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October Zendikar Rising League Weekend Highlights

October 27, 2020
Adam Styborski

(Editor's Note: League Weekend correspondents Meghan Wolff and Corbin Hosler contributed to this report.)

The first League Weekend of the Zendikar Rising Split is in the books. After two days of intense MPL and Rivals League play, the early leaders in the race to the 2020-21 postseason emerged. With a refreshed Standard metagame headlined by some of the best head-to-head matches across the leagues, the October Zendikar Rising League Weekend kicked the season off with a bang.

Here's the best from two days of competition.

The New Zendikar Rising Standard

A challenging year for Standard may have finally turned the corner for competitors. Last weekend featured a diverse range of decks—with multiple popular picks—across both leagues.

Of course, what players are most interested in is "What actually won?" Here's the win rates for decks with multiple players, excluding mirror matches and across both leagues combined:



Win Rate

Dimir Rogues



Azorius Blink



Gruul Adventures



Temur Ramp



Rakdos Midrange



Jeskai Control



Abzan Doom Foretold



Selesnya Blink



Dimir Control



Matt Nass

Jacob Wilson

Matt Nass and Jacob Wilson were the two Selesnya Blink players, each claiming 8 out of their possible 12 points last weekend with almost identical lists. One of the many decks "blinking" things out of and back onto the battlefield with Yorion, Sky Nomad, this version eschewed Yorion as companion and kept things to just 60 cards in the main deck.

While Selesnya Adventures claimed the highest win rate, the metagame deck of the weekend goes to the seven players who picked up Gruul Adventures—including MPL player Rei Sato who earned a smashing 11 out of 12 possible match wins.

Rei Sato

As it turns out, Edgewall Innkeeper, Bonecrusher Giant, and Embercleave are still a force to be reckoned with as they cut through a field full of Dimir Rogues and Azorius Blink decks.

Edgewall Innkeeper Bonecrusher Giant Embercleave Questing Beast Kazandu Mammoth

The most popular deck of the weekend was Dimir Rogues, and its strong showing proved it was a good pick. But there was a choice made in builds between leaning into Lurrus of the Dream-Den or Shark Typhoon, the former supporting the deck's success in the wider metagame and the latter matching up better for the inevitable mirror matches.

Broadly, Dimir Rogues were popular because it can be played to take advantage of its aggressive and controlling strategies.

Corey Burkhart

"You can be an aggro deck. You can be a control deck. You can really do it all with Rogues," said Rivals League player Corey Burkhart, who went 6-5 with the deck. "It's a matter of getting the list exactly right for the given weekend, and with the help of Zach Allen and Kyle Boggemes (Team RIW) I felt like I had a solid list for the weekend and was very happy to play a bunch of cards matching more of what I would call my play style. "

The range of play and multiple angles of attack—attacking, milling, and permission—all added up to some wild moments.

Burkart leaned into Ruin Crab and Lurrus of the Dream-Den for his Rogues battles, but the Team CFB "sharks" such as MPL player Reid Duke and Rivals League player Luis Scott-Vargas instead had Shark Typhoon—a six-mana enchantment with the flexibility to cycle into a flying creature—as part of their plans instead.

That led to moments like this, from one Hall of Famer to another:

"We expected Dimir and Azorius to be the most popular color combinations. So in a field with tons of permission spells, we really valued the ability to play at instant-speed," Duke explained.

Reid Duke

"Shark Typhoon is particularly great against Azorius because it dodges both permission spells and Skyclave Apparition. Playing the Typhoons also allowed us to keep our threat density up without dipping into weaker cards like Merfolk Windrobber and Ruin Crab. Those cards can be great in the context of a good draw, but there are other times when they don't do much on their own."

With Duke and Scott-Vargas both finishing strong in their respective leagues plus Lurrus-first competitors such as Carlos Romão similarly succeeding, the debate between the two versions won't be settled soon.

Perhaps the biggest surprise—particularly for the players who chose the deck—was the hard fall of Azorius Blink. Yorion, Sky Nomad was back in a big way for the weekend, but the field was prepared to face it.

Théo Moutier

It wasn't all doom and gloom though. Théo Moutier joined Stanislav Cifka and Luis Scott-Vargas with 9 points at the top of the Rivals League standings, and did it with a deck everyone saw coming.

"I chose to play a controlish build of [Azorius Blink], as we thought it was favored against Golgari Adventures and other Yorion decks, while being even against Rogues," Moutier explained. "I worked with Jean-Emmanuel Depraz and Louis Deltour for this event. We basically tried almost every deck for a whole week, Jean-Emmanuel working mostly on Yorion decks, Louis on Rogues and me on Adventures decks. If it wasn't for them, I may have been the only Golgari Adventures player in the event!"

Outside the Big Decks

With so much variety available in Standard, choosing a deck that others wouldn't expect can also be an advantage. Selesnya Blink, noted above, led the way with an impressive result for two competitors—but it wasn't alone as a strong off-metagame pick.

Cycling decks lean on Zenith Flare for victory, and adding more cards with cycling to the graveyard (as Rogues decks do) isn't a drawback but feature.

Simon Görtzen

"I picked cycling because I didn't feel confident in Rogue mirror matches. I figured Cycling couldn't be too bad if they are actively milling you," said Rivals League player Simon Görtzen. Picking up 7 points over the League Weekend was a solid finish as the sole player of his Four-Color Cycling deck. "I won a lot of my matches vs. Rogues, so I'm happy with this gambit."

Though, even there, Dimir Rogues decks pack a few tricks.

Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa

On the MPL side, Hall of Famer Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa leaves the weekend second in the standings after being one of the handful of players on Rakdos Midrange.

"I don't think Rakdos Midrange is the most powerful deck in the format (that's almost certainly Rogues or the right version of Yorion, Sky Nomad)," said Damo da Rosa. "... going into the tournament Yorion was deemed the 'most popular deck' so we thought many of the players would turn to its natural foil (Rogues) while avoiding decks that lose to it (such as Golgari Adventures). Rakdos Midrange has a pretty good matchup versus Rogues while having a bad matchup versus the Scavenging Ooze decks, so it seemed well-positioned in this metagame."

Autumn Burchett

Emma Handy

MPL player Autumn Burchett also netted a positive finish for the weekend, and Rivals League player Emma Handy notched an even record, elevating a deck designed to make big plays every game.

Temur Ramp does exactly what it sounds like: ramps out lands with Beanstalk Giant and Cultivate, quickly unlocking a range of over-the-top cards such as Genesis Ultimatum; Ugin, the Spirit Dragon; Shatterskull Smashing; and Terror of the Peaks.

The results speak for themselves.

"The night before submission I was on Rogues, but I didn't like the deck very much," Burchett explained. "So a couple hours before decklist submission, I decided to play the Rogues matchup with different sideboard plans and found that with the right approach it felt fairly even, meaning I locked in the deck! The deck being an unusual choice has actually worked out for me, which is nice, and the deck's raw power level is super high."

Watching It All

With 71 competitors sharing their matches on their own streams, the experience and excitement of watching Magic reached across social and beyond.

Some players were looking for rematches.

Some players (accidentally) ran back their classic tabletop Magic experience.

And some players shared a feeling everyone that plays Magic knows.

Between matches, Damo da Rosa featured a throwback moment for his audience.

And in matches, players stayed on the edge of their seats.

Of course, one of the best match moments happened when a player actually left theirs.

Catch all the League Weekend action again with the November Zendikar Rising League Weekend, November 7 and 8 beginning at 8 a.m. PST (4 p.m. UTC)—live on!

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