Welcome to week 1 of Ravnica Allegiance Standard! And welcome back to the Strictly Standard meta report series where we dive into the past week’s Magic Online decklists and weekend tournament results. It was release weekend, so no WotC sponsored paper tournaments to talk about, but we do get the Star City Games Open and Classic tournaments from Indianapolis and a bevy of Magic Online decks to talk about from both the Competitive Standard Leagues as well as the Standard Mythic Championship Qualifier.
Kicking things off, I’d like to take a look at the tournament meta. We have both a paper tournament and a Magic Online tournament to dissect, which also happened simultaneously so neither could really influence the other. Star City Games Indianapolis had 693 competitors and went 15 rounds with a cut to top-8. The top tables was comprised of 6 different archetypes with Esper Control and a new archetype for this Standard format in Sultai Midrange being the only double-ups. It was Anthony Devarti’s Sultai Midrange list that ended up winning the whole thing on the back of Hydroid Krasis.
Looking further into the top-8, Wyatt Darby shows us a really nice Esper Midrange list that leverages Hero of Precinct One with tons of the most powerful multi-colored spells that White, Black, and Blue has to offer. While I’m not certain this strategy has the legs to battle with the heavy hitters of this format, it was a great meta call that Wyatt was able to ride to a 5th place finish!
For the Star City Games Classic on Sunday, 93 players registered and Raja Sulaiman took it down with his Esper Control list. Riding Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and backing him up with new powerhouse control elements Mortify and Kaya’s Wrath makes for an incredibly difficult gameplan for an opponent to grind through before simply getting out-paced in the resource battle. I like a build of Esper that leans on its ability to control the long game for this format.
The Magic Online Mythic Championship Qualifier tournament was held on Saturday, January 26th which gave players about 9 days to acquire the cards they needed for their decks and tune and practice. While this doesn’t sound like a lot of time, the fact that digital object cards can be acquired instantaneously through bots means there’s no lag time in waiting for the mail service to deliver your precious cardboard. PETOMARTINEZ was able to win it all with this Sultai Midrange list; complete with 4 copies of Hydroid Krasis. By the end of this article you might notice a running theme here…
One of the more head-turning decks to finish at the top of this tournament is SKITE’s Gates deck. It’s not very often that you can build a winning deck centered on lands that come into play tapped (and have no secondary abilities), but with powerful Gate synergy cards like Gates Ablaze and Guild Summit, or even Archway Angel out of the board, this deck is able to stall the game out long enough to build towards a giant Explosion at end step thanks to Wilderness Reclamation untapping all of those comes-into-play-tapped gates. This is yet another strategy that relies heavily on the power of Hydroid Krasis.
As far as the Magic Online Competitive Standard League 5-0 results go, we have three posts. The set went live in Magic the Gathering Online on Thursday January 17th, so the first set of decklists on Monday, January 21st is also the first real set of results. With 29 total decklists, 18 of which are 3-color Shard/Wedge archetypes, things are starting out with a strong slant towards new decks. Some of my favorite new archetypes to pop up are the Hadana’s Climb Adapt decks. Getting free value out of the cards you are already interested in playing in the first place is definitely where it’s at.
Rhythm of the Wild is another Enchantment that I am very interested in watching as this Standard format develops. Again, getting free counters for Adapt, or as in this list, just giving a giant beater like Pelakka Wurm or Carnage Tyrant Haste can be all you need to win a game.
Just a couple days later on Thursday, January 24th we had a 2nd set of Online lists posted and the number of unique entries dropped to 27. I think this has more to do with it being 3 weekdays in between posts rather than the format becoming solved as the number of decks with 3 or more colors also dropped by 2 down to 16. This could also be signaling that the “correct” build of some of the Shard/Wedge archetypes is starting to materialize. While Rakdos, Selesnya, and Mardu decks fell off, newcomers Golgari, Izzet, and the Gates deck that later on top-4’d the weekend’s Magic Online MCQ arrived. Also the archetype with the strongest uptick in play is Bant. I’m guessing that has something to do with Hydroid Krasis.
After people had a chance to react to the meta from the first week of Online play, the 30 unique lists in Monday, January 28th’s posting shows that Standard is still working itself out. The number of unique 3+ color decks went up by 5, proving that there is still a lot of work to be done before things are truly solved. The Abzan and Boros lists that showed up in the 1st two postings have disappeared this time, however we see a return of 1st result lists in Rakdos and Mardu. Also dropping off this time around is newcomer to the 2nd posting Golgari, and the Izzet deck from that post picked up a tiny Black splash for Dispersal, but I wouldn’t quite go calling it a Grixis deck. New for this post is the Azorius Weenie’s deck that top-4’d the SCG Open as well as 2 separate Jeskai lists, one featuring Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and a stifling control gameplan and the other a midrange strategy going for a top end of Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice and Lyra Dawnbringer. I like the control version of this archetype better as I would rather have versatile answers for the Simic-X decks that can go much bigger in a long game.
Taking a look back at how a few of my early predictions shaped up, I have to say I am pleasantly surprised. With a majority of the list sporting 3 colors, my prediction that Shards and Wedges would reign supreme has come true much earlier in the format than I had expected. With Sultai taking down both the SCG Open AND the Magic Online MCQ and all 3 tournaments of the weekend having 6 decks with 3 (or more) colors, you can clearly see the impact that adding the remaining Shocklands has done to Standard. Players are no longer incentivized to avoid powerful cards in an effort to streamline their manabase. While I was incorrect on an aggro deck winning the first tournament, we did see an aggro archetype place in the top-8 of all 3 of them. And one of those was even an Azorius Weenies just like what I laid out as my week 1 list. OK, so I didn’t include Deputy of Detention and instead went with a very disruptable Mist-Cloaked Herald + Curious Obsession plan, but I had the White base package plus powerful Blue additions right!
It’s looking like playing Hydroid Krasis is the early favorite for premier strategy, however I feel like by the time the sun sets on Ravnica Allegiance that playing with Wilderness Reclamation and playing at instant speed with things like Nexus of Fate and big “X spells” like Explosion is going to be the way to win in this format. But then again, I would rather try to be on a level 2 strategy that packs Mortify and Assassin’s Trophy to combat these new Enchantment based decks and come out on top as the meta adapts.
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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