Presales for Core Set 2020 managed to dethrone Modern Horizons this week, taking up just over half of the Top 10 slots. We can get a good sense of where the Standard metagame may be headed based on this list, so let's get right to it.
Tribal decks tend to be more casual builds by nature, but when the stars align, they can make a showing in competitive play. Coming in at two mana less than Vanquisher's Banner, Icon of Ancestry buffs your whole team and provides a recurring way to refill your hand, assuming you've picked the right 60 cards to begin with.
Thanks to the Ixalan sets, we've got Pirates, Merfolk, and Dinosaurs as established tribes already in Standard, but the one that looks to get the most help from Core Set 2020 is Vampires, as Seth Manfield explored recently in 'Solving Standard.'
Starting the game with a card already in play can be incredibly powerful, and Brian Braun-Duin pointed out that the lands turned into creatures by Nissa, Who Shakes the World have the potential to generate three mana each if you've also got this enchantment on the table.
Luckily, this leyline also provides something to do with all that extra mana by turning it into more +1/+1 counters. Toss in some ability to proliferate, maybe with Evolution Sage from War of the Spark, and you have the beginnings of a green deck that can get out of hand very quickly.
All of the leylines look a little better under the adoption of the London mulligan rule, which goes into effect as Core Set 2020 rolls out, but only the green one made our list...this week.
Affinity remains a contender in the Modern format, despite no longer running any cards that actually have the affinity mechanic. The deck drops a ton of free or cheap artifacts and feverishly pumps them up with Steel Overseer or buffs their attacking team with Signal Pest, but like many aggressive strategies, it can run out of gas.
To combat this, the deck recently picked up Experimental Frenzy, which lets it continue to put cheap artifacts onto the battlefield. Mystic Forge takes this idea and makes it even better, since most of the cards are artifacts, and the deck isn't concerned about its own life total.
Paying just one life to move a land off the top could result in you dropping another three or four Memnites, Ornithopters or Arcbound Ravagers in a single turn, letting the deck re-establish board presence after being hit by a sweeper.
Offering an alternative way to win the game, clever deck builders are already looking for ways to make this flavorful enchantment carry them to victory, and MTGGoldfish took a swing at it over the holiday weekend.
Paired off with Urza, Lord High Artificer, Echo of Eons and 22 artifacts that can be cast for zero mana, the deck uses Grinding Station to mill itself to the point where Mirrodin Besieged will trigger on the turn you cast it, netting you an instant win.
The Saffron Olive effect is real, and it's strong enough to immediately put this card into seventh place for the week.
Earlier I talked about some of the established tribes in Standard, but one that is poised to break into the format is Elementals. A solid decklist has yet to emerge, but one key build-around card appears in a lot of the early brews—Risen Reef.
Rogue Refiner was banned in Standard for supplying card advantage, energy and an aggressive body all at once. Risen Reef isn't quite at that power level, but its ability to replace itself upon entering the battlefield and then also turn your future Elementals into either cantrips or ramp shouldn't be ignored. Add Omnath, Locus of the Roil or Chandra, Acolyte of Flame and her ability to spit out Elemental Tokens, and you have the foundation for a three-color deck that could see a lot of play over the next year.
This was one of the first cards previewed for Modern Horizons, but it has taken players a while to find a home for the Cabal Therapy call-back. Some versions of the Bridgevine deck managed to slot in a copy, but those decks could be seeing a shift in strategy after losing the "bridge" half of their game plan.
Perhaps this one was fueled entirely by speculation, because aside from a Top 32 finish at a recent Star City Games Team Modern Open, I don't see Cabal Therapist making a splash in many tournament lists.
Vampires might only have a short window to shine in Standard, with the Ixalan sets rotating out later this year, but if they are going to dominate a Mythic Championship before then, it will almost certainly be on the back of Knight of the Ebon Legion.
Today, the best Vampire decks lead off with Legion's Landing or Skymarcher Aspirant, which are fine on turn one but not so great the longer the game goes on. Knight of the Ebon Legion is a much stronger alternative, since it also enters the battlefield early but remains a threat all game long, thanks to its ability to grow in size and gain deathtouch.
It also teams up well with Adanto Vanguard. Since the Knight only cares that a player lost 4 life, it doesn't have to be your opponent. Paying to make the Vanguard indestructible on your own turn now has the upside of adding a counter to the Knight, and subtle synergies like that can be the factor that takes a deck over the edge.
Until Monday morning, Hogaak Dredge and Blue-Red Arclight Phoenix were two of the most oppressive decks in Modern. Both are able to stock their graveyard with creatures, then pull several into play at once when the conditions are right.
The banning of Bridge from Below weakened Hogaak, but both decks are still capable of fielding a scary number of creatures, sometimes as early as turn two.
Force of Despair is an effective way to fight back, because it instantly destroys every creature that entered the battlefield that turn. Cast it right after attackers are declared, and send every Vengevine, Bloodghast, and Arclight Phoenix back to the graveyard, even if you were on the draw and only have one land in play.
With the release of Core Set 2020, Standard will be at its largest before slimming down upon rotation later this year. Overlapping with Core Set 2019 offers all sorts of interesting deck building opportunities that are only available for the next three months.
Scapeshift was part of Core Set 2019 and has made no impact on the format over the past year, but now with Dread Presence, we might finally have a payoff to make a deck worth exploring.
Golgari and Sultai shells are the most likely homes for Dread Presence, but if we find ourselves back on Theros a year from now and mono-black devotion decks become popular, you'll be happy to see every swamp you draw while this Nightmare is on the battlefield.
While he may not have found a home yet, the Trademage does so much for just three mana he's bound to fit into a deck somewhere. His ability to discard half your hand can be turned into an upside when paired with Arclight Phoenix or Hollow One, and now that Bridge from Below has been banned in Modern, players might shift their focus to finding other ways to break Bazaar Trademage.
Copies can still be found for under a dollar, making this a reasonable spec buy. Just make sure you don't trade your newfound wealth for a rug when this card becomes the next Modern must-have.
That's it for this week's Top 10. Core Set 2020 is about to enter Standard and shake things up, while Modern Horizons still offers plenty of exciting possibilities for fans of Eternal formats.