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Metagame Mentor: November 2022 Standard, Pioneer, and Modern Updates

November 10, 2022
Frank Karsten

Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, the weekly column in which I highlight the decks to beat and the latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour.

Today, to support the three possible Constructed formats for Regional Championship Qualifiers (RCQs), I'll showcase the current metagame in Pioneer, Modern, and Standard. These overviews can help acquaint yourself with the state of these formats right before the tabletop release of The Brothers' War on Friday November 18.

Last Weekend's Biggest Events

But as always, I'll begin by highlighting last weekend's biggest events.

The NRG Series Fort Wayne Trial Weekend featured several RCQs that awarded invitations for the second Regional Championship, to be held in the first quarter of 2023. It's always great to see the champions pose with their trophies!

Qualifiers for this second Regional Championship will run through December 18, 2022. To find qualifier events around you, you can use the store and event locator with the filter "Regional Championship Qualifier" (in regions where stores use that filter) and/or visit your regional organizer's website.

While qualifiers for the second Regional Championships are underway, the very first Regional Championships are coming up in little over a week! More on that at the end of this article.

Standard Metagame Snapshot

Standard is a rotating format that currently allows expansion sets from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt forward.

To provide a metagame snapshot, I used all Magic Online decklists from Standard Preliminary, Standard Qualifier, Standard Showcase Challenge, and Standard Challenge events held between October 19 and November 7. In addition, I used top decklists from Magic World Championship XXVIII, The Pizza Box: Standard Slice, Nagoya Premium RCQ, and Castelo RCQ. The majority of these tournaments took place after the World Championship decklists were revealed.

By assigning to each deck a number of points equal to its number of match wins minus its number of match losses, I derived the following record-weighted metagame breakdown. It may be interpreted as a winner's metagame that you can expect to see at the top tables. Archetype names hyperlink to a well-performing decklist closest to the aggregate of the archetype.

Archetype Record-Weighted Metagame Share
1. Grixis Midrange 33.4%
2. Esper Midrange 16.9%
3. Mono-Blue Tempo 12.2%
4. Jund Midrange 7.4%
5. Izzet Tempo 5.6%
6. Esper Legends 5.6%
7. Rakdos Midrange 3.2%
8. Jund Reanimator 1.9%
9. Rakdos Sacrifice 1.9%
10. Boros Reanimator 1.5%
11. Mardu Midrange 1.4%
12. Five-color Humans 1.1%
13. Jeskai Midrange 0.8%
14. Orzhov Midrange 0.8%
15. Naya Humans 0.8%
Other 5.4%

The most-played nonland cards were Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Reckoner Bankbuster, Make Disappear, and Cut Down.

Standard has been in a constant state of flux over the past month. At first, after the ban of The Meathook Massacre shook up the metagame, Esper Midrange emerged as the Deck to Beat. Indeed, Esper Midrange formed the majority of the 4+ win decks from the October Qualifier Weekend and the Standard decks submitted for Magic World Championship XXVIII.

Yet the World Championship also showed that Esper Midrange could be beaten, as Izzet Tempo, Mono-Blue Tempo, and Grixis Midrange all posted positive records against it. We've been seeing more Haughty Djinn decks ever since, and Grixis Midrange has taken over both Jund Midrange and Esper Midrange.

Nathan Steuer not only confirmed that he is the best Magic player in the world right now but also showed that Grixis Midrange was the best way to tackle the October Standard metagame. Relying on the power of Make Disappear, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and Invoke Despair, the deck has a small edge against Esper Midrange at the cost of a slightly worse matchup against the rest of the field.

While we saw Grixis Midrange, Esper Midrange, Mono-Blue Tempo, Jund Midrange, and Izzet Tempo at the World Championship, the sixth archetype in today's Standard breakdown is a fresh development.

Esper Legends is fueled by Plaza of Heroes; Thalia, Guardian of Thraben; and Otawara, Soaring City. These cards enable a completely different take on the color combination. The list shown above has zero noncreature spells to maximize Thalia and a whopping 29 lands to support large numbers of legendary lands.

With enough legendary creatures to reduce the channel cost, Otawara, Soaring City effectively turns into an Island/Unsummon split card, which is worth running four copies of. As always, the lands reveal what is possible in any format, and the deck building possibilities enabled by these legendary lands are still getting explored.

The importance of lands is worth bearing in mind as The Brothers' War enters the format. The new set releases online on Tuesday November 15 and worldwide on Friday November 18. For Standard, I expect that the most important additions will be the nonbasic lands.

Brushland, Llanowar Wastes, Underground River, and Battlefield Forge will improve the mana bases of various multicolor decks. Battlefield Forge and Brushland may single-handedly enable Boros Aggro and Selesnya Aggro as viable options. In addition, Fortified Beachhead will enable a white-blue Soldiers archetype, and Mishra's Foundry will boost all kinds of mono-color decks.

The set introduces many powerful spells as well, of course. In particular, the dream of melding Urza, Lord Protector; Mishra, Claimed by Gix; or Titania, Voice of Gaea should get your brewing gears turning. But in the end, mana bases form the foundation of a format, and the consistency at which you can cast your spells or use your mana is the main driver of a deck's competitive viability. Since The Brothers' War introduced many powerful nonbasic lands, I think it will have a large impact on the format, and it'll be exciting to see how Standard will develop.

Pioneer Metagame Snapshot

Pioneer is a nonrotating format based on expansion sets and core sets from Return to Ravnica forward.

To provide a metagame snapshot, I used all Magic Online decklists from Pioneer Preliminary and Pioneer Challenge events held between October 19 and November 7. In addition, I used top decklists from the GIGA Pioneer at Axion Now's The Gathering, RCQ at Contra Hechizo, RCQ at RNG Games, RCQ at CM Games Cedar Bluff, and NRG Series $5K Trial Fort Wayne.

Archetype Record-Weighted Metagame Share
1. Green Devotion 16.5%
2. Izzet Phoenix 13.4% ↑↑
3. Rakdos Midrange 11.6% ↓↓
4. Mono-White Humans 6.5%
5. Azorius Control 5.5%
6. Bant Spirits 4.5%
7. Keruga Fires 4.1% ↑↑
8. Lotus Field 4.0%
9. Dimir Control 3.9% ↑↑
10. Rakdos Sacrifice 3.4%
11. Abzan Greasefang 3.2% ↓↓
12. Enigmatic Incarnation 3.2%
13. Gruul Stompy 2.1%
14. Mono-Blue Spirits 1.5%
15. Zombies 1.3%
Other 15.1%

The most-played nonland cards were Fatal Push, Thoughtseize, and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.

In the table, I've added up and down arrows to signify the biggest changes compared to last month's Pioneer metagame roundup. As you can see, Izzet Phoenix has been on the rise, whereas Rakdos Midrange and Abzan Greasefang took a plunge.

Yet the biggest news is the re-emergence of two archetypes: Keruga Fires and Dimir Control. They were not a significant part of last month's competitive metagame, but they have risen up in the ranks in recent weeks. If you plan to compete in an upcoming Pioneer event, then it's useful to be aware of these decks.

Keruga Fires is built around Keruga, the Macrosage and Fires of Invention. Fires of Invention essentially doubles up your mana while allowing you to spend your lands on Kenrith, the Returned King's activated abilities. Keruga, the Macrosage comes with a substantial companion restriction, but it can create massive card advantage, especially when you control Fires of Invention.

After Dominaria United introduced Temporary Lockdown and Leyline Binding, many players were excited to try these enchantments in Enigmatic Incarnation shells. It took a while for deck builders to catch on to their synergy with Keruga, the Macrosage, but based on recent results, the archetype has legs.

Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif started a trend by brewing a Dimir Control deck with Narset, Parter of Veils. Besides a singleton Ertai Resurrected, there aren't any notable gains from Dominaria United, but the color pair has always had a good combination of countermagic, discard, spot removal, card draw. Pioneer even offers Extinction Event as a sweeper.

The Brothers' War will surely also have an impact on Pioneer. Besides the lands—Brushland in particular could improve the mana base of Selesnya Aura decks—the set offers various new toolbox artifacts for Karn, the Great Creator. For example, Cityscape Leveler, Haywire Mite, The Stone Brain, Woodcaller Automaton, and The Stasis Coffin. Green Devotion remains on top of the format, and it can only get better.

Another interesting new option is Diabolic Intent, which could enable combos in sacrifice-themed decks. Speaking of combos, how about Phyrexian Portal in a Refurbish deck? Arcane Proxy to copy See the Truth? Gwenna, Eyes of Gaea to go infinite with Acererak the Archlich and Kinnan, Bonder Prodigy? Fauna Shaman in a Prized Amalgam deck? Yotian Dissident in Hardened Scales? There are options aplenty, and with the first Regional Championships fast approaching, the rewards for breaking the format with a spicy brew can be enormous.

Modern Metagame Snapshot

Modern is a nonrotating format based on expansion sets, core sets, and Modern Horizons sets from Eight Edition forward.

To provide a metagame snapshot, I used all Magic Online decklists from Modern Preliminary and Modern Challenge events held between October 19 and November 7. In addition, I used top decklists from the GIGA Modern at Axion Now's The Gathering, Swiss Magic Masters 2022, NRG Series $5K Trial Newark, and Magic 30 Beta Draft Championship.

Archetype Record-Weighted Metagame Share
1. Izzet Murktide 12.5% ↑↑
2. Indomitable Creativity 10.7%
3. Hammer Time 8.8%
4. Jeskai Breach 7.2%
5. Four-Color Omnath 5.5%
6. Rakdos Undying 5.4%
7. Rhinos 4.1%
8. Burn 3.6%
9. Amulet Titan 3.5%
10. Yawgmoth 3.0%
11. Mono-Green Tron 2.8%
12. Merfolk 2.8%
13. Azorius Control 2.6%
14. Domain Zoo 2.5%
15. Living End 2.4%
Other 22.6%

The most-played nonland cards were Lightning Bolt; Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer; and Expressive Iteration.

The metagame has not seen major upheavals after the ban of Yorion, Sky Nomad. Izzet Murktide put up several good finishes over the past few weeks, and Four-Color Omnath players have embraced different companions.

Izzet Murktide remains a good deck choice in Modern, with game against the field. It combines cheap cantrips, efficient interactive spells, and the best one- or two-mana threats in the Izzet colors to quickly overpower everyone.

The main development is that most lists have started to run Blood Moon over Archmage's Charm. Four-color decks like Indomitable Creativity are weak to Blood Moon, and Abundant Growth has been disappearing after the Yorion ban. As a result, Blood Moon is well-positioned right now, and you should keep it in mind when deciding which lands to fetch.

Omnath, Locus of Creation remains exceptionally powerful when combined with fetch lands, and companions other than Yorion, Sky Nomad are viable as well. Four-Color Omnath players have been trying out Kaheera, the Orphanguard and Keruga, the Macrosage, and while there is no consensus yet, Kaheera builds have put up the best numbers so far.

Compared to the 80-card lists of yore, typical cuts have been Ice-Fang Coatl, Abundant Growth, and the Traverse the Ulvenwald package. The aggregate list over the past few weeks is more controlling, featuring spells like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Leyline Binding. But given that there are so many different builds going around, this probably isn't even the deck's final form yet.

Modern is a large format, so new expansion sets are unlikely to cause enormous changes. However, Third Path Iconoclast has my attention. Young Pyromancer nearly won a Modern Pro Tour in 2018, and this new variant can be triggered via Mishra's Bauble or Mox Amber. Moreover, it produces artifacts, which boosts your Urza's Saga tokens and helps cast Thought Monitor. In an artifact-centric go-wide brew, Third Path Iconoclast could easily make a Modern impact.

Another thing that is always worth doing when evaluating new sets for Modern is to look for one-mana cards with unique effects, as they might be worth including in decks with Urza's Saga or Chord of Calling. From The Brothers' War, Haywire Mite stands out as an interactive option.

Looking Ahead

This weekend, November 11-13, highlights include the Black Lotus Prerelease at the Magic Summit and the $30K Pioneer tournament at SCG CON Philadelphia.

Subsequently, the first Regional Championship season will begin! The (tentative) schedule is as follows:

Format: For these Regional Championships, the format is Pioneer, and The Brothers' War will be legal.

Decklists: Regional Championships will use open decklists, to be submitted by competitors on MTG Melee on the day before the event starts. Exact details and timing are provided by the local organizer. Once the event gets underway, decklists will become publicly available on MTG Melee.

Prizes: Besides monetary prizes, top players from each Regional Championship—the exact number is region-dependent—qualify for the first Pro Tour, to be held at Magic Con: Philadelphia on February 17–19. Additionally, all winners will be invited to the Magic World Championship XXIX in 2023, as well as the runners-up from U.S.A., Japan, and Europe.

I'm excited to see the next step in premier play take shape! Throughout this Regional Championship season, my column will have you covered with all the Pioneer metagame developments and event summaries every Thursday.

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