It has been years since I've been able to say the following sentence: "Wow, Standard is really great right now." After several years of poorly designed formats, stale metagames, and an excessive number of banworthy cards, we have arrived at a time where Standard is actively in a great place, at least after the first month of tournament results.
I don't want to get too deep into what makes or breaks a format, but for the sake of clarity, I'll give a bit of context. "Good formats" – the ones that people tend to enjoy the most – offer a wide array of diversity and are dynamic in the sense that they change and evolve from week to week. It's actually easier to pinpoint what makes a bad format than a good one: bad formats tend to quickly devolve into only a handful of decks that are much better than all the other options.
Grinders and serious tournament players tend to play any format no matter how good or bad it is simply because playing Magic tournaments is what they enjoy most about the hobby. Qualifying for the Pro Tour playing a bad format means the same as qualifying in a particularly fun format. However, serious grinders are not the majority of the Magic community. Not even close.
One of the reasons great Standard formats are so important is that they get the average and casual players fired up to play Magic once again. Just in the last month, I've seen lots of familiar faces around game shops that I haven't seen in years. Standard looks like a lot of fun and people notice that, get excited, and come back to play.
The format is also a flavor win: Dominaria and Ravnica, anyone? These are two of the most popular planes of all time and full of sweet cards, locations, and fluff that makes people want to jump back in. The secret is these cards look and feel like playing Magic, whereas Standard for the past four years has felt like a husk of what Magic used to be. It was boring.
The Numbers Don't Lie
If I tell you that Standard is fun, that's just my opinion. People like different things. I'm sure a lot of people enjoyed Standard formats that I thought were awful. But options are important, and the fewer options available, the greater the chance will be that there isn't a suitable deck to satisfy a particular group of players.
The more viable options available in a format lead to a greater appeal to more players. Standard has a ton of decks. It feels like Modern, except the gameplay is more dynamic and the matchups are less one-sided.
Not only are control, midrange, and aggro all widely represented as archetypes, but there are multiple variations on each category. For example, if you want to play control, Jeskai, UW, Izzet, Dimir, Esper, and Grixis are all options on the table for you. Similar numbers of options exist for whatever style of deck you feel like jamming.
How to Capitalize
I don't want to spend the whole article debating whether or not Standard is actually good or not. I believe it is a fantastic format and I also believe that is the perception of the majority of players spanning across the board in terms of skill level.
How do we capitalize on a popular, fun, and dynamic format? It's been so long since we've had one that I'd almost forgotten myself!
The key is to anticipate that the format will change and evolve from week to week. Bad formats stagnate into a rock, scissors, paper match between the two or three dominant decks, whereas good formats are a cluster of viable decks that have enough viability to stay in the mix.
One of the primary ways that Magic financiers like us make money is to anticipate price spikes and sell our cards into those spikes.
Good formats are great for us, especially when that format is Standard. There are two reasons for in particular:
- Good formats attract more players, and a larger playerbase creates higher demand and more liquidity.
- Good formats tend to mean dynamic formats, in the sense that new decks and cards have a chance to break out. Break-out cards and decks are the epitomai of what create price spikes in Magic. The new tech that emerges over a given weekend tends to feature the very cards that fans at home are chasing down on Monday and Tuesday for their weekly events.
Cards that I'm targeting for potential Standard spikes:
I've been playing a ton of MTG Arena, and this card seems amazing to me. The drawback of not hitting artifact creatures isn't a huge deal and it allows me to Wrath even while playing a creature deck. It's ability to exile opponents' graveyards is incidentally pretty sweet against Crackling Drake and Find // Finality. It also answers Carnage Tyrant, which is difficult for black to do outside of killing all of their other creatures and having a Diabolic Edict effect.
It's not a card that has seen a ton of tournament success, but it is a card that I've been playing with a lot and think is underrated.
Another random mythic that hasn't seen much play but could be future hot tech is Mnemonic Betrayal. The card can be a nice two-for-one in the midgame but can be a straightup Yawgmoth's Will to win the game later on. It also has some neat Legacy applications and clear Commander appeal.
It's the kind of card that feels like hot trash right up until somebody wins something with it. To me, this feels like a card that could go into real decks and have a big impact at some point. Remember, the card only needs to have one good weekend to peak in value and make money for those who bought in.
Another card that could easily have a great week and peak in value is Trostani. The card is a fixture in GW Tokens which is powerful enough to spike events if it gets the right matchups over the course of the day. GW Tokens is likely a deck that is underplayed compared to how good it actually is right now, which makes this a good time to pick up Trostani and friends.
Speaking of Trostani's friends, Divine Visitation is another one of those cards that could easily spike for a massive gain. I also love this card as a pickup based on casual and Commander appeal. It has that Doubling Season quality to it that casual players love to use and abuse.
Another card that feels like it has serious tournament appeal, Dawn of Hope is the best Sacred Mesa I've ever seen. Not only does it make tokens and not have an upkeep, but the tokens have lifelink, which allows us to use Dawn of Hope to draw extra cards and helps keep our life total safe from burn. Dawn of Hope also seems like a hardcore mirror breaker for control matchups.
The card is worth approximately nothing right now, which is exactly the price I love to buy in at!
Find // Finality is secretly one of the most important cards in Standard and one of the best cards in The Rock decks. It does everything: it's a one-sided sweeper that boosts your own creature, but it's also a Divination that allows you to buy back two great value creatures such as Ravenous Chupacabra, Kraul Harpooner, or whatever else you've played. I love this card and expect it to spike before the season is up.
The key to capitalizing on a dynamic, diverse format like we're seeing right now is to understand that players are actually rewarded for thinking outside the box and inventing new tech to attack familiar matchups from new angles. When a format looks like this, people are constantly trying out and discovering new cards that give them an edge – and these "new edges" are the cards people chase after tournaments. So keep an eye out for cards that look like they could do something because chances are that they will!