Before we delve into what has been happening in the Standard metagame, let me just say—the format is in a great spot right now. Not only do we have a diverse metagame that evolves every week and anything can win, but most importantly, there is something for everyone. Whether you’re a fan of aggro, midrange, ramp, combo or control, there is at least one good choice, and usually multiple.
Aggro: Mono-Red, Rakdos Sacrifice
Midrange: Jund Sacrifice
Midrange/Ramp: Bant, Sultai
Control: U/W Control
Combo: Temur Reclamation
Midrange/Combo: U/W Blink
If you enjoy playing Flash decks, you can play Simic and Izzet Flash. There are even decks like Esper Stax with Doom Foretold and 5c Niv with Enigmatic Incarnation if you enjoy attacking from different angles.
Theros Beyond Death has been out for two months now and we are still figuring out what exactly is the best Standard strategy. I think this kind of diversity is amazing and makes for a very healthy format.
Next weekend is the Mythic Invitational qualifier on MTG Arena and GP Denver, so let’s take a look at where the metagame is right now and what’s been happening lately.
Just as I thought Mono-Red was badly positioned in the metagame, Biaggio Ruocco won GP Lyon with it and there was another copy of the deck in the Top 8. You can find the Top 64 decklists and Frank Karsten’s analysis of the Day 2 metagame here.
Is Mono-Red crushing again?
I don’t think so. The reason Mono-Red was so good early was that it was the easiest deck to build when THB came out. Let’s be honest here, filling your curve with pretty much the only playable red creatures and adding four Embercleave isn’t exactly rocket science. The one real innovation was when the players at Worlds recognized that there isn’t really any other aggro deck in Standard, and as a result cut Shock from their decks. This allows you to play more creatures and have a more consistent Embercleave on turn 4.
While everyone else was trying to figure out decks like Temur Reclamation and which three colors to put together to make the best midrange deck, Red was crushing. As time went on, all the other decks were getting better because players started figuring out exactly how they wanted to build their control decks and the right mix of threats and removal in their midrange decks. So now, all the other decks are a lot better than they were at the beginning, but the red deck reached its final form in week 1.
Mono-Red can definitely win by curving out and beating people with Embercleave, but overall, it’s just not very well positioned right now. You have a slightly negative matchup against Clover, Blue-White Control now usually has multiple maindeck Dream Trawlers and they are overloaded with sideboard cards like Aether Gust, Devout Decree, and Cerulean Drake.
The only change you can really make to Mono-Red is to make it faster by adding more 1-drops like Tin Street Dodger over Rimrock Knight. I haven’t been very impressed by Runaway Steam-Kin either because it always dies to Bonecrusher Giant or gets bounced by Teferi. I don’t think Phoenix of Ash is the way to go, because it just gives your opponent more time and lets them utilize cards like Elspeth Conquers Death.
If I had to play Mono-Red this weekend, I would try to be as low to the ground as possible and have four Embercleave in my deck. Every time I play red, I just want to play three creatures and follow it up with ‘Cleave. I would also make sure to have four Unchained Berserker in the sideboard, which has been very impressive against U/W Control, Bant, and Jeskai Fires. I would play zero Shocks, because there are basically no other aggro decks, and the card is horrible against control and midrange decks. Tin Street Dodger isn’t the world’s greatest Magic card, but it does hit for 3 with Torbran and it’s a Rogue, which matters for Robber of the Rich.
If Mono-Red isn’t good, what other red deck can I play?
I believe both Rakdos and Jund Sacrifice are pretty well positioned right now, but both decks have some flaws as well. This is Raphael Levy’s Rakdos Sacrifice from the Mythic Point Challenge:
Rakdos Sacrifice (Standard)
And this is the Czech version of Jund Sacrifice, with which Stan Cifka and Ondrej Strasky got a combined 18 wins in the Mythic Point Challenge.
Jund Sacrifice (Standard)
Both of these decks are excellent against Temur Clover because Mayhem Devil just kills all their Innkeepers and Borrowers for free and they also struggle against Cat + Oven. I believe you also have a good matchup against Bant unless they are playing a bunch of maindeck Knight of Autumns.
Rakdos has the advantage of a solid Red matchup, but it gives up overall consistency because it has no card selection, which is my biggest problem with the deck. A lot of games you are just sitting there with two Ovens and no Cat, while the next game you have two Claim the Firstborn and two Cats but no Oven. Jund, on the other hand, is much better at finding all the combos thanks to Trail of Crumbs, but it gives up percentage points against aggro because of the twelve shock lands. I believe both of these decks are a good choice for the future and their sudden increase in popularity makes a lot of sense.
As a side note, I tried this Grixis Kroxa deck and it was fun, but it seemed like it was combining the problems of Rakdos and Jund, while not really adding anything relevant. Kroxa is an excellent card and it does seem underplayed and underutilized right now, but I think it’s for good reason. Discard just isn’t very good right now. Standard is a fight for board position; resolving planeswalkers and protecting them or attacking with Embercleave on turn 4. If you take a turn off to make them discard a card with Kroxa or Agonizing Remorse, you are getting too far behind on board.
Agonizing Remorse is only effective against slow decks that need specific cards like Jeskai Fires, where if you take their Fires of Invention, their deck suddenly becomes non-functional. When you invest a card and your entire second turn to take a look at a Mono-Red player’s hand and they show you two 2-drops, a 3-drop, Light Up the Stage and Embercleave, in addition to already having two creatures in play, you are effectively just giving them a Time Walk.
Thought Erasure out of Sultai at least has the added surveil effect for additional card selection and it’s actively a great tool to have in the control and midrange mirrors, but playing discard in your Rakdos or Jund decks to try to disrupt your opponent’s game plan just feels miserable right now. You are going to do much better if you play something that develops your own board position instead.
Jeskai Fires has somehow been slowly disappearing from the metagame as well, despite putting up consistently good finishes. It did pretty well at DreamHack Anaheim and we saw multiple MPL and Rivals members post ten wins in the Mythic Point Challenge.
Jeskai Fires - Matt Nass (Standard)
My biggest problem with Fires is that the deck feels absolutely miserable without Fires of Invention. There currently seem to be too many Dovin’s Vetos, Aether Gusts, Mystical Disputes, and Elspeth Conquers Death for my liking. Other decks usually have a plan B or multiple engines (for example Temur Clover still works without Clover by drawing a lot of extra cards with Edgewall Innkeeper), but here all you can do is try to beat your opponent by casting 5-mana 6/5s. This isn’t Limited.
What happened to Blue/White Control?
U/W Control seems to have disappeared from the Standard metagame. I think there are multiple reasons why that happened:
• Temur Clover is one of the most popular decks now, which is a pretty bad matchup for you.
• Mono-Red, which was one of your best matchups, is not doing as well and overall you just don’t seem to crush anything. You play a lot of close matchups while losing badly to Clover and Sultai.
• Other decks are doing the same things you are, but better. For example, Bant Ramp/Midrange just seems to be a better version of this deck.
• It takes a really long time to finish games. Especially on Arena, where a lot of players just want to finish their quests or play a few games in a short period of time, this just isn’t the deck for that.
Overall, I don’t think U/W Control is a great choice right now. I’m also not super worried about it when I’m considering other decks to play, because it just stopped being popular.
There is one person who keeps winning with it though, and that’s Austin Bursavich, who went 10-1 in the Mythic Point Challenge, in addition to making Top 4 at DreamHack Anaheim earlier. I’ve watched some of his matches, and he really knows what he’s doing with the deck, which surely adds some percentage points to your overall win rate because this is not an easy deck to play.
The best tip I can give you for U/W Control is to play at least three Dream Trawlers in your main deck. It’s your best card against Clover, Bant, Mono-Red, and Rakdos. Your current game plan should be to play turn-6 Dream Trawler against basically everyone.
Blue-White Control (Standard)
What about Bant?
This deck has been putting up some decent finishes, but I’ll be honest, I just don’t see the appeal of it. I do love the combination of Nissa + Hydroid Krasis, but this deck seems like it leans too heavily on drawing Growth Spiral. Starting with two tapped lands into Uro on turn-3 is often just too slow.
I also think Uro is just too weak if you aren’t putting cards in your graveyard quickly, and Standard just doesn’t have anything like Satyr Wayfinder. Tamiyo is in the deck pretty much just to help you fill your graveyard for Uro and that just isn’t good enough for me. It has the exact same problem as The Royal Scions, which is not affecting the board. You cast it, sometimes draw a card, and then your opponent just attacks it and it dies.
To me, this deck just looks like a collection of cards, rather than something with a cohesive game plan. Sure, the cards are powerful, but that isn’t always going to be enough.
Others have been winning with it though, and we saw two copies in the Top 8 of GP Lyon. Team world champion loldajoe qualified for Players Tour 2 with this version from Christian Hauck.
Bant Ramp (Standard)
I won’t pretend I’m an expert on Bant, but my first change to the deck would be to cut Narset and replace it with Dream Trawlers. My goal is to win games and Dream Trawler does that pretty well.
That Stonecoil Serpent in the sideboard is a sweet tech for the mirror.
The actual best deck in Standard is probably Temur Clover. Aaron Gertler completely dominated DreamHack Anaheim with it and BBD, Brad Nelson and LSV all got ten wins in the Mythic Point Challenge.
Temur Clover (Standard)
My version is slightly different. I’m a big fan of Nissa and being proactive while having strong cards in my sideboard that I can actually bring in during sideboarding.
This deck almost pushed U/W Control out of the metagame by itself, and it has a solid Red matchup. It’s really strong, and my frontrunner for the best deck in the format, but it’s also extremely complicated to play perfectly.
I already covered U/W Blink and Temur Reclamation in other articles, both have some good and bad matchups. Blink loses to Clover and Reclamation has to fight through countless Teferis. On the bright side, Temur has a great Clover and Bant matchup, which seem to be the two most popular decks. Just make sure your sideboard has a plan against Dovin’s Veto for the post-board games. Robber of the Rich and Nightpack Ambusher are great when your opponent focuses their attention on your Wilderness Reclamations instead.
So, what would I recommend you play in Standard this weekend? In general, nothing really stands out and you can win or lose with everything, so a pretty good strategy is to just play the deck you know best. Another good strategy is to try to surprise people with something they aren’t ready for, and I think Temur Reclamation and the Sacrifice strategies are doing that pretty well right now.
My Top 3 Picks for Standard This Weekend
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