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Innistrad Championship Standard Metagame Breakdown

December 03, 2021
Frank Karsten

The Innistrad Championship is underway now! With members of the Magic Pro League and the Magic Rivals League as well as top players from qualifying events held on MTG Arena and Magic Online, they battle for $450,000 in prizes in both Standard and Historic formats live December 3–5 at twitch.tv/magic.

You can find the Innistrad Championship decklists online now, with examples of every archetype included below to see what's being played across the tournament. This article covers Standard, but the Historic breakdown has all the same details ready for you.

Standard Metagame Breakdown

This article expands on the Innistrad Championship metagame preview, diving into the decklists and analyzing what to expect throughout the weekend. Friday and Saturday each feature four rounds of (best-of-three) Standard.


Archetype Count % Field
Izzet Epiphany 96 38.1%
Mono-White Aggro 51 20.2%
Mono-Green Aggro 25 9.9%
Orzhov Control 13 5.2%
Izzet Control 9 3.6%
Izzet Dragons 9 3.6%
Esper Control 7 2.8%
Grixis Control 7 2.8%
Jund Aggro 5 2.0%
Jeskai Dragons 4 1.6%
Dimir Control 3 1.2%
Mono-Black Zombies 3 1.2%
Rakdos Vampires 3 1.2%
Grixis Epiphany 2 0.8%
Mono-Black Control 2 0.8%
Naya Aggro 2 0.8%
Orzhov Midrange 2 0.8%
Azorius Control 1 0.4%
Azorius Tempo 1 0.4%
Dimir Delver 1 0.4%
Jund Treasures 1 0.4%
Mono-Blue Tempo 1 0.4%
Mono-Red Aggro 1 0.4%
Orzhov Sacrifice 1 0.4%
Selesnya Lifegain 1 0.4%
Selesnya Ramp 1 0.4%

One-and-a-half months ago, after Magic World Championship XXVII set the stage, the top three decks in Standard were Izzet Epiphany, Mono-Green Aggro, and Mono-White Aggro. The release of Innistrad: Crimson Vow hasn't changed that. Combined, these top three archetypes comprise over two-thirds of the field at the Innistrad Championship.

Thalia, Guardian of Thraben Hullbreaker Horror Ulvenwald Oddity

Innistrad: Crimson Vow has nevertheless adding many impactful new tools. For example, Orzhov Control had a resurgence thanks to Edgar, Charmed Groom, while Path of Peril and Wash Away gave Esper Control a nice boost. Moreover, the likes of Headless Rider and Bloodtithe Harvester boosted tribal aggro decks.

But at the Innistrad Championship, the eight most-played cards from Innistrad: Crimson Vow in Standard are all additions to the aforementioned top three archetypes. Many Mono-White Aggro players adopted Hopeful Initiate, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Valorous Stance; most Mono-Green Aggro players filled out their mana curves with Ascendant Packleader and Ulvenwald Oddity; and Izzet players were generally happy to gain Stormcarved Coast along with new options in Abrade and Hullbreaker Horror.

In part due to Hullbreaker Horror, there are now many different Izzet end-games possible. There is a difference between Izzet Epiphany, Izzet Control, and Izzet Dragons, largely based on how they plan to win the game, but the dividing line is small, and black or white splashes complicated the deck labeling process further. It's not trivial to define where Izzet Epiphany ends and, say, Grixis Control begins. What I can say is that Izzet Epiphany is the most popular version by far and that I applied consistent definitions—explained in the Standard archetype overview below—throughout.

Expressive Iteration Spikefield Hazard Divide by Zero

Regardless of whether decks are labeled as Epiphany, Dragons or Control, it's insightful to zoom out and look at the big picture. In total, 127 players (50% of the field) registered a deck with Expressive Iteration, Unexpected Windfall, Stormcarved Coast, and/or Riverglide Pathway. Indeed, these four cards, all with at least 460 copies across all Standard lists, were contained among the six most-played cards other than basic lands.

The three most-played nonland cards overall are the aforementioned Expressive Iteration (486 copies) and, more interestingly, Spikefield Hazard (485 copies) and Divide by Zero (505 copies). Spikefield Hazard and Divide by Zero are not only contained in every Izzet, Grixis, and Jeskai deck but also sometimes included in other archetypes. To me, this is fascinating—Divide by Zero and Spikefield Hazard were also legal half a year ago but saw barely any play back then, even in blue or red decks. Just imagine that half a year ago you would have claimed that Divide by Zero would be the most-played spell in Standard right now. No one would have believed you! It makes me wonder which undiscovered Standard gems we might be missing right now.

In any case, the flexible modality offered by these spells can explain why Izzet-based decks are so popular: They rarely get mana screwed or mana flooded. Need a land? Play Spikefield Cave or Jwari Ruins. Need to answer an opposing Thalia, Guardian of Thraben? Use the other half to burn or counter it! Divide by Zero is similar—besides being an always-relevant, card-neutral tempo play, it offers the flexibility of grabbing Environmental Sciences when you're light on lands or Mascot Exhibition when you're flooding out. Add the raw efficiency of Expressive Iteration, and you have a powerful core of cheap spells that ensure you'll always be able to play a good game of Magic.

On top of that, the different end-games allow Izzet players to adapt to the current state of the metagame and/or the specifics of their opponent's list. If you fear Test of Talents, then you can swap out Alrund's Epiphany for Hullbreaker Horror (or move to Izzet Dragons altogether). If you expect to face spot removal spells, then you can go back to Alrund's Epiphany. Many Izzet decks have alternative seven-drops in the sideboard, allowing them to adapt their end-game to whatever will be most difficult for their opponent to answer. Speaking of sideboards, Izzet players also have far stronger sideboard options than mono-color aggro players, and thanks to the massive number of card draw spells, they'll find their key sideboard cards more consistently. With all that in mind, a properly-tuned Mono-White Aggro or Mono-Green Aggro deck may still have a positive matchup against Izzet Epiphany, but it's never a lopsided walkover.

In summary, the power of Expressive Iteration decks lies in the combination of early-game consistency, late-game power, and the availability of flexible options at all stages of the match. That, in my view, is why many veteran players have flocked to Izzet Epiphany and its variants.

Standard Archetype Overview

Izzet Epiphany (96 players): These decks are defined as containing at least two (and usually three or four) copies of Alrund's Epiphany main deck, along with Galvanic Iteration to copy the extra-turn spell and Unexpected Windfall to ramp into this combo reliably.

Mono-White Aggro (51 players): These decks plan to curve out with aggressive creatures like Luminarch Aspirant, and most players adopted Hopeful Initiate and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben from Innistrad: Crimson Vow.

Mono-Green Aggro (25 players): These decks can put a lot of power onto the battlefield with Werewolf Pack Leader, Old-Growth Troll, and Esika's Chariot, and most players adopted Ascendant Packleader and Ulvenwald Oddity from Innistrad: Crimson Vow to become more aggressive.

Orzhov Control (13 players): These multi-faceted decks can exploit Eyetwitch or Shambling Ghast with Fell Stinger, sweep the board with Blood on the Snow or The Meathook Massacre, and (unlike Mono-Black Control) leverage the staying power of Edgar, Charmed Groom. Orzhov Control is good against aggro, but weak to Izzet Epiphany.

Izzet Control (9 players): These decks have a lot in common with Izzet Epiphany, but I defined them as containing at most one (and usually zero) copies of Alrund's Epiphany main deck and instead using at least 2 Hullbreaker Horror and 2 Lier, Disciple of the Drowned as the main win condition.

Izzet Dragons (9 players): These decks have a lot in common with Izzet Epiphany, but they usually don't rely on Galvanic Iteration or Unexpected Windfall and instead have at least nine combined copies of Smoldering Egg, Goldspan Dragon, and Dragon's Fire, providing a proactive advantage against creature decks at the cost of a slightly weaker matchup against other Izzet decks.

Esper Control (7 players): These decks can beat aggro decks with Path of Peril and The Meathook Massacre, counter foretold Alrund's Epiphany with Wash Away, and eventually win the game with a big legend.

Grixis Control (7 players): These decks are basically Izzet Control decks with at least one black spell in the main deck.

Jund Aggro (5 players): Black is just a minor splash—these decks mainly plan to ramp into a turn-three Esika's Chariot via Jaspera Sentinel or Magda, Brazen Outlaw, and they all pack an aggressive punch with Werewolf Pack Leader and Reckless Stormseeker.

Jeskai Dragons (4 players): It's basically Izzet Dragons with a minor white splash for Valorous Stance.

Mono-Black Zombies (3 players): The headliner is Champion of the Perished, for which token creators like Jadar, Ghoulcaller of Nephalia and Headless Rider will ensure a steady stream of triggers.

Rakdos Vampires (3 players): Falkenrath Pit Fighter, Vampire Socialite, and Florian, Voldaren Scion were around before, but Crimson Vow has supercharged the tribe with the additions of Voldaren Epicure, Bloodtithe Harvester, Falkenrath Forebear, and Voldaren Bloodcaster.

Dimir Control (3 players): Power Word Kill and Divide by Zero stop the opponent from developing, and Lier, Disciple of the Drowned takes over in the late game.

Mono-Black Control (2 players): Concealing Curtains has added a much-needed early-game disruptive element to the controlling core of Lolth, Spider Queen and Blood on the Snow, and it may improve the archetype's previously weak matchup against Izzet Epiphany.

Naya Aggro (2 players): There are many ways to build an aggressive deck in the Naya colors, but one commonality among the two lists is that they pair Brutal Cathar with Snakeskin Veil.

Orzhov Midrange (2 players): These decks can feed the first ability of Henrika Domnathi with tokens from Wedding Announcement, and they differ from Orzhov Control in that they don't run Eyetwitch or Blood on the Snow.

Grixis Epiphany (2 player): It's basically Izzet Epiphany with a few black cards in the main deck. (Note that some Izzet Epiphany lists include black Pathways in their main deck and Go Blank or Check for Traps in their sideboard, but they're still classified as Izzet Epiphany if they don't have black spells in their main deck.)

Selesnya Ramp (1 player): Storm the Festival hits Wrenn and Seven while Felidar Retreat keeps on triggering.

Mono-Blue Tempo (1 player): Delver of Secrets and Ascending Spirit are perfectly serviceable one-drops, and afterwards you can play a flash tempo game with the likes of Fading Hope.

Selesnya Lifegain (1 player): With Traveling Minister and Voice of the Blessed, Innistrad: Crimson Vow has contributed greatly to an aggressive lifegain theme.

Mono-Red Aggro (1 player): Innistrad: Crimson Vow has added Voldaren Epicure, Cemetery Gatekeeper, and Creepy Puppeteer to boost Mono-Red Aggro in Standard.

Azorius Tempo (1 player): You can build your own Geist of Saint Traft by discarding Dorothea, Vengeful Victim to Fleeting Spirit, and at that point Geistlight Snare is the perfect protection.

Dimir Delver (1 player): Delver of Secrets demands a lot of instant and sorcery cards, while Concealing Curtains plus Dread Fugue add a discard angle.

Azorius Control (1 player): This deck says 'no' to spells with Saw It Coming, 'no' to creatures with Doomskar, and eventually flashes in Cemetery Protector for the win.

Orzhov Sacrifice (1 player): This deck can sacrifice Shambling Ghast for value to Fell Stinger or Henrika Domnathi, but unlike Orzhov Control, there are no sweepers.

Jund Treasures (1 player): This deck puts Treasures to good use with Kalain, Reclusive Painter and Goldspan Dragon, but it's not overly aggressive and even runs the cleavable-via-Treasures Path of Peril.

Watch Now!


Follow along the latest updates and watch the Innistrad Championship, December 3–5, to see which deck comes out on top!

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