It's that time again. Another Arena Mythic Championship is in the works, which means that I have a fresh set of 67 decklists from all the competitors in the event to gaze upon, and a chance for glory. That chance, of course, not being my chance to actually do well in the event, but rather my chance to correctly predict who does do well. Priorities, priorities.
After two sets of bannings, we've found ourselves with once again a new Standard format for this event, and it seems so far like the third time's the charm. This field, unlike the field from the last two events, actually seems relatively diverse. I'm hoping that lasts for a while. Let's dive in.
Jeskai Fires was unsurprisingly the most played archetype. It's also the de facto best deck in the format, and my pick for the strongest deck in Standard. However, it's power level has warped the format around it, and if enough people crack the code on how to beat Jeskai Fires, it could underperform.
I don't believe that will be the case. I think Jeskai Fires will boast a slightly above 50% win rate. This deck is phenomenal and the way players have chosen to attack it—Casualties of War is the most played non-land card in the tournament—aren't a consistently successful plan of attack. Jeskai Fires players can play around Casualties of War in a variety of ways or even just battle through it with the never-ending gas that Cavaliers provide.
I expect Jeskai Fires will perform well in the event, but not at a truly dominant level. The nut draw of Jeskai Fires is basically unbeatable for most decks, and it happens often enough that it's hard to imagine its overall win rate being too low. The question is whether people will be able to compete with or beat the fail-case scenario of Fires. I think decks like Izzet Flash, a surprisingly popular choice, are trying to survive on that axis.
At the end of the day, I expect Fires to have a positive record against all Overgrown Tomb strategies but find itself behind against Brazen Borrower decks. Not the worst place to be.
Verdict: Jeskai Fires will perform well, but not significantly above 50%.
This is the archetype I've chosen to play so I'm hoping it performs well. Sadly, I think Food decks are a bit overrated in the format as a whole.
Out of the various Food archetypes one could play, Jund is the best of the bunch. Mayhem Devil provides a huge edge against a number of decks that you can't get from the pure Golgari versions. Korvold, Fae-Cursed King also offers a massive boost in power level that can't be replicated elsewhere.
I believe Jund Food is behind against Jeskai Fires. It's pretty closely matched against Izzet Flash, but it's favored against the other Golgari decks, both Golgari Food and any Adventure decks. Since those decks are a high percentage of the field, Jund Food is looking like a reasonable, although not overly dominant, choice.
Verdict: Jund Sacrifice will put up something very close to a 50% win rate.
There are a few versions of Golgari Adventure. About half the players have chosen to play Lucky Clover versions dedicated toward generating value that way, and the other half are split between The Great Henge versions and more aggressive Vivien, Arkbow Ranger builds.
This deck's performance is tough to predict. There's a serious rock/paper/scissors feel to this format. Golgari Adventure is behind against Food decks, of which there are a lot in the event. However, I think they are significantly favored against Flash decks, which also had a surprisingly high number of pilots. Flash decks struggle mightily to beat cards like Lucky Clover and Edgewall Innkeeper.
Overall, I think Jeskai Fires has an edge against Golgari, but that really comes down to questions like how many Justice Strikes Jeskai is playing and how the Golgari deck is set up to attack Fires. I think trying to win via Casualties of War is tough, but trying to muscle through with Questing Beasts and Viviens is a solid strategy.
Verdict: Golgari Adventure will also put up around a 50% win rate. I think it's slightly behind vs. most of the field but has a great enough Flash matchup to boost it to even.
I'm not a big fan of this deck, truth be told. Casualties of War is a good card in this format, but it's not a game plan. I think most decks are resilient enough to weather one or even two Casualties of War, and I don't really like basing your strategy around it.
Without Mayhem Devil, you open the door for Golgari Adventure to grind through you with Edgewall Innkeeper, and I don't think the slow-grind aspect of the deck is good enough to match the never-ending threats that Jeskai Fires can produce. I also think the deck is behind against Jund versions of the deck, which utilize Mayhem Devil to pick away at creatures or to destroy the natural balance of Witch's Oven/Cauldron Familiar battles.
That said, the deck isn't bad, and it's going to have close matchups against nearly everything. The question is whether those close matchups are 47% or 53%, and I lean toward 47%.
Verdict: Golgari Sacrifice will underperform, and have the lowest win rate of highly played decks.
This is the deck of choice for the squad of Wiliam Jensen, Shahar Shenhar, Andrew Cuneo and Gabriel Nassif, some of the best players in the event. Slightly different versions will also be played by Jessica Estephan and Antonino De Rosa who are no slouches either. On player talent alone, this deck has to be a frontrunner for what one would expect to perform well in the event.
To be honest, I'm not sure how good this deck is overall. I tested some with it myself and abandoned it because it didn't feel like a great deck in a vacuum, not because of any particular matchup. I didn't believe it to actually be that favored—if at all—against Jeskai Fires, and having a good Fires matchup seemed to be one of the main appeals to the deck.
Flash is very difficult to play against and I do believe that it is being played by some of the top players in the event, who will maximize the edges that provides. I don't know how good it's supposed to be in various matchups, but I suspect it to overperform on that basis alone.
Verdict: Izzet Flash will have a good performance in the hands of masters who will maximize the many decision points and natural difficulty to play against.
The other three players I tested with, Brad Nelson, Seth Manfield and Javier Dominguez, are all playing this deck as well as Raymond Nevison who's playing the Brineborn Cutthroat version.This deck is great. I chose not to play it because my preferred play style is too straightforward and on-the-surface to succeed at baiting and bluffing people into playing into cards I have or around cards I don't.
This deck is good against Jeskai Fires, serviceable-to-ahead against Food decks, significantly behind against Innkeeper strategies and a true question mark against the rest of the field. Much like Izzet Flash, it's being played by some of the best players in the event. I think it will do well.
Verdict: Simic Flash will be one of the best performing decks.
I personally hoped this deck would not show up as I think it has a good matchup against other Food decks. Jeskai is a significant favorite in this matchup, but Rakdos Sacrifice can approach the tournament from a perspective of… sacrificing… the Jeskai matchup but hoping to succeed against the rest of the field.
I think it will perform admirably in that role. Rakdos is ahead against Flash decks, Innkeeper decks and other Food decks, which is a good place to be. That said, on power level alone, this deck pales in comparison to what other decks can do, and sometimes just bringing a deck that is low power level will cause you to lose various matches—even when they are technically "good" matchups.
Still, I think this deck will do well.
Verdict: With only 12 Jeskai Fires players in the field, Rakdos Sacrifice will have a good win rate.
I really have no idea what Temur Reclamation is good or bad against. However, I genuinely believe that Temur Reclamation is one of those decks that people love playing in events but that always underperforms at the end of the day. I'm just going to trust in my belief that this deck isn't good, even if it looks like it has great matchups on paper.
Verdict: I think Temur Reclamation is just a bad deck, thus will underperform, even if it has a favorable metagame.
This deck is sweet, and relatively strong. Nissa, Who Shakes the World is still a phenomenal Magic card. It's kind of fallen off the radar, but it probably shouldn't have.
I don't have a strong frame of reference for this deck, but I think it's pretty solid against both Food and Fires, which can't be a bad place to be. I imagine the deck loses to itself a reasonable amount of the time, as there are so many situational or synergy-driven cards in the deck. That will limit its upside.
Verdict: Simic Ramp will perform well by virtue of having good matchups, but not overwhelmingly so.
I think Food beats this deck, Planar Cleansing or no. I suspect the healthy mix of countermagic and interaction plus the ability to refill with Gadwick, the Wizened will make Azorius good against Jeskai Fires, and the mixture of Teferi and interaction will give it a solid matchup against the likes of Flash decks.
Azorius Control decks over the last year of play have traditionally underperformed in Standard across the board. It just hasn't been good, in any iteration, for as long as I can remember. However, this version does seem generally well-positioned. Let's see if it can finally break that hurdle.
Verdict: Azorius Control with have a win rate slightly above 50%.
Traditionally, rogue decks tend to underperform. There's a reason the top decks are the most played decks, and it's because they are typically the best decks. The best decks, even when targeted, tend to win more than they lose. It's easy to get trapped into believing you beat the top decks but fail when the tournament comes around for a variety of reasons. Perhaps the players in the event are making different play choices than your testing partners, or perhaps they altered their list from the ones you tested against.
I imagine some of these players will do well on sheer numbers alone, but I'm going to, in general, predict that the rogue decks will underperform based on historical precedence. The top decks will mostly all put up solid performances, and without any significantly overrated actors among the top decks, losses have to come from somewhere in the event.
I'm predicting a lot of them come from here. Prove me wrong, rogue magicians!
Verdict: Rogue decks will have a sub 50% win rate.
Brian Braun-Duin is a professional Magic player, member of the 2019 Magic Pro League and recurring special guest on the Bash Bros Podcast.
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