The dust has settled after PT Dark Ascension. Where is the Standard metagame now?

Luckily we live in an age where we can get access to lots of data from all sorts of tournaments, which can keep us abreast of every format.

For my analysis of the current Standard meta-game I have taken the 18 points or better decks from the Pro Tour, which are available here, and 3-1 or better decks from various online MTGO daily events from the last few days which can be found here. This will not tell us the metagame of the whole field but rather what is doing well, which is way more interesting!

Let's start in Honolulu.

68 decks went 18 points or better. 5 of those were sufficiently rogue that I have defined them as 'other' but here's how the rest shape up:

The numbers are the percentage of decks of that archetype appearing on the list.

There are a huge number of Delver decks in this list! As this was the first preview of the Spirits build created by Sam Black this style of deck only comprises 26% of the Delver lists though that speaks volumes for how good the deck was at the event as there were probably not many more people with the build.

Delver-Spirits by Samuel Black

[deck]4 Darkslick Shores
2 Evolving Wilds
3 Glacial Fortress
5 Island
2 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
1 Swamp
4 Delver of Secrets
4 Drogskol Captain
2 Dungeon Geists
3 Phantasmal Image
4 Snapcaster Mage
1 Divine Offering
4 Gitaxian Probe
1 Gut Shot
4 Lingering Souls
2 Mana Leak
4 Ponder
1 Revoke Existence
4 Vapor Snag
Sideboard
1 Celestial Purge
1 Demystify
1 Dismember
1 Dissipate
1 Divine Offering
2 Dungeon Geists
2 Gut Shot
1 Mana Leak
1 Negate
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Revoke Existence
2 Surgical Extraction[/deck]

The majority of the Delver decks (52%) were comprised of the more traditional Delver-Pike decks exemplified by the list piloted by Samuele Estratti. The remaining Delver decks were mono-Blue Illusions, UW-Humans and UR Burn.

Delver-Pike by Samuele Estratti

[deck]4 Glacial Fortress
8 Island
3 Moorland Haunt
1 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Delver of Secrets
3 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Phantasmal Image
4 Snapcaster Mage
4 Gitaxian Probe
3 Gut Shot
4 Mana Leak
3 Midnight Haunting
4 Ponder
3 Runechanter's Pike
2 Thought Scour
4 Vapor Snag
Sideboard
2 Day of Judgment
1 Dissipate
1 Divine Offering
1 Gut Shot
2 Jace, Memory Adept
1 Negate
2 Oblivion Ring
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Revoke Existence
2 Timely Reinforcements[/deck]

The next most successful deck to take a slice from our metagame pie is Humans. Almost all versions were UW with a few GW versions knocking up enough points. It is the aggro deck of choice at the moment and what yours truly choose to play. As an aggro deck it should generally do well against Delver decks, which fill a tempo-control function in the metagame. Whilst Delver can handle counter spells, the occasional fatty and some removal they don't like hoards of little guys hitting them for more damage than they are dealing.

UW Humans by Dan Jordan

[deck]4 Glacial Fortress
1 Island
3 Moorland Haunt
12 Plains
4 Seachrome Coast
4 Champion of the Parish
4 Doomed Traveler
2 Fiend Hunter
4 Hero of Bladehold
3 Leonin Relic-Warder
3 Mirran Crusader
3 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
1 Angelic Destiny
4 Gather the Townsfolk
4 Honor of the Pure
2 Oblivion Ring
2 Sword of War and Peace
Sideboard
1 Angelic Destiny
2 Day of Judgment
1 Dismember
2 Divine Offering
1 Fiend Hunter
2 Geist of Saint Traft
1 Leonin Relic-Warder
2 Mana Leak
1 Mirran Crusader
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Sword of War and Peace[/deck]

While we are on the subject of aggressive decks a few more versions are present on the list. R/G arrived on the scene for the first time in various different flavours and commanded 14.3% of the field. I have picked one at random for your enjoyment.

R/G by Daniel Grafensteiner

[deck]4 Copperline Gorge
7 Forest
2 Kessig Wolf Run
6 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Hellrider
1 Hero of Oxid Ridge
2 Huntmaster of the Fells
4 Llanowar Elves
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
4 Strangleroot Geist
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Brimstone Volley
2 Galvanic Blast
4 Gut Shot
4 Incinerate
4 Sword of War and Peace
Sideboard
3 Ancient Grudge
2 Dismember
1 Hero of Oxid Ridge
2 Mental Misstep
2 Mutagenic Growth
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Traitorous Blood
1 Urabrask the Hidden[/deck]

We also have the mono-Green variety of aggro deck as piloted by Todd Anderson, although this only manages 4.3%. B/W Tokens and Tempered Steel are also present though only in very small numbers. Finally there are various varieties of Zombies with mono-Black and Red variants doing equally well.

Mono-Green by Todd Anderson

[deck]24 Forest
1 Acidic Slime
1 Bellowing Tanglewurm
4 Birds of Paradise
2 Daybreak Ranger
4 Dungrove Elder
4 Llanowar Elves
2 Phyrexian Metamorph
2 Strangleroot Geist
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
3 Garruk Relentless
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
4 Green Sun's Zenith
2 Gut Shot
4 Sword of War and Peace
Sideboard
2 Corrosive Gale
1 Daybreak Ranger
1 Glissa, the Traitor
3 Naturalize
2 Precursor Golem
3 Ratchet Bomb
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Viridian Corrupter[/deck]

Zombies! By Jasper Johnson-Epstein

[deck]24 Swamp
1 Bloodline Keeper
4 Diregraf Ghoul
3 Fume Spitter
4 Geralf's Messenger
4 Gravecrawler
3 Porcelain Legionnaire
1 Skinrender
4 Skirsdag High Priest
4 Geth's Verdict
1 Lashwrithe
3 Mortarpod
4 Tragic Slip
Sideboard
2 Black Sun's Zenith
3 Distress
2 Mental Misstep
1 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Phyrexian Obliterator
3 Ratchet Bomb
1 Sword of War and Peace[/deck]

Moving away from aggro we come to the third most successful deck type in the tournament–Ramp! Paulo and Kibler both took a red version of Wolf-Run Ramp to the final. Basically all the successful ramp decks were Red but there is one Black and one White/Red version present in the list.

R/G Wolf Run Ramp by Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

[deck]4 Copperline Gorge
5 Forest
4 Inkmoth Nexus
2 Kessig Wolf Run
6 Mountain
4 Rootbound Crag
1 Acidic Slime
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
2 Inferno Titan
4 Primeval Titan
3 Solemn Simulacrum
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
4 Galvanic Blast
2 Green Sun's Zenith
4 Rampant Growth
4 Slagstorm
4 Sphere of the Suns
1 Whipflare
Sideboard
2 Ancient Grudge
1 Autumn's Veil
2 Beast Within
1 Combust
2 Garruk, Primal Hunter
2 Karn Liberated
2 Naturalize
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Whipflare[/deck]

This deck isn't new in concept though the inclusion of [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] certainly impressed Channel Fireball enough to run with the deck. This deck will be strong against aggro decks such as Humans as they can't kill before a Titan takes over the game or all their creatures die to [card]Slagstorm[/card] or [card]Whipflare[/card].

Decks that are set up to handle Ramp are control decks. However, probably due to their weakness to Delver, they were only present in a small number (9.5%). There seem to be two main flavours of control at the moment, Esper and UB, which performed equally at the event.

UB control by Lukas Jaklovsky

[deck]4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
2 Ghost Quarter
8 Island
2 Nephalia Drownyard
7 Swamp
2 Consecrated Sphinx
3 Snapcaster Mage
3 Black Sun's Zenith
1 Blue Sun's Zenith
2 Curse of Death's Hold
2 Dissipate
2 Doom Blade
3 Forbidden Alchemy
4 Mana Leak
1 Ratchet Bomb
4 Think Twice
4 Tragic Slip
2 Tribute to Hunger
Sideboard
2 Batterskull
2 Bloodline Keeper
1 Dissipate
2 Flashfreeze
1 Negate
2 Nephalia Drownyard
1 Nihil Spellbomb
1 Phantasmal Image
1 Ratchet Bomb
1 Steel Sabotage
1 Surgical Extraction[/deck]

Esper Control by Orrin Beasley

[deck]4 Darkslick Shores
3 Evolving Wilds
3 Glacial Fortress
2 Island
4 Isolated Chapel
3 Plains
2 Seachrome Coast
5 Swamp
2 Snapcaster Mage
4 Day of Judgment
3 Doom Blade
1 Elspeth Tirel
2 Forbidden Alchemy
2 Gideon Jura
3 Liliana of the Veil
4 Lingering Souls
4 Mana Leak
1 Oblivion Ring
2 Sorin, Lord of Innistrad
3 Think Twice
3 Tragic Slip
Sideboard
1 Azure Mage
1 Batterskull
2 Consecrated Sphinx
2 Curse of Death's Hold
3 Geist of Saint Traft
2 Nihil Spellbomb
2 Ratchet Bomb
1 Revoke Existence
1 Sword of Feast and Famine[/deck]

One of the other majors players in the metagame was Birthing Pod. Managing a healthy 12.7%. This was something I was very pleased to see, as I love Birthing Pod, even though I hadn't had time to explore it myself during testing. There were several different colour combinations with Bant and Naya being most prevalent.

Bant Pod by Koichi Tanaka

[deck]7 Forest
2 Gavony Township
2 Hinterland Harbor
2 Island
2 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
3 Seachrome Coast
1 Sunpetal Grove
2 Acidic Slime
3 Avacyn's Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Blade Splicer
1 Dungeon Geists
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Fiend Hunter
2 Geist-Honored Monk
3 Phantasmal Image
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Solemn Simulacrum
2 Sun Titan
3 Viridian Emissary
2 Wing Splicer
1 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Birthing Pod
2 Oblivion Ring
Sideboard
1 Acidic Slime
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Stingerfling Spider
2 Stonehorn Dignitary
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Sylvok Replica
2 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Venser, the Sojourner
2 Vorapede[/deck]

Naya Pod by Lukas Blohon

[deck]4 Copperline Gorge
6 Forest
3 Gavony Township
1 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
2 Rootbound Crag
3 Sunpetal Grove
1 Acidic Slime
3 Avacyn's Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Blade Splicer
1 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
1 Fiend Hunter
1 Geist-Honored Monk
4 Huntmaster of the Fells
1 Inferno Titan
1 Llanowar Elves
1 Solemn Simulacrum
4 Strangleroot Geist
1 Viridian Emissary
1 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Birthing Pod
2 Mortarpod
2 Oblivion Ring
Sideboard
1 Acidic Slime
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Autumn's Veil
2 Hero of Bladehold
3 Mental Misstep
1 Oblivion Ring
1 Phyrexian Metamorph
1 Ray of Revelation
2 Sword of Feast and Famine
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
1 Tormentor Exarch[/deck]

The final deck of note from Honolulu is the emergence of a combo deck in Standard in the form of [card]Unburial Rites[/card]. For those of you that haven't seen this deck yet the plan is to discard [card]Unburial Rites[/card] and a big fatty (such as [card]Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite[/card] or [card]Wurmcoil Engine[/card]) and then get it into play on the cheap! Not a huge showing for this but it was new to the scene so it remains to be seen if it will become a notable player.

Rites Combo by Raphael Levy

[deck]4 Blackcleave Cliffs
4 Copperline Gorge
2 Darkslick Shores
6 Forest
1 Mountain
1 Plains
4 Razorverge Thicket
1 Rootbound Crag
4 Avacyn's Pilgrim
4 Birds of Paradise
4 Elesh Norn, Grand Cenobite
2 Inferno Titan
1 Llanowar Elves
2 Wurmcoil Engine
4 Faithless Looting
4 Lingering Souls
4 Mulch
4 Tracker's Instincts
4 Unburial Rites
Sideboard
4 Ancient Grudge
2 Jin-Gitaxias, Core Augur
2 Memory's Journey
1 Purify the Grave
3 Ray of Revelation
1 Thrun, the Last Troll
2 Unburial Rites[/deck]

That was how Standard stood at the end of the Pro Tour. Let us now see how this has affect what is being successful online.

Delver is still the most successful deck in the metagame though the numbers doing well is significantly reduced compared to the Pro Tour. Unsurprisingly, the number of Spirits versions has increased to the same levels as the more traditional Pike builds.

More surprisingly is that the Wolf Run decks appear to be doing worse. After two making the final I, personally, expected lots of people to pick it up–and may be they have but are being beaten by the control decks that suddenly seem to be flourishing. The number of control decks has roughly doubled since the Pro Tour. About two thirds of these control decks are of the UB variety.

Why are the control decks suddenly doing better?

It's a combination of factors. For a start the metagame is slowly becoming a bit more defined and stable. This is always a turning point that allows control decks to shines. Another important change is that the aggro decks suddenly have a lot of enemies namely Wolf Run and Delver-Spirits. Control already has a good matchup against Wolf-Run. The Delver-Pike decks are very tempo-based making it strong against control but the new Spirits build is more tribal based. This has strengthened its aggro matchup by having a better clock but has weakened it against the control decks.

The number of Humans decks performing well has remained mostly unchanged, despite Delver-Spirits having a good matchup against it. The number of people playing Spirits is not yet huge and with Wolf-Run numbers down enough Humans decks are still performing. The draw back of this analysis is I do not know the starting metagame so it could be all Humans decks are 3-1 or better or most of the starting decks are Humans and these are the few that do well but clearly the deck is still capable of winning in this shifted meta.

Zombie decks are clearly popular on line and doing slightly better than they did in the PT thanks, partly, to the emergence of a U/B version, which is doing better than the previous Red version.

UB Zombie by Cabomaldades

[deck]4 Darkslick Shores
4 Drowned Catacomb
12 Swamp
4 Diregraf Captain
4 Diregraf Ghoul
3 Fume Spitter
4 Geralf's Messenger
4 Gravecrawler
4 Phantasmal Image
4 Skirsdag High Priest
4 Geth's Verdict
2 Liliana of the Veil
3 Mortarpod
4 Tragic Slip
Sideboard
3 Corrosive Gale
2 Nihil Spellbomb
3 Porcelain Legionnaire
1 Steel Sabotage
3 Surgical Extraction
3 Vapor Snag[/deck]

Rites Combo is still kinda left field with it showing similar numbers but mono-Red, a deck that didn't really appear in Honolulu, is having a few successes online. Being strong against control decks this may explain its come back.

So there you have it. An overview on how Standard has been changed by the release of Dark Ascension. As I write this GP Baltimore has concluded, sadly the list of successful decklists is not yet up though I had hoped to include the breakdown here for you. There was a lot of UB control this weekend with three lists in the top 8 which I would have expected given what I saw here.

If you are attending a Standard tournament soon make sure to have a plan against the controlling menace. [card]Thrun, the Last Troll[/card] is a good option is you are set on playing Green or perhaps you should opt to play Delver-Pike with its strong matchup (it won Baltimore after all)... ofcourse if lots of people do that you should play Humans... aren't metagames fun?!

I will personally be attending GP Lille next weekend, which is Standard. Already I am considering my ways around Mana Leak and Black Sun's Zenith. On thing is for certain, I will not be playing it myself. If you are also going feel free to come say hi and tell me what you are playing. I love talking to people.

Until next week.