For the past 2 weeks I’ve been playing MTG Arena religiously. I had an important tournament to play plus the August Mythic Championship Qualifier Weekend, so I wanted to put myself in the best spot possible.
The important tournament went by and my results were good. I ended up in the top 4, after losing the first round. Since the event was a double elimination bracket, it was pretty unlikely and I am happy to have gotten there.
My weapon of choice for that event was Esper Hero. I wanted to play something else but in the end the consistency of every card in your list being good was something I could not pass up on. The top 4 ended up having 2 Esper Hero decks, A Simic Nexus deck and a Vampires deck that ended up winning the whole thing.
At the time the event took place, the format was still in its infancy. The following weeks were the ones that would define if the newcomers had what it takes to compete.
After the tourney, my unofficial testing period for the mythic championship qualifier began. Multiple hours daily with multiple archetypes.
Though I am officially starting the testing period on August 1st, the picture of the metagame is clear in my mind. Save any breakout decks in the following weeks (which is fairly likely), the following archetypes will be the backbones of the metagame we will face in this enormous event.
Let me also state that I have made a conscious decision to not go on vacation in order to play this event. That means I believe in my chances to qualify for day two and eventually get an invite to Mythic Championship V. What that truly means is, no matter the result, I am okay with my decision and chasing what I actually want most of all. Even if I go 0-2 I will have my peace of mind, knowing that I gave myself the best chance possible at this time.
Without further ado, here are the pillars of the format as it stands right now:
The newest addition is likely the most broken deck in Standard right now. It won Grand Prix Denver in the hands of MtG legend Luis Scott Vargas, putting 4 copies in the top 8 overall.
The deck was popularized by my favorite streamer and one of my favorite people in Magic, Ondrej Strasky. He made big waves with it, posting huge win percentages.
The deck is good both against aggro and control deck of the meta. Aggressive strategies need explosive starts to set up lethal before Scapeshift does its thing, and control has few things to do in the face of an instant speed Scapeshift, thanks to T3f3ri. Even if they play sweepers, you can easily remake the board and draw a ton of cards with Hydroid Krasis.
The deck seemed unbeatable for about a week, but that is not the case. Sure, it is pretty powerful and I believe it will stay a tier 1 strategy for the remainder of the format, but hate does exist against it.
Ashiok, Dream Render is the obvious solution and one that does shut down the deck pretty good, assuming it is followed up by pressure. In a deck like Vampires, I really like Ashiok as a Scapeshift hoser, as it will give you enough time to finish them off. In a deck like Esper Hero, it is nice to have such an effect post board against Scapeshift, but I’m not sure it will be equally effective as you are in no way as explosive as the aggressively minded, blood draining, Sorin driven deck.
This is the best deck in Standard right now as it does the most broken thing that is the hardest to stop.
Since the announcement that God’s Willing will be reprinted, people have stated countless times how good Feather is going to be. I partially agree with them, mostly disagreeing out of principle, as I do not want to pilot such a deck. A 20 year old version of me would be super excited to play such a deck and would probably do well with it. The last time God’s Willing was Standard legal I was all over the heroic strategies and I loved them. But I am not a young care-free being anymore. I prefer consistent strategies that do the same thing in all of their games, not in half of them that you get the Feather–Reckless Rage–God’s Willing draw.
Would I suggest this deck? I want to say no as I truly hate facing it. But the truth is, it is powerful. It beats up on creature decks thanks to one of the best removals in Standard, Reckless Rage. But it has its issues against Nexus and Scapeshift decks. It is also bad against mass removals but that is not a prevalent thing in the format right now.
The deck has a lot of free wins. I like free wins. Especially in 15-round events that you can afford up to one loss per day. So please don’t play it, but in all likelihood you should because it’s a good option.
This is a deck that will likely be a top tier option for the remainder of the format. It has all the tools to do so. With the removal suite it plays, it has a naturally good matchup against aggro decks. The addition of T3f3ri means the matchup against Simic Flash, Nexus and Monoblue is good. Apart from that, it can be tuned to beat green Nissa decks if need be, as is this version I posted. If the addition of Ashiok turns the Scapeshift matchup to a good one, this is the best deck of the format once again. This is the deck I should play, though I really do not want to.
First of all, is the deck that punishes mistakes more than any other. With a Nissa deck you can always make up for your mistakes by turning your lands into a 3/3 army or casting a big Hydroid Krasis. With Scapeshift and Nexus you have big cards that shout “I Win”. Esper is a collaboration of very good reactive cards, but nothing is explosive about the deck. Apart from some free win Hero into T3f3ri hands, you actually have to use brain power with this one.
Second, I consider the Esper Hero mirror to be random, and not as skill intensive as people think. So I would not want to be caught up in a sea of mirrors that Elderspells and Bolas’s Citadels decide who is to advance to the Mythic Championship.
If the metagame comes back to a bunch of green midrange decks and aggro, this is by far the best choice. But be aware that other people will think the same way and you will be caught in a coin-flippy situation trying to out-Teferi your opponents. That said, I value the archetype’s consistency very highly so I might end up sleeving it in the end.
Alright alright, I’ll actually talk about Nexus.
What is left to say about a strategy that has existed so long though?
Well, the time span Nexus had been a viable top tier option speaks of the deck’s resiliency and power. The addition of Drawn from Dreams, Veil of summer and the decline in T3f3ri numbers also help a lot. So do the color hosers that are heavily included in the sideboard.
I chose to include this version instead of the Reclamation-less, heavy on Nissa one.
If you are experienced with the deck, this is a top notch option. It goes bigger than any other deck ever will and its survivability against aggro is better than ever.
As for me, I never gave the deck the respect it is due, mostly because I always pilot deck that have naturally good matchups against it, whether by choice or as a side effect. Well, now that I think of it, I guess that choosing to always have a good Nexus matchup is giving it respect.
I would stay away from the deck if this is your first time picking it up, and go for something lighter on the brain. This is not the hardest deck of all time, but its play patterns require tons of repetition.
If what you want to do is do well in ladder, though, this is one of the top options, unless you are stuck facing the Monored train in lower ranks.
This is by far my favorite deck right now. The past days have found me piloting it to the top ranks of the Mythic ladder, going for that precious #1. It has eluded me so far, getting as close as top 25, but I will pursue it more until the month ends.
The deck is explosive and has draws that beat any other deck. 1-drop into 2-drop into Sorin–Champion of Dusk is not as rare as you think, since your aforementioned cards are all 4-ofs. The deck gets free wins all over the place. Also, the addition of Ashiok in the board, along with 4 Duress,help against the Scapeshift menace. Disfigure is excellent in the mirror and that is why 4 are included on board. Mortify as a 4-of in the main is not something I am convinced about and probably the first card to be cut for something else. Maybe going back to Cast Down is a better option.
One thing that troubles me with this deck is the expected number of control decks, specifically Esper Hero in the Mythic Qualifier. I do not hate the matchup, but the outcome depends mostly on their draws. If they get the right mix, there’s nothing you can realistically do. Also, a game 1 Hero of Precinct one is tough to beat. At least you can add disfigures in game 2 to have a better shot, plus their Heroes get a bit worse with the addition of mass removal on their side. But then again, they add mass removal, the bane of the vampires deck existence, so that is not really an upgrade.
The mirror is also a joke of a matchup with practically zero skill involved.
That all said, Vampires are my number one option right now for the event. I will look to finely tune this machine and find better sideboard options if they exist. That is my first goal of the testing I have planned for the tourney.
Now to some decks that I will not end up playing unless all Hell breaks loose:
Though Monoblue is an old favorite of mine, I do not dare sleeve it up for such an event. Its power was proven in past metagames but it has not proven itself in this one just yet. The fact that most of you cards do not stand on their own, rather relying on synergy to get more powerful is also a thing my old self would highly value, but not anymore. Right now, I value consistency more than anything else in a Magic deck. Monoblue is kind of consistent at what it does. But some hands are way more powerful than others.
What happens when your starting had has neither Curious Obsession nor Tempest djinn? Or one of the two without protection?
Apart from that, I consider it a fun deck with a ton of play to it and probably the most difficult deck in the format. That intrigues me, but also kind of pushes me away.
I will need to play the deck more to be sure, but this is not one of my frontrunners right now.
This is an archetype popularized by Corey Baumeister. It is explosive and gets a lot of free wins on the back of Marauding Raptor and/or Rotting Regisaur. A 3 mana 7/6 is, in fact, pretty strong!
I faced the deck a lot during my climb this month, both in Diamond and Mythic. My score with vampires against it is a clean sweep, I have not dropped a match. If you kill their 2 mana pseudo ramp creature, you slow them down significantly. Apart from that, killing key targets is painful for the archetype. Sure, Ripjaw Raptor is a beating vs aggro, but what if the best aggressive deck in the format is running black mana?
One of the reasons I would suggest this deck is its closing speed against Scapeshift. If your goal is to destroy the ladder right now, go for the Dinos!
The last archetypes I have a few words to say upon are Simic Flash, Temur Elementals and Monored.
I am putting these together because they have fallen a bit out of the meta for now, but have the tools to come back as strong presences if the metagame allows it. Nightpack Ambusher, Experimental Frenzy and Risen Reef are all very powerful cards that should not be overlooked.
That is my current take on the Standard Metagame. I hope you found it helpful for your testing, laddering or whatever it is you are doing in this Standard format.
See you next week!
By Kratos or Marios Tsopelas