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Insider: State of the Meta – Week of February 9, 2018

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Hello, everyone, and welcome to another installment of State of the Meta! Having skipped last week because of Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan, I will now review the Standard results of the past two weeks, along with the Modern lists that went 5-0 on MTGO since the Pro Tour. Let's jump right in!

Standard

Over the past twelve days, there were sixty 5-0 lists made public, and here is how they split:

  • Mono Red x12
  • Gift (UW and Esper) x8
  • RB Aggro x6
  • BG Snek x4
  • Grixis Control x4
  • Grixis Energy x3
  • UB Midrange x3
  • Wu Oketra's Monument x3
  • RG Dinos x2
  • RG Monsters x2
  • Sultai Midrange x2
  • UG Merfolk x2
  • Bant Land Approach x1
  • GB Gateway x1
  • GW Weenie x1
  • RB Midrange x1
  • Sultai Gift x1
  • UB Control x1
  • UB Marionette Master Combo x1
  • UW Auras x1
  • WB Aristocrats x1
  • WB Tokens x1

The Standard metagame is clearly getting shaped, with three archetypes detaching themselves as the top tier: Mono Red, God-Pharaoh's Gift variations (UW or Esper) and RB Aggro – the latter being often times misrepresented, since Scrapheap Scrounger seems to be enough to turn a Mono Red list into a BR one. Some of the recent BR Aggro lists expand further into the use of black mana with Fatal Push, Unlicensed Disintegration and Dread Wanderer.

Grixis is right up there in the top tier too, but can be taken in two very different directions: 1) Energy (Glint-Sleeve Siphoner with Whirler Virtuoso, Glorybringer and Chandra, Torch of Defiance), 2) or Control with The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk as finishers. Those five decks are known quantities, and the stock lists are pretty much set at this point. One card that benefited greatly from the changing landscape of the format is Vraska's Contempt, silently creeping up to around $10 market value as of this writing.


There was also a Standard PTQ on MTGO last week, and the standings are eye-opening:

Out of 29 decks with a 7-1 or better record, 10 are straight Mono Red and four more are splashing black – we can even find a few brave people running singleton Angrath, the Flame-Chained or The Scorpion God in their Sideboard. Altogether, this is just about 50 percent of the top finishes!

Now that does not mean that there are no emerging strategies either, there are even two in particular that I found interesting. The first is an update to the Mono-White Oketra's Monument strategy that rose to the top at the end of the pre-Ixalan Standard:

Do you see it? Yes, that's right: the deck runs two copies of Azor, the Lawbringer in the main, after early iterations of the build had these two copies in the sideboard while running the full four copies of Cloudblazer main. This archetype has now showed up three different times in the published 5-0 lists, each time with a different pilot, so it will be interesting to see if the trend continues. If so, in preparation for GP Memphis, trading for a couple of copies of Azor, the Lawbringer does not sound like a bad idea.


The other spicy brew that immediately had me hoping there would be some recorded gameplay somewhere is a BG Control list centered around Azor's Gateway:

This deck is clearly in it for the long game, and outside of the Gateway itself, my favorite inclusion is Mastermind's Acquisition allowing you to find an answer or your finisher anywhere in the 75. One card that seems like a big omission, at least in the posted sideboard, is Torment of Hailfire, which actually replaces the maindecked Gonti, Lord of Luxury in some lists. Granted, I have only seen this archetype once in the past two weeks, but the stock list can be found on various websites, a sign that there is definite interest in the strategy.

A few more relevant notes:

  • With the rise in control and midrange strategies, whether Grixis or straight UB, the new weapon of choice of many aggressive decks is Carnage Tyrant – which is even maindecked in some of the RG Monsters/Dinos build;
  • Speaking of this archetype, Struggle // Survive has been deemed worthy of a couple of main deck slots, as it is one of the most effective solutions not named Vraska's Contempt to the dreaded The Scarab God;
  • Mardu Vehicles is nowhere to be seen lately, but keep in mind that Heart of Kiran and Aetherspehere Harvester still see play in other archetypes, especially the Harvester in Mono Red;
  • There have been ramblings about a Sultai Snek deck running Hadana's Climb for a huge combo finish via a buffed Walking Ballista: the deck is supposed to be shown on stream in the coming days, so I will make sure to follow up.

Modern

Over the past five days, here is what the post-PT Modern metagame looks like online:

  • Abzan/GB Midrange x2
  • Mardu Pyromancer x2
  • Grixis DS x2
  • UW Control x2
  • Traverse DS
  • UR Pyromancer
  • MartyrProc
  • UB Control
  • Counters Company
  • Living End
  • Burn
  • MonoU Tron
  • MonoG Tron
  • Kiki-Chord
  • Eldrazi Tron
  • Eldrazi & Taxes
  • Madcap Moon
  • MonoG Ponza
  • Titan Shift
  • Merfolk Company
  • Bogles

Unbelievable – 21 different decks out of 25 slots! One could have expected multiple copies of the PT top-eight lists showing up in masses over the next couple of days following the big weekend, but the field stayed as diverse as it was for the Pro Tour. Of note, not a single copy of Lantern to be found, which could be a sign of (a) WotC hiding the deck from its public records (#tinfoilhat) or (b) new pilots struggling to get the hang of the archetype and replicating Luis Salvatto's success. I would likely lean towards option (b), as there are tons of timely choices regarding what to mill when – although I would like to point any potential Lantern players to this amazing "walkthrough" written by Justin Cohen.

Interestingly, there are no Five-Color Humans lists that showed up among the 5-0 ones, but the deck is sure to be a massive presence at this weekend's GP Toronto. Kessig Malcontents was (finally) featured as a viable weapon during PT coverage, in both the Aether Vial and Collected Company versions of the archetype, so look out for foil copies if the deck is showcased again this weekend.

Another deck that is MIA in the Mothership's lists: BR Hollow One, one of the most fun new decks to get its share of the spotlight during the Pro Tour. Goblin Lore has spiked repeatedly over the past two weeks, and foil copies of Hollow One have also started to move; at the same time, Blackcleave Cliffs is now a $30 card, but this is a card that could see a reprint before the end of the year: between Masters 25 and this summer's Core Set, there is room for inclusion for the allied-color fastlands that were originally printed in Scars of Mirrodin.



In other Modern news:

  • Hazoret the Fervent is being tried in Mardu Pyromancer: in addition to being a great topdeck for an archetype that is always trying to empty its hand, the Amonkhet God also gives extra reach with its ability, tailor made for cards like Lingering Souls or Faithless Looting. Foil copies are hard to find however, being suppressed by some already strong demand in Standard;
  • Merfolk guru Nikachu has demonstrated a ton of success with his Tropical Merfolk approach, adding green for Merfolk Branchwalker and Collected Company; more interesting however are the two copies of Watertrap Weaver for which he cannot sing enough praise: it is indeed good enough to take two slots away from Merrow Reejerey, usually a staple in Modern Merfolk. I would look into getting a few foil copies out of your LGS bulk before this new tech gets more attention;
  • There is a planned B&R announcement due today, and many have speculated that there will be both bannings (Ancient Stirrings? Ensnaring Bridge?) and unbannings (Jace, the Mind Sculptor? Bloodbraid Elf?). Personally, it would not shock me to see Stirrings go, as it is on par with Ponder and Preordain in the decks that use it (Tron, Lantern). As for unbans, reddit was as amazing as ever last night, with a post alleging that the beta test version of MTGO had Jace unbanned and Ensnaring Bridge banned - very much like how the world got to learn about the fate of Splinter Twin and Summer Bloom. A bunch of wannabe Sherlock Holmes quickly pointed out however that the beta test has been closed since Monday, and that the picture used for proof was more than likely Photoshopped. Still, a mad rush for WWK and EMA copies of everyone's favorite Vryn-born mage, leading to a current tcg low of $73. If you already have your copies, you could consider selling them into the hype, seeing as a Masters 25 reprint was spoiled during Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan; if you need them, the current entry price is too high so I would wait for the pre-order prices especially if the unbanning is indeed announced on Monday.

Wrapping Up

This weekend (GP Toronto) and next (GP Lyon, SCG Indianapolis) will again be Modern events, centered around a B&R announcement: the vast majority of the players have mentioned how healthy the format's metagame is at the moment, so it would make sense to see no changes on Monday. However, Masters 25 is slated for release on March 16 (spoilers starting February 26) so maybe WotC has a few surprises in store for us.

As for Standard, the next big event will be GP Memphis at the end of the month: the current online metagame is very much a known quantity at this point, with MonoRed, Grixis and GPGift running the tables. But there has been a rise in successful innovations with the Oketra's Monument and Azor's Gateway decks, opening up the field to more viable strategies. I will make sure to keep you all in the loop on the changes to the online scene over the next couple of weeks in time for the GP.

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