Going Rogue: Midrange and Budget Decks before M19 Standard

Just a week before Core 2019 pre-releases and Standard is looking much better. Fresh cards will enter the format and maybe even a banning announcement? Either way, it's time to consider some rogue decks from the past two GPs and some cheap variants to power up with the new set.

Nicol Bolas M19
Image © Wizards of the Coast

After the last two Standard GPs, it seems that Standard has adapted to Goblin Chainwhirler's supremacy. Mono Red and Red-Black aggro are still the top contestants so far, but other alternatives are emerging to fight back.

Today, we will review some of the winning strategies from previous weeks and a couple of rogue variants, while considering some M19 cards to improve these strategies. Let get started!

#4: Green-Blue Karn

Let's start with this midrange shell that was on my radar during Pro Dominaria.

It was the weapon of choice for a few Channel Fireball pro players, such as Sam Pardee but ultimately, it didn’t perform that well. Nevertheless, Ivan Floch was able the win matches in a field full of red decks with a quite respectable 7-3.

Karn, Scion of Urza is the key card that generates both card advantage and token threats. In order to make the constructs really effective, the deck runs twelve artifact creatures, including Walking Ballista and Verdurous Gearhulk. Both combine perfectly with the counter theme.

Glint- Nest Crane allows us to dig for the artifact that we need the most. Scrap Trawler rebuys artifacts, either when he dies or when another artifact goes to the graveyard, like the previously used Ballista or Renegade Map.

The deck seems synergistic and fun. But after the Pro Tour, nobody has been really interested in improving it anymore. So, why don’t we give it a chance?

In M19, there are have several artifact-centric cards, such as Sai, Master Thopterist, Skilled Animator, and especially Tezzeret, Artifice Master, which can make Green-Blue Karn a new contender in Standard after rotation.

Sai, Master Thopterist Skilled Animator Tezzeret, Artifice Master

#3: Wizard Decks

Don’t let this deck’s name trick you! It's just another Mono Red version with Goblin Chainwhirler, two Hazoret the Fervent, and direct damage – but this time with a lower curve to finish games faster than the regular stock list.

Soul-Scar Mage and Ghitu Lavarruner allows you to play Wizard's Lightning for just for one red mana. The other addition is The Flame of Keld, an Enchantment-Saga that gives the deck some extra gas when you are empty-handed. It's third counter ability allows you to deal extra damage with red creatures and spells.

If you are looking for a more wizard tribal-oriented list, this next deck might have a chance after the September rotation, heavily relying on Adeliz, the Cinder Wind.

Aside from some marginal cards, the deck’s core is basically from Dominaria, a huge upside for the upcoming rotation with nice M19 additions.

Dismissive Pyromancer, in particular, can be a nice Turn 2 that filters your draws late in the game, discarding useless lands for fresh new ones. If Wizards Tribal becomes successful in Standard, now would be a good time to get the staples.

Exclusion Mage Dismissive Pyromancer Viashino Pyromancer

#2: UB Variants

The Scarab God is back! During GP Singapore and Pittsburgh, two Top 8s were taken over by Blue-Black based decks, highlighting our favorite god from Hour of Devastation.

This archetype is very well positioned against either Mono Red or BR Midrange, packing cheap interactions i.e., Fatal Push and Essence Scatter, although it might struggle a bit against UW based decks.

Fetid Pools Fatal Push The Scarab God

First, let’s take a look at the deck that ended up second at GP Singapore. It basically has a blue-black control core with a small white splash (hence the Esper name), which is kind of free considering the number of dual lands, either from the Amonkhet cycle or the new check lands from Dominaria.

There are only three cards with white symbols: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria is the almighty finisher of choice for UW Control decks and he makes his appearance as a 2-off. Then there is the single copy of Forsake the Worldly to get rid of Cast Out or God-Pharaoh’s Gift that can be later flashed back thanks to Torrential Gearhulk.

Gearhulk and The Scarab God are the only creatures. Because of its sideboard, the deck can switch gears into a more midrange strategy by adding four Glint-Sleeve Siphoner in order to take advantage of the energy counters that both Siphoner and Glimmer of Genius provide. 

Now let’s move on to the United States of America to compare the aforementioned deck with a more creature-based version from GP Pittsburgh that also finished in second place.

No white splash here. This straight UB version relies more on creatures to win the game. Champion of Wits and Glint-Sleeve Siphoner can be pretty narrow facing Goblin Chainwhirler decks but against other pairings, they can provide card advantage when games go on for too long. A couple of Ravenous Chupacabras can keep large creatures at bay and can later be brought back from the graveyard with The Scarab God’s ability.

As you can see, this UB deck can be adapted, depending the metagame, in order to beat either aggro or control matchups. However, I consider this list from Oliver Tiu more proactive and able to win games faster than the previous one.

With regard to M19, I tried my best to find some additions to both decks, but in my humble opinion nothing seems to be worthy. However, when it comes to blue cards, maybe Anticipate can reprise the role of Glimmer of Genius after rotation, but even so, Search for Azcanta / Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin looks more appealing for the 2-drop slot.

Black doesn’t have much either. Maybe Bone Dragon could be a decent recurring body to synergize with Champion of Wit's ETB ability. Finally, Plague Mare is a nice sideboard card against tokens decks and will reappear if Chainwhirler gets banned.

Anticipate Plague Mare Bone Dragon

#1: Zombies!!!

Zombies are back in M19 and that means two things: One, there are still plenty of them in the Amonkhet block. Two, they have already won a Pro Tour during the last Standard season, so there is a chance to see this tribe rise again (from their graves, obviously).

Standard Zombies: Dread Wanderer, Lord of the Accursed, Liliana's Mastery

Needed Additions: Stitcher's Supplier, Graveyard Marshal, Liliana, Untouched by Death

Reprints: Diregraf Ghoul, Death Baron

Now, let’s put it all together and see how our deck might look like.

Suggested List from Rodrigo Martin:

This is just a draft of how the deck might look like just before rotation. It is uncertain if after that it can survive, depending on how well Zombies will be supported in the upcoming Ravnica sets.  It is also worth mentioning that a white splash with Wayward Servant could be reasonable.

There are some great synergies within the deck aside from the obvious tribal ones. (The deck has twelve Lords, counting Metallic Mimic). The first ability of Liliana, Untouched by Death pairs well with Graveyard Marshal and her -3 combines well with Liliana, Death's Majesty, dumping zombies into the graveyard in order to cast them later.

Stitcher's Supplier Graveyard Marshal Liliana, Untouched by Death


This is pretty much it. I hope you enjoyed my article! Please let me know in your comments which decks you think will arise with M19 and what are the strategies that might get pushed after the set is released.

Until next time and thanks for reading!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.

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