Two-Card Standard

I've been thinking a lot about a format I created called Two-Card Standard. Here are the rules: build a deck using Standard-legal cards. The minimum deck size is 60. Instead of a 4-card limit, there's a 40-card limit! However, the catch is that you may only play two unique cards. For example, a deck might look like this:

20x Mountain
40x Shock

From now on, I will refer to this as the Shock deck. (Lands are assumed to be the appropriate basic land for monocolor and Unclaimed Territory for multicolor creature decks. Otherwise I'll include the land.)

What might the metagame of this format look like? I've been thinking about the different viable decks, which I've grouped into archetypes. I have never played this format (and it seems boring to play), so I don't know which are better than the other. The matchups are a bit complicated.

Burn: for players who don't even need an opponent
Lightning Strike

Aggro: I can't think of a tagline
Skymarcher Aspirant
Gutterbones [thanks @LyndonF]
Diregraf Ghoul
Fanatical Firebrand
Lightning Mare [thanks @LyndonF]
Dreadhorde Butcher [thanks @LyndonF]
Fireblade Artist [thanks @LyndonF]
Old-Growth Dryads [thanks @LyndonF]

Hydras: the only deck with a mana curve
Hungering Hydra
Hydroid Krasis
Ugin's Conjurant/Blast Zone
Ugin's Conjurant/Mobilized District
Ugin's Conjurant/Karn's Bastion
Ugin's Conjurant/Arch of Orazca

Banefire: burn and hydras had a flame child

Tribal: because teamwork!
Growth-Chamber Guardian
Legion Conquistador
Rat Colony
Persistent Petitioneers
Elvish Clancaller [strictly better than Merfolk Mistbinder and Legion Lieutenant]
History of Benalia
Charmed Stray [thanks @MemoryHead]
Drowned Secrets [thanks @MemoryHead]
Forerunner of the Coalition [thanks @MemoryHead]

80-Card Control/Turbo-Fog: it doesn't actually have any win cons, but neither will you
Healing Grace
Cast Down [strictly better than Essence Scatter]
Root Snare
Ixalan's Binding [thanks @LyndonF]
60-Card Sanguine Sacrament [thanks @MemoryHead]

Midrange: good cards make good decks
Tempest Djinn
Steel Leaf Champion
Gruul Spellbreaker
Thief of Sanity
Nullhide Ferox
Sphinx of Foresight
Plague Mare [thanks @MemoryHead]
Any other nonlegendary bomb rare you can think of

Tempo: we'll mess with your plans, but actually win this time
Hostage Taker
Frilled Mystic
Ionize/Steam Vents
Deputy of Detention [thanks @LyndonF]
Kitesail Freebooter [thanks @Brainifyer]

Split Cards: two spells are better than one
Thrash//Threat [thanks @MemoryHead]
Warrant//Warden [thanks @MemoryHead]

As far as matchups, there are definitely some rock-paper-scissors interactions. Example: Tempest Djinn (Midrange) beats Skymarcher Aspirant (Aggro), Hostage Taker (Tempo) beats Tempest Djinn (Midrange), and Skymarcher Aspirant (Aggro) beats Hostage Taker (Tempo). But I'm not really sure in general.

Another note is that of all these cards, mono-blue only has Tempest Djinn, Sphinx of Foresight, Persistent Petitioneers, Drowned Secrets, and Negate. (Negate seems like a bad deck.) That might be because blue's good cards tend to be reactive and don't win on their own.

I probably missed some perfectly good decks, so comment if you can think of any. Also any other comments you have are welcomed.


  • Fireball and Channel. Wait! That isn't standard.
  • A boardwipe deck would probably be the best for control because it has mich better effeciency vs anything go-wide.

    How do you rule outside the game cards? A Mastermind's Acquisition might work
  • @Brainifyer I'd like to think that the sideboard would be another 40 copies of a card and that you could side all of one card out to side them in. Potentially too much to hope for, though.
  • Deputy of Detention and Ixalan's Binding seem great against a lot of the creature decks.

    Sanguine Sacrament is going to be quite annoying for burn

    Lightning Mare seems bonkers when matched uo against Frilled mystic. (Banefire decks are great against Frilled Mystics as well)

    And how good do you all think Unmoored Ego is in the format? (Land is Watery Grave)
  • Nevermore deck with any of the white creature lands, gg
  • edited May 2019
    EDIT: These don't work because it's a maximum of two cards overall. I was being an idiot, sorry.

    @Je_Suis_Oluwa Here are some random things I came up with. They aren't necessarily good:

    Krenko Please no removal, please no removal...
    Krenko, Tin Street Kingpin
    Tionalli's Crown
    See Red
    Samut's Sprint
    Burn Bright

    Elves You got boardwipes? NO?
    Llanowar Elves
    Elvish Clancaller

    The Undying It's all in the name.
    Angel of Grace
    Amulet of Safekeeping (This might seem like a super-weird choice, but it's one of the best burn-slowers I could think of and burn is one of your biggest problems.)
    MAYBE Blazing Hope for consideration. Maybe.

    Freeze Burn but colder! Ah, forget it.
    Creeping Chill
    Stitcher's Supplier
    Persistent Petitioners
    Doom Whisperer

    In terms of balance, I'd say that Burn and Freeze would be the most meta-defining decks. You'd have to have an out against burn otherwise you'd be done, and because it only deals direct damage then that out would need to be lifegain. Burn v Burn matches would be the coin flip of "Who goes first?" most of the time. Burn v Freeze would probably go to Freeze. Freeze v Freeze would be a war of "Who can draw fewer Chills and more enablers?"
  • @MemeoryHead i'm pretty sure the format only allows two cards all up including lands, so normally one land + one card
  • edited May 2019
    @Brainifyer Ah, dang. I had assumed based on some of the lists (mostly the control/turbo-fog) that it was meant to be two cards and basics.

    Just ignore all of my decks, everybody! Nothing to see here!
  • edited May 2019 scour

    Times 40 and 20 islands.


    Wait, that's modern, so... ok then.
  • @Brainifyer I don't know. It would obviously be overpowered if Mastermind's Acquisition could fetch anything, so I'm going to say no sideboards for this format (i.e. I'm shadowbanning Mastermind's Acquisition.) Thanks for thinking of it though.

    @LyndonF I'm adding Deputy of Detention to tempo, Ixalan's Binding to control, and Lightning Mare to aggro. Deputy seems like a fine addition that's better than Frilled Mystic against the creature decks but worse against spells. Ixalan's Binding is overpowered against any creature deck but just loses to all of the spell decks, so that's probably fine. (It would lead to unfun gameplay, but I doubt this format is fun to play.) Lightning Mare is probably on similar powerlevel to Skymarcher/Diregraf/Fanatical Firebrand but just has slightly different matchups. As far as Unmoored Ego, since it lets them draw more cards, it will occasionally replace spells with lands or lands with spells, but overall it lets the other deck do their thing and doesn't mill them nearly fast enough, I think.

    @Sanjaya666 In modern the good decks are, to my knowledge:
    Simian Spirit Guide/Surging Flames [beats Chancellor]
    Chancellor of the Dross/Soul Spike (you aren't allowed to play 60 chancellor because of the 60 card limit) [beats Memnite]
    Leyline of Sanctity/Memnite [beats ripple]

    Also, I'm adding Beacon Bolt/Steam Vents to burn and Ionize/Steam Vents to tempo.
  • Ravenous Chupacabra for tempo? Kitesail Freebooter might work against spells.
  • @Je_Suis_Oluwa So two nonlands then? I thought it was only a nonland and a land.
  • edited May 2019
    + 25
    + 23
    image (because I have limited money)

    1. Play a Ral
    2. Explosion for 0
    3. Expansion targeting Explosion
    3. Expansion targeting Expansion
    4. Infinitely target Expansion with Expansion, infinite Ral triggers.

    If that is how the format works.


    23 Island
    37 Tempest Djinn

  • edited May 2019
    @AxNoodle Whoa, that Ral combo's cool. Tempest Djinn's already at the top as a midrange card, though I'm not sure what you'd want to pair it with (or whether you'd want to pair it at all, though the deck is at a disadvantage against burn). Narset's Reversal, maybe?

    @Je_Suis_Oluwa Maybe Narset's Reversal, Augur of Bolas and Drowned Secrets for mono-blue? I'm not totally sure against any of them, but Narset's Reversal has potential in some matches and Drowned Secrets is horrible to play against.
  • 10x Hydroid Krasis
    15x Contentious Plan
    15x Flux Channeler
    20x Islands
  • Expensive but relatively effective
  • I figured it out!
    25x Island
  • edited May 2019
    @pjbear The idea behind the format (as far as I can tell) is that you must have a deck containing one land (up to 40 copies) and one or two nonland cards (up to 40 copies of each). Your hydroid deck, while a good idea, wouldn't work in that form (also, you have no way to add the green mana needed for the krasis).
  • edited May 2019
    EDIT: These don't work because it's a maximum of two cards overall. I was being an idiot, sorry.

    Right, time for more ideas. I suspect that some of them are notably better than others:

    Exploration Sage Here goes nothing.
    Evolution Sage
    Enter the Unknown
    It may be worth noting that this deck would have more lands than normal to increase the chance of exploring into a land.

    Simic Merfolk This seems ridiculous.
    Deeproot Champion
    Benthic Biomancer
    Silvergill Adept
    Kumena's Speaker
    Merfolk Skydiver
    Literally any good, low cost merfolk
    Breeding Pool for the land if blue is being used.

    Heartburn Better or worse?
    Footlight Fiend
    Grim Initiate
    Anything else with a decent death trigger in red. Alternatively, Hunted Witness with Sacred Foundry for the land.

    White Marshals White weenies with a lategame.
    Haazda Marshal
    Benalish Marshal
  • edited May 2019
    To be clear: you get one land and one spell. (Or two lands or two spells, if you like losing.)

    For example:
    20x Forest + 40x Elvish Clancaller: Legal.
    20x Forest + 10x Llanowar Elves + 30x Elvish Clancaller: Illegal.

    (As an irrelevant tangent, it's probably better to play Pelt Collector over Llanowar Elves here, as it's basically a 3/3 if you can T1 Pelt Collector T2 Clancaller, whereas with Elves you aren't really curving into anything. Now Elves/Steel Leaf is a different story. (And to be clear, these decks *do not work* in this format.))

    If the four card limit was abolished what would happen are some outrageous combo decks, like Ral+Expansion//Explosion, that suddenly gain a lot of consistency. This isn't that. The point is you have to find a card that works well with itself, and a lot of copies of itself. (Or, if you're a midrange player, just works well.)

    @Brainifyer, @MemoryHead: Adding Kitesail Freebooter for tempo and Drowned Secrets for tribal (since that's what mill really is...not sure if this is a different archetype. Please weigh in on this, commenters.) Not adding Chupacabra just because, while not strictly better, there aren't many reasons to play Chupacabra over Hostage Taker. (If you're worried about the mirror or the Cast Down matchup maybe?)
  • I reckon Charmed Stray would make a really good tribal deck. I did a bit of math and it seems to beat most of the aggro decks and some of the midrange and tempo ones
  • edited May 2019
    @Brainifyer - that seems really good. It's essentially a 1-mana Clancaller in this format, with lifelink. So yeah, adding that one for sure.

    In unrelated news, I'm also curious if there are decks that are just always (or almost always) better than other decks, so the list can be narrowed down, or if anyone can figure out the "Tier 1" of this format.
  • FYI Beacon Bolt only targets creatures so it probably won't be in burn :P

    A suggestion for aggro is Gutterbones. Seems better than Diregraf Ghoul in most situations.
    Another one for aggro is Dreadhore Butcher (w/ Blood Crypt). Seems better than Fanatical Firebrand in some cases.

    I think you can sort off compare the decks as such:
    Ixalan's Binding > creatures without hexproof and aren't Frilled Mystic
    Root snare > creatures except Frilled Mystic
    Burn > Ixalan's Binding, Root Snare, Cast Down
    Banefire > Control, Ionize
  • @LyndonF yeah.
    Cutting Beacon Bolt and Diregraf Ghoul for Gutterbones and Dreadhorde Butcher.
    One thing a lot of people forget is that Unclaimed Territory is better than shocklands for multicolor creature decks. I think that's because they associate Territory with tribal, but if you only have one creature, your deck will all be the same tribe anyway.
  • @LyndonF I'm pretty sure that Ixalan's Binding can't beat decks like Gutterbones. The Gutterbones come down early and beat you to death before you can bind enough of them for it to matter.
  • edited May 2019
    Well, time for some random ideas that are actually legal in the format:

    Maybe Fireblade Artist. It isn't as good for aggro as some other cards, but the fact that it can convert itself into a face-shock during your upkeep seems surprisingly good.

    Forerunner of the Coalition has some sort of vague potential.

    Old-Growth Dryads could beat some decks.

    Plague Mare counters some forms of aggro.

    Sanguine Sacrament has a nearly 100% win rate against control (it never mills unless the opponent gets a good draw with counterspells), always draws against itself and has a chance against burn-style decks.

    Thrash // Threat and Warrant // Warden both have their uses, the latter more than the former.
  • Weirdly enough, creature decks should possibly run 80 cards, to give them a better chance vs control
  • @Brainifyer I think that it depends on the creature and what control decks would end up looking like. Slower decks like Carnage Tyrant probably would. Faster ones like Gutterbones probably wouldn't.
  • @Brainifyer The thing is, because of the 40-of rule, if you play an 80-card deck, you have to play an even, 40-40 mix of lands and spells. The aggro decks really want to play something closer to 20-40, so forcing them to play 80 would be a serious blow to their consistency in other matchups. But some of the decks that can afford to play more lands might, and if control overwhelmed the metagame (probably unlikely as the control decks have bad matchups against most decks) all decks might. It's worth mentioning that even if the creature decks play 80, the control decks still win on the draw. Also, a few decks draw cards, such as Growth-Chamber Guardian, Legion Conquistador, and Ugin's Conjurant/Arch of Orazca.

    Adding Fireblade Artist and Old-Growth Dryads to aggro.
    Adding Forerunner of the Coalition to tribal, yet I suspect it's not good enough.
    Adding Plague Mare to midrange (though that might be the wrong category) and readding Diregraf Ghoul to aggro since it's way better in the Plague Mare matchup.
    Adding Sanguine Sacrament to control. It's probably the best control deck since it can play a 60-card deck.
    Creating a new category for the split-card decks: two spells are better than one
    I've just searched up all the split cards in standard and am adding the ones that are decent. They deserve a new category because their two "cards" are often good in two different matchups. The one problem is they have to play shocklands.
    Bedeck//Bedazzle (good in splitcard mirror and Unclaimed Territory decks)
    Carnival//Carnage (also a good reason to play Diregraf Ghoul over Gutterbones)

    Unrelated, adding Gatebreaker Ram/any green guildgate and Gate Colossus/any guildgate to midrange.
  • edited May 2019
    @Je_Suis_Oluwa I mentioned Forerunner of the Coalition primarily for the strange potential and I'm also of the opinion that it isn't good enough.
This discussion has been closed.