Hello, fellow planeswalkers!  Welcome to Standard Weekly!

It’s hard to believe it, but we are less than a month away from the release of The Lost Caverns of Ixalan.  This leaves us with three more Friday Night Magic before the prerelease for The Lost Caverns of Ixalan on November 10th.

The good news is that there are at least 20 playable decks in standard.  According to the best of 3 data from Untapped.gg, there are six tier 1 decks and 14 in tier 2.    This may be the most diverse traditional standard format we have ever seen with the likelihood that we will add a few more decks to the mix when The Lost Caverns of Ixalan arrives.  We know that merfolk, pirates, and vampires will play a key role in the set, so having one or more new decks built around these cards is likely.

The most interesting piece of the data is that while Sheoldred, the Apocalypse remains the most played creature card in standard, decks playing Sheoldred only have a 51.7%-win rate and the win rate for these decks only increases to 55.5% when Sheoldred is played in a game.  This is good news for Standard, but we must remember that Sheoldred plays a lot of matches against other Sheoldred decks.  Resulting in a lower win rate for the card.

With Sheoldred more under control, what does this mean for standard?  I feel that many of the decks we saw at World Championship XXIX are viable options to play at Friday Night Magic.  One of the more interesting developments from the tournament was the transformation of the Azorius Soldiers deck into an Azorius Aggro deck.  The changes to the deck resulted in a more resilient game plan that matched up well with the World Championship field.

Player of the Year, Simon Nielsen played the deck at World’s to great success.  Nielsen’s deck used new cards from Wilds of Eldraine to enhance the deck’s power.  Regal Bunnicorn and Werefox Bodyguard enter the deck pushing out cards like Dennick and Valiant Veteran.  Regal Bunnicorn provides the deck with a growing threat that most decks have a difficult time dealing with unless he has direct removal.

AZORIUS SOLDIERS, Simon Nielsen, 3-4th Place Magic World Championship XXIX

CREATURES: (28)

  • 4 Knight-Errant of Eos

  • 4 Recruitment Officer

  • 1 Werefox Bodyguard

  • 4 Zephyr Sentinel

  • 4 Resolute Reinforcements

  • 2 Regal Bunnicorn

  • 3 Harbin, Vanguard Aviator

  • 2 Yotian Frontliner

  • 4 Lunarch Veteran

INSTANTS: (4)

  • 4 Make Disappear

ENCHANTMENTS: (4)

  • 4 Wedding Announcement

LANDS: (24)

  • 4 Seachrome Coast

  • 2 Mirrex

  • 1 Secluded Courtyard

  • 4 Adarkar Wastes

  • 4 Fortified Beachhead

  • 4 Plains

  • 1 Deserted Beach

  • 2 Otawara, Soaring City

  • 2 Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire

SIDEBOARD: (15)

  • 2 The Wandering Emperor

  • 1 Regal Bunnicorn

  • 3 Protect the Negotiators

  • 2 Destroy Evil

  • 2 Lantern Flare

  • 2 Elspeth’s Smite

  • 3 Tocasia’s Welcome

Here is a look at the most successful version of the deck according to Untapped.gg data.

Untapped.gg deck Data

CREATURES: (26)

  • 4 Knight-Errant of Eos

  • 4 Recruitment Officer

  • 2 Werefox Bodyguard

  • 4 Zephyr Sentinel

  • 4 Resolute Reinforcements

  • 3 Harbin, Vanguard Aviator

  • 1 Yotian Frontliner

  • 4 Lunarch Veteran

INSTANTS: (5)

  • 4 Make Disappear

  • 1 Protect the Negotiators

ENCHANTMENTS: (5)

  • 4 Wedding Announcement

  • 1 Virtue of Loyalty

LANDS: (24)

  • 4 Adarkar Wastes

  • 2 Deserted Beach

  • 2 Eiganjo, Seat of the Empire

  • 4 Fortified Beachhead

  • 2 Otawara, Soaring City

  • 2 Mirrex

  • 4 Plains

  • 4 Seachrome Coast

SIDEBOARD: (15)

  • 2 The Wandering Emperor

  • 1 Werefox Bodyguard

  • 3 Protect the Negotiators

  • 3 Destroy Evil

  • 2 Lantern Flare

  • 1 Elspeth’s Smite

  • 3 Tocasia’s Welcome

The primary difference between the two versions of the deck is the inclusion of Regal Bunnicorn in Nielsen’s version versus the inclusion of an additional counterspell and Virtue of Loyalty in the Untapped.gg deck.  In the broader field of decks, you might see at Friday Night Magic, the additional counterspell and Virtue of Loyalty could be better options than the two Regal Bunnicorns.  Why?  Having the ability to play the adventure side of Virtue of Loyalty at instant speed allows you to leave up mana for a counterspell and still have the option of playing the adventure side at the end of your opponent’s turn or during combat to drop a surprise blocker.  The additional counterspell gives the deck the option of countering a spell earlier in the game and still having one for the critical spell your opponent wants to cast later in the game.

After playing both versions of the deck either on Arena or in person, I have found that the deck plays slower than the Azorius Soldiers deck because it does not have the help of Valiant Veteran or Coppercoat Vanguard to boost the power of creatures in the deck.  Given this negative, Azorius Aggro can go very wide.  When Knight Errant of Eos enters play, you can typically get two creature cards from its ability that can be cast that turn or on the next.  This can create a significant advantage on board that many times leads to explosive wins.

Regal Bunnicorn proved to be a solid inclusion in Simon Nielsen’s version of the deck.  It provides a threat that must be dealt with, or it can take over a game.  The limitation I see with Regal Bunnicorn is that it does not have trample, so while you can create a very large creature it can be easily chump-blocked.  Despite this limitation, having a couple of copies of Regal Bunnicorn in the main deck or sideboard feels like a good choice.

Overall, Azorius Aggro does have the power to compete with the best decks in Standard.  It will be interesting to see how The Lost Caverns of Ixalan affects the deck.  Adding an additional flyer to the deck or getting a quality removal spell might be just what the deck needs to remain among the top decks in Standard when we return to Ixalan.

That’s it for this week!  I’ll see you next time!

By: Scott Trepanier

Scott began playing Magic the Gathering in 1994.  His preferred format is standard.  Typically, you will see him playing aggro decks focused on quickly defeating his opponent but will pivot to midrange or control when standard is unfavorable for aggro decks.  He began creating Magic content in 2019.