So last week I said the metagame would stabilize and have very few changes until rotation. I was wrong.
Long, long ago Rampaging Ferocidon was part of a sweeping set of bans in the Temur Energy era. Ramunap Red had an absurd win percentage and needed to be taken down a peg while they banned out key Temur Energy pieces. The Mono-Red of our current format is significantly less threatening without Hazoret the Fervent and Bomat Courier, but that doesn't mean that Rampaging Ferocidon itself is any less threatening. What does Rampaging Ferocidon do in the context of current Standard?
Scapeshift strategies rely on overwhelming the opponent with an unending stream of Zombies, and Rampaging Ferocidon directly punishes that while also shutting down the life gain from the M20 tap lands and Plaza of Harmony. Ferocidon is also a clock, unlike the current popular sideboard options Blood Sun and Ashiok, Dream Render. The ability to attack their life total while shutting down the token generation (and attacking around singular blockers like Hydroid Krasis) means that Rampaging Ferocidon is one of the strongest sideboard options available to red decks against Scapeshift.
Vampires decks may initially seem unbothered by a three mana 3/3, but the body plays surprisingly good defense and punishes the deck's traditional ways around blockers. Vampires is going to take a decent amount of damage from Rampaging Ferocidon's trigger and they already use their life total as a resource. Shutting down the life gain from Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Vampire tokens is just icing on the cake.
This is, very obviously, the first and foremost home for the returning Dinosaur. Rampaging Ferocidon survives both Reckless Rage and Marauding Raptor, and Jund Dinosaurs can find its copies in game one with Commune with Dinosaurs. This may be one of the smallest Dinosaurs in the deck but it's also likely to pay dividends as an evasive early threat that also shines against the two biggest decks in the metagame.
The other obvious home for Rampaging Ferocidon is the one it left. Mono-Red doesn't really need much help against Vampires, but having access to Rampaging Ferocidon is going to drastically change the Scapeshift matchup. It's unclear to me if Mono-Red wants any copies maindeck since the archetype is currently built around Experimental Frenzy, but having a creature that can attack instead of Blood Sun or Alpine Moon is a huge sideboard upgrade. Tibalt, Rakish Instigator may also start to be phased out as Ferocidon shares the same anti-life-gain ability, but expect to see Tibalt hang around in sideboards as long as Mono-Red still needs to contest Esper strategies where being a creature instead of a planeswalker is a liability.
W/R Feather may not seem like the most natural place to include this Dinosaur, but we're already playing Blood Sun because the Scapeshift matchup is so bad. Rampaging Ferocidon shuts off Scapeshift while attacking, which is much better than drawing a card. Ferocidon even has the potential to creep into W/R Feather maindecks because of its pressure and evasion, but I expect it to largely remain in the sideboard.
The decks Rampaging Ferocidon is strongest against are the #1 and #2 decks in the format. The decks Rampaging Ferocidon helps most are just under that top tier. It follows that Ferocidon is going to have a significant impact in these matchups and is going to change the shape of Standard.
Bant Scapeshift isn't going to become suddenly unplayable, but the rise of the Kethis combined with Rampaging Ferocidon may be enough to unseat it from the top of the format, and the other aggro decks may get enough of a boost in order to properly compete against Vampires. Once this shift (heh) in the metagame happens, Esper may come out significantly ahead of where it currently stands, with fewer Scapeshift opponents and more aggro decks to bully. Here's where I roughly expect the metagame to be this weekend in the MTGO MCQ:
Decks to BeatW/R FeatherBant ScapeshiftMono-RedU/G Nexus
Decks Just BehindEsper ControlVampiresKethis ComboJund Dinosaurs
Decks People Will Play, but Shouldn'tEsper HeroBant RampJeskai WalkersGrixisGolos Nexus
Decks Nowhere to Be SeenTemur ElementalsU/G FlashMono-BlueMono-Green
I don't feel comfortable including new lists for all of these decks, as this is just a prediction of where the metagame will be. I'm writing this article Monday evening, and the format could very well develop in a different manner than anticipated between now and Saturday, especially because Rampaging Ferocidon will only be legal on MTGO this week (the unban takes effect on Arena next Wednesday). The decks I feel very comfortable with as called shots are U/G Nexus and W/R Feather. U/G Nexus continues to get minimal respect and it very much benefits from a downswing of Vampires. W/R Feather is just the best creature deck into opposing creature decks and benefits the most from good Scapeshift tech. Here's where I plan to start my MTGO testing this week.
I'm back to the very aggressive Feather build with two Infuriate. There's a lot of combo decks and incentive to kill quickly, and +3/+2 is very relevant against red removal in aggro mirrors. It's possible Gideon Blackblade and Legion Warboss should trade places based on the expected metagame, and if I did have them reversed I would want the Sheltering Light in the maindeck. Cleansing Ray is an extra copy of Baffling End against Vampires that also gives you another enchantment removal against Nexus. Grafdigger's Cage is a sideboard card for Kethis Combo that's cheap and easy to deploy alongside pressure. I'll leave off this week on a quick-hits sideboard guide to jump-start your testing.
The mirror is mostly about positioning and surviving Reckless Rage. I keep in Gideon Blackblade as an extra three-drop that plays well with Rage and can't be killed in response, but Gideon is prone to being slain by Gods Willing on most creatures. Play patient, this is more a test of last-creature-standing than a race.
It's possible that Gideon Blackblade is too slow in this matchup, but dodging Baffling End is pretty relevant post-board, especially since they're incentivized to bring in as many as they can to answer your heroic package as well as Rampaging Ferocidon. If they show Time Wipe, consider bringing in the Sheltering Light over a Shock, and leave in some Reckless Rage over additional copies of Shock if they're running the Angels package.
This matchup is about setup and survival. It's possible that with the return of Rampaging Ferocidon we shouldn't leave in any copies of Gideon Blackblade, but the life gain and racing potential is so strong that I still like keeping him in. Adanto Vanguard can be good on the play, especially with Gideon, but against Goblin Chainwhirler, Shock and Fanatical Firebrand it's usually just too risky to spend that much life to keep it alive.
This matchup is a race. Try not to let them keep a Wilderness Reclamation on the table. Remember that you can cast Shock with Dreadhorde Arcanist targeting your own creature so that you can recur it with Feather, the Redeemed. This allows you to Shock every turn instead of just twice.
Gideon Blackblade and Adanto Vanguard are your strongest cards here. Use them to play around Kaya's Wrath, and be careful to play around Cry of the Carnarium too where possible. I keep in small numbers of Reckless Rage to have removal for Basilica Bell-Haunt. Infuriate isn't super exciting but it can save Vanguards and Legion Warboss from Disfigure or Cry of the Carnarium.
This is a matchup where the Feather deck plays control. Go up on removal, take out some of our weaker cards in this role, and make our deck stronger against their removal spells. Try to keep Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord and Legion's Landing in check where possible, those are their strongest options to grind us out or outscale our removal.
Go fast, but never let them untap with a Kethis, the Hidden Hand or Diligent Excavator if possible. This matchup is pretty solid and one of the matchups where you could find sideboard space by dropping Grafdigger's Cage for cards like the fourth Baffling End or extra Scapeshift hate.
As I've said before, Jund Dinosaurs is all about the two-drops. Make sure you kill the ramp creature on turn two as often as possible to deny their fastest starts. You can slowly block and Gods Willing your way into an endgame with a favorable race or a giant Tenth District Legionnaire, but that takes time you won't get if they have a fast start. If Jund Dinosaurs is popular, look to Justice Strike as an incredibly strong removal spell for this matchup.
Adam "yoman5" Hernandez is a streamer, brewer and competitive player with a keen sense for what makes a deck tick. He loves writing about changes in the Standard metagame and the art of deckbuilding.
Connect: Twitch Twitter