nimble Trapfinder on turn 2 and figured it would be an easy win. Figured is the operative word.
A lot of the games I lose in 2022 have been due to mana screw or getting run over, but against the Party deck, I felt helpless. They kept expanding their board state, each creature synergizing with the last, and then suddenly starting throwing out Journey to Oblivion and Spoils of Adventure for a few mana a piece. I wasn’t run over, I had lands and spells, I got to do my thing with a great deck, but I was demolished.
With that experience, I got the inkling that Party may actually be viable in 2022. Through extensive games, I’m not here to tell you that this is going to take over the meta anytime soon, but these decks performed way above my expectations and are a fresh way to enjoy 2022. Let’s dive in.
Since this was the deck my opponent annihilated me with, it felt prudent that this is where I should start. I don’t have their list, but this is about the closest representation I could make.
This deck employs the party theme extremely well. It has a really nice mix of creature types for Party, a really good curve, a ton of payoffs, and pretty reasonable mana. Furthermore, with the relative lack of interaction in Best of One, it’s much easier to assemble a party than it normally would be in Bo3.
Before I continue, let’s talk about the mana base for a quick second. It may look like an abomination, but you just mostly pretend it’s a Bant mana base. I initially played 5 Plains, 4 Forest, and 3 Island and was really happy with that color distribution. However, I realized that there’s no card in 2022 that punishes you for playing nonbasics and we have Tazri, Beacon of Unity, so beyond it being a bit annoying to play, the lands are free. This logic will extend for all the Party decks with Tazri in it.
That being said, only use their off color sides if you really need to activate Tazri or you’re flooding and you have more than enough of your other colors to play anything you draw. It’s rare that this will be relevant realistically, but it is technically leaving value on the table by not playing them.
We have a nice 10 one drops at the beginning of the curve to get the party started. Archpriest of Iona serves as both enabler and payoff since it grows with each party member and becomes an insanely powerful threat if you assemble the full squad.
The innocuous Jaspera Sentinel has been absolutely incredible in this deck, likely better here than any other deck I’ve played it in. It’s a Rogue, a 1 drop to start the ball rolling, synergizes extremely well with our other 1 drops, and ramps us into our payoffs extremely quickly.
The last 1 drop member, Usher of the Fallen is definitely the weakest of the bunch, but it’s an early play and a Warrior, a creature type we generally don’t have access to until later in the curve.
Luminarch Aspirant isn’t a card you need to convince anyone to play, but it also serves as a Cleric for the party as well!
Tajuru Paragon can fill any role it needs to, has a solid stat line, and a Kicker ability that can be extremely relevant in the late game. Although it may look worse than a lot of our other cards as we’re mostly playing it for creature types, getting the Party assembled early allows you to start cheating in expensive spells which can quickly overwhelm the opponent.
Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate is somewhat both enabler and payoff, but the ability to lock down a permanent every turn with a full party is just nuts. Furthermore, Linvala can sacrifice herself to protect your entire squad from nearly every type of removal spell which makes her extremely potent offensively, defensively, and in multiples.
The first true payoff, Squad Commander can bring the pain extremely quickly. Since the Warrior type is the one of the least populated in our deck, this can generally fill out the party or at least get close to doing so while producing a lot of bodies in the process. Although getting this for 2 or 3 is still very solid, if you land this with a full party, you’re nearly guaranteed to win the game on the spot.
Tazri, Beacon of Unity is another extremely potent payoff for being in a party. Frequently a 2 mana 4/6, Tazri generally allows you to double spell the turn it comes in and then threatens to draw a bunch of cards with the activated ability (but realistically, most games don’t last that long when Tazri hits the board).
Spoils of Adventure is the main reason to go Blue as you can cast this very consistently starting turn 4 and even relatively consistently on turn 3. 3 life and 3 cards can easily find you a lot of gas or help push you ahead when you’re at parity. Furthermore, if you have a large party later in the game, it’s extremely easy to chain these and it’s not uncommon to play 2 of these and another spell all in one turn.
The final payoff, Journey to Oblivion is this deck’s
All in all, this deck performed way above my expectations as this can race and grind quite well, putting opponents to the test extremely early. However, it wasn’t without faults. By the nature of a 3 color deck, the mana could be shaky at times or you have more spells utilizing the same color than you do sources of that color. This didn’t happen too often, but it definitely is frustrating when it does. With that, I wondered what would happen if you cut a Color from the deck to try and alleviate this issue.
The first direction I headed was to cut Blue from the list. Although Linvala, Shield of Sea Gate and Spoils of Adventure put in work, a lot of the consistency was in the Selesnya portion of the deck. A lot of the numbers remain roughly the same in this list as they were in the Bant list for the aforementioned reasons, but there are some important differences I want to point out.
For this list, we cut down some of the more powerful cards for speed and consistency. For example, we now get to play 12 1 drops in this list versus the 10 in the previous one giving us more opportunities to start the game with a one and further turbo charging our Jaspera Sentinel.
Since we removed Linvala, we get to play Elite Spellbinder in that spot which serves as another Cleric for the party and is a great aggressive threat in general. The last version had very little interaction which makes cutting Linvala scary, but Spellbinder does a great job filling the role of threat and interaction bundled in one package.
Since we lost the late game power of Spoils of Adventure, I replaced it with 2 Esika's Chariot and 1 Legion Angel. Esika's Chariot has no real synergy with the deck, it’s just an extremely powerful card that I’m always happy to play. Legion Angel, although not as powerful as Kitty Cart, is a Warrior for party and also provides some nice card advantage in the late game.
A big disadvantage to this list versus the Bant list (beyond losing the good Blue cards) is the lack of Wizards. It’s much harder to assemble a full party as Tajuru Paragon is now your only Wizard. Although the deck is faster, it can’t necessarily capitalize on the party discounts like Bant could. You could play Star Pupil or Thunderous Orator to help the Wizard count, but both cards are very unexciting.
Losing Blue is sad and making it harder to enable Party isn’t great , but this deck still felt very powerful. Your starts were more punishing since we were more aggressive and the mana was more consistent. GW was a success, but what happens if I cut Green?
Unsurprisingly, this deck is like the inverse of the GW version. Here we give up a lot of the speed of the deck to increase it’s power. Not a huge decrease, but this list only has 8 one drops versus 10 or 12.
However, it’s not the number so much that concerned me, its giving up on Jaspera Sentinel which felt like an integral part of the deck. Furthermore, losing Tajuru Paragon also made assembling a party less consistent in general, an awkward contention in a deck that kept all the party synergy cards.
My fears weren’t unfounded, but the deck still played out quite smoothly. It felt very similar to the Bant deck in most cases and now we had access to the extremely powerful Monk Class which was overall excellent in this build.
On the flip side, losing out on the Green cards and having to play duds like Nimble Trapfinder certainly wasn’t too enticing. We do have a better party split compared to the Selesnya version, but I think we’re giving up slightly too much to put this ahead of the Bant or Selesnya version.
All that said, this version was still a blast to play and finally being able to play Monk Class was definitely welcome. I know all these Party decks have been centered around Bant colors, but do they have to be? I unearthed a blast from the past, a Standard deck all the way from the beginning of Zendikar Rising to try in 2022.
When I first played this deck, it was more of a Lurrus of the Dream-Den midrange deck rather than a dedicated party deck. However, I knew that Rakdos had some solid party synergies as well. I’ll admit off the bat, that although this deck performed decently, the Bant centered versions did perform better overall. There was some definite power there and maybe someone can take this and elevate it even further.
For Rakdos, we only have access to one solid 1 drop in Fireblade Charger. Goblin Javelineer is another 1 drop Warrior that could make the cut, but it seemed a little low powered. Charger is nothing to write home about, but it does trade up often and will generally incentivize the opponent to not attack.
Grotag Bug-Catcher may seem like a meme, but it’s generally a 3/2 Trampler for 2 which is a solid stat line. If you can push it to 4 power, that’s a serious clock you’re putting on the opponent.
Kargan Intimidator is a very solid card that has seen little play due to the Bonecrusher Giant menace. It’s a very aggressively slanted card and can make combat extremely awkward for the opponent, a nice amount of utility for a 2 drop.
Nighthawk Scavenger is one of my favorite cards in general and it provides the important Rogue creature type for all of our payoffs.
Although the enablers in Rakdos are weaker than they are in Bant, the payoffs certainly aren’t.
Malakir Blood-Priest is somehow the worst of all the payoffs as it’ll come in and frequently Lightning Helix the opponent. That’s not mind blowing or anything, but in an aggressive deck that 3 damage can really matter plus this is still a 2/1 body you get to keep around.
Ardent Electromancer doesn’t seem like a Constructed playable rate, but it’s very easy to double or even triple spell when this is in the equation. Furthermore, with 8 red 2 drops, you’re extremely likely to play this into one of those on turn 3.
Zagras, Thief of Heartbeats is the main draw to playing Rakdos. A functional 4 drop, this makes every creature on your board a humongous threat and makes combat an absolute nightmare for your opponent. Furthermore, being able to kill a Planeswalker on hit can provide massive tempo swings as you can more effectively pressure their life total instead of having to send multiple creatures at a walker. Without Zagras, there would be no reason to play Rakdos.
Although not as strong as Zagras, Thwart the Grave is another excellent payoff for playing Party. Most of the time this will be a 4 mana return 2 creatures which is an absurd rate, especially if one of those creatures is a Zagras. Considering the pressure you can put on your opponent, your creatures will be removed quite often which makes it very easy for this card to be relevant even early in the game.
Beyond the party synergy cards, a great advantage this deck gets is the ability to play some removal and MDFCs. Shatterskull Smashing is just a busted Magic card and Agadeem's Awakening is excellent in a deck with a curve as diverse as this.
All that said, Rakdos still did perform worse than the other variants, mostly as a function of the enablers being weaker and the party types not being well split up (this list plays 12 Warriors, 4 Clerics, 4 Wizards, and 8 Rogues). With that, it can be hard to enable party synergies early so that leaves you with a somewhat awkward aggro deck where you’re playing questionable cards. Nevertheless, when you have a solid draw, the deck can perform extremely well and I don’t want to scare anyone away if they are interested in trying it out.
I don’t think any of these lists are going to be taking over ladder, but they are surprisingly strong and a blast to play. I had positive win rates with all of them as well, Bant being the highest and Rakdos being the lowest, but being able to net positive wins with every list is a great sign. If you enjoy playing synergy based aggro decks, I highly recommend you give these a shot. After all, the party don’t start til you walk in.
Thank you for reading!