Team Unified Standard Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Event Coverage on December 1, 2017

By Frank Karsten

After starting with three rounds of Ixalan Team Sealed on Friday morning, the format for all remaining rounds of the 2017 World Magic Cup switched to Team Unified Standard. I broke down all 219 decklists with the help of Corbin Hosler this morning, but let's start by introducing the format.

DECK CONSTRUCTION RULES

In Team Unified Standard, any team of three players has to build three Standard-legal decks and assign them to player A, B, or C.

There's one restriction, though: With the exception of basic lands, no two decks on a team can feature the same card. This means that if one player's deck contains Abrade, then no other player on that team may put Abrade in their deck. You can't even split them two and two. Only one player on any team can use Abrade.

IT’S ABOUT OVERLAP

This team-wide restriction sends players looking for a three-deck configuration that minimizes overlap. Since only one Attune with Aether deck and only one Hazoret the Fervent deck are allowed, you can't put complete versions of Temur Energy and Sultai Energy in the same team, and a similar conclusion holds for Ramunap Red and Mardu Vehicles.

Even the idea of pairing the two pillars of the current Standard—Temur Energy and Ramunap Red—runs into problems.

Abrade, Chandra, Torch of Defiance, and Glorybringer are all used in both Temur Energy and Ramunap Red. They’re not necessarily essential four-of inclusions in the main deck, but they all play an important role. Without Abrade you’ll have trouble answering a resolved God-Pharaoh’s Gift or Winding Constrictor; without Chandra, Torch of Defiance you get worse against Fumigate decks; and Glorybringer is one of the best cards against Sultai Energy. Moreover, Chandra's Defeat and Magma Spray are popular sideboard options in both Temur Energy and Ramunap Red.

While it is technically possible to combine the two decks, they would be weakened as a result. Some teams felt that was a worthy sacrifice, while other teams looked for alternatives, such as pairing Ramunap Red with Sultai Energy instead.

Let's take a look at how the teams solved the Unified Standard puzzle.

THE BREAKDOWN

Below, you can find a structured overview of the Standard deck configurations that were chosen by at least two teams. Each of these teams registered an energy deck, an aggro deck, and a third deck.

Energy Deck Aggro Deck Third Deck Number of Teams
Sultai Energy Ramunap Red W/U Gift 9
Sultai Energy Ramunap Red W/U Approach 9
Sultai Energy Ramunap Red W/U Cycling 5
Temur Energy Ramunap Red W/U Gift 5
Temur Energy Ramunap Red W/U Approach 4
4C Energy Ramunap Red W/U Cycling 3
4C Energy Ramunap Red W/U Gift 3
4C Energy Ramunap Red W/U Gift 3
Temur Energy Mardu Vehicles W/U Gift 3
Temur Energy Mono-Black Aggro W/U Cycling 3
Temur Energy Ramunap Red Esper Approach 3
4C Energy Ramunap Red G/W Aggro 2
Temur Energy Mardu Vehicles W/U Approach 2
Temur Energy Ramunap Red W/U Cycling 2

Note: In this metagame breakdown article, Four-Color Energy refers to decks that feature Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Gonti, Lord of Luxury and that splash red for only Whirler Virtuoso and Harnessed Lightning. Decks that looked like Temur Energy except for a minor black splash of Vraska, Relic Seeker and The Scarab God were classified under Temur Energy instead.

As you can see, the most popular configuration was Sultai Energy, Ramunap Red, and then some flavor of white-blue. In other words, most of the teams tried to avoid the overlap in red cards. They still had to split up Negate between their two blue decks, but there were several alternatives—such as Spell Pierce, Supreme Will, Jace's Defeat, Disallow, or Lookout's Dispersal—to make that work.

The teams that did combine Ramunap Red and Temur Energy had to assign the key red cards to one deck. Abrade was frequently assigned to Ramunap Red, leaving Temur Energy with a combination of Cut // Ribbons and Appetite for the Unnatural. Chandra, Torch of Defiance was sometimes replaced by Vance's Blasting Cannons in Ramunap Red and sometimes replaced by such Nissa, Vital Force or Lifecrafter's Bestiary in Temur Energy. Glorybringer was usually assigned to Temur Energy, but some teams handed the Dragon to their Ramunap Red player while asking their Temur Energy player to rely on such cards as Skysovereign, Consul Flagship.

Another way to avoid overlap in the key red cards was to pair Temur Energy with Mardu Vehicles. The Mardu deck could easily find alternatives in black or white, for instance relying on Fatal Push and Forsake the Worldly rather than Abrade. Finally, it wasn't too hard to build a Mardu Vehicles mana base without Aether Hub, as Unclaimed Territory could also help cast Inventor's Apprentice and Toolcraft Exemplar on turn one.

To complete the breakdown, here are the configurations that were chosen by only one team each.

Energy Deck Aggro Deck Third Deck Number of Teams
4C Control Ramunap Red Mardu Vehicles 1
4C Control Ramunap Red W/U Gift 1
B/G Energy Ramunap Red W/U Gift 1
Mono-Black Aggro Ramunap Red W/U Gift 1
U/G Pummeler Ramunap Red Abzan Tokens 1
U/G Pummeler Ramunap Red U/B Control 1
U/G Pummeler Ramunap Red W/U Cycling 1
Sultai Energy Ramunap Red Abzan Tokens 1
Sultai Energy Ramunap Red W/U Gift 1
Sultai Energy R/W Vehicles W/U Approach 1
Temur Energy Desert Red U/B Control 1
Temur Energy Desert Red W/U Cycling 1
Temur Energy G/W Aggro Abzan Tokens 1
Temur Energy Mardu Vehicles W/U Monument 1
Temur Energy Ramunap Red Mono-Black Aggro 1
Temur Energy Ramunap Red U/B Midrange 1
Temur Energy Ramunap Red W/U Eternalize 1
Temur Energy U/B Gift W/U Cycling 1
Temur Energy U/B Midrange W/U Cycling 1
Sultai Reanimator Ramunap Red W/U Gift 1

There were certainly some wacky combinations in here. For example, how about a full Ramunap Red deck alongside a Mardu Vehicles deck? That's not easy to do when only one of the two decks can use Hazoret the Fervent or Bomat Courier.

I was also surprised to see G/W Aggro alongside Abzan Tokens due to overlap in Cast Out, but Ixalan's Binding turns out to be a reasonable alternative. Finally, I was surprised to see Sultai Energy and Abzan Tokens on the same team, but the trio found a way to make it work when only one player with black mana could use Fatal Push and the other could use Duress.

I admit that it is a bit of a stretch to call U/B Gift or U/B Midrange an "aggro" deck, but it was the closest I could come to have all configurations fit into my three-column framework.

To round out this article, let's break down each of these columns one-by-one.

THE ENERGY DECK

Archetype Number of Teams
Sultai Energy 26
Temur Energy 22
Four-Color Energy 17
Green-Blue Pummeler 3
Four-Color Control 2
Black-Green Energy 1
Mono Black Aggro 1
Sultai Reanimator 1

The energy mechanic is one of the most powerful in Standard right now. Most notably, Temur Energy, Sultai Energy, Four-Color Energy (i.e., the version splashing red), Blue-Green Pummeler, and Four-Color Control (which went a bit bigger with Torrential Gearhulk and Glimmer of Genius) are all based around it. Even though all these decks play out differently, all of them share the same blue-green core.

As you can see in the table, nearly every single team ran Attune with Aether. Only two out of the 73 teams chose to go without it, and these teams used Mono Black Aggro or Sultai Reanimator instead. Since these decks still had Aether Hub (for Glint-Sleeve Siphoner synergies in the case of the mono-black deck) they earned a spot in the energy column.

THE AGGRO DECK

[card]Hazoret the Ferven[card]
Archetype Number of Teams
Ramunap Red 58
Mardu Vehicles 6
Mono Black Aggro 3
Desert Red 2
G/W Aggro 1
R/W Vehicles 1
Blue-Black Gift 1
Blue-Black Midrange 1

Hazoret the Fervent is one of the strongest threats in Standard for any low-curve aggressive red deck. There are several ways to build around Hazoret, with Ramunap Red and Mardu Vehicles being the main ones, but all of them use a similar base of cards to exploit the indestructable God.

Ramunap Red was by far the most popular deck at this event, cementing its as the aggro deck of choice in the current Standard.

THE THIRD DECK

Archetype Number of Teams
White-Blue Gift 25
White-Blue Cycling 17
White-Blue Approach 16
Abzan Tokens 3
Esper Approach 3
Blue-Black Control 2
G/W Aggro 2
Blue-Black Midrange 1
White-Blue Eternalize 1
White-Blue Monument 1
Mono-Black Aggro 1
Mardu Vehicles 1

This category contains some archetypes that have shown up in previous categories before in some numbers. The way this table should be interpreted is as an overview of what the 73 teams had as their "third deck" in my classification.

As you see, Irrigated Farmland and Glacial Fortress were the most popular nonbasic lands for this third deck. However, the white-blue decks came in many varieties.

The biggest surprise was that as many as seventeen teams, including many of the big-name teams, opted for W/U Cycling. This was not even a factor of Team Unified restrictions, as they could have just used W/U Approach or W/U Gift instead. It's a strong vote of confidence for the control deck with Drake Haven and Abandoned Sarcophagus. For both Team Unified Standard and individual Standard enthusiasts, the resurgence of W/U Cycling decks is one of the biggest metagame developments to come out of this event.

Latest Event Coverage Articles

Grand Prix Oklahoma City 2017

Top Stories of Grand Prix Oklahoma City by, Corbin Hosler

It began with almost 1,400 players converging in the nation's heartland to battle it out in Modern competition. It ended with Larry Li holding the trophy high, as he and his Big Mana deck...

Learn More

Grand Prix Oklahoma City 2017

9th-32nd Decklists by, Corbin Hosler

Modern is one of Magic's most diverse formats, and that diversity was on display in the Top 32 lists – though there were plenty of the pre-tournament favorites here as well. Here's how th...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

Event Coverage Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All

We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page or by clicking Yes, you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more