The Top 5 Decks to Beat in Early Strixhaven Standard
Hello everyone! Every set release puts the meta in a state of extreme flux, new tech being unearthed every day, decks being discovered and discarded, it’s an exciting time to be playing Magic. Even with the chaos, there will always be a subset of decks that stand tall above the rest, cementing themselves as the pillars of their early Standard formats.
Today, we’re going to be talking about the top 5 decks that fill this role perfectly, especially for the upcoming Standard Metagame Challenge. Mind you, this isn’t really a tier list rather than the top 5 decks I’ve been seeing on ladder in the order of how good I think each is. Let’s get into it.
5. MONO RED AGGRO
It’s hard to put Monored down, and if you’re sandydog, they’d have to take Red out of Magic to make him stop playing it. Not only is Monored one of (if not the most) popular deck, but it’s slowly becoming better positioned with Adventures decks in decline and Sultai Ultimatum and Rogues on the rise (spoilers!) Sandydog has been using two new Strixhaven cards in his build to great success: Hall Monitor and Conspiracy Theorist.
Hall Monitor is not a card I would’ve thought was playable, but leave it to the Monored master to prove me wrong. The ability is a bit pricey, but the option to stop Lovestruck Beast or Elder Gargaroth from blocking can easily make the difference between winning and losing.
Conspiracy Theorist is another really innocuous inclusion, but seems really nice thinking about it more. Robber of the Rich has always overperformed in Monored as it gave you a source of tangible card advantage, and Theorist operates in a very similar manner. Sure, Theorist’s ability also costs mana, but you have agency over what card you can pitch and subsequently recast making it a sure thing that you can net a card for 1 mana.
I slated Monored as number 5 on this list as I believe there are definitely better options, but for someone who famously hates Monored, I do like the look of this list.
4. BOROS WINOTA
FINALLY. I’ve been preaching the good word of Winota ever since she came out (post Agent of Treachery ban of course, I’m not a monster) and it’s her time to shine. As I talked about in the deck guide, the deck finally reached a critical mass of good cards to properly support the extremely broken 4 drop. I won’t reiterate what I went over in the Winota article, but the deck has been putting up consistent and impressive performances on both ladder and in tournaments.
Why do I slate it as number 4 then? It’s still a relatively unexplored archetype and it’s going to need time to find the optimal list. Although the deck has been performing well, it’s hard to match the brutal efficiency of decks that have been pored over by thousands of eyes for months. That being said, keep an eye on Winota because I truly believe she’s going to keep making a big splash in this Standard.
3. TEMUR ADVENTURES (OBOSH)
Although I recently talked about my preferred flavor of Adventures, Temur is still going strong both on ladder and in tournaments (especially MTGO challenges). Temur is still the same deck we all know and love from last season, but most lists are playing Prismari Command in the sideboard now. I’m honestly unsure if they’re playing Command because they actually like it, or so people don’t think they’re lame for playing no new cards, it’s a toss up for sure.
Temur was easily the most dominant deck of Kaldheim standard, but with Strixhaven it’s grip on the metagame has definitely relaxed a bit. It has a solid matchup spread across the board, isn’t terribly hard to play, and it’s a relatively well positioned deck overall. My main contention with Temur has always been that it’s a rather clunky deck with a curve much higher than most of the other decks I gravitate towards.
With that, mulliganing becomes a lot more important as a lot of your hands that may look unkeepable for other decks are actually pretty reasonable for this one. Although I don’t believe the deck is too hard to play, it does require some real reps before performing well with it as you’ll have to get used to how a deck with a really high curve operates.
2. SULTAI ULTIMATUM
If you thought you could escape Sultai Ultimatum by introducing another set, you’re sorely mistaken. Sultai Ultimatum interacts with the rest of the metagame extremely well and has one of the most brutal end games in recent Standard history. No matter how far behind you are, an Emergent Ultimatum can undo all the work the other player was setting up. In that vein, it’s kind of like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, but one mana cheaper and generally wins instantly where Ugin took a few turns after that.
Although it seems like a very minor addition, Professor Onyx has been an extremely powerful addition to an already strong deck. First of all, her passive gave the deck much needed lifegain and another alternate win con option. There will be games where you never see an Emergent Ultimatum, so having more ways to win despite that is always welcome. The real reason for her inclusion is obviously her in Ultimatum piles! The deck didn’t have bad Ultimatum piles before, but it now has a new devastating option in Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider, Valki, God of Lies, and Professor Onyx. What this pile allows is you either get a 6/6 and a Planeswalker that can instantly ultimate or 2 Planeswalkers the other player will have to somehow grind through. Sometimes you don’t need a lot from the new set to improve an already powerful archetype.
What I really like against Sultai Ultimatum is that it has such a reasonable matchup spread across the board. Even in it’s bad matchups like Rogues and Monored, with some good sideboard options and configurations, you aren’t even that badly positioned against them. That being said, I still think there’s one deck that rules above all, but thankfully, I don’t think it’s so good it’s oppressive either.
1. DIMIR ROGUES
This was true in Kaldheim and I think it’s still true now, Rogues is just an obscenely good deck that seems to be well positioned no matter what. Only really sporting two bad matchups in Monored and Cycling, Rogues is excellent at kicking in the teeth of any clunky deck daring to go against it. Despite receiving nothing from Strixhaven it’s particularly interested in playing, Rogues still has the power to cement itself in the top tiers of the Standard metagame.
Although I think Rogues is the best deck and it clearly sees a lot of play, I think this is one of the few examples of a healthy best deck. Why? It’s really good, but has foils to it that aren’t unplayable decks in other matchups (Monored and Cycling are both good decks). Furthermore, realistically most decks can beat Rogues if it really wanted to. If you happen to be playing a red deck and are struggling against Rogues, just add in a bunch of Phoenix of Ash and Ox of Agonas into the sideboard until it isn’t. You don’t want to go too hard on Escape creatures? Scorching Dragonfire is a versatile and excellent option against Rogues. Playing a deck with Black?
I know there’s a lot of general Rogues hate amongst the community and the deck can definitely be frustrating to play against, but I’ll take Rogues any day over past Standard’s best decks like Simic Oko, Jeskai Lukka, Jeskai Fires, Temur Reclamation, etc.
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