If you've ever seen any of my stream, you know that best-in-show decks are not something we regularly pursue. Anyone can play the BEST decks. But as a stereotypical Johnny, I get joy out of leaving the well-beaten path in pursuit of the unique, the original...the jank. After all, the "five" in FiveDownTerritory stands in part for Tier V, which is the level of deck I usually embrace. So, rather than abandoning Standard until Dominaria premieres, I'm happy to share the Standard deck that is one of the most resilient, persistent, and downright surprising decks I've been able to love since I started playing, and I'm thinking the ol' girl still has some life left in her! And one of the best things about this deck is that it revolves around several cards that are seeing virtually zero play in Standard, so you probably only need to pick up a couple of cards (on Cardsphere, naturally) to give it a run yourself.
2 Field of Ruin 4 Glacial Fortress 3 Irrigated Farmland 5 Island 8 Plains 2 Shefet Dunes 2 Legion's Landing 3 Sacred Cat 4 Adorned Pouncer 2 Anointer Priest 2 Compulsory Rest 2 Champion of Wits 2 Oketra's Monument 3 Anointed Procession 3 Cast Out 2 Vizier of Many Faces 4 Aven Wind Guide 3 Crested Sunmare 4 Regal Caracal 2 Scavenger Grounds 3 Authority of the Consuls 2 Fragmentize 2 Negate 2 Gideon of the Trials 1 Cast Out 1 Settle the Wreckage 2 Fumigate
The namesake card of the deck,
Aven Wind Guide, is also the key to our gameplan. A 4 CMC 2/3 with flying and vigilance is pretty average via the vanilla test, but the key is that it gives all creature tokens you control flying and vigilance as well. One of the common issues with token/go wide strategies is that you often end up in a stalled board state with little way to break it beyond making your creatures bigger. The Wind Guide breaks a board stall through evasion. Our primary win condition for the deck, then, is to make a bunch of creature tokens (either through direct creation or by embalm/eternalize effects), play a Wind Guide, and then fly over the opponent for what is often a one-shot kill.
So how do we get creature tokens? The secondary means is via direct creation. The majority of our creatures are white, so
Oketra's Monument not only makes our creatures cheaper but give us a bunch of 1/1 Soldier tokens for starters. We also start with a couple of
Legion's Landing for a turn one lifelinker as well as the possibility of flipping it to make tokens whenever we need them with
Adanto, the First Fort.
However, the primary means by which we get tokens is through embalm and eternalizing creatures. In the early game, our creatures serve to slow the opponent down and end up in the graveyard while hopefully proving a bit of value. At the same time, many of them "curve out" through their embalm and eternalize costs, most of which are very reasonable for what you get in return. In the early game,
Sacred Cat gets us two bodies for two mana as well as a couple of points of life through lifelink.
Anointer Priest can gain us additional time through the life we gain when we make tokens, and her toughness can slow down our opponents for a turn early on.
Adorned Pouncer is one of the key cards in the deck because of this early game/late game versatility. On turn 2 it's a 1/1 double striker that provides a real barrier for aggro decks, and when it comes back in the late game it's a 4/4 double striker that can often end games on the spot if we get to attack with it and a Wind Guide.
Champion of Wits helps to find action in the early game, but in board stalls it really shines. It's an expensive card to eternalize, but a seven-mana 4/4 that comes with "draw four discard two" is a beater.
The two big finishers of the deck are
Regal Caracal and
Crested Sunmare. Mama Kitty does everything we want our cards to do in this deck: it puts three creatures onto the board (two with lifelink), and makes tokens that can fly over the front lines to win. It also synergizes with our other cats to make them into powerhouses. Bad Horse is not only a big body, it also makes 5/5 tokens that have indestructible as long as the Sunmare is on the board, and a Sunmare token plus a Wind Guide will often get you the immediate GGs. In addition, Sunmare is the key to a transformative sideboard (which I'll get to in a second).
Rounding out the creature lineup is
Vizier of Many Faces. The Vizier is a fantastic card because of its versatility. A four-mana "copy anything on the board" is a great card both when you're ahead and when you're behind. It allows you to copy your own
Regal Caracal to pump the crew, or a four-mana
Crested Sunmare that gives both cards indestructible and makes double horses. It's also a great discard option with
Champion of Wits because its embalm cost is one one mana more than its regular CMC, so you often get to play it twice. Its defensive prowess shines when you copy your opponent's biggest creature and go to town. A
Glorybringer hits the board and screws up your plans? Copy it with the Viz and cause your own issues!
The remainder of our deck consists of
Anointed Procession, which doubles our token producers and can get completely out of control if we embalm a Vizier or a Pouncer; and
Cast Out and
Compulsory Rest for removal.
Compulsory Rest is essentially card 59/60 in this list. In our current creature-heavy meta, a two-mana removal spell with just a bit of downside is very playable, but you can make changes here...from more copies of
Cast Out or
Champion of Wits to some real spice like
Temmet, Vizier of Naktamun, which lets you get some bigger chunks of damage in the early game.
The sideboard includes more removal in
Cast Out and
Settle The Wreckage as well as a couple of surprising copies of
Fumigate. It's not often that you see such a creature-heavy deck want a board wipe, but because of the sheer number of embalm/eternalize cards we run, we can often recover from a board wipe much faster than our opponent can. Especially in aggro matchups, our opponent can often be left with an empty hand on turn 5-6 while we have 3-4 cards in our graveyard that we can bring back to the battlefield.
Gideon of the Trials is here for Approach matchups as well as slowing down big creatures. We bring in
Scavenger Grounds against
God Pharaoh's Gift decks and other graveyard strategies.
Fragmentize is cheap artifact/enchantment removal, and
Negate is good to have around in control matchups.
The real champ out of the board, however, is
Authority of the Consuls. You probably already know the value of Authority against aggro decks...a turn 1 AotC often puts your opponent a full turn behind in the early game. But if we've used our Wind Guide in game one and we're afraid that our opponent is going to attempt to
Lost Legacy our win condition, we can pivot towards a full-on
Crested Sunmare strategy. Authority,
Anointer Priest, and Sunmare is a crazy engine that fires out 5/5 indestructible horse tokens when (a) we make a token, (b) our opponent plays a creature (remember, Authority triggers when your opponent plays a creature, and Sunmare checks to see if you've gained life on EVERY turn and not just your own), and (c) when one of our lifelinkers gets in for a point of damage.
As with any Standard deck, there are downsides. Game one can get awkward against aggro decks if we don't start with a good early game (and it's easy as a midrange deck to keep slower hands and hope we catch up later). We also sometimes end up sandbagging our middle turns because the value of
Aven Wind Guide comes from the one-shot surprise of playing and attacking with tokens...often we balk at playing the Wind Guide on a relatively neutral board because we give up a lot of information about what we're trying to do if it's just sitting there. But I think you'll enjoy the resiliency and persistance of playing this deck. Often your opponent will board wipe or try to get in with beaters, and you'll just shrug and replay creature after creature from your graveyard and wait for the moment to win with vigilant, flying cats and horses. Give it a try, and let me know the improvements and tweaks you find!