This past weekend was a double-header Saturday for Standard events online. Both the Magic Online Showcase Challenge and the MTG Arena Mythic Point Challenge took place last Saturday, and we got to see the format continue to develop after a month or so of heavy Pioneer focus.
We also got a decent amount of decklists and data, though unfortunately we did not get enough to determine the winners metagame for the Mythic Point Challenge. While some sites did compile decklists of players who tweeted their 10-win runs, the only verified 10-win decklists we have come from the MPL and Rivals players. Magic Online, on the other hand, provided us with the Top 32 decklists from the Showcase Challenge.
While we don't get a weekend winners' metagame, there is enough data to talk through the trends of the weekend to prepare you for MagicFest Lyon. The most shocking development, which was more present on MTGO than on Arena, was the rebirth of Mono-Red Aggro in the wake of Temur Clover's dominance.
After being a non-deck for a few weeks Mono-Red thrived against a much greedier field than previous weeks. The downtick of Azorius Control and Jeskai Fires as a response to the meteoric rise of Temur Clover meant that Mono-Red Aggro had far fewer predators.
Bant Ramp, popularized largely by Crokeyz, went through some rapid iteration over the course of last week and the archetype was far more successful as a result. A heavier focus on planeswalkers with the inclusion of Tamiyo, Collector of Tales meant the deck could more reliably escape Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and grind out almost anyone by recurring Elspeth Conquers Death.
Going into this weekend I expect Mono-Red's success to dwindle as players react to its presence again. Anti-aggro cards will find their way back into sideboards and bad matchups will pick up steam. This is largely good news for Temur Clover, since it's good against both Mono-Red Aggro and Mono-Red's biggest predators in Azorius Control and Jeskai Fires. I suspect the next-level selection is Jund Sacrifice, a deck that has been quietly succeeding in small numbers over the past few weeks, including winning the Showcase Challenge.
With all of that in mind, I do believe that Standard is reaching its most stable form, with all the secret decks now out in the open. This doesn't mean Standard gets stale from here on out though. I expect this metagame to continue to shift and churn, and choosing the right deck for each weekend will be the key to success.
I'd say the secret is out, but it's more that people finally started to listen to Aaron Gertler after his Dreamhack Anaheim win. This wasn't a one-hit wonder, Temur Clover is here to stay. It was nearly half of the Top 8 for the Showcase Challenge and a solid portion of the 10-win decks we know.
A good matchup against Mono-Red Aggro, Jeskai Fires and Azorius Control is an incredible baseline for this deck, and there's plenty of tuning space to address whichever matchups are most popular. Temur Reclamation, the strongest natural predator, was shoved out of the metagame by Bant Ramp's arrival. There are simply too many Teferi, Time Raveler in the format and Temur Clover reaps the benefits.
Notable tech cards include Growth Spiral, Nissa, Who Shakes the World, Scorching Dragonfire, Claim the Firstborn, Expansion // Explosion, Planewide Celebration and Mass Manipulation.
The metagame got too greedy, and people were ready to punish it. Instead of participating in the midrange arms war between Temur Clover and the various ramp archetypes, a large swath of players on Magic Online undercut them all.
Nearly every list was identical, with very little variation between them. Sometimes stock lists are stock for good reason. Twenty-two lands is where the dust has settled, and Unchained Berserker is a mandatory playset in the sideboard.
Bant Ramp is the best "greedy" deck in the format. It runs ten or more planeswalkers, Elspeth Conquers Death, Hydroid Krasis, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and even Agent of Treachery in some cases. In some ways, Bant Ramp is the natural evolution of how Azorius Control was adapting to Jeskai Fires: cut all the countermagic and simply play more proactive threats.
That said, the sideboard has a robust countermagic suite alongside a large number of anti-aggro cards. Bant Ramp was the most successful greedy archetype because it's the only one that can appropriately respect aggressive decks while participating in the arms race. Very little in the format can go over the top of Elspeth Conquers Death and Tamiyo, Collector of Tales rebuying each other for incredible value, so Bant Ramp gets to play a sideboard of all hammers to shore up weak spots for Plan A.
Jeskai Fires is a fine deck with game against most of the field, but right now the biggest problem it has is that a bunch of five-drops just isn't that scary of an endgame. Fires of Invention and giant haste threats is an excellent midgame, but the deck has suffered as the format adapts to Temur Clover.
Temur Clover was initially expected to be a close matchup for Jeksai Fires, but as time went on it became clear that Temur Clover had an edge in the matchup. There's simply not enough kill potential through Temur Clover's ability to generate blockers. Add Bant Ramp to the mix and things get even worse.
While I do think Jeskai Fires is one of the more reasonable ways to punish the rise of Mono-Red Aggro, I don't recommend a deck with only one good matchup against the big three.
Much like Jeskai Fires, Azorius Control seems to only have one good matchup against the big three, and the rise of sacrifice decks puts Azorius Control in an even worse spot. While I don't recommend the deck this week, I don't expect it to disappear either.
For a while it seemed like it was nothing but Kanister's pet deck, but Jund Sacrifice has been putting up results over the past few weeks. The two popular builds seem to be very close, with the key difference being Agonizing Remorse vs. Wildborn Preserver. Llawtonss played Agonizing Remorse in their winning list alongside a full playset of Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. The focus seems to be on turning the corner and ending the game immediately, which makes sense in the current metagame.
Other notable cards are a pair of Liliana, Dreadhorde General in the 75, one of the more powerful answers to Dream Trawler and Fires of Invention, especially when played early. Notably absent is Thrashing Brontodon, though there are a pair of Embereth Shieldbreakers to handle Lucky Clover.
I don't know if Jund is the right call for this weekend, but I do think people should be prepared to handle these Witch's Oven strategies that lie just outside the top tier.
Speaking of Witch's Oven, Rakdos Sacrifice is another deck that has been quietly successful in the last few weeks. A strong Azorius Control matchup initially put this deck on the map, but that can't be carrying the deck anymore, so people need to start respecting it. Chris Kvartek's list included appropriate respect for Mono-Red Aggro this weekend and he was rewarded appropriately.
Again we see nods toward closing the game, with Dreadhorde Butcher making its way into the maindeck and fewer engine cards like Chandra, Acolyte of Flame. Angrath's Rampage takes care of Lucky Clover and can handle planeswalkers in a pinch.
I think this deck isn't quite in the top tier of decks, but if you don't have answers to early aggression or are relying too hard on just Lovestruck Beast this deck can and will punish you for failing to interact.
Temur Clover is just incredibly powerful and flexible. Most games I lose with it just feel like my fault.
There are only two real flex slots maindeck and a few in the board, and this is how I'd build my deck for this weekend. I still like The Great Henge over Nissa as the final mana engine slot, as the repeatable life gain is strong against Mono-Red and it's another way to set up and pull ahead in the mirrors where Nissa, Who Shakes the World might not survive.
The sideboard is still very hard to nail down. I see many people cutting countermagic or Once and Future, and while I can see why they want to cut these elements I still think it's very powerful to have access to countermagic and recursion in the sideboard. The slot I'm least sure of is Sorcerous Spyglass vs. Chandra, Awakened Inferno, but I think having access to the second board wipe that can also be planeswalker removal in a pinch is a powerful option. Claim the Firstborn is just a very powerful way to close the game without needing a ton of mana, and I've enjoyed having that option.
I believe Temur Clover is the best-positioned deck, especially as Mono-Red Aggro rises up to combat greedier options in the format. I'll likely be playing it for both this weekend's Standard Challenge on MTGO and again in GP Detroit unless something drastic happens over the course of this weekend.
Standard is currently very healthy and incredibly fun to play. I'll be practicing up over the next two weeks to see if I can't use MagicFest Detroit to earn a return ticket to the Players Tour, and I hope to see many of you there! As always, let me know if you've enjoyed my writing and please share any feedback you have with me over on Twitter!