Guilds of Ravnica Standard – The Best of the Rest (Tier 2 and FNM Decks)

By now you have seen my article declaring Teferi and Nicol Bolas as the pillars of Tier 1 decks in the new meta, as well as my article declaring that Red is Dead!  But between the heroes and zeroes lies a wide open field that is ripe for some decks that were previously oppressed out of the format by The Scarab God and Hazoret the Fervent.  I fully expect these decks to come back and have strong showings at FNM, especially early in the meta while the true Tier 1 decks are figuring out their lists.  The synergistic nature of Ravnica sets also typically gives us some extremely powerful build-around style multi-color cards that can power their own new decks/archetypes.

One of the glaring standouts from the previous meta that should be able to perform very well at FNM’s, and probably even into the late rounds of GP or SCG Open-level tournaments, is the Green-Red Monsters archetype.  The deck did lose quite a bit of late game reach with Rhonas the Indomitable and Glorybringer rotating out. However, I would expect the addition of Nullhide Ferox and leaning heavier into Vine Mare, to mean that this deck can get big, fast.  The mana is a bit rough because we don’t get Stomping Ground until Ravnica Allegiance gives us the Gruul Clan in January, so I expect the deck will have to rely on enchantment-based color fixing/ramp effects in Gift of Paradise and Song of Freyalise until then.  And just as a teaser to my RAL predictions article, you may have noticed I mentioned the Gruul a second ago…Well, big beefy monsters is what they do, so this might be a good place to be in preparation for Standard in 2019.  This is my initial take on the archetype:

Another good deck from last season that is also missing its shockland in the mana base is White-Black Knights.  History of Benalia is definitely still a real card and should be played if you plan on playing a white-based deck.  I don’t expect the Orzhov deck to remain a Knights deck come next year, due to their inherent nature of being non-aggressive and winning through life-total manipulation.  What I DO fully expect out of White-Black Knights is for the deck to make its mana better by splashing green for access to Temple Garden and Overgrown Tomb as well as the addition of Assassin’s Trophy and Knight of Autumn.  Here is a first take on the deck:

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Grixis Dragons was a deck that popped up from time to time in the Magic Online 5-0 lists.  It is a similar to the Grixis Control list that I published in my “winners” article, except there are dragons to close out the game instead of stifling, claustrophobic and insufferable inevitability.  This deck leans on the immense power that a dragon should bring to the table, being ramped out a few turn early thanks to Sarkhan, Fireblood‘s SECOND plus ability.  Some games will be won by Niv-Mizzet and a ton of card draw. Some games will be won thanks to a flashy Nicol Bolas  Some games will be won by ramping out a couple fatties a few turns early.  And some games will be won by simply hard casting a couple regular run-of-the-mill flying, fire-breathing lizards.  The point is: GAMES WILL BE WON!

This next deck falls directly in the “but didn’t you say…” category.  I know, I know.  It’s Mono-Black.  There are a couple things to be said about the recursive nature of Zombies and let us not forget that Guilds of Ravnica brings us one of the best creatures, on rate, ever printed in Doom Whisperer.  A 6/6 flyer WITH trample AND upside in a mana-less ability to manipulate the top of your deck and/or fill your graveyard at instant speed (whatever your goal may be).  Sign. Me. Up.  Sprinkle in the best removal suite available and you’ve got yourself a very powerful synergy based deck.

Preview season is always a fun time to watch the excitement of our great community rally around the new hotness coming out, or a new piece to an old puzzle now unlocked.  I know I’m looking forward to getting out there and seeing where this format ends up.  Are we doomed to watch our opponents play magic solitaire, or will the meta balance itself out to allow one of these Tier 2 options shine on any given weekend?  One thing I do know for sure is I will be slinging spells at my LGS, fondly recalling my first FNM 6 years ago at RtR release weekend.

Eric has been an avid Magic fan and player since re-discovering the game in 2012. He is a Red mage at heart but likes to confuse himself with the varying decision trees presented by mid-range and control decks from time to time.
Eric plays mostly casually with his 9-year-old daughter, but manages to get out for every prerelease and a few FNM’s and GP’s every year.

Please reach out to me on twitter @edubious

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