frank karsten standard after dreamhack wildborn preserver banner

The Standard Metagame Developments at the $100,000 Dreamhack Arena Open

Last weekend, the first $100,000 Dreamhack Arena Open took place in Anaheim. It was poorly advertised and only 94 players showed up, but the field was stacked. Members of the Hall of Fame, Magic Pro League, and Rivals League were in attendance, joined by Pro Tour veterans and the top of the Mythic ladder. There was even live coverage on twitch.tv/magic for three days straight.

Given the enormous prize pool, I would expect that the next edition, held at Dreamhack Dallas on May 22-24, will draw a bigger crowd.

The Metagame Breakdown and Win Rates

The Smash.gg page with the results, standings, and decklists was hellish to scrape, but I was able to run the numbers. In the table below, the provided confidence intervals are based on a 95% confidence level under the normal approximation to the binomial distribution.

Archetype Number of players Non-mirror match win rate
Azorius Control 27 54% (±7%)
Jeskai Fires 20 53% (±8%)
Mono-Red Aggro 15 45% (±9%)
Simic Ramp 4 36% (±19%)
Jund Food 4 56% (±15%)
Temur Clover 3 70% (±16%)
Temur Reclamation 3 55% (±18%)
Jeskai Superfriends 2 55%
Bant Control 2 40%
Gruul Aggro 2 53%
Esper Control 1 60%
Rakdos Sacrifice 1 20%
Rakdos Escape 1 43%
Temur Elementals 1 20%
Simic Flash 1 50%
Sultai Ramp 1 58%
Mardu Control 1 0%
Azorius Blink 1 20%
Azorius Superfriends 1 33%
Mono-Red Spellgorger 1 0%
Abzan Enchantments 1 17%
Mono-Red Cavalcade 1 17%

The matchups between the top three decks played out as follows:

  • Azorius Control went even against Mono-Red Aggro: 21-21 (50%).
  • Azorius Control had a small edge against Jeskai Fires: 29-25 (54%).
  • Jeskai Fires had a large edge against Mono-Red: 23-11 (68%).

Sample sizes for these matchups are still relatively small, with 95% confidence intervals plus or minus 15% or so. But these matchup descriptions are roughly in line with my own experience and with the results from the World Championship, so they are probably accurate. In a metagame dominated by this trifecta, Mono-Red looks to be the weak link.

Azorius Control and Jeskai Fires Are the Decks to Beat

Azorius Control - Austin Bursavich

Most Azorius Control lists at Dreamhack were very close to Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa’s World Championship winning list. Austin Bursavich, the highest-finishing Azorius Control player, made a few small tweaks by adding extra copies of Narset and Dream Trawler to the main deck and by adding Spectral Sailor to the sideboard. But these are minor changes, and the core of the list is pretty well established by now.

Jeskai Fires - Mani “Zapgaze” Davoudi

The core of Jeskai Fires is similarly established, but there is always some variation when it comes to the last couple of flex slots. Mani Davoudi, the highest-finishing Jeskai Fires player, opted for God-Eternal Oketra and Elspeth Conquers Death to round out his end-game threats.

So if Azorius Control and Jeskai Fires are both popular and well-performing, then what does that mean for Standard players?

Mono-Red Aggro Had a Poor Weekend

Dylan “Ni Hao Dylan” Nollen: Mono-Red Aggro (10-5)

Out of the three big decks, Mono-Red had the worst performance at the Dreamhack Arena Open. It seemed like everyone was ready with Devout Decree and/or Aether Gust in their sideboards. As a result, there was only one Mono-Red player in the Top 16: Grand Prix Portland champion Dylan Nollen.

His main deck was identical to the one played by Seth Manfield and Andrea Mengucci at the World Championship, and he merely made a minor tweak in the sideboard by adding two Fry. I like that addition as it’s the perfect answer to both Archon of Sun’s Grace and Kenrith, the Returned King. Clearing Teferi, Time Raveler to set up a mid-combat Embercleave is also a nice option to have.

Temur Clover Was the Breakout Deck of The Tournament

Temur Clover - Aaron “littlebeep” Gertler

Aaron Gertler is truly the Temur Clover master. He streamed his run to the #1 Mythic spot on MTG Arena, which he has held on to for quite a while now. His online win-loss record has been incredible, and the Dreamhack Arena Open event couldn’t have a better champion. Congratulations!

Temur Clover is one of the few decks that boasts a good matchup against Azorius Control. Aaron Gertler went 15-0 in the matchup online, and the set of Temur Clover players in Anaheim went 8-2 in their matches against Azorius Control. This makes sense—Temur Clover produces resources and card advantage at a rate that Azorius Control can’t keep up with, and Azorius Control cannot pressure them at all. Landing a quick Dream Trawler is probably a control player’s best chance, but the Adventure side of Fae of Wishes can grab Sorcerous Spyglass or Shadowspear to annul its hexproof ability.

After this weekend, I expect the stock of Temur Clover to rise astronomically. I wouldn’t be surprised if the deck gradually takes over Standard until people bring back cards like Planar Cleansing or Casualties of War.

But the dominance of Temur Clover wasn’t the only metagame development to come out of Dreamhack. Sure, it was the biggest and most important one by far, but there are two more decks that I’d like to highlight: Jund Food and Jeskai Superfriends.

Jund Food added Wildborn Preserver

Jund Food - Justin “Jei” Santiago (10-3)

Where Piotr Glogowski had Agonizing Remorse at the World Championship, Justin Santiago added Wildborn Preserver. It’s a more aggressive option that synergizes quite nicely with Cauldron Familiar. When you sacrifice a Food to return the Cat, you usually have all your mana at your disposal to give a huge boost to Wildborn Preserver. What’s more, you get to threaten such an activation at instant speed during combat. That’s pretty sweet.

On top of all that, on turn 2 against Mono-Red Aggro, a flashed-in Wildborn Preserver might eat an unsuspecting Fervent Champion or Scorch Spitter. And in the late-game against Azorius Control, a well-sized Wildborn Preserver will block Dream Trawler or Archon of Sun’s Grace all day. Overall, it’s an excellent development that Standard players should be aware of.

Jeskai Superfriends May Be the Real Deal as Well

Jeskai Superfriends - Rei Sato (6-4)

Finally, I wanted to highlight this Jeskai Superfriends brew played by Magic Pro League member Rei Sato. It might look like Jeskai Fires at first glance, but the deck actually contains no Fires of Invention, Cavalier of Flame, or Kenrith, the Returned King whatsoever. Instead, the main win condition is Sarkhan the Masterless, spearheading a lineup of 12 planeswalkers total. One benefit of this Fires-less approach is that it allows you to add Dovin’s Veto to the main deck, which is an important interactive card against the top decks in the metagame right now.

While Rei Sato was playing this deck at the Dreamhack Arena Open, Rivals League member Grzegorz Kowalski tweeted that he managed to hit #2 Mythic with it, at least before Zapgaze took it back from him. But it does mean that this deck definitely deserves further attention. Standard is still in flux, and I can’t wait to see where the format goes next.


Scroll to Top