Well the Pro Tour has come and gone, and for once we don’t have a solved metagame. With six spots in the Top 8, the White-Red Aggro deck surprisingly doesn’t seem all that good. It seems like a fine choice for the Pro Tour metagame, but as a known quantity and with decks now preparing against it, I’d be surprised if it had such a performance in the future.
No deck stood out as a monster. It just felt like the metagame had shifted again, and Golgari Midrange was punished for being the go-to for so many players early in the format’s lifespan. By the time the PT rolled around, the format adapted, and it wasn’t really much of a shock to anyone following along that it was performing at a moderate level.
For Golgari, Druid of the Cowl and Carnage Tyrant look like the future of the archetype. Besides that, more sweepers and Fungal Infection look to be making a return to the deck’s sideboard. Getting a 2-for-1 for a single mana is an easy way to buy time, and Golden Demise and Plague Mare are still valid options, although the latter is dubious against Marshal and Loxodon. Wildgrowth Walker also remains a solid early game wall that can gain a ton of life, though I would say the current builds lean on it too hard.
The deck needs to lower its curve elsewhere, so we’re seeing Vraska become more of a board option. Vivien Reid remains in the deck due to pure strength and the amount of utility she brings against flyers. Still, expect her numbers to drop as the deck refocuses around a stronger midgame and a faster way to close out games. Find // Finality is now recognized as one of the best cards in the deck, and is a 3- or 4-of in nearly every build now.
Moving forward, I’d tweak Makihito Mihara’s 8-2 list.
If you want to hedge against Izzet Drakes, then I recommend Deathgorge Scavenger main deck over Findbroker and some of the 4-mana planeswalkers. My current builds have 2 in the main deck and I’ve been considering upping that number given the field. I would also want Trophy over Cast Down, as the times Cast Down is a useless card heavily outnumber the times Trophy significantly punishes you. Though if you really hate Trophy, I understand.
I feel confident that Heroic Reinforcements is not good enough to splash for in WW/r, so unless you have a better plan overall, don’t bother with the red splash. You just want to maximize 1-drops, and the only late-game cards of value in the deck come with convoke attached to them. The deck is also worse in the mirror where you run an inferior mana base and dead cards in a matchup determined by curving out and drawing a handful of key cards.
I feel a little silly for not going full-on 16+ 1-drops after I figured out how strong Venerated Loxodon is. One of the best draws in the deck is to play it on turn 3. Maximizing this only makes sense, and it also means that city’s blessing is even easier to achieve, which gives a bump to some creatures and Pride. As far as the life gain creatures go, I feel that’s more of an aesthetic decision. It’s certainly possible that I’m wrong here, but none of the games I’ve played saw Ajani’s Pridemate make a difference.
As for the other big decks, Arclight Phoenix decks should drop the Arclight Phoenix and stick with eight Drakes or go with Rekindling Phoenix. I know that sounds really odd, but after talking with some people who piloted the deck at the Pro Tour, you cast a 3/2 flying haste for 3R too often. Even buying it back for free is often just a bonus and not game-winning unless you return multiple copies. Even when you do, in what matchup is Phoenix well positioned? Golgari Midrange and Jeskai Control? It’s too slow to matter against Mono-Red and W/W, Boros Angels and Selesnya Tokens don’t care, and and Phoenix doesn’t hold up well in the mirror compared to the big threats.
While originally I thought that Enigma Drake was too slow and prone to removal, the constant refinement of the deck has made it feel like a sweet Magic card. Not only does it consistently threaten a better clock on turn 4 compared to Phoenix, but the 4 toughness makes it difficult to kill. Maximize Velocity and Dive Down are also easier to make good use of with a 3-mana card over 4, which makes a pretty huge difference when you’re light on lands.
Jeskai Control isn’t a terrible deck, but it struggles mightily against Adanto Vanguard or when it doesn’t draw Deafening Clarion, which means that it’s a hard sell without an overhaul. I’ve actually barely run into the deck in the queues anymore, so I don’t have a lot to say about it in the post-PT world other than that you shouldn’t take any of the PT lists without adapting it to the results first. Looking at the data, it seems like a reasonable choice if you can outplay your opposition consistently.
Meanwhile, on the control front, the Dimir Control deck Mark Jacobson piloted looks to be the most interesting metagame choice moving forward.
Not only does it stomp all over W/W with access to Fungal Infection and cheap sweeper effects, Hostage Taker and Thief of Sanity are both hard for Golgari Midrange to ignore and Dive Down means makes Vraska’s Contempt a liability. What also strikes me about the build is how customizable it is. You aren’t locked into a ton of core cards here. Follow the basic rules of discard and removal, along with some value engines, and then get to work.
This is the Disinformation Campaign I’ve wanted to see since people tried jamming four and just threw up their hands whenever they ran into an aggro deck. You have enough incidental surveil to still get value out of it, but your entire strategy doesn’t hinge on constantly buying back Disinformation or an unanswered Thieves of Sanity. So keep note of the numbers here and go wild on the tweaking. Oh, and I’d consider In Bolas’s Clutches for the sideboard if you want a clean answer to Niv Mizzet or planeswalkers that potentially wins the game for you on the spot.
Mono-Red and Mono-Blue are both good choices moving forward and missing Top 8 shouldn’t have any bearing on your decision to pilot them. Mono-Red especially, since it already has a good plan against W/W thanks to Goblin Chainwhirler, and the ability to pick off the most annoying creatures across the table. Of course, you need a better plan against the Izzet decks that can stymie your quick starts and block without issue.
For Mono-Blue, nothing has really changed. It has good early game that can allow you to snowball easy wins and tees off on all the creature-based midrange still running around. It just continues to suffer at the hands of cheap aggro, so we’re left to see if the metagame has improved or worsened for it overall.
Seeing the data start to come out for the matchups paints a spectacular vision of Standard, one where no deck seems particularly dominant. Everyone has a few commonly played, weaker matchups, and very few decks produce the unfun snowballs with the consistency of old Mardu or Atarka Red. At this point it’s safe to say R&D and the play design squad have finally produced a unique and healthy Standard.