Midrange, Aggro, and Control All Turned Out in Week 1

Guilds of Ravnica is officially legal for tournament play and the new powerhouse set took little time to make a big impact. Kaladesh and Amonkhet have rotated, and there is space for the new cards to shine.

Let’s start with this: I’ve been a known Standard hater over the years, and what I’ve seen after one week is a format I’m excited to play and explore. There are a lot of different decks to choose from, and a dynamic metagame is taking shape.

Speaking of metagames, let’s take a look at what we are working with so far. Three large marquee events took place last weekend that will go a long way toward shaping the format in the coming weeks.

  • SCG Team Open (with GRN Standard)
  • SCG Standard Classic

The mission today is to give you a concise picture of the week 1 Standard metagame looks like, along with some of the best lists.

I have a breakdown of the winner’s metagame across those three events, that, while obviously small, paints an interesting picture of the format.

DECK NAME # of TOP 8s % OF TOP 8s # of TOP 16s (includes Top 8) % of TOP 16
G/B and G/B/x 4 16% 13 27%
Red Deck Wins 4 16% 10 21%
Boros 6 25% 6 13%
Jeskai 2 8% 2 8%
G/W Tokens 2 8% 2 8%
Esper 2 8% 1 6%
Grixis 2 8% 0 4%
Izzet 1 4% 1 4%
Mono-Blue 1 4% 1 2%
Dimir 0 0% 1 2%
Andrew Tenjum on Temur 0 0% 1 2%

Obviously, the process isn’t refined to absolute perfection as one of these events was a team event, but we can get a pretty clear picture of some of the major trends.

Golgari Midrange Decks All Around

I don’t have the total numbers of how many Golgari and B/G/x decks were played in each event, but if I had to guess based on the Top 16 chart, I would guess that it was the most played deck last weekend.

It also won the Online PTQ.

YAMAKILLER, 1st place at Standard PTQ on 10/06/2018

I don’t want to beat a dead horse and cover information that has already been talked about to death, but Assassin’s Trophy is easily one of the best removal spells of all time.

It says something that I feel comfortable making a statement like that, and it’s only week one!

It is also worth noting that I’ve lumped both Sultai and Abzan into the same category as straight Golgari. While these decks are different, they share a lot in common as well. In particular, a potent and grindy B/G midrange shell.

These various flavors of B/G “The Rock” midrange styles appear to be a format-defining mainstay of GRN Standard.

I also wanted to give Selesnya Tokens some love here in the midrange category. I typically group token decks as a special branch on the midrange tree.

Selesnya Tokens

Eric Shoopman, 1st place at SCG Team Open on 10/6/2018

The finals of the Team Open was a Standard mirror match between G/W Tokens. While it is important to note that this was a team event that also featured other formats, it was still an important source of early data. The deck looks strong and focused.

2. Spoiler Alert: Aggro Dominated Week One

We can use a different graph to refine our picture of the week 1 winner’s metagame:

ARCHETYPE TOP 8 % TOP 16 % (includes Top 8)
AGGRO 50% 45%
MIDRANGE 25% 37.5%
CONTROL 25% 17.5%

For the most part, aggressive decks were either Red Deck Wins or Boros, and as you can see, they did extremely well and made up basically half of the winner’s metagame across the board.

I love the fact that there are different flavors of aggressive decks between Boros, Red Deck, and Mono-Blue. In particular, I love the Boros Angels deck Brian Cooper used to take down the Classic:

Boros Angels

Brian Cooper, 1st place at SCG Classic on 10/7/2018

Is this deck aggro or midrange? All I know is that it is full of powerful mythics and packs one heck of a punch. It should be called Boros Mythic! It can quickly clock an opponent, but can also turtle up and play defense as well.

Mono-Red Aggro

Max McVety, 3rd place at StarCityGames.com Team Open on 10/6/2018

I’ve got to give Max some love for a nicely tuned red deck. There has been a lot of discussion in anticipation of the new season about whether or not Red Deck Wins would still be a viable option, and the results speak for themselves.

I’m not surprised to see so much aggro represented in the winner’s metagame after one week. It’s easier to tune the aggressive decks than the defensive decks within such a short time frame. I’d expect to see a rise in both midrange and control in the next two weeks to even things out.

3. Many Flavors of Control

The control decks are the mystery of the format after one week. Boros and Red Deck Wins look to be the aggressive decks with the best numbers. Golgari and Selesnya Tokens are leading the midrange pack. But when it comes to control, there were strong performances spread across the board between Grixis, Jeskai, Esper, and even grindy Sultai.

The important theme seems to be that the new mana fixing favors 3-color control decks with blue. Let’s also note that there were more control decks in the 1-8 spots than in the 9-16 spots, which may imply that those decks are better than their representation implies.

I know you want lists. Here they come:

Grixis Control

TETEZINHO, 2nd place at  Standard PTQ on 10/06/2018

Nicol Bolas is a powerhouse and the centerpiece of this powerful deck. A deck like this feels awfully midrangey to me (it’s a bunch of great creatures and removal), but it is undoubtedly going to take the control role in most matchups nonetheless. It’s week one, after all!

Jeskai Control

LIMITEDPOWER, 3rd place at Standard PTQ on 10/06/2018

It seemed unlikely to me that Teferi, Hero of Dominaria wasn’t going to be a force in GRN Standard, and here it is. Azorious isn’t even in Guilds of Ravnica and the powerful planeswalker is carrying the guild all by himself and making Jeskai great.

Also, the deck uses this powerful looting engine as its primary win condition, which is extremely saucy.

4. Stompy Gets Stomped

Where are all the Steel Leaf Paladin decks I’ve been reading about all week? I was surprised to see them basically nonexistent in the winner’s metagame.

Mono-green was the level 1 deck going into the weekend and it looks like players were prepared. I’d be surprised if Steel Leaf didn’t eventually find a niche, but the results feel pretty conclusive after one week.

Week One Wraps Up

One of the reasons I’m so excited about this format is because for each of the major archetypes (aggro, midrange, and control) there are multiple viable decks. At least, that is what the week one data seems to suggest.

If you want to play aggro, you’ve got options, and the same can be said for midrange and control.

Aggro performed very well in the first week of high profile events. I would expect to see the midrange and control decks adapt and bounce back, especially now that they have multiple, different aggro decks to test and tune against.

Of all the decks, the two I’m most excited to hitch my wagon to are the Boros Angels deck and the Jeskai Control deck. Both of those decks look potent and well positioned in an aggressive field. I’d be surprised if both decks don’t expand their share of the winner’s metagame by next week.

Pick a guild and jump in. The format is fine!


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