Monday morning brought one of the biggest banned and restricted announcements in a long time.
What does this mean for the Standard metagame?
1. The format will slow down
Without the constant free supply of Food from Oko, Gilded Goose won’t be nearly as prolific. It will still be played in Food Sacrifice decks and to enable turn-3 Nissa in some ramp strategies, but it is much closer to a Lotus Petal than a Birds of Paradise now. Without a reliable 1-mana accelerant, everything will slow down. Previously, you absolutely needed a plan against turn-2 Oko, or your deck couldn’t compete. Now this option is gone, and you will have more time to develop your board and execute your game plan.
2. Fires of Invention gets better
Jeskai Fires was already a decent deck, highlighted by Greg Kowalski’s 10th place finish at MC Richmond. Now that there is no Oko to turn your Cavaliers into 3/3 Elks, this strategy became a whole lot better. Jeskai Fires was by far the most popular deck in Day 2 of Twitch Rivals and I’m sure we will be seeing a lot of it in the upcoming weeks. Zvi’s version caught my eye, with 4 Sphinx of Foresight instead of the more conventional Drawn from Dreams.
2 Island 2 Mountain 1 Plains 3 Castle Vantress 3 Fabled Passage 4 Hallowed Fountain 2 Sacred Foundry 4 Steam Vents 3 Temple of Epiphany 3 Temple of Triumph 3 Bonecrusher Giant/Stomp 4 Cavalier of Flame 4 Cavalier of Gales 4 Sphinx of Foresight 1 Kenrith, the Returned King - Collector Pack Exclusive 1 Drawn from Dreams 4 Fires of Invention 3 Shimmer of Possibility 4 Teferi, Time Raveler 1 Time Wipe 4 Deafening Clarion Sideboard 2 Aether Gust 2 Devout Decree 4 Legion Warboss 4 Mystical Dispute 1 Solar Blaze 2 Sorcerous Spyglass
One small improvement that I would make to all the Fires decks I’ve been seeing is to add 1 Swamp to the main deck. If you are playing Kenrith and Fabled Passage, you should absolutely have one in there. There are usually 27 lands in the deck—turning one into an off-color land shouldn’t be a big deal and it really is worth it in the long games, when Kenrith can start bringing Cavaliers back from your graveyard (and it doesn’t even count as playing a spell!). If you are playing Fae of Wishes, I also suggest putting an Ethereal Absolution in your sideboard.
3. Midrange decks get better
Mike Sigrist won the whole Twitch Rivals tournament with his version of G/B Adventures, and there was another in the Top 4, played by Yuuki Ichikawa.
8 Forest 6 Swamp 1 Castle Locthwain 3 Fabled Passage 4 Overgrown Tomb 3 Temple of Malady 4 Edgewall Innkeeper 4 Foulmire Knight/Profane Insight 4 Paradise Druid 3 Order of Midnight/Alter Fate 4 Lovestruck Beast/Heart's Desire - Showcase 2 Midnight Reaper 4 Murderous Rider/Swift End 4 Questing Beast 2 Rankle, Master of Pranks 1 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 2 Vivien, Arkbow Ranger 1 Garruk, Cursed Huntsman Sideboard 2 Assassin's Trophy 4 Duress 2 Legion's End 1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General 2 Massacre Girl 2 Shifting Ceratops 2 Thrashing Brontodon
Previously, Oko absolutely dominated all kinds of midrange battles. Now everything is fair game, and your Questing Beast and Edgewall Innkeepers won’t get turned into Elks or eaten by Wicked Wolves. One card I’m very excited about is Vivien, Arkbow Ranger. It can single-handedly win you the game against the Cat Food decks and it has a really nice synergy with Questing Beast. I like Siggy’s approach to the deck. He’s not trying to get creative with Massacre Girl and instead is just playing all the most powerful cards. I expect Casualties of War to see a lot of play in G/B decks over the coming days. Another reason G/B is better than before is that there is no Veil of Summer to counter your Murderous Rider.
4. Control decks will make a comeback
When I was flying home from Mythic Championship Richmond, I ran into Guillaume Wafo-Tapa at the airport. Naturally, I had to ask him if he played U/W Control in the tournament. He said he did, with a splash of black for Noxious Grasp. I asked how he did, and Guillaume gave me a sad look and said “Veil of Summer is so stupid.”
I fully expect countermagic and cards like Thought Erasure to make a comeback. The midrange deck can no longer sit on turn-2 Oko with Veil of Summer in hand. U/W Control was already doing fairly well when Oko was legal and should only become better now. The same goes for Simic and Izzet Flash, both perfectly reasonable options right now.
7 Island 8 Forest 1 Castle Vantress 4 Breeding Pool 1 Fabled Passage 4 Temple of Mystery 2 Spectral Sailor 2 Wildborn Preserver 4 Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft 4 Brineborn Cutthroat 4 Frilled Mystic 4 Nightpack Ambusher 3 Nissa, Who Shakes the World 3 Growth Spiral 3 Sinister Sabotage 1 Unsummon 2 Opt 3 Quench Sideboard 2 Aether Gust 2 Disdainful Stroke 2 Hydroid Krasis 3 Mystical Dispute 2 Negate 2 Questing Beast 2 Shifting Ceratops
10 Island 4 Mountain 2 Castle Vantress 2 Fabled Passage 4 Steam Vents 4 Temple of Epiphany 4 Bonecrusher Giant/Stomp 4 Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft 4 Gadwick, the Wizened 4 Brineborn Cutthroat 4 Ionize 2 Negate 3 Ral's Outburst 2 Shock 4 Opt 3 Quench Sideboard 3 Aether Gust 3 Flame Sweep 3 Lava Coil 2 Mystical Dispute 1 Negate 1 Ral, Izzet Viceroy 1 Sorcerous Spyglass 1 The Royal Scions
5. Will Cat-Oven Food Sacrifice decks dominate now?
Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven are shaping up to be the cards to beat in the new format. This deck was popularized by Crokeyz, who took G/B Cat to the #1 mythic rank this week and last. Personally, I prefer to splash red for Mayhem Devil, which is capable of some very nasty things in this deck. This 2nd place list from Twitch Rivals is a great start.
Jund Cat Food
5 Forest 1 Mountain 2 Swamp 4 Blood Crypt 1 Castle Locthwain 3 Fabled Passage 4 Overgrown Tomb 4 Stomping Ground 4 Cauldron Familiar 4 Gilded Goose 3 Massacre Girl 4 Mayhem Devil 3 Murderous Rider/Swift End 4 Paradise Druid 1 Wicked Wolf 1 Liliana, Dreadhorde General 4 Trail of Crumbs 2 Vraska, Golgari Queen 4 Witch's Oven 2 Assassin's Trophy Sideboard 4 Cindervines 3 Duress 4 Lovestruck Beast/Heart's Desire - Showcase 1 Noxious Grasp 2 Questing Beast 1 Ugin, the Ineffable
6. What about Embercleave?
Embercleave is a great card and it is especially good against the Cat Sacrifice decks, that are otherwise good at chumping your large creatures over and over without taking any significant damage. There are two good Embercleave options: red/black and red/green. The problem is that the two-color decks still suffer from having a bad mana base, and this problem is exacerbated now that Once Upon Time is banned. There was a very interesting R/G Adventures build at MC Richmond played by Seth Manfield, Martin Muller, and Javier Dominguez to a 66% win rate.
10 Forest 10 Mountain 4 Stomping Ground 4 Bonecrusher Giant/Stomp 4 Rimrock Knight/Boulder Rush 4 Edgewall Innkeeper 4 Kraul Harpooner 4 Lovestruck Beast/Heart's Desire - Showcase 4 Questing Beast 4 Domri's Ambush 4 Once Upon a Time 1 Veil of Summer 3 Embercleave
I expect this deck to get much worse now though, because you don’t have Once Upon a Time to fix your mana base and improve your odds of starting with Edgewall Innkeeper in hand. Kraul Harpooner also gets much less appealing when there are no free Golden Geese to eat.
Is red/black the answer then? I tried the R/B Knights deck and I hated so many things about it. Tournament Grounds lets you actually cast all your spells, but at the cost of playing underpowered creatures like Fervent Champion and Blacklance Paragon. If you want to play better creatures like Dreadhorde Butcher and Spawn of Mayhem, then you only have about 12 red sources, which isn’t enough to reliably cast Embercleave. Tough choices.
6 Mountain 9 Swamp 4 Blood Crypt 1 Castle Locthwain 4 Tournament Grounds 4 Fervent Champion 4 Gutterbones 4 Knight of the Ebon Legion 2 Rimrock Knight/Boulder Rush 4 Stormfist Crusader 4 Blacklance Paragon 3 Oathsworn Knight 4 Rotting Regisaur 3 Drill Bit 4 Embercleave Sideboard 1 Embereth Shieldbreaker/Battle Display 2 Experimental Frenzy 3 Noxious Grasp 4 Duress 2 Lava Coil 3 Legion's End
7. The Great Henge
This is another card that was lurking in the shadows of Oko that I feel like is a big winner after the bans. Previously, you couldn’t really dedicate your game plan to getting it into play, because it would just turn into a 3/3 Elk. Now you are going to have more time and utilize its full potential.
Here’s an interesting deck revolving around the Great Henge from Stan Cifka and Ondrej Strasky.
5 Forest 6 Island 3 Fabled Passage 4 Breeding Pool 2 Castle Vantress 4 Temple of Mystery 2 Gilded Goose 4 Merfolk Secretkeeper/Venture Deeper 4 Edgewall Innkeeper 4 Vantress Gargoyle 3 Emry, Lurker of the Loch 4 Brazen Borrower/Petty Theft 2 Gadwick, the Wizened 4 Lovestruck Beast/Heart's Desire - Showcase 2 Golden Egg 3 The Great Henge 2 Jace, Wielder of Mysteries 2 Disdainful Stroke Sideboard 1 Aether Gust 1 Disdainful Stroke 2 Mystical Dispute 2 Negate 2 Questing Beast 1 Return to Nature 4 Shifting Ceratops 2 Thrashing Brontodon
Personally, I expect the biggest winner to be Teferi, Time Raveler and the Cat-Oven decks, but I am excited to brew various The Great Henge decks and see how aggro is positioned now that there hopefully aren’t going to be so many Wicked Wolves.
What do you think will be the best deck in the new metagame?