Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Jun 09 2021 11:00am

 Hello and welcome back to the State of Standard, our seasonal rendez-vous with all things Standard, to make sure you know everything that's happening in the format.

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


 The complexity of the 2020-2021 premier sets has increased moving from Zendikar Rising to Strixhaven. The modal double-faced cards alone can give us a good sense of this. In Zendikar Rising, the players were called to choose between land mode and nonland mode. In Kaldheim, between God and non-God. In Strixhaven, each of the two faces can host all kinds of spells.


 Despite its strong mechanical and flavor identity, Strixhaven has had kind of a minor impact on the Standard meta compared to Kaldheim, let alone the four sets that are facing rotation next fall. There were no bans in Standard during this past quarter (I know, it's hard to believe these days!), and the top archetypes established since last winter more or less remained firmly in place. We still have Dimir Rogues (albeit not as dominant as it previously was), we still have Sultai Ultimatum (now the closest to "deck to beat" status), and we still have an array of Adventures decks, perhaps the defining archetype of this entire two-year cycle.


 The experimental build that incorporated Unleash Fury and Kazuul's Fury has essentially ended its run, morphing back into Gruul Adventures lists with Embercleave. This kind of build has embraced a Treasure subtheme from Kaldheim, using both Magda, Brazen Outlaw and Goldspan Dragon as ways to ramp while still keeping the pressure up. Esika's Chariot is a strong inclusion to keep fighting through sweepers.


 If the enemy-colored Strixhaven had nothing to offer Gruul beyond the occasional Hall of Oracles as a one-of in the mana base, it had slightly more of an influence on the versions that splash white, originally and still mostly for the card avantage engines of Clarion Spirit and Showdown of the Skalds. Naya Adventures benefits from a great card coming out of the school of mages, namely the Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa avatar, Elite Spellbinder, an evasive aggressor that provides perfect knowledge of the opponent's hand and forces negative tempo on their key card. It's also worth noting, in both of these builds, the crucial ramp work by the unassuming Jaspera Sentinel, which doubles as Rogue stopper due to the random reach. While the choice to run Drannith Magistrate maindeck in the Naya version is a clear sign of Sultai Ultimate's assertive position in the meta.


 Similarly, Monowhite Aggro received only two notable cards from Strixhaven, but they're both a great boon for the archetype. One is, of course, the already discussed Elite Spellbinder. The other is Sparring Regimen, which creates sweeper-proof redundancy of the Luminarch Aspirant effect, while giving access to a toolbox of lessons, particularly relevant in best-of-one games. On its part, Monored Aggro has Hall Monitor as its new toy; not a very impressive card, but a decent one-drop for an archetype that's still coasting on the power level of Throne of Eldraine and Theros Beyond Death cards in their last stretch of legality, like Embercleave and Anax, Hardened in the Forge. Both Monowhite and Monored make for robust presences in the meta, a notch under Ultimate and Adventures, and on par with Rogues.


 Jeskai Mutate placed two lists in the Top 8 of the Standard portion of the Strixhaven Championship last weekend. The build by Matti Kuisma and David Inglis creates a convergence between Ikoria's "spells matter" creatures and some of the cheaper Prismari spells from Strixhaven, but it's probably just a flash in the pan. It's not going to be a popular deck, since it's really skill-intensive – and a deck that requires the decision-making of a pro to perform is not going to influence the meta too much. Still, it's there, representing a different approach to the mutate mechanic, and we may see it again before Ikoria rotates out. The same goes for the other archetype in the Stars & Stripes colors, Jeskai Cycling, which still resists on the fringes of the meta, but it's of course entirely dependent on cards that won't survive rotation.


 The most authorative new deck from Strixhaven Championship is Izzet Dragons, which has quickly risen to tier-1 territory. It's a well-balanced build with some control elements, and good midrange finishers that ramp into Alrund's Epiphany for the win. Expressive Iteration is probably the best card-drawing spell in the meta right now, so that's one contribution Strixhaven managed to make.


 Other decks that are alive to some degree in the meta include Temur Lukka (which scored a Top 8 placement in the Strixhaven Championship), Boros Winota (especially strong in best-of-one), and one that's arguably the only new list to come out of Strixhaven from a mechanical point of view: Rakdos Sacrifices. It ultimately won the popularity race over the Golgari version that ran Sedgemoor Witch, Witherbloom Apprentice and Dina, Soul Steeper. The Rakdos take on the archetype can leverage an older power player like Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, as well as the efficient token-making of Forbidden Friendship, the removal capability of Claim the Firstborn, and the synergy with the back face of Extus, Oriq Overlord. Both versions are centered around the lifedrain from Bastion of Remembrance and the flashy instant-speed card-advantage of Plumb the Forbidden. The Golgari one is better equipped to survive rotation (it has win conditions that mimic Bastion, while all the best red cards are rotating out), so we might see it morph back into those colors, maybe splashing red just to Awaken the Blood Avatar.


 Currently 7 sets out of 8: Throne of Eldraine (Fall 1), Theros: Beyond Death (Winter 1), Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths (Spring 1), Core Set 2021 (Summer 1), Zendikar Rising (Fall 2), Kaldheim (Winter 2), Strixhaven: School of Mages (Spring 2).

 Set 8 of 8: Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (Summer 2, replacing the core set), releasing on July 23.

 Next rotation, back to 5 sets: Innistrad: Midnight Hunt (Fall 3) will release on September 17, triggering rotation of Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and Core Set 2021. The follow-up set Innistrad: Crimson Vow (likely replacing Winter 3) will release on November 19.


 Last revised: September 28, 2020 and October 12, 2020

 Total banned cards: 8 (6 from Throne of Eldraine, 1 from Theros Beyond Death, 1 from Zendikar Rising)

 See you in late summer, after we'll have witnessed the first crossover between Magic and Dungeons & Dragons!