Last week I wrote a metagame analysis on Monday night that was flipped on its head by Friday. Innovations in Yorion Fires decks took the archetype from unexciting to #1. Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast and the associated package of enchantments and Agent of Treachery have made the deck into a dominant force in the metagame, with Lukka variants comprising over a third of the winners' metagame.
The winners' metagame consists of the Weekly Championship and the two Standard Challenges that ran on Magic Online this weekend. Beyond the dominance of Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, the rest of the top tier consisted of Temur Reclamation, Bant Ramp and Cycling. I had dismissed Cycling as too inflexible and exploitable, but I will admit my mistake there. Its matchups may be polarized, but the top half of the metagame has many good matchups for Cycling.
This week is going to be tough to predict, so I'll focus on the takeaways of this weekend so you can read the trends of the week for better deck selection this weekend. Jeskai Lukka absolutely skyrocketed this weekend, but didn't exist last weekend. While it has largely supplanted traditional Fires lists, it's not unbeatable, and Cycling is its worst matchup. Cycling already had a large metagame share, and that's only going to increase with the popularity of Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast decks.
The upcoming metagame shifts and trends will be dictated almost entirely by these two decks, so they will be the focus of analysis this week. While the tier list may look grim, this is unlikely to hold for more than a week. This is an analysis of the current state of Standard for competitive play.
This is the format's undeniable top deck at the moment. With an absolutely incredible debut weekend, Jeskai Lukka took ten of the 24 possible Top 8 slots. This deck solves the threat density problem of previous Yorion Fires lists by incorporating Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast and Agent of Treachery to artificially increase the power of the average hand.
Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast gives the deck more power in games without Fires of Invention and turns otherwise mediocre Yorion, Sky Nomad targets like The Birth of Meletis into Agent of Treachery well ahead of schedule. Lukka can even convert Yorion into a third Agent of Treachery trigger if they both survive.
Shark Typhoon and The Birth of Meletis make it much harder for Flash-style decks to properly attack down Jeskai Lukka, and attrition is not a viable tactic against Yorion in general. The biggest weak points of this deck are aggression and reach, and its worst matchups reflect that. Cycling is by far the worst matchup for Jeskai Lukka, followed by Temur Reclamation and Mono-Black Aggro.
The Jeskai Lukka kryptonite. Cycling has a large advantage against Jeskai Lukka because its base game plan already plays to Jeskai Lukka's weaknesses: early aggressive starts backed up by reach.
I initially wrote off Cycling because it struggled if opponents were able to handle the first wave of creatures and then slam the door, but Jeskai Fires moved away from a playset of Deafening Clarion and Cavalier of Flame, and Temur Reclamation proved much weaker to the archetype than I anticipated. As the metagame shifted to a top-end arms race, Cycling thrived.
Of the five most popular macro-archetypes, only Rakdos Sacrifice is a bad matchup for Cycling. Cycling is a heavy favorite against the remaining four. Expect this deck to pick up heavily in the coming days, and look to Deafening Clarion, Mayhem Devil and Mono-Black Aggro if you want to defeat it.
Why is this deck here? Why shouldn't people play one of the most popular decks of the weekend? Simple: it has a bad matchup against both of the decks to beat. Shatter the Sky is woefully inadequate at handling Cycling, and Jeskai Lukka goes much bigger, faster.
Bant Ramp has always been a pile of good cards, but now those cards simply don't line up well enough against the dominant strategies. The deck won't be actively bad, and will still put up reasonable results, but if you're aiming for tournament success I would register something else.
Temur Reclamation was close, and almost made the cut for decks to beat, but its performance over the last week hasn't been as promising as I expected. While Temur Reclamation does have a close matchup against Jeskai Lukka, perhaps even a favorable one, the Cycling matchup looks to be much worse than I had anticipated. I'm unsure if this is a change in build or play pattern compared to my own experiences, but I cannot write off this weekend's data.
With the rise of Neutralize in Bant Ramp and the rise of Mono-Black Aggro, I do not expect Temur Reclamation to be well positioned this weekend. The good matchups are dwindling, and the bad ones should be on the rise. A slightly favorable matchup against Jeskai Lukka won't be enough.
Rakdos Sacrifice won two tournaments and has a good Cycling matchup, so why is it here? Unfortunately, while two individual pilots claimed trophies, the deck did poorly on the weekend overall. Jeskai Lukka and Temur Reclamation are strongly unfavorable matchups, and I believe Rakdos Sacrifice will occupy a metagame space better served by Mono-Black Aggro.
I keep harping on this deck because I remain entirely unconvinced by the archetype. The white cards are just so much stronger than the black cards outside of Extinction Event, and I don't believe Obosh, the Preypiercer is prevalent enough for the exchange to be worth it. The Cycling matchup is bad, and the Jeskai Lukka matchup is worse.
There are four-color versions of the deck attempting to play both Bant cards and Sultai cards simultaneously, but that archetype is unproven and almost certainly suffers against Jeskai Lukka.
Mono-Black Aggro may be the only deck that doesn't have a bad matchup against both Jeskai Lukka and Cycling. The Jeskai Lukka matchup is incredibly close, and Mono-Black Aggro is favored against Cycling by a decent margin.
This puts the deck in a great position in the metagame, though its biggest predator is Rakdos Sacrifice, which may yet see a rise to combat the rise of Cycling. Both decks are good against Cycling, but Rakdos Sacrifice is favored against Mono-Black Aggro at the expense of a worse matchup against both Jeskai Lukka and Temur Reclamation.
I want to preface this section by saying that I have not yet tested this deck thoroughly myself, but the matchup against other Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast decks looks promising with the ability to pull ahead in the early turns and cast Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast or Fires of Invention first. The Cycling matchup is still one to address, but if we're ahead in the mirror and still strong against the rest of the format I can accept that the bad matchup is still bad.
The list Pykapower won with looks powerful, if a bit land-light. Calix, Destiny's Hand is an excellent removal option that works exceptionally well with Yorion, Sky Nomad, making up for the subpar hit rate its +1 has in this deck. Having another good spell to cast on turn four alongside Fires of Invention is powerful, and playing both removal and card advantage is excellent—the same role Narset of the Ancient Way plays in Jeskai Fires.
Time will tell if I'm right or this list is just a worse version of a clean deck, but Ikoria Standard continues to impress me in its depth and churn. The rewards for week-to-week deck selection and tuning are strong, and the rewards for tight play aren't light either. This format punishes mistakes and poor sequencing incredibly hard, which can drive many away, but it makes for excellent competitive events, and I've been thoroughly enjoying myself.
Did I get it right? Will another deck rise up and make me look foolish before the weekend? Do you enjoy my triplicate questions each week? As always you can hit me up on Twitter to give me any praise, feedback, or hot new tech you may have for me. We may not get to play with our physical cards just yet, but the online competitive scene continues to thrive, and Standard is the best it has been in a while.