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By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Mar 23 2020 12:00pm
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 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 CURRENT META

 Since the last time we checked on Standard, World Championship XXVI happened. In Honolulu, from February 14 to February 16, the top sixteen players of the season gave battle for the unprecedented prize pool of one million dollar. They brought five different archetypes, almost evenly distributed between the competitors.

  •  4 Jeskai Fires decks (Márcio Carvalho, Javier Domínguez, Raphaël Lévy, Gabriel Nassif)
  •  4 Monored Aggro decks (Eli Loveman, Seth Manfield, Andrea Mengucci, Sebastián Pozzo)
  •  4 Temur Reclamation decks (Autumn Burchett, Jean-Emmanuel Depraz, Chris Kvartek, Matias Leveratto)
  •  3 Azorius Control decks (Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, Thoralf Severin, Ondřej Stráský)
  •  1 Jund Sacrifice deck (Piotr Głogowski)

 It was a pretty balanced field, and overall all the decks performed adequately, with maybe just Temur Reclamation struggling a bit against an aggressive start or when facing Teferi, Time Raveler. In the end, the $300,000 top bounty was conquered by an Azorious Control list piloted by the expert hands of Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, already hailed as one of the greatest Magic players of all time, finally able to add the world championship to his huge gallery of trophies, bringing it back to Brazil after the victory of Carlos "Jaba" Romão in 2002. Congratulations!

 Jeskai Fires took second place with Márcio Carvalho while Monored Aggro was third with Seth Manfield. One month later, with more high-profile events being played, like DreamHack Anaheim Arena OpenMythic Point Challenge: Ikoria and Grand Prix Lyon, the world championship lists are still some of the decks to beat in Standard, but they're not alone. We can indeed identify four tier-1 archetypes and four tier-2 archetypes, plus a variable number of tier-3 decks (links remand to the lists shown in the previous article or to a new one from a recent tournament).

 Jeskai Fires is by now a stable, nearly solved list. It went through different iterations, including the spicy Niv-Mizzet Reborn version, but a consensus had been reached on its optimal form even before the World Championship. The most important changes post-Theros Beyond Death were the addition of everyone's favorite finisher Dream Trawler as a curve topper; the maxing out of Bonecrusher Giant; and the general preference of Kenrith, the Returned King over Cavalier of Gales – essentially, more threats to churn out with Fires of Invention, mostly at the expense of the interaction, a task almost entirely entrusted to Deafening Clarion and the occasional Aether Gust. Some of the latest builds feature meta-calls in the form of maindeck copies of Heliod's Intervention and Elspeth Conquers Death, the latter being one of the hottest new pieces of tech in Standard.

  

 Jund Sacrifice, or "The Cat in the Oven Combo", is the deck that won Mythic Championship VII, so it's no surprise to still find it at the top of the meta, even when it was unexpectedly relegated to the role of a rogue deck at Worlds. To know how this list is evolving, you can't do better than to look at what Piotr "Kanister" Głogowski is doing with it. The version from the Mythic Championship had a full set of Casualties of War; for Worlds and the Mythic Point Challenge, the expensive mega-removal got replaced with the more agile countermeasure Agonizing Remorse. Since ramp at that point wasn't needed anymore, Beanstalk Giant also left the building, in favor of several experiments, the most convincing and perduring of which seems to be a copy of Liliana, Dreadhorde General at the top end. Kanister's most recent brew also renewed his faith on Korvold, Fae-Cursed King, now run at maximum capacity.

   

 Slightly different beast is the Rakdos variant, which plays around Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger.

 

 Cards like Mire Triton and Tymaret Calls the Dead are there to maximize Kroxa's escapes, while the Titan is also a good fit for Priest of Forgotten Gods, which the Korvold build simply ignores. Also, giving up on green may seem crazy, considering how crucial the card advantage from Trail of Crumbs is, but it opens room for the second best card to associate with Priest and Oven (plus newcomer Woe Strider): Claim the Firstborn. Some older builds ran Chandra, Acolyte of Flame too, but sadly that vivacious kid is currently neglected.

   

 The Adventure decks were well-positioned in the meta before Worlds, but when they failed to make an appearance in such an important occasion, their novelty seemed to have waned. The emergence of Temur Adventure proved the naysayers wrong. The list with which Aaron Gertler (aka littlebeep) won DreamHack Anaheim, and that launched the popularity of this color combination, is an old school adventure pile with playsets of both Edgewall Innkeeper and Lucky Clover.

 

 You might remember Ally Warfield taking this route in Golgari for Mythic Championship VII, but Clover does more for red and especially blue than just duplicating Smitten Swordmaster's Curry Favor; Bonecrusher Giant and Brazen Borrower can quickly dismantle the opponent's board, without incurring in the loss of life caused by Murderous Rider; and Fae of Wishes is the deck's secret weapon, unlocking an arsenal of tactical gear, including Fling and Shadowspear for the Beanstalk Giant (in a way or the other, the big guy will deliver that pain!). Even the draw engines look fun, with Escape to the Wilds exploiting the inherent cheapness of the adventures, as well as the mechanic exiling the cards for later use, and The Great Henge feeling perfectly at home with all those high-powered creatures.

   

 Another reboot from the recent past is Nissa Ramp. Nissa, Who Shakes the World didn't get much love at Worlds (there were only four copies of the animist in the entire tournament), but a build with her as the centerpiece can never be too far from the top of the meta. The Simic version that wins with Finale of Devastation into End-Raze Forerunners is still a thing, and reached first place at MagicFest Lyon's Friday PTQ, but the same did the Bant flavor on Sunday, and it seems to be the one to keep an eye on for the time being.

 

 Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath is the card that revitalized the Nissa archetypes, providing both early ramp, a way to patch the life total against aggro, and a veritable finisher in the late game. Then white gives access to Teferi and all the removal Simic lacks, like Shatter the Sky, Elspeth Conquers Death, and the very meta-relevant Knight of Autumn; but also to Dream Trawler and Dovin's Veto, making this into more of a control build.

   

 Successful and possibly even more interesting is the Sultai iteration.

 

 Still control-ish, this list can play up to eight pieces of early disruption with Agonizing Remorse joining Thought Erasure. Casualties of War comes back to claim its victim in a meta with plenty of enchantments and artifacts to target (after all, several major archetypes are centered around one: Fires of Invention, Wilderness Reclamation, Doom Foretold, Lucky Clover, Witch's Oven, Embercleave). Black also gives blue Tyrant's Scorn and green Vraska, Golgari Queen, as well as intriguing new entries from Theros Beyond Death like Atris, Oracle of Half-Truths and Polukranos, Unchained. Despite not having maindeck sweepers, the Sultai version still renounces all creature ramp (you can't exactly categorizes Uro as a mana dork), putting Paradise Druid and friends on hold for the moment.

   

 Over on the pure aggro side, Monored is still king. Proof is Biagio Ruocco's top placement at Grand Prix Lyon on March 8.

 

 Cousin Gruul can count on better two- and three-drops like Zhur-Taa Goblin, Gallia of the Endless Dance and Gruul Spellbreaker, not to mention Questing Beast as the ultimate Embercleave carrier. But going monocolor is just too consistent and lifts a lot of pressure on the mana base of aggro builds, which can't easily put up with taplands. Also, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is too powerful to pass on, monored savior Anax, Hardened in the Forge does not like to have extraneous colors around, and good old Runaway Steam-Kin still has a few points to make in the meta in the last six months of its Standard lifespan.

   

 Last but not least, Azorius Control had a burst of popularity after the victory at Worlds, but turns out not everyone can enjoy Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's success with it (even an excellent player like Ondřej Stráský suffered a disappointing result running the very same list in Honolulu). It's still a force in the meta, but you know, you can't pick up a world champion's equipment and expect to replicate his performance.


 THE STANDARD LEGALITY

 Currently 6 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), Theros: Beyond Death (Winter 2).

 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 on July 3, 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.


 THE STANDARD BAN LIST

 Last revised: November 18, 2019 

 Total banned cards: 4


 See you in the spring, when Ikoria: Lair of  Behemoths will have unleashed!