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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Dec 16 2019 12:00pm
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 Hello and welcome to the first edition of the State of Standard! It'll be a companion series to the State of Modern, except, as you might have figured out by now, it'll be devoted to all things Standard.

 And things have been pretty dire for Standard in the second half of 2019, with a bad guy meta turning into a different bad guy meta requiring another round of bannings.


 Now the environment seems to have settled down, and the aftermath Mythic Championship VII looks like a good moment in time to start our regular check-in with Magic's prime rotating format. So let's do just that and see where Standard is at while the end of the decade approaches!


 The competitors at Mythic Championship VII registered 67 decklists, which could be divided into seven broad archetypes.

  • 19 Sacrifice decks (9 Jund, 7 Golgari, 3 Rakdos)
  • 16 Fires of Invention decks (12 Jeskai, 2 Five-Color, 1 Jund, 1 Rakdos)
  • 10 Adventure decks (8 Golgari, 1 Gruul, 1 Temur)
  • 10 Flash decks (6 Izzet, 4 Simic)
  • 5 Ramp decks (3 Simic, 2 Sultai)
  • 4 Control decks (3 Azorius, 1 Esper)
  • 3 Wilderness Reclamation decks (3 Temur)

 For the time being, we can ignore all the control lists and those based around Wilderness Reclamation – they tried, but they're currently no more relevant than a tier 3 (same as Monored Aggro, which wasn't even featured in Long Beach). Izzet Flash also appears to be a quirkier but overall less successful cousin of Simic Flash, despite being the weapon of choice of Gabriel Nassif, Shahar Shenhar and Jessica Estephan during the tournament.


 This leaves us with five archetypes, all of which had representative among the eight that made into day three of the event. Let's start at the very top, and not with a roar, but with a meow.


  It's still amazing to think that the combo involving Cauldron Familiar and Witch's Oven was considered a meme at first, and now it's a big part of what earned Piotr Głogowski $100,000 and a spot at the upcoming world championship, after a flawless performance at the Mythic Championship with zero losses during the entire weekend. The constant flux of these Schrödinger's cats is a function that proves very hard to collapse, and the combo is self-sustaining with those two cards alone, both creating a death by a thousand cuts (or by a thousand cats, if you will) and making very complicate to get damage through with non-flyers and non-tramplers. Golgari is the perfect shell for the baked cats, with all the other Food synergies (especially the card selection from Trail of Crumbs), the usual ramp and the typically superior removal suite, culminating in the one card that perhaps best represents this meta as a whole: Casualties of War, very easily finding board states where it'll be a three-for-one or even a four-for-one, therefore totally deserving its six-mana cost.


 Głogowski's list is not entirely Golgari, though; it includes a red splash, and the reasons for it are two crucial cards that want to spectate the endless cat sacrifices: Mayhem Devil and Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. If the former was already a given in Aristocrats-style decks in various colors, the latter's presence is particularly noteworthy because the Jund Dragon originates within the Brawl pre-con decks, but now his savage hunger made him a proper Constructed star, often able to seal the deal with one swift attack, even more likely when there's some devil on a unicycle reveling in the mayhem from the sidelines and pinging like crazy.


 Despite Głogowski's ultimate win, the most surprising performance of the tournament came from a deck designed by Seth Manfield, and played by him as well as his test partners Brad Nelson and the reigning world champion himself, Javier Domínguez. All these three magnificent players reached the Top 8 with this list, which almost nobody else was playing at the time (expect that to have changed already).


 Simic Flash has been around longer than everything else in this article, but Manfield enriched it with traditional ramp elements, counting on Nissa, Who Shakes the World and her giant Hydroid Krasis as an alternate wincon when just the old routine of flashing wolves with counterspell backup wasn't enough.


 And Simic might have lost Oko, along with Once Upon a Time and Veil of Summer, but it's still very much a major force in the meta, as is green at large, of which Nissa is the undisputed queen – if she's not the most powerful card in the meta at the moment, she's definitely the most powerful planeswalker, attacking and defending at haste speed, threatening 18 damage in three turns, the inevitability clock ticking faster and faster the more she remains on the battlefield. By untapping a Breeding Pool to keep countermagic mana open, she reminds of another five-mana walker/finisher that used to dominate the meta before rotation: Teferi, Hero of Dominaria.

 Nissa is of course the centerpiece of any blue-green deck that focuses on ramping, which is true of another of Mythic Championship VII's Top 8 lists that qualifies as further candidate for top tier in the meta.


 Andrea Mengucci's list uses very few maindeck cards from Throne of Eldraine (just the Castles). It's Elemental-based ramp, something we had stopped seeing in a while, but was now resurrected with the addition of a spicy Quasiduplicate as enhancer; and it especially turned heads because the payoff is the very Timmy/Tammy-esque move of a Finale of Devastation for X=10 to fetch everyone's favorite apocalyptic herd of stampeding boars, End-Raze Forerunners. I bet you could hear in your mind the crashing thunder and the weeping and gnashing of teeth.


 Still, not everything's green in the meta. An archetype that was expected to be tier one, but sort of underperformed at the Mythic Championship despite having the second largest representation, is the one that aims to exploit Fires of Invention in a way or another.


 And make no mistake, Jeskai Fires in particular is definitely tier one right now. MagicFest Brisbane was held concurrently to the Mythic Championship, and five of its eight top decks were Fires list, including a five-color one with Niv-Mizzet Reborn as a centerpiece. Paul Vitor Damo da Rosa made Top 8 in Long Beach using some control elements and a bunch of Cavaliers, but there are also slower, more versatile versions that try to fetch answers and combo pieces from the sideboard via Fae of Wishes. Once the Fires are on the table, the number of lands is the only limit. And the number of allowed spells per turn, of course. Which is two. In your turn only. All in all, Fires of Invention is a very well-balanced card, but still leads to some powerful plays, especially with the help of abilities that you can still sink your mana into, like Cavalier of Flame, Kenrith, the Returned King, and Castle Vantress.


 Now, what's the last major archetype that's missing? Why, the most Eldraine-dependent of them all: the Adventures! Back to Golgari!


 Adventure decks are the last piece of the current meta puzzle. As of December 7, MTG Arena Zone lists Fires and Sacrifice as Tier 1 decks, with Adventure, Simic Flash and Simic Ramp as Tier 1.5, so all five very close and potentially able to outrank each other. Chris Kvartek, one of the most innovative brewers on the scene, ended the year that put him on the map with a Top 8 placement at the Mythic Championship, thanks to a list that takes typical adventure mechanics and reinforces them with a high-powered beater like Rotting Regisaur, which in turn suggests the use of The Great Henge as an additional draw engine, and of Vivien, Arkbow Ranger to trample past those pesky cats. It's all very Golgari, and will certainly inspire followers.


 A more typical Adventure list came only one win shy of the Top 8 in the hands of Ally Warfield, the most successful female player at the event.


 Here we can see all the adventure highlights, including Edgewall Innkeeper, Lucky Clover and the Knight subtheme with Smitten Swordmaster. The entire deck is one big engine designed to outvalue its opponent, given that so many cards have two functions, and then further generate triggers.


 And that's the whole shebang for now, with the next scheduled shakeup, i.e. the release of Theros: Beyond Death, still six weeks away. From what we already know of Theros, the new set will likely change this scenario quite a bit, adding specific archetypes, turning maindeck enchantment removal into even more of a necessity, and increasing the devotion-friendly value of cards like Vivien.


 Currently 5 sets out of 8: Guilds of Ravnica (Fall 1), Ravnica Allegiance (Winter 1), War of the Spark (Spring 1), Core Set 2020 (Summer 1), Throne of Eldraine (Fall 2).

 Set 6 of 8: Theros: Beyond Death (Winter 2), releasing on January 24, 2020.

 Set 7 of 8: Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths (Spring 2), releasing on April 24, 2020.

 Set 8 of 8: Core Set 2021 (Summer 2), releasing around July 2020.

 Next rotation, back to 5 sets: Zendikar Rising (Fall 3), releasing around September 2020, triggering rotation of Guilds of Ravnica, Ravnica Allegiance, War of the Spark, Core Set 2020.


 Last revised: November 18, 2019 (banned: Oko, Thief of Crowns, Once Upon a Time, Veil of Summer)
 Next announcement: December 16, 2019

 Total banned cards: 4