The Top 5 Standard Decks I’m Considering for the February Kaldheim Qualifier Weekend
Hello everyone! With the Mythic Invitational Qualifier tomorrow, I think it’s prudent to talk about the decks I’m thinking about bringing to the event. I’ve made my decisions on two main criteria: How good I think the deck is inherently and how well positioned it is overall. They will be ordered in how likely I am to bring each deck to the event with the first deck presented (#5) being the least likely, but still good enough to be worth considering. Let’s get started.
Jeskai Cycling is a deck that’s been picking up a lot of steam recently with two successful finishes in the SCG $5k Kaldheim Qualifier. The deck focuses on using your threats that net advantages with cycling in conjunction with Zenith Flare to finish the opponent off. Cycling has the power level to contend with the top decks of Standard and seems decently positioned overall as it’s a huge favorite in any slow matchup. Why do I have it ranked 5th then? I have many personal reasons for placing it at the bottom of decks I’m considering. First, there’s very little player agency. Your game plan is functionally the same every game, play a threat, cycle a bunch of cards, hope that’s good enough.
This plan is powerful, but there is no malleability to it leading to a lot of non-games on one side or the other. Second, the deck can struggle against fast decks. With the right draw, Cycling is easily capable of beating any deck, including fast decks like Monored or Monowhite. The issue though, is that Embercleave is a very problematic card if you didn’t have a turn 1 Flourishing Fox. Lastly, the field is going to be more prepared for Cycling’s existence with cards like Tormod's Crypt and Elspeth's Nightmare. A great deck will always perform the best the first weekend it’s showcased, but once it’s a known quantity, it’s potency will go down significantly. All that being said, I still believe this deck is a strong choice for anybody considering it and a lot of my issues with the deck stem more from the play style rather than it’s chances of being a strong pick for the event.
I have Sultai Ultimatum here for two main reasons: it’s extremely powerful and I believe previous lists are mostly misbuilt. The major misgiving I have with Sultai though, is that it’s very poorly positioned right now. Every deck in Standard has a good plan for Sultai and a lot of them can be very hard for the deck to beat. Monored has a really strong curve and Roiling Vortex, Monowhite does the same and has Reidane, God of the Worthy. If you were thinking of playing an old list of Sultai Ultimatum, I think you’re asking to get eliminated quickly. However, if you try to adapt your lists to make them better suited for the prospective metagame, it could be a good choice.
As you’ve noticed, I have attached two different versions of Sultai Ultimatum. My first iteration is very reminiscent of the old style of Sultai Ultimatum, but with the very important innovation in Fae of Wishes. Fae of Wishes gives the deck two things it was desperately lacking: more 2 mana plays and ways to quickly find you Emergent Ultimatum. If you can stall your aggro opponents, going turn 6 wish for Ultimatum into 1/4 blocker is a very effective strategy. Furthermore, Fae improves the mirror matchup as well since you have access to functional 7 Ultimatums and can tutor for interaction as well. I expect that if Sultai sticks around for any period of time, Fae will become an integral part of it.
The second list I posted is an iteration of a list Erin Kaiba posted, a 60 card version of Ultimatum. This list sacrifices a lot of the power the 80 card version has to offer in exchange for a realistic chance to beat the aggro decks consistently. Chevill, Bane of Monsters is a devastating card for any aggro strategy and has already bailed me out of many games. Furthermore with only 60 cards, naturally drawing your Emergent Ultimatum is significantly more likely. The largest issue with this deck is that you’re a 60 card deck that’s playing 7-9 7 drops in your deck which can make your curve horrendous. If you draw your threats in a timely manner it isn’t so bad, but you’ll have to mulligan significantly more hands compared to the 80 card version. Furthermore, since you don’t have Yorion anymore, you don’t get a free play every game. Despite these issues, I have actually really liked the list. Do I think this is going to shake Standard up? Honestly I have no idea, but I am 5-0 with it on Mythic ladder (all the matchups were various creature decks) so there’s a chance I could play this on Saturday if it continues to prove itself.
I know many players prefer Monowhite over Boros, but I just don’t see the grand appeal. Your curve is a bit lower and you get access to Faceless Haven, both are relatively big boons for Monowhite, but I don’t think that’s better than the alternative. Boros is nearly as fast as Monowhite, the mana has been very consistent, and contrary to popular opinion, I don’t think losing Faceless Haven is that huge of a loss. Don’t get me wrong Faceless Haven is an amazing card, but it’s much higher impact against decks that are looking to 1 for 1 you, not the constant aggro mirrors I have been facing at the top of the ladder.
With that, Boros gives you access to a lot of powerful tools. First, you get to play Bonecrusher Giant which is not only insane right now, but one of the best red cards in general. You get to play a sideboard filled with great removal and threats so you don’t just lose to something like Archon of Absolution. Lastly and most importantly, Showdown of the Skalds is one of the best cards in Standard and you get to play 4! When you build your deck in such a way that you have a lot of creatures and access to cheap removal in the sideboard, each of your Showdown of the Skalds can be extremely backbreaking. I know I’m in the minority here, but I think Boros Aggro has the tools to beat any deck when tuned and played correctly, but doesn’t top my list as I think are still better options overall.
I wasn’t a believer before, but I think the hype around Monored was relatively justified. Although you are playing some extremely suspect cards like Fireblade Charger and Rimrock Knight, the rest of the deck is powerful enough to carry you over the finish line. Despite having a relatively large target on it’s back for a few weeks, yet no deck has come by to convincingly crush it yet. Realistically, it’s hard to beat a deck that has a strong curve, great removal, and access to super powerful cards like Torbran, Thane of Redfell and Embercleave. If you like to play Aggro and don’t mind facing a lot of mirrors, Monored seems like a great choice to make.
I know this deck has been colloquially Naya Fling, but it plays 7-8 cards that have Fury on it! Anyway, Naya is an interesting deck as the only real weakness it seems to have is its own consistency issues. The synergy between Goldspan Dragon and Unleash Fury makes all your slow matchups (matchups that would normally be difficult for regular Naya Adventures to beat) really good. Furthermore, since you’re still a Lovestruck Beast/Bonecrusher Giant/Giant Killer deck, so you have the tools to fend off aggro decks as well. If you can stall the aggro decks long enough, it’s also very likely you can just kill them with a Goldspan Dragon anyway.
Furthermore, all those Adventure creatures pair really well with Edgewall Innkeeper and you can easily kill the opponent with your Innkeeper draws as well. The largest issue I have with this deck is that if you draw too many Unleash Fury, Kazuul's Fury, Sejiri Shelter, and not your creatures, you can very easily lose. Despite that, this deck is powerful, fast, and extremely skill intensive which makes it a really good choice for players who have high confidence in their play. Furthermore, since it has such a varied game plan and a host of powerful cards, it doesn’t seem to really have a bad matchup against any of the most common decks! If I had to decide this second what to register, this is what I would go for.
Thank you for reading! What are you bringing to the MCQ this weekend? Let me know in the comments!