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Players Tour Finals Metagame Breakdown

July 24, 2020
Frank Karsten

It's almost here: The Players Tour Finals begins tomorrow at 9 a.m. PDT. Just 145 players qualified for the Players Tour Finals. In addition to the 24 members of the Magic Pro League, invitations were given out to top Players Tour competitors, MagicFest Online Season Finals winners and finalists, and 2020 Partial Season Grand Prix winners. They will compete this weekend for a $250,000 prize pool and for invitations to the 2020 Season Grand Finals.

The format for all 14 Swiss rounds and the Top 8 is Standard. Let's take a look at the Standard metagame breakdown for this prestigious event.

Deck Archetype Number of Players Percentage of Field
Temur Reclamation 57 39.3%
Four-Color Reclamation 22 15.2%
Bant Ramp 17 11.7%
Mono-Green Aggro 9 6.2%
Mono-White Aggro 8 5.5%
Jund Sacrifice 7 4.8%
Rakdos Sacrifice 6 4.1%
Azorius Control 3 2.1%
Esper Midrange 3 2.1%
Sultai Ramp 2 1.4%
Mono-Red Aggro 2 1.4%
Bant Flash 1 0.7%
Four-Color Yorion 1 0.7%
Rakdos Knights 1 0.7%
Four-Color Planeswalkers 1 0.7%
Sultai Graveyard 1 0.7%
Esper Doom 1 0.7%
Mono-Black Aggro 1 0.7%
Esper Rats 1 0.7%
Mardu Winota 1 0.7%

Wilderness Reclamation and Growth Spiral strategies have been dominating Standard for months, so their enormous metagame shares did not come as a surprise. Combining Temur Reclamation and Four-Color Reclamation, 54.5% of the metagame is running Wilderness Reclamation. And if we add in Bant Ramp, Sultai Ramp, and Bant Flash, then a total of 68.3% of the field is running Growth Spiral. These numbers show just how dominant these strategies are.

Wilderness Reclamation Growth Spiral

Compared to the Players Tour Online events held just over a month ago, the metagame is similar, but with even more Reclamation decks than before. Core Set 2021 added some new options, but the most common route to victory in Standard is still an enormous end-step Explosion.

So how were players planning to beat Temur Reclamation? Well, one way is via Teferi, Time Raveler, which nullifies their countermagic and prevents them from casting those game-winning Explosions. Most Four-Color Reclamation and Bant Ramp players were happy to put four copies of Teferi in their Growth Spiral decks.

Teferi, Time Raveler

Another approach was trying to go under Temur Reclamation with aggressive creatures. Mono-Green Aggro can come out of the gates quickly with Pelt Collector, and it gained Scavenging Ooze in Core Set 2021 as a solid two-drop that can answer Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath in the mid-game.

Pelt Collector Scavenging Ooze

But I'm even more excited by Mono-White Aggro, which didn't really exist in its current form before Core Set 2021.

Last weekend, the Red Bull Untapped International Qualifier #3 was won by Hoshi Yuki, who brought a Mono-White Aggro deck featuring 16 one-drop creatures, combined with Venerated Loxodon, Glorious Anthem, and Basri's Solidarity to boost them. He ran over Temur Reclamation all weekend, which must have inspired eight Players Tour Finals competitors to pick up the deck. It's the fifth-most played archetype at the Players Tour Finals and my personal favorite.

Selfless Savior Glorious Anthem Venerated Loxodon

This deck can easily win on turn four or five, beating Reclamation players before they've had time to set up. Additionally, it dodges Aether Gust and Mystical Dispute, both of which are prevalent main deck inclusions. Meanwhile, Cry of the Carnarium is almost nowhere to be seen. As a result, Mono-White Aggro is well-positioned right now.

Aether Gust Mystical Dispute Cry of the Carnarium

The deck also exploits the fact that most Temur Reclamation players have removed all red removal spells from their main decks, instead filling their flex slots with Negate and Brazen Borrower. This provides them with an edge in the mirror match, which makes sense in the current Standard metagame, but it's also exploitable. Across all 57 Temur Reclamation lists, there's basically no removal at all main deck, apart from a few stray Storm's Wrath or Scorching Dragonfire. This was different at the Players Tour Online weekends just over a month ago, and it represents an opportunity that aggro players are now trying to take advantage of.

Storm's Wrath Scorching Dragonfire

The question is: Can Temur Reclamation players swing their aggro matchups after sideboard? On average at the Players Tour Finals, a Temur Reclamation sideboard has about eight anti-aggro cards: 2.3 Bonecrusher Giant, 1.8 Scorching Dragonfire, 1.2 Elder Gargaroth, 1.2 Storm's Wrath, 1.0 Nightpack Ambusher, and 0.7 Flame Sweep. These are averages, and numbers differ across decklists, but the thing I want to point out that Flame Sweep is played the least, despite being the most effective option against Mono-White Aggro.

Bonecrusher Giant Elder Gargaroth Flame Sweep

Bonecrusher Giant and Scorching Dragonfire trade unfavorably against one-mana creatures; Elder Gargaroth and Nightpack Ambusher fall to Chop Down; and Storm's Wrath is both slow and ineffective when most white creatures have a death trigger or a form of indestructability. To me, Mono-White Aggro looks well-positioned in this field, and I'm excited to see how it will perform at the big stage.

Quick Deck Overviews

All Players Tour Finals decklists will be published on the Players Tour Finals event page at the beginning of Round 1 on Saturday, July 25. In the meantime, I can provide a quick description of every deck and highlight some of their Core Set 2021 additions.

Temur Reclamation (57 players): Temur Reclamation is the most-played deck by far. It did not gain much from Core Set 2021, other than maybe Elder Gargaroth in the sideboard.

Four-Color Reclamation (22 players): It's Temur Reclamation, but with Teferi, Time Raveler and/or Dovin's Veto. Splashing white comes at the cost of a mana base that is less consistent and needs more tapped lands. This hurts against aggressive decks, but the powerful white cards should give an edge against Temur Reclamation.

Bant Ramp (17 players): This is the most popular Growth Spiral deck without Wilderness Reclamation. Growth Spiral and Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath allow you to play the most powerful top-end threats in Standard ahead of the curve, and since they always draw a card, your mana accelerants are never dead in the late game. Some players slotted in Core Set 2021's Jolrael, Mwonvuli Recluse, which is easy to trigger and adds some early board presence.

Mono-Green Aggro (9 players): This is the most popular aggro deck. Pelt Collector and Questing Beast set up a quick clock, and Scavenging Ooze is a nice Core Set 2021 addition that has already proven itself in Modern. Some players also included Primal Might as a piece of interaction that can turn into a Fireball against creatureless opponents.

Mono-White Aggro (8 players): As I already explained, I am excited by the simple combination of one-drops and global boosts. This deck will beat down very hard and very fast, potentially topping Temur Reclamation as early as turn four or five.

Jund Sacrifice (7 players): The main sacrifice engine is Cauldron Familiar plus Witch's Oven. Once you add Trail of Crumbs or Mayhem Devil, you're really doing it, and you should have no problem grinding out other creature decks. A few players added Solemn Simulacrum from Core Set 2021.

Rakdos Sacrifice (6 players): With Gutterbones and Dreadhorde Butcher instead of Gilded Goose and Trail of Crumbs, as well as a smoother mana base, this deck can go faster, giving it an edge against Temur Reclamation compared to Jund Sacrifice.

Azorius Control (3 players): Control players are still saying "No." to spells with countermagic and "No." to creatures with removal. The most popular version relies on Yorion, Sky Nomad, along with enchantments and planeswalkers to blink for profit.

Esper Midrange (3 players): Three Japanese players registered a brew that is unlike anything I had seen before. It can curve out with Seasoned Hallowblade into Rotting Regisaur into Sphinx of Foresight, which most Temur Reclamation players lack proper answers to. Indeed, these creatures are not affected by Aether Gust, and they shrug off Scorching Dragonfire and Bonecrusher Giant. Esper Midrange also features interactive cards like Teferi, Time Raveler and Mystical Dispute, so I can only hope that this brew might indeed be the Temur Reclamation killer that we're hoping for.

Sultai Ramp (2 players): If you don't want to splash white in your Growth Spiral deck, then you can lean into black for cards like Extinction Event, Casualties of War, and Thought Distortion.

Mono-Red Aggro (2 players): Curving out with aggressive red creatures and boosting them with Embercleave or Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is still a solid plan.

Bant Flash (1 player): When you hold four mana up on turn four, your opponent never knows whether to play around Nightpack Ambusher or Frilled Mystic. The white splash unlocks Teferi, Time Raveler, which can bounce Frilled Mystic for value.

Four-Color Yorion (1 player): Main deck Yorion, Sky Nomad can blink Oath of Kaya and other permanents for value. Green is for Mythos of Nethroi.

Rakdos Knights (1 player): Tournament Grounds helps cast Knight of the Ebon Legion on turn one and Embercleave on turn four. If the equipment is successfully attached to Rotting Regisaur, it's usually game over.

Four-Color Planeswalkers (1 player): It's always nice to see Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God, this time in a control shell that splashes for Teferi, Time Raveler. The mana base is tied together by Interplanar Beacon.

Sultai Graveyard (1 player): This is a spicy choice made possible by Silversmote Ghoul from Core Set 2021. You mill yourself with Glowspore Shaman and the adventure part of Merfolk Secretkeeper, cast Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath, gain 3 life, and bring back Silversmote Ghoul for free.

Esper Doom (1 player): It's basically an Esper Control deck that can generate value by sacrificing enchantments like Oath of Kaya to Doom Foretold and then bringing them back with Dance of the Manse.

Mono-Black Aggro (1 player): I was expecting to tell you how good it feels to slap Demonic Embrace on Rotting Regisaur, but this specific list plays neither of these cards. There's still an aggressive curve of black creatures, but Kitesail Freebooter, Hunted Nightmare, and Duress fill out the deck instead.

Esper Rats (1 player): It's basically the Orzhov Yorion deck that broke out in the last Players Tour Online weekend, but with a blue splash for—you guessed it—Teferi, Time Raveler. Okay, there are a few other blue cards as well.

Mardu Winota (1 player): This deck goes wide with Raise the Alarm and Lazotep Reaver to get multiple triggers from Winota, Joiner of Forces. Core Set 2021 added a lot: There's Selfless Savior to trigger and protect Winota, as well as Basri's Lieutenant and Kitesail Freebooter to hit with Winota. This is yet another deck that I'd be excited to watch.

The Players Tour Finals live broadcast on starts both Saturday, July 25 and Sunday, July 26 at 9 a.m. PDT. Tune in to see if Mono-White Aggro can triumph over all the Growth Spiral decks, to see if this cool Esper Midrange deck can beat Temur Reclamation, and 145 of the best players in the world battle for $250,000 in prizes!

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