Standard for Nationals 2017

by Justin Robb on 04 September 2017, Monday

Justin Robb

 

Standard for Nationals 2017

Nationals is coming up and Standard is one of the formats alongside Booster Draft. The Standard metagame has become extremely diverse with no truly dominant deck so today I'm going to look at how to choose a deck going into your Nationals.

The format started in earnest with Pro Tour Kyoto. Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa won the event but the top 8 had a massive 5 copies of Ramunap Red. Here is the winning list:

 

 

Earthshaker Khenra Ramunap Ruins

 

The 5 copies of Ramunap Red in the top 8 featured a diverse array of card choices. Each team seemed to settle on a different build but the core cards of Hazoret the Fervent, Earthshaker Khenra and the deck's namesake Ramunap Ruins crushed the tournament.

The impact was huge, putting Ramunap Red was front and center in every competitive player's mind. Standard had a best deck and that shifted the conversation to one question: How to beat Ramunap Red? If you were planning on attending a Standard event after the Pro Tour your Ramunap Red matchup was simply the top priority.

 

Cryptbreaker Relentless Dead


Common knowledge said that Mono Black Zombies was where you had to go to beat the Ramunap Red menace. Many of the Pros at Pro Tour Kyoto that didn't play Ramunap Red choose to play Zombies for this reason. Zombies is also aggressive but features some key cards to swing the red matchup such as Grasp of Darkness or Dark Salvation to cleanly deal with Hazoret.

 

Dark Salvation



Unsurprisingly then, GP Minneapolis the next weekend was all about Zombies. Not only was the champion of the whole event piloting the undead horde but their infestation spread throughout the top 32 with hardly a Ramunap Red deck in sight.

 

 

Liliana, the Last Hope Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet

 

This list is very clean and straightforward. Metallic Mimic was no longer viable in a world dictated by Ramunap Red but the lifelink on Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet is just what is needed. Liliana, the Last Hope and Aethersphere Harvester in the sideboard make the matchup even better while Transgress the Mind and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship fight the other midrange decks.

A funny thing happened next. The conversation shifted from ‘how to beat Ramunap Red' to ‘how to beat Zombies'? Standard was settling into a Rock Paper Scissors or ‘levelled' metagame that we haven't been treated to for some years.

In this metagame our base level or Rock is Ramunap Red. In a vacuum, it's the most powerful deck and you have to be packing hate or making informed card choices to beat it. 

Our next level is Paper or decks that will beat Ramunap Red. Zombies sits here but so does Black Green constrictor, another archetype that performed well in Minneapolis. 

Finally, we have the Scissors, the decks that are designed to beat up on Zombies and Black Green but in doing so give up game against the Rock (Ramunap Red). These are the decks like UR Control, UW Control and Ramp.

For the last year Standard hasn't looked like this at all. Individually powerful cards or format warping combos changed the dynamic of the format to beating those rather than choosing a well-positioned strategy. Felidar Guardian, Smuggler's Coptor and Aetherworks Marvel were just so strong that they invalidated any chance to get an edge in deckbuilding or meta gaming. What a relief it is to be back to something more grounded.

 

 

Glorybringer Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

 

The next GP after Minneapolis was 2 weeks later in Denver and was dominated by Brad Nelson and Temur Energy. This was a deck that is aiming to beat up on Zombies and Green Black Constrictor with powerful over-the-top threats like Glorybringer and Skysovereign, Consul Flagship

When the meta game starts out as it did after the Pro Tour it has 2 options, either a continuation of the Rock Paper Scissors cycle forever or an eventual equilibrium state. Energy might have won Denver and put 2 other copies in the top 8 but there were also 3 Ramunap Red decks, a Zombies deck and a Monument deck too, not to mention the God Pharoahs Gift decks biting at their heels in the top 32.

In the 2 weeks between these major Standard events, I believe we saw the metagame reach its equilibrium. The format is very open and diverse with a balance we haven't seen in years. No single archetype is dominating and there is a huge amount of viable options in decks to play. Ramunap Red may be the ‘best' deck in that it shapes everything that comes after it but it can be beaten. Control is viable, Ramp is viable, midrange and even combo decks are all viable. 

 

Torrential Gearhulk Hour of Promise

 

 

 

Conclusion

So, what does all this mean for your upcoming nationals? The way I see it is there are two approaches you can take. 

1. Select your deck for the metagame.

Firstly, if you expect a metagame that is defined by what decks did well recently or have some other way of knowing what you'll be up against you can level the competition. Field is playing Zombies? Play energy. Field playing Energy? How about Ramp? 

2. Tune your deck for the metagame.

Alternatively, just play whatever you want or have experience with. Standard is so open that opponents could reasonably show up with a myriad of deck choices so it could be risky to base your entire strategy choice off metagaming. If you have been playing a particular deck for most of the format then stick to it but make some adjustments for what you want to beat. 

If you haven't played much of this format then I would recommend a faster lower ‘level' deck like Ramunap red or perhaps Zombies. However, if you have been playing Temur Energy for 2 months just stick with it. You'll know what individual cards you will want to tune for your metagame and the experience in complex situations with your deck is going to be important.

Overall Standard is just great. There is still room to brew and nothing is truly dominating. In game decisions matter a ton and we free from the format warping forces that have been a shadow over Standard the past year. It took us a lot to get to this stage, it's kind of a shame that it's all going to be over so fast.

Thanks for reading!

 

 




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