Going for the Gold: The Best Deck in Standard
It's been a long time since I wrote an article but before the drop of the new Standard format at Pro Tour Aether Reborn, I wanted to bring you some hot of the press news. There is only one really good deck in Standard, and it revolves our newest planeswalker friend, Saheeli Rai.
Over the past couple weeks, Saheeli Rai and her favourite cat (Felidar Guardian) have been tearing it up across Standard whether it was Jeskai Saheeli, 4c Saheeli, or other variants. The way the combination works is that you use Saheeli Rai's -2 ability to copy Felidar Guardian who will blink the Saheeli Rai and the loop will continue until you make as many hasted 1/4 attackers as you like. This is a very similar combo to Splinter Twin which was not nearly as oppressive in Modern as this deck has been in Standard. Both of the cards can be good on their own and this is what makes playing against the combo so frustrating.
My friend Jamie Archdekin, who I am testing with for this Pro Tour, compares it to the old UW Eldrazi versus RG Eldrazi. Jeskai Saheeli is the purest form of the combo deck and has many counterspells and draw to help it combo the opponent out and protect themselves and the combo while doing so. This is the best version of the combo deck, similar to UW Eldrazi in its hay-day. However, there are always some pesky magic players out there who will do anything to keep you from winning against them, and in those cases the 4c Saheeli deck shines.
This is the version of the deck that I think is the best one to play if you are choosing to play one:
The mirror comes down to an early turn 3 Saheeli for whoever is on the play, or positioning yourself to win the long game through Torrential Gearhulk and resolving Glimmer of Genius multiple times. The first stage of the game is being able to play a turn 3 Saheeli unabashed through countermagic. Since typical lists only resolve 2 copies of interaction to prevent the player from resolving it, it is a good idea to attempt this on the play only. Once the planeswalker has landed, you can sculpt your hand and your end of turn spells are harder for your opponent to fight over since they are in fear of losing to the combo.
This is also the reason why we chose to play 4 Felidar Guardian and not 3 so that we could reliably draw up the combo on turn 4 if our opponent does not respect it. Also, we are playing 2 Revolutionary Rebuffs in the main deck to prevent our opponent from casting a turn 3 Saheeli and Negate is not good against the other creature decks so this is more of a hedge.
The four copies of Glimmer of Genius, Harnessed Lightning, Saheeli Rai, and Anticipate is standard and they make up the cornerstone of the deck. However, we have also added a fourth Torrential Gearhulk since a lot of players will be anticipating the combo and will have various maindeck cards to protect themselves. Torrential Gearhulk doesn't care about Implement of Combustion or Authority of the Consuls, he will just beat you all the same. Disallow has already proven itself to be a Standard Staple and this Voidslime reprint is a great four of in the 75. Oath of Jace helps you find the right cards in each matchup, while allowing yourself protection from flood and can be blinked by Felidar Guardian.
In the sideboard, we have a transformational package to help us against aggressive decks where we bring in an extra 2 Fumigates (which are amazing against BG), 1 Radiant Flames, 2 Oath of Chandra (a repeatable incinerate against creatures due to the Felidar Guardian) and finally a Linvala, the Preserver to buffer your life total and board state. The extra counterspells are great in the mirror and against other blue decks and the Gideon, Ally of Zendikars allow us to pressure our opponents if they potentially have Lost Legacys. Dragonmaster Outcast is amazing in the mirror and Decommission is a catch-all that at worst can kill a Torrential Gearhulk.
Unfortunately, I will not be playing Jeskai Saheeli at this Pro Tour as there will be too many mirror matches and we think that we have found a deck that not only beats it, but is decently positioned in the format? What deck is that you say? Make sure you tune in after the Pro Tour to find out.
PS: If you have any Saheeli Rai's, this deck is very likely to not survive the next B&R announcement (depending on how the Pro Tour goes)