Standard Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Event Coverage on August 3, 2018

By Corbin Hosler

Core Set 2019 has hit Standard, and for the next two months we'll have the largest Standard card pool possible, as Nicol Bolas, the Ravager comes to lord over us all.

Well, the big Dragon will have to get in line behind Goblin Chainwhirler, which continues its reign over Standard alongside Hazoret the Fervent and Chandra, Torch of Defiance. For that matter, Bolas is trailing another elder…Dinosaur, as Ghalta, Primal Hunger and friends have left a dino-sized footprint at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary.

Archetype Copies Percentage of Field
RB Aggro 66 40.00%
Steel Leaf Stompy 31 18.79%
Grixis Midrange 13 7.88%
Reservoir Combo 9 5.45%
Esper Control 7 4.24%
Mono Red Aggro 7 4.24%
Turbo Fog 6 3.64%
WU Approach 4 2.42%
Bolas Red 3 1.82%
Grixis Control 3 1.82%
BG Constrictor 2 1.21%
GW Midrange 2 1.21%
Mono Blue Artifacts 2 1.21%
WU Control 2 1.21%
WU GPG 2 1.21%
Abzan Control 1 0.61%
GB Constrictor 1 0.61%
GW Cats 1 0.61%
Sultai GPG 1 0.61%
UB Midrange 1 0.61%
WU Superfriends 1 0.61%

Control has seen its metagame share shrink, as resilient threats have made Teferi, Hero of Dominaria riskier than ever. Not only are there recursive threats like Scrapheap Scroungers in many of the two most-played decks and cheap card advantage engines like Glint-Sleeve Siphoner and Arguel's Blood Fast, the addition of Nicol Bolas, the Ravager has added another card that punishes control decks before they can turn the corner. Discarding a card upon entering the battlefield is a steep price to play, especially on what is often one of the crucial turns in the game for a control player looking to move into the late game. The fact that Bolas is a game-ender if it ever transforms only adds to the trouble.

Steel Leaf Stompy, meanwhile, has gained a big boost. Core Set 2019 standouts Thorn Lieutenant, Vine Mare, and Vivien Reid have transformed the archetype from an almost-there to a top-tier contender, and players have had to build their decks with 12/12 trampling dinos that can land as early as the third turn in mind.

That has led to a rise in perhaps the most improbable deck of the tournament: Aetherflux Reservoir combo. There's a lot to break down with the deck, but it's a force to reckon with in Minneapolis.

There are two versions of the deck making the rounds here. The most common is the Reservoir combo version, which aims to use a critical mass of cheap artifacts with enters-the-battlefield abilities. The deck spends several turns setting up, and then uses either Paradoxical Outcome or Baral's Expertise to return cards to hand, either netting cards from reusing abilities or mana from the free spell from Expertise or Mox Amber (with Padeem, Consul of Innovation or Sai, Master Thopterist). From there, the deck begins to dig deep into its deck, using Inspiring Statuary to turn into a legit combo deck that plays out its hand for little or no mana.

With Reservoir in play, all the while this is happening the “Storm” player is gaining life in increasingly large chunks. In a shockingly short time, the Reservoir player finds themselves above 50 life and shoots down their opponent.

The other version of the deck looks very similar, but cuts some of the weaker “combo” cards and maxes out on Karn, Scion of Urza and Sai, Master Thopterist to churn out a huge swarm of tokens in a turn before using Karn's Temporal Sundering to take an extra turn and attack with the tokens to end the game in one big swing.

The other deck making its debut this weekend is Turbo Fog. With a handful of accomplished players like Raphaël Lévy and Lee Shi Tian piloting it this weekend, the next highlights the power of planeswalkers and extra activations, either from Nexus of Fate or Oath of Teferi. With Root Snare and Haze of Pollen providing cover for the planeswalkers, Karn, Scion of Urza, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Nissa, Steward of Elements provide compounding amounts of advantage for the Turbo Fog player. After a few turns of activations, the value generated will quickly overwhelm the opponents, and with Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin digging for all the key pieces, the deck could make its mark on Standard this weekend.

The takeaway from all this? The power of the red decks is the baseline—and will be until rotation takes away many of its pieces—but there are plenty of other ways to find success in Standard, and the format continues to evolve with the addition of Core Set 2019.

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