Continuing on from last week, I’m looking at MTGO’s premier Standard events, the Challenges, to help inform us with what’s going on in the metagame. If you know what’s been performing well, it’s the perfect way to inform you on the best course of action for the upcoming week!
If you want to check out last weeks, I’ll link it below.
Before I get into the analysis, you can check out the top 8 lists from the events below, then we’ll head right in to the article!
Top 8 Decks From The Saturday Challenge
Top 8 Decks From The Sunday Challenge
The Top Three Performing Decks
- Top 8 Appearances: 4
- Top 16 Appearances: 2
- Top 32 Appearances: 5
Just barely usurping Jund Midrange for the top spot this week, we have Standard’s base line – Esper Midrange.
This is business as usual for Esper as it’s been a top deck since it’s inception in Standard and it isn’t hard to see why. You can be fast if you want to (more on this later), you can be grindy if you want, you can be interactive if you want to, and best yet, you can realistically be all of them if you want to!
Last week I said that Esper was mostly a solved list which helps it’s dominance, but that doesn’t seem to be the case anymore. Now, it seems that there’s debate on whether Make Disappear belongs in the build or not so there’s even more iterating to be had with the deck!
Overall, Esper will continue to perform well because it can simply do everything well. Considering how solid of a deck it is, I have to imagine it’ll continue to be an excellent option throughout this Standard and future ones.
- Top 8 Appearances: 3 (1 being Titan Reanimator)
- Top 16 Appearances: 3 (1 being Titan Reanimator)
- Top 32 Appearances: 9 (5 being Titan Reanimator)
For our functional second first place deck, we have Jund Midrange yet again!
Unsurprisingly, considering Jund did exceptionally well last week, it stands to reason it would do well this week. What also isn’t a surprise, though, is that now that players knew more what to expect, it performed appreciably worse.
Generally speaking, no matter how strong a deck is, having a target on it’s back is going to give it some trouble. Esper has been one of the few exceptions I can think of that doesn’t mind being in the spotlight while also not being overpowered as it’s hard to tackle it, but for Jund, it’s a slightly different story. Considering they are so removal dense and threat light in the lower to the ground version and a bit clunky in the Reanimator version, it’s easier to build your deck in a way to mitigate that. Now I’m not saying that you can make the Jund matchup easy by building a certain way, based on the results that’s clearly not the case, but being more cognizant of how they like to operate and building/playing in such a way that circumvents their ideal state is a smart way to go (plus how metagames work in general)!
I expect Jund is going to continue performing well despite players iterating against it as Jund players will be able to iterate as well! Unlike Esper, Jund is still a relatively new strategy for Standard and for it to perform so phenomenally despite little work being done on the deck really speaks to its power.
Mono Blue Tempo
- Top 8 Appearances: 3
- Top 16 Appearances: 5
- Top 32 Appearances: 7
Making a thunderous climb to the top of tournaments this week, we have Mono Blue Tempo!
Last week, I said that if the metagame continued to be mostly midrange, Mono Blue would be a good choice. Well, it’s a midrange meta, and Mono Blue was a good choice! Counterspells seem really well positioned right now as many midrange decks are on the greedier side of the spectrum by the virtue of trying to win mirrors. One of my major concerns with Mono Blue was that it performed poorly against aggressive decks, but if there aren’t any aggro decks, then that fear is unfounded. Furthermore, even if there were, there are version leaning into Ledger Shredder which seems like an excellent road block for people looking to attack on the ground early.
I think my favorite part about Mono Blue in this metagame is that there’s pretty much nothing the midrange strategies can do to solve it. To beat a Tempo deck like this, you have one of two options: make all your cards two for ones so when you sneak something through you get a big payoff, or trim your curve down to get under them. Most midrange decks have already adopted all valuable cards to win mirrors so that’s not possible, and if they trim down, they’re liable to start losing to the other midrange decks which takes up a substantially larger metagame share!
Despite Blue’s success, I feel it will trend a bit down as players wise up to it and play better against it, but considering I don’t see aggro decks randomly coming back into prominence, this seems like a strong choice moving forward.
The Next Best Decks
- Top 8 Appearances: 2
- Top 16 Appearances: 2
- Top 32 Appearances: 1
Hard to say that my deck guide title game isn’t on point!
I’ve been a big fan of Boros Invoke, and despite repeated successes, it hasn’t caught on yet and I’m not sure why. The deck has felt very powerful for me as you have a strong over the top game plan that a lot of decks struggle to answer. Furthermore, unlike other “go big” decks like Five Color Domain or Jund Reanimator, I find you are a lot less reliant on your combo finish and can just play a normal game. Not only does this make you less susceptible to hate cards, which in this case would be stuff like Unlicensed Hearse and Corpse Appraiser, but I also find you are less weak to counterspells as more of your cards matter.
Furthermore, and likely one of the best parts of the deck, you get to play Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Wedding Announcement! Talk about value! Having access to powerful cards and a solid game plan are the signposts of a strong deck, but for whatever reason, I suspect that this won’t be as respected as it’s tricolor counterparts. No problem, I’ll keep bringing back 9/9 Sanctuary Wardens myself!
- Top 8 Appearances: 2
- Top 16 Appearances: 0
- Top 32 Appearances: 0
Don’t worry crK, I’ve noticed the work you’ve been putting in!
While Standard has been all about midrange decks and how to beat them, crK has been quietly iterating on their version of Esper, and while the sample size is extremely small, they’ve been killing it. This is their second top 4 appearance in a row for Standard Challenges and even convinced another player to try a similar build which landed them a 5th place spot!
When Raffine, Scheming Seer was first revealed, I pegged it as an aggro card as curving into a Raffine seemed like an insanely powerful play. I was disappointed when it ended up only being a midrange tool, but wasn’t too surprised as three color and aggro don’t really jive. However, crK was committed to making this work and clearly they have a winning formula here. I do have to wonder about how the early White creatures, Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, and Invoke Despair curve works on the mana base as common convention says that you can only have maximum three lands that can’t tap for your Invoke and crK has seven, but clearly something is working here.
It’s hard to say what this deck does over Esper Midrange, especially since the card quality seems a bit lower, but the results don’t lie. I’ll be curious to see if more players pick up on this or if crK will keep winning by themselves!
- Top 8 Appearances: 1
- Top 16 Appearances: 1
- Top 32 Appearances: 1
For the final deck of the list, we have one of my favorite midrange decks, Grixis Midrange.
Honestly, I’ve been at a bit of a loss with Grixis. I feel like the deck has a lot of the same elements to Esper, but it hasn’t performed nearly as well. So what’s the deal?
The first issue with the deck was the lack of iterating on it. Prior to the Standard rotation, I legitimately thought that Grixis was better than Esper, but since the community at large disagreed, very little work was put into the base archetype. Second, the deck can’t close games as fast as Esper. I don’t mind a deck being grindy, but with decks looking to punish being slow like Five Color Domain or Jund Reanimator, that is now a bigger deal. Third, you don’t have that great of a payoff for going Grixis. Sure there’s Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, but that isn’t much better than Wedding Announcement and Grixis can’t even make the best use of it. You have Corpse Appraiser, but that’s just an ok card and slightly hosed by Dennick, Pious Apprentice. Furthermore, if you want to go Red, you can go Jund and then have access to better creatures for Fable as well as having Unleash the Inferno.
I want to be a believer as Grixis is the grindiest of the midrange strategies, but the odds are definitely stacked against it. Maybe once the right list is found, things will be different, but we’ll just have to see!
Thank you for reading!