The Standard Metagame Heading into GP Costa Rica

Standard is great.

The format is healthy and there’s a new deck to beat every weekend. This has happened in the past, so it’s nothing we haven’t before, but a new phenomenon is the absence of must-play cards. Look at Siege Rhino, a card that you will always play if you play certain colors, and it will be good against every single deck you face. You’d even sometimes splash for it because it’s just that good.

Sure, there are few rewarding build-around cards that you will always play in a certain archetype like Thalia’s Lieutenant and Collected Company, but at least these force you to play a specific deck, and if that deck becomes too popular, you can build a deck that beats it based on how linear it forces you to be.

I think the closest you have to a “too good”/”must-play card” in the format is Sylvan Advocate, which I’m totally fine with.

So what’s the effect on Standard?

It makes decks linear, so you can beat any one deck if you want to. Against Abzan in the last year, no matter what game plan you decided to use to beat them, if they drew 2 Siege Rhino, they would still be likely to win the game because that card was good no matter what was going on in the game.

If WB Control is considered the new Jund/Abzan—the type of deck that has disruption, draw spells, threats, and can beat anything but needs to be built in a specific way to achieve that (not playing any creatures), then at least if it becomes too popular, you can exploit a hole they have. Perhaps you don’t maindeck as much removal and do maindeck Negates and Duresses.

What to Expect This Weekend at GP Costa Rica

This should be a tough, malaria-free but rain-heavy tournament—it’s capped at 500 players, 80 of whom have played more than 1 Pro Tour. Day 2 of this event will be stacked.

Here’s a quick list of the players registered that you might recognize.

  • Luis Salvatto
  • Guilherme Merjam
  • Thiago Saporito
  • Marcos Paulo de Jesus Freitas
  • Alexander Hayne
  • Jon Stern
  • Pascal Maynard
  • Doug Potter
  • Mathew Mercier
  • Wilson Jacob
  • Andreas Ganz
  • Xin Sui
  • Cristian Zuñiga
  • Marino Donato
  • Miguel Gatica
  • Carlos Pal
  • Ondrej Strasky
  • Kai Budde
  • Krautmann Wenzel
  • Raphael Levy
  • Saito Tomoharu
  • Itani Hiroshi
  • Yuuya Watanabe
  • Tamada Ryoichi
  • Rei Sato
  • Nakamura Shuhei
  • Juan Carlos Botis
  • Marcelino Freeman
  • Fernando Aguilar
  • Frank Karsten
  • Saul Alvarado
  • Jorge Iramain
  • Sim Chapman
  • Hao-Shan Huang
  • Aryeh Wiznitzer
  • Matthew Boccio
  • Corey Burkhart
  • Christian Calcano
  • Yuanji Li
  • Seth Manfield
  • Josh Mcclain
  • Hayden Bedsole
  • Samuel Black
  • Scott Lipp
  • Eric Severson
  • Michael Simon
  • Daniel Ward
  • Craig Wescoe
  • Ralph Betesh
  • Christopher A Fennell
  • Reid Duke
  • Jason Ford
  • Ben Friedman
  • Misha Gurevich
  • David Irvine
  • Alex Majlaton
  • Jake Mondello
  • Benjamin Rubin
  • Shaheen Soorani
  • Benjamin Stark
  • Jiachen Tao
  • Stephen Mann
  • Wing Chun Yam
  • Allen Sun
  • Brandon Burton
  • Akash Naidu
  • Michael Derczo
  • Nathaniel Smith
  • Thien Nguyen
  • Minh Nguyen
  • Jon Johnson
  • Zac Elsik
  • Denis Ulanov
  • Brad Nelson
  • Brian Braun-Duin
  • Jon Finkel
  • Iain Bartolomei
  • Nathan Holiday
  • Oliver Tiu
  • AJ Sacher

The Metagame

I predict the Top 4 trendy decks of the weekend to be:

  • GW Tokens
  • Bant Humans
  • WW
  • WB Control

GW Tokens is making a comeback, winning the last 2 GPs. It was never fully gone, but 4c Rites was keeping it from performing to its fullest potential.

Bant Humans is the new kid on the block—it was already present, but no list had performed well yet. But it broke through last weekend with something close to a consensus main deck.

White Weenie made a comeback—I don’t think the deck is better than it was against the current metagame, but the list with Needle Spires in the sideboard is exactly what the deck needed to have game against Languish and is probably the reason it started performing well again.

WB is finally settling in as the best control deck of the format. Grixis and Esper Dragons are still out there, but White/Black is the best of them in my opinion.

The rest of the format:

  • Rites Variants
  • Grixis Control
  • BGx Midrange
  • Bant Coco
  • Naya Midrange
  • Ramp
  • Esper Dragons
  • UR Eldrazi Control
  • UR Saito Aggro

The last 2 blue/red decks are new. Mostly introduced this last weekend, I don’t expect to see too many in Costa Rica because they’re either metagame calls or not good enough to represent a large amount of the field.

Izzet Control

Matthew Hunt

Blue/Red Flyers

Tomoharu Saito

Rites has fallen out of flavor these days because of how bad the WB matchup is. I wouldn’t be surprised if it came back to prey on GW Tokens, though. Who knows? There might be a way to tweak it so it’s not so bad against WB.

Grixis is an excellent deck against Humans because of Fiery Impulse and Radiant Flames. I wouldn’t be surprised if it started winning even more this weekend.

BGx is a vague archetype—they should be called Sylvan Advocate-Tireless Tracker-Good Stuff. You have Sam Black’s BG Ramp Dark Petition crossover and a more traditional good stuff Dark Petition, removal, and light splash for Dragonlord Silumgar and occasionally Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy. Sam stopped playing his deck—does it mean it’s bad? I’m not sure, but it hasn’t recently performed anywhere except on Magic Online, so I wouldn’t expect many of those.

Bucket List

The number of viable options in this format is mind-blowing—it’s fortunate that I have so many Standard events to attend. Here are a few ideas I’m toying around with that you might see me play in videos or events in a near future:

  • UG Crush of Tentacles
  • Mono-Blue Prison (Martin Muller’s deck)
  • 4-Color creature good stuff with Shaman of Forgotten Ways
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