Team Unified Standard Strategy
- Christian Seibold
Christian has been hard at work prepping for the upcoming RPTQ with his teammates and he has some thoughts on Team Unified Standard and what decks are the decks to watch for. Join him as he dives into this unique format and some of the challenges teams must overcome to bring the best composition to bear.
With the upcoming RPTQs, qualified teams are busy figuring out which three standard decks will lead to the most success. Many players waited for Pro Tour Dominaria to see whether the pros had some new decks worth considering. Needless to say, we were disappointed after 28 copies of Goblin Chainwhirler reached the Top 8. The only really innovative deck was U/G Karn, which first looked sweet, but did not really make waves. In this article, I'll explain how to approach Team Unified Standard and I'll propose viable decks in the current metagame.
Usually the simplest attempt to build three decks for Team Unified Standard is simply looking at the current best decks, followed by choosing three of those decks which do not share cards with each other, or at least which share no irreplaceable cards. Currently I would say that the following can be considered "Tier 1" in Standard: B/G Constrictor, Green Stompy, Mono Red Aggro, R/B Chainwhirler, U/W or Esper Control, and maybe U/B Midrange. Choosing three decks with no overlap is pretty easy with the variety in strategies and cards among the top decks, which is not always the case in unified standard, but you should note that there are other things to watch out for.
A different approach is to look at the different colors and find the best way how to split them. Since we do not live in a multicolor format with tons of great cards in each color and infinite fixing, a configuration of two 2-color decks and one mono color deck makes the most sense. But since there are some great mono color decks in the current standard format like mono red or mono Green Stompy, one three-color deck and two mono color decks is a definite possibility.
Another practice is to look at all viable standard cards as a big sealed pool and, like in Team sealed, you want to make sure that you put all the great cards in your decks. In this case, you want to play cards like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Heart of Kiran, and, of course, Chainwhirler. This approach is useful after you've chosen three decks and want to make sure you got enough power in your composition.
Overlapping Cards and Colors
In general, most card overlaps are either lands or colorless spells like Aether Hub, Karn, Scion of Urza, Walking Ballista, or Vehicles. Even if you find decks that do not share colorless cards in the main deck, you should note that Aethersphere Harvester and Karn, Scion of Urza are popular sideboard options.
In team sealed you often enough build three 2-color decks, which means that you have to split one color. It sounds weird, but splitting a color is much harder in Team Unified Standard than in Team Sealed. Let's just look at some of the most powerful cards of each color.
I cannot image playing a blue deck or black deck without having access to Duess or Negate post board. A red deck without cards like Chainwhirler or Abrade is unthinkable. Also History of Benalia, Cast Out or Fumigate are key cards for white decks at least as sideboard options and a green deck without Llanowar Elves and powerful creatures looks undesirable. Sure, there are niche decks which might survive a color split without hurting other decks too badly, but it makes more sense to just pilot three strong decks with no overlap, rather than forcing a niche deck on your team just so you can have two blue/white/ect… decks on your team.
Ultimately, you should not split any colors, so you either build one 3 color deck and two mono color decks or two 2-color decks and one mono color deck. Now, let's see which decks are possible.
Figuring Out the Perfect Formula
Since red is as powerful as it is right now, you're going to want one on your team no matter what. Red decks are either mono red or mono red splashing black because you want to make sure you can play the aforementioned extraordinary Goblin Chainwhirler. Playing R/B Chainwhirler was a very good choice at the Pro Tour but it's more difficult to play this deck in Unified Standard because it needs too many cards. Even though R/B is nearly mono colored, it takes away Heart of Kiran, Scrapheap Scrounger, and even Duress in the sideboard. If you chose to play R/B Chainwhirler, you can either not play two other Tier 1 decks or you have to cut cards from your other Tier 1 decks. The only option to play R/B is to play U/W Control and mono Green Stompy. This seems to be a good choice, but R/B and mono Green share Heart of Kiran with each other. So, you need to play a R/B version like Thomas Hendricks' from the top 8 of PT Dominaria, which did not include Heart of Kiran and I am not a big fan of that, since the Vehicle is so important against green decks and U/W Control – common matchups in Team Unified Standard.
The R/B decklist without Heart of Kiran is very much like mono red anyway, so it makes sense to just play mono red instead and saving the black cards for other decks. Mono Red was doing pretty well at the Pro Tour and it has a good R/B matchup, so you might even choose mono red anyways, regardless of whether R/B steals cards from your other decks. I'm guessing most people have figured out that one of the three decks should be Mono Red.
Now things get more difficult. This is the point where we actually have multiple decks to decide between and it's wise to spend a moment looking at the powerful cards not covered by mono red. There is, as an example, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, which is probably the most powerful card in Dominaria. I think you should definitely play a Teferi deck and it can either be U/W Control or Esper Control. If you chose to play U/W Control, you've got more options because you have two colors left. With the remaining colors you could either build B/G Constrictor or Mono Green Stompy either with or without splashing black.
If you chose to play Esper Control, then you're stuck with Mono Green Stompy, which is a fine choice, since it is a Tier 1 deck and it does not share any cards with your other two decks, besides Aethersphere Harvester, which is a decent sideboard option in mono red and mono green, but it should be replaceable, at least in the mono red sideboard.
The last indicator you should use when building your team unified constructed lineup is the metagame. Nowadays, the metagame is not as important as in the past. There is no rock, paper, scissor format in standard anymore. If a matchup is good you have maybe a 55% win rate against the opposing deck (60% as it best). Given that, many people will choose to play Mono Red, one control deck and either Constrictor or Mono Green Stompy. I don't think it really matters which composition you want to play. Esper Control is better against Mono Red, due to Fatal Push, Vraska's Contempt and Torrential Gearhulk being pretty good here, but it lacks mass removal against the green deck. U/W is pretty much the vice versa. When it comes to the control mirror, U/W should be a favorite game one, because Essence Scatters aren't dead vs. Gearhulks and Ipnu Rivulet can make a difference. Postboard games grant the Esper deck access to Duress and Arguel's Blood Fast / Temple of Aclazotz. Overall, I think the Matchup should be pretty even.
All in all, while your composition is important, you can't neglect practicing these decks. I really doubt that there are still decks lying around which could break the metagame, given that the Pro Tour yielded no results. Pros wanted to play a deck that beat R/B Chainwhirler, U/W Control or Mono Red but they chose instead to play those decks, rather than trying to beat them.
These are the two compositions I would highly recommend:
Mono-Red; B/G Snake (or G/B Stompy), U/W Control
Esper Control; Mono-Red, Mono Green Stompy
Finally, while I 'm convinced that my mentioned compositions will be frequent, you should of course be ready to meet some Mono White Approach, Mono Black Control, Gift decks, or some other random decks. People often play what they want to play and chose decks they like even though their decks are not the most powerful ones. If you want to maximize your chances to qualify at the RPTQ, however, I suggest playing one of the mentioned compositions. It's definitely key that you adjust your flexible mainboard and sideboard slots for common matchups like Mono Red, Control and Green decks. Good luck at the RPTQ.
Thanks for reading
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.