By: Sebastian Hedberg

You are at 18 life and you have your opponent down too 2. One more turn and the game will be yours, so you pass.Your opponent untaps,draws, then a smile breaks out on their face. They tap their lands carefully and play the card and suddenly you realize you’re life is no longer 18 its 0. They managed to get a combo off ending the game in an instant.

This is not legacy or modern, this is standard, a format that has not been this diverse in years. If you’re wondering why you should play standard after hearing about how stale it can be I say this is probably one of the best times to dive in. Currently it is a format that does not punish home-brew decks, it rewards it. So if you’re interested, this article will cover the basic deck archetypes and general tips to building a deck which can be fun and win games at your local Friday Night Magic or Standard tournament. Standard also changes often because cards legal depend on what sets are legal.

Here is a link of the current legal sets :


First lets go over the basic deck archetypes and how they work.

Small disclaimer: There are so many versions of each archetype, this info is based of the the most common ones.



Aggro decks (short for Aggressive) mainly have one goal and that is bring your opponent to 0 as fast as possible. They do this through cheap spells such as creatures and burn. They thrive off tempo and like catch their opponents by surprise. Aggro, especially red aggressive decks tend to be on the cheaper end of magic decks so they are a great way to experience standard.

Aggro is strong against control or any opponent that takes a while to develop their win condition.

Aggro is weak towards mid-range and any decks that can put out creatures quickly like ramp. Normally after side-boarding they lose a lot of their advantage because the opponent knows what they are up too and lose the element of surprise.


Atarka Red



Control is all about slowing the game down and answering your opponents threats with spells equal or less in mana cost. They do this through counter spells,removal and any other spell that can disrupt. They have few win conditions in their deck in favor of answers to their opponents cards. By stretching out games they can dismantle a players game plan and easily take over.

Control is strong against ramp and combo decks due to their reliance on certain cards to bring them ahead and if they are stopped it will slow them down or stop them outright.

Control is weak against aggro,often not being fast enough to answer their threats, and any deck that can throw cheap creatures out at a fast pace makes it hard to gain value killing them. Value in this case means spending less mana on the spells to remove their threats then they spent to play them.


Esper Dragon



Combo decks use a combination of 2 or more cards to set off a chain reaction that either wins the game or sets them up for a really fast win. This standard format is the first in a while that actually has combo decks that are viable tournament decks but not outright broken.

Combo is strong against mid-range normally taking advantage of their long game plan.

Combo is weak against control, often getting their combo dismantled before it sets off.


Ascendancy Combo



Mid-range decks are normally a slowed down aggressive deck. Using removal and controlling the beginning of the game so they can start playing their bigger threats. Their threats also tend to be powerful compared to their mana costs, almost always doing something more than just attacking. For example Siege Rhino.

Mid-range is strong against aggro, killing their threats early and playing creatures which block the way for any further damage.

Mid-range is weak against ramp, not being able to answer their flood of big threats quickly enough.


Atarka Abzan



Ramp is all about playing mana ramp and getting big threats out fast. They do this through cheap mana producing creatures and in current standard Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx.

Ramp is strong against mid-range, due to their ability to put out bigger threats much faster than mid-ranges can answer.

Ramp is weak against control, because control can keep them from getting their mana producing pieces from resolving, slowing them down.


G/R Devotion


So now that you have an idea of the general archetypes you can find a play style that suits you. Remember that even though these archetypes are normally weak against certain decks you can change your odds by properly side boarding and figuring out what people are playing.

Side-boarding is probably the hardest and most valuable part of playing magic. The sideboard is 15 cards you can alter your deck with after your first game or whenever the tournament allows you. (Remember to take side boarded cards out after a match or you can be disqualified)

One of biggest mistakes people make is thinking of their decks as 60 cards and the sideboard separately, instead think of it as a 75 card deck. If your deck was 75 cards would you want all the cards you included? Of course there are times where you have to put one card in there that is normally junk except against that one fringe deck that beats you every time. Creating a proper sideboard is difficult and relies heavily on the current meta game (what people are playing). So sometimes bringing a lot of cards with you and scoping out the competition before the start of a tournament is good and then building your sideboard from the information you gathered.

Don’t be afraid of asking others to see their decks (outside tournaments), many magic players are happy to help and love showing off what they have created. The internet is a great resource for different decks, and can be a great starting point for beginners. Once you figure out how cards function better, you can start home-brewing and creating awesome decks.

Once you have all your 75 cards figured out it’s time to test it. Many stores will have tournaments throughout the week. Look them up and go test what you have created and maybe win some prizes along the way.

Standard is currently more diverse and fun then it has been in a long time. It is a perfect time to start and a perfect time to enjoy magic.