Insider: State of the Meta – Week of January 25, 2018

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Welcome to State of the Meta, a review of the changes to stock lists and other oddities in both Standard and Modern format following the previous weekend’s events. My goal is to look at as many performing lists as possible in order to try and spot the new tech and changes in play trends – before the information spreads too much.

To that end, I will be reviewing all 5-0 lists made public by WotC from Sunday to Thursday, as well as looking into what decks have been showcased on Twitch by popular streamers. Without further ado, let’s dive in!


Here is the list of all posted 5-0 decklists:

  • MonoRed x3
  • BG Constrictor x3 (2 Glint-Sleeve, 1 Rishkar)
  • UW Tokens x3
  • Esper GPG x2
  • UB Midrange x2
  • GR Monsters x2
  • Grixis Energy
  • Sultai Midrange
  • UW Control
  • UB Control
  • WU Auras
  • BR Aggro
  • BW Tokens
  • BR
  • Vehicles
  • RB Aggro

Out of 25 decklists, we get 16 different archetypes, with some of the usual suspects at the very top: MonoRed and BG Constrictor posted three 5-0 copies each.

While the Mono Red lists all have pretty much the same core, it is the sideboarding options that are interesting to look at: Dire Fleet Daredevil is one of the new toys brought in by Rivals of Ixalan, and is often included as a two- or three-of. In other SB experiments, one list features four copies of Harsh Mentor, while another includes two Rekindling Phoenix, a card that is featured in another emerging archetype I will address in a bit.

As for BG Constrictor, there were two variants made public from MODO Leagues: Energy (Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Aethersphere Harvester), and Counters (Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Merfolk Branchwalker). Both lists are similar to their pre-Rivals Standard iterations, and both have added the new midrange wonders that are Jadelight Ranger and Ravenous Chupacabra.

Still, one card that piqued my interest in the Energy build is Lifecrafter's Bestiary, showing up as a full four-of in the sideboard. This is definitely a card I will be keeping an eye on, and would recommend picking up once supply starts getting low (side note: the Bestiary was featured in the early days of Rivals on MODO in some UG Merfolk builds, and provided fantastic value to that particular deck).

A newcomer joins the three-peat achievement, a UW Tokens strategy which banks on Anointed Procession to grind the maximum value out of various embalm/eternalize creatures like Champion of Wits, Angel of Sanctions or Glyph Keeper. One player, Xenodor, appears twice while piloting this archetype, and is riding Anointer Priest along with the Procession. A notable inclusion in Xenodor’s lists is Legion's Landing // Adanto, the First Fort, similar to what is done in the BW Tokens deck that became famous early this Standard season.

Otherwise, the rest of the build is very much being tinkered with: notable inclusions range from Gideon of the Trials to Baffling End in the maindeck, and from Vizier of Many Faces to Solemnity in the sideboard, making this an archetype that is clearly still evolving.

Three decklists managed to place two copies each in the 25 listed by WotC. First, the known quantity, Esper God-Pharaoh's Gift: even though it is the UW version of the deck that posted the highest finish, with Pascal Maynard at the helm during Pro Tour Ixalan, the Esper variant has shown some promising results thanks to the addition of Seekers' Squire and Hostage Taker. At some point, Ravenous Chupacabra felt like an auto-include as soon as it was spoiled, but it is a change to the sideboarding options that drew my attention, having piloted Esper GPG myself as my Standard deck of choice: Dreamstealer, which is a decent threat on its own without needing to be reanimated. It also appears in the sideboard of some versions of UB Control – and if it is good enough for a control player, it is good for me.

UB Midrange is on the rise too, having “publicly” 5-0’ed twice this week: the core package includes Gifted Aetherborn, Glint-Sleeve Siphoner, Hostage Taker and The Scarab God in the maindeck, with support from Gonti, Lord of Luxury out of the sideboard. A user by the name of Clops916 went a bit further and decided to add two copies of Tetzimoc, Primal Death, one of the new Elder Dinosaurs from Rivals of Ixalan. It is an interesting take on the midrange approach, although its sorcery speed Prey Upon ability is not favored when facing a deck like Mono Red and its swarm of small, aggressive creatures.

And then there is this brand new archetype, popularized first by Brennan DeCandio on stream (9-1 record on 2 consecutive competitve leagues) a couple of days before SCG Dallas: RG Monsters. This deck can wrap up a match pretty fast, with draws like turn-two Heart of Kiran, turn-three Rhonas the Indomitable, turn-four Scrapheap Scrounger, attack for 9, play Ghalta, Primal Hunger for two green mana. A more “classic” curve of Scrapheap, Rhonas, Rekindling Phoenix, Glorybringer is also quite terrifying to face if you do not hold Settle the Wreckage.

The Phoenix is actually one of the key new pieces of the build, filling the four-CMC slot with a recursive threat with evasion, when only Chandra, Torch of Defiance and Hazoret the Fervent were available in that spot previously. The removal package is pretty small, with two to three Magma Spray and four Abrade, but the deck is designed to run over the opponent anyway, so it is best kept to a minimum.

Between this new archetype and the demand from the red-based builds (Mono Red or BR), it would not be surprising to see Rekindling Phoenix maintain its current price point for the foreseeable future. Out of the sideboard, the most notable card is Deathgorge Scavenger, whose ability is a great answer to both graveyard-based strategies (I’m looking at you, The Scarab God and God-Pharaoh’s Gift) and aggro builds (the lifegain bringing some relief). And at the very least, it can crew Heart of Kiran on turn three.

As for the best of the rest


Here is the list of all posted 5-0 decklists:

  • UR Gifts Storm x3
  • Affinity x2
  • Bogles x2
  • Dredge x2
  • Eldrazi & Taxes x2
  • BR HollowVine x2
  • Eldrazi Tron
  • Naya Company
  • Abzan
  • Ad Nauseam
  • BG Midrange
  • Simic Evolve
  • Traverse DS
  • Lantern
  • MonoG Tron
  • Burn
  • Sultai Midrange
  • Jeskai Control

In Modern, the top-25 stats are pretty close to Standard: 18 different archetypes, with UR Gifts Storm standing along at the top with three copies posting a 5-0 record. The stock list is pretty well known at this point of the Modern metagame, although there is a noticeable increase in representation of the fetchless variety. One of the new ideas over the past couple of months has been to increase the number or Goremand effects, in particular via Unsubstantiate: this toolbox spell allows Storm to not completely fold to Meddling Mage in game one, all while providing another win condition by bouncing a Grapeshot back to your hand after a storm count of 9.

As usual with Modern, most of the changes in decklists are found in the Sideboard, however there are three lists that featured new additions to their core: one of the two Dredge lists featured this week incorporated Driven//Despair, a move adopted by frequent Dredge streamer HolyShamgar (who also packed 3 copies of Failure//Comply in his SB); and in Naya Company, the fetching effects were four Chord of Calling, only one Collected Company, but with four Eldritch Evolution as a complement.

While on the subject of the Company list, Whisperwood Elemental is now part of the menagerie as a single copy – it is only one 5-0 deck, but it makes sense as it brings some resiliency to a deck full of creatures, and the manifest mechanic allows it to potentially stumble into its Druid/Vizier combo. Finally, there is the case of Bogles, which now appears to be running one or two copies of Triclopean Sight: as an aura with flash, it provides a new combat trick that not many opponents will be expecting, and adds vigilance to your hexproof beast if you missed out on Daybreak Coronet or Cartouche of Solidarity. Bogles lists are usually pretty tight, so I will be looking out to see if that addition sticks.

Other relevant changes that I noted out of these lists

  • Affinity is now playing Rule of Law out of the sideboard, a solid answer to Storm that cannot be bolted like Ethersworn Canonist could (making Unsubstantiate and other bounce spells even more relevant in the matchup);
  • Liliana, the Last Hope is consolidating its status as Modern playable, appearing in four different archetypes this week (Abzan, Golgari and Sultai Midrange, as well as Traverse Death’s Shadow);
  • With Storm and Dredge still predominant in the metagame, Zendikar’s traps are back on some players’ radar: both Ravenous Trap and Mindbreak Trap (a full four-of in one of the BR HollowVine lists) are used to help against these matchups;
  • The Jeskai Control list featured on this week’s 5-0 list packed a lot of punch, with both Geist of Saint Traft and Vendilion Clique in the Main Deck – that Jeskai list also had Crumble to Dust in the SB, most likely as an answer to Tron strategies;
  • One of the Eldrazi & Taxes list was definitely on the aggressive side, with a full lineup of Thought-Knot Seer and Reality Smasher to go with two Smuggler's Copter – and it also had two copies of Aerie Worshippers in the Sideboard!

Wrapping Up

That is it for this week! With another Team Trio SCG Open as the only Constructed event of the weekend, I am expecting to see some reactionary changes in Standard based on this very young metagame. UW Auras and RG Monsters are new archetypes that players will have to adapt to, while Mono Red, BG Constrictor and Grixis Energy know they have the biggest targets on their backs.

Modern should see few changes for now. The format is diverse and healthy, as seen in the variety of lists that 5-0’ed this past week. With Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan only a week away, and another Banned & Restricted Update announcement looming soon after, it leaves little room for financial gains – at least in the short term.

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