Goblins, Angels, and Knights: A New Standard Format
You might think that after the rotation, merfolk, vampires, pirates, and dinosaurs are the best creature types. But actually, the top tribal decks are now knights, angels, and goblins thanks to Guilds of Ravnica. Today, I want to discuss these decks and explain why they are good for Standard right now.
The early stages post the Standard rotation is my favorite one. Brewers give their best in creating new decks and you end up seeing a variety of different strategies. Now that Guilds of Ravnica has been released, you will not only find Golgari Undergrowth decks, Boros Mentor decks, and Selesnya Go-Wide decks but also tribal decks. After testing some 5-0 decklists in MTGO, I would like to share my thoughts on three interesting decks that focus on specific creature types.
|4Clifftop Retreat||3Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice||2Conclave Tribunal|
|5Mountain||4Lyra Dawnbringer||4Lightning Strike|
|12Plains||4Resplendent Angel||4History of Benalia|
|4Sacred Foundry||3Shalai, Voice of Plenty||3Deafening Clarion|
|4Knight of Grace|
|1Shalai, Voice of Plenty||1Deafening Clarion||3Banefire|
|1Ixalan's Binding||4Seal Away||3Settle the Wreckage|
Angels already had potential pre Guilds of Ravnica because the combination of Resplendent Angel, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and Lyra Dawnbringer seemed powerful. Unfortunately, the Angel Tribal deck did not see play because it was still missing something and other decks like R/B were just too strong.
Come rotation, some of the strongest Standard decks are now gone, but Angel did not lose any card and even got a new one: Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice. Aurelia is a great creature with good stats that can work both offense and defense. In addition, another good card for Angel is Deafening Clarion. This sorcery not only ensures that you do not get overrun in the early game, but it can also give your creatures lifelink, which is extremely helpful when you want to trigger Resplendent Angel. Adanto Vanguard and Knight of Grace are necessary for your early game and they work well with Deafening Clarion and History of Benalia. This white saga should be a staple in all white decks because it is just so valuable. Four Lyras and four Resplendent Angels are obvious picks as your key creatures. Playing three copies of Aurelia and Shalai also make sense because they are legendary creatures and you do not want to draw multiple copies. In your sideboard, you have many removal spells to answer different threats.
Once you stabilize the board, you should have no problem defeating aggro decks and green midrange decks. The most difficult matchup will be against control since you are not really fast, and these decks can answer your important threats with enough removal and counterspells. It will be interesting if we see more Angel Tribal decks in the future, but for now it looks like it has potential.
|23Lands||28Creatures||11Instants and Enchantments|
|4Clifftop Retreat||3Fanatical Firebrand||1Lightning Strike|
|13Mountain||4Goblin Chainwhirler||2Experimental Frenzy|
|2Boros Guildgate||4Goblin Cratermaker||2Response // Resurgence|
|4Sacred Foundry||3Goblin Instigator||3Conclave Tribunal|
|4Legion Warboss||3Radiant Destiny|
|1Volley Veteran||1Conclave Tribunal||1Radiant Destiny|
|3Banefire||2Goblin Trashmaster||3Lava Coil|
|2Risk Factor||2Vanquisher's Banner|
The previous Standard format already saw a Goblin Tribal deck, but it was built around Gate to the Afterlife rather than winning with a goblin army. Now that God-Pharaoh's Gift is gone, Goblin Chainwhirler and his friends are looking for a new home.
The above decklist plays 28 goblins and tries to make the most of your small creatures. What I like most about this deck is that you can keep your creature count very high without having to give up removal spells, since Fanatical Firebrand, Chainwhirler, Goblin Cratermaker, and Volley Veteran can act as removal as well. Legion Warboss plays a big role in this deck because it immediately gives you a 1/1 Goblin token, which can be quite valuable for Skirk Prospector, Siege-Gang Commander, or Volley Veteran. If Warboss survives, it can win you the game pretty fast because flooding the board with goblins is exactly what this deck tries to do with payoff-cards like Radiant Destiny. Goblin Cratermaker is another interesting new addition for Goblin and it functions like a walking Abrade.
While your main plan is to be aggressive with cheap goblins, the deck also plays a few expensive goblins. Volley Veteran is basically a Flametongue Kavu in this deck and Siege-Gang Commander is very good at closing out games. Skirk Prospector helps you ramp into these threats, Goblin Instigator delivers the fodder, and Goblin Chainwhirler is still a really good card for Standard especially because people are playing more 1 toughness creatures. They are no longer afraid of everyone playing Fanatical Firebrand as was the case in the previous Standard format. I also really like Conclave Tribunal in this deck because you can cast it for just one white mana, thanks to your high creature count and token producers. Response // Resurgence looks quite interesting as well because it is either a cheap removal spell for something like Lyra Dawnbringer, or it can finish the game by giving you an extra attack phase. After playing with Experimental Frenzy, I realized how absurd that card is. It can easily cast more than ten spells in one game and is perfect for this deck since you curve out quickly and you have so many cheap goblins in your deck.
The sideboard gives you access to more lords in the form of Vanquisher's Banner, Goblin Trashmaster and Radiant Destiny. Furthermore, you also get several removal spells for problematic creatures. The best sideboard card is probably Banefire as it is a good answer to the Teferi Bant deck. Goblin Tribal may just be the best creature-type deck right now and it is a good choice if you want to stick to one of the most powerful cards in Standard: Goblin Chainwhirler.
|3Forest||4Conclave Cavalier||3Flower // Flourish|
|4Isolated Chapel||3Dauntless Bodyguard||2Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants|
|4Overgrown Tomb||4Knight of Autumn||2Assure // Assemble|
|4Plains||4Knight of Grace||1Status // Statue|
|1Sunpetal Grove||4Knight of Malice||3Assassin's Trophy|
|4Temple Garden||4Pelt Collector||4History of Benalia|
Thanks to Temple Garden and Overgrown Tomb a 3-color aggro deck is viable. This Abzan list tries to maximize the power of History of Benalia by playing many knights. Guilds of Ravnica gave us two new knights, Conclave Cavalier and Knight of Autumn. My last article already talked about the strength of Knight of Autumn, so it's success is no surprise to me because its flexibility is so powerful. Conclave Cavalier is an interesting choice and I originally did not have this card in mind when I thought about the new good cards for Standard. I think the combination of its decent stats, relevant creature type, and resilience justifies its being played here. Knight of Grace and Knight of Malice are obvious choices for a Knight deck as well as Dauntless Bodyguard. Another powerful card in Guilds of Ravnica is Pelt Collector, which works perfectly in this deck because it grows quickly and helps you curve out nicely.
While I like the whole knight theme, I am also a big fan of the three different split cards in this decklist. Flower // Flourish is mainly here for fixing, but it does not get demoted later in the game. With Assure // Assemble, Assure can protect a creature from removal or win combat, and Assemble can simply win you the game, especially when you play it the turn before History of Benalia's last step happens. Assassin's Trophy is a no-brainer for every green/black deck because it is just so powerful. Postboard, you'll have access to three colors, which means you'll have a pretty good sideboard plan (for example) with cards like Vivien Reid, Duress, or Lyra Dawnbringer. I think Knights has potential because the combination of cheap powerful creatures together with good removal spells has always been favored in Standard.
If we look at the most recent winning decklists, we see that most of the Guilds are finding some success, especially in aggressive decks. It will be interesting to see if tribal decks are just trends in the current metagame or if they will actually play big roles in the future Standard format.
Thanks for reading!
Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.