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Players Tour Online Standard Metagame Preview

June 09, 2020
Frank Karsten

The June 1, 2020 Banned and Restricted announcement shook Standard. Agent of Treachery and Fires of Invention were banned, removing the dominant Jeskai Lukka deck from the metagame. Moreover, the companion rules were changed: Now you have to pay three mana to put your companion from your sideboard into your hand, and you can only do this as a sorcery, which considerably weakens them.

So what does the new Standard metagame look like? Last weekend's Red Bull Untapped Online Qualifiers for Germany and Spain gave us a first taste. In total, 414 Standard decklists were registered: 157 for the Germany Qualifier and 257 for the Spain Qualifier. After eight rounds of Swiss, 8 players advanced to Day 2 in the Germany Qualifier, and 16 players advanced to Day 2 in the Spain Qualifier. The combined metagame breakdown is shown below. Each archetype name links to the highest-placing decklist of that type.

Archetype Companion % Field on Day 1 % Field on Day 2
Temur Reclamation - 16.7% 33.3%
Jund Sacrifice - 9.4% 25.0%
Mono-Red Aggro - 8.9% 8.3%
Azorius Control Yorion, Sky Nomad 5.8% 8.3%
Boros Cycling Lurrus of the Dream-Den 4.8% 4.2%
Temur Adventure - 4.8% 4.2%
Bant Ramp Yorion, Sky Nomad 3.9% 4.2%
Bant Ramp - 3.6%  
Boros Cycling - 3.6%  
Rakdos Sacrifice - 3.1% 4.2%
Gruul Aggro - 2.4% 4.2%
All That Glitters Lurrus of the Dream-Den 2.4%  
Sultai Ramp - 2.2%  
Simic Flash - 1.9%  
Mono-Green Stompy - 1.9%  
Dimir Flash - 1.4%  
Esper Control Yorion, Sky Nomad 1.4%  
Temur Flash - 1.2%  
Mardu Winota - 1.2%  
Azorius Skies - 1.0%  
Gruul Dinosaurs - 1.0%  
Azorius Control - 1.0%  
Mardu Knights - 1.0%  
Esper Control - 0.7%  
Mardu Sacrifice - 0.7%  
Simic Mutate Umori, the Collector 0.5% 4.2%
Other   13.3% 0.0%

Three quick methodological notes:

  • The numbers are based on adding up all Day 1 and Day 2 decklists from both events, and then dividing by 414 and 24, respectively.
  • For consistency, I verified archetypes and made some corrections from what was originally reported for the breakdown above.
  • I subdivided decks based on the use of a companion. For example, Boros Cycling with Lurrus is listed as a separate archetype from Boros Cycling without a companion.

In total only 24% of the players used a companion, which represents a huge decrease compared to a few weeks ago. For example, most Rakdos Sacrifice players dropped Lurrus of the Dream-Den and almost all Mono-Red Aggro players avoided Obosh, the Preypiercer. Of the players who did opt for a companion, Yorion, Sky Nomad (12%) and Lurrus of the Dream-Den (9%) were the most popular choices.

To define the new Standard metagame, let's go over the seven most popular decks according to Day 1 percentage.

Temur Reclamation – 16.7%

Wilderness Reclamation Expansion // Explosion

Before the June 1 Banned and Restricted announcement, Temur Reclamation was already a top-tier deck, capable of finishing games with Wilderness Reclamation-fueled Expansion // Explosions. As it was completely untouched by the changes to Standard, it does not come as a surprise that it was the most popular choice at the Red Bull Untapped Qualifiers.

The deck was not only popular but also successful. Temur Reclamation was the deck chosen by one-third of the players who made Day 2—a very strong conversion rate. What's more, it took down both events.

Tellingly, the nonland part of their main decks was only two cards apart. Stefan Günther had one copy of Storm's Wrath instead of 1 Flame Sweep, as well as one Aether Gust instead of one Scorching Dragonfire. The core of the deck is well set. Undeniably, Temur Reclamation is "The Deck To Beat" in Standard right now.

Jund Sacrifice – 9.4%

Cauldron Familiar Witch's Oven

Jund Sacrifice exploits Cauldron Familiar plus Witch's Oven while generating value with Trail of Crumbs. Eventually, with a Mayhem Devil on the table, it's possible to finish off opponents with a single Bolas's Citadel activation.

Jund Sacrifice was already strong a few weeks ago and emerged completely unscathed from the changes to Standard, so its popularity does not come as a surprise. The deck also had an excellent conversion rate, putting 6 players in Day 2. Jund Sacrifice is the second "Deck To Beat" in Standard right now.

Mono-Red Aggro – 8.9%

Embercleave Anax, Hardened in the Forge

No matter the format, there will always be a Mono-Red Aggro archetype with cheap creatures to pressure an opponent's life total and burn spells to finish them off. Mono-Red appears reasonably well positioned in the metagame right now because, due to the Fires of Invention ban, there are now fewer Deafening Clarions around.

What stands out is that Embercleave and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell are back. Before the June 1 Banned and Restricted announcement the best Mono-Red decks were built around Obosh, the Preypiercer, but the difference between five mana and eight mana for putting Obosh into play is humongous for an aggro deck. When it's no longer possible to curve out cleanly into a fifth turn Obosh, it's now better to fall back on Embercleave and Torbran, Thane of Red Fell as the top end. The resulting deck is just like the builds we saw before the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths.

Azorius Control (Yorion, Sky Nomad) – 5.8%

Shark Typhoon Shatter the Sky

After three archetypes without a companion, we finally get to the first one with. Azorius Control, as always, still wants to counter, destroy, bounce, and nullify opposing threats. Winning is an afterthought, and when you're in control of the game and have all the time in the world, the difference between a 5-mana and an 8-mana Yorion, Sky Nomad is slim.

Obviously, Yorion has gotten worse as a result of the companion rule change. But the deck building restriction is still relatively easy to adapt to, especially with the high power level in Standard. The power level disparity is small, and there isn't a huge gap between your 30th and 80th card. For a good stuff control deck, sacrificing a little bit of consistency for an expensive win condition that still provides inevitability and value in the late-game remains worthwhile.

Boros Cycling (Lurrus of the Dream-Den) – 4.8%

Flourishing Fox Zenith Flare

Cycling decks are here to stay. With Flourishing Fox and Zenith Flare, they have the best one-drops and best burn spells of all aggro decks in the format.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den was never essential to the strategy. At the Red Bull Untapped qualifiers, the majority of the Boros Cycling players (4.8% of the Day 1 field) still used Lurrus, but there was also a minority of the Boros Cycling players (3.6% of the Day 1 field) that rumbled without a companion. These players gained access to such cards as Imposing Vantasaur, Irencrag Pyromancer, and Reptilian Reflection instead, but I don't think that's worth it. These cards only improve the deck by a very small amount and even a six-mana Lurrus outweighs that, especially in the longer grindy games.

Temur Adventure – 4.8%

Lucky Clover Fae of Wishes

Temur Adventure is still the best home for Edgewall Innkeeper and Lucky Clover, and it was left unaffected by the changes to Standard.

The deck's positioning in the metagame is a little questionable because it used to prey on Jeskai Lukka, which has now disappeared, while struggling against Temur Reclamation, the new top dog. Nevertheless, the core of Temur Adventure remains intact and solid as ever.

Bant Ramp (Yorion, Sky Nomad) – 3.9%

Growth Spiral Nissa, Who Shakes the World

Bant Ramp did not draw as many Yorion, Sky Nomad enthusiasts as Azorius Control, but it's still a factor in the metagame.

It's noteworthy that Hydroid Krasis and Nissa, Who Shakes the World are back as four-ofs. This makes sense since these players no longer fear them getting stolen by the opponent's Agent of Treachery. In the post-ban Standard, expensive threats have gotten a little better as there is no risk of them backfiring.

Conclusion

The seven archetypes I highlighted, which together represent over half of the field at the Red Bull Untapped Online Country Qualifiers, form an early gauntlet for the newly changed Standard. In terms of Day 2 conversion rates, Temur Reclamation and Jund Sacrifice were the frontrunners,and it's clear that companions are no longer the dominant force in the format.

Overall, this metagame looks very similar to the Standard we had right before the release of Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths with a few new twists:

  • Temur Reclamation gained Shark Typhoon to solve its vulnerability to Teferi, Time Raveler;
  • Fires of Invention was banned, eliminating Jeskai Fires as an archetype;
  • Azorius Control now plays 80 cards;
  • And Boros Cycling emerged as a brand new archetype.

By and large, it's like the clock was rewound two months.

The next question is "How do we attack this metagame?" Should Temur Reclamation be attacked with aggro strategies, with Teferi, Time Raveler, or with something else entirely? What are the vulnerabilities of Jund Sacrifice? Are there under-the-radar decks that can break the format? How can we best use the companions from Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths under the new rules?

These and other questions will be on the minds of Players Tour competitors this week.

Indeed, on Saturday June 13, the first pair of online Players Tour events will take place on MTG Arena, with a $150,000 prize pool per event. I'm excited to see what decks the competitors will bring, and I'll be back next week with an analysis of the Standard metagame developments that emerge from the first Players Tour Online weekend.

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