Standard Metagame Analysis: The Downfall of Yorion

Cragcrown-Pathway-Zendikar-Rising-MtG-Art

What an exciting weekend! The MPL and Rivals splits just happened last weekend and there were three main takeaways from the tournament. One, Dimir Rogues performed well as expected. Two, Gruul Adventures came out as a secretly good strategy and absolutely demolished the tournament. Three, and most importantly, Azorius Yorion looked terrible. I mean, look at the win rates courtesy of the MTG Data Twitter account.

26.8% win rate!? Wow, that is an abysmal performance. How did Yorion go from the best deck in Standard to what looks like the worst? Well, there’s a few reasons for that.

THE LIST HAS CHANGED SIGNIFICANTLY

Take a look at the list I wrote about a week ago compared to the list that Chris Kvartek signed up with for the splits.

Azorius Yorion Blink by DoggertQBones – October 2020 Season

915475
Export to:
Companion
1
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Creature (22)
3
Barrin, Tolarian Archmage
4
Charming Prince
3
Dream Trawler
4
Skyclave Apparition
4
Solemn Simulacrum
1
Thassa, Deep-Dwelling
3
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Sorcery (4)
4
Emeria's Call/Emeria, Shattered Skyclave
Artifact (8)
4
Glass Casket
4
Mazemind Tome
Enchantment (16)
4
Elspeth Conquers Death
4
Omen of the Sea
4
Omen of the Sun
4
The Birth of Meletis
Land (30)
2
Castle Vantress
11
Island
9
Plains
4
Raugrin Triome
4
Temple of Enlightenment
Cards 80
Sideboard (15)
1
Dream Trawler
1
Essence Scatter
1
Giant Killer
3
Mystical Dispute
2
Neutralize
4
Shatter the Sky
2
Whirlwind Denial
1
Yorion, Sky Nomad

Azorius Blink by Chris Kvartek – October Zendikar Rising League Weekend (MPL)

1417454
Export to:
Companion
1
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Creature (10)
3
Dream Trawler
4
Skyclave Apparition
3
Yorion, Sky Nomad
Sorcery (6)
4
Emeria's Call/Emeria, Shattered Skyclave
2
Shatter the Sky
Instant (9)
3
Essence Scatter
1
Mystical Dispute
3
Negate
2
Neutralize
Artifact (8)
4
Glass Casket
4
Mazemind Tome
Enchantment (16)
4
Elspeth Conquers Death
4
Omen of the Sea
3
Omen of the Sun
1
Shark Typhoon
4
The Birth of Meletis
Land (31)
1
Castle Ardenvale
2
Castle Vantress
4
Fabled Passage
9
Island
7
Plains
4
Raugrin Triome
4
Temple of Enlightenment
Cards 80
Sideboard (15)
2
Giant Killer
2
Glimpse of Freedom
3
Mystical Dispute
1
Negate
3
Shark Typhoon
2
Shatter the Sky
1
Whirlwind Denial
1
Yorion, Sky Nomad

It plays a lot of the same cards for sure, but the game plan is significantly different. The first version of the deck aimed to make Yorion as strong as possible where the second version was more focused on being a Control deck where Yorion is still a powerful play. Why did the decklist evolve like this? There was three major assumptions going into the event, one relatively true and two that turned out to be completely false: Yorion was going to be a popular deck and counterspells are the best way to win the mirror (true) and aggressive decks have been pushed out of the format by the old version of Yorion (false), and Yorion was slightly favored in the Rogues matchup (by the data, false).

I was testing the Yorion mirror with Chris, as well as him testing it with his team, and they quickly settled on a counterspell heavy version to target the old version of the deck. It still seemed reasonable against aggressive decks despite removing earlier spells, and the Rogues matchup improved from the previous iteration. Even within my testing, I found that the Rogues matchup was close but felt favorable as Yorion had more high impact spells compared to Rogues. I’m not entirely sure what went wrong with that assumption, but clearly that matchup wasn’t nearly as favorable as previously assumed. Maybe it was an off weekend for Yorion in terms of the Rogues matchup, but the evidence is quite convincing that the matchup is still just not good, despite it improving with the newer iteration. 

Gruul was definitely a bit of a surprise, as it started gaining some steam shortly before the tournament in Red Bull Events, but didn’t see much play on the ladder. This is likely due to the old form of Yorion messing Gruul up pretty badly. It wasn’t much on the radar for most of the Yorion players, giving the 4 Gruul decks the perfect metagame to strike and take Yorion and Rogues by surprise. 

IT HAD A MASSIVE TARGET ON IT’S BACK

I think a mistake that many, including myself, made is overestimating how immutable the metagame was for this weekend. I was testing a lot of UW Yorion myself, and at the time, the deck felt excellent, an opinion that seemed quite popular. In past Standards, when a deck is perceived as the best, and is performing well, there was very little reason to experiment outside of those constraints. That has significantly changed though, as the power level of Standard has now come back to reasonable levels compared to when Throne of Eldraine came out and a lot of the power crept sets following it.

With that in mind, many more people were interested in figuring out how to beat Yorion rather than just conforming to playing it. With that in mind, every list, Yorion or not, was hellbent on being good in the Yorion matchup, and because the deck isn’t so overpowered like previous best decks, this effort actually proved very successful. 

HOW DOES THE METAGAME EVOLVE FROM HERE

With the collapsing of the Yorion empire, there’s going to be different waves of how the metagame is affected, and I’ll try to outline them here to the best of my predictive powers.

1. YORION WILL GO AWAY (FOR NOW)

The most obvious ramification of this tournament is that Yorion is going to absolutely nosedive in play rate. Although it was the UW version that severely underperformed, I believe the second most popular version, Esper, will also see a huge decline as well (despite it performing significantly better this weekend in the MCQW). People don’t like being caught with last week’s tech, and also don’t like being a dog to the new king of Standard…

2. WELCOME OUR NEW GRUUL OVERLORDS

Gruul Adventures by Rei Sato – October Zendikar Rising League Weekend (MPL)

6102720
Export to:
Creature (25)
4
Bonecrusher Giant
4
Brushfire Elemental
4
Edgewall Innkeeper
4
Kazandu Mammoth/Kazandu Valley
4
Lovestruck Beast
2
Questing Beast
3
Scavenging Ooze
Sorcery (6)
2
Primal Might
4
Shatterskull Smashing/Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass
Instant (2)
2
Scorching Dragonfire
Artifact (5)
3
Embercleave
2
The Great Henge
Land (22)
4
Cragcrown Pathway/Timbercrown Pathway
2
Evolving Wilds
4
Fabled Passage
9
Forest
3
Mountain
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
2
Embereth Shieldbreaker
2
Garruk, Unleashed
2
Klothys, God of Destiny
3
Ox of Agonas
2
Scorching Dragonfire
2
The Akroan War
2
Vivien, Monsters' Advocate

Gruul is now the best deck in Standard and will see a huge surge in play. This isn’t so much a prediction as it is something that’s already happening. For anecdotal evidence, just yesterday, roughly half of my ladder matches were Gruul. For more empirical proof, Robert Taylor (more famously known as Fireshoes on Twitter, go give him a follow, he’s great) tweeted that the Japan Championship Autumn LCQ metagame had TWENTY FOUR Gruul decks with the next most represented deck being Rogues at a meager six copies.

All in all, Gruul made up for nearly half the metagame of that tournament, and I’m assuming ladder is going to roughly follow that trajectory as well. 

3. DECLINE OF THE DECKS WITH GOOD YORION MATCHUPS

Once again, not so much a prediction as it’s already happening, but the decks with good Yorion matchups are definitely going to see less play. This most affects Rogues, which was happy to see Yorion, but not as happy to see Gruul. Rogues will still see a large amount of play as the deck is powerful, resilient, and also easy to craft, but definitely less than a week prior. More niche strategies like Temur Ramp will also see less play as it’s best matchup will be near extinct in the short term. That’s enough of the general observations, let’s talk about some called shots.

4. MIDRANGE IS GOOD AGAIN AND GRUUL IS GOING TO BE TARGETED

Midrange had a really rough time trying to outvalue a Yorion, so decks like Rakdos and Golgari were effectively locked out of seeing play. However, with the Yorion menace now at bay, these decks will come out in force over the next few weeks? Why? Both sport a good matchup against Rogues and Gruul, the proverbial 2 best decks now. In the short term, I think Rakdos is going to be the midrange deck of choice as it was the strategy that actually had representation in the MPL/Rival Splits, and it sports an incredibly favorable matchup against Rogues.

However, Golgari showed a huge amount of promise in the beginning of the format and will have it’s time to shine again as it’s excellent against Gruul and Rakdos while still being strong against Rogues. These are the main strategies that get a bolster, but with more midrange options being unlocked, strategies that didn’t get their time to shine like GW Yorion or Mono Green Food will also likely see a comeback in an effort to be the best midrange deck that slaps around Gruul (Wicked Wolf is quite hard for Gruul to beat). When the midrange renaissance happens, Gruul will definitely still be a solid choice, but will look significantly worse than it does now.

5. YORION AND RAMP WILL COME BACK AROUND

Good metagames are cyclical, and I see no reason that this one won’t be as well. When everybody is going to try and out-midrange each other, the most logical step is going to be to do the biggest thing possible to beat the other midrange decks, enter Yorion and/or Ugin. I suspect that UW will come back and will look more similar to it’s original build compared to the counterspell heavy version to help against the decks looking to go under them. In response to this, Ramp strategies can definitely worm their way back into the metagame while all the midrange decks are busy beating up on each other and the aggro decks. It’ll be best to wait a little longer to play Ramp than the other strategies mentioned here, as the aggro decks can really give it a hard time.

WRAP UP AND FINAL THOUGHTS

Here’s the TLDR. Yorion looked really bad this weekend, but I wouldn’t count it out forever. As an immediate response, Gruul is going to see a lot of play, and the slower midrange decks will be there to help cut Gruul off. When the metagame becomes a large enough part of the midrange decks, even greedier midrange decks will come around to prey on the smaller ones. When that happens, Yorion and Ramp will become good options again.

That’s all that I have for today! If you like my content and want to see more of it, you can follow me on Twitch! Have a great day!

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is a streamer and high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8, has 3-0d 3 professional draft pods, and loves writing and teaching!