Hi all, and welcome back to Strictly Standard! We have a pretty good lineup of major tournament and Magic Online 5-0 results to pore over this week, and thanks to the Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica results, the metagame for the last 2 months of Standard should be settling down and solidifying around the top tier decks. With Golgari midrange dominating the early format, it wasn’t until the past couple weeks that white-based aggro and midrange decks figured out the sideboard (and sometimes even main deck) tech of Tocatli Honor Guard to combat the slew of ETB triggers that Golgari used to out-advantage their opponents. Now it’s Golgari’s turn to respond by adopting its own technology to get around this little Torpor Orb on legs. Or is it the control decks that will come out on top as they prey on a resolved meta?
Starting with the Thursday, November 15th Magic Online 5-0 Competitive Constructed League results which would have been impacted the most by the Pro Tour results, we already start to see the meta get thinned out. And in a SIGNIFICANT way. Down to only 16 different lists (from the over 50 lists during week 1 and consistently ~40 the rest of the time, including even just three days before the Pro Tour began) this is the most significant drop-off in build nuances we have seen yet. Still boasting 10 different archetypes however, it shows that there are several viable strategies that remain for you to take to a PTQ or FNM this weekend, including 6 that don’t even play white!
Of these lists, it is telling which archetypes are winning the most by the ones that were able to post multiple copies through the 20-card differentiation rule that Wizards implemented back in February. The Izzet Drakes archetype managed the highest representation with 3 different decks: a traditional Izzet spells/Arclight Phoenix list; a more midrange Izzet package that boasts Ral, Izzet Viceroy and Rekindling Phoenix; and then a Jeskai version that splashes white for Deafening Clarion and Seal Away. The rest of the multiple-deck-achieving archetypes come in with two decks each. We have Mono-Red with both a “big” and a “fast” version. Selesnya Tokens with a “go-wide” Venerated Loxodon list, and an Explore-focused Wildgrowth Walker list. Boros Aggro is playing a traditional powered-up top-end deck, and an Ascend heavy list. Finally, Jeskai Control has two lists that aren’t really distinguished from each other, they just happen to have at least 20 different cards.
Rounding out these results, we get a single copy of Golgari Midrange, Mono-Blue Tempo, Grixis Control, Dimir Control, and Naya Angels. Yep, a relatively new/unknown archetype, Naya Angels pairs the power of the bigger Boros Aggro deck and adds Green for access to it’s own dual purpose threat/answer spells in Deathgorge Scavenger, Knight of Autumn, and Thorn Lieutenant in the main along with Carnage Tyrant and Vivien Reid out of the sideboard. This deck is doing exactly what midrange decks have been doing since the invention of formats: multi-purpose value!
Moving to tournament results, we can stay tuned into the Magic Online meta with the Standard PTQ results from Sunday, November 18th. Winning the whole thing is auzzie51’s “Boros” Aggro deck (that looks a whole lot like Andrew Elenbogen’s Pro Tour winning mono-white main deck with some powerful red sideboard options).
It is clear that even in a world designed around big splashy multi-color cards, a smooth and efficient mana base can sometimes just win you games. Backing up that story is McWinSauce’s Mono-Red Aggro deck. Izzet Drakes got beat out in both matches of the semi’s, coming in 3rd and 4th place, and rounding out the top-8 is 2 copies of Jeskai Control, Golgari Midrange, and another Izzet Drakes deck. This tournament is very representative of how I would expect most major events to play out over the next few months.
Moving into paper Magic, we have Grand Prix Milwaukee bringing us the Pro response to the Pro Tour. With 1300 players sleeving up their best Standard decks, this is one of the best attended Standard Grand Prix in recent memory. Coming out of Day 1, Golgari Midrange was the best-represented deck at the top tables, making up nearly a third of the top-100 and boasting 8 of the 13 undefeated decks. With the white-based decks that were keeping Golgari in check now in the spotlight, other lists tuned to beat them. This left Golgari’s endless stream of enters-the-battlefield abilities free to reign havoc on the day. Golgari was so dominant that it made up half of the top-8! But it was Adrian Sullivan and his correctly tuned Jeskai Control deck that managed to put down Brian Lynn and one of those pesky Golgari decks 2-0 in the finals and come out victorious in this one.
The rest of the top-8 was made of known decks AND some known players. Seth Manfield made it with one of the four Golgari Midrange decks and Owen Turtenwald placed with Izzet Drakes.
Looking to the StarCity side of things, there was a Team Open and a Classic Tournament in Las Vegas. The Team format rankings don’t really matter, because 14-0 performances in the Modern and Legacy matches can carry an 0-14 deck to a #1 seed going into the top-8. Assuming that didn’t happen and these results carry at least a small amount of credibility, let’s explore the results. Taking it all down was Markus Thibeau with the Mono-White Boros Aggro deck that won the Pro Tour.
The rest of the top-8 was full of known quantities in Selesnya Tokens, Jeskai Drakes, Jeskai Control, and another tournament with 4 copies of Golgari Midrange at the top tables. Looking at the heads-up Classic tournament on Sunday, we have yet another winning archetype on the weekend! Selesnya Tokens took this one down in the hands of Nick Prince, beating out Eddie Caudill and Izzet Drakes.
The Selesnya Tokens decks have the ability to attack the game from several angles. They can come out of the gates swinging hard thanks to Legion’s Landing and History of Benalia for the beat down aggro plan, they can sit back and navigate a long grindy match up with Thorn Lieutenant, Shalai, Voice of Plenty, and Conclave Tribunal, and let’s not disregard the mono-red neutralizing effect that all of the lifelink tokens brings to the table.
Standard is still in an amazing place after Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica defined the top tier meta. Three separate decks won the major tournaments this weekend, and none of them were the most played, most represented, consensus “best” deck. There are another 4 archetypes that are reasonable choices for sleeving up at a tournament which makes meta-gaming deck choice and sideboard decisions extremely important yet also extremely difficult. But the simple fact is that all 3 winners this weekend were playing White, a trend which I don’t see changing in the near future.
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.
Please reach out to me on twitter @edubious
Watch my Twitch stream at twitch.tv/edubious