Kumagoro42's picture
By: Kumagoro42, Gianluca Aicardi
Mar 09 2021 12:00pm

 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!


 Kaldheim has proven to be a very fertile terrain for Standard. It's a high-complexity set that has thrown more than a curve ball at the meta. Last time we checked on the format, I was noting how Dimir Rogues seemed primed to become a dominant list, and indeed that's exactly what happened during the months that followed the release of Zendikar Rising. Now, two sets into the new post-rotation cycle, a quantity of archetypes old and new are thriving, their prominence ebbing and flowing from week to week.

 Apart from the Rogues, which are losing a bit of steam, the grandfather of current Standard decks, Temur Adventures, remains a force to be reckoned with in the meta. It shifted to a more controlling build, with Saw It Coming as its counterspell of choice, and it incorporated Goldspan Dragon as a finisher cum ramp, and Alrund's Epiphany as a late-game big play. It's also taking avantage of Kaldheim completing the Pathway cycle; the mana base for any three-color concoction is very sound right now.


 A list that's definitely derived from Adventures decks, but also evolved from Gruul Midrange, is Naya Fury.


 Edgewall Innkeeper and the must-play Gruul adventurers (Bonecrusher Giant, Lovestruck Beast) are still there, but the white ones also make a comeback, with Giant Killer in the build's main removal role and Shepherd of the Flock to reset Showdown of the Skalds, which is the main card advantage engine. The titular Fury spells are Unleash Fury from Core Set 2021 and Kazuul's Fury from Zendikar Rising, both high-reward finishing plays, replacing the likes of Embercleave for the sake of sheer efficiency. The list has generally many ways to generate additional Treasure tokens by targeting Goldspan Dragon (see also: Sejiri Shelter), which doesn't even mind being returned to hand, since it's a hasty attacker.


 A slightly different, very up-and-coming take on this kind of Naya midrange build (and we can note in passsing how the meta has to be healthy if midrange is back), nicknamed Naya Sky, enacts a faster curve which allows for the use of Clarion Spirit to generate evasive tokens and Toski, Bearer of Secrets to refuel the hand through them – and you'll need Shepherd of the Flock to return Toski in hand eventually, or you'll just deck yourself!. That legendary Squirrel is the surprise wonder of the current meta.


 If the adventure creatures from Throne of Eldraine seem destined to stay relevant in the meta for the entire duration of their legality, one of the signature mechanic from Ikoria is also surprising resilient. Cycling has taken a new form by integrating the old, and never really dominant, "draw two" cards from Eldraine, namely Irencrag Pyromancer and Improbable Alliance. At the end of the day, they do work with cycling, and while their presence reduce the density of cycling cards and thus the effectiveness of Zenith Flare, they also give the deck a bit more reach and diversify the threats.


 Something that emerged in this last period is Monowhite Aggro. It's a timeless archetype that wasn't so prominent in the meta since Dominaria was in the Standard pool.


 Competitive white cards kept accumulating set after set, until they reached critical mass. Seasoned Hallowblade and Selfless Savior in Core Set 2021; Luminarch Aspirant, Skyclave Apparition and Maul of the Skyclaves in Zendikar Rising; Usher of the Fallen and the white Gods in Kaldheim. Reidane, God of the Worthy is particularly relevant because of her back side, Valkmira, Protector's Shield,  severely reducing go-wide damage, while Halvar, God of Battle is an extra Equipment. The flexibility of the modal double-faced cards is really showing here.


 Some lists use maindeck Lurrus of the Dream-Den for recursion. Others still prefer to take the Heliod, Sun-Crowned route, with a larger focus on lifegain synergies.

 No contemporary Standard meta could be complete without a ramp deck, and right now, the top of the line is Sultai Ultimatum, a list that coalesced right after Zendikar Rising, and is still very much in the first tier.


 Emergent Ultimatum is as fun as a finishing move can get, tutoring up and putting out two out of three big spells once you ramp into it. Typical targets include Kiora Bests the Sea God, Shark Typhoon and now Alrund's Epiphany, Vorinclex, Monstrous Raider and Valki, God of Lies (or actually the powerful Tibalt on its back). Two different sweepers are also available in black, in the form Shadows' Verdict and Extinction Event, thus ensuring the opponent won't be able to send both back into the library.


 The list is a Yorion, Sky Nomad-companioned 80-card build, and has received great tools in Kaldheim, especially Binding the Old Gods combining all-purpose removal with ramp and fixing (the Triomes counting as Forests is key). Esika's Chariot is its own finisher, a terrific Yorion target that also gets the juicy opportunity to copy Kiora's 8/8 Kraken, which is the single best token in the meta. Last but not least, Behold the Multiverse is the best card-drawing spell currently available. The average card quality in Sultai is unparalleled, and like in Temur's case, the mana is now pretty much perfect, so fulfilling the Ultimatum's requirement has become trivial.


 Finally, a list that's low tier-one in best-of-three, but the absolute dominator in best-of-one: none other than Monored Aggro. Last fall, we had seen a Big Red build making the rounds. This winter, we're back to just classic smash-your-face monored, at the very top once again, like it's used to be.


 This is the only high meta competitor that still runs a playset of Embercleave (though, in lower tiers, Gruul Aggro still exists as an Embercleave enthusiast), and employs Zendikar Rising's Fireblade Charger as a second cheap Cleave carrier alongside Fervent Champion. It shares with Monowhite Aggro, the other main boss in best-of-one, the snow mana base – in this case not just to enable the efficient manland Faceless Haven, but to turn Frost Bite into quasi-Lightning Bolt. And for being the most low-to-the-ground of all current tier-one decks, it still can't help but run a couple copies of Goldspan Dragon – the Treasure hoarder is definitely one of the big winners of the Kaldheim meta.



 Currently 6 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).

 Set 7 of 8: Strixhaven: School of Mages (Spring 2), releasing on April 23, 2021.

 Set 8 of 8: Dungeons & Dragons: Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (Summer 2, replacing the core set), releasing around July 2021.

 Next rotation, back to 5 sets: "Innistrad: Werewolves" (Fall 3.1), releasing in September 2021, triggering rotation of Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Ikoria: Lair of Behemoths, and Core Set 2021. "Innistrad: Vampires" (Fall 3.2, possibly replacing Winter 3) will release in November. Both sets don't have final names yet, they are speculated to be Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and Innistrad: Crimsow Vow, respectively.


 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 spring, after we'll have visited to the magical school of Strixhaven!