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Best Standard Magic Decks

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

U/B Zombie Emerge

This Blue-Black Zombie deck capitalizes on the Emerge functionality. Emerge was introduced with Eldritch Moon and was very helpful to unleash those big, expensive Eldrazi monsters. Speaking of, the Emerge aspect in this deck is held by one of the more nasty Eldrazi, Elder Deep-Fiend. This Eldrazi has Flash, making it able to be cast any time an instant could be cast. It also has the ability to tap up to four target permanents. Anytime this beast enters play, bad things are going to happen and usually, it means tapping out the opponents entire force for your creatures to run rampant. Obviously, he can be used defensively too, but with how aggressive this deck is, that is a worse case scenario.

Just about any instance where there is a graveyard-related or zombie-related deck, Cryptbreaker will not be very far from it. His ability to pay 2 mana and discard a card to put a 2/2 Zombie into play is really useful here. You can freely use this to discard things like Prized Amalgam. When Prized Amalgam is in the graveyard, when another creature enters play from the graveyard, Prized Amalgam essentially piggy-backs right into the battlefield himself.

Then, you add Haunted Dead into the mix and you have a recipe for domination. Haunted Dead enters play with a 1/1 white Spirit token with flying. Additionally, when Haunted Dead is in the graveyard, you can pay 2 mana and discard two cards, and it returns to the battlefield. So think about this for a moment. Let's say if the cards draw right, you have a Cryptbreaker in play and pay 2, discard Haunted Dead and now you have a 2/2 Zombie. You then pay 2 mana more, and discard two Prized Amalgams, and Haunted Dead comes into play with her 1/1 Spirit friend. Now both of the Prized Amalgam trigger and enter play. So by turn 4 and for just 4 total mana, you have creatures in play.

Scrapheap Scrounger has a similar mechanic to return from the graveyard, but it involves exiling a creature which in a pinch could help, but the fact that he's a 3/2 for 2 mana is the selling point here. Voldaren Pariah is another multi-use beast that can cause death very quickly. She can fly, she transforms, and she can be cast on the cheap through Madness. Not only that, but she transforms through sacrificing other creatures, so you can happily sack the Amalgam's or Haunted Dead's or any of those zombie or spirit tokens. Smuggler's Copter appears here, but it appears everywhere.


Liliana, the sweet mother of the dead. When someone thinks of death and the uprising of the unfortunate souls that have perished, this elegant woman should appear open armed in your mind. She is one of the least costly of the Planeswalker's and is also quite powerful. For one Loyalty, she can reduce if not kill a smaller creature. Spending two Loyalty allows you to essentially dredge a creature. And her ultimate is huge, at the beginning of your end step, create X 2/2 Zombie tokens, where X is two plus the number of Zombies you control. So really, all you need is at least one in play, and then they will multiply faster than rabbits in the Spring.

Grasp of Darkness is here as a removal tool, killing most creatures that will come into combat. I get the usefulness of Key to the City; however, I just think that are a number of other cards that could be more useful here. Key to the City can make a creature unblockable by discarding a card. Like I said, I get the usefulness, I just think there could be more here like maybe a counterspell for example. Sanctum of Ugin is a great land providing 1 colorless mana, but where it becomes scary useful is when that Elder Deep-Fiend enters play, sack the Sanctum, then go fetch another Fiend.

Creatures (24)

  • 4 Cryptbreaker
  • 4 Scrapheap Scrounger
  • 4 Prized Amalgam
  • 4 Haunted Dead
  • 4 Voldaren Pariah
  • 4 Elder Deep-Fiend

Planeswalkers (2)

  • 2 Liliana, the Last Hope

Spells (4)

  • 4 Grasp of Darkness

Artifacts (6)

  • 2 Key to the City
  • 4 Smuggler's Copter
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Lands (24)

  • 4 Choked Estuary
  • 1 Geier Reach Sanitarium
  • 1 Island
  • 2 Sanctum of Ugin
  • 4 Sunken Hollow
  • 12 Swamp

Sideboard (15)

  • 2 Sinister Concoction
  • 3 Negate
  • 2 Transgress the Mind
  • 1 Lost Legacy
  • 1 Murder
  • 1 Pick the Brain
  • 2 Ruinous Path
  • 2 Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet
  • 1 Distended Mindbender


I really like Dev over at Strictly Better MtG and he posted a deck tech for a unique deck, which is effectively a Planeswalker deck. You could just as easily visit his video to see his deck tech, but I'm going to provide my own analysis below. You might be looking at this list and think that these are some of the weaker, lesser useful Planeswalkers, and yes, you would be correct. The reason is that this is designed to be budget conscious. Sure, if budget is not a concern, you could just drown yourself in Liliana, the Last Hope; Gideon, Ally of Zendikar; Chandra, Torch of Defiance; or Nahiri, the Harbinger. But see, that is not what this deck is about, it's about making something unique without breaking the bank.

Representing green is Nissa, Voice of Zendikar. She is particularly useful here because she can create 0/1 Plant tokens that can serve as chump blockers to protect the Planeswalkers. Her ultimate is pretty nice too in gaining life and drawing cards equal to the number of lands you have. Another version of Nissa is present in Vital Force. She's pretty expensive to cast, but her abilities are great. Untapping a land then making it into a 5/5 creature with haste until your next turn is easily the most necessary. Her Loyalty spend to return a permanent from the graveyard to your hand is also highly helpful.


Representing black is Ob Nixilis Reignited. I feel like Ob could have been so much more powerful and destructive, but they made him kind of weak. A little card drawing power at a price and some handy removal, but that's really about it.

Representing blue is Jace, Unraveler of Secrets. In my opinion, he is without a doubt the most sought after Planeswalker in this entire deck. His add Loyalty allows you to Scry, then draw. This is intensely helpful so you can fish for and then harvest whatever you may need. His Loyalty spend can return a creature to the owner's hand, who doesn't want that kind of control. And his ultimate is unmatched, whenever your opponent casts their first spell each turn, it's countered.

Representing red is Chandra, Flamecaller. She is the least interesting of the various Chandra Planeswalker cards out there, but her Loyalty add is particularly needed here because she can summon two 3/1 creatures with haste who die at the end of the turn. These little dudes are one of the only real assault means in this deck.


The rest of the Planeswalkers are multi-color, but rest assured, all five colors of Magic: The Gathering are represented with the gathering of the Superfriends. Dovin Baan is an incredibly strong Planeswalker and does not see nearly enough play as he should. His Loyalty add can effectively disable nearly any creature. His Loyalty pay can give you 2 life and a fresh card draw. And his ultimate forces the opponent to only be able to untap no more than two permanents during their untap step. That is incredible, the amount of control that Dovin can bring is amazing. The downside is that he enters with just 3 Loyalty and can take 4 rounds to build up to the ultimate. In most games, by that time, someone has lost already.

Kiora, Master of the Depths is what I think of when I think of when I think of Aquaman's girlfriend. Her importance here is nearly exclusively for her ultimate. Her add and pay abilities are okay, but her ultimate is something else. You get an emblem that whenever a creature enters the battlefield under your control, you may have it fight target creature. Sure, that's pretty cool, but then getting three 8/8 Octopus tokens makes it well worth it.

Kiora's land-loving counterpart is Arlinn Kord. This shapeshifting Planeswalker is the mother of wolves and is without a doubt the best tool for producing token creatures for both attack and defense. And yes, it is better than Nissa mentioned above because it is free to make a 2/2 Wolf token, and then she transforms into Arlinn, Embraced by the Moon. Her wolf form adds all kinds of additional functionality, but creating that free token is why she's worth it.


Last but not least is Sorin, Grim Nemesis. So one of the things I like to do when I'm playing is to imagine the combat, spell casting, and everything that is happening, unfolding in my mind as if I'm watching a movie. With that being said, Sorin seems like he would be a huge jerk. I'm not super big into the story which if I were, might better elaborate on what Sorin is like in the actual universe of Magic: The Gathering. But seeing as I don't, I just like to make it up as I go along. He just so happens to be the source of a great story too. I have a Standard format Death and Taxes deck that worked okay at one of the Standard Showdown events but, is really best suited as a casual deck. Anyhow, in one of my games I had amassed 29 points of life. I was able to trigger his ultimate which places a number of 1/1 Knight tokens with lifelink into play equal to the highest life total among all players. Needless to say, my army exploded in just one turn.

Even though these Planeswalker's are powerful in their own right, they are still considerably vulnerable and need support. Oath of Nissa is one of those supports which allows you to fetch a creature, land, or Planeswalker from your top three cards. One of those goes into your hand and the rest on the bottom of the library. Not only that, but you can also use any mana color to cast Planeswalker spells at any time. Oath of Gideon comes into play with two 1/1 Kor Ally tokens. Additionally, each Planeswalker you control enters play with an additional Loyalty counter on it, and that in and of itself is incredibly helpful.

Consulate Skygate is a wall (the updated term is Defender) that is the single best source of defense for your Planeswalkers. Servant of the Conduit and Cultivator's Caravan are really intended to be used primarily as mana support in the event that you are not getting the right mana that you need. Obviously, with a five color deck, there needs to be a variety of land to provide all the sources that you need. If this were a Modern or Legacy format deck, not only would the budget-conscious aspect get thrown clear out the window but could be really devastating actually.

Planeswalkers (16)

  • 2 Nissa, Voice of Zendikar
  • 2 Dovin Baan
  • 1 Kiora, Master of the Depths
  • 2 Arlinn Kord
  • 2 Ob Nixilis Reignited
  • 2 Nissa, Vital Force
  • 1 Jace, Unraveler of Secrets
  • 2 Chandra, Flamecaller
  • 2 Sorin, Grim Nemesis

Non-Planeswalker Cards (18)

  • 4 Oath of Nissa
  • 3 Oath of Gideon
  • 3 Consulate Skygate
  • 4 Servant of the Conduit
  • 2 Cultivator's Caravan
  • 2 Deploy the Gatewatch

Lands (26)

  • 4 Aether Hub
  • 3 Evolving Wilds
  • 2 Prairie Stream
  • 3 Tranquil Expanse
  • 1 Woodland Stream
  • 1 Cinder Barrens
  • 5 Forest
  • 3 Plains
  • 2 Island
  • 1 Mountain
  • 1 Swamp

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