RNA Standard Week 4 – And We Have A Grand Prix!

Thank you for joining me this week on the Strictly Standard Meta Report.  We don’t have any Star City Games events to go through, but that doesn’t mean there’s no tournament lists to go through. In fact, we have quite the opposite this week, as there were two officially sponsored Wizards of the Coast tournaments!  The first was the Magic Online Championship Series on February 13th, and the second is our first look at major Professional Standard Magic since the release of Ravnica Allegiance at MagicFest Memphis.  I won’t bury the lead by trying to go in chronological order, so let’s cut to the chase and dive right in to the much anticipated Grand Prix winner’s meta.

The MagicFest Memphis Grand Prix had 988 players sleeve up their best Ravnica Allegiance Standard deck to battle for supremacy on the eve of the first ever Mythic Championship (OK, so it was the weekend before, don’t be so literal).  Coming out on top was Jody Kieth with his Rakdos Midrange deck complete with all the fun Big-Red spells you know and love, and paired with the best removal Black has to offer.  And three copies of Carnival // Carnage.  I seem to recall a certain someone (ahem) calling out Carnage as a “fair” Blightning, and it turns out in a world of big midrange tap-out style decks, hitting someone with a discard-2 on turn 4 is pretty back-breaking.

With two Sultai Midrange lists, two Mono-Blue Aggro lists, a Gruul Midrange deck, a Mono-White Aggro deck, and a Simic Nexus deck, the rest of the top-8 was comprised of the usual suspects and so it can be said that Jody Kieth had apparently called the meta and built his list to beat up on the known archetypes.  This also marks Jody’s second straight week top-8’ing a major tournament with Rakdos, so maybe this archetype is secretly the format killer.

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Moving to more tournament Magic, the Magic Online Championship Series on February 13th gives us a peek into what the field of “non-Pro’s” on Magic Online is playing.  Winning the event was TROJANMAMBA with his Mono-Blue Aggro deck.  There isn’t any new tech to talk about here, aside from the Transmogrifying Wand in the sideboard, but that is something that has been going in and out of favor with this archetype for a while now, so not technically new.  Just a very efficient deck that gets out of the gate quick and if the counterspells line up right, can’t be stopped.

There were three other pilots that took their deck to a 7-1 finish in this event: FESTIFAN with Azorius Weenies that is heavy on the 1-drops, TANGRAMS with a Selesnya Tokens list that leans in heavy on March of the Multitudes, and ASTARISK with Esper Control featuring a full 4-of Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Kaya’s Wrath, and Thought Erasure.  The four top finishers came from four different archetypes, which does not cover another four archetypes from the top-8 at MagicFest Memphis including the winning Rakdos Midrange deck.  This is a good sign for the continued health and diversity of the format.

Looking at the continued evolution of the meta as whole, the results from Magic Online Competitive Standard League 5-0 on Thursday, February 14th show an uptick in the total number of unique decks, back all the way up to the peak number of 26 we saw all the way back in the first week of the format.  This is a great sign in that players are still interested in Standard and continuing to brew new ways to combat the known tier archetypes, and having success to boot.  This week we saw several never-before debuted archetypes making the 5-0 post, including a very cool Mono-Green list by OAFMCNAMARA that looks to turbo out Ghalta, the Primal Hunger and overwhelm the one-for-one resources that a few of the top archetypes are trying to get by on.

The Mono-Green list makes a return in the Magic Online Competitive Standard League 5-0 post from Monday, February 18th, as did a few of the other new archetypes, which is surprising because we were back down to a total of 23 lists.  User TEDPANIC managed to get his Grixis list in both of the posts for this week, and it shows the power that early and constant disruption can have against the aggro decks that rely on getting out of the gates quick.  Thief of Sanity is an incredibly frustrating card to play against because if you can’t kill it right away, it starts to give your opponent a second hand full of your own spells to beat you with.

For all of the anticipation leading up to the first major event, as well as the surprise banning of Nexus of Fate for Magic Arena best-of-1 play, it was a deck that leveraged the best of the format’s Black and Red based answers along with the kind of big and resilient top-end that midrange decks are famous for that ended up making a statement heading into this weekend’s Mythic Championship.  The format has been blown wide open with multiple viable aggro, midrange, and control archetypes as well as a combo deck in Nexus of Fate that is on everyone’s mind.  I for one can’t wait to see what kind of technology the best of the best players manage to come up with to battle this wide open field.  With the tier archetypes so varied, my bets are on one of the Hall-of-Famers to leverage their superior play skills to edge out the small advantages with a Temur or Grixis Explosion deck that gives them many options for answers and thus, provides them with the kinds of decision points that allow their mastery of the game to shine.

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