With a week or so of results in the bag, it would appear that Standard is shaping up to be a fairly compelling format. Perhaps the most interesting aspect of the format was that all of the major archetypes—aggro, midrange, and control—were well-represented in the winner's metagame.
- Aggro - 50%
- Control - 25%
- Midrange - 25%
I would expect aggro to see a slight decline and the other two archetypes to improve. It's no secret that proactive decks are favored in the first week of a format, since it takes more refinement to ensure a controlling deck has the appropriate answers to the suite of threats the aggressive decks will play.
The other thing that is noteworthy is that each major archetype had multiple subgroups:
- Aggro - Boros Aggro, Boros Angels, Red Deck Wins, Izzet Wizards, and Mono-Blue Aggro.
- Midrange - Golgari, Sultai, Temur, Abzan and Selesnya Tokens.
- Control - UW Control, Jeskai, Grixis, and Dimir.
There were three large Standard events that I analysed lists from (SCG Open, SCG Classic, and MTGO PTQ) and each of these lists had at least one Top 16 at a major event.
Why is this important? Well, it's important because we have the real potential for something special to happen that hasn't happened for years. I don't want to get anybody's hopes up too much, but for the first time in a few years Standard might not be a trainwreck. In fact, it might actually be fun to play for a change!
I guess that is just my opinion that Standard has been poorly designed and not fun to play for several years. I would cite a major lack of diversity in the winner's metagame and the necessity to ban tons of cards as central to my "Standard sucked" opinion. Even if we disagree about how good or bad we think Standard has been in the past, I'd still like to sell you on the idea that this current Standard is shaping up to be well above average.
Popularity Breeds Opportunity
I've already spent a lot of ink establishing my primary premise: "We have a potentially great, and thus very popular, Standard format in front f us." But why does that matter? Well, it matters because it creates opportunity to buy and sell more cards to a larger pool of tournament players. If the format is a lot of fun it has the ability to attract a larger number of potential players. And, just as importantly, it can also create a format where players are willing to play more often.
The potential to take advantage of these types of dynamics makes me more interested in investing in Standard cards.
The best performing decks in terms of raw numbers across Top 16s were derivatives of BG and BGx. Yet, while BG had the most representation across Top 16, both Boros and Control had the highest percentage conversion rate to Top 8s.
While all three archetypes are a good place to look for potential speculation targets, I'm most interested in cards from Jeskai and Boros. I'm going to bet that the numbers don't lie and that these decks have a very good chance of remaining Top Tier.
Let's look at some of the cards that have serious potential to become major players in the unfolding Standard metagame. These are the types of cards that I'm looking to pick up right now in anticipation of them becoming the popular staples that everybody needs to build decks in the coming months.
The problem with making Standard-based picks right now is that the majority of the cards are way overpriced because demand is higher than the supply. Honestly, if you have a mythic rare that you are not currently playing with, chances are that it is correct to sell now, since this is likely close to the tip of the price iceberg for the majority of pricey mythics.
We always see this trends at the start of a Standard format, but it's even more pronounced since so many cards rotated out. Essentially, we are just now learning what the staples of "New Standard" will be.
The exception, in my opinion, is Teferi. I'm certainly keeping my playset of these forever. I could see this card continuing the rise. I would say this card is almost guaranteed to go up in value based on it being so insane, except I'm worried about it appearing in a preconstructed deck to help keep the cost down.
I do have some underpriced cards that I'm all about picking up right now.
If you are playing White (and you should be) Conclave Tribunal is likely in your deck, and for good reason—the card is excellent. The fact that it is so flexible makes it an easy maindeck inclusion regardless of whether you are aggressive, midrange, or even control!
The fact that this is poised to be one of the most ubiquitously played cards in Standard is not necessarily obvious, which makes this a great pick-up. If this is true, which it probably will be, the card could easily double or triple from its current price, which would make it a fantastic card to make a point of picking up now.
Deafening Clarion has the potential to be the best sleeper from Guilds of Ravnica. Both the Boros Angels deck that won the Team Event, and the Jeskai decks that performed exceptionally well, were packing this powerful spell. I love the fact that it does more than one thing, which makes it more flexible than the typical damage-based Pyroclasm type effect. It's also a very cute combo with Adanto Vanguard!
The card is really, really good, and kind of under the radar. It's obviously more important in slower match-ups, which I think will become more important as the format becomes better established. Week one is about defending against beatdown decks, but once people figure that out, Control gets much better. What matters when control is good (and it will be be because Teferi is an outrageous Magic card)? Control mirrors!
Thief of Sanity is one of the best anti-control cards in the format and it's really just a good card in general. I fully expect the card to pick up steam.
First of all, this is a good surveil card. Second of all, it's just a good card! It appears in several decks: Surveil, Dimir Control, and Grixis Control. At less than $5 for a mythic this card seems like great value right now. It's also a combo in Legacy with Phyrexian Dreadnought. It's actually a combo with a lot of things! One of the best potential values in Standard right now.
Expansion // Explosion
Expansion // Explosion is another great sleeper card. I don't think the upside is more than a couple of bucks, but the buy-in cost is about fifty cents. The card is seeing a lot of play as a versatile spell in Jeskai Control. Expansion is great protection back-up for your own spells, since it can counter most opposing counterspells. Explosion is obviously just a great value card-draw spell for a hardcore control deck.
Where Credit Is Due
The key to all of these picks is that they are cards that people are not currently giving due credit. They look and feel like unwanted, misfit toys that we don't even bother to unsleeve after a draft. The thing is, these are all cards that will be format-defining for months to come. They fill roles that have been left empty with Amonkhet and Kaladesh leaving the format, and now is the time to strike before the hive mind catches on and the market adjusts.
While everyone is busy overpaying for History of Benalia and Risk Factor today, I want to be picking up the Deafening Clarions and Thief of Sanity's that they'll be lining up to overpay for in a couple of weeks! Don't overpay for cards doomed to decline, look for the cards with potential that are likely to grow.