Ever since the first planeswalkers were printed, they’ve been a staple of every format they are legal in. Ranging from Jace, the Mind Sculptor in Legacy to Elspeth, Sun’s Champion in Standard, planeswalkers are premiere cards that have the ability to turn a game into your favor almost every time. The two decks I bring to you today are real contenders in the new Standard format, featuring some of the best planeswalkers of the format.

Naya Midrange by Justin Crandall, 6th Place SCG Standard Open 9/27/2014

Maindeck (36)
Elvish Mystic
Sylvan Caryatid
Wingmate Roc
Courser of Kruphix
Polukranos, World Eater
Ajani Steadfast
Ajani, Mentor of Heroes
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker
Xenagos, the Reveler
Banishing Light
Magma Jet
Bow of Nylea
Lands (24)
Battlefield Forge
Temple of Abandon
Temple of Plenty
Windswept Heath
Wooded Foothills

Sideboard (15)
Reclamation Sage
Banishing Light
Magma Spray
Chandra, Pyromaster
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Arc Lightning
Glare of Heresy

Naya Midrange has been a deck for a long time. In fact, it was a deck even before Khans of Tarkir was being spoiled! Featuring cards such as Domri Rade and Voice of Resurgence, Advent of the Wurm and the occasional Assemble the Legion, it was a very different deck than what we see here today. Most notably, we see the inclusion of a grand total of 12 planeswalkers between the mainboard and sideboard.

Before I go much further, let me just say congratulations to Justin Crandall for piloting this deck to a 6th place finish in the StarCityGames Open. There are a few pieces to this deck that I think are still missing though, so let’s look at some potential changes.

Ajani Steadfast is a fantastic planeswalker. He buffs our creatures and planeswalkers, gains life with his +1 ability, and if for whatever reason he gets his ultimate off, makes all of our creatures and planeswalkers nigh indestructible. The thing about Ajani Steadfast though is he’s a support card. He’s not good with nothing on the field, and drawing him when we need pretty much anything else is just a bad time. My thought here is to drop the one Ajani Steadfast and one Wingmate Roc for two Nissa, Worldwaker.

If you’re seeing the same issue as I am with Nissa, that there are only four Forests in the deck, you would be correct. The deck does run all eight fetchlands that can get forests though, so getting those four Forests is going to happen. Additionally, Nissa allows us to turn our fetchlands into 4/4 creatures when we don’t need or want to fetch up a land. We fix the problem of Ajani being a dead-draw, and being able to repeatedly make 4/4 creatures – with trample no less! – over and over is nothing to sneeze at either.

Beyond that one minor tweak though, I do believe the deck is pretty spot-on. Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker is just better than Stormbreath Dragon, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes provided major card advantage and buffs to our creatures, Sarkhan in dragon form, and Nissa elementals. Xenagos gives us a similar advantage to Nissa, churning out creatures every turn or helping us cast more spells in a turn. To me, this sort of deck is extremely promising and I am certain we’ll continue to see it going forward.

Esper Control

Maindeck (34)
Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver
Prognostic Sphinx
Hero's Downfall
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Jace's Ingenuity
End Hostilities
Sign in Blood
Utter End
Bile Blight
Banishing Light
Lands (26)
Temple of Silence
Temple of Deceit
Temple of Enlightenment
Polluted Delta
Flooded Strand

Sideboard (15)
Nyx-Fleece Ram
Last Breath
Elspeth, Sun's Champion
Banishing Light

Esper Control is another deck that has a ton of history behind it. The deck has been around since… well, it seems like forever at this point. In recent history, the deck has featured Aetherling and Elspeth, Sun’s Champion as win conditions. We see Elspeth even in this list here! There are a few notable differences with this list and previous incarnations of the deck, however.

The first major change we see in the latest build is the addition of Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver. In a world where creatures are hyper-efficient, Ashiok is extremely powerful. She drops early enough to instantly be a threat and within a single turn can reasonably put nearly any creature in the format into play. Goblin Rabblemaster? Check. Courser of Kruphix? Check. Polukranos? Check. Stormbreath Dragon? Check. The list is nearly endless, and Ashiok gets them all. Even putting something as simple as Sylvan Caryatid into play can be awesome for this deck.

The next major change is the lack of copies of Elspeth, Sun’s Champion. Make no mistake, Elspeth is insanely good. Her lack of number comes from the amazing amount of card draw in the deck. Between Jace’s Ingenuity and Sign in Blood, we intend to draw a lot of cards. Elspeth, unfortunately, must take a backseat in this deck as we need as many slots as we can for Banishing Light, Hero’s Downfall, and End Hostilities. Without cramming as many removal spells as we can into the deck, the deck simply falls apart. Cutting any of those cards simply ruins the deck’s ability to handle opponent’s plays.

Some minor changes include moving Thoughtseize to the sideboard, for the same reason that Elspeth is cut down to a single copy mainboard. Prognostic Sphinx, the Theros limited all-star, makes an appearance here, and he is a powerhouse. He fulfills a similar role to Aetherling: being nearly unkillable with the added benefit of providing insane pseudo-card advantage in the form of scrying 3 every turn. While he’s no Aetherling, he’s about as close as we can get and he still gets the job done, even if it’s a little bit slower than before.

Presently, Esper Control isn’t on the map, but I am certain that it’s only a matter of time before this build or something similar to it makes an appearance. The deck is almost always good, and is one to keep an eye on.

So, tell me what you think of these decks! If you have ideas, suggestions, or questions, I welcome them.

Thanks for reading!

Nathan M.