Innistrad Championship: Standard and Historic Metagame Preview
Coming up this weekend, the Magic: The Gathering 2021-2022 pro season will be kicking off in earnest with the Innistrad Championship! The previous season came to an end back in October, where Yuta Takahashi was declared the winner of the MTG World Championship XXVII.
The Innistrad Championship is a three-day invitational tournament featuring all of the members of the Rivals League and MPL, along with the top finishing players from qualification events on MTG Arena and Magic Online. Coverage of the tournament will start at 9:00 am PST this Friday, December 3, and continue through Sunday, December 5. Day One and Two will feature Swiss rounds of both Standard and Historic play leading up to the Day Three playoffs which will be Historic only.
A total of 252 players will be competing for a prize pool of $450,000 – not to mention the prestige of the event and the potential to earn an invitation to the World Championship. Watchers and players of competitive MTG will all have their eyes on the tournament and how it plays out; these official championships always have a profound impact on the shape of the metagame across Standard and Historic, from other tournaments to the ladder on MTG Arena.
This morning, Wizards of the Coast gave us a complete picture of what the meta at the Innistrad Championship is going to look like in both formats. While the Standard meta might not look like much of a surprise to those who have been following the format, the Innistrad Champion is notable for being the first major tournament to feature the Historic format since October.
Down below, we’re going to dive into the metagame preview starting with Standard and then going into Historic. Then tomorrow, we’ll have the opportunity to explore all of the decklists when they’re published by Wizards of the Coast. We’ll have continuing coverage for the tournament throughout the weekend, so be sure not to miss out.
You can also catch the official live coverage on the official MTG Twitch channel running each day starting at 9:00 am PST. You’ll also find additional information about the Innistrad Championship on the Magic.gg Viewer’s Guide.
Innistrad Championship Standard Metagame
|Archetype||Number of Decks||Percentage of Field|
For anybody who has been following Standard in the last few months, there isn’t much about the metagame of the Standard portion of the Innistrad Championship that should come as a surprise. While Crimson Vow added plenty of cards to Standard that are strong enough to be seeing play, many of the best cards slotted into existing archetypes, such as Mono Green and Mono White, and there hasn’t been much in terms of new archetypes.
At the top of the format, there are three primary archetypes that have been making up the majority of the meta at most of the competitive tournaments since rotation: Mono Green Aggro, Mono White Aggro, and Izzet Epiphany.
All three archetypes received some new tools from Crimson Vow, although the most impactful of them was probably Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, a card which has been a significant boon to Mono White. It obviously plays extremely well against control, but it does reasonably well against Mono Green as well thanks to cards like Blizzard Brawl and Esika's Chariot.
In response to the sheer power of the green and white aggro decks, we’ve also seen a return to the Mono Black and Orzhov control decks that were once among the most popular in the Standard 2022 format. A plethora of removal spells in combination with powerful sweepers like The Meathook Massacre and Blood on the Snow makes the deck great against aggro, but it often struggles against the Alrund's Epiphany decks.
Perhaps the most significant innovation from the new Crimson Vow cards is Hullbreaker Horror, a card which can very easily take over the game in the proper shell, and has become a staple in the blue control decks of the format. Izzet Control is a further development of the Izzet Epiphany decks that we’ve all come to know, but they often don’t run any copies of Alrund's Epiphany at all, instead relying on the new seven-mana Kraken to put a stranglehold on the game.
Innistrad Championship Historic Metagame
|Archetype||Number of Decks||Percentage of Field|
|Azorius Lotus Field||1||0.4%|
|Jeskai Lotus Field||1||0.4%|
In the Historic format, all eyes will be focused on the results of the Innistrad Championship as the first event in months to feature Magic’s highest level of competitors and deckbuilders in the Arena-only format.
Players of Historic probably won’t be too surprised to see that Selesnya Humans will be the most-represented Historic archetype at the tournament. The low-curve, disruptive aggro deck is powered by the force of Thalia’s Lieutentant, the taxing effects of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Elite Spellbinder, bolstered by Esper Sentinel from Modern Horizons II, and supercharged by one of the most important cards in Historic: Collected Company.
Just a bit behind Humans in metagame share is a long-time staple of the Historic format: Izzet Phoenix. Despite the banning of Brainstorm and the suspension of Memory Lapse, both cards that were played heavily in the archetype, decks based on Arclight Phoenix have refused to die – or even get pushed significantly down in the meta. The archetype even received a considerable boost from Jumpstart: Historic Horizons in the form of Dragon's Rage Channeler.
Meanwhile, another Selesnya Collected Company-based deck has been making its way around the ladder and now onto the competitive scene: Heliod Lifegain Combo. Combo decks based on Heliod, Sun-Crowned aren’t entirely new, and have in fact been a part of other formats such as Pioneer, but the addition of Scurry Oak from Historic Horizons has pushed the archetype to a competitive tier in Historic.
The combination of Heliod with Scurry Oak and a lifegain trigger enabler such as Soul Warden or Prosperous Innkeeper allows for the creation of infinite tokens. Something that is key to the deck is that all of its combo pieces can be put directly onto the battlefield with Collected Company, allowing for a high degree of consistency as well as instant-speed play to close the game out of nowhere.
While there are many other archetypes in the Historic meta, the other that really stands out is Golgari and Jund Food decks based on the interaction between Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven and the synergies it provides. Food decks, especially Jund, have also been a core archetype in Historic since the format’s early days, but the deck was kept down by blue decks for a time after the Strixhaven Mystical Archive was added to the format, making midrange decks look pretty bad with Memory Lapse, Brainstorm, and the short-lived Tainted Pact combo.
Now that many of the Mystical Archive cards have been removed in an attempt to make the format more balanced, In the past, Jund was the most popular shell for the Food sacrifice decks, but now it seems that Golgari is the preferred color combination for the deck among the pros. While Jund allows for the inclusion of powerful midrange cards like Mayhem Devil and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, the printing of Ravenous Squirrel in Historic Horizons has given Golgari versions of the deck a powerful new tool which may mean that the red color is no longer needed in the archetype.
The Innistrad Championship is shaping up to be an exciting event, and we can’t wait to watch how everything plays out. You can read more about the metagame in the original report published by Wizards and written by MTG Hall-of-Famer Frank Karsten. We’ll be back tomorrow with decklists and more coverage of the championship – see you there!