While Izzet decks and their variants have firmly cemented themselves into the top of the metagame by the grave of Hinata, Dawn-Crowned, the meta has been slowly adapting to help overcome the Kirin menace.
While many of the decks from last week or even last month are still viable and see large amounts of play, it’s the small adjustments and improving upon the core concepts that make shifts tenable. Furthermore, we’re seeing new decks start to rise to prominence and a more balanced metagame within the last few weeks off the back of aggressive decks becoming more popular as a means to punish players who stopped respecting them.
Before we dive in, I want to make a note that this is by no means a complete analysis of every deck within a tier, but rather the most important ones or the decks that had the greatest delta from last week.
For the full metagame and tier lists:
While there weren’t too many Standard events last weekend, being able to analyze two Standard Challenges alongside the information we can derive from ladder will be extremely helpful.
Tier 1 Decks
To the surprise of pretty much nobody, Jeskai Hinata is still ruling the top tables of Standard. While the metagame has substantially adjusted to help deal with this extremely powerful deck (a lot more on this later), it goes to show how hard it is to keep Jeskai down as it still has a very high play and win rate.
Per usual, the deck is just really good at stopping other strategies at doing their thing. If you’re playing an aggro deck, you have to contend with a lot of spot removal into Hinata itself or Goldspan Dragon which is a tough curve to beat. If you’re a midrange or control deck, you have to worry about their copius counterspells, incredible threats, and the chance that at any point the opponent can start chaining Magma Opus until you explode.
While this may make it seem that the deck in unbeatable, within the last few weeks I’ve seen substantially fewer Hinata decks on the winner’s podium and fewer within the top 8 and 16 as well. While the deck is powerful and has the tools to contend with anything, decks like that are endemic to having the wrong half of their deck at the wrong time. The further the meta diversifies, the more apparent this deck building schism will be as Hinata will continue to be assailed at all angles. Historically, a really diverse metagame is what took it out of the metagame initially, and while I doubt that’s going to happen again, I wouldn’t be surprised if Hinata, Dawn-Crowned eventually becomes de-crowned.
The winner of the largest improvement award within the last few weeks easily has to go to Grixis Control. A direct answer to Jeskai Hinata, Izzet looks to leverage a plethora of interaction and card advantage to stall out any strategy until they can take over the game with either an uncontested Hullbreaker Horror or a Wandering Mind / Reflections of Kiki-Jiki engine.
What has made this deck so effective, as previously stated, is how geared it is to beat Jeskai Hinata. Between the obvious good cards like counterspells and Expressive Iteration, additions like Reckoner Bankbuster, Check for Traps, Soul Shatter, and the sideboard Siphon Insight makes it clear that they are on a mission to win this matchup.
However, to become better in any matchup, you have to give up equity elsewhere. While I wouldn’t say this deck is actively bad against aggro, it’s definitely lacking in the meaningful interaction department with only four Voltage Surge for cheap interaction main deck and a lone Burn Down the House main deck to help deal with an offensive blitz. Without a superb draw (or a bad draw from the opponent), I imagine the game one matchup against aggressive decks is really poor and then gets ok in the boarded games where you can rely more on the Ray of Enfeeblement, The Meathook Massacre, and the additional Soul Shatter.
I imagine Grixis will persist as a good choice as long as Hinata is taking up a large slice of the metagame, but they may have to give aggro a bit more respect as it’s definitely been trending up recently. Speaking of aggro…
Boros Aggro finally cracks into Tier 1 as it’s play rates and consistency have been very high the past few weeks. You can even see in these challenges that Boros occupies a large amount of slots within the top 32; despite it having trouble converting into a first place finish, having a few copies in the top 8 every week as well as a deluge of them in the top 32 is good enough for me.
Boros is really emblematic of what aggro decks do best, they get on board quickly and look to punish any player with a clunky draw or those who aren’t respecting a solid curve. It really takes the principles of “there’s no wrong threats, only wrong answers) and runs with it as not worrying about what deck you’re facing and just looking to smash face is a tried and true game plan no matter the metagame.
As the weeks continue, I expect Boros to retain it’s popularity as it’s honestly hard to imagine it being more popular than it already is. However, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see other aggro decks start rearing their heads out as well now that the archetype is looking viable again.
Tier 1 Overview
Moving into this week, I expect the aforementioned decks to be the most popular and best choices. Beyond those, Esper Midrange is still going strong as a constantly good option in this metagame.
Grixis Vampires and Temur Control, while falling off in popularity, continue to be powerful options that’ll steal a top slot or two every now and again so don’t think those decks have left the metagame.
For decks that have firmly left Tier 1, Jeskai Combo and Naya Runes are suddenly nowhere to be found in the last few weeks. Jeskai Combo is no doubt feeling the collateral damage that Hinata is putting on the metagame with decks packing way more hand disruption, counterspells, and effective removal which puts Combo in a bind. Naya Runes has pretty much lost all of it’s popularity being supplanted by Boros as the aggressive deck of choice.
Tier 2 Decks
Topping tier 2, we have a somewhat contentious option with Jund Midrange. It’s hard to say whether this deck is a low tier 1 option or very high tier 2, but I have two reasons to put it at the top of tier 2 for now: play rate and it’s stability. Play rate is obvious, while it has been performing reasonably well in tournament settings, it sees drastically less play than the Tier 1 decks mentioned above. By stability, I mean the deck construction.
Jund, more so than the other 3 color decks, has gone through the most change since it’s inception into the format. Every week I feel that we’re seeing a new build of Jund that’s doing well, and while that could be interpreted as the deck adapting to the metagame, it seems that it has more to do with the deck just finding it’s footing. With this list though, I think it’s finally coming into it’s own.
Jund was always a very solid midrange deck, but since it’s taken a more aggressive slant with Black Market Tycoon and Briarbridge Tracker, I’ve been seeing this iteration becoming the base line. I really like aggressively slanted midrange right now as you have the tools to fight late if you need to, get access to great interaction, and will randomly have tough to beat curves which can catch players off guard.
While I only have Jund at the top of tier 2 right now, I wouldn’t be surprised if we see it reclaim it’s spot in the top tier before long.
I don’t want to give anything away just in case you haven’t seen Avengers: Endgame and care to, but right now I’m feeling like Thor – “I knew it.”
Although a good deal different from my initial list, this list and lists more like the initial base have suddenly been popping up within the last two weeks and achieving reasonable results in that time frame.
Rakdos looks to capitalize on the same metagame hole that Boros does, but in a slightly different way. While Boros is excellent getting onto the board quickly and applying pressure, they really can’t shift their game plan in any capacity if they need to. They have one mode and it’s attack and hope it’s good enough. Rakdos, on the other hand, gives up a bit of that speed for access to excellent interaction. Don’t get me wrong, I don’t even think Rakdos in conceding much in terms of speed as the curve that Talisker has is quite slick so gaining access to cards that normally aren’t afforded to aggro is quite the treat.
While I’m happy to see Rakdos doing well, I still think it has a ways ago to prove that it will remain a competitive option in the metagame. Personally, I think it’ll remain a solid choice as the deck has a great aggressive game plan and has the ability to shift gears when needed, but am unsure if that’ll prove good enough to break into the top tiers of play. Only time will tell and I’m excited to see where it ends up.
Another slight vindication for me! Orzhov Midrange has been an on again / off again option in Standard recently as Esper was just the substantially more popular variant, but Sapoa is looking to bring it back with tech I was raving about before Streets of New Capenna hit, Extraction Specialist.
Trust me, I’m not taking any credit for this innovation, I’m just glad to see Specialist is finally getting some rightfully deserved play!
What I really like about Orzhov, and this version in particular, is that it’s an aggressively slanted midrange deck that can fight a long fight, but also punk out slow draws with a good curve. Back to the aforementioned Extraction Specialist, it seems really good right now as there are plenty of decks running cheap removal so rebuying a Luminarch Aspirant or Acquisitions Expert is going to give slow decks some real headaches.
Between a strong curve and excellent disruption, I’m really liking Orzhov’s positioning moving forward. Furthermore, Orzhov’s versatility in how it’s built can help it compete in an evolving metagame which is a great tool to have.
Tier 2 Overview
While the tier 2 decks as a whole are struggling to fight against the ubiquity of the Tier 1 decks, we are definitely seeing some mobility. Decks like Boros have fought their way into tier 1 and other aggressive options are looking to cement their place in the metagame as well.
While there aren’t many other tier 2 decks of note right now, I do expect that to change shortly.
Tier 3 Decks
Mono Red Aggro
Looking to capitalize on the success of Boros Aggro, Mono Red Aggro may be next as another way to get under the metagame.
While the list looks somewhat promising, I am a bit concerned at the card quality here compared to Boros. Sure, going monocolored makes your mana much cleaner, but without the draw of Faceless Haven and all your threats being powerful, it’s hard to say how this will perform long term.
If Red can manage to secure a few more strong threats along it’s curve or a better burn spell, I could definitely see it being a promising option moving forward. Right now, it has a whole lot to prove before going any higher on the tier list.
For the deck of the list, we have a bit of a throwback. Before Streets of New Capenna, Esper Planeswalkers was one of, if not the best deck in the metagame as it’s copious amounts of interaction and card advantage made it difficult to usurp. Things have obviously changed a lot since then and it fell out of favor in lieu of it’s leaner build, but going back to hard control may be a very legitimate move.
What I enjoy the most about this list is that it’s clearly a pet theory in deck list form. With a bunch of 1 and 2 ofs, it’s clear that EkkofTime was feeling the archetype out and seeing what it needed, and for their ingenuity, they were rewarded a fourth place finish. Considering this is the first solid attempt at this deck in awhile, you have to wonder how it will perform if there are more people picking it up looking to circumvent the metagame a little bit themselves. It’s hard to say where this will end up, but between this and Mono Red, I have more faith that this may put a dent in the metagame.
Tier 3 Overview
For the longest time, the tier 3 decks had absolutely no shot at competing since the tier 1 and 2 decks were so strong and I still mostly feel that’s the case. Out of any tier 3 deck that may make an impact beyond those listed above, I feel that Izzet Mill and Gruul Werewolves have the best chance. Neither have performed particularly well in this meta, but have enough potential that they may make waves if they hit the right deck list, metagame, or both.
Standard felt like it stagnated for awhile s it just seemed that Esper and Hinata were trading trophies with some other strategies acting mostly as background noise, but we’re finally seeing some real change in the metagame. Whether it’s other control variants rising to prominence or aggressive decks finally carving out their spot in the meta, I imagine that this is going to be a relatively tumultuous time for the Standard metagame as Hinata’s grip on the format definitely seems to be slipping.
Thank you for reading!