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A Midnight Hunt for Standard at World Championship XXVII

September 30, 2021
Mani Davoudi

The 2020–21 postseason is coming to a close and for the final sixteen players as they battle for the title of Magic World Champion. To earn the title, they will have to overcome the toughest challenge they've faced this year: a new Standard format just three weeks after rotation.

The Sun Sets on Eldraine

Throne of Eldraine was, without a doubt, one of the most impactful Standard releases of all time. Cards like Bonecrusher Giant, Lovestruck Beast, Embercleave, and Into the Story all dominated Standard throughout their two-year tenure. Now, with Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, we say goodbye: goodbye to Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Core Set 2021, and Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths . . . and bid a warm welcome back to Innistrad!


The release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt changed many of the known elements in Standard, making way for new cards and archetypes to take shape and define the Standard metagame. Thanks to early tournament and ladder results coming in, we can begin getting a feel for what that metagame looks like. There's plenty of room for things to evolve and change from here, but when it comes to preparing for a tournament like the World Championship, having this early data is invaluable.

The Duality of Standard

While there seem to be many viable decks in the new Standard format, there is an early divide happening amongst the top archetypes. We are seeing a clash of reactive and proactive decks, each camp spearheaded by a powerful two-mana card.

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The battle of Expressive Iteration versus Ranger Class is one I expect to see a lot of in this format, considering there's multiple popular archetypes centered around each card.

The classic Izzet Dragons deck survived the rotation thanks to the remaining core of the deck in Expressive Iteration, Goldspan Dragon, and Alrund's Epiphany, and even gained some shiny new toys in Midnight Hunt.

Smoldering Egg was a perfect addition to the deck, helping fill the ever-lacking two-drop slot that was left empty with the rotation of Mazemind Tome. Not only is Smoldering Egg a great defensive two-drop, it also transforms into a very formidable threat without too much effort from this control deck.

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Smoldering Egg does require many instants and sorceries to be at its best, which lead to the natural inclusion of fellow newcomers Consider and Memory Deluge. The latter has gone a long way in helping blue control decks finder specific answers and not run out of gas at crucial points of the game, becoming an important addition to the deck.

One of the discussion points for Izzet Dragons deck building has been whether the deck needs to be a Snow deck. With creature lands like Den of the Bugbear and Hall of Storm Giants to effectively replace Faceless Haven, some are deciding that the change in mana base is not worth it for Frost Bite alone. Builds like this opt to go for a non-Snow mana base, gaining more flexibility in land choices and are less susceptible to Reidane, at the cost of running more two-mana removal to replace Frost Bite.

This new version of Izzet is one that has quickly been gaining in popularity. The creatureless main deck plays out like a true control deck, answering all threats the opponent plays before deploying their combo finish with Galvanic Iteration into Alrund's Epiphany. The ability to set up multiple turns in a row allows the deck to use their draw spells to find even more turns and finally finish the opponent off with a combination of Bird tokens and Hall of Storm Giants.

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An interesting part of this deck is how it is utilizing the sideboard. Lessons, such as Mascot Exhibition and Teachings of the Archaics, add a layer of resilience and consistency to the deck at a relatively small cost. The inclusion of new creatures like Suspicious Stowaway and Malevolent Hermit provides additional angles of attack against other controlling decks, making it even harder to play against this deck.

Mono-Green Aggro was a dominant force in the Standard 2022 MTG Arena queue before rotation, but there was always the question of whether that would translate over favourably to the new format. So far, the answer seems to be "Yes!" as Mono-Green continues to come out on top.

Not many of the Class cards from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms had Constructed impact, but Ranger Class is the happy exception. Not only does it provide you with a cheap creature at an important spot in the curve, but it then goes on to give additional stats and, eventually, card advantage similar to that of now rotated favorite The Great Henge.

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The efficient cheap creatures and removal spells were already trouble, but the introduction of the new planeswalker Wrenn and Seven helped take the deck to another level. Not only does Wrenn provide you with card advantage and giant reach tokens (great for blocking Dragons!), but it also fits perfectly on the curve after Esika's Chariot to let you double up on those large tokens.

Perhaps the showcase deck of the Innistrad: Midnight Hunt expansion, the Gruul Werewolves deck is a cool take on Ranger Class that is doing some very powerful things. This deck sacrifices some of the consistency and sticky creatures of Mono-Green Aggro for more explosiveness and card draw. Rocking a Werewolf package of Kessig Naturalist, Reckless Stormseeker, Tovolar, Dire Overlord, and Arlinn, the Pack's Hope, this deck has very much embraced the Werewolf life.

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What you give up by being smaller against other creature decks you get back by being faster against slower decks like Izzet. Slower reactive decks typically have a hard time manipulating the day/night cycling, allowing Gruul Werewolves to get full advantage of their cards and put on constant pressure thanks to their haste creatures.

This Gruul Aggro deck is more in line with what we've seen in previous formats, relying on cards like Jaspera Sentinel, Magda, and Goldspan Dragon for explosiveness while still incorporating new threats in Briarbridge Tracker, Reckless Stormseeker, and Wrenn and Seven. This deck has the potential to be more explosive than the Gruul Werewolves deck, but it does also seem to be more easily disrupted and can have clunkier draws.

Similar to the Gruul Werewolves deck, this deck is taking advantage of Pathways for a small blue splash out of the sideboard, giving them some interaction for cards like Alrund's Epiphany in post-sideboard games.

The Third-Party Candidates

Despite how good Expressive Iteration and Ranger Class are, there are still plenty of other powerful decks in Standard. While I can't talk about all of them, here are just a few that I've got my eyes on at the moment.

Mono-Black Control is one of those archetypes that is fondly remembered from Magic's past but has not been viable for quite some time. I believe this deck finally has the right combination of removal, threats, and utility to play a real part in the Standard format.

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Lolth, Spider Queen is a card that impressed me, and this deck does a great job of making it look broken.

As a Collected Company fan, Storm the Festival is in the running for my favorite card from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, and seeing it pop up in these ramp decks putting up great results has made me quite happy. This deck is extremely powerful when it gets going, and Scute Swarm can get pretty silly when paired with a Wrenn and Seven.

This deck is very similar to the Selesnya Ramp deck, and I love the inclusion of some additional exciting Storm the Festival hits like Binding the Old Gods; Lolth, Spider Queen; and Iymrith, Desert Doom.

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It's unclear which of these will be the better deck when the format settles, and perhaps there's a different Storm the Festival build that hasn't even been discovered yet, but I'm very excited to see whether we'll witness something like this make an appearance at the World Championship.

The latest iteration of Mono-White Aggro has many of the elements we've come to expect from the archetype, and it does them all quite well. This deck hits the ground quickly and has tons of ways to buff their creatures, making life a nightmare for any deck that stumbles against it. This deck has a lot of raw power and should not be taken lightly.

This Dimir Control deck is as close as we get to a traditional control deck in Standard. A pile of removal and counterspells is paired with a few powerful finishers to create a threat for many of the most prevalent decks in the format.

I am worried for Dimir Control, as typically control decks thrive later on in formats when there is an established metagame of the decks and cards that need to be answered. That said, this deck has the power level and tools to be a force in this Standard format, assuming the pilots arrive with a correct read on the World Championship metagame.

Setting the World Championship Stage

The World Championship is just over a week away. Sixteen incredible players are a week away from competing on the biggest stage for a chance to be immortalized in Magic's history. They will have had three weeks to prepare with their teams and figure out this new Standard format in an attempt to get any edge possible. Will they go with one of the known powerhouses, or will we see a new archetype brought out?

My excitement has been building from the moment Jan Merkel clinched the final spot, and I cannot wait to watch these games and see our next World Champion crowned.


Join me and the rest of the coverage team to #FindYourChampion and watch the top players battle at Magic World Championship XXVII, live October 8–10 at twitch.tv/magic!

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