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Magic World Championship XXIX Metagame Breakdown

September 21, 2023
Frank Karsten

The decklists are in, the data is ready, and the culmination of the 2022–23 Magic premier play season begins tomorrow! At Magic World Championship XXIX, taking place September 22–24 at MagicCon: Las Vegas, 105 of the world's best Magic: The Gathering players will compete for $1,000,000 in prizes and the most prestigious title of the year.

Most World Championship competitors earned their invitation via top finishes at Pro Tour Phyrexia, Pro Tour March of the Machine, or Pro Tour The Lord of The Rings, but the field also includes Regional Champions, top finishers from Arena Championships, and Magic Online Champions Showcase winners, and the Top 4 of last year's World Championship. Reigning World Champion Nathan Steuer, after a dominant season, even managed to qualify in four different ways!

The formats are Wilds of Eldraine Booster Draft in the morning of Friday and Saturday, followed by Standard for four rounds afterward each of those days. Standard is also the Top 8 format on Sunday. To follow all the action, catch the stream at, which begins at begins at 2 p.m. ET on Friday and Saturday and 1 p.m. ET on Sunday. See the viewer's guide for more information.

Standard Metagame Breakdown

Standard is a 60-card format that currently uses expansion sets from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt forward. For this year only, there was no Standard rotation with the release of the fall set, so the recent release of Wilds of Eldraine only expanded the pool of available cards. With hundreds of new cards shaking up the metagame, the deck choices of the 105 World Championship competitors break down as follows.

Deck Archetype Number of Players Percentage of Field
1. Esper Midrange 20 19.0%
2. Mono-Red Aggro 10 9.5%
3. Esper Legends 9 8.6%
4. Domain Ramp 9 8.6%
5. Golgari Midrange 8 7.6%
6. Mono-White Humans 7 6.7%
7. Rakdos Reanimator 7 6.7%
8. Esper Control 5 4.8%
9. Azorius Soldiers 4 3.8%
10. Invasion of Alara 3 2.9%
11. Mono-Blue Cauldron 3 2.9%
12. Sultai Midrange 3 2.9%
13. Selesnya Enchantments 3 2.9%
14. Grixis Midrange 2 1.9%
15. Rakdos Sacrifice 2 1.9%
16. Bant Control 1 1.0%
17. Rakdos Breach 1 1.0%
18. Azorius Control 1 1.0%
19. Sultai Faeries 1 1.0%
20. Simic Cauldron 1 1.0%
21. Domain Control 1 1.0%
22. Five-color Reanimator 1 1.0%
23. Dimir Faeries 1 1.0%
24. Azorius Tokens 1 1.0%
25. Rakdos Burn 1 1.0%

The metagame features dozens of different archetypes, including aggro, midrange, control, ramp, combo, and plenty of spice. Especially compared to last year's World Championship, where the most-played Standard deck was 69% of the field, it looks healthy, fun, and diverse. All Standard Constructed decklists for the tournament will be published on the Magic World Championship XXIX event page on Friday, September 22 at the beginning of Round 4 gameplay, approximately at 5 p.m. ET.

Black midrange strategies remain dominant in Standard. Indeed, the most-played non-land cards across all main decks and sideboards were Go for the Throat; Cut Down; and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. Yet compared to the Standard metagames right before and right after the release of Wilds of Eldraine, the deck choices of the World Championship competitors feature several surprises, developments, and innovations.

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The resurgence of Raffine: In total, 29 players registered Raffine, Scheming Seer, which remains one of the best three-drops in the format. After Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Invoke Despair, and Reckoner Bankbuster were banned in May, many players expected Raffine, Scheming Seer to dominate, but this didn't happen — creatureless Esper Control decks and other black midrange decks became even more popular. Yet after weeks of high-level preparation, many World Championship competitors settled on decks featuring the three-color legend. Their builds diverge into two different versions: nine players are on the creature-heavy Esper Legends build with Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, and Plaza of Heroes, and 20 players are on the spell-heavy Esper Midrange build with Wedding Announcement and Make Disappear. In any case, Raffine's connive triggers may be the key to success at the World Championships.

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The return of Reanimator: Rakdos Reanimator was one of the more popular decks earlier this year, but the ban of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker made it more difficult to put Atraxa, Grand Unifier into the graveyard for The Cruelty of Gix. The strategy largely disappeared from Standard tournaments as a result, but seven World Championship competitors have raised it back from the dead, and Rakdos Breach and Five-Color Reanimator are strategically similar as well. Their new builds use Collector's Vault or Big Score to put Atraxa into the graveyard and/or to ramp into seven multicolored mana. With the addition of The Irencrag, a turn-four Atraxa is now a very real possibility.

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The delectability of the Cauldron: Wilds of Eldraine has introduced new combos into Standard, and four players will try to generate infinite mana with Agatha's Soul Cauldron! The Simic build uses the Cauldron to exile Sleep-Cursed Faerie, putting counters onto Kami of Whispered Hopes, which then taps and untaps to add infinite mana. The Mono-Blue build can also exile Sleep-Cursed Faerie, but here the plan is to combine its untap ability with Omen Hawker. When you add Training Grounds to reduce the untap cost, you can generate infinite mana as well. It will be exciting to see these decks in action on the biggest stage.

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The allure of Invasion of Alara: One of the most thrilling decks from the first week of Wilds of Eldraine Standard used Invasion of Alara to hit a guaranteed Bramble Familiar. Due to the way the battle is worded, you're allowed to cast the adventure side of Bramble Elemental, providing a game-ending effect when you mill Cemetery Desecrator and immediately transform Invasion of Alara. Nevertheless, this strategy had its exploitable flaws. It could not afford more than one other card with mana value 4 or less, so Mono-Red Aggro and Mono-White Humans rose to go underneath it. The rest of the field added discard, counters, or Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines to stop the battle. In the end, despite the innovation of Greater Tanuki, only three World Championship competitors registered Invasion of Alara. The Domain Ramp archetype was the more popular five-color deck, opting for Topiary Stomper and more early-game plays over explosive combo potential.

The Most-Played Cards from Wilds of Eldraine

Despite the high bar set by the existing Standard card pool, Wilds of Eldraine had a considerable impact on the format. The following table breaks down all new-to-Standard cards at the World Championship.

Card Name Total Number of Copies Main Deck Sideboard
Virtue of Persistence 97 84 13
Virtue of Loyalty 68 68 0
Lord Skitter, Sewer King 59 53 6
Restless Cottage 52 52 0
Mosswood Dreadknight 44 44 0
Goddric, Cloaked Reveler 40 40 0
Charming Scoundrel 37 37 0
Restless Fortress 32 32 0
Spellbook Vendor 28 28 0
Decadent Dragon 27 1 26
Bramble Familiar 26 26 0
Sleep-Cursed Faerie 24 24 0
Monstrous Rage 22 22 0
Up the Beanstalk 21 15 6
Blossoming Tortoise 21 21 0
The Irencrag 18 18 0
Agatha's Soul Cauldron 17 16 1
Witchstalker Frenzy 16 12 4
Torch the Tower 15 8 7
The End 14 2 12
Regal Bunnicorn 13 10 3
Sleight of Hand 12 12 0
Twisted Fealty 8 0 8
Ego Drain 8 8 0
Spell Stutter 8 8 0
Collector's Vault 8 8 0
Horned Loch-Whale 7 5 2
Realm-Scorcher Hellkite 4 4 0
Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender 4 4 0
Sentinel of Lost Lore 4 3 1
Rankle's Prank 4 0 4
Callous Sell-Sword 4 4 0
Restless Spire 3 3 0
Werefox Bodyguard 3 3 0
Faerie Fencing 3 3 0
Beseech the Mirror 2 2 0
Picklock Prankster 2 2 0
Restless Vinestalk 2 2 0
Shrouded Shepherd 2 0 2
Ashiok, Wicked Manipulator 2 0 2
Quick Study 2 2 0
Faerie Dreamthief 2 2 0
Back for Seconds 1 0 1
Redcap Gutter-Dweller 1 0 1
Ice Out 1 1 0
Brave the Wilds 1 1 0
Royal Treatment 1 1 0
Beanstalk Wurm 1 1 0
Stormkeld Vanguard 1 0 1

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The most important new additions are Virtue of Persistence and Virtue of Loyalty. They provide card advantage, late-game staying power, and flexibility for a wide variety of White and Black decks. A whopping 40 World Championship competitors included Virtue of Persistence in their 75, including many Domain Ramp, Rakdos Reanimator, Golgari Midrange, and Esper Legends players. So, you can expect to see it a lot. Virtue of Loyalty mostly found a home in Esper Midrange and Mono-White Humans.

Lord Skitter, Sewer King is also seeing a lot of play, as most Black midrange players included one or two copies. Given enough time, it will singlehandedly create an army of Rats, boosting the effectiveness of Raffine, Scheming Seer or Virtue of Loyalty. Due to its long-term impact on the battlefield, Lord Skitter is seeing even more play than Graveyard Trespasser.

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In terms of cards that spawned entirely new archetypes, Restless Cottage and Mosswood Dreadknight have enabled the emergence of Golgari Midrange and Sultai Midrange. The addition of a recurring midrange threat and a flood-mitigating color fixer have propelled these decks forward, effectively displacing Dimir Midrange.

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All Mono-Red Aggro decks benefited from the addition of Charming Scoundrel and Goddric, Cloaked Reveler. Goddric has also been adopted by Rakdos Sacrifice and Rakdos Burn. It's an awesome turn-three play, especially when a turn-one Kumano Faces Kakkazan exiles itself and returns to the battlefield on turn three, enabling celebration with no additional effort. The Roles created by Charming Scoundrel and Monstrous Rage can keep the party going later in the game.

As the final new card to highlight, Spellbook Vendor can create a Role every turn, and it has the right creature type for Coppercoat Vanguard. Reminiscent of Luminarch Aspirant, it has been a good addition to Mono-White Humans, which was registered by seven World Championship competitors. In other words, Black midrange strategies remain popular in Standard, but there's a wide diversity of archetypes to contend with.

If you're eager to find out which cards and strategies will come out on top and who will carve their name into competitive Magic history, then don't miss all the live action. Coverage begins Friday, September 22 at!

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