RNA Standard Week 3 – Looping Nexi

Thanks for joining me again on this Strictly Standard stroll through Ravnica Allegiance Standard meta update.  This week we get to take a stroll through the weekly Magic Online Standard League 5-0 results as well as a full Star City Games Open and the Star City Games Classic from Sunday.  Last week we saw the meta settling into a solid groove with the total number of unique decks in the Magic Online 5-0 posts dropping. Will that trend hold pat for this week, or will we see a bump in the number of decks that a weekend of results and brewer’s innovation can bring?

First, checking the results from the Star City Games Open in Dallas we see another trend that is continuing from last week (and the tail end of GRN Standard).  Aggro is dominating the tournament scene.  Do you remember last week when I said I liked the addition of Pteramander to the Mono-Blue deck?  Apparently so did Robert Wagner-Krankel who piloted this list to the win beating out the field of 344 competitors.  Being able to land an evasive threat on turn 1 and get rewarded by drawing extra cards for hitting your opponent makes this deck extremely hard to outpace.  They always seem to have the Dive Down or Spell Pierce at the EXACT moment they need it too.

Continuing the aggro theme, another Mono-Blue deck and two copies of the Azorius Weenies deck also made the top-8 with only 1 copy each of Control (Esper), Combo (Nexus of Fate), Midrange (Sultai), and a Big-Red style Rakdos deck splashing Black for removal.

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Unfortunately, shifting to the Star City Games Classic on Sunday we get more of the same “trending.”  Specifically an Aggro deck taking down this tournament.  Abe Corrigan beat out the other 96 players that sleeved up for battle with his “Mono” White (splashing Blue only for sideboard cards) deck.

The champion very well could have been Sabastian Daniels who placed second with a deck that only varied by 2 cards in the main 60 and another 2 in the sideboard.  With another true Mono-White Aggro deck and a Mono-Blue Aggro deck also making the top-8, that makes this winner’s metagame also 50% hyper aggressive attacking decks that demand interaction on the first few turns.  Looking down to Daniel King’s 7th place Bant Wilderness Reclamation deck, we see some pretty cool technology against the hyper aggressive strategies in Angel of Grace.  Swing for lethal?  No, how about I don’t lose the game this turn.  This list also plays most of the game at instant speed to disrupt the opponent’s game-plan with Absorb and Frilled Mystic to stall while casting tons of card draw spells making sure it’s pilots hand is always full.

As we begin to decipher the Magic the Gathering Online Competitive Standard Leagues, the 5-0 results from Thursday, February 7th show us a continuing decline in total number of deck as well as the number of 3+ color archetypes.  With Sultai being the most represented archetype with 3 different decks it seems that people are trying to figure out the optimal big-midrange strategy to combat the fast aggro decks.  One of the iterations was SCAPPIE’s Control based list that eschewed the Wildgrowth Walker plus Jadelight Ranger value plan for more of a permission based strategy that relies on the big finishers in Doom Whisperer and Vraska, Relic Seeker.  The Hydroid Krasis in this type of build looks more to me like a role player in gaining valuable life points while making sure you can keep your hand full rather than a finishing plan, but don’t forget that swinging in with an 8/8 flyer can get the job done too!

Doubling down (or would it be quadrupling down at this point…) on the “Standard is Solved” narrative, the Magic the Gathering Online Competitive Standard League 5-0 results from Monday, February 11th is down even further to 23 total decks and only twelve 3+ color archetypes.  Being a Monday result AND having fewer lists is quite telling to the state of testing and innovation for this Standard environment.  The usual suspects were there in Sultai, Temur, Bant, and Esper, but it was a surprise archetype in Gruul that placed the most copies in the posting. If turning a non-stop stream of Red and Green beaters sideways is your thing, ARTYMAC’s deck might just do the trick.  I haven’t seen a Rhythm of the Wild deck really making waves until now, but the versatility of giving every creature you cast Riot means that your Growth-Chamber Guardians are always replacing themselves and your Skarrgan Hellkites can get BOTH the +1/+1 counter and Haste.  And Collision // Colossus gives the deck versatility in either playing defense and killing a pesky Hydroid Krasis or Doom Whisperer or on offense to close the game out quickly with an extra 4 damage.

For an alternate look at an under the radar card, AKERLUD presents an interesting take on the format with his Dimir Control deck featuring Thief of Sanity.  Control can be a tough deck to build because you have to really guess the field correctly so that your answers line up with the threats presented you.  Thief of Sanity gives the Control player both an incredibly powerful card that can take over the game early if not immediately answered AND a threat that can close out the game.  Paired with it is Pteramander which we already know has an incredible ceiling as a threat that needs to be answered early as well, perfectly evidenced by its appearance in winning lists from both Modern and Legacy premier level events.

Next weekend we get our first look at a true professionals meta from the main event Grand Prix at MagicFest Memphis. A lot of the talk recently from the Pro’s has centered around the Wilderness Reclamation plus Nexus of Fate combo and Shahar Shenhar getting Nexus’d on Arena for over two hours.  I’m very interested to see the archetype perform in the hands of the best players in the world, but will it be something that is too broken, or will the deck not be able to adapt to all of these hyper aggro decks that keep winning?  Also, is it the streamlined Simic deck that is the best? Or will it be one with a splash that shines? I like the Bant version with a giant March of the Multitudes to swarm the board, but there’s something to be said for a savage Explosion for a million to close out the game from the Temur lists. However it ends up, I hope it actually ends, and I guess that’s where the aggro decks come in to balance things out (and let people get lunch!).

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