Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, the weekly column in which I highlight the decks to beat and the latest Constructed developments in competitive Magic. This week's edition is going to be a special one because the yearly pinnacle of Magic premier play—Magic World Championship XXVIII—begins tomorrow!
In total, 32 players are invited: reigning Magic World Champion Yuta Takahashi, top-finishing players from the Innistrad Championship, Neon Dynasty Championship, and New Capenna Championship, and top leaderboard competitors from the 2021–22 season. The eventual winner will take home their share of $500,000 in prizes and the opportunity to have their likeness featured on a future Magic: The Gathering card.
The World Championship is a three-day event featuring Domaria United Draft, Standard, and Explorer. Live coverage begins Friday October 28 at 9 a.m. PT on twitch.tv/magic. Around the same time, decklists will be published on the Magic World Championship XXVIII event page. But the Constructed metagame breakdowns are available today, so let's waste no time and dive right in.
Explorer Metagame Breakdown
The World Championship features six rounds of Explorer on Saturday October 29. Explorer, introduced in April 2022, is a true-to-paper format that features all Pioneer-legal cards on MTG Arena. Over time, all the Pioneer cards that matter will be added to MTG Arena, but at the moment, the formats and their metagames differ. For example,
The Explorer deck choices of the 32 World Championship competitors break down as follows.
|Number of Players
|Percentage of Field
The biggest surprise is that only one player registered Rakdos Midrange. Last week in my format primer, I wrote that the Explorer metagame "largely revolves around Rakdos Midrange." It's the most popular deck on the MTG Arena ladder, it's one of the pillars of Pioneer, and it's not missing any critical cards in the online format. It also gained
Instead, the most-played archetypes are Abzan Greasefang, Rakdos Sacrifice, and Mono-Blue Spirits. I can only imagine that their pilots tested the matchup against Rakdos Midrange in depth at the highest level of play, tuned their lists, and were satisfied with the results. Indeed, Rakdos Midrange players may struggle against
Although Rakdos Midrange can theoretically fix all problems after sideboard, there are only 15 slots. The linear strategies in Explorer are as powerful as they are diverse, and it's easy to go over the top of Rakdos Midrange. World Championship competitors flocked to a variety of synergy-driven archetypes, and the resulting metagame is different than what many were expecting. Even Temur
These deck choices, made by the very best in the game, may have ripple effects not only on the Explorer metagame at large but also on the Pioneer metagame going forward. All 32 Explorer decklists will be published on the Magic World Championship XXVIII event page on Friday October 28. But in more broad strokes, let me give a short summary of each archetype below.
Abzan Greasefang (8 players): The dream for this combo deck is to put
Rakdos Sacrifice (7 players): The trio of
Mono-Blue Spirits (5 players): This tribal tempo deck puts down a fast clock with
Jund Creativity (1 player): This deck also plans to cheat out
Selesnya Angels (1 player): The Angel tribe is enabled by
Azorius Control (1 player): This deck says no to creatures with
Rakdos Midrange (1 player): Featuring efficient removal like
Jund Midrange (1 player): This is basically Rakdos Midrange splashing for
Orzhov Midrange (1 player): This is another
Between the three most-played decks, I anticipate that Rakdos Sacrifice is slightly favored against Mono-Blue Spirits (due to
If I would have to pick one archetype that is most poised for success in this metagame, then I'd pick Mono-Blue Spirits. Combo decks in various forms are popular in the World Championship metagame, and they are traditionally weak to disruption plus a fast clock. Mono-Blue Spirits has both.
Standard Metagame Breakdown
The Swiss portion of the World Championship features five rounds of Standard, starting right after the conclusion of the Draft on Friday October 28. The Top 4 double-elimination playoffs on Sunday October 30 are all Standard as well.
The Standard deck choices of the 32 World Championship competitors break down as follows.
|Number of Players
|Percentage of Field
Last week in my format primer, I explained why Esper Midrange was "definitive Deck To Beat in Standard right now". The raw card quality is off the charts, and the recent ban of
Esper Midrange, especially a version tuned for the mirror match, feels like a relatively safe choice. Five-set Standard format has a relatively small card pool, especially when compared to Explorer. This means that it's more difficult to find a critical mass of synergistic cards to go "over the top" of the dominant midrange deck. And even when you do, it's hard to obtain a massive edge over a deck that can board in countermagic. The available combo, engine, and ramp options pale in comparison to the ones that Explorer players have access to.
Another aspect is that many World Championship competitors are more renowned for their technical play than for their deck building ingenuity. In five-set Standard, you can never truly go wrong with a midrange deck, and spending your limited preparation time to learn the ins and outs of the mirror matchup is a reasonable call.
Yet that doesn't mean that it's impossible to beat Esper Midrange. Several World Championship competitors are trying, for example by relying on
All 32 Standard decklists will be published on the Magic World Championship XXVIII event page on Friday October 28. But in more broad strokes, let me give a short summary of each archetype below.
Esper Midrange (22 players): The typical mana curve features
Jund Midrange (2 players): This collection of the best midrange cards in black, green, and red is brought to you by
Jund Reanimator (2 players): This archetype arguably has the most powerful late game in the format: copying
Grixis Midrange (1 player): Black midrange decks also come in a Grixis variant. This color combination has access to
Mardu Midrange (1 player): Without a Streets of New Capenna land, the mana base of Mardu is worse than the other three-color combinations. But its three-mana plays are worth it, as you gain access to
Mono-Blue Tempo (1 player): Mono-Blue Tempo contains an enormous amount of instant and sorcery spells to boost
Izzet Tempo (1 player): One could summarize this as a Mono-Blue Tempo deck splashing for
Bant Tokens (1 player):
Azorius Control (1 player): This deck counters spells with
In Standard, it's Esper Midrange against the world. This surely was clear to the World Championship competitors beforehand, and they had all the incentives in the world to find a way to beat Esper Midrange. Given that ten players submitted a non-Esper deck, and assuming they didn't make a mistake or decided to take a huge metagame gamble, they must believe that they have a good matchup against Esper. I'm excited to see if they are right and if any of them will hoist the trophy at the end.
If I would have to pick one non-Esper archetype that is most poised for success in this metagame, then I'd pick Jund Reanimator, as a turn-five