Standard decklists the set before rotation can arguably be the most complicated in the format. The land base is vast and plentiful - especially with shock lands, triomes, and one of the best
Evolving Wilds -like lands:
Fabled Passage. With eight sets active, there are many cards to choose from, and therefore, many different decks can be constructed. However, the more colors are present in a deck, the more access to many different forms of removal. Examples of current multicolored decks include Temur Reclamation, Bant Ramp, Sultai Ramp, and Jund Sacrifice. What I was not expecting entering Core 21 standard is that a new type of deck would enter the fray: monocolored.
It is a pleasant surprise that monocolored decks have returned to take on the meta for those seeking a more budget build (depending on the color) and/or for people wanting to learn MTG. As a disclaimer, the reason why monocolored decks are considered budget decks (relatively speaking) is because dual and tri lands are some of the most expensive cards to purchase in MTG. The only real lands needed beyond basic lands are the powerful castles from Throne of Eldraine. One of the ways to beat the meta using mono colored decks is my go-to: Mono Red.
Fast and Flaming-Hot Superstars: Mono Red
Although Mono Red does not seem like the strongest deck in a best-of-three format, the deck contains some of the fastest cards to end games in a format. Throne of Eldraine contains one of the best aggro cards to enter mtg for a long time:
Teferi, Time Raveler is on the field, everyone is vulnerable to the wrath of
Embercleave. Another card from Throne that is also among the most powerful red cards to hit standard in a while is
Robber of the Rich. Robber can steal powerful planeswalkers, removal, or even card draw for early tempo, or to change the flow of the game late.
One of the weaknesses of Mono Red is the board wipe, and there's a ton in standard:
Shatter the Sky ,
Time Wipe, and
Storm's Wrath to name a few.
Anax, Hardened in the Forge combined with the powerful land
Castle Embereth creates an army of satyrs as a backup plan in case the first wave does not break through the opponent's forces.
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell provides yet another backup plan to get the last bit of damage through after a grindy battle -- especially when using an awesome common such as
Scorch Spitter. Finally, Mono Red only has a few more months to enjoy this luxury, but
Light Up The Stage provides a quick refill to keep up with tempo and ramp decks for a limited time before it rotates.
Supreme and Stompy: The Superstars of Mono Green and Colorless Friends
Mono Green has been in the conversation for a few sets now, however, Core 21 is the catalyst for the re-emergence of its popularity in the meta. Some of the best mono-green cards are ones that can only be played within this deck. A good example of a powerful mono green only 3 drop is
Yorvo, Lord of Garenbrig. Although Yorvo can only be cast for the very difficult three green, one can argue that a 4/4 that only gets stronger with other green creatures, as well as creatures that are more powerful than it, is well worth the cost. The same can be said for
Vivien, Arkbow Ranger , which also costs three green and one colorless. Vivien provides increased power to creatures (in the form of +1 counters), trample, removal, and even enables the sidedeck as a wishboard if she is lucky enough to live for a turn. Vivien's -5 can be critical against an Azorius, Bant, or Esper deck where landing a spell can be impossible, except for the anti-counterspell magic of sideboard staple
As stated previously, Core 2021 is the catalyst for Mono Green reentering the meta. The reprint of
Scavenging Ooze arrived not a moment too soon while aggro to mid range players were struggling with cards such as
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath ,
Woe Strider. Next, green players may find themselves playing
Primal Might -- a removal card blended with a temporary boost. Finally, most green players will not find themselves constructing their sideboards without the addition of the reprinted
Heroic Intervention , another card boosting resistance from both board wipes, spot removal, and the sacrifice deck staple
Claim the Firstborn.
Throne of Eldraine contains many good green cards that will not be rotating in the fall. In addition to Yorvo, Throne also contains
Questing Beast , Lovestruck Beast, and
Castle Garenbrig. Questing Beast has become a staple in most decks running green as it quickly disposes of any planeswalker that crosses its path via combat damage to the opponent. If one were to add trample to
Questing Beast, the card becomes unstoppable due to the frightening trample-deathtouch interaction. Lovestruck Beast allows green players to ward off decks that are more aggressive than it such as Mono Red, Gruul, and Mono Black, as well as provide plays on both turn one and three via the adventurous, sorcery side: Heart's Desire.
Castle Garenbrig seems like the most unassuming card in the discussion so far. Of the cards listed in this section, the only one it really works well with is
Primal Might, however, turning four mana (the castle costs four, plus must tap itself in order to activate) into six mana for creatures is more powerful than it may seem.
Castle Garenbrig helps a colorless friend that is one of the most powerful anti-meta cards a Mono Green deck can contain:
Stonecoil Serpent. The crafty snake works to serve as an early drop and host for
Gemrazer, or as a late game finisher against cards that cannot target or block it.
Teferi, Time Raveler cannot bounce it (protection from multicolored),
Elspeth Conquers Death cannot target it (due to a converted mana cost of 0 via "x" value), and
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath cannot block it. If one chooses to include
Nissa, Who Shakes the World in the main or side, the serpent can become huge. Another colorless friend who can help in all sorts of matchups is
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, a powerful reprint in Core 2021, which can enter the battlefield early with assistance from Nissa or even through another favorite reprint,
Cultivate. Whether one chooses to take a small creatures with tricks, midrange with big stompy creatures, or even a ramp deck with colorless spells, there is something for everyone to play in Mono Green.
Silent Sneaky Superstars: Mono Black
Although this decktype is just starting to appear, do not count out the potency of Mono Black. Black contains some of the most stealthy and versatile cards in the format. One card that will only be around for a few more months is
Rotting Regisaur, a card typically only played with
Embercleave due to its hand-depleting resources and a problem with a cat that keeps blocking and returning to an oven. However, new evasion has entered the meta, and may keep Mono Black around even past the rotation of
Demonic Embrace. Unless something drastically changes to remove the overall potency of Mono Black, Orzhov, Rakdos, Golgari, or Dimir, I would expect to see
Demonic Embrace to be one enchantment that will never go away in standard until rotation. With this enchantment, any creature can be turned into a threat, and unless the opponent possesses some way to exile cards from the graveyard, this enchantment eliminates the 2-for-1 fear that removal brings.
Another powerful card rotating this fall, which is one of the best one drop black cards to ever be released is
Knight of the Ebon Legion. The knight sets the tone for current Mono Black on turn one, which is essentially that Mono Black has become malleable to several different meta strategies.
Rotting Regisaur and
Knight of the Ebon Legion alone can look innocent until it is too late. Most people see these cards and think "dies to removal." Regisaur either needs a board wipe or very specific spot removal, and the Knight gets big when unchecked for extended amount of time as well as holds the battlefield down if Mono Green gets a good start.
If the concern of the cards mentioned so far causes worry, there are plenty of cards in black that will be staying around and remain staples. One of the best spot removal spells currently in standard belongs to black in the form of Swift End an instant that destroys a creature or planeswalker, which is attached to Murderous Rider, a 2/3 with lifelink for 3 (1BB). A favorite and recent addition to Standard,
Grasp of Darkness is also back for a combat trick, or reliable removal. A non-rotating favorite of many right now is
Rankle, Master of Pranks , who runs away from the game if it has a game plan and the opponent cannot deal with it right away. The ability to force discards, draw cards (while causing even more damage), and sacrifice creatures makes this card a must in any deck that can afford to run double black mana in the cost.
Blacklance Paragon creates lifegain for knights as well as creates a combat trick on its own if there's not another knight on the battlefield. Last but not least,
Castle Locthwain provides consistent card draw -- especially if one is caught in a topdeck battle.
Best of the Rest: White and Blue Superstars
Mono White does not see as much play in the meta, however many are still trying to figure out ways to bring back this old favorite to life. Core 21 did many favors for this deck, and if the cards within Zendikar Rising assist, Mono White could possibly be a meta favorite once more. The card that provides the most positivity for this theory is
Glorious Anthem. This card is clearly meant for Mono White decks to flourish once more with its +1 boost to the creatures on your side of the field. The notorious
Baneslayer Angel is back, which is a card that must be immediately removed at all costs, otherwise it will take over the game. White also gained a powerful planeswalker in
Basri Ket, which can either create creatures or provide +1 counters plus indestructible.
Basri's Lieutenant provides for further wipe protection (similar to Anax), with a bit of help from +1 counters. As a side note, look out for
Speaker of the Heavens and
Angelic Ascension. Both of these have potential to cause havoc in the early game. Finally,
Castle Ardenvale should not be left out as it creates 1/1 humans for the field when mana is plentiful.
While Mono Blue is the least played of all the monocolored lists so far in the meta, there are lists that exist that are quite powerful, and should not be left unchecked. Even though the old favorite
Curious Obsession is currently out of the format, there's a card similar to it in
Sea-Dasher Octopus that can even be played as an instant speed creature or mutation. Also, do not forget abou Petty Theft/Brazen Borrower -- a bounce spell combined with a 3/1 flyer that can also be flashed onto the battlefield. One of the most popular blue cards to emerge from Core 21 is
Stormwing Entity, since it can be combined with
Opt and played on turn 3 for a reduced cost thanks to its ability. Speaking of Core 21, do not sleep on
Teferi, Master of Time and
Teferi's Tutelage. These cards may be seeing even more play post rotation depending on what Zendikar Rising brings.
Whether you are looking to play MTG for your first time on a budget, returning and not wanting to buy the necessary lands, or wanting to take a simpler, more aggressive approach to the meta, monocolored decks suit a variety of needs and are necessary for the current format's ecosystem. Monocolored decks have restored some balance to standard whereas Ikoria standard demanded the opponent ramp or stack the deck against ramp. Although there are still many issues with Core 21 standard, monocolored decks have provided a fighting chance for aggro against the final couple of months of
Teferi, Time Raveler and