Welcome back to Strictly Standard for 2019! It’s a new year full of new set releases and new possibilities. Like, POSSIBLY Mono-Red won’t be good once Ravnica Allegiance releases. Please GOD tell me Mono-Red won’t be good once Ravnica Allegiance releases… With the lamentations of a year and a half of aggro dominating the format behind us, I wanted to take a look back at the Standard format that Guilds of Ravnica and the fall rotation gave us.
Guilds of Ravnica Standard was an evolving format. Things started out dominated by the grindy value generating Golgari decks that leverage the graveyard-filling power of Stitcher’s Supplier and Glowspore Shaman and a slew of “enter’s the battlefield” effects to grind out the opponent’s resources. This deck gained an early advantage in the arms race. Enter Tocatli Honor Guard. This card single-handedly put White decks on the map after the first few weeks of Golgari dominance. Oh you wanted your 4-mana 2/2 to kill my creature? Nope, sorry, it’s just a 4-mana 2/2 now! Once the White decks settled the format, it opened things up for the Izzet Drakes and Arclight decks to gain traction. But all along, nudging the periphery of Tier 1 was the ever-present Mono Red deck using the insane card advantage that Experimental Frenzy provided to snowball damage out of nowhere (well OK, its out of their library) and close out the game. I know I personally have been taken down from at least 11 life more times than I care to admit.
The format was as varied as I have seen in recent memory, lending itself to about a dozen different archetypes that could take down a tournament on any given weekend. And if you followed my articles as the season progressed, you would have noticed a strong shift in the prevalence of Planeswalkers as the central focus of the top tier decks. For the first month or so, there were over 50 different decklists being posted to the Magic Online Competitive Standard League 5-0 results article. And usually there was in the neighborhood of 35 to 40 of those lists that featured a Planeswalker somewhere in the 75. By the time the Pro Tour rolled around, the decklist quantity had dwindled to 35 to 40 TOTAL lists and usually only 15 to 20 of them featured Magic’s lovable storyline characters. While all of the focus was on Vivien and the Golgari decks at the beginning, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria just sat in the background doing what he does best. Quietly dominating the format. There were usually more copies of Teferi than any other ‘Walker, sometimes by a factor of 2x, even though the UWx decks usually represented fewer than 10 total lists, which would be half that of Golgari. It is undeniable how powerful this Planeswalker is, and has been since his printing in Dominaria.
Some of my favorite highlights from the season involved watching Vivien Reid take over as the dominant Planeswalker of note in the face of all the hype that Vraska, Golgari Queen was receiving. I also really enjoyed seeing Luis Scott-Vargas return to dominance on the Pro Tour (I know, Mythic Championship series now). Even though he “ONLY” placed 2nd at Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica, it shows that when you have one of the best strategic minds the game has ever known, even a year off from Competitive Magic can’t keep you down for long!
Next week join me for a look ahead at what Ravnica Allegiance brings to these archetypes and possibly what new archetypes might spring up!
Eric has been an avid Magic fan and player since re-discovering the game in 2012. He is a Red mage at heart but likes to confuse himself with the varying decision trees presented by mid-range and control decks from time to time.
Eric plays mostly casually with his 9-year-old daughter, but manages to get out for every prerelease and a few FNM’s and GP’s every year.
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