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The Week That Was: Standard Winners are Quick on the Draw

June 14, 2024
Corbin Hosler

What's in a Standard season?

Four events on a super weekend of competitive Magic capped off the latest Regional Championship cycle, with Adam Weiss taking down the massive 2,000-plus player event in the United States with a surprising Gruul Prowess deck like he was slinging spells at summer camp. Elsewhere across the globe, events in Manila, Mexico City, and Santiago completed the cycle of eleven events across five continents—a stark representation of just how global a game Magic is. Thousands of games have been played, and the results have set the field for the upcoming Pro Tour in Amsterdam and the Magic World Championship 30 field beyond.

So what actually makes up those eleven events that together make up the all-important Regional Championship cycle we talk so much about?

Let's start with the cards. Remember that this season was Standard—and not just any Standard, but the first after rotation moved to a three-year window instead of two. That quietly put a lot of pressure on the format as players had access to a huge range of sets to build from and a lot of events clustered together meant things could change very quickly and not just because Slickshot Show-Off won Dreamhack Dallas in dominating fashion.


Standard seasons are unique for another reason. While Pioneer and Modern certainly change over the years, things do stay a kind of constant; I often tell people returning to competitive Magic after some time away that the cards are all different but the decks are all the same as what they remember. It's a bit flippant, but it will also ring familiar to longtime players. Golgari Yawgmoth winning the game via infinite combo may feature plenty of new cards (and Young Wolf), but is it really all that different from Birthing Pod and Kitchen Finks shenanigans back in the day? Rakdos Evoke is the spiritual Thoughtseize successor to Jund, Azorius Control plays No More Lies instead of Mana Leak but still Teferis you out, Izzet Phoenix is still four Arclight Phoenix and 56 cards that don't do much of anything at all but win anyway. You get the idea.

But Standard? Standard seasons are memorable. Keeping it to more recent years and without even getting into the ancient history of the format or the fever dream that was Mirrodin Standard, it's the format that serves up really singular decks that are a function of the limited card pool around them. There was the memorable CawBlade and Boros Landfall year, of course (2011), but there are plenty of other memorable seasons and decks that stand out to me: I got into the game with Lorwyn-era kindred decks like Kithkin, Merfolk, and most famously Faeries (2008); there was the maddening Mono-Black Pack Rat Devotion (2014), big Bant Mythic Conscription (2010); the original Eldrazi Ramp (2010); never-ending Cat-Oven loops (2020); Ramunap Red and the famous Pro Tour semifinals attack that wasn't with Hazoret the Fervent (2017). Even the truly broken metas tend to be remembered fondly in retrospect—shoutout to Aetherworks Marvel and Golos and Fires of Invention (2017 and 2019, respectively). Unless of course we're talking about Pro Tour Oko, Thief of Crowns (later 2019).

Ask a longtime competitive player about their favorite Standard season, and you'll get a different answer with a different reason every time. It's what sets Standard apart from other formats and keeps it fresh even after three decades. With that in mind, the winners metagame is always a good place to start; here's what the eleven champions played:

  • 3 Four/Five-Color Legends
  • 2 Azorius Control
  • 2 Esper Midrange
  • 2 Golgari Midrange
  • 1 Gruul Prowess
  • 1 Mono-Red Aggro

That's an extremely healthy mix of strategies; the slowest of slow in blue-white to the most aggressive creature deck we've seen in some time in Gruul Prowess. What stands out to me is a conspicuous lack of Domain Ramp—there was a time early on in this Standard format when it looked like curving Up the Beanstalk into Topiary Stomper into Invasion of Zendikar into Atraxa, Grand Unifier would be its defining feature.

Instead, the format evolved into one with multiple ramp strategies, but ones that looked nothing like that. Aftermath Analyst became a lynchpin of the format, as did Worldsoul's Rage. That's not a direction anyone except cftsoc saw coming, but it's a perfect demonstration of the twists that make a Standard season so engaging.

How will this Standard be remembered historically? Aftermath Analyst I think will be the defining card, but right behind must be Plaza of Heroes.

Aftermath Analyst 574732

Put forward most notably by Jason Ye, who kept pushing the archetype forward and made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Thunder Junction with it, the Legends deck packed unprecedented levels of interaction in a nearly all-creature deck. It's only possible due to the perfect mana provided by Plaza of Heroes (and more recently Cavern of Souls), and I think when we look back we may remember 2024 for all the Gurk that went down (Slogurk, the Overslime, that is).

All Eyes on Amsterdam

What else is in a Standard season? The winners, of course, who qualified for Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 at MagicCon: Amsterdam later this month and the World Championship later this year, but the stories of triumph coming out of the Regional Championship circuit that make it as special as it has become go much deeper than the Top 8.

With a format this diverse—not just in deck name but in actual gameplay—finding a style that fit well was one of the keys for players who found success in the format. This was not a Standard where midrange soup brews splashed into each other endlessly until the player with the most teched-out sideboard grinded out the final advantage to win; this Standard rewarded players for learning how to pilot their deck through a huge number of different matchups and card interactions. It's a formula that rewarded those who put the time in, including players like Andy Wilson, who earned praise for putting in countless hours of work to improve Temur Analyst and then played it to a Top 16 finish and Pro Tour invite in Dallas.

In Europe, Mateo Ferreira's victory with Esper Midrange was just the tip of the iceberg; three of the six World Championship slots this season went to members of his testing team, cementing the Madrid-based group as one of the best crews in Europe right now. In Brazil, another testing team is dominating; longtime community stalwart Jonathan Lobo Melamed won the event and then immediately shouted out William Bossaneli Araujo for making the Top 8 of his third straight Regional Championships.

Japan featured longtime Pro Tour player Kenta Harane making a return to the winner's circle, his first since winning Players Tour Nagoya back in 2020. His path to the title went through a stacked Top 8 that included last year's World Championship finalist Kazune Kosaka. Also in that Top 8 was Kenta Masukado, who made headlines by winning a Regional Championship last year and now has three Top 8s in the last fourteen months.

All these storylines will now converge in Amsterdam on June 28-30. And while the format will shift to Modern and the focus will surely shift as well, the Regional Championship stories are what shape the Pro Tour to come, with each of the hundreds of individual stories coming together to tell the tale of the PT.

The Road to Magic World Championship 30

With Amsterdam quickly approaching, so too is Magic World Championship 30 coming later this year at MagicCon: Las Vegas. As we near the historic event, Frank Karsten and I are looking back at each of the previous 29 events and champions that paved the way. This week brings us to the 2006 World Championship, where something the Magic world had known for a while was made official.

That would be the dominance of the Japanese players at the time—the country won its first World Championship in 2005 by taking down both the individual and team portions but it was Makihito Mihara's 2006 victory over countrymate Ryou Ogura that proved the previous year had been no fluke: Japan was at the top of the Magic world. The Dragonstorm combo deck he won with is a big piece of Magic history itself (see Frank's column for more details), but most importantly it cemented the narrative that the rest of the world was trying to catch up to Japan.

Mihara went into the 2006 World Championship an up-and-coming Magic player with a Grand Prix Top 8 and some strong Nationals finishes under his belt; he left as the World Champion and on his way to what would become a Hall of Fame career after he racked up another four Top Finishes.

Makihito Mihara, 2006 Magic World Championship

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