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Strixhaven Championship Standard Metagame Breakdown

June 02, 2021
Frank Karsten

It's almost here: The Strixhaven Championship, featuring all members of the Magic Pro League and the Magic Rivals League, as well as top players from qualifying events held on MTG Arena and Magic Online, begins Friday June 4 at 9 a.m. PT broadcasting live at twitch.tv/magic.

This weekend, there are 250 competitors battling in both Standard and Historic formats. Today, I'll go over what they brought to battle in Standard, along with sample lists for the twelve most popular archetypes. If you have not paid much attention to Standard in the past two months, then this article should get you back up to speed! (Tomorrow, June 3, I'll be back with the Historic metagame breakdown.)

Standard Metagame Breakdown

On both Friday and Saturday, the last four rounds of the day are (Best-of-Three) Standard, and the metagame breaks downs as follows.


Deck Archetype Number of Players Percentage of Field
Sultai Ultimatum 53 21.2%
Izzet Dragons 41 16.4%
Naya Adventures 23 9.2%
Dimir Rogues 17 6.8%
Gruul Adventures 17 6.8%
Cycling 17 6.8%
Mono-Red Aggro 16 6.4%
Mono-White Aggro 16 6.4%
Jeskai Mutate 15 6.0%
Temur Adventures 9 3.6%
Mardu Sacrifice 4 1.6%
Boros Winota 3 1.2%
Sultai Control 3 1.2%
Dimir Control 3 1.2%
Mono-Green Aggro 3 1.2%
Rakdos Sacrifice 2 0.8%
Four-color Blink 2 0.8%
Sultai Titans' Nest 2 0.8%
Azorius Blink 2 0.8%
Rakdos Midrange 1 0.4%
Naya Fury 1 0.4%

The metagame is roughly in line with what one would expect based on tournament results and trends from recent online events. Sultai Ultimatum remains dominant, while Izzet Dragons and Naya Adventures have risen to the second and third spots respectively. These archetypes gained new tools such as Expressive Iteration and Elite Spellbinder from Strixhaven, and they have been performing well ever since.

The biggest surprise is that six percent of the field is on Jeskai Mutate. This novel archetype features a complicated five-card infinite mana and infinite damage combo involving Strixhaven's Prismari Command, and it's a blast to watch. I'll cover it in detail later in this article, and I expect that the players who found the right build will do quite well in the Standard rounds.

That said, Standard is relatively well-established at this point, and it's hard to really "break" it. Most matchups are close to 50-50, and a well-positioned deck is typically up by no more than a few percentage points against the field. Ultimately, I expect that most Standard matches will be decided by playing skill, sideboard mastery, and matchup experience.

Bonecrusher Giant Mystical Dispute Expressive Iteration Elite Spellbinder

Bonecrusher Giant and Mystical Dispute, with 456 copies and 420 copies each respectively, are the most-played nonland cards across Standard main decks and sideboards. They held the top two spots at the Kaldheim Championship two months ago, and they're still defining the format at the Strixhaven Championship.

Nevertheless, Strixhaven shook things up. The most-played nonland cards from that set are Expressive Iteration and Elite Spellbinder, with 173 copies and 159 copies each respectively. Test of Talents, Galazeth Prismari, and Prismari Command are not far behind. Without these new additions, Izzet Dragons, Naya Adventures, and Jeskai Mutate surely would not have been as popular.

A Closer Look at the Top Twelve Archetypes

In the remainder of this article, I will introduce the top twelve Standard archetypes one-by-one and point out the key Strixhaven additions. The decklists of all competitors will be published on the Strixhaven Championship event page at the beginning of Round 1 on Friday, June 4, which means that I can't disclose any competitor's actual decklist right now. Instead, I used a custom-built algorithm to compile an aggregate from decklists submitted for various events in recent weeks.

The resulting aggregate decklists are representative for the archetype as a whole and should give you a good idea of what to expect at this event or any other upcoming Standard tournament—though they most likely won't exactly match with a decklist submitted for the Strixhaven Championship.

Sultai Ultimatum (21.2% of the field)

Sultai Ultimatum was the most popular archetype at the Kaldheim Championship, and it still holds the number one spot at the Strixhaven Championship.

The game plan is to stay alive by destroying opposing creatures, then ramp into seven mana, and finally cast Emergent Ultimatum. Many good three-card piles are possible: for example, Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider + Alrund's Epiphany + Kiora Bests the Sea God will ensure a massive battlefield presence no matter what your opponent chooses.

The core of the deck hasn't really changed over the past two months, but Strixhaven has provided several new options. They're not universally adopted, but Quandrix Cultivator and Professor Onyx fit the game plan well, and Test of Talents is often seen in the sideboard. It's narrower than Negate, but it's a more potent piece of disruption against strategies that rely on resolving certain key instants or sorceries.

Izzet Dragons (16.4% of the field)

Izzet Dragons is sometimes referred to as Prismari Midrange or Izzet Tempo, but I went with the fancier name. Admittedly, there are no Dragon tribal cards, but the above list has ten Dragons (including Faceless Haven) and "Dragons" simply sounds exciting. That said, the deck really is a bit of everything: there are seven snow payoff cards, eight adventures, and six foretell spells, so based on all of these little pockets of synergy, you could also call it Izzet Snow Adventures Foretell Dragons Tempo Midrange if you like.

In any case, the archetype only appeared in its current form after Strixhaven introduced Expressive Iteration, Galazeth Prismari, and Magma Opus. Expressive Iteration often allows you to draw the best spell from the top three and play a land for free, which is great value for a two-mana spell. Galazeth Prismari is a powerful creature in a deck with this many instants and sorceries, and it even allows you to tap Mazemind Tome for mana. Finally, Magma Opus is an extremely powerful effect to ramp into.

These new Prismari cards sent players brewing, and the resulting archetype turned out to be pretty powerful, with solid matchups across the board. There is no consensus build, and none of the three Strixhaven cards I mentioned are universal adoptions. (Magma Opus in particular was getting cut a lot, which makes sense when Mystical Dispute is so popular.) But everyone included Goldspan Dragon and Brazen Borrower, and the plan is always to win with flyers in the air.

Naya Adventures (9.2% of the field)

A few months ago, there were many Naya Adventures builds going around. Nowadays, the name has become synonymous with the Clarion Spirit/Jaspera Sentinel version shown above, which can quickly flood the battlefield with creatures. Edgewall Innkeeper and Showdown of the Skalds ensure you don't run out of gas.

In terms of Strixhaven additions, there's sometimes Rip Apart in the sideboard, but the big change is the playset of Elite Spellbinder in the main deck. The card features the likeliness of Paulo Vitor Damo Da Rosa as his exclusive benefit for winning Magic World Championship XXVI, and it belongs in every white creature deck. Elite Spellbinder is one of the reasons why Naya Adventures has been posting excellent win rates since the release of Strixhaven.

Dimir Rogues (6.8% of the field)

Dimir Rogues did not gain anything noteworthy from Strixhaven and hasn't been winning much in recent online events, but it always remains a popular choice at these Championship events.

The game plan of this deck is still the same as it was months ago. First, use your Rogues to attack and mill the opponent. Second, take control of the game with fully-powered Drown in the Loch or discounted Into the Story. Third, counter or destroy everything your opponent does, return your creatures from the graveyard with Lurrus of the Dream-Den, and soar in for the win.

Gruul Adventures (6.8% of the field)

Gruul Adventures did not gain much from Strixhaven apart from Hall of Oracles (a mana fixer that can dish out +1/+1 counters after you've cast an adventure spell) but it does look different than at the Kaldheim Championship. It took players quite a while to catch on to the power of Kaldheim's Magda, Brazen Outlaw, but at the Strixhaven Championship, all but one of the Gruul players ran 4 copies of the legendary Dwarf.

Magda can attack to create a Treasure and ramp into heavy-hitters like Goldspan Dragon ahead of time. As a Dwarf lord, Magda also synergizes nicely with Rimrock Knight. Moreover, you can tap Magda with Jaspera Sentinel or Esika's Chariot to create Treasures without risking the creature in combat. And it won't come up often, but when you assemble five Treasures, you can search for Esika's Chariot, Goldspan Dragon, Embercleave, or The Great Henge. All of these synergies boost the deck's speed and power.

Besides Magda synergies, the familiar core of Edgewall Innkeeper, Lovestruck Beast, Bonecrusher Giant, and Embercleave is still present. These cards remain powerful as always, and Gruul Adventures is still a significant part of Standard.

Cycling (6.8% of the field)

The game plan is still the same as a year ago: lead with Flourishing Fox, cycle a bunch of cards, and finish with a lethal Zenith Flare.

Strixhaven hasn't really added anything of significance (the list above only has a single Prismari Command in the sideboard) but the deck is still a popular choice.

Mono-Red Aggro (6.4% of the field)

Mono-Red Aggro is a less popular than at the Kaldheim Championship, likely because it has unfavorable matchups against Izzet Dragons and Naya Adventures, but it's still a significant part of the metagame. The game plan is still the same as before: Curve out with aggressive red creatures, deploy a huge Anax, and leverage your board presence with Embercleave or Torbran for a quick kill.

The latest addition from Strixhaven is Hall Monitor. Before Strixhaven, Mono-Red Aggro decks usually had 4 Fervent Champion and 4 Fireblade Charger as their one-mana creatures. Hall Monitor added another decent one-drop, and most lists have gone up to 9 or 10 total. It's mostly there as a 1/1 haste, but making Elder Gargaroth unable to block can be the difference between a lethal attack and a hopeless position.

Mono-White Aggro (6.4% of the field)

Mono-White Aggro is yet another aggressive curve-out deck that makes good use of Faceless Haven. Elite Spellbinder from Strixhaven has given it a big boost. As I already mentioned, it fits an aggressive white deck perfectly, as it pressures the opponent while disrupting them at the same time. Accordingly, just like Naya Adventures, Mono-White Aggro has been posting excellent win rates since the release of Strixhaven.

Elite Spellbinder has also led many Mono-White Aggro players to include Drannith Magistrate in their main deck. Drannith Magistrate's ability has always punished opponents who rely on the adventure and/or the foretell mechanic. But the sweet new interaction is that when you exile a card from your opponent's hand with Elite Spellbinder, they simply won't be able to cast it at all as long as you control Drannith Magistrate.

Jeskai Mutate (6.0% of the field)

No matter whether you describe it as Jeskai Control, Jeskai Combo, Jeskai Ramp, or Jeskai Mutate, it is without a doubt the spiciest Standard deck at the Strixhaven Championship. Matthieu Avignon showed off the deck's potential at the May Strixhaven League Weekend, and after the list got perfected in the week after, 15 competitors settled on this awesome new archetype. I expect a breakout performance.

In the early game, the plan is to use removal and bounce spells to control the board and buy time. Once you've stabilized, your aim is to mutate Vadrok, Apex of Thunder and/or Lore Drakkis onto Goldspan Dragon to generate a lot of value and turn the game around.

Goldspan Dragon Lore Drakkis 479734 Prismari Command Unsubstantiate

The deck is not all-in on mutate—there's no Pollywog Symbiote, and there are only eight mutate creatures in total—but there is still the potential to "go off." Remember that every time you target Goldspan Dragon, you effectively generate two mana. Hence, one possibility is the following five-card infinite-damage combo:

  • Cast Goldspan Dragon (-5 mana)
  • Mutate Vadrok onto Goldspan Dragon, which creates a Treasure (-2 mana). With the mutate trigger, cast Prismari Command from the graveyard for free to create a Treasure and to deal two damage to the Dragon (+4 mana).
  • Mutate Lore Drakkis onto Goldspan Dragon (free because targeting the Dragon creates a Treasure) and put two mutate triggers on the stack. One returns Unsubstantiate from your graveyard to your hand; the other casts Prismari Command from the graveyard. Make sure to have Lore Drakkis' trigger resolve first. With Prismari Command, you once again create a Treasure and deal two damage to the Dragon (+4 mana). In response to this Prismari Command – you can't let it resolve because then the creature would die–you sacrifice all Treasures and cast Unsubstantiate (free because targeting the Dragon creates a Treasure) to return the stack of three creatures to your hand.
  • Repeat. Every loop, you gain a mana, so this generates infinite mana.
  • Once you have infinite mana, do the same Unsubstantiate loop but shock your opponent with Prismari Command every time. This transforms infinite mana into infinite damage.

Yes, this is wild. It's one mana per loop, and you need a lot of concentration to execute all the steps correctly. You need to stack triggers in the correct order, you need to hold full control to respond to your own spells, and need to sacrifice your Treasures for two mana before bouncing your Dragon. It gets easier when you find a third mutate creature, but I can't wait to see Twitch chat try to figure out what's going on.

Although most of the cards in this deck were legal before Strixhaven, the additions of Expressive Iteration and Prismari Command were essential. Expressive Iteration adds consistency by digging for the missing pieces. Prismari Command is not only a decent interactive spell in the early game but also an essential part of the infinite loop I described above. Both spells synergize well with the mutate creatures in the mid-game, so everything fits together perfectly. Maybe I'm too much of a sucker for wacky five-card infinite combos, but I love everything about this deck.

Temur Adventures (3.6% of the field)

Temur Adventures exploits Edgewall Innkeeper along with the best adventure creatures in red, green, and blue, and it comes in many flavors: with Lukka, Coppercoat Outcast, with Obosh, the Preypiercer, or with neither. All of those flavors are represented at the Strixhaven Championship, but the Lukka version without Obosh was the most popular. That's reflected in the list shown above.

The potential to go Llanowar Visionary on turn three, followed by Lukka into Koma, Cosmos Serpent on turn four is certainly powerful. Nevertheless, the archetype gained nothing from Strixhaven. So even though it was the second most popular archetype at the Kaldheim Championship, it has fallen somewhat out of favor recently as players looked for new ways to break Strixhaven Standard.

Mardu Sacrifice (1.6% of the field)

At first glance, this might look like a Rakdos Sacrifice deck. Indeed, there's the combo of Village Rites and Claim the Firstborn, along with Woe Strider and The Akroan War as additional sacrifice or steal effects. Moreover, all spells are red or black.

But one key new Strixhaven card pushed players towards Mardu: Extus, Oriq Overlord. It simply works wonders in a strategy like this. If you cast the front side, you can fuel magecraft by sacrificing a lot of small creatures to Plumb the Forbidden. Alternatively, if you want to cast the back side, then those small creatures will help a lot as well.

Eyetwitch and Hunt for Specimens fit perfectly with this plan, and they can grab Pest Summoning from the sideboard to create even more sacrifice fodder. There are multiple alternative Lessons to choose from as well. All in all, this is a spicy new addition to Strixhaven Standard that plays out differently than traditional Rakdos Sacrifice strategies.

Boros Winota (1.2% of the field)

Curving non-humans into Winota, Joiner of Forces and then hopefully hitting Kenrith, the Returned King is a powerful plan and has been so for over a year. But Strixhaven truly supercharged this archetype. The main new inclusions are Blade Historian, Professor of Symbology, and Elite Spellbinder.

Blade Historian and Elite Spellbinder are excellent creatures to hit off of Winota, while Professor of Symbology is a good way to trigger Winota in the first place. Professor of Symbology provides access to a complete Lesson board, offering the tools for any situation you might encounter. It's great to see the Lessons take hold in Constructed as well.

Conclusion

These twelve archetypes cover 92.4% of the Standard metagame at the Strixhaven Championship. The remaining 7.6% of the metagame feature some well-known strategies and some spice, but most of them have been around before. Sultai Titans' Nest is arguably the newest of the bunch; this archetype aims to use Titans' Nest in conjunction with Strixhaven's Curate to ramp into Shark Typhoon and Alrund's Epiphany, which offers a different take on Sultai than the prevalent Emergent Ultimatum builds.

All in all, Strixhaven has injected several sweet new options into competitive Standard, and the metagame features a nice amount of diversity. Check back tomorrow for the Historic metagame breakdown!


Don't miss the live broadcast, June 4-6 beginning at 9 a.m. PDT each day at twitch.tv/magic!

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