Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, your weekly guide to the top decks and latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. The new year has introduced a new cycle of Regional Championship Qualifiers in the Standard format, which runs from January 6 through March 24. This series of RCQs contributes towards revitalizing tabletop Standard, heightening its importance in the competitive scene.
Last week, I provided a Standard format primer, going over the eight most prominent decks to defeat right now. However, Standard is wide open, and a lot of innovative decks have appeared in recent weeks. So as a complementary follow-up, today's article will dive deeper into the diversity of the format by highlighting ten additional decks that have put up decent results in recent events.
The Standard Metagame
Standard is a rotating 60-card format that currently allows expansion sets from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt forward. To grasp the latest developments since last week's format primer, I analyzed over 400 successful decklists from competitive events held since January 1. Specifically, I used the Standard Qualifier, Standard Preliminary, Standard Challenge 32, and Standard Challenge 64 on Magic Online, as well as the ReCQ at SCG CON Cincinnati and the 2023 NRG Championship.
To each deck, I assigned an archetype label and awarded a number of points equal to its rectified number of net wins (i.e., its number of match wins minus losses if positive and zero otherwise). I discussed this metric in more detail last week. Since round-by-round data from the 2023 NRG Championship was not readily available, I simply awarded two points to each Standard deck from that event. Each archetype's share of total rectified net wins can be interpreted as its share of the winner's metagame.
|Winner's Metagame Share
|1. Domain Ramp
|2. Esper Midrange
|3. Mono-Red Aggro
|4. Bant Toxic
|5. Rakdos Discover
|6. Rakdos Control
|7. Dimir Midrange
|8. Azorius Soldiers
|9. Golgari Midrange
|10. Rakdos Midrange
|11. Four-Color Legends
|12. Azorius Craft
|13. Gruul Aggro
|14. Esper Mentor
|15. Mono-White Toxic
|16. Esper Control
|17. Soul Cauldron Combo
|18. Azorius Midrange
|19. Orzhov Midrange
|20. Invasion of Alara
In last week's format primer, I introduced the eight most prominent decks to defeat in Standard based on Magic Online data from December: Domain Ramp, Esper Midrange, Golgari Midrange, Rakdos Discover, Azorius Soldiers, Mono-Red Aggro, Bant Toxic, and Azorius Tokens. Although Azorius Tokens did not put up notable results in the first week of January, Domain Ramp has remained the number one deck, with Esper Midrange a close second. Hence, last week's article remains a useful introduction to the format, especially for newcomers to Standard.
The big story over the past week is the rise of aggro decks. Exploiting the large metagame share of the slow Domain Ramp strategy, Mono-Red Aggro and Bant Toxic put up excellent numbers. Last weekend on Magic Online, Razzleflabben won the Standard Challenge 32 with Bant Toxic, while Merses won the Standard Challenge 64 with Mono-Red Aggro. These aggro decks can win as early as turn four, and since Domain Ramp has zero interactive spells with a mana value lower than four, well-constructed aggro decks tend to crush Domain Ramp. In addition, an innovative Mono-White Toxic deck appeared to exploit
In related metagame developments, many Esper Midrange players shaved cards that excel against aggro or midrange strategies (such as Dennick, Pious Apprentice and/or Wedding Announcement) to make room for cards that are superior against Domain Ramp (such as
In the remainder of this article, I will showcase the format's variety, as the depth of Standard goes far deeper than the eight prominent decks I covered last week. I selected two alternative Standard decks for each of the five macro-archetypes: control, midrange, aggro, combo, and ramp. Some are spicier than others, but all of them scored more wins than losses in a recent competitive event, and these decks might enable you to dazzle at your next RCQ.
Control Decks: Rakdos Control and Azorius Craft
Rakdos Control has quickly risen in the ranks: it was only 2.8% of the winner's metagame in December, but it climbed to 7.0% in the first week of January. Using the list shown above, Melicard finished 7th at the 143-player Standard Qualifier on Magic Online, cementing the strategy's power. For the early game, the deck features
Azorius Craft, which steadily hovers around 2%-3% of the winner's metagame, is a sweet option for players who like to combine control strategies and powerful synergies. Makoobi finished 17th at the 143-player Standard Qualifier with the list above, using Unstable Glyphbridge and Spring-Loaded Sawblades to keep the opponent at bay while ramping ahead with
Midrange Decks: Dimir Midrange and Esper Mentor
Dimir Midrange doubled to 6.3% of the winner's metagame after Mogged won the Standard Qualifier on January 1, earning an invitation to the next Regional Championship. His list features
There's only one card that is legal in Standard but restricted in Vintage:
Aggro Decks: Gruul Aggro and Boros Convoke
Gruul Aggro is not your typical aggro strategy. This deck, which Janisss took to 29th place at the 143-player Standard Qualifier, runs a full playset of
For Pioneer players, this deck will look very familiar. The curve of
Combo Decks: Invasion of Alara and Soul Cauldron Combo
This combo deck, which Matsukasa10 piloted to a 20th place finish at an 86-player Standard Challenge, uses Invasion of Alara to hit a near-guaranteed Bramble Familiar. (Technically, there is a 1/15 chance of hitting both
Yokakenana finished 14th at the most recent Standard Qualifier on Magic Online with Soul Cauldron Combo. This Sultai build uses
Ramp Decks: Gruul Ramp and Four-Color Legends
Is ramping into Etali, Primal Conqueror or
This Four-Color Legends deck, which Cftsoc3 took to an impressive 2nd place at last weekend's 104-player Standard Challenge on Magic Online, is hard to classify. It has elements of midrange and combo, but I ultimately put it in the "ramp" category because it features a whopping 33 mana sources, including four copies of
In conclusion, Standard is pretty awesome right now. It features an abundance of competitively viable strategies, and there's something for every play style. Pick your favorite deck or construct your own, then set out for battle!
The first RCQ cycle of the 2024 calendar year is the final RCQ cycle of the 2023-24 premier season. It runs from January 6 through March 24, and it will award invitations to a Regional Championship later this year in the Standard format. You can find RCQs near you via the Store & Event Locator or your regional organizer's website. In addition, if you're looking for more high-level Standard action, MagicCon: Chicago features the format at the $75K Standard Open on February 23–25!
Fans of Pioneer or Modern can also look forward to high-level competitive events. Over the coming weeks, my column will focus on Modern (the format for this weekend's Magic Online Champions Showcase and the upcoming cycle of Regional Championships) and Pioneer (the format for Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor). However, I will keep my eye on Standard and look forward to seeing all the innovation coming out of the RCQs!