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Standard Secrets at the Grand Finals

October 10, 2020
Corbin Hosler

Just 24 hours before decklists were due for the 2020 Season Grand Finals, Autumn Burchett and Emma Handy were feeling somewhat dejected. They had spent the previous week trying to find a fresh way to attack the Standard metagame but were struggling to break any new ground in a field sure to be dominated by Omnath, Locus of Creation.

As the clock for decklist submission ticked down to its literal final hours, the duo took one last look over the metagame and the data they had available. They thought more about that small field sure to be dominated by Omnath, and Handy had a small revelation.

Autumn Burchett

Emma Handy

"We came up with this about nine hours before submission," Handy recalled. "It was 1 or 2 a.m. and we are looking over lists and go ‘wait, we don't think Rakdos or Dimir are going to show, right? Those are the only decks Gruul loses to.' We played games against a stock list, and I just crushed them. I ended up just tuning it and posting a new list every hour up until it was time to submit. It's treated us pretty well so far."

That's an understatement.

Handy and Burchett were spot-on about the Grand Finals metagame, and Gruul Adventures helped carry Burchett to an undefeated Day One record while also performing well for Handy and Luis Salvatto.

The secret to success for Gruul Adventures is it presents varied threats that are difficult to answer. It can play very aggressively with Brushfire Elemental and Kazandu Mammoth. It can interact via Gemrazer, Primal Might, and Bonecrusher Giant. It can create massive attacks with Embercleave. And it can play the long game thanks to Edgewall Innkeeper in the main deck, adding Vivien, Monsters' Advocate and The Great Henge from the sideboard.

Brushfire Elemental Gemrazer Edgewall Innkeeper Bonecrusher Giant Primal Might

They weren't the only players to find success fighting against Omnath rather than casting it. Magic Pro League member Seth Manfield seems to win with everything he picks up, and it was no different this weekend. However, Manfield's deck choice was as the only Dimir Rogues player.

He continually came out on top of his Standard foes.

Dimir Rogues was a known quantity before the tournament, as was a Dimir Mill build. Manfield liked bits of both—the aggression, the countermagic, the ability to keep Omnath off the battlefield—but knew the deck wasn't quite where it needed to be.

So the Hall of Famer went to work. He cut the deck down to its bare bones, and built up a streamlined list that combined the most efficient creatures from the Rogues build with the control elements from the other decks. He tuned the deck until it could run Lurrus of the Dream-Den as a companion, and in the end he had a deck that could attack aggressively while disrupting the opponent, or grind well into the late game.

It remains an Omnath-dominated field at the Grand Finals, with Austin Bursavitch clinching the first Top 8 slot with Omnath Adventures, but as this pair of surprise breakout decks showed there was room for Standard to be decided by the players.

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