World Championship Standard Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Event Coverage on September 21, 2018

By Marc Calderaro

The 2018 World Championship is a culminating finale of the Magic year—players battling in formats that have been shifting through the seasons like sand. As Guilds of Ravnica rolls in with the tide, what we've known as Standard will fundamentally change, ebbing with the retreating sea. Las Vegas is its last stand, and the decks people brought encapsulate the sometimes-beleaguered but ever-evolving format.

Enough butter and sizzle—I know you came for the meat.

The Story of Standard Is Written in Red and Black…

Total Archetypes #

Red-black Aggro

13

Blue-Black Midrange

2

White-Blue Gift

2

Mono-Red Aggro

1

Reservoir Combo

1

Turbo Fog

1

Blue-Black Control

1

Mono-Blue Tempest Djinn

1

White-Blue Control

1

Though it will surprise no one that Red-black Aggro is the most common deck, these numbers are more skewed than they have been in the last few months. Red-black Aggro has been known as the "best deck" in the format for a long while—led by Triple R, Goblin Chainwhirler—but its percentage of the metagame had evened out. Here, a full thirteen out of 23 decklists slinging Dragonskull Summits harkens back to the deck's deepest dominance. In months past, control decks had finally figured out how to build against it while not folding to the rest of the field, so the Rakdos-flavored menace had to bifurcate. They either went large enough to beat other aggressive decks, or small enough to beat the control decks.

The bigger red decks had loaded up on the four-drops—Hazoret the Fervent; Glorybringer; Chandra, Torch of Defiance; Rekindling Phoenix (even an errant Karn, Scion of Urza or two). The smaller ones loaded up on Wizard's Lightning, a flurry of one-drops, and even sometimes The Flame of Keld (creating the Keld Red variants).

  • Hazoret the Fervent
  • Glorybringer
  • Chandra, Torch of Defiance
  • Rekindling Phoenix
  • Karn, Scion of Urza

or

  • Ghitu Lavarunner
  • Rigging Runner
  • Shock
  • Wizard's Lightning

Most of the red-black decks here are the former—tuned for the mirror match, trying to provide enough reach to go over the top. It's a smart, staid strategy. They are loaded up on Magma Sprays for opposing Scrapheap Scroungers, and bringing top-end body slams to finish the job. So as long as you're confident in your mirror match, which you are expecting to see percentage-wise, you've got good odds this weekend.

However, that's where the rest of the field comes in.

...But the Final Chapter Is Unwritten

  • Blue-Black Midrange
  • White-Blue Gift
  • Red Aggro
  • Reservoir Combo
  • Turbo Fog
  • Blue-Black Control
  • Blue Tempest Djinn
  • White-Blue Control

Sure, there's a smattering of the Blue-Black Midrange, Blue-Black Control, and White-Blue Control—staples of the classic "three-bye metagame" (so termed for the Pro Players at Grand Prix who often come having earned three byes in the fifteen-round tournament). These combatants know their Black-red matchup well enough to navigate the aggro v. control standoff round after round. But a few more surprising lists are stalking the top dog in a different way.

First, Turbo Fog. A deck that has always had a stellar record against aggressive, creature-based strategies (Spoiler Alert: a steady stream of Fog-like cards is good against attackers). It's in the hands of Matt Nass, who correctly called the metagame and is shooting his shot. He'll have to lean on sideboard counterspells pretty hard if he gets matched up against one of the controlling strategies, but either way, the impact of Nexus of Fate's drop into the Standard pool has rippled all the way to the World Championship.

Next, Reservoir Combo. This deck is in the hands of an unlikely pilot in Brad Nelson, but that's what makes it all the sweeter. Over the last few months, Aetherflux Reservoir plus Inspiring Statuary plus Paradoxical Outcome plus many little tiny artifacts has made for lots of fun on the Standard tables. It has its weak points against other archetypes, but if left unchecked for the wrong turn, it will draw a whole slew of cards multiple times, gain a heck-tare of life, and make it rain 50 of it like nothing to take you out.

  • Aetherflux Reservoir
  • Inspiring Statuary
  • Paradoxical Outcome
  • Ornithopter

What's interesting about its role here is how pivotal Sai, Master Thopterist can be. Presented at the right time, it can create enough flying Thopter tokens to essentially do what Turbo Fog does to the opponent's attack step—neuter the combat phase completely.

Lastly, the Mono-Red Aggro deck. A variant of the red-black strategies that still dominate the format, this deck looks to go under not just the control and midrange strategies, but the red-black decks too! And this is more and more achievable as the RBers continue to load up on more and more four-drops. Load up on Shock, Lightning Strike, Wizard's Lightning, and Magma Spray and just go whole-hog. My favorite foil to red-black in this deck has to be Rigging Runner. The nondescript, oft-overlooked Pirate finds a fresh new gloss when its First Strike can just stop-sign a Bomat Courier—one of the linchpins of Red-Black's reach.

Whelp, that's it. There wasn't any interesting archetype left out, right? Surely, if one of the best players in the world were showing up to the World Championship playing an off-kilter, unexpected take on the format, no one would miss it in the list...


Ken Yukuhiro sees your Triple R and counters with Triple U.

Perhaps we'll have to take a more fine-toothed comb to this archetype list again later.

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