Pro Tour Dominaria Metagame Breakdown – Day One

Posted in Event Coverage on June 1, 2018

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

It's been weeks since Dominaria upended everything we knew about Standard. The introduction of cards like Teferi, Hero of DominariaKarn, Scion of UrzaGoblin Chainwhirler; and History of Benalia pushed decks in new directions as Magic Online and Grand Prix results have confirmed.

Here's what players brought for the biggest Standard showdown of the season.

Archetype Count % of Meta
Red-Black Aggro 65 14.1%
Red-Black Midrange 57 12.4%
Mono-Red Aggro 48 10.4%
Steel Leaf Stompy 40 8.7%
Black-Green Constrictor 34 7.4%
White-Black Benalia 29 6.3%
White-Blue Teferi 22 4.8%
Esper Control 20 4.3%
White-Blue Control 17 3.7%
Blue-Black Midrange 14 3.0%
Green-Blue Karn 11 2.4%
Blue-Black Control 10 2.2%
Mono-Black Control 9 2.0%
Esper Benalia 7 1.5%
Esper Midrange 7 1.5%
White-Blue Approach 7 1.5%
Black-Green Ramp 6 1.3%
Sultai Constrictor 5 1.1%
Black-Green Midrange 4 0.9%
Green-White Midrange 4 0.9%
Blue-Black Gift 3 0.7%
White-Blue Benalia 3 0.7%
White-Blue Gift 3 0.7%
Mono-Red Flame 3 0.7%
Bant Gift 2 0.4%
Blue-Black Improvise 2 0.4%
Blue-Red Gift 2 0.4%
Green-Blue Gift 2 0.4%
Jeskai Control 2 0.4%
Mardu Vehicles 2 0.4%
Red-Green Midrange 2 0.4%
Sultai Energy 2 0.4%
White-Blue Cycling 2 0.4%
Bant Approach 1 0.2%
Black-Red Aggro 1 0.2%
Black-Red Midrange 1 0.2%
Esper Conjecture 1 0.2%
Green-Blue Counters 1 0.2%
Green-White Benalia 1 0.2%
Grixis Chainwhirler 1 0.2%
Mono-Black Midrange 1 0.2%
Red-Green Dinosaurs 1 0.2%
Red-White Aggro 1 0.2%
Steel Leaf Vehicles 1 0.2%
Sultai Midrange 1 0.2%
White-Black Knights 1 0.2%
White-Black Midrange 1 0.2%
White-Black Tokens 1 0.2%

That's everyone—all 461 players—accounted for and classified. For understanding what's going on, however, it's a bit unwieldy. Rolling some of the details up helps.

Archetype Count % of Meta
Red-Black Aggro & Midrange 122 26.5%
Control Decks 90 19.5%
Mono-Red Aggro 48 10.6%
Steel Leaf Stompy 40 8.7%
Benalia Decks 39 8.5%
Constrictor Decks 39 8.5%
Other 83 18.0%

Through this lens, some takeaways are clear.

Goblin Chainwhirler is over 35% of the field. Any deck looking to be aggressive and apply pressure to opponents—early or in the middle of the game—is leaning into the core red creature package. The difference comes in three flavors:

  • Mono-Red Aggro is what we've come to know. Hazoret the Fervent with Earthshaker Khenra and other standouts are from the original fast deck of the format. Goblin Chainwhirler adds to its critical mass of aggro cards.
  • Red-Black Aggro tweaks the formula to take advantage of Scrapheap Scrounger and Unlicensed Disintegration, while leaning into slightly bigger cards like Glorybringer and The Eldest Reborn. What makes it distinct from the "Midrange" flavor of the red-splashing-black decks is Bomat Courier. It dies to Chainwhirler but shines against control decks.
  • Red-Black Midrange is just like the Red-black Aggro decks, except they cut Bomat Courier and other creatures with one toughness. If you want to beat the other aggro decks, diminishing what one of their most powerful cards can do helps tremendously.
  • It's also worth noting that Black-Red Aggro and Midrange exist and are different from Red-Black as function of the core color of the deck. Gifted Aetherborn and Dread Wanderer ask for a slightly different mana base to work.

The is no consensus on the "best" control deck. Control, as a broad strategy, describes an incredible variety of decks.

  • Mono-Black will exile Gods and Planeswalkers with Vraska's Contempt while grinding out value off Gonti, Lord of Luxury.
  • Esper and Blue-Black variants add some combination of counterspells and other removal to back up The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk as win conditions.
  • White-Blue has three distinct flavors. The first is the typical control package with Approach of the Second Sun as a win condition. Inevitability and extra life both matter against a field of Chainwhirlers. The second is classic White-Blue control that can beat down with Gearhulks in addition to Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Finally, there's the all-in-on-Teferi versions that can't win without locking the game down and creating Teferi's emblem.
  • Teferi, Hero of Dominaria appears in a ton of decklists—over 90—but there is no consensus on number or location. While it's a powerful Planeswalker, shaping control options that virtually every deck with blue and white include, whether it's a four-of-upfront-in-your-deck or bring-two-in-from-the-sideboard is unclear.

Steel Leaf Stompy is the green deck of choice. Forests are found with interesting options, from a Dinosaurs deck to Black-Green Ramp going big with Wayward Swordtooth and Carnage Tyrant, but they're most commonly alongside Steel Leaf Overseer. Big enough to walk over Chainwhirlers, and cheap enough to get in early before Control decks set up, Steel Leaf Champion is the standout from "Stompy" decks that use Llanowar Elves and Merfolk Branchwalker to ensure they hit the three green mana sources as soon as possible.

But it's not all perfectly aligned:

History of Benalia is built on the history of Vehicle decks. Once upon a time, Mardu Vehicles was the premier deck in Standard. Dominaria breathed new life into it briefly, but it quickly evolved to take advantage of History of Benalia.

  • Toolcraft Exemplar and Scrapheap Scrounger still hang around, but History of Benalia and quickly hitting the three white mana required pushes the deck in an explosive way.
  • Most decks are white and black, alternating between either Knight of Grace, as hexproof from black dodges a lot of removal in Black-Red decks while having enough toughness to survive Goblin Chainwhirler, or Knight of Malice, as hexproof from white is basically protection from white removal in control decks. Having Knights is, of course, better thanks to History of Benalia.
  • Like some Steel Leaf Stompy Decks, a few History of Benalia decks lean into blue for the obvious answers and counterspells found there. Some even go both ways as Esper!

Black-Green Constrictor is hanging on still. Winding Constrictor and friends—from Verdurous Gearhulk to Walking Ballista and Rishkar, Peema Renegade—are still the same +1/+1 counter cards we've known for months.

The rest of the format is full of fun decks. The Mirari Conjecture? Josu Vess, Lich Knight? Flame of Keld? Drake Haven? Sram's Expertise? God-Pharaoh's Gift? There's a lot of things happening outside the established metagame decks, both new and old. We'll watch to see which—if any—hold up until the Sunday lights.

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