It’s been a while since we had a World Championship happening in Magic. Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa won his title back in 2019, and he had to wait more than 18 months for someone to have the chance to get the privilege to become the new number one in the world, and that guy is the Fairy Master, Yuta Takahashi.
Being the only one that played Izzet Dragons in the tournament, and defeating Jean-Emmanuel Depraz playing the only Temur Treasures (a traditional Gruul Midrange deck with blue for some counter magic), the decks from the finals left everyone confused about which were the actual strategies to beat in Standard…
Is the Standard Tier 1 Finalized?
Remember that initially, after the rotation, the story was “Izzet Turns vs. the Rest”. Mono Green Aggro trying to close games before any 《Alrund’s Epiphany》 were cast, Grixis Control decks trying to stop everyone’s gameplay with reactive cards supported with a good mana base, and even some White Weenies in the mix, none of them were up to the challenge when it came down to winning against these two gentlemen and their unique choices.
This left us wondering, are these decks the new Tier 1 in Standard?
The Izzet archetype perfected by the Czech House seemed like an absolute masterpiece, and the right way to go when it comes to blue/red, but then Yuta managed to get a PERFECT SCORE with a classic Dragons deck from “Standard 2022”! (prior to Midnight Hunt).
Instead of going with the combo plan that combines the new “《Galvanic Iteration》” to get extra turns, he just played a traditional tempo game with dragons, removals and counterspells, and didn’t rely specifically on 《Alrund’s Epiphany》 to close out games. He even cut a copy and played only three, so that to not draw multiples in the opening hand and leave room for more interaction.
Does this mean that this is the deck to beat right now? Is 《Smoldering Egg》 going to dominate the format until Innistrad: Crimson Vow arrives? That’s probably not the case.
The World Championship was a very small event, with only 16 players competing, and that meant if you managed to guess correctly what the rest were going to play, you had a much higher chance of success. Yuta recognized that everyone was going to target 《Alrund’s Epiphany》 and decks trying to abuse it, and thought of a different way to approach the archetype.
But this doesn’t mean his deck has a great matchup against every other option the format has to offer: explosive white strategies, such as “two spells”, are still able to get under those 《Divide by Zero》 and 《Goldspan Dragon》, and green decks can still present a fast clock that some draws cannot stop, especially if it involves 《Snakeskin Veil》 in the mix.
Standard is still open, and we can adjust most of the strategies to have a game against anyone. These are in my opinion some of the other decks I would play to continue exploring the format going forward:
My Focus Decks
Mono Green Aggro
This is Saporito’s Green Aggro list that got 1st place after the swiss in the Standard Challenge in Magic Online.
Playing 《Snakeskin Veil》 maindeck is what makes the deck so appealing to me: in the matchups where the card is good, having it ready since game one can be devastating for the opponent since they are not going to play around it which makes it even more efficient than what it is. In those games where the card is not that fantastic, is still a combat trick, which makes it at least a playable card (again, is very likely that some people will not play around the +1/+1 game one).
The deck can struggle on the draw depending on the opponent’s start, since it doesn’t have a turn 1 play to begin developing the board quickly, but the fact that its creatures attack for so much by themselves makes up for that. You can close games in the blink of an eye just with a Wolf and a Troll, and of course if you manage to stick an 《Esika’s Chariot》, everyone knows how fast can that card win you the game by itself.
Being a monocolored deck, and that color being GREEN, means your sideboard options are going to be somewhat limited, but if your original gameplan is powerful enough for the metagame that might still end up being irrelevant.
Mono Black Aggro
This is Grzegorz ‘Urlich’ Kowalski Mono Black Aggro list. It is a slightly more aggressive approach than the traditional 《Blood on the Snow》 lists since those tend to have problems against blue decks with very few permanent cards.
《Sedgemoor Witch》 is a creature that hasn’t seen much play since its release but fits well in this shell, and of course, the inclusion of 《Skyclave Shade》 is a clear indicator that the deck wants to be attacking others slow strategies early on.
Also 《The Meathook Massacre》, an enchantment that is great against fast aggro, still has utility in matchups where the opponent does not present a threat, since the damage dealt when our creatures die stacks up pretty quickly and can be a real way to close out games, especially in combination with 《Sedgemoor Witch》 and 《Lolth, Spider Queen》 creating so many creature tokens.
Even though its options are a bit better, it might still have the same problem as the Mono Green list: its sideboard options are limited to what the color has to offer.
This means tons of removal and mass removal variants, and discard spells like 《Go Blank》 or 《Duress》, which are crucial against any Izzet variant. It’s important to keep in mind that, decks with Foretell cards still have the ability to hide those important spells from their hand, keeping them safe in exile from any potential discard. This means that experienced Izzet players will still dodge these sideboard tools some of the time, which reduces their power.
Mono White Aggro
This is Lennny’s Mono White Aggro deck from another Standard Challenge, a well-known player in the Magic Online community you know is going to give you a hard time anytime you face him, he usually plays the right decks for each moment in the metagame.
This deck really wants to curve out, and we can see the 12 one drop, 12 good creatures on 2, and a few more creatures on 3.
《Fateful Absence》 is the best removal in a long time for White Weenie on Standard since is instant speed and with no restrictions and the extra card for two mana is not that big when you are facing creatures attacking you from the early turns.
The deck has some powerful cards for post-board games, 4 removals, the foretell angel, and ten 3 drops with different purposes. These cards are needed for those games when people took out expensive cards and adapt their decks to beat White Weenie and the games are not that easy to curve out like in game 1.
With the format constantly evolving, decklists changing day after day, it might be hard to choose one strategy that we think dominates all the rest. In these situations, I always recommend sticking with what you know you can play better: in Standards where Aggro, Midrange, and Control are viable, instead of deciding which one is the right option for any given moment, try to focus on the archetypes and decks that you know you can make a difference with, know your matchups and have a good sideboard plan.
For me, this means playing 《Expressive Iteration》 decks. Javier Dominguez wrote a fantastic article specifically about this card and its different uses, which I highly recommend checking out. In my case, I like to play control decks to have an eye on how the metagame is evolving, and at the same time to see how fast are the fastest decks. I’m in love with 《Expressive Iteration》 since the first time using it, playing Historic Izzet Phoenix, and this will be my next step moving forward until the next big tournament.
Considering all this, I’ll stick with Izzet Dragons, some thoughts:
I found both creatures in the deck being awesome, 《Goldspan Dragon》 we already know that is insanely good, and the 《Smoldering Egg》 is a very good play for turn 2, but at the same time you can play it on 5 or 6 and have it deal 2 damage to everything pretty fast.
There is still no many predators of Izzet/Grixis Turns, so I feel it will be messing around a lot, and as I said, best color to fight this strategy is blue, and there is plenty of tools to make that pairing better, of course resigning other sideboard slots.
《Malevolent Hermit》 is fantastic. That card is a nightmare for any classic control deck, attacking early in the game with an annoying ability, and coming back from graveyard to keep attacking and making our spells better. Be careful to play around 《Spikefield Hazard》, sometimes is better to not play it on 2 even if is your only play, of course it will depend on your hand, but if you want to go with the full experience (《Benevolent Geist》) you should have a blue mana up.
《Hall of Storm Giants》 is an awesome magic card. Is very easy to play 2, the drawback is soft, and it is incredible good blocking, attacking, and even more, threatening.
I tried some Grixis because I like the manabase right now, but I feel that there is enough tools in blue and red and there is no point on adding a third color. This list can be adapted and evolve while the metagame remains unsolved.
As always, thanks for reading!