What to Expect From Team Unified Standard at the World Magic Cup

One of the formats for the World Magic Cup, which will be held on December 14-16 in Barcelona, is Team Unified Standard. In this format, any team of three players has to build three Standard-legal decks, but no two decks on a team can contain the same card (with the exception of basic lands). For example, if one player’s deck contains a single Lava Coil, then no other player on that team may use Lava Coil in their deck.

This restriction leads to an interesting deck construction puzzle that revolves around minimizing overlap. Today, I’ll analyze how the World Magic Cup competitors could go about this. In the process, I’ll highlight essential Standard cards that see play in multiple competitive decks.

This overview of overlap cards is useful not only for WMC teams but also for individual players who want to have the ability to switch between multiple decks. For those players, cards that see play in multiple competitive decks are exactly the ones you should prioritize for your Standard collection and that you should consider spending your MTG Arena wildcards on.

In my view, the dual lands are the most important cards in Team Unified Standard. We have both checklands and shocklands, but the shocklands are more unique because we currently only have five of them. In any case, any competitive deck requires a consistent mana base, so each guild should be used by no more than one player on each team.

Let’s break down the most competitive options for each of the five guilds from Guilds of Ravnica. For representative deck lists, check out MTGGoldfish or the text coverage of Grand Prix Milwaukee.

Sacred Foundry Decks

  • Boros Weenie
  • Boros Angels
  • Jeskai Control

Besides Sacred Foundry and Clifftop Retreat, there are several other spells that are used by at least two of these Boros-based decks. The most important ones are Tocatli Honor Guard, Deafening Clarion, Seal Away, and Lyra Dawnbringer. One way or another, you can only include one Boros deck in your Team Unified Standard lineup.

Overgrown Tomb Decks

  • Golgari Midrange

This archetype comes in many varieties: with or without Druid of the Cowl, with or without main deck Wildgrowth Walker, with or without Vraska, Relic Seeker, and so on. But the core of Merfolk Branchwalker, Ravenous Chupacabra, and Find // Finality is similar, and you can have only one player with Woodland Cemetery on your team.

Steam Vents Decks

  • Izzet Drakes
  • Jeskai Control
  • Grixis Control

Besides Steam Vents and Sulfur Falls, there are several creatures (Crackling Drake, Enigma Drake, and Niv-Mizzet, Parun) that see play in both Izzet Drakes and Jeskai Control. Moreover, there are several blue spells and red spells that yield overlap, but I’ll return to those later.

Temple Garden Decks

  • Selesnya Tokens

There are also Selesnya Explore builds with Wildgrowth Walker, Path of Discovery, and Jadelight Ranger, but the Selesnya Tokens build with Emmara, Soul of the Accord, Saproling Migration, and Venerated Loxodon has been more popular and more successful. What’s more, Selesnya Explore has far too much overlap with Golgari Midrange, so it’s an unlikely choice for Team Unified Standard. If you want to exploit Trostani Discordant and March of the Multitudes, then Selesnya Tokens is the place to be.

Watery Grave Decks

  • Grixis Control
  • Esper Control

These decks share a similar Dimir core, often exploiting Thought Erasure, Thief of Sanity, and several other black spells and blue spells. Although straight-up Dimir Control decks exist too, they are not very popular. Most players splash red for Nicol Bolas, the Ravager or white for Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

Mono-Color Decks

  • Mono-Red Aggro
  • Mono-Blue Tempo
  • White Weenie

In a format defined by good mana, it’s amusing that mono-color decks are competitively viable. But Goblin Chainwhirler, Tempest Djinn, and Benalish Marshal are good incentives. At the World Magic Cup, where minimizing overlap is important, you might see these creatures more often than usual.

Overlap and Restrictions

You can’t just choose three guilds, take an arbitrary deck from each of them, and call it a day—there are cross-category overlaps that you have to take into account. Let me break them down, color by color.

These white cards are used by Boros Weenie, White Weenie, and Selesnya Tokens. Moreover, Adanto Vanguard and History of Benalia see play in Boros Angels as well.

Since Benalish Marshal decks—both Boros Weenie and White Weenie—have put up an impressive showing at recent premier events, I anticipate that they will be the History of Benalia deck of choice. As a result, I don’t expect to see a lot of Resplendent Angels or Temple Gardens at the World Magic Cup.

These cards are regularly used by Golgari Midrange as well as by Dimir/Esper/Grixis Control. I think it’s fair to say that you can only have one player with black on your team.

Vivien Reid is used by both Golgari Midrange (usually main deck) and Selesnya Tokens (usually sideboard). As a powerful planeswalker with a unique set of abilities, she’s hard to replace. You can build Selesnya Tokens with a different sideboard and put it on the same team as Golgari Midrange if you really want, but I would prefer to avoid this overlap if possible.

All of these cards are used by Mono-Red Aggro, but it’s not the only red deck that exploits them. Rekindling Phoenix is also used by Boros Angels. Shock is often seen in Izzet Drakes. And Lava Coil is included in Izzet Drakes, Boros Angels, and Jeskai Control.

Given the overlap in multiple cards, I don’t think you can put Mono-Red Aggro alongside Izzet Drakes or Boros Angels. But since there are plenty of Lava Coil alternatives for Jeskai Control (such as Seal Away or Justice Strike), I think it’s still possible to run Mono-Red Aggro and Jeskai Control on the same team.

There are a bunch of other red spells that see play in multiple red decks (such as Banefire, Fiery Cannonade, Lightning Strike, Legion Warboss, and Fight with Fire) but none of them are essential to decks other than Mono-Red. So be mindful of them, but don’t let them drive deck configuration decisions.

Experimental Frenzy is one of the best cards in Mono-Red Aggro, but it’s also an important element of the sideboard plan of Boros Weenie. If you want both Goblin Chainwhirler and Benalish Marshal in your line-up, then you could consider alternative 4-drops like Aurelia, Exemplar of Justice or Ajani, Adversary of Tyrants for Boros Weenie, but it’s easier to simply stick to White Weenie.

Opt is generally included in both Mono-Blue Tempo and Izzet Drakes, and it’s often played in Jeskai Control as well.

The 2-mana counterspells are included in pretty much every blue deck, at least in the sideboard. Although it might be possible to, say, play Jeskai Control and Mono-Blue Tempo on the same team, this will require some sacrifices, and I would recommend sticking to one blue deck per team if possible.

Finally, Sinister Sabotage and Chemister’s Insight see play in nearly every Jeskai Control, Grixis Control, and Esper Control deck… except for Adrian Sullivan’s Jeskai Control brew.

Before Adrian Sullivan took down Grand Prix Milwaukee with his take on Jeskai Control, no one would have imagined that Treasure Map might lead to overlap between Mono-Red Aggro and Jeskai Control. For Mono-Red Aggro, the artifact helps you to transform into a control deck after sideboard while providing synergy with Experimental Frenzy. For Sullivan’s Jeskai Control, it helps him ramp into Niv-Mizzet, Parun with protection mana up, which is one of his main game plans.

Whether or not most Jeskai Control players will adapt Sullivan’s version or stick to a more traditional build remains to be seen, but for now I will use Jeskai Control to refer to a traditional build, in which case Jeskai Control and Mono-Red can live side-by-side.

The Best Configurations that Minimize Overlap

Taking into account everything we’ve figured out so far, along with the relative metagame shares of all archetypes at premier events lately, I expect that a majority of WMC teams will pick one of the two following configurations:

  • Golgari Midrange + Izzet Drakes + Boros Weenie
  • Golgari Midrange + Jeskai Control + Mono-Red

If most WMC teams pick one of these two configurations, then Golgari Midrange might be close to 1/3rd of the field, which means that it will be more popular than usual.

In any case, the two configurations above result in no substantial overlap, and are the only ones with this property when we restrict ourselves to the top 5 Standard decks (according to MTGGoldfish, on Monday November 19th). Since Izzet Drakes, Golgari Midrange, and Boros Weenie make up the top 3, it is the configuration I would expect the most:

Golgari Midrange

Brian Lynn, 2nd place at Grand Prix Milwaukee

Izzet Drakes

Owen Turtenwald, 8th place at Grand Prix Milwaukee

Boros Weenie

Matt Sikkink Johnson, 17th place at Grand Prix Milwaukee

I’m looking forward to December 14th, when the World Magic Cup will start in Barcelona. I’ll be there, sifting through all the deck lists as a member of the text coverage staff, bringing you the metagame breakdowns and the best team stories from the event in article form. If you want to follow and support your compatriots live, then don’t miss the video coverage that weekend.


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