Standard's Awesome Now!

by Simon Nielsen on 06 March 2018, Tuesday

Simon Nielsen


Standard's Awesome Now!

I just finished two Modern events, finishing 10-6 at Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan with 5-Color Humans, and going 0-4 drop on Day 2 of Grand Prix Lyon with Eldrazi Tron. That was a deck I played partly out of curiosity to see if I could metagame my way out of Modern GP despite a minimal amount of testing. 

I couldn't.

While I expected lots of Burn, Mono Green Tron dominated instead, and that's just a horrible match-up for Eldrazi Tron. Again, I had to relearn the lesson that if I'm short on time for preparation, I should either stick to what I know or just play the best deck. 

But right now I'm not here to talk about Modern.

The MOCS Playoffs

Between those two tournaments, I had another significant one coming up right in my home seat: The MOCS Playoffs that could qualify me for the Magic Online Championship - the highest value tournament as well as a ridiculous amount of buffet. 

This led me to do a 120-hour stream marathon in conjunction with my two British friends Pete Ward and Matthew Foulkes where we would fill up each day of the week with 8-hour shifts of streaming each. All of this was Standard testing to get me up-to-date on the format and prepare me for the Playoff.

We ended up deciding that Black-White Tokens was the best way to go for this weekend because we expected mostly Mono-Red, Grixis Energy and Tokens are quite favored against both. We also expected few Approach of the Second Sun matchups which are quite hard to beat. This is what I played:



Anointed Procession


I ended up in 14th place, while Jeremy Dezani reached the Top 8 with a similar version. I was quite happy with the choice, but this Standard format seems to be one, where there can be a significant edge to staying on top of the metagame and changing your deck from week to week. That's a thing that makes me love a Standard format. 

Another thing is diversity. Look at the Top 8 decks from the MOCS Playoffs:

1. Mono-Red
2. Blue-Black Midrange (splashing Vraska, the Relic Seeker)

3. Grixis Energy

4. Mardu Vehicles

5. Blue-White Approach
6. Black-White Tokens
7. Green-Red Monsters
8. Green-Black Constrictor

I know that we have had a rough time with an unheard amount of bannings to try and make Standard enjoyable again, but I think we have succeeded at this point. Standard is quite enjoyable right now. I urge you to try it out.

Know Your Enemies.

Even though Ramunap Red also suffered (rightfully) from the banhammer, it's still one of the most prominent in this Standard format, apparently with a slight name change. Can you imagine how severe it could've been if Wizards wasn't foresightful and didn't ban Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon?


Ramunap Ruins Rampaging Ferocidon

This is John Rolf's list from Grand Prix Memphis 10th place. John has had an absurd season, mostly due to sticking to his trusty red decks, so this would be a good place to look for at Mono-Red list:



Rekindling Phoenix


The Mono-Red lists are still in flux. Most players have accepted that they want to run Rekindling Phoenix in the main deck. The Phoenix has proved to be one of the most ridiculous threats in Standard. It also plays well on defense if you need to!


Red players are still wondering if they should go with Fanatical Firebrand or Soul-Scar Mage, but the Mogg Fanatic throwback seems to be the favored option for now.

With Ramunap Ruins out of the picture, there are a lot of options for adding utility to your mana base. Rolf has two options shown here, but Sunscourge Desert, Dunes of the Dead or Field of Ruin could also work.


Dragonskull Summit Scrapheap Scrounger

Many players even eschew the colorless lands in order to play Swamps and Dragonskull Summits, which allows them to play Scrapheap Scrounger instead of Kari Zev, Skyship Raider to reduce the power of Fatal Push against their deck. 

Energy Re-Energized


Temur Energy is nowhere to be seen, as the loss of Attune with Aether also meant the death of Longtusk Cub so now there is no reason to be green. Luckily, black has a lot to offer in Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Vraska's Contempt and The Scarab God which has made people turn their attention to Grixis as the catalyst for the Energy mechanic. 


Glint-Sleeve Siphoner Vraska's Contempt


The Top 8 of Grand Prix Memphis had three whooping Grixis Energy lists.

All of them had different approaches to the archetype, and I'm surprised that none of them included Rekindling Phoenix.

I thought that was the best way for Grixis to attack Jun'ya Iyanaga's version which Top 8'ed at the MOCS Playoffs. He was playing a version that was almost Red-Black splashing blue, including Dusk Legion Zealot, Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer.


Harnessed Lightning Whirler Virtuoso Confiscation Coup

Instead, this list from Andrew Tenjum looks almost like Blue-Black Control, splashing some more early removal and Whirler Virtuoso. This list doesn't even include Chandra, so you don't have to worry about having double red. 

The two other lists from Grand Prix Memphis Top 8 are also blue-black based, but they come with they own innovations. For example, Matthew Kling had main deck Dire Fleet Daredevil and Confiscation Coup, while Michael Cochran had Champion of Wits.

Beware The Monsters!

But we also shouldn't dismiss the deck that took down the tournament, Red-Green Monsters. This isn't a huge surprise to me, as the deck was already making waves beforehand, and even when I started writing this article before the Grand Prix, I still wanted to showcase this deck. 



Merfolk Branchwalker Jadelight Ranger

This deck utilizes the green explore creatures in Merfolk Branchwalker and Jadelight Ranger to make sure you can cast the Dragons or Phoenixes on time. Occasionally, you'll also get to Earthshaker Khenra or Resilient Khenra for a little value.


Struggle // Survive Cast Out Hour of Glory

The red and green colors don't contain many answers to The Scarab God (and Rekindling Phoenix for that matter), but Struggle // Survive found some unexpected limelight as the perfect foil to these problems.

There are also more midrange-y versions of this deck that splash either black or white for better answers to The Scarab God like Cast Out and Hour of Glory. 

In general, you should be able to notice a theme here of this Standard format that it's essential that all your expensive removal spells exile. Even stuff like Fumigate and Unlicensed Disintegration are just not cutting it any more. 

The Metagame from Memphis

While the Grand Prix this weekend continued to show a Standard metagame that has a very diverse spread of decks.

Looking at the decks that made Day 2 and converted that into a Top 32 finish, we do see the format pivot around one crucial axis:


Hazoret the Fervent The Scarab God


The trick here is that there are multiple ways to fit these gods into your deck. Hazoret the Fervent is found in Mono-Red, Black-Red Aggro, and Mardu Vehicles. The Scarab God is found in Grixis Energy, Blue-Black Control, Grixis Control, Blue-Black Midrange and Sultai Midrange. 

Of the decks that made up Day 2, Hazoret decks came out in force and made up almost 36% of the metagame, with Mono-Red being the most popular deck in the field. 

The Scarab God decks, however, were not that far behind, but it's not easy to see because they were spread out over so many different decks. The Scarab God decks made up a total of 33.6%. 
With nearly 70% of the metagame belonging to either of the two gods, it's obvious to see just how vital exile removal is. 

As we trawled deeper into the tournament, the red decks ended up falling by the wayside. No Mono-Red decks made the Top 8, as Mardu was the sole Hazoret the Fervent representative, but 5 The Scarab God decks made their way to the elimination rounds.

I calculated the winner's metagame at the end of the tournament by dealing 3 points to decks with a 12-2-1 or better score and 2 points to decks with an 11-3-1 or 12-3 score. Then I took the percentage of each deck based on this.


Moment of Craving Gifted Aetherborn

The results show a clear advantage for Scarab God decks, which made up 55.7% of the winners' metagame, whereas Hazoret went down to 21.3%. It seemed like the Blue-Black and Grixis decks had gotten tuned enough to comfortably take on Mono-Red with cards like Whirler Virtuoso, Gifted Aetherborn and Moment of Craving


Rekindling Phoenix Glorybringer

Green-Red variants were the other archetype that improved their percentage in the tournament, not only because it was the eventual winner, but also because it wasn't played that much. I suspect that will change and we will see Rekindling Phoenix and Glorybringer, and friends make up at least 10% of the metagame at future Standard Grand Prix.


Legion's Landing Hadana's Climb

Outside the scope of godly decks, we do also see lots of innovation on other fronts. The format now has multiple playable Legion's Landing decks (Blue-White Auras, Black-White Stockpile, Green-White Tokens and White-Black Vampires). 
Hadana's Climb is seeing success in both Aaron Barichs Sultai Constrictor deck and Blue-Green Pummeler in the online meta.

A lot of exciting stuff is happening on the Hour of Promise front and Blue-White cycling picking up in popularity. There's still a ton of work to do on Standard, and I'm looking forward to seeing where it turns out, though I could see the horror scenario of The Scarab God just sitting tight on its 50% share of the winner's metagame.

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