The MPL Gauntlet and Rivals Gauntlet will unfold on September 3–5. For the 24 competitors in each event (who qualified via the MPL, Rivals League, or Challenger Gauntlet) it will be one of the most important tournaments they will ever play. After all, four invitations to Magic World Championship XXVII are on the line—three in the MPL Gauntlet; one in the Rivals Gauntlet.
The format for both the MPL Gauntlet and the Rivals Gauntlet is Standard. It's the last premier Standard event featuring Throne of Eldraine, Theros: Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and Core Set 2021, so it'll be a proper goodbye to old favorites and tenacious staples right before rotation.
Rivals Gauntlet Metagame Breakdown
The metagame at the Rivals Gauntlet breaks down as follows.
|Archetype||Count||% of Field|
I did not expect major Standard upheavals, but the Rivals Gauntlet still managed to surprise me.
First and foremost, Jeskai Mutate has returned with a vengeance. Featuring a five-card combo—
The surprises don't stop at Jeskai Mutate. For example, one Dimir Rogues player replaced
But the biggest impact on Standard since the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms has been the rise of Izzet Control. At the Challenger Gauntlet, Noriyuki Mori "went rogue" with
Yet an edge could still be found. A team of six veterans—three from the Rivals Gauntlet; three from the MPL Gauntlet—innovated by adding
While this is a nice innovation, in the Rivals Gauntlet it's all going to come down to your matchup against Jeskai Mutate, the most popular archetype. And I fear that Izzet Control lacks the answers needed in that matchup, as
The spiciest deck in the field, which surely no one was prepared for, is Sultai Gyruda. The game plan of this deck is to ramp into a turn-four or turn-five
MPL Gauntlet Metagame Breakdown
|Archetype||Count||% of Field|
When comparing the Standard metagame in the MPL Gauntlet to the one in the Rivals Gauntlet, there are several notable differences. For example, Jeskai Mutate may have been the most popular archetype in the Rivals Gauntlet, but it's "only" the second-most popular in the MPL Gauntlet.
Instead, the most-popular archetype is Sultai Ultimatum. One-third of the players in the MPL Gauntlet chose this deck, a choice that one could describe as "conservative". Perhaps they are banking on the experience they've gotten with Sultai Ultimatum over the last year or so, or perhaps they simply liked the way the deck played. Regardless, even though the decklists didn't look particularly innovative, ramping into
A final difference between the two gauntlets is that Jeskai Cycling, which was absent in the Rivals Gauntlet, is the deck of choice for two players in the MPL Gauntlet. In my experience, Jeskai Cycling has a positive matchup against Sultai Ultimatum, so it seems like a well-positioned choice for the MPL Gauntlet. In any case, matchups in Standard tend to be fairly close, so it'll all come down to execution—tactical sequencing, clever sideboarding, and optimal in-game decisions. With the field absolutely stacked with talent, matches are bound to be tight.
This weekend, the final four seats for the Magic World Championship XXVII will be claimed. To do so, the players can take advantage of all the Standard knowledge they've gathered over the past year, including all the matches they've played against longtime staples of the format.
The most-played nonland card across both events combined is
The three-day broadcast begins Friday September 3 at 9 a.m. PT—watch the action live at twitch.tv/magic!