I’m writing this week’s Power Rankings from the airport on my way home from the World Championship. Esper Midrange was the deck to beat, with roughly 70 percent of the field choosing it for the Standard portion. Of the seven players who managed nine or more wins in the event, six of them were playing Esper. However, it was Grixis that wound up taking down the whole event!
Beyond Worlds, there’ve been a flurry of big Standard events, including a round of Super Qualifiers on Magic Online. For this installment, I looked at both Worlds and Magic Online results, factoring in frequency of play and number of strong finishes, as well as which decks have been actually taking home trophies.
Here are the resources I use to inform all Power Rankings, leaning more heavily on what applies best to the given format:
- Magic Online results. This includes Preliminaries, Weekend Challenges, Super Qualifiers, and MOCS Events.
- MTGMelee results. I typically look at all of the events with at least 30 players.
- Large tabletop events. When applicable.
- Untapped.GG stats.
- Previous rankings. Just because a deck didn’t make a top 8 over the weekend, doesn’t mean it’s suddenly a bad deck.
- Public opinion. I discuss things with my teammates, and take a look at what’s getting a lot of attention on Twitch, Twitter, YouTube, podcasts and written content.
- My own instincts and experiences.
While Mono-Black wasn’t a big deck at Worlds, cards like Reckoner Bankbuster, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Invoke Despair were. Mono-Black is an ideal home for all of them. I find that Standard success hinges heavily on your ability to come out smoothly in the first three turns of the game, so a monocolor deck with all painless, untapped lands and plenty of efficient cards is highly appealing.
Invoke Justice a reanimation strategy that can come in the form of either Naya, Boros or Mono-White. The goal is to discard a game-winning creature like Sanctuary Warden or Titan of Industry using connive, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Cathartic Pyre or The Restoration of Eiganjo. From there, Invoke Justice will give you such an overwhelming advantage so quickly that winning the game is a foregone conclusion.
I still like this deck, but it’s worth noting that you’re going to have to fight through many copies of Dennick, Pious Apprentice on your way to reanimating big creatures.
8. Esper Legends
Esper Legends is an alternative take on a popular and successful color combination. This version is much more creature-centric, often leveraging Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar to overwhelm the opponent before they ever get their feet underneath them. To help with the mana, you can play more copies of Plaza of Heroes and go heavy on the many powerful legendary creatures that Standard has to offer.
Jund Reanimator was my personal choice for Worlds, and I played it to a 3-2 record. The key cards for this strategy are The Cruelty of Gix and Soul of Windgrace. Cruelty can be played straight up on chapter one to accumulate value over the course of three turns, but you can also read ahead to stabilize the battlefield immediately by reanimating a Titan of Industry. Soul of Windgrace is a standalone threat that generates value and bridges you well into your bigger spells.
It’s true that you have to contend with Dennick and plenty of permission spells on your way to reanimating Titans of Industry. However, I’ve found that this deck has a surprising ability to work around these cards, and games go long enough that hardcasting Titans is a very real plan (sometimes even with nine mana to pay for Make Disappear!). In games and matchups where they’re not prepared for your Titan plan, scoring some free wins really adds up.
6. Izzet Spells
Popularized by Julian Wellman, who led the field during the Standard portion of Worlds, Izzet Spells (or Izzet Tempo) uses Haughty Djinn, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Lier, Disciple of the Drowned to dominate games. To support them, the deck is filled with cheap interaction like burn spells and permission, which helps you handle anything the opponent might throw at you.
Of many great black midrange decks, Rakdos is one of the simplest and most effective. It capitalizes on Bloodtithe Harvester, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and the excellent removal and disruption of black and red. I’ll mention once again that I’m a big believer in Invoke Despair, and that Rakdos is a great home for the powerful sorcery.
That’s right, two Jund decks make the Rankings this week! At the #3 position is plain, simple, no-frills Jund Midrange. You’ll always see Bloodtithe Harvester, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and a core of efficient removal spells. Beyond that, common creature choices include Briarbridge Tracker and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
Jund is yet another possible home for Invoke Despair, if you’re willing to skew your mana towards black. However, you can also simply top out at creatures like Workshop Warchief, which pair extremely well with Reflection of Kiki-Jiki.
I’m not yet sure if I like Mono-Blue or Izzet Spells more, but it seems like Mono-Blue has seen a higher volume of play up to this point, so I gave it the nod in this week’s rankings. One major appeal of sticking to one color and lots of basic Islands is Thirst for Meaning, which gives you an influx of resources and helps you dig to your best cards.
Grixis gets all of the best removal and disruption across blue, red and black. It’s a brewer’s paradise, with any reasonable configuration of cards within these colors feeling like it can result in a competitive deck. For top-end options, you can choose Invoke Despair, Sol’Kanar the Tainted, Evelyn, the Covetous or any of a number of other creatures or planeswalkers.
This was the weapon of choice for World Champion Nathan Steuer. I think saying that he dominated the Esper players would be an exaggeration, but it also shouldn’t be considered pure coincidence that he won a Top 4 playoff against three elite Esper pilots.
This was a top archetype of the previous format, and has now solidified itself as the deck to beat in Dominaria Standard as well. Raffine, Scheming Seer remains one of the most deadly creatures out there, and Esper can run away with games early, but can also grind people out in the long run.