Rotation has come and gone, and it's time for a brand-new world of Standard thanks to our return to Zendikar. Gone are some of Standard's most memorable cards from our recent time on Ravnica. Now it's a new world full of legendary Elementals, flying Rogues, gargantuan Ultimatums, and an iconic Snake that must be answered on your second turn.
Oh, and you might also lose the game being milled out of cards in your deck. Welcome to Zendikar Rising Standard.
As 32 players prepare to square off in the 2020 Season Grand Finals, these are kinds of strategies they're sure to face. Zendikar Rising and the introduction of double-faced modal cards, featuring a spell on the front side and a land on the back and your choice of which side to play, have upended what deckbuilding looks like in Standard. The result is successful decks that sometimes feature as few as 14 traditional land cards.
It's created a Standard unlike any seen before it.
Four Colors and 4 Life
Any discussion of Standard must start with
It's difficult to cast but quickly proved itself to be more than worth it, making it the scariest threat in a format full of them, explained Players Tour Finals champion Kristof Prinz.
"Answers for Omnath are necessary, but hard to come by. It hitting the battlefield is a huge issue, so you should try fighting it on the stack," he said. "Depending on the version, either
Another must-answer card, accordingly to Prinz, is
It's been the backbone of Adventure decks since it arrived in Throne of Eldraine, and Temur Adventure remained a viable deck post-rotation. With a tweak to the manabase, the deck incorporated
"Clover is quite cheap, which makes it hard to answer efficiently," Prinz said. "Together with
Most longtime Magic players understand the frustration of holding a
That leaves the Omnath Adventure decks in a sweet spot to catch opponents off guard and create runaway games when the answers don't match the threats. It's a proven recipe for success that's especially strong when the metagame is still sorting itself out.
"The deck to beat is clearly Omnath Adventure," said Sam Sherman, Players Tour Finals Top 16 competitor. "It doesn't have any really bad matchups. I think Omnath Ramp is probably your best shot at beating Omnath Adventures, and you want Rogues or a pure Mill deck against Omnath Ramp."
Milling for Fun and Profit
And that brings us to a third pillar of Zendikar Rising Standard, and perhaps the most surprising:
"If the Omnath decks gear for each other, Mill variants are okay to play," Prinz explained. "Omnath decks oftentimes draw a big chunk of their library, so Mill doesn't have to do much work. It also has access to some interaction that can buy a lot of time, and it makes Omnath fairly clunky at times."
Decks aiming to win via milling aren't the only blue-black decks doing well – or even the only archetype looking to mill opponents out of a few cards.
Dimir Rogues is its own distinct archetype, and it relies on early creatures like
How About Attacking?
As the decks above emerged, aggressive decks began showing in Standard. The Red Bull Untapped Qualifier featured nearly 150 players and a surprising finals matchup between Mono-White Aggro and the winning Rakdos Self-Mill list that featured a full playset of
It's an uphill battle, but there have also been sightings of Mono-Red—many still believe in
"Games are going to be longer, and you've got to be able to keep up with the grind," Sherman explained. "Do you really want to be out here attacking for damage when your opponent is gaining four life a turn?"
It's clear the metagame is still rapidly shifting. Rakdos Self-mill was an unknown entity a week ago, and players continue to experiment with various control shells. Some players are finding success with Gruul Aggro, and Cycling decks with
MPL member and Standard expert Brad Nelson broken down what he's expecting when he sits down for the Standard portion of the Grand Finals. "I look at it as a spectrum. On the one end you have Omnath Ramp, which is sometimes combined with
"It's hard to tell what to do, but that's what I'm considering heading into the tournament," he continued. "The wildcard could be
With 32 of the best players taking aim on the 2020 Season Grand Finals we'll soon see exactly what shakes out on top of Standard next. Watch them battle live, beginning at 9 AM PDT October 9-11, on twitch.tv/magic.