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MagicFest Online Season 2 Finals Metagame Breakdown

May 12, 2020
Frank Karsten

Since the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, Standard has been in flux. Two weeks ago, at the first MagicFest Online Season 2 Weekly Championship, Jeskai Fires with Keruga, the Macrosage was the dominant deck. Yet last weekend, at the MagicFest Online Season 2 Finals, this deck had disappeared almost completely while Jeskai Lukka with Yorion, Sky Nomad had taken over the format. At the same time, innovators were trying go under the new Yorion strategies with proactive one-drops and two-drops. Standard keeps changing, so let's take a look at last weekend's metagame.

Over two days of competition, the 128 invited players for the MagicFest Online Season 2 Finals (invited by either making the Top 32 of a Weekly Championship or by going 5-0 in a Finals Qualifier) battled with their best Standard decks for a $50,000 prize pool and invites to the Players Tour Finals. The following table contains the metagame breakdown for all 128 players in Day 1 and all 64 players in Day 2. Each archetype name hyperlinks to the highest-placing decklist of that type.

Archetype Companion % Field on Day 1 % Field on Day 2
Jeskai Lukka Yorion, Sky Nomad 18.8% 21.9%
Temur Reclamation   17.2% 21.9%
Boros Cycling Lurrus of the Dream-Den 15.6% 14.1%
Temur Elementals Yorion, Sky Nomad 9.4% 6.3%
Bant Ramp Yorion, Sky Nomad 7.0% 9.4%
Temur Adventure   3.9% 3.1%
Rakdos Sacrifice Obosh, the Preypiercer 3.9% 3.1%
Rakdos Sacrifice Lurrus of the Dream-Den 3.9% 0.0%
Mono-Red Aggro Obosh, the Preypiercer 3.9% 4.7%
Jeskai Cycling Lurrus of the Dream-Den 2.3% 1.6%
Jeskai Winota   2.3% 3.1%
Mardu Knights Lurrus of the Dream-Den 1.6% 1.6%
Mono-Red Aggro   1.6% 1.6%
Azorius Control Yorion, Sky Nomad 1.6% 1.6%
Sultai Ramp Yorion, Sky Nomad 1.6% 3.1%
Temur Reclamation Keruga, the Macrosage 0.8% 1.6%
Four-color Reclamation   0.8% 0.0%
Orzhov Auras Lurrus of the Dream-Den 0.8% 0.0%
Gruul Aggro   0.8% 0.0%
Gruul Fires Kaheera, the Orphanguard 0.8% 0.0%
Mardu Cycling Lurrus of the Dream-Den 0.8% 0.0%
Jeskai Fires Keruga, the Macrosage 0.8% 1.6%

In total, 73.4% of the Day 1 field used a companion. The top three companions were as follows:

  • 38.3% of the Day 1 field had Yorion, Sky Nomad as their companion.
  • 25.0% of the Day 1 field had Lurrus of the Dream-Den as their companion.
  • 7.8% of the Day 1 field had Obosh, the Preypiercer as their companion.

Yorion Is Ruling Standard: 80 Is the New 60

Yorion, Sky Nomad Teferi, Time Raveler Elspeth Conquers Death

Since the most popular companion in Standard is Yorion, Sky Nomad, it's fair to say that 80 is the new 60. Yorion's companion restriction is relatively easy to adapt to, especially with the high power level in Standard right now. Generally speaking, there isn't a huge power gap between your 30th and 80th card. There are some exceptions, such as Temur Reclamation which really wants to draw Wilderness Reclamation and Expansion // Explosion and sticks to 60 cards for that reason. But for most midrange or control decks, their cards are not that disparate in power level, so they're not giving up much in the way of consistency. Meanwhile, starting every game with an additional threat is a huge benefit.

Two talented players, both members of the Magic Hall of Fame and the MPL, made the Top 8 with Yorion as their companion. Gabriel Nassif finished second with the following decklist.

Jeskai Lukka was the most popular archetype on Day 1 and Day 2, and it's easy to understand why. Imagine you untap on turn five with Fires of Invention on the battlefield alongside an Omen of the Sun and a 1/1 token. Then you can do the following:

  • Play your fifth land and use Fires of Invention to cast Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast for free.
  • Activate Lukka's -2 ability to turn the token into a guaranteed Agent of Treachery, which is the only creature in the deck.
  • Use Fires of Invention to cast Yorion, Sky Nomad from your sideboard, blinking all your nonland permanents.
  • Pay five mana to cast Elspeth Conquers Death. This is now allowed because Fires of Invention has left the battlefield.
  • At end of turn, return your exiled permanents, which resets Lukka's loyalty and triggers Omen of the Sun and Agent of Treachery.

So on turn five, you've added a planeswalker and 7 additional power to the battlefield; you've exiled your opponent's best threat; and you've stolen two of their permanents, potentially two lands. Indeed, this deck is capable of incredibly powerful turns.

Another popular and successful Yorion, Sky Nomad archetype was piloted by reigning Magic World Champion Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa. He finished third with the following decklist.

Bant Ramp does not have access to Fires of Invention or Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, but it does get to exploit Growth Spiral and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath. These ramp spells help you get access to more mana more quickly, which can fuel a huge Shark Typhoon or a value-generating Yorion, Sky Nomad before other decks have developed. Damo da Rosa's Bant Ramp build also has a particularly heavy permission suite, with 10 counterspells that can say "no" including Dovin's Veto and the ever-present Mystical Dispute.

There are various other Yorion decks beyond Jeskai Lukka and Bant Ramp. The most popular and novel one at the Season Finals was Temur Elementals, which can blink Omnath, Locus of the Roil and Risen Reef for value with Yorion, Sky Nomad and ramp into Genesis Ultimatum. However, judging by Day 2 conversion rates and final standings, Temur Elementals performed poorly and I wouldn't recommend it for an upcoming competitive event.

Going Under Yorion: Aggro Decks on The Rise

Flourishing Fox Scorch Spitter Edgewall Innkeeper

Given the dominance of Yorion, Sky Nomad decks, a natural question is how to beat them. In Magic, there are usually two main ways to beat a deck: Going under it or going over it. "Going under" means that you are much faster and can beat them before they've set up their engines. "Going over" means that you are a little bit slower, keeping pace but with a way to trump them in the late game.

Against Yorion decks, going over is difficult. This is because they often have consistent access to Agent of Treachery and Elspeth Conquers Death, which are the perfect answers to most late-game trumps. The threats in a deck like Jeskai Fires, for example, match up very poorly against these cards, which explains why this deck fell out of favor.

Instead, many players decided that it's better to go under. Yorion decks can be slow and clunky, and aggro decks can punish any such stumbles. Strategies that revolve around one-drops and two-drops are particularly good because Elspeth Conquers Death cannot even touch such permanents and because they won't heavily backfire when stolen by Agent of Treachery. Three such decks made the Top 8: Boros Cycling with Lurrus of the Dream-Den; Mono-Red Aggro with Obosh, the Preypiercer; and Temur Adventure. Let's take a closer look.

After players discovered that a blue splash was not necessary after all, Boros Cycling steadily grew in popularity. It started at 1.5% of the field in Week 1, increased to 3.4% in Week 2, and surged to 15.6% at the Season Finals. The strategy is simple, but it's quite effective against Jeskai Lukka: Flourishing Fox, Valiant Rescuer, and Drannith Stinger apply fast early pressure, and a late-game Zenith Flare usually goes unanswered. Gabriel Nassif's Jeskai Lukka list, for example, had only a single Aether Gust main deck as an answer. So you can just keep cycling through your deck until you find Zenith Flare, point it at their face, and deal lethal damage.

Mono-Red Aggro with Obosh, the Preypiercer basically came out of nowhere. It was 0.2% of the field in Week 1 and stayed at that number in Week 2 before shooting up to 3.9% for the Season Finals. What's more, the fifth place, eighth place, and ninth place finishers were all playing the deck, which is an incredible performance for an archetype that was merely a small fraction of the field.

I see several reasons for this. First, Jeskai Fires, which used to be a bad matchup for Mono-Red, was pushed out of the format by the Yorion, Sky Nomad decks. Second, Mono-Red Aggro can easily go under Yorion decks: with 16 one-drop creatures and several ways to boost them, winning the game before they can even cast Yorion is not out of the question. Third, Obosh, the Preypiercer as the companion is powerful. Sure, it's worse than Torbran, Thane of Red Fell and Embercleave, but having it every game as a guaranteed eighth card is more important and you even lose the risk of drawing too many Torbrans or 'Cleaves that clutter up your hand. Fourth, compared to Rakdos Sacrifice with Obosh, the Preypiercer (which, by the way, has greatly outperformed the Lurrus of the Dream-Den version) the Mono-Red build gains access to Anax, Hardened in the Forge as the perfect hedge against Shatter the Sky.

All in all, Mono-Red Aggro with Obosh, the Preypiercer is a deck that I expect we'll see more and more of, until the metagame adapts yet again.

Temur Adventure has also been growing in popularity. It started at 0.2% of the field in Week 1, increased to 0.8% in Week 2, and surged to 3.9% at the Season Finals. I think that many players discounted the deck at first because it didn't gain as much with Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths and didn't use a companion. But Temur Adventure is still alive and kicking. A great matchup against Jeskai Lukka is a prime reason for that, as Jeskai Lukka players lack efficient answers to Edgewall Innkeeper or Lucky Clover. Congratulations to Jason Fleurant for winning the Season 2 Finals with Temur Adventure!

The Dominant Color in Standard is Currently Blue

The ten most-played non-land cards among all main decks and sideboards break down as follows.

Card name Total number of copies Main deck copies Sideboard copies
Mystical Dispute 296 136 160
Shark Typhoon 237 234 3
Growth Spiral 192 192 0
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath 167 159 8
Agent of Treachery 166 166 0
Teferi, Time Raveler 157 156 1
Omen of the Sea 156 156 0
Elspeth Conquers Death 153 150 3
Shatter the Sky 140 122 18
Narset, Parter of Veils 127 126 1

It's quite telling that the seven most-played cards are all blue. In the current metagame, Mystical Dispute is not only a good sideboard card—it's also a perfectly reasonable main deck card.

But outside this list of most-played cards, there is always some spicy tech to highlight. Two weird cards from the lists of the Hall of Famers in the Top 8 stood out to me:

  • The Wanderer. This is a sweet sideboard card against Boros Cycling, as it simultaneously kills a large Flourishing Fox and protects you from Zenith Flare.
  • Tale's End: It isn't just a Riley Knight meme. When almost everyone starts the game with a legendary companion, Tale's End is a reliable Essence Scatter. Alternatively, you can Stifle a Fabled Passage, stop Shark Typhoon from creating a token, or most dramatic of all: stifle Yorion, Sky Nomad's end step trigger, preventing the exiled permanents from returning to the battlefield.

Standard is still in flux, with new archetypes and techy cards being discovered daily. Low-curve decks that are trying to go under the Yorion decks are trending up, and I would expect that trend to continue: You shouldn't skimp on early removal or sweepers. I also expect further exploration of techy cards, such as Trostani Discordant to outdo Agent of Treachery. But for players participating in the Red Bull Untapped Qualifier or this weekend's Mythic Qualifier, the metagame and top decklists from the MagicFest Season 2 Finals provide a good indication of what to expect.

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