First and foremost, I want to preface this article by saying that none of what follows is absolute, and the meta can change drastically from when I write this Monday night until an event on Saturday. Aaron Gertler's win at Dreamhack Anaheim changes a lot, and I won't get to observe the impact his win will have on the metagame. You will still be able to take a lot away from this article, but please make sure to take into account new metagame swings and new tech that pops up this week.
Standard was solved. Azorius Control was the best deck in the format, and Mono-Red Aggro and Temur Reclamation were in the tier behind. Elspeth Conquers Death and Dream Trawler formed the backbone of a powerful control deck largely shaped by Zach Allen's dominating performance on the SCG Tour.
Enter Jeskai Fires. The World Championship in Honolulu showcased the power of Teferi, Time Raveler, and Wilderness Reclamation looked a lot less powerful. Mono-Red Aggro also struggled to take on leaner builds of Azorius Control with Archon of Sun's Grace. Azorius Control retained Best Deck status, and Jeskai Fires replaced Wilderness Reclamation in the tier below Azorius.
Dreamhack Anaheim's Top 16 cut was fully half Azorius Control with three copies of Jeskai Fires. Mono-Red Aggro looked even weaker, but there was a new crop of challengers. Sultai Ramp is a big, greedy deck trying to lean on Thought Erasure and a pile of planeswalkers to crush opponents with card advantage. Casualties of War is still a very powerful card against Jeskai Fires and Liliana, Dreadhorde General is an excellent answer to Dream Trawler. But they're not what changed the format.
Aaron Gertler absolutely dominated with Temur Clover, winning the entire tournament and only dropping one match over the course of three days. The true predator of Azorius Control had been found. Aaron had been working on this archetype for months and his mastery of the archetype showed over the course of the tournament. I highly recommend checking out both the vods from the event and Aaron's tournament report which includes links to multiple guides for the deck.
It is very hard to tell how far the online metagame will shift to adapt to Temur Clover. The biggest metagame shift will obviously be an increase in Temur Clover, but how many people will actually be scared off of Azorius Control?
This is one of the harder things to predict so soon after the event. I would estimate that Azorius Control will still be the most played deck by a decent margin, Mono-Red Aggro and Jeskai Fires will remain highly represented, and Temur Clover will probably spike up to about fifth in popularity. For reference, here is this weekend's combined metagame from Dreamhack Anaheim's Top 16 and the Top 32 of the Standard Challenge.
Azorius Control is still the single most successful deck in the format, and it would be absolutely foolish to play something weak to it. If you play this deck this weekend be ready to be hard targeted, but be comforted by the fact that very few decks can actually do so successfully. Keep an eye out for new tech this week to handle Jund Sacrifice and Temur Clover. I expect Heliod's Intervention to once again become an important sideboard card in this deck.
Jeskai Fires has returned to prey on Mono-Red Aggro with a much better matchup against Azorius Control than most expected. Over the course of both the World Championship and Dreamhack Anaheim coverage it became clear that this is not a slam-dunk matchup. Jeskai Fires can pace its threats to play a midrange game backed up by a pile of countermagic. It even has Mystical Dispute advantage over Azorius Control because many of its threats aren't blue, while in Azorius Control only Elspeth Conquers Death can dodge Mystical Dispute.
While I don't recommend playing Mono-Red Aggro this weekend, it remains in this category because it's still one of the most popular archetypes in the format. A poor matchup against Azorius Control, Jeskai Fires and even the newer Temur Clover means this deck will be unlikely to succeed this weekend. Beating this deck isn't as difficult a task as beating Azorius Control, but you will need to be able to handle both.
Temur Reclamation is still a reasonably powerful deck, but its matchups against Jeskai Fires and Azorius Control leave something to be desired. I will leave a slight asterisk here because I do think this is one of the decks that can pick on Temur Clover, but ultimately I think Reclamation will underperform in the Mythic Point Challenge.
This looks relatively promising as an archetype to take advantage of Jeskai Fires and potentially even Azorius Control, but I worry about this deck performing the role of Temur Clover and just being less successful. I have not had a chance to play games with this myself yet, so it's quite possible I've misunderstood the matchups this deck has. This is a very top-heavy deck that does not turn the corner particularly quickly, and that's not a great place to be against Temur Clover or Temur Reclamation.
This is the deck I am the least sure of in the entire tier list. I think the "old" versions are a poor choice, but the version played by Jei at Dreamhack Anaheim included Wildborn Preserver, a powerful flash threat that can quickly outscale a lot of what Jeskai Fires is doing. Preserver provides the deck with a lot of closing power and answers Dream Trawler while dodging Elspeth Conquers Death.
Three Thrashing Brontodon maindeck also gives the deck a lot of ability to fight through Fires of Invention, Lucky Clover and Elspeth Conquers Death. Jei cleaned house in the swiss portion of Dreamhack Anaheim, and I honestly can't think of a good reason this deck can't do it again. I think this new build is being slept on and it shouldn't be.
Aaron has been quietly dominating the Arena ladder with this deck all month, and his stats with the deck are nothing short of incredible. There are two big reasons I have this deck in this category despite the win at Dreamhack Anaheim. First, not everyone has months of practice with the archetype, and it's far from easy to play. Second, very few people have had a chance to play against this deck, so "respecting" Temur Clover is harder than it sounds.
Many players this weekend will have little to no experience playing with or against the deck and won't have a very solid idea of what cards or plans are good against it. Jund Sacrifice and Temur Reclamation are the two scariest archetypes for Temur Clover, but tech cards or sideboard plans in other decks may not be discovered in time.
This one is probably the most quietly successful of all. Bant Ramp won an SCG Classic a few weeks ago, but that looked like a one-time success, and the deck has been nearly nonexistent since. Last Sunday, however, it won the MTGO Challenge and put another copy into the Top 8.
Petomartinez slimmed down the deck to a much more concise core, playing all the best threats from Simic Ramp and Azorius Control in one deck. There's no countermagic in this build. It's entirely proactive with the sole exception of Shatter the Sky.
I don't know what this deck's matchups are like, and I doubt it will have significant metagame share this weekend, but I do think it is important to know about in case you come across it.
While Jund Sacrifice is a close second, Temur Clover is where I want to be this weekend. Excellent matchups against both Azorius Control and Mono-Red Aggro and an even matchup against Jeskai Fires seems like an excellent place to be. This deck may be slightly weaker now that it's a known quantity, but there's less than a week for players to familiarize themselves with it.
Even if you don't plan on playing Temur Clover, I highly recommend reading through all three guides linked in Aaron's tournament report to familiarize yourself with the gameplans of the deck. Aaron even has plenty of vods available on YouTube. Just because most of the field will be going in under-prepared doesn't mean you have to follow suit.
Standard is cracked open again at the last minute before the Mythic Point Challenge, and it will be interesting to see how people adapt (or don't) in the few days remaining. Keep your eyes peeled for any new tech, turn on notifications for Arena Decklists, and get your last bits of practice in before things kick off on Saturday. Make sure you get good sleep, take some breaks to relax and recharge before the event, and be kind to yourself in setting expectations. Even the best of the best lose games, and going 10-1 or better requires both skill and luck. Good luck to all of you playing, may the best players win!