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By: jamuraa, Michael Janssen
Jul 16 2008 11:10am
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When life gives you lemons, you should make lemonade. Of course, if you have lemons coming out your ears, you might want to consider giving away a lemonade recipe and pointing out that you have lemons for sale. I don't know exactly where that came from, but I'm back and it's time to go over some metagame analysis. I finked out on all you readers last week because I was a bit busy with some work and I just couldn't find the time to write. It's a pity, too, because it was the first week of Premier Events with Shadowmoor! We ended up getting five or so days of PEs, some at reduced times as the last of the release events died down. I have the meta for that week and the last week too.

Lately I have been thinking about the standard environment, and how all the big deck types seem to be sticking around through the different sets. I thought that this might be an artifact of me only analyzing the metagame as the standard environment has just switching to Lorwyn and away from the crazy color madness of Ravnica. This was partly out of necessity - I didn't really have the cash on hand in order to get into any standard where the most expensive part of any deck was the manabase.

I've been looking forward to the final release of Eventide, which had a prerelease just a few days ago - of course this means we won't get it for almost a month online, but it signifies something which I am very excited about: the change in the standard format. I have never covered a format shift yet, but I do remember hearing about the decks which happened just before the format shift that I started at, and they were wildly different than the decks which we all know and love today. Sure, some of them tried to persist on - we've seen a few Kavu Justice decks and in the early months I even saw some Lightning Angels fly into the red zone. Largely the archetypes that we know about though switched to being largely composed of cards from Lorwyn block. We see this continuing to this day with the top decks in the format being tribal-based. Faeries and Elves and Goblins and Merfolks swinging their way into the red zone.

When the format shifts later this year, I wonder if we will stick with the decks we all know and love, black-green rock, blue-black faeries, or if we will be shifting our deckbuilding gaze into the Shards of Alara. I feel compelled to comment on the changes which it seems like everyone else has commented on for the next major block to come out of Renton. Of course the major change is the introduction of the mythic rare slot. Honestly I don't really see the point in being up in arms around this. Yes, at some point there will be competitive-viable cards in the much feared mythic rarity, but as Mark Rosewater pointed out, they aren't that much more rare than, say, a Wall of Roots. At least for online, there are plenty of the cards in the "Timeshifted" set of cards which graced a rare slot. The other thing that the mythic rares change is the regular rare - they are now.. less rare. This is a welcome change, as when I look at $15 Reflecting Pools and $10 River of Tears I welcome any increase in frequency of these cards. The other change is the smaller set size, which of course combined with the changes above really change the landscape.

So what was I talking about? Right, the format change. In order to understand a format change, we really need to look at what we're losing and what we're gaining. Of course, we have no clue what we're gaining (other than at least one mythic rare Planeswalker) so we should take a look at what's going away. Remember that we're not only losing Time Spiral block, but also the Coldsnap set when the format rotates. I spent some time looking through the 911 cards we would lose and wrote down the ones I've seen in decks lately. Here they are paired with the deck or decks I've seen them in:

Now, I am sure I will get some comments saying I missed something, but I was purposefully narrow in picking the cards here, because they are the ones that I consider currently played - you could have seen them in the meta that I'm about to present below. When I look at this list, I don't see some of the archetypes being hit that much. Specifically, all of the tribal strategies are still basically intact. There are only about 40 cards here out of the 911, coming to less then 5% of the cards in the format. At this point I can predict that we will most likely keep some archetypes through the rotation. Depending on how strong Shards is, we might even still be seeing Elves dominate a year from now.

Statistics for Standard PEs: 7/01/2008 to 7/15/2008

Two weeks ago we were still in the middle of release events, but we had a glimmer of hope on the horizon: Premier Events for Standard were on the way, starting with a couple per day. It was time for me to get cracking. Some of the events didn't fire in the first few days, but most of them were meeting the minimum 24 players. Because we have that week and this week, we have 22 PEs worth to look at, which makes 176 top 8 spots. I wasn't able to ascertain twenty nine of the spots because I couldn't reach the player or their opponent. There was an average of 29 players in the events that fired, which is a bit better than the short week before Shadowmoor.

Colors Deck Name Placings Percentage
Faeries 14%
Elves 11%
New Storm 10%
Mono-Red Aggro 10%
Big Mana 8%
Reveillark 7%
Merfolk 6%
Aggro 3%
Control 1%
Quick 'N Toast 1%
Platinum Control 1%
Kithkin 1%
  Timeout 0%
  Other 5%
  Unknown 16%

The graph this week doesn't really show the way the meta worked. This is the problem of putting together two weeks. The first week, we had Mono-Red Aggro dominating the metagame. It seemed like every other event had two or three in the top 8. However, all of that changed after about a week. The second week that dominating archetype kindof dissolved, and the Faeries and Elves came up to get back to their previous places of glory. Elves is the one with more total wins, but Faeries with more top 8 spots overall. With the amount of missing metagame data though, either could be on top. New Storm came and also was gaining thoroughout the week this week, pretty much replacing the previous Mono-Red Aggro.

We don't have gainers and losers this week, because we are coming back from another break similar to the one we had before. We did see a bunch of archetypes which aren't really seeing a lot of play anymore after the Shadowmoor cards came into legality. Specifically there was only one Doran deck this week, and Goblins is practically wiped out.

This week we have a particularly large "Others" section. The aggregate category contains a Mono-Red Elemental deck similar to some block decks I've seen recently (but haven't been doing well), and a couple of decks containing green as a mahog color, one Rock deck which is quite different from the decks which are just normal Elves, and another which focused around the green-white persist creatures which came out in Shadowmoor like Heartmender and Kitchen Finks. White also made a good showing with a Lifegain-based control deck hitting top 8 and a White Weenie deck also making that spot. The rest is rounded out with the Doran deck I mentioned earlier, as well as a Red Deck Wins burn variant and a very strange blue-black Teachings control deck.

Mode of the Week: Mono-Red Aggro

Mono-Red Aggro
Standard-Shadowmoor Deck played by Tomoharu Saito
4 Ashenmoor Gouger
4 Blood Knight
4 Demigod of Revenge
4 Magus of the Moon
4 Magus of the Scroll
4 Mogg Fanatic
24 cards

Other Spells
4 Flame Javelin
4 Incinerate
4 Shock
12 cards
2 Ghitu Encampment
3 Keldon Megaliths
19 Mountain
24 cards

Demigod of Revenge

This week the mode is the deck which I seemed to see every time I turned my head in the first week of meta, and that is Mono-Red Aggro. This deck which was played by Tomoharu Saito in Grand Prix Buenos Aires made a big splash online, hitting all the right buttons for the MTGO crowd. The deck is fairly cheap to make, with the most expensive card being the Demigod of Revenge right now at about $5. It's also quite accessible from the point of playing it, as the main goal is really simple: play out big guys and attack with them.

Speaking of the Demigod of Revenge, this deck is really made by the red-black avatar, which was the first card that the world ever saw of Shadowmoor if we remember. The fact that this guy is a 5 power for 5 mana can be devastating, especially as he swings on the first turn he is cast and can easily end up in multiples of two or three if the first one is killed and a second one is drawn.

The rest of this deck is focused at curving out, playing very efficient creatures which are hard to kill on the ground like Blood KnightMagus of the Scroll which can cause some major damage late game as the cards start getting low. The Magus of the Moon is also quite a good addition which helped prey on the Quick 'N Toast decks that were seeing some play in the events right after they started up again, pretty much devastating their very non-basic manabase. and utility creatures like

The sideboard of this deck is pretty diverse, and I might consider moving the Murderous Redcap to the maindeck in the current metagame where there are not as many non-basic lands for Magus of the Moon to prey on. Otherwise, this deck looks like a lot of fun to play and has certainly proven itself over the last couple weeks. Reveillark's rise in the last week has really knocked out the mono-red wonder though due to a lot of lifegain.

Outlier of the Week: Red-Blue Empty Storm

It's kind of unfair to take this deck and call it an outlier, but it is an interesting build which isn't being played as much as the more common Dragonstorm-less builds out there. Knoll storm has transformed recently to completely eschew the dragons of old, and focus more on attacking with a lot of guys you can get on the board with Empty the Warrens along with the combo which was the backup in the original deck, Pyromancer's Swath and Grapeshot.

This build adds the blue to the deck in order to access the now banned-in-some-formats Ponder which will dig a virtual three and a half cards to find what you need to complete the combo, and the deck is not really going to have a hard time playing it, with the set of Manamorphose and the good selection of multicolor lands available. Another addition which isn't so uncommon nowadays is the inclusion of Mishra's Bauble which does an okay job of adding to the storm count while letting you peek at your own deck or the opponent's deck and digs into your deck just that much more.

From what I understand, it's not uncommon for this deck to have a couple of mini-storms for the win instead of the one big storm which you expect from previous incarnations of the archetype. The first mini-storm can be used with a relatively low four to five storm count and pump out up to ten goblin tokens which are ready to swing across the red zone next turn and trigger your Spinerock Knoll. I would watch out for this deck in the near future, as it seems to be on the upswing lately.

Well that's all for this returning week of Standard Deviations. I'm sure that I missed a couple of cards which will be rotating out this fall from my list above - which cards will you miss the most from the ones which will rotate? Maybe you're a big Lightning Serpent fan, or you think Deathmark will be sorely missed? Tell me in the comments. Until next week, good luck in the PEs!


by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Sat, 07/19/2008 - 11:26
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I think you will find that Magus of the moon (and not the Demigod) is the most expensive card in the deck. They go for between 7 an 8, while the demigod is 3-4. This relates to the mono-red aggro deck you refer to.

comment + magus by Will (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 07/17/2008 - 04:53
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Good article, but...

"The fact that this guy is a 5 power for 5 mana can be devastating, especially as he swings on the first turn he is cast and can easily end up in multiples of two or three if the first one is killed and a second one is drawn."

I think we're all able to read the cards. ;) 

And by the way, Magus of the Moon is pretty good at crippling Faeries, and it is randomly good against Elves and 3cLark. Even against Storm they have to kill it most of the times. It's horrible only against Merfolk and in the mirror. 

by Rob (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 07/16/2008 - 18:06
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Seems like maybe Momentary Blink might have made this list. If nothing else, it shows up a lot in casual play.

by Zac (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 07/16/2008 - 20:11
Zac (Unregistered)'s picture

Deathmark was reprinted in 10th, so it's not rotating. Same goes for Cryoclasm and a couple of other cards originally from Coldsnap.

Also, Momentary Blink should've made the list. It was used in quite a few decks, including Blink Riders and Reveillark.


by iceage4life at Wed, 07/16/2008 - 15:36
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Extirpate leaving is a good thing for bad players.  That card is awful, I've seen it in maindecks in the past few months which makes me want to laugh.  Even vs Lark it is not the card you want and that is the only deck I can see wanting it vs.

by jamuraa at Wed, 07/16/2008 - 17:04
jamuraa's picture

I looked at extirpate and thought about it, but the truth of the matter is that noone plays the card even in the sideboard anymore - I haven't seen it in a while.


I play it sometimes, but that's because I like to look at people's decklists :) 


by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 07/16/2008 - 13:53
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I haven't played standard in a while, but I think extirpate will be missed. The decks its best against will be rotating with it (revilark and storm) but there will probably be new archetypes that it will be good against (like decks that run mulldrifter + makeshift, or agaisnt cryptic command control decks).

by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Wed, 07/16/2008 - 13:54
Anonymous (Unregistered)'s picture

I haven't played standard in a while, but I think extirpate will be missed. The decks its best against will be rotating with it (revilark and storm) but there will probably be new archetypes that it will be good against (like decks that run mulldrifter + makeshift, or agaisnt cryptic command control decks).