An Initial Look at M21 Standard – Early Metagame Tier List Update
As of now, Core Set 2021’s impact on Standard has been limited to merely making existing decks better, as opposed to creating entirely new archetypes. The cards that people have already built new decks around have not impressed me much. As a result, I will be focusing on what the current tier one decks are and how I would approach attacking the metagame.
The deck that I feel like gained the most from M21 was Rakdos Sacrifice. Previously, I feel like Rakdos Sacrifice was hovering around tier 1.5 – tier 2, since it was being pushed out by the prevalence of Temur Reclamation. However, with the release of M21, Rakdos now has a couple of new advantages, making it an early contender for the best deck in the format. Firstly, it now has access to Village Rites, which works as an extra sacrifice outlet for Claim the Firstborn, protects your creatures from exile-based removal, and allows you to cycle away your expendable creatures. Secondly, the metagame has largely shifted away from spell-based decks like Temur Reclamation to creature-heavy decks, such as Temur Elementals and Mono Black Aggro. In addition, decks like Bant Ramp are often playing creatures such as Scavenging Ooze and Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse, making Claim the Firstborn far more effective against them than it was previously. This transition towards creature-based decks is great for Rakdos, since it is naturally built to prey upon cheap creatures. For these reasons, I would play Rakdos if I had a tournament this weekend and believe it to be the best-positioned deck right now.
This is the Rakdos Sacrifice list that I have been liking, based off of a list Crokeyz posted on Twitter:
Rakdos Sacrifice – Core Set 2021 Standard
Another deck that gained a lot from M21 is Bant Midrange, which should be of no surprise since the deck has always been a pile of generically good cards. M21 is full of those kinds of cards, giving Bant a lot of new tools to work with. I believe that the best cards for Bant from M21 are Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse and Teferi, Master of Time, rather than cards like Scavenging Ooze and Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, which are nice additions for the deck, but don’t have a huge impact on its overall gameplan or on how it plays out. Jolrael allows Bant to play far more proactively than previous iterations of the deck, since curving Jolrael into Teferi immediately puts your opponent under pressure. It is also the rare two mana creature that is extremely good in the late game, since it can start making tokens as soon as it comes into play, while also threatening a lot of damage thanks to its activated ability. Teferi, Master of Time provides a unique role for the deck and is nearly a strict upgrade over Tamiyo, Collector of Tales. It fuels your graveyard for Uro like Tamiyo, but it also serves as a way to protect your other planeswalkers thanks to its -3 ability. The most impressive aspect of Teferi is his ability to perform both of these functions at once, making him the rare kind of Planeswalker that is effective against both aggro and non-aggro decks. These two cards certainly brought Bant to the next level, therefore it is a deck that you should get used to playing against in the upcoming months. The main issue with Bant is its weak matchup to Temur Elementals, which is a deck rapidly growing in popularity.
This is a Bant list designed by Ondrej Strasky that features these new cards prominently:
Bant Ramp – Core Set 2021 Standard
The last deck I want to talk about is Temur Elementals. This deck was previously a fringe deck for people who just wanted to accumulate as much value as possible, but was never really considered to be one of the top decks. Now, with the addition of M21 cards like Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Terror of the Peaks, it may finally be a major force in the M21 metagame. In the previous Standard, you would often resolve a Genesis Ultimatum and only hit a few lands and a couple of irrelevant creatures. Now, with Terror of the Peaks, you can literally kill your opponent or wipe their board after resolving an Ultimatum. This also gives the deck a way of interacting with your opponent without diluting the deck with cards that don’t synergize well with the various elementals. Ugin serves a similar function with Ultimatum – while not outright killing your opponent, its impact on the board is often game ending in its own right. The deck also has a ton of ramp, so Ugin serves as an excellent payoff for all the mana generation.
If I were to play Temur Elementals, I’d play a list similar to this. If you want more of a combo finish with Terror of the Peaks, you can find room for 2-3 Yorion, Sky Nomad. I believe that Yorion has a high possibility of merely being a ‘win more’ card, but it seems very fun and synergizes well with the deck.
I based this list off one yoman_5 posted on Twitter:
Temur Elementals – Core Set 2021 Standard
Standard Tier List Update
Changes I’d make to the tier list:
- I no longer believe Jund Food is tier 1, therefore I would move it to tier 2. It has worse mana than Rakdos and is not as focused as a deck. Additionally, Bolas’s Citadel got a lot worse as the format got more aggressive overall.
- I would move Temur Elementals up to tier 2. The deck did gain a lot with M21, but it still has a lot of weaknesses that are easily exploitable. Most notably, its lack of interaction is good news for decks like Mono Black Aggro and Mono Green Stompy.
- I would add Mono Black Aggro to the tier 2 decks. Demonic Embrace gives the deck a lot of reach, and the single color mana base is ideal for aggro decks. Unfortunately, the deck is quite weak to Rakdos due to Claim the Firstborn and Mayhem Devil being excellent against Mono Black. If Rakdos gets pushed out of the metagame, then I can see Mono Black rising to the top.
- Azorius Control, Simic Flash, and Orzhov Yorion can all be moved to tier 3. All of these decks did not gain much from M21, and the metagame has shifted in such a way where these decks are no longer in that good of a position. All three of these decks were metagame calls for specific environments, but the current metagame is far too diverse to play one of these decks. Instead of facing mainly good match ups as intended, you’re bound to play against a number of bad ones. I would rather play a more well rounded deck when the metagame is this wide.