Hello everyone! Like I said in the Bo1 Standard snapshot, we’ll be doing snapshots for each of the tier lists we provide so you can get an idea on why the meta is the way it is! If you want to know what the top decks are, where the meta is going, and how to successfully navigate it, you came to the right article!
CREATURES ARE KING
It’s a weird world we’re living in right now, but somehow we entered the Twilight Zone where the Bo1 and Bo3 metagames somehow flipped. The Bo1 metagame is focused on the creature decks (as it’s always been), but there’s a resurgence of natural foils for the strategy that may even overtake the aggressive decks themselves.
In the Bo3 metagame though, the creature decks are king and it doesn’t look like they’re going to be toppled soon. Sitting atop the throne (for both Bo1 and Bo3) is Monowhite Aggro. Monowhite was already a promising strategy pre Crimson Vow, but with the reintroduction of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben back into Standard, the deck went nuts. If you like at Monowhite’s matchup matrix, you’ll see that it has functionally no bad matchups.
How is that possible? The deck is kind of capable of doing it all. It’s very fast, it has a decent ability to grind, and in a sense, it has a lot of interaction. Between old favorites like Skyclave Apparition, Brutal Cathar, and Portable Hole for creature decks and Elite Spellbinder and Reidane, God of the Worthy for slower decks, White already had a lot of tools.
However, now with Thalia for the slower decks (while still being solid against the green strategies and really everywhere) alongside Valorous Stance for both the bigger creature decks and Blue decks, White has all it’s bases covered and then some. Unlike Bo1, you can’t just jam Blood on the Snow for free as there’s an excess of Blue strategies still (more on this later), so it’s significantly more difficult to topple the throne. Monowhite is pretty insane right now and it doesn’t look like it’s going anywhere soon.
Similarly popular and with a similar win rate, Monogreen Aggro is still alive and well. It does actually have bad matchups unlike Monowhite (including Monowhite itself), but it also has one of the best matchup spreads in Standard as well. The deck didn’t gain particularly much, nor did it need to but it certainly picked up nice pieces from Crimson Vow. Ascendant Packleader finally solves Monogreen’s problem of not having a quality 1 drop to play. Jaspera Sentinel and Swarm Shambler were acceptable, but a 1 mana 2/1 is just a league above them.
Ulvenwald Oddity is the second new addition to the squad and allows Monogreen to trim down and have a more aggressive curve. The 5s like Unnatural Growth and Wrenn and Seven were decent, but not needing them and topping the curve at 4 makes the deck faster, have a lower failure rate, and significantly better against Blue strategies as Divide by Zero and Fading Hope are less effective against them. Like Monowhite, Monogreen is not going anywhere anytime soon.
The final strong creature deck in Standard, Temur is more or less the Gruul deck from last season splashing Blue for counterspells. It isn’t the prettiest on the mana base nor did it gain anything from Crimson Vow, but as long as Blue remains popular, having an aggro deck that also runs counterspells is going to be viable. Since the mana is much clunkier, Temur doesn’t have stellar creature mirrors, but with solid Blue matchups and being a 49% deck otherwise, it’s likely to be a mainstay in Standard.
BLUE IS THE UNDERDOG?
It’s weird for Alrund's Epiphany to go from an easy ban to not even a Tier 1 option in the span of a set, but here we are. Turns has seen a huge decrease in play and it may seem calls for bans were pre-emptive, but there are a lot of factors that are affecting it’s performance that I believe have to be addressed.
The first and probably most underrated reason is players getting bored. What do I mean? Whenever a new set comes out, there’s a rush to find the new thing or an improvement to the old thing. Considering Turns didn’t get any obvious improvements (Hullbreaker Horror more so spawning a new archetype rather than building on old), Turns somewhat gets left out in the cold. Players don’t like playing the same old deck time and time again if they can help it, so that is definitely a contributor to less Turns, at least temporarily.
Second is reasons we discussed, the aggro decks have become better while Turns remained mostly static. Having to fit through fast curves was already difficult, but now with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben in the mix? Definitely harder. Similar effect with Monogreen where Fading Hope and some wraths can normally be enough to stall them, but with Ascendant Packleader and Ulvenwald Oddity significantly speeding them up, you don’t have as much time to set up.
Third has to do with the aforementioned Hullbreaker Horror and the cannibalization of Blue decks. Hullbreaker has helped to revitalize more traditional Control strategies, at least to a small degree, which cuts into Turns metagame share. Beyond Hullbreaker Horror being an absolute house against Turns, the decks can also be so similar that they literally cut into each other’s metagame share. Where does the Turns end and Control begin when they play 85% of the same cards?
The final reason, and likely the most important, is Turn’s humongous target. Everyone knew it was the deck to beat going into the new set and weeks later there’s still such a respect for the deck. Even with it’s meta share consistently dropping, you’re still privy to see plenty of Temur, Wash Away, Test of Talents, Curse of Silence and whatever else players can play to try to improve their win percentage against Epiphany. I’ll be the first in line to say that I hate losing to the deck as it’s such a frustrating experience watching your opponent combo you off as you sit there helplessly waiting for them to finally deliver the fatal blow. Beyond the deck being obviously powerful, how annoying it is to lose to is a subsidiary of having a target since it’s good, but just as important as a lot of deck building is from the gut, and if you hate Alrund's Epiphany with a burning passion, you may be privy to play 2 more Test of Talents than normal.
Now with all this said, are Blue decks not good right now? I still think they are. Crimson Vow Standard is only a few weeks old and Blue always needs time to find it’s bearings. Between not knowing exactly what answers it needs and other decks heavily respecting Turns, I bet we’re coming to the point in the meta where there’s going to be a big resurgence of Blue. Particularly there’s likely a push for the Blue decks to become better and better against the creature decks until they can tip the scales in their favor.
It’s far from an impossible task as if you’re Izzet and you want to beat Monowhite, just play 4 Spikefield Hazard and a bunch of Cinderclasm. Dimir? A bunch of 2 mana removal and The Meathook Massacre, Path to Peril, Crippling Fear, etc. White? Circle of Containment, Faithbound Judge, and ol Doomskar. It’s not like the tools aren’t there to win, Blue just needs more time to adjust as they aren’t generally the proactive decks; they can’t just jam their game plan and have it work, they need to stifle the opposing one.
For the next few weeks, I would say that Control wants to probably be Izzet and focus more on Lier than Hullbreaker Horror. I love Horror, but you need a lot of interaction right now and Lier to help flash it back. I’m thinking that 4 Spikefield Hazard and 3-4 Fading Hope are going to start being the standard and should substantially help your win rate out.
IS MIDRANGE COMING BACK?
What? Not good enough? Alright maybe it’s a bit more nuanced than that.
Sitting in second place on our meta matrix is Jund midrange, which within the context of the metagame, is a midrange deck. Maybe I’m an old fogey, but I remember midrange being a blend of threats and interaction so you have game against every deck. Jund is more or less just stompy with a light splash of interaction. Am I splitting hairs? Probably. However, there’s a reason the midrange decks are constructed like this. With aggressive decks becoming so efficient and the Blue decks so dominant in the late game, midrange, in the traditional sense, would have an extremely difficult, if not impossible time existing.
Trying to split the difference between threats and removal that are good against both Monowhite and Turns is likely to leave you soft to both. Jund’s approach is really smart right now as they give up the reactivity that normally comes along with midrange and just pushes their threats. Early Immersturm Predator and Goldspan Dragon are going to be good everywhere, Infernal Grasp may not always be.
What about the Blood on the Snow decks that are taking over Bo1? If you play one and you see an Island, you’re probably 25% to win that match. You’re much too polarized to beating creature decks generally speaking to have a good matchup against the Blue strategies. Maybe you can overload your board with Skyclave Shade, Duress, and Go Blank to get it closer, but it’s always going to be an uphill battle. In Best of One you have a much better chance against Blue as sometimes you’ll just get there with little creature beats and a well timed Lolth, Spider Queen can close the door, but you’re unlikely to do that multiple times.
How about something like Selesnya Storm the Festival? Well you may be ok against something like Monogreen, but you’re probably too slow against Monowhite and not fast enough to beat Turns or Control. This metagame really pulls you in such diametrically opposed directions that I think the major lesson is don’t let it. Play one end of the spectrum or the other as that’s going to be the most successful strategy in the immediate future.
Is that necessarily a bad thing? Not completely, but I do like midrange being a viable archetype. It really hasn’t been since the days of Rogues and Sultai Ultimatum and that trend seems to be persisting now as well. Once Blue stops having 7 mana win the games in every form, midrange can come back to play, but until then, you’re going to need to play by the format’s rules.
Thank you for reading!