Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Oct 19 2022 10:00am

 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!


 With Dominaria United, another Standard season ended and a new rotation kicked in, erasing in the process the entire ban list for Standard, as the currently banned cards were all from rotating sets: Zendikar Rising, Kaldheim, and Strixhaven (Adventures in the Forgotten Realms really wasn't on the same power level, it might well be the last Core Set-level expansion we get in a long while). The new environment happens to come on the aftermath of a one-two of heavily multicolored sets, with Streets of New Capenna playing up shard-colored triplets, while Dominaria United is emphasizing... well, five-color soup, to a point. Both sets gave Standard the means to easily sustain three-color decks, which were already becoming the trend pre-rotation, and currently constitute the bulk of the tier-1 meta. With one exception: Monoblack Midrange.


 We're truly living in an era where black is the strongest color in Standard. It's a development that was kind of subtly brewing since last year, but it exploded into a dominance with the unexpected return of known format-twister Liliana of the Veil and the printing of "deal with me or die" Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. The result is that black is a presence in all the major Standard decks of this first slice of the new season. But cards like Invoke Despair also encourage to go monocolored, which is why the only such list in the top tiers is all black.


 This build is capable of an explosive aggro start with the one-drop, two-drop, three-drop sequence of Evolved Sleeper, Tenacious Underdog and Graveyard Trespasser. All three of these either become stronger in time or just come back from the dead, which place the strategy firmly in the midrange, with the help of efficient removal, powerful planeswalkers, and the plain inevitability of Sheoldred. The list reached such a degree of supremacy on the meta that it called for a countermeasure, and it came in the form of the banning of The Meathook Massacre, which was also showing up in all the other black-based decks. Losing its main catch-up mechanism slightly reduced Monoblack Midrange's overall performance, but not to the point of forcing it out of the tier-1 list. The lineup didn't even change much after that, just moving around some of the numbers to make up for the missing sweeper. On top of making the deck more vulnerable to fast aggro, it had the side effect of undermine the effectiveness of Roadside Reliquary, especially in lists that don't run too many Reckoner Bankbuster, like the sample one above.

 From this same monoblack base descend all the multicolored variants that are challenging its throne. Rakdos Midrange adds red for Bloodtithe Harvester in the double role of aggressor and removal, the terrific Fable of the Mirror-Breaker for its sheer power value, plus Abrade and Ob Nixilis, the Adversary, mostly as sideboard options. Ob Nixilis becomes more of mainstay in the more specialized, slightly less successful "artifacts matter" version running Oni-Cult Anvil and Experimental Synthesizer.


 The main attractive of Grixis Midrange is the two-for-one of Corpse Appraiser, which we had already seen as one of the centerpieces of Grixis Vampires in the post-SNC era. The new list still run the Bloodtithe Harvester, so it retains the chance to transform into a more tribal setup by keeping several copies of Evelyn, the Covetous on the side. But Grixis now also means using Sol'Kanar the Tainted as finisher, Ertai Resurrected as catch-all removal on legs, and some blue interactive spells like Make Disappear and Rona's Vortex, confirming once more the high impact of the last two sets.


 Replace red with white and you'll obtain Esper Midrange, which was already a thing at the tail end of the previous rotation.


 Raffine, Scheming Seer is still the main reason to go midrange in these colors, more often seen in a control shell. Most of the accompanying cards have changed, though, adding even more creatures for the Raffine's plan, including tempo-gainer Obscura Interceptor and returner Dennick, Pious Apprentice.

 Moving to tier-2, we find yet another midrange list (Standard seems to have really gone back to Ixalan times), once again involving black: Jund Midrange. It's the most classically structured of all these lists, using black and red disruption and spot removal, including triple-colored Unleash the Inferno, to pave the way for powerful green creatures like Titan of Industry and Workshop Warchief, as well as Jund star player Soul of Windgrace.


 Other than green, in this tier we also starts seeing white, which represents the only other monocolored strategy competing for the top. It slowed down a bit and it's now known as (you guessed it) Monowhite Midrange, black's more direct counterpart. It's different from the traditional white approach in that it uses sticky threats like planeswalkers and Wedding Announcement and then routinely clears the board with Vanquish the Horde. Dominaria United provided two invaluable tactical plays with Anointed Peacekeeper and Serra Paragon (aka the card that required a change of the rules to properly work).


 The most original build of this tier has to be Boros Reanimator. It features some of the best value cards of Monowhite Midrange, like The Wandering Emperor and Wedding Announcement, but the main plan is using Raffine's Informant, Guardian of New Benalia and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker (the only real reason to splash red) in order to pitch heavy hitters like Sanctuary Warden and Ao, the Dawn Sky and then reanimate them with Invoke Justice.


 Both Vanquish the Horde and Invoke Justice are previously dismissed cards that the rotation has brought to the foreground. The same applies to Rite of Harmony, a largely ignored Midnight Hunt card that's now used by Selesnya build to generate enchantment based mini-storm turns. It's also interesting how some of these lists have a transformative sideboard capable of turning them into Bant come game 2, by siding in up a number of blue-generating lands to fuel several copies of Disdainful Stroke.


 Green is featured in most of the tier-2 lists, all solid builds that represent good foundation points for the color in this beginning of season. Bant Midrange inherits cards from the old Storm the Festival decks, including Wrenn and Seven, now separated from its old partner Esika's Chariot but still shining among the white planeswalkers. The most recent high-profile additions to these lists are Anointed Peacekeeper and of course the new queen of Bant herself, Shanna, Purifying Blade. Bant is also the color combination that better exploits Wedding Announcement's expendable tokens by running several copies of the rarely seen Grafted Identity, a great roundabout way for Storm the Festival to double as removal.


 Temur Midrange also scores high enough on the Standard totem pole. It's a deck that neatly separates its color components based on usage. Green unsurprisingly runs the creature department, with a couple of well-oiled two-for-one three-drops in Briarbridge Tracker and the common Jewel Thief, plus this era's green finisher of choice, Titan of Industry. On the other hand, red and blue combines to offer spells that are aimed to stop or slow down the opponent's gameplan. The digger and ramper Joint Exploration is the only card that pairs blue and green together, following on the glorious footsteps of good old Growth Spiral.


 This meta is set to change soon, anyway, as the next premier set releases only one month from now. We'll see what that'll entail for the current Standard affairs. The Brothers' War is confirmed to have an artifact theme, calling back to Antiquities, and these kinds of mechanics are historically not very black-friendly. Will black manage to maintain its privileged position in spite of these odds?


 Currently 5 sets out of 9:

  1. Innistrad: Midnight Hunt (Fall 1.1)
  2. Innistrad: Crimson Vow (Fall 1.2)
  3. Kamigawa: Neon Dynasty (Winter 1)
  4. Streets of New Capenna (Spring 1)
  5. Dominaria United (Fall 2.1)

 Standard is at its nadir!


  1. The Brothers' War (Fall 2.2) will be released on November 18, 2022
  2. Phyrexia: All Will Be One (Winter 2) will be released on Q1, 2023
  3. March of the Machine (Spring 2.1) will be released on Q2, 2023
  4. March of the Machine: The Aftermath (Spring 2.2) will be released shortly afterwards


 Last revised: October 10, 2022

 Total banned cards: 1 (from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt)

 See you after Standard will have been affected by the ancient history of The Brothers' War!