Northern Regionals Metagame in Depth

Standard is very diverse right now. Just looking at the Top 8 decklists doesn’t do that diversity justice: at Northern Regionals, 195 players competed and a lot of good decks missed the Top 8. The Top 8 lists are here, but I’ll also review the entire field to show you just what Dissension has added to the mix.

Standard is very diverse right now. Very diverse. Just looking at the Top 8 decklists doesn’t do that diversity justice: at Northern Regionals, 195 players competed and a lot of good decks missed the Top 8. The Top 8 lists are here, but I’ll also review the entire field to show you just what Dissension has added to the mix.

I was judging and spent a lot of time watching the matches. Steve Port, of Legion Events, was kind enough to give me the complete decklists, and I spent hours analyzing them and making tables of how the archetypes broke down. For each archetype, I’ll include the number of people playing the deck, followed by the number of people taking the deck to the Top 8.

BW Decks (39 — 3)

Black/White was the most popular color combination on the day. BW aggro was the most common deck, in several versions, but BW control was also common. The only missing link was BW Ghost Dad. Only one player decided to become a medium and summon Spirits for his Tallowisp, and I don’t think that worked too well. I don’t remember seeing Ghost Dad anywhere near the top tables all day.

Ghost Husk was the most commonly played variant, with ten players pairing Nantuko Husks with Promise of Bunrei. Of those ten Ghost Husk players, two made Top 8. I didn’t note anything significant from Dissension being added to the decks — apparently they didn’t need it. This deck is powerful, both online and offline.

Several players played some variant on Oliver Ruel’s Hand in Hand deck. Eight players played both Hand of Honor and Hand of Cruelty. Nine other players subbed out one of the Hands (of either color) for Eight-and-a-Half-Tails, Kami of the Ancient Law, or any of a host of comparable cards. The Top 8 version added a trio of Condemns — the primary Dissension addition to the deck.

A number of players ran BW control decks. These generally featured Phyrexian Arena, Wrath of God, Dimir House Guard (mainly for transmute) and a mix of other control cards. Six of the ten control decks ran Debtors’ Knell. Here’s a sample:

UR Decks (20 — 1)

UR Magnivore Wildfire decks have been quite popular online for months, and with good reason. Thirteen people stoked their Steam Vents for the party, and one rode his Magnivore all the way to Atlanta. The deck is relatively unchanged by Dissension, although Demonfire is finding it’s way into some builds.

Five people tried running Niv-Mizzet based control decks. None of them made Top 8, but a few came close. Pure control is not easy to play in this metagame, but it works. Here’s a sample Niv-Mizzet decklist:

One player tried classic Izzetron, but was not particularly successful.

GWb / GWB Decks (19)

A number of players brought GWB control decks, generally featuring Wrath of God, Mortify, Loxodon Hierarch, and usually Phyrexian Arena — generally derivations of the Beach House decks from the last Pro Tour. (Okay — that deck has evolved a lot from the PT. I didn’t see anyone playing four Cranial Extractions maindeck anymore.) The GWB control were scattered around the floor at Regionals, but none made Top 8.

Five players ran Glare of Subdual decks that splashed Black, mainly for Putrefy. Here’s one example that was still in contention come round 5 (although I lost track of it after that).

RG (14)

Nine players ran variants on the Heezy Street deck that won Pro Tour Honolulu. That deck worked because it sacrificed raw power for speed. Heezy Street left the Rumbling Slums in the sideboard, and maindecked the smaller, faster cards, like Solifuge. The Regionals crew kept modifying the PT list by including slower cards. Jitte showed up on occasion, as did Rumbling Slum and — I kid you not — Goliath Spider. Not Arashi, which would have been questionable but debatable — but Goliath Spider. I’m sure it was a case of “I’m playing what I got,” but still, a Goliath Spider? Slowing up a pure speed deck is bad — but Goliath Spider means you get hit in the butt by glaciers.

One player tried RG Wildfire. It did not seem to be based on the version I wrote about (thank gawd, that deck was terrible, which was the point of the article), but the one he played was still similar. The player did have maindeck Blood Moons — which is great tech until you hit a Heartbeat or UR deck. Or RG Heezy Street.

A handful of players ran other RG aggro decks. These were the sort of thing you find at any tournament, and could not really be classified as anything beyond RG creatures that attack, backed with burn. None made Top 8.

Heartbeat (13 — 1)

No, it is not dead: Heartbeat / Early Harvest decks are still alive and kicking. The Team Trios stalwart is pretty much unchanged with Dissension. Several decklists included a single copy of Crime / Punishment maindeck, and maybe an additional copy in the sideboard. Otherwise, this deck is a throwback to two moths ago. Despite being widely known and facing sideboards full of hate, this deck can still perform. Although only one player made Top 8, several Heartbeat decks were still in contention in the final rounds.

UW (12)

A dozen players ran UW control variants. The decks all ran some mix of Wrath of God, counterspells, card drawing, and some big win conditions. Sometimes that win condition was Meloku the Clouded Mirror, sometimes it was a dragon, and a few decks tried Windreaver. One splashed Green for Vitu-Ghazi, trying to recreate the old Counterpost decks. Here’s a fairly typical UW list:

Four players brought UW aggro decks, generally built around Pride of Clouds. Beyond that, they ran a wide mix of small fliers, counters, Condemns, and enhancements. I saw everything from Glorious Anthem to Loxodon Warhammer to Genjus in these decks — but I didn’t see any come close to qualifying.

Base UG (11-1)

A number of players ran decks that were mainly UG, with a splash of another color or two. Ben Rasumssen took his UGb deck to the Top 8, and lost game 3 in a long nail-biter. That game was exciting, with both players searching for answers and a lot of late game swings, where both players were at very low life, and both playing off the top of their deck. In the end, a combination of land flood and some subtle misplays did Ben in, but his deck is worth a look.

Other players ran different version of UGx. One player tried Silkwing Scouts in addition to Sakura Tribe Elders to fix / accelerate mana. Coiling Oracle and Trygon Predator were moderately common, and three players ran Snakes decks. Simic Sky Swallower was more common that I expected. The splashes were also interesting: both Savage Twister and Plague Boiler. One player tried an Enchantress variant with Mark of Eviction, Blanchwood Armor, and Coiling Oracle. I never saw the Enchantress in play, and have no idea how the deck did, but it is an interesting idea.

GW(u) decks (9 — 1)

A variety of decks played primarily GW, with some splashing Blue. The one that made Top 8 was basically Ghazi-Glare, splashing Blue for Meloku and Supply / Demand. Two of the other decks were control versions, with counters, Wrath of God and so forth. A few were pure aggro decks, with a mix of Green fatties and UW evasion creatures. A couple of Ghazi—Chord decks also floated around.

One interesting Gw deck was almost completely Green, with fast, evasive creatures, Blanchwood Armor, Might of Oaks, and Umezawa’s Jittes. It even incorporated a few Stampeding Serows. It was not an optimum build, but I respect players that try their own decks.

Zoo (9)

A few good players, and some more marginal players, ran three-color Zoo. At least one solid player was in contention, right up until he faced, and lost to, back-to-back Heartbeat decks. I saw the conclusion of one match — the Heartbeat player managed to topdeck a Weird Harvest to go off the turn before he died in game 3. The Zoo decks have a lot of potential, but they have some bad matchups: they seemed to fall hard to Heartbeat and UR Wildfire at this Regionals.

Milling Decks (9)

Almost five percent of the decks played on the day tried to win through milling. Many ran Glimpse the Unthinkable. Several ran Twincast and Plagiarize. Some combined them with Wrath of God. Several added Howling Mine. One actually ran Millstone. Another tried the Junktroller / Tunnel Vision trick. One tried Psychic Drain powered off the Urzatron. Another incorporated Leyline of the Void and Circu, Dimir Lobotomist. None were in contention at the end of the day.

This just goes to show how varied and random a big tournament like Regionals can be. Some of these decks did passably well, at least in the early rounds, so even if you are 3-1, you may still meet something completely rogue.

UWR Firemane Angel (8 – 1)

These are updated versions of Frank Karsten’s Zur’s Weirding / Firemane Angel control deck from the PT. One version made Top 8, and that is pretty representative of the archetype. It has all the answers — but really fast and disruptive decks may not give it time to find them, and it does not like Blood Moon.

RW (6)

Four players brought RW Control decks to the party. One had Searing Meditation, and all had a mix of life gain and board control elements. Two did reasonably well. Barry Steiglitz went 3-0, before losing to manascrew, and a match he described as “he had turn 2 Signet, and turn 3 Annex, turn 4 Annex, turn 5 Dream Leash, turn 6 Copy Enchantment. Game three he did it again.” Up until then he had won six of seven games, and won in five different ways.

Two players also ran RW aggro decks. The Boros beats did not have what it takes, even when adding Condemn to take care of opposing fatties.

Rakdos (6)

Six players decided that the colors of the day should be Red and Black. In reading about RB decks in the forums and pre-Regionals articles, people seemed to have some trouble deciding what an optimal Rakdos build might be. That was true here. Other than the colors, and being a mix of creatures, burn and discard, the Rakdos decks are all different, and ran everything from Hand of Cruelty to Wrecking Ball to Squealing Devil to Hypnotic Specter. Rakdos is supposed to be chaotic — and it was that. It was not successful.

Everything Else

Four Enduring Ideal decks appeared. Most ran Dovescape, hopefully as a means of stopping opponents with non-creature disenchants. Two players ran classic Owling Mine decks. (Ah, last winter. I remember it well.) Two players built Reanimator decks. One played a Goblins / Blood Moon deck that splashed Green for Tin Street Hooligan. One player piloted a RWB Wrath of God / Wildfire / Wrecking Ball deck. Mono-Green beats was present, looking like something that upgraded Chris Romeo Stampeding Serow build. Viashino Sandstalker showed up in a GRB deck. UB Aggro made a stab, and one player tried a mono-Blue control deck with Evolution Vat and Cytoplast Manipulator. A mono-Red deck tried to ride Dragons (both Hunted and Rathi) to victory. Another player stuck in the past tried Greater Gifts, but added Crime / Punishment to the mix. Another tried four color Debtors’ Knell control, but with Blinking Spirits, for some reason. Here’s that decklist — see if you can figure it out.


The format looks pretty diverse. The dominant deck is still probably BW, because having a Paladin En-Vec carry a Jitte is still a very good plan. BW Aggro decks were the most common color scheme on the day, but a high percentage made Top 8. Ghost Husk was the most successful archetype of all, with two of ten players in the playoffs. UR Wildfire was also quite common, but only one player could manage to make Top 8 with the deck. The same can be said for Heartbeat, which was relatively heavily played, but only got one player to the Top 8.

The big three decks from pre-Dissension (BW Aggro, UR Wildfire, and Heartbeat) are still big, but, in aggregate, they only accounted for a little over a third of the decks played. Dissension had an impact, beyond the random split card appearing in Heartbeat builds.

Rakdos looks uninteresting, unless someone finds a good build in some other Regionals. Simic, on the other hand, did find it’s way to the Top 8, and a number of players had some success with Azorius builds. I expect to see other successful Dissension-based decks at other Regionals, and to see these get more respect in future tournaments.

I don’t see Standard getting stale anytime soon.


pete {dot} jahn {at} Verizon {dot} net