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By: jamuraa, Marie Janssen
Feb 13 2008 11:57am
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Well, this week brought a couple interesting developments which will have an impact on the Standard metagame for a bit. The first is that the Magic Online version 3 counter has been stopped, rewound, and removed. This means that we will have more Standard PEs in the next couple weeks to pour over. The second is that the release of Morningtide online has finally got a release date. Release events are coming soon - the first week of March. We will have some idea of the meta already from the Magic the Gathering: Paper, which will be interesting to watch.

Last week I talked a bit about the top standard decks, and their costs. It seemed like the format was a bit hard to get into. This week I'd like to focus on a way to soften the blow of getting the most recent fad deck, and that is by owning a lot of staple cards. Most people won't be paying full price for any of the decks which are listed here, because they own at least a small portion of the decks.

Staples are cards that fit in a lot of decks. As a competitive standard player, you should own a lot of staples because it will increase the number of decks which are easy to attain, and decrease the initial cost of many of those decks. I have a broad definition of staples - if a card is played in at least 3 or 4 decks in the current top ten of the metagame, I consider it a staple card. There are also a number of cards which I would consider staples even if they aren't currently being used in the meta.

The classic example of a staple card is a playable land. Mana bases are often filled to the brim with staple cards. The painlands from tenth edition are a good example. They are used in many decks because they fit in almost every deck that crosses multiple colors. When Ravnica was standard, the shocklands were staples - they drove the price of standard decks up, but when you invested in a playset, you knew that you were investing well because you would get a lot of play out of them. Also in the set of land-staples right now are the tribal "reveal" lands, the snow taplands and the semi-dual cycle from Time Spiral block. Lands fit in practically everything, which makes them staples most of the time. However, they aren't always staples - Desert, while a useful card and one that can fit in lots of decks, isn't a staple.

Another quality of a staple card is that it will be used over time. Another good example of a staple is Wrath of God. One playset of the Wrath will probably last you for the rest of your Magic days. Wrath is omnipresent, it has been in the Standard cardpool every single day that Magic Online has been available, and it's playable in almost every meta. I can't imagine that Wizards would remove it from the core set, because it is a good card which has been proven to be balanced. Damnation is an interesting oddity, but it will rotate out (some are speculating about 11th Edition having it again).

My definition of a standard staple card is quite broad, and includes some cards that others would not consider because they won't be around forever. These staples are only staples for the current metagame, and will rotate out - it puts them on a different level than the other staple cards that will be around forever, but they are staples in my mind nonetheless. Rune Snag is a staple common that fits in almost any control deck quite nicely, and that is why it's a very expensive common if you're buying it in singles. Garruk Wildspeaker is also a staple right now, and rightly so - the card is playable in almost any deck which uses green and easily outnumbers the other plainswalkers in decks right now. Don't be afraid to invest in some of these rotating staples, but I would probably try to get the more long-lasting staples first.

On Magic Online, we have a huge advantage with regard to staple cards, and that is that you only need four of them in order to play them in any amount of decks that you please. Paper players often will rack up multiple playsets of many staples just so that they don't have to dismantle decks in order to be playing with the legal cards. It is one of the key advantages that you only will ever need a single playset online.

Statistics for Standard PEs: 2/05/2008 to 2/12/2008

This week there were fifteen standard Premier Events (PEs) scheduled on Magic Online. We had a perfect week of meta gathering this week - all fifteen events were played to completion and I was able to gather meta for all the tables giving us a compliment of 120 top eight placings. Just like last week, every event was 2x and in the exact same timeslot as before. Standard Premier Events and got an average turnout of 38 players, about on par with the last week. Eleven of the top tables decided to pack it up and split the prizes without a final table match.

Winner - Split - Second - Semifinals - Quarterfinals

Colors Deck Name Placings Percentage
Big Mana 22% (+7%)
Elves 16% (-1%)
Goblins 15% (+2%)
Pickles Blink 10% (+2%)
Mannequin 9% (+1%)
Rock 3% (-5%)
Faeries 2% (+2%)
Faerie Stompy 2% (+1%)
Doran Rock 2% (-4%)
Knoll Storm 1% (+1%)
Sonic Boom 1% (+0%)
Prowess Elves 1% (+1%)
Big Pizza <1% (-5%)
Wild Blink <1% (-1%)
Reanimator <1% (-1%)
  Inactivity <1% (+0%)
  Other 6% (+4%)

What is this? We have a new champion of the standard meta this week - after being down and out for the last couple of weeks of the meta, Big Mana is again on top of the standings. It seemed like every other top table had a Big Mana deck at it, but it was only about one fourth of the tables. Goblins also is increasing it's hold on the current game, adding a couple more top eight spots from last week. Elves lost a trivial amount of placings here, but I don't think they are going away any time soon, and they might even get a shot in the arm from Morningtide in about a month.

The big gainer this week is Big Mana, regaining it's top spot. The current version which is the most prevalent is very similar to the one which placed well at Worlds 2007, with the Snow lands and Skred killing key creatures on the opposing side. Many of the matches this week came down to a Molten Disaster for a lot, with a kicker. The big loser this week is the normal green-black build of Rock which doesn't include our elvish friends. This deck is starting to show it's age, and while there is some innovation in the form of beating evaders like (Mirri, the Cursed), I think we will see this deck continue to drop.

This week the Rogue category is quite full, gaining five more spots to have eight decks total. This week there was another showing of a deck which includes Platinum Angel and mono-blue control. Also in the category is a green-black Haakon Inversion deck, and a green-white aggro deck. Green-white Mana Ramp made a showing with a splash of blue which made the semifinals, and Traumatized is back for one more semifinal showing. The outlier from last week, Red Deck Wins, is also included this week again. Rounding out the "other"s is a mono-green aggro deck and a three-color Fiery Justice deck.

Mode of the Week: Elves

Elves has been dominating the meta for a while, but lost it's top spot this week. It didn't lose it's power though, as the top archetype didn't make a big dent in it's top table showings. I thought that it was worth another look at this deck, to see whether the archtype has changed much. This list is from the recent Japanese Finals tournament where it went 4-1, and many of the players are now playing a deck closer to this one than last time it was presented here.

I also had a short chat with a player who took a similar deck to the semifinals of a PE this week, A Bathing Ape. You may have noticed him at many of the events lately, seemingly showing up out of nowhere - but you might know him under the name Dipterans as well. When I asked him why he chose this deck to play in standard, A Bathing Ape said that he was previously playing a blue-white Pickles deck, but kept losing matches to green-black decks. He also noticed that green-black was the best deck at Worlds, so he switched and never looked back. His opinion is that this deck is currently weakest against the blue-black Mannequin decks and the somewhat-present Knoll Storm decks out there, but everything else is fairly consistently beatable. He also noted that most of the decks in standard right now are fairly evenly matched, so matchups don't mean as much as play skill in the specific match. I was also interested in his opinion of the very long lag between Morningtide in Magic Paper and Magic Online, and he replied that he thought the metagame was developing much slower than it would be if Morningtide was available for the whole world to compete with. He thinks that extended is developing slower than standard even though it is the format which is played more often in paper at the moment - he plays paper magic regularly and saw only a little shift at the PTQ last weekend. I'd like to thank A Bathing Ape/Dipterans for his insights.

Outlier of the week: Faerie Stompy

This week I would like to talk about a deck that hasn't been seeing a lot of play lately, and I think should be seeind a little bit more. Faerie Stompy is a deck which was much bigger in the meta when I started tracking the stadard metagame, and it took three spots this week. It never placed lower than the semifinals however, splitting the top table twice. In my mind this is a pretty impressive showing, because it beat out a lot of the top contenders.

Faerie Stompy is focused around a small two card combo that has a lot of power, and that is Spectral Force combined with Scryb Ranger. The ranger lets you untap your Force even if the opponent you're playing against isn't playing Black, but in this metagame your opponent is often going to untap that Force on their own - over 40% of the decks this week had black as a major color. The rest of the deck is like a mashup of a normal blue-green faeries deck with Scion of Oona protecting your other faeries and Spellstutter Sprite giving you a counter and a flying blocker all in one. Masked Admirers and Troll Ascetic are the big contributions from the Elves decks, along with Garruk Wildspeaker which is just a house in any deck which runs Green nowadays. Some of the decks which I would classify as Faerie Stompy also run some number of Tarmogoyfs, but this build doesn't include them.

Well you are stuck with me for at least another three weeks. How many staples do you own? What card would you consider a staple that I didn't mention? Tell me in the comments! I'm hoping to have some time to participate in some PEs myself this week again, so don't be surprised if you find me across the table after you pay your six tix. Until next week, Good luck in the PEs!


by jamuraa at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 19:59
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Wow, that does look fishy.  I got the list from the Japanese Finals tourneys, apparently they didn't note the snow-ness.

reveal lands by Anonymous (Unregistered) (not verified) at Thu, 02/14/2008 - 08:12
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i bought aunties hovel, but i was aprehensive. i dont see them holding their value after  lorwyn rotates out.

in a non goblin deck they are terrible.

Deck o pedia by jamuraa at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 13:42
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This is in the works, just trying to work out how to make the forums work the way I want to.  After that, there will be sweet sweet linkage, which will make it easier.

Snow-Covered? by paks at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 19:16
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In your list for the Elves, I think the basic lands should be snow-covered. That Mouth of Ronom looks fishy to me.

Doh! by jamuraa at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 13:41
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I went to all that trouble to explain what all the staples are, and I didn't include a shortlist for someone to grab.  There are some mentioned, which cover most of what I am talking about, in about.. priority order

 1. Painlands
 2. Wrath of God
 3. Garruk Wildspeaker
 4. Rune Snag
 5. Tribal Reveal Lands
 6. Snow Taplands

I'll probably present what I consider a comprehensive list of staples next week, or the week after.

Where are the staples? by Stu Benedict at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 12:08
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I thought you were going to tell us what you think are the staples in standard. Where is your list? <confused face> 

That is by JXClaytor at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 13:11
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That is a very good idea jam, maybe a follow up article for when the system is down for the v3, or maybe while PE's are down for Tide.

Deck o pedia by Basic Land at Wed, 02/13/2008 - 13:22
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Is there an archive that contains all the Standard Deviations decks. a Deck-o-Pedia if you will? Also, I would love to see a decklist for Goblins or Big Mana over the next few weeks.

Great article. The painlands are definitley a staple and will be in more core sets to come.