Standard Overview Before Zendikar Rising Championship

Pascal Vieren

Pascal Vieren

The Zendikar Rising Championship is drawing near. Sadly, I didn’t manage to qualify and won’t be playing. This allows me to freely speak my mind about what decks I expect and what deck I’d recommend for now. As I’ve played plenty of Standard in the last month and absolutely no Historic, this article will focus entirely on Standard.

State of Standard

In the current day and age Standard is evolving very fast. More games than ever are played on Arena. Relevant tournaments are hosted on an almost daily basis. Metagames get solved faster than ever. The League weekends played by the MPL and Rivals give us lists tuned by the very best players in the world.

Omnath, Locus of CreationOko, Thief of Crowns

Next to that, if a deck or card is overperforming, it is getting banned quickly nowadays. I don’t think 《Omnath, Locus of Creation》 was more powerful than 《Oko, Thief of Crowns》, yet it got banned way faster.

Since Omnath, no additional cards got banned and no deck has been truly dominating. As far as I know, there are no calls for bannings either. For me, this shows we have a healthy metagame. The metagame is still solved, but I think it’s healthy. Evolution of decks and winrates also shows this.

Decks of Standard

Brushfire ElementalSoaring Thought-ThiefYorion, Sky Nomad

Standard currently has three dominating archetypes: Gruul Adventures, Dimir Rogues and Yorion Doom Foretold. Other decks I feel worth mentioning are Monogreen Food, Temur Ramp and Rakdos Escape. Following are versions of these decks I’d recommend.

Gruul Adventures

EmbercleaveThe Great Henge

This deck has more or less reached its final form. There’s some discussion about the exact numbers of each Legendary artifact, but six total seems right to me.

Dimir Rogues

Lurrus of the Dream-DenZareth San, the Trickster

Different variations of this deck exist and the gameplan of each version can be a bit different. I have a slight preference for the Rogues lists with 《Lurrus of the Dream-Den》 as Companion.

Yorion Doom Foretold

Doom Foretold

The current leading Yorion deck is Esper Doom Foretold as it has a positive matchup versus Gruul Adventures, something other Yorion decks struggle with. Other Yorion decks include Azorius, Selesnya, Mardu and Abzan variations. Each of these aim to control the board and generate card advantage through Yorion and 《Elspeth Conquers Death》.

Monogreen Food

This deck basically didn’t exist a month ago and is now rising in popularity. Don’t dismiss this as just a monogreen beatdown deck.

Temur Ramp

Temur Ramp seems to take up a small fraction of the metagame for quite a while now. Having a difficult matchup versus Gruul Adventures hurts this deck. I love the list Shintaro Ishimura brought for the November Zendikar Rising League Weekend, however. There’s a hard focus on a possible turn 5 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 here.

Rakdos Escape

Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger

Having loads of Escape cards make this deck a natural predator of Dimir Rogues. Rakdos Midrange has a pretty strong lategame, while also being able to overpower opponents with an early 《Kroxa, Titan of Death’s Hunger》.

Winrates of Standard

Decklists and winrates evolve. The evolution of winrates and decklists in past events is a great source of information. Let’s take a look at the metagame and winrates of both League weekends:

Winrates

In this fast-paced day and age, the lists played only two weeks apart were vastly different. Yorion decks in the first weekend were mostly Azorius, which had a terrible winrate. Only two weeks later and the leading Yorion deck was Esper Doom Foretold. This makes sense, as the most successful deck in the first weekend was Gruul Adventures. Playing a deck with a good plan in this matchup was a sound plan, as a lot of players chose Gruul Adventures for the second week.

The Akroan WarQuesting Beast

Gruul’s own winrate dropped by almost 18%. The primary reason I see for this shift is that people were fully expecting Gruul to be the most played deck. Not only does this mean everyone was prepared for the matchup, but also that Gruul players themselves focused on cards good in the mirror. We’ve seen people playing 《The Akroan War》 main deck, eschewing 《Questing Beast》. While this may be the right call in the Gruul mirror, it makes the matchup versus other decks worse.

The first week of League play saw a lot of Dimir Rogues, with a few Rakdos Midrange players trying to prey on them. The expected rise of Gruul Adventures chased away a lot of the Rogues players as the Gruul matchup isn’t easy from the Rogue point of view. The expected decline of Dimir Rogues in the second weekend also made sure nobody registered Rakdos Midrange for the second weekend of play. For Rakdos to thrive, Dimir Rogues needs to be a sizeable part of the metagame.

Wicked WolfTrail of Crumbs

A new deck rose to dominion during the second weekend: Monogreen Food. Having a favorable matchup versus both Gruul Adventures and Yorion decks made this deck an excellent choice for the weekend. I fully expect Monogreen Food to be a sizeable portion of the metagame in the upcoming Zendikar Rising Championship.

Genesis UltimatumUgin, the Spirit Dragon

Lastly, Shintaro Ishimura was the only player bringing Temur Ramp for the second weekend of play. His winrate was pretty good and I think this deck is a real contender. An early 《Ugin, the Spirit Dragon》 seems like a solid plan versus Monogreen Food, which is another reason for playing this deck.

Expected Metagame

I’ll start with the disclaimer that predicting a metagame is both very hard and something I haven’t necessarily been good at in the past. I have been playing loads of Standard lately and we have access to a lot of tournament data, so here we go:

Deck Expecetd Number
Gruul Adventures 29%
Dimir Rogues 14%
Yorion Doom Foretold 14%
Temur Ramp 7%
Rakdos Midrange 5%
Monogreen Food 13%
Other 18%
Total 100.0%

I expect Gruul Adventures to still be the most played deck at the Zendikar Rising Championship. It’s a very strong deck and a safe choice. You can’t really be wrong when playing Gruul Adventures. Even in your worst matchups, you’ll still win games by just curving into an 《Embercleave》.

Embercleave

Likewise, Dimir Rogues is another safe choice. Compared to Gruul Adventures, it’s a bit underpowered however. You’ll have less wins by just playing inherently strong cards which are capable of winning the game on their own. For deckbuilding, I’d advise on focusing on the creature-based matchups with your maindeck. 《Lullmage’s Domination》 in particular is a gamebreaking card versus Gruul and Monogreen.

Lullmage's Domination

I may be overestimating how many people will show up with Yorion Doom Foretold, but it’s the strongest control deck out there. I’m no stranger to the feeling of wanting to play control decks. For Yorion players: make sure you know how to approach both the Dimir Rogues and the Monogreen Food matchup.

Temur Ramp is here to stay. I don’t envision it to ever be a major player, as counterspells like 《Negate》 are just too good against this deck. But I believe this deck to be very well positioned for the Zendikar Rising Championship. If you don’t plan on playing Temur Ramp, at least don’t dismiss testing the matchup. If you are planning on playing it, don’t forget 《Klothys, God of Destiny》 and 《Ox of Agonas》 in your sideboard. You’ll need a sound plan versus Dimir Rogues.

Klothys, God of DestinyOx of Agonas

If there’s one deck I wouldn’t recommend, it would be Rakdos Midrange. Dimir Rogues won’t be large enough part of the metagame to prey on. Some players will still bring to Rakdos to the table and I’m looking forward to see how they attack the Gruul matchup.

And last but not least: Monogreen Food. If anything, I could be underestimating the Food deck’s metagame share. This deck can play oversized creatures fast and they’ll keep on coming. Both the Food engine as well as 《The Great Henge》 can generate unsurmountable advantages. Either prepare for or play this deck.

Final Notes

If you’ve read this article, I think it’s clear I think Temur Ramp could be a wise choice for the Zendikar Mythic Championship. If I had to submit a decklist today, Ramp would be my choice. People will focus on having a plan versus Food and Gruul, while having to dedicate sideboard space to also keeping Rogues and Yorion in check. Ugin is a messed up Magic card and I’d be very interested in getting it into play early and often in this metagame.

Ugin, the Spirit DragonUgin, the Spirit DragonUgin, the Spirit DragonUgin, the Spirit Dragon

Hit me up on Twitter (@VierenPascal) if you have any questions or suggestions!

Pascal Vieren (Twitter)

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Pascal Vieren

Pascal Vieren Pascal is a Gold Level Pro from Belgium. Before the beginning 2018-2019 season, he was advanced from Hareruya Hopes to Hareruya Pros with Jacob Nagro, and his countryman, Branco Neirynck. He has some sweet results like 2 GP top 8s and the runner-up at Worl Magic Cup 2016 with the greatest Belgian team in the history. Though, the most impressive one is Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan where he went undefeated in the Swiss portion (12-0-4) and 3rd place at the end. He piloted an interesting UR Pyromancer deck which was designed by his big brother Peter Vieren. Read more articles by Pascal Vieren