Coming into Grand Prix Cincinnati, one of the widespread beliefs was that the king of the format, Mono-Black Devotion, was dead.
When one falls, another must rise. In this case, Esper Control. Of course, reports of mono-black's demise may have been slightly exaggerated, since it was the second-most represented deck on Day 2.
Here's the full list, in case you're curious.
Day 2 Metagame Breakdown
Of course, that's a pretty broad breakdown, and doesn't take into account any of the popular variations on the decks, so let's look at how that breaks down.
The vast majority of players who chose to cast Sphinx's Revelation did so with Esper, using traditional black removal and discard to clear the way for their threats.
A few others are sticking to the more basic White-Blue version, which adds consistency at the expense of Thoughtseize, while replacing Doom Blade and Ultimate Price with Last Breath. Both versions have found success this weekend, with Alexander Hayne and his white-blue deck leading the way.
And there are four others who went in a completely different direction, utilizing green to take advantage of new fish on the block Kiora, the Crashing Wave.
The most-played variant was black-red, with nine copies of the deck that has propelled Eric Froehlich and David Ochoa to success this weekend. The deck uses red to splash powerful cards like Rakdos's Return and Slaughter Games, which along Sire of Insanity make the control matchup much more favorable.
The other mainstay of the format, Mono-Blue Devotion is much more slanted to include a second color than mono-black is. Eleven of the 21 Blue Devotion players chose to battle with white cards in their decks, utilizing Ephara, God of the Polis and Detention Sphere to keep the cards coming and the Pack Rats in check.
We've got enough Monsters to fill a zoo in Day 2, and again we see the trend towards a splash. There were 16 players who chose to battle with the Jund-colored version of the resurgent deck, and even one that chose to splash white instead to play Advent of the Wurm.
If there could be a surprise deck of the weekend in a format this advanced, that deck would be White-Black Midrange. Taking the Mono-Black Devotion shell but cutting out the Devotion cards in favor of Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Obzedat, Ghost Council or even Brimaz, King of Oreskos alongside Elspeth, Sun's Champion.
The success of White-Black, much like the Br Devotion decks, can be attributed to a better matchup against the Sphinx's Revelation decks. Blood Baron and Obzedat are resilient to many forms of removal, while Elspeth presents a threat that usually takes multiple cards to answer.
After placing two copies into the Top 16 of Grand Prix Buenos Aries last weekend, the Boros players were out in force in Cincinnati. Sixteen of them advanced to Day 2 with the white-red burn deck that eschews most creatures in favor of covering their opponent in flames. The deck is fast enough to race the aggressive decks while also dodging most of the removal spells from the control decks.
The other breakout deck from last weekend, three players took the black-green graveyard deck into Day 2. Based around filling up the graveyard with cards like Commune with the Gods and Grisly Salvage. That allows underused cards Nighthowler and the draft-leftover Nemesis of Mortals to get very big, very quickly.
It even makes use of Deathrite Shaman in Standard. What more could you want?
Everyone knows all the fun stuff is in the "Other" section, and Cincinnati didn't disappoint. Among the decks that put two or fewer copies into Day 2 there was a smattering of the rest of the format.
Aggressive strategies were well-represented, with Mono-Black Aggro and Mono-Red Aggro putting three players into Day 2, while flavors of Devotion from red, green and white all appeared as well. Evan Edwards was even spotted casting Prime Speaker Zegana in his blue-red-green deck.