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The Best Standard Magic Decks

Adam Warner is a Magic: The Gathering enthusiast and loves breaking down game strategy.

The Mile-High city hosted one of the major Magic: The Gathering events in the first weekend of December. This Grand Prix event saw several of the usual suspects but also saw some variations that don't make it to the top very often. Mardu Vehicles may have taken the title, but seeing a deck focusing on Panharmonicon was refreshing.

In Spain, half of the decks in the top 8, including the winner, were R/G Aetherworks. I feel like Aetherworks Marvel took a while since Kaladesh launched before players really began to understand it and learn how to use it. At the Star City Games Invitational in Atlanta, we saw a deck take first place that I have yet to see in any of the Standard decklists that I've looked at: Esper (U/W) Aggro.

W/U Panharmonicon

Anytime you see white and blue in a deck in the current Standard format, there are a lot of similar cards you're going to see. With this version of Panharmonicon, there are quite a few cards that are not seen very often.

Thraben Inspector is that 1/2 for one white mana that also investigates, one of the better common cards from Kaladesh. The Reflector Mage makes an appearance for that element of control to ensure that certain tools can get put into play without major opposition. Cloudblazer is a card that doesn't get much play namely because it's a 2/2 flier for five mana, however, when she comes into play you gain 2 life and draw two cards.

Glint-Nest Crane is one of my favorites because when it comes into play, you can preview the next few cards and pull an artifact into your hand; that is very important to get that Panharmonicon sooner than later. Pilgrim's Eye is also a creature you don't often see. It's a 1/1 flier for three mana which also serves as a mana fetch. The Stasis Snare is another one of those "just in case" control aspects.

Now come the Eldrazi, the first being Drowner of Hope. This beefy critter comes in as a 5/5 but also brings in two 1/1 Eldrazi Scion tokens. The Thought-Knot Seer is another seldom seen creature who allows you to view and exile a nonland card from the opponent's hand. I think that people sometimes look at Eldrazi Displacer and think, "What's the point of being able to blink a creature into exile then back into play?". The answer to that is Panharmonicon.

Speaking of which, Panharmonicon is an artifact that looks for any artifact or creature that enters the battlefield. When that artifact or creature causes a triggered ability, that ability triggers a second time. That is why Eldrazi Displacer is so important.

For the purpose of a generic example, let's say you have Panharmonicon in play alongside Eldrazi Displacer. You cast Glint-Nest Crane and because of Panharmonicon, you get to look at four cards, pull an artifact and then pull four more, and pull another artifact. Then you can use the Displacer and blink the Crane again, repeating the process. Basically, for five total mana (two for the Crane and three to activate the Displacer), you get to search the top sixteen cards of your library and pull up to four artifacts. This is exactly why there are four Smuggler's Copter and two Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.

Creature (23)

  • 4 Thraben Inspector
  • 4 Reflector Mage
  • 4 Cloudblazer
  • 4 Glint-Nest Crane
  • 1 Pilgrim's Eye
  • 2 Drowner of Hope
  • 1 Thought-Knot Seer
  • 3 Eldrazi Displacer

Artifact (10)

  • 4 Smuggler's Copter
  • 4 Panharmonicon
  • 2 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

Enchantment (2)

  • 2 Stasis Snare

Land (25)

  • 4 Evolving Wilds
  • 4 Prairie Stream
  • 1 Wastes
  • 9 Plains
  • 5 Island
  • 2 Westvale Abbey


  • 1 Thought-Knot Seer
  • 2 Linvala, the Preserver
  • 3 Fragmentize
  • 2 Spell Shrivel
  • 1 Immolating Glare
  • 2 Aether Meltdown
  • 1 Summary Dismissal
  • 1 Negate
  • 2 Filigree Familiar

Key Cards of W/U Panharmonicon

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R/G Aetherworks

There are quite a few variations of Aetherworks decks but one of the most devastating has been the red and green flavor. The quick and dirty general idea of this deck is simply to get energy stored up, drop Aetherworks Marvel, then release the beasts. Here is a truly ideal curve for a perfect match:

  • First turn: play a forest, cast Attune with Aether, get another forest and two energy
  • Second turn: play a forest, cast Servant of the Conduit, get two energy
  • Third turn: play a forest, cast both Attune with Aether and Servant of the Conduit, get another forest and four energy
  • Fourth turn: play a forest, cast Aetherworks Marvel, spend six energy and look at the top six cards of your library for one of your heavy hitter cards and cast it without paying the mana cost

Chandra makes an appearance in this deck because she is a powerful planeswalker and at just 4 mana, there is a lot that she can do, the most valuable being for one loyalty she adds two red mana to your pool. Quickly moving to the creatures is like looking at a zoo full of gigantic, dangerous, nearly unstoppable monsters. Emrakul, the Promised End is a massive 13/13 who lets you take over your opponents next turn.

Ishkanah, Grafwidow is a dominating force by herself, but when her delirium effect is satisfied, has been known to end games the moment it hits the table. Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger is a 10/10 who exiles any two permanents upon entering the battlefield, is indestructible, and ingests twenty cards from a defending players library every single time it attacks. And then there's the cute little Servant of the Conduit who's importance was described in the above example.

Attune with Aether, again discussed above, is essential to getting Aetherworks Marvel juiced up. Tormenting Voice is perfect for this deck to discard what might be needed to get to delirium for Ishkana, I'm surprised there is only one in here, though. Harnessed Lightning is a perfect addition for this deck because it both adds energy and can use energy to eliminate unwanted creatures.

Kozilek's Return is a useful creature wipe tool because it can do 2 damage to all creatures and if it's in your graveyard when Ulamog or Emrakul arrive, Kozilek's Return can return to do 5 damage to every creature. Obviously, that kind of damage will have virtually zero effect on either of those Eldrazi, but should clear the board of most of what the opponent will have.

Vessel of Nascency is the perfect tool to feed your graveyard for a variety of things. You could use this to put Kozilek's Return directly into your graveyard for a sneaky attack or fetch that one big critter that you need. Woodweaver's Puzzleknot is a good insurance policy because when it enters play, you gain 3 life and get three energy.

Additionally, you can pay three mana and sack it for 3 more life and three more energy. Then we have Aetherworks Marvel, I think the usefulness of this artifact was made very clear in the above example. In most games, this one needs to be used once for maximum potential. Aether Hub is a land that will get you one more energy upon entering.

Planeswalker (3)

  • 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance

Creature (12)

  • 4 Servant of the Conduit
  • 4 Emrakul, the Promised End
  • 3 Ishkanah, Grafwidow
  • 1 Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger

Sorcery (5)

  • 4 Attune with Aether
  • 1 Tormenting Voice

Instant (6)

  • 4 Harnessed Lightning
  • 2 Kozilek's Return

Artifact (8)

  • 4 Woodweaver's Puzzleknot
  • 4 Aetherworks Marvel

Enchantment (4)

  • 4 Vessel of Nascency

Land (22)

  • 8 Forest
  • 4 Mountain
  • 4 Game Trail
  • 4 Aether Hub
  • 2 Evolving Wilds


  • 4 Galvanic Bombardment
  • 2 Weaver of Lightning
  • 2 Tears of Valakut
  • 3 Tireless Tracker
  • 1 Natural State
  • 1 Nissa, Vital Force
  • 1 World Breaker
  • 1 Appetite for the Unnatural

Key Cards of R/G Aetherworks


Esper Aggro

Although this Esper Aggro deck is officially comprised of white, blue, and black, there is very little black to speak of. In fact, in the main deck, the only black to speak of is the land Concealed Courtyard which provides both white and black mana, and the black mana required to activate Scrapheap Scrounger's ability. That's it. This deck could very easily become a white and blue aggro deck with the change of two cards. In reality, this is fairly close to being a W/U Flash deck, but is meant to be a bit more proactive than reactive.

Scrapheap Scrounger is a popular attacker, 3/2 for two mana who cannot block. Reflector Mage and Spell Queller are just two of the major elements usually found in W/U Flash, and of course are making an appearance here. Personally I think to make this an even more aggro deck, those could be swapped out for any number of white cards.

Thraben Inspector is arguably one of the best first turn drops in the Standard format right now accompanied by one of the other best first turn drops, Toolcraft Exemplar. Gideon, Ally of Zendikar is here because there is virtually no white deck that doesn't have this champion in it. The Mana Source just had a video over the weekend that explained why Gideon is the best card in Standard right now, watch the video below.

The spells in this deck include Smuggler's Copter, also known as the Looter Scooter. Always Watching is a great enchantment since it gives non-token creatures a +1/+1 and vigilance. Stasis Snare, Revolutionary Rebuff, and Declaration in Stone are present as general purpose control elements.

Creatures (20)

4 Scrapheap Scrounger
4 Reflector Mage
4 Spell Queller
4 Thraben Inspector
4 Toolcraft Exemplar

Planeswalkers (2)

  • 2 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar

Lands (24)

  • 5 Island
  • 7 Plains
  • 4 Concealed Courtyard
  • 4 Port Town
  • 3 Prairie Stream
  • 1 Westvale Abbey

Spells (14)

  • 4 Smuggler's Copter
  • 3 Always Watching
  • 4 Stasis Snare
  • 2 Revolutionary Rebuff
  • 1 Declaration in Stone


  • 3 Ceremonious Rejection
  • 3 Spell Shrivel
  • 1 Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
  • 1 Bruna, the Fading Light
  • 2 Gisela, the Broken Blade
  • 2 Thalia, Heretic Cathar
  • 1 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
  • 2 Fragmentize

Top 10 Best Standard Cards From the Mana Source

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