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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Dec 29 2021 1:20pm
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 Hello and welcome back to the State of Standard, our periodical rendez-vous with all things Standard, to make sure you know everything that's happening in the format. Since, for the time being, the premier releases have switched to a September-November-February-April format, the updates will be linked to the sets rather than the seasons of the Northern Hemisphere. They'll analyze the meta roughly one month after each set's release.

 The series archive is here.
 Let's start a new ride!


 THE CURRENT META

 Last time we checked, Standard was dominated by three archetypes (and a half): Monowhite Aggro, Monogreen Aggro, and Izzet Epiphany/Izzet Dragons. Two months later, with the addition of Innistrad: Crimson Vow, the panorama hasn't changed much. Monowhite Aggro has been further strengthened by the reprint of Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, which makes even more difficult for non-aggro decks to keep up with its tempo. It also acquired a new valid one-drop with Hopeful Initiate. It's still firmly the best aggro deck of this era, combining a deadly early game with built-in control elements. Monogreen Aggro has tried to put the pedal to the metal itself, helped by Ascendant Packleader and Ulvenwald Oddity, but its board progression still suffers Monowhite's disruption, especially when Monogreem is on the draw, and its post-sideboard plan doesn't change much in this regard.

   

 Izzet Epiphany (aka Izzet Turns) didn't really get any new tool from Crimson Vow, except for Hullbreaker Horror as a finisher. It took to regularly include Lier, Disciple of the Drowned, previously mostly seen in the Grixis variants (which still exist, sometimes just to allow some discard options in the sideboard, primarily for the mirror match). In the late game, with Lier and the Kraken on the battlefield (which is also extremely flavorful, incidentally!), it's pretty much impossible to lose, as every spell ever cast during the game is now suddenly available again, and every instant protects the two key creatures from being dealt with. The tension of the format is all there: aggro decks trying to close the game faster than control decks will be able to take over. The combo with Alrund's Epiphany and Galvanic Iteration is still there, but it's not even the main concern of the deck anymore, and the other Iteration is a much more important piece of the build.

    

 Another very popular family of control decks we hadn't previously covered hinges on the black cards, both for ramp with Treasure tokens and to sweep the board with added value.

 

 The battleplan of these decks involve ramping with an ideal first-turn Shambling Ghast into Deadly Dispute, which allows us to untap on turn three with five mana available, and without losing on cards. Designated chump-blockers like The Ghast and Eyetwich, as well as the big-butt of Skullport Merchant, also buy us time on the ground against aggro decks, to transition smoothly into a late game where we sweep with the synergistic The Meathook Massacre or the semi-asymmetrical Blood on the Snow. The latter is mostly meant to return one of the planeswalkers, which are the deck's win condition, especially Lolth, Spider Queen. All in all, it's a build heavily based on Forgotten Realms cards, which is kind of unique.

    

 A successful variant is Orzhov Control, which splashes white for Vanishing Verse and the inherent two-for-one of Professor of Symbology, but it also goes slightly more aggro with the tokens from Wedding Announcement and Edgar, Charmed Groom. Other cards from Crimson Vow that perfectly fit this kind of sacrifice-friendly list are Henrika Domnathi and Fell Stinger.

  

 Dimir Control is sort of a mix between Izzet lists (without Epiphany, since they can't copy it) and black control lists.

 

 They're essentially Grixis Lier decks that dropped red so they can benefit from having all the black disruption elements already in game 1. They also adopted Sedgemoor Witch as one of the finishers, a card that was popular in sacrifice builds that emerged right after Strixhaven was released. The presence of Duress and Power Word Kill might suggest a decline of aggro lists and Dragon lists, but it's not actually the case. Duress hits key cards like Ranger's Class and Esika's Chariot, while Power Word Kill is just less damaging than Infernal Grasp.

    

 Last but not least, we must record the evolution of the Gruul Dragons list popularized by Jean-Emmanuel Depraz at the World Championship (it was technically Temur, in virtue of the presence of a couple counterspells). It combined with Rakdos Aggro and generated an intriguing emergence of quasi-classic Jund in Standard.

 

 This is perhaps the most purely midrange of the top decks in current Standard, with control elements, aggro elements and ramp elements in equal measure. From the Gruul/Temur lists, it takes Magda, Brazen Outlaw, Esika's Chariot, Reckless Stormseeker, and of course Goldspan Dragon. From the Rakdos lists, it takes the other Dragon from Kaldheim, Immersturm Predator as well as Kalain, Reclusive Painter, playing the role of an improved Prosperous Innkeeper. Valki, God of Lies, in his form of Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor, was already a centerpiece of those lists; the defining additions of this Jund concoction are perhaps Culling Ritual as a hopefully one-sided sweeper that pays for itself, alongside Florian, Voldaren Scion as the main card-drawing engine, also enabling Olivia, Crimson Bride at the top end.

    

 This is the scenario on which the techno-Ninjas of Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty will launch their stealth assault. We'll see what's going to happen.


 THE STANDARD LEGALITY

 Currently 6 sets out of 8: Zendikar Rising (Fall 1), Kaldheim (Winter 1), Strixhaven: School of Mages (Spring 1), Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (Summer 1), Innistrad: Midnight Hunt (Fall 2.1), Innistrad: Crimson Vow (Fall 2.2).

 Next: Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (Winter 2) will release February 18, 2022; Streets of New Capenna (Spring 2) will release March or April 2022, concluding the 2021-2022 cycle (Standard won't have a summer set in 2022).


 THE STANDARD BAN LIST

 Last revised: October 12, 2020

 Total banned cards: 1 (from Zendikar Rising)


 See you one month after our return to cyber-Kamigawa!