Week 3 of M19 Standard is in the books and we have a lull in the action as the Pro’s and their teams are putting in major testing hours for Pro Tour 25th Anniversary in Minneapolis next weekend. The GP was M19 Limited and the SCG Open was Modern (not even the mixed format Team event that we got the past 2 weeks). All we have to look to for how the meta is shaping up is the two weekly Magic the Gathering Online Standard Competitive League 5-0 decklist postings from July 23rd and July 26th, and the smaller single day Star City Games Classic event in Indy.
Coming out of the weekend Grixis Midrange was looking like the established tier-0 archetype that all others would need to be tuned against to have any chance at the top tables of upcoming tournaments. The online decklist postings only reaffirmed that as multiple decks featuring the God-Pharaoh appear. And let us not forget about the impending “Combo Summer” I forewarned you all about in last week’s meta update. Sai Storm (a much better naming convention than trying to force the Paradoxical narrative…) appears in multiples in both of the decklist updates as well. So, as the Star City Games Classic unfolded this past Sunday, you would have expected a top-8 full of Ornithopters tapping for mana against flipping Nicol Boli (how DO you pluralize a Bolas…or I guess the real question is can the Multiverse HANDLE more than one Bolas?). It cannot – Editor
I guess this is why we actually play the games. The winning deck? Why, Mono-Black Zombies of course! Death Baron and friends lumbered their way to two copies of the deck in the top-8 of this tournament, while Nicol Bolas, the Ravager shows up in only the 5th place (and incorrectly labeled) “U/B Midrange” deck. Sai, Master Thopterist finds himself completely missing, even going down through the full top-16 decks. The Zombie decks have only made a few small tweaks since first popping up 3 weeks ago, highlighted by upping the anti-Red Aggro hate with a full 4 copies of Gifted Aetherborn in the sideboard.
The real winner of this tournament has to be Heart of Kiran though, appearing in 5 of the top-8 decks and showing off just how powerful the Vehicle mechanic was when Wizards first introduced (and severely PUSHED) it. Having access to a permanent that is only a creature when you want it to be (i.e. on your own turn) and considering that instant speed removal has been just about nerfed out of the game, means that aggressive strategies have an upper hand against the slower Combo and Control archetypes.
But that doesn’t mean that Combo and Control are dead. No, far from it my friends. It just takes the right string of draws and matchups, and you get some spectacularly fun decks like Drake Haven Control, Mono-Black Desecrated Tomb Value-Town, Bant Turns featuring the much maligned Nexus of Fate or the wacky “8-Mare” list that combines the best of the anti-aggro lifegain strategy with Crested Sunmare for a long-game engine that is “neigh” impossible to beat!
So, with the Pro Tour next weekend promising to deliver us the “correct versions” of the decks we have been seeing at the top tables from the Star City events and in the Magic Online 5-0 decklist updates, the one thing that we need to keep in mind is that these decks will be highly tuned for a small and insular metagame, consisting of the top players the game has to offer, competing for one of the top prizes you can hope to earn. Oh, and did I mention that it’s a team event, so the results are made up and the standings don’t matter? You should still be prepared for anything come Friday night.
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.