Standard made a grand reentry to premier-level play in Tennessee this weekend, showing off splashy new archetypes that have begun to flourish after the bans that hit Temur Energy and Ramunap Red. It seems these bannings have done exactly what they were designed to do—Standard is once again flush with varied deck archetypes and a wide scope of viable strategies.
Mono-Red made its presence felt, putting up almost 20% of the Day 2 metagame, but late in the tournament it flagged somewhat, outpaced by less familiar faces. The format was crowded with decks that haven’t yet had their chance to shine. This involved updates to existing archetypes (such as Sultai Constrictor or Mardu Vehicles) or entirely fresh brews (White-Black City’s Blessing).
There were 21 different archetypes in the Top 32 of #GPMemphis. Standard is alive and well.
— Corbin Hosler (@Chosler88) February 26, 2018
The field’s diversity was even represented at the top end of competition, with no single deck truly overrepresented in the entire Top 32. In the Top 8, Grixis Energy put up the numbers, but it was Red-Green Monsters in the hands of Tyler Schroeder that won the day. Schroeder got past not just Grixis but also Sultai Constrictor and Blue-Black Energy on his way to the top. Congratulations to Tyler Schroeder for pioneering the way forward in this new Standard format!
— Magic Pro Tour (@magicprotour) February 26, 2018
Dan Scott’s next-level alters in the Artist Area:
— Dan Scott (@danscottart) February 24, 2018
Reid Duke and Marshall Sutcliffe have a water balloon fight before work:
"We got in a water balloon fight that escalated out of control." – @Marshall_LR
— Corbin Hosler (@Chosler88) February 24, 2018
Sam Black showcases his blistering wit in a post-match interview:
Some personnel go missing from the vendor booths:
— ChannelFireball (@ChannelFireball) February 23, 2018
Given the huge number of archetypes we saw across the tournament, it’s difficult to select one particular deck that stands out above the rest! From Jund to Mono-Black Aggro, from Abzan Tokens to Blue-Black Midrange—there are just so many different starting points for anyone looking to attack Standard.
One player came armed with something that proved to be a bit of a blast from the past. John Farrow played White-Blue Cycling to a 17th place finish, proving that this strategy has what it takes to run with the big guys. White-Blue Cycling has remained on the fringes, never really managing to put up a big result, but you can be sure that as soon as this deck breaks through, everyone will be talking about it.
John Farrow, 17th place at GP Memphis 2018
Drake Haven continues to beg deckbuilders to break it. Given how playable cycling cards tend to be as a baseline, it’s not asking much to include them as enablers for a very powerful payoff card like Drake Haven. This deck offers extreme consistency and a powerful late game thanks to Abandoned Sarcophagus. Why, then, hasn’t it yet proven itself on the big stage?
It may be a question of tweaking and tuning. Some of the numbers in the list above are puzzling—just a single Sarcophagus, for example, or the 4/3 split between Settle the Wreckage and Fumigate. The deck picked up a new piece of early interaction in the form of Baffling End, which is a welcome addition considering this strategy doesn’t always cope well with early pressure. Any way you slice it, Cycling is a deck to watch. I can’t help but feel that it remains poised to finally break through to the front of the format.
The major lesson we learned from GP Memphis is that Standard has been fixed—for the time being, at least. With a ton of viable archetypes all contesting the weekend’s tournament, now is an excellent time to experiment in a format that is more open and much less punishing of experimentation. This will change in the coming months. As the format becomes more compressed, focused, and streamlined under the weight of combined testing efforts around the world, expect clear “best decks” to emerge in the next few weeks.
Mono-Red remains beatable, despite its relatively large metagame share. It will continue to act as Standard’s fun police and help to ensure people don’t go too far off the deep end, so while working on that sweet brew, remember you still need to have game against their Courier-Shaker-Crasher curveouts, or you’ll get left in the dust.
Vraska’s Contempt is just about the best card you can play in Standard right now. Reid Duke highlighted how critical this card is as a catch-all answer to almost every conceivable threat in Standard. Most importantly, it cleanly answers Hazoret and The Scarab God, two cards that are spinning on high rotation. It’s odd to think that a 4-mana point removal spell can survive in a format full of Mono-Red decks, but the 2-life rider has helped so much in making it a viable choice. Don’t leave your copies of Vraska’s Contempt at home!
The MOCS finals are on this weekend. We’ll see both Draft and Modern showcased by players such as Josh Utter-Leyton, Samuel Pardee, Reid Duke, and Gabriel Nassif. As Modern is in a very exciting place thanks to recent unbannings, I can’t wait to see what emerges in the wake of the weekend. I’ll be back next weekend to get across it all!