THE EVOLUTION OF STANDARD

Posted in NEWS on December 9, 2013

The first weeks of a new, post-rotation Standard can evolve quickly. One week’s best deck is the next week’s also ran, and the previous week’s breakout deck or curiosity can be this week’s best. The trick is figuring out the trend and riding the right wave at the right time.
Standard since Theros has experienced similar ebbs and flows. Control was up, then down, then up again. The Pro Tour brought new strategies and highlighted new cards, and the weeks after cemented the place of several decks in the metagame.
So to catch you up on Standard, we’re going to take a trip through the metagame, from week one until today.

Pre-Pro Tour Theros

Prior to Pro Tour Theros, the set had a few weeks of legality for new cards and the new environment to shine. Most players who attended the Pro Tour played things pretty close to the vest and kept their most promising brews out of the spotlight, but the early weeks taught us a few things.

The StarCity Games Open in Worchester, Mass., provided the first glimpse of the format, and also looked like a lot of players were holding over from the previous block format. Esper Control put three players in the Top 8—headlined by block all-stars Jace, Architect of Thought, Supreme Verdict, and Sphinx’s Revelation—and UW Control finished second. Beyond that, a variety of Red and Green aggressive decks rounded out the metagame.

 

 

Until the very next week, at least, when Esper specifically and control generally went AWOL. Aggressive decks and midrange monsters dominated the Opens in Cleveland and Milwaukee, with very few control decks emerging from the pack.

 

 

GW Aggro, the starting point for many after Craig Wescoe’s win at Pro Tour Dragon’s Maze, was among the decks putting up results, including a win in Cleveland, while Red and Red/White aggressive decks were almost always found among the top tables. Junk, GR Monsters, and BW or BWR Midrange decks.

So in the short run-up to the Pro Tour, it looked like multi-colored aggressive and midrange decks were most popular, with Esper and control decks generally fading.

Then the Pro Tour happened.

Pro Tour Theros

All of the results before the Pro Tour? You can basically throw them out. Esper Control was the only holdover to really make a splash in Dublin, and even then it was mostly in the hands of the best control players in the world, including Guillaume Wafo-Tapa and Christian Calcano.

The real stars of the Pro Tour were mono-colored devotion decks of every color except Heliod’s white cohort. Mono Blue Devotion won the whole thing and was part of a mirror match in the finals, Mono Green Devotion showed us the true power of Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx, Mono Red Devotion made Purphoros a force to be reckoned with, and Mono

Black Devotion brought Pack Rat to Standard.

 

 

Past the decks devoted to Thassa, Nylea, Purphoros, and Erebos, an Orzhov midrange deck also performed admirably, giving Paul Rietzl another Top 8 and placing Patrick Chapin within striking distance of one as well.

 

Theros had officially made its presence and power known in Standard, particularly the devotion mechanic. The next few weeks would follow suit.

Post Pro Tour

We didn’t have to wait long for more Standard play, as Grand Prix Louisville came the week after the Pro Tour and gave us two new evolutions in the format.

First, Mono Black Devotion and, yes, Pack Rat, made their way into everyone’s hearts and minds after three players playing nearly identical lists made the Top 8, including Brian Braun-Duin winning the whole thing. Though it had put a copy in the Top 8, Mono Black devotion had been pushed to the back behind the more dominant Mono Blue and more explosive Mono Green at the Pro Tour. That script was flipped in Louisville as Mono Black stole the spotlight.

 

But the Green and Blue devotion decks continued to put up numbers, while Mono Red mostly fell off the map.

 

But behind Mono Black’s ascension to the throne was Esper Control’s re-emergence. A number of top players—including Reid Duke and Hall of Famer William Jensen—did well with the control deck, placing two in the Top 8 and several more among the Top 16.

Esper Control continued to do well at the Starcity Games Invitational despite a lackluster matchup against Mono Black, as did Mono Blue devotion. However, new offshoots began to emerge. The Black Devotion decks started splashing Green in some cases for Abrupt Decay and several sideboard cards in order to shore up the mirror. Blue devotion decks started hybridizing with UW Control decks to get their devotion from permanents like Jace, Architect of Thought and Detentions Sphere rather than Frostburn Weirds and Judge’s Familiars.

Today

Where does that leave us for GP Santiago? Devotion across nearly the entire spectrum is still a force to be reckoned with, and Esper Control seems to have cemented its place in the metagame while aggressive Red decks are having a hard time dealing with Master of Waves. GW Aggro, one of the early season’s darlings, is relatively absent, while midrange non-devotion decks are feeling the squeeze from both sides.

Will all of this hold true in Santiago? Will something new break out, or will yet another shift in the metagame crown a new “best deck.” Stay tuned to find out…