193 players made the cut for Day 2 at Grand Prix Memphis. Here’s what they played.
Day 2 Metagame
Rolled up to the biggest pieces:
What’s Going On?
A quick look at the full breakdown reveals clusters around established decks, and a long tail of “Other” archetypes. Summarizing at a high level shows another way to look at the field:
Going aggressive is the big call for the weekend. While there’s many ways to go aggressive—the splash-blue-for-Negate Azorius Aggro, playing 19 Islands Mono-Blue Tempo, flying high with spells and Izzet Drakes—the goal is the same across the board: pressure early and often, then back it up with burn or counterspells. With slower decks like Simic Fate, Sultai Midrange and Esper Control being popular recently, going under is the obvious go-to response.
Sultai Midrange is the real deal. There’s a lot of flexibility in the Sultai Midrange shell—from leaning into Muldrotha, the Gravetide with more creature and permanent-based answers to almost totally spell-based decks that win with Planeswalkers and a pair of Carnage Tyrants—but all of it adds up to similar results: power. Having counter magic against Nexus of Fate decks, with plenty of removal and inevitability against aggressive decks, led to the biggest single deck on Day 2.
There’s a Curious Obsession with Islands going on. Mono-Blue Tempo is an aggressive deck in that it plays small, evasive creatures early and pressures opponents immediately. The difference compared to most other aggressive decks—except the similarly popular Azorius Aggro—is that Negate deals with so many ways the aggressive plan goes wrong. And with the Mono-Blue deck packing Curious Obsession too, keeping a grip full of threats and ways to keep the ones you have in play around is a steep challenge for the slower Control and Nexus of Fate decks.
Control is here to stay. Control decks work best when there’s a clear field of decks to plan against. With popular flavors of aggressive, midrange and Nexus of Fate decks to work with, the Esper toolkit is out in full force. One key reason is the addition of Kaya’s Wrath, a four-mana way to clear the battlefield. Again, the great mana available means it’s more than possible to play a Negate and Sinister Sabotage before clearing the board off. If players keep narrowing into the same popular decks, Control will continue to perform well.
Nexus of Fate (and Gates) aren’t going anywhere either. Nexus of Fate is, affectionately, the boogeyman of Standard. With a ban in Best of 1 Standard on Magic Arena already in place, some players want to see the card leave traditional Standard too. But in paper, there’s no delays or issues with the recursive turns it can generate—and more importantly the deck can win very quickly thanks to Wilderness Reclamation and Hydroid Krasis. Bant Nexus has fallen out of popularity against the more streamlined flavor of Simic Nexus, and the let’s-play-all-the-Guildgates take of Four-Color Gates leans into the gameplay but packs the bonus of Archway Angel and other Gate bonus cards to play with.
Reclamations have been reclaimed by the metagame. Wilderness Reclamation is a card that begs for combo-like potential. Nexus of Fate decks have all but claimed the entire “combo” space affording by it in the format. Temur Reclamation is all but gone, and while there’s still powerful ways to use the enchantment that aren’t recursively taking extra turns it’s going to take something significant in tech in shift away from the Nexus plan.