Insider: Peeking into the Future of the Standard Metagame

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Post-rotation Ixalan Standard had its big reveal at the SCG in Dallas, where the old guard of Temur Energy and Ramunap Red excelled as they were expected to, and White-Blue Approach of the Second Sun Control proved more competitive than ever. The real breakout from Ixalan was Hostage Taker, which was the centerpiece of the winning Sultai Energy deck, and along with it the rise of The Scarab God as Standard’s premier creature.

Last weekend, the World Championship gave us another look at Standard. Their deck choices were conservative, with the majority of the field wielding Mono-Red and Temur builds, and completely absent were Sultai and more rogue choices like Esper Gifts. The breakout deck was Blue-Black Control, two of which reached the top four. In the day since, Blue-Black Control has gained in popularity in Magic Online leagues, and its paper prices have seen significant increases, with Search for Azcanta // Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin, Vraska's Contempt and Drowned Catacomb as the top three price gainers in Ixalan.

What was completely absent from Worlds was white cards. That makes it even more startling that white decks filled the top eight of the Pro Tour Qualifier online last Saturday, which contained three versions of token decks built around Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort.

Finishing in second place was an Abzan Tokens deck that had been doing well in leagues all week, which splashes Vraska, Relic Seeker to give the deck a robust top-end threat to punish midrange and control decks.

An Esper version of the deck dipped into blue for Champion of Wits and The Scarab God in another move to give the deck more tools against midrange and control.

The most exciting build of tokens included Jace, Cunning Castaway, which has incredible synergy with Anointed Procession that turns its ultimate into something of a combo-kill.

What is even more interesting is that day one of Worlds was on Friday, and decklists were made public, so their decklists were widely copied for the online PTQ the following day. The success of tokens in the PTQ happened through a field of Temur, Red, and control, and it’s a good sign that the deck is strong against the Worlds metagame and a big player going forward into Pro Tour Ixalan. It seems that the pieces of the tokens decks are prime candidates for price growth and might hold the most potential for speculating on the market and capitalizing on the volatility the upcoming Pro Tour will bring. If it does well there, it will catch on widely and prices will spike.

A major online trend that started before Worlds and has only accelerated afterwards is the return of Mardu Vehicles. It has served to reignite interest in cards like Heart of Kiran and Scrapheap Scrounger, but the real winner may be Ruin Raider, which is a fantastic card that just needed a home. It has found it, and assuming Mardu catches on with more players, its price will increase significantly.

Liliana, Death's Majesty is seeing play as a one-of in some tokens decks, and it has made its way into updated Sultai lists, so it’s starting to see some real appreciation and could find itself in the top-tier of developing post-rotation metagame.

Confiscation Coup has become common in Temur Energy as a way to beat The Scarab God and generally provide value, and its increased numbers are likely to bring its price upward, especially as it’s increasingly adopted in Sultai Energy.

Vizier of Many Faces has caught on as a piece of sideboard tech for control decks, where it can copy the best opposing cards like Carnage Tyrant or The Scarab God, and it can come back from the graveyard for more value. It’s grown from a one-of and is even being used in multiples, and that’s a positive direction for its price.

One way to take advantage of the rise of Blue-Black Control is Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, which is used in the less-popular Grixis version. If that deck gains ground and ends up being the better control deck at the Pro Tour, its price decline could turn around into solid gains.

A notable card from online lists is Noxious Gearhulk, which was used in a 5-0 Jund deck as a threat and source of value. With black becoming a premier color in Standard, I could see Noxious Gearhulk gaining wider adoption in various midrange decks.

Besides white token cards, black cards seem like they have the most potential for gains, so I’d look to target cards in the color, including Bontu's Last Reckoning, Yahenni, Undying Partisan[card], and its lands [card]Dragonskull Summit, Canyon Slough, Blossoming Marsh, and Concealed Courtyard.

Many of the biggest Standard price increases this past week have been lands, including the checklands like Drowned Catacomb and Rootbound Crag, and their previous printings, the Kaladesh fastlands like Botanical Sanctum, and the Amonkhet cycle lands like Sheltered Thicket. All of these lands seem like great stores of value heading into an uncertain future of Standard and likely to steadily gain into the new year.

Where do you see the Standard metagame headed? What are you speculating on in preparation for the Pro Tour?

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