Grand Prix Birmingham was the first premier-level
only-Standard event since Dominaria was released. It’s our only chance so far to see what the best players did with the format with big money on the line, and uh… holy smokes a lot of people played black-red. Fifteen out of the top 32 and a mind-numbing six of the top eight
decks were black/red vehicles decks. In case you’re not familiar with the deck, here’s the baseline: All six decks that made top 8 contained four Goblin Chainwhirler, two Pia Nalaar, and four Scrapheap Scrounger. They also all contained at least three Heart of Kiran, two Chandra, Torch of Defiance, two
Walking Ballista, two Abrade, and three Unlicensed Disintegration. This rough outline is a good enough base, I think! Heart of Kiran is going to be a pain until the day it rotates out of Standard. It’s a vehicle, so it dodges Fumigate. It has vigilance, so it can’t get Sealed Away. It’s a legend, so it can’t get Cast Down. And it’s a four-four so you’re not taking care of it with Lightning Strike or Magma Spray. The range of removal spells that destroy Heart of Kiran and don’t cost more than the heart itself is really narrow. But let’s say your opponent’s playing the removal that deals with Heart of Kiran. You know what these cards are pretty terrible against? Scrapheap Scrounger! Man, Scrapheap Scrounger’s annoying—it hits hard and keeps coming back. To deal with Scrapheap Scrounger profitably, you need a totally different set of removal than the ones that deal with Heart of Kiran. That’s a big part of what makes this black-red deck so powerful: it demands a LOT of different types of removal from opponents. Chandra and Karn do a good job of crewing Heart of Kiran, and also
generate card advantage on their own. Now that there are much less Scarab Gods floating around, and therefore, less Vraska’s Contempt, Planeswalkers are a more resilient threat than ever. Of course, this whole archetype doesn’t even seem possible without
Dominaria’s Goblin Chainwhirler. In Rivals of Ixalan Standard, a lot of one-toughness creatures saw play, and that continued into last weekend, and Goblin Chainwhirler was waiting for them. A veritable creature sweeper attached to a three-three first striker proved too
hardy for aggressive decks to overcome. Aggressive decks packing Abrade could usually be relied on to keep Heart of Kiran in check, but thanks to Goblin Chainwhirler, that’s simply not the case anymore. As a result we’ve got one of the midrangiest Standard formats in recent memory. Walking Ballista does a decent enough Goblin Chainwhirler impression.
It’s just a really versatile card… …it’s good against everything, and this deck in particular takes good advantage of artifact synergies, making Walking Ballista a no-brainer. With the rise of all the artifacts, particularly vehicles with toughnesses that stay out of range of typical removal, Abrade’s stock has really risen. The star of this color combination, though, is Unlicensed Disintegration. It’s not a mana-efficient way to destroy a two-drop, but it’s unconditional removal with a Lava Spike tacked-on. Those of you that remember casting Blightning need no convincing that
Unlicensed Disintegration is awesome, but in case you’re not sold on it… …just remember that you’re getting damage in in big chunks, and three damage attached to a removal spell can easily swing a race in your favor. In summary: black-red vehicles is chock-full of powerful answers with a suite of proactive, efficient threats that all demand different, specific answers. The reason it performed so well last weekend is because Standard doesn’t really have
a deck that can effectively answer them all. But maybe you think there’s another contender for the title of Best Standard deck! Let us know what Standard deck you think is primed for success in the comments, and be sure to like and subscribe. See you next time!