Strong-Arming Standard – Reviewing GRN Standard

This has been one of the most diverse standard formats we have had in quite a while. The metagame constantly evolved for the first 2 months of the format as people discovered new decks and innovative ways to play them nearly every week.

Check out my other articles on my favorite decks this format:

October

Week 1 started off with Selesnya Tokens taking the top 2 spots in the SCG Team Open in Columbus and Jeskai Control winning the PTQ online.

By week 2 people had discovered the power of Wildgrowth Walker in Golgari, which showed when it took the top 5 spots of the online PTQ that weekend. That said, this was not the final version of the Golgari deck. While early on people were playing Gruesome Menagerie as a way to abuse Wildgrowth Walker, players later realized that the card was good enough on its own and doesn’t need the help of a clunky 5 mana sorcery to be successful. Golgari has continued to have the largest metagame share for a large majority of the format, but it is far from the dominance that we had seen in previous formats with decks like Temur Energy or RB Aggro.

By the 3rd weekend after release, we began to see how diverse the metagame really was. The Standard SCG Classic in Dallas had 6 different decks in the top 8. Golgari still held the largest share of top finishes with 3 in the top 8. At this point, Izzet was the least represented guild in the format, with Dimir just barely ahead of it. While Izzet had yet to top 8 a major event, the Izzet Drakes decks had started to 5-0 some MTGO Leagues.

In the 4th weekend the Izzet Phoenix deck finally broke out at a major event alongside another new deck: Mono Blue Aggro. There was 1 of each of these decks in the top 8 of GP Lille and 3 more in the top 16, putting them just behind Golgari. We also saw 2 Jeskai decks in the top 8, making this a very good weekend for Blue-Red mages. The SCG Classic in Charlotte that happened the same weekend saw a 5 color control deck winning the event, with a diverse top 8 that included 6 completely different archetypes. This was also the first week we had a major event with 0 golgari in the top 8. Grand Prix New Jersey had Brad Nelson and some others unveiling Tocatli Honor Guard in their Boros and Selesnya decks as a way to shut down most Golgari decks, and people were not prepared for it. With many players having metagamed to beat Golgari, Jeskai Control found itself able to take down the tournament, as well as having 3 spots in top 8.

By the end of October there were 5 major Archetypes that emerged on top:

  • Golgari
  • Izzet Drakes
  • Selesnya Tokens
  • Boros (multiple varients)
  • Mono Red

November

In the first Weekend of November, we briefly thought the format was solved—and right before the Pro Tour. The top 8 of the MOCS consisted of 5 Boros weenie decks raking 1st-5th, and 3 izzet drakes decks filling out 6th-8th. There were another 10 white weenie/Boros weenie decks in the 6-2 or better decklists that weekend, and only 3 Golgari. With Golgari falling to 4th in the metagame, and the solidified strength of Izzet and Boros, it seemed like the best decks in the meta had been shaped. The online PTQ the next weekend showed red-based decks on top again as well, with 14 of the top 16 decks in the online PTQ including red, 8 Boros, 3 Mono Red, 2 Izzet, 1 Naya and 2 Golgari. The metagame seemed to be struggling to adapt to the Boros weenie deck.

Despite this fear, the Pro Tour reasserted the diversity of the metagame. Of the 8-2 decklists, we had 4 Jeskai, 4 Izzet, 4 Mono-Red, 4 Boros, 4 Golgari, 2 Selesnya, and 1 Mono-Blue deck. While the top 8 would imply that the tournament followed the same trend as the MOCS—with Boros having the most top 8 finishes—the reality was that most of those players just had better draft records than the other top constructed players.

The weekend after the Pro Tour, people adjusted and managed to keep all the Boros weenie decks out of the top 8, although one Boros Angels deck did sneak in. While only 1 Golgari deck made it into the top 8, there were another 5 in the top 16, putting up Golgari’s strongest performance in a few weeks. Boros, on the other hand, had its weakest weekend, with only 3 decks in the top 32. The Izzet Drakes deck remained a constant part of the metagame with 3 in the top 8 of the event and 5 more in the top 32.

Grand Prix Milwaukee took place the same weekend and showed that the Jeskai deck was starting to adapt as well, with Niv-Mizzet, Parun seeing widespread play in the main deck. Boros was nowhere to be found at this event, with none even making it into the top 32. Jeskai finished as the top deck, with Golgari on its tail. Boros did manage to win at the Team Open, but only had 2 decks in the top 32 spots, while Golgari easily number 1. These results are less informative, however, as we don’t know what percentage of games the Standard players won in comparison to their Modern and Legacy teammates.

The 4th weekend of November had the MOCS. Boros Weenie and Golgari tied for first, but the metagame was very diverse. The top 16 consisted of 4 Boros Weenie, 5 Golgari, 3 Izzet Drakes, 3 Jeskai Control, and 1 Mono-Red. If you looked farther into the results you would see that 50% of the 6-2 or better decklists played Niv-Mizzet this weekend, and that Izzet Drakes and Jeskai dominate the 6-2 spots below top 16.

December and Forward

The format has remained pretty diverse since then. Golgari currently sits on top (of the Iron Throne) with Selesnya behind it as a reasonable 2nd, although personally I would put the Drake decks above them. Drakes is currently split into 3 archetypes: Izzet Phoenix, Izzet Drakes, and Jeskai Control, but all of them play Crackling Drake and have Niv-Mizzet somewhere in the 75. Combining these into one archetype would still put them a bit behind Golgari but far ahead of Selesnya. Boros and Mono red are trailing slightly behind as well, with Boros also split into a few archetypes: Boros Weenie, Boros Aggro, Boros Angels, and White Weenie (which is very close to the Boros Weenie, in terms of cards played). If you combined the Boros decks together, they would be comparable to Selesnya Tokens.

The only guild not represented in the top decks right now is Dimir. We still see Grixis decks 5-0 leagues from time to time, but they rarely do well in the major events.

I’m looking forward to Ravnica Allegiance where hopefully we will be seeing more 3 color decks as we get all the shocklands, giving us 24 duals for every 3 color combination. Which Guild or 3 color combo are you most excited for?

~ Sean Armstrong