The Online Outlook #7 — Raising the Standard

After last week’s foray into Time Spiral Block Constructed, it’s time for me to wend my weary way back to the Standard streets. As usual, Magic Online has been awash with Premier Events, and I’ve trawled the Top 8 replays in order to bring you what’s winning and what’s losing. As we’ve nine Top 8s to work through today, I won’t waste your time with any more pointless introduction.

After last week’s foray into Time Spiral Block Constructed, it’s time for me to wend my weary way back to the Standard streets. As usual, Magic Online has been awash with Premier Events, and I’ve trawled the Top 8 replays in order to bring you what’s winning and what’s losing. As we’ve nine Top 8s to work through today, I won’t waste your time with any more pointless introduction. Well, except for this excellent joke:

Q – Why do anarchists drink herbal tea?
A – Because all proper tea is theft.

To the metagame!

940134 – Standard 2x Premier Event – Bugged Replays

1 – Angelfire
2 – Izzettron
3 – Storm Combo with Greater Gargadons and Empty the Warrens and Grapeshot
4 – Izzettron
5 – Izzettron
6 – U/W Tron
7 – Gruul
8 – Dragonstorm

The knockout tale from this particular Top 8 is the success of Izzettron. By the way, how do you spell Izzettron? Is it one “t” or two? I’m plumping for two – after all, it’s not Izze-tron – but I could be wrong. If anyone knows, come tell me in the forums.

We know that the Tron is possibly the most defining aspect of the current Standard metagame, and we’ll be seeing it stapled to a plethora of colors as this week’s metagame unfolds. However, it seems that some form of Red and Blue is the optimal Tron color combination, with no other pairing (or trifecta) offering up numbers in quantity. Yes, we have U/W Tron here, but throughout this article the word Izzettron is the most common that you’ll see.

Angelfire took the top spot, which is nice to see. A mid-range controlling build that doesn’t rely on Big Mana. We have an aggro offering in Gruul, by far the most populous aggressive strategy this week. Boros is largely unplayed, presumably because anyone playing Mountains is also packing Sulfur Elemental. While the mighty Soltari Priest was once to be feared, it seems he’s now nothing more than folder fodder. I’m not expecting a backlash any time soon, as the Boros-bumming 3/2 has game against control strategies too. That guy ain’t gonna disappear for some time.

Finally, making up the Top 8, we have Dragonstorm. Still a force, still fighting… and it peppers this week’s Top 8 breakdown like spicy cayenne.

944617 – Standard 2x Premier Event

1 – R/B Aggro
2 – Boros
3 – Dragonstorm
4 – R/B Ignite Memories Storm
5 – G/B Dredge
6 – Dragonstorm
7 – U/B Pickles
8 – Izzettron

This Top 8 was battered down by old-fashioned Red/Black aggression. Seal of Fire, Rakdos Guildmage, Dark Confidant… the usual suspects. Blunt and to the point, with heavy-hitters such as Hit / Run and Rise / Fall. Powerful stuff. Coming second we have the only Boros deck in this week’s breakdown, that must’ve avoided the hate or played like a man possessed.

So what else do we have? A couple of Dragonstorm decks, which is to be expected, and an Izzettron deck with similar pedigree. Then we have a solitary Dredge deck – again the only graveyard strategy to crack the big time this week – and the once-dominant U/B Pickles deck. I feel that the discerning Brine Elemental player has now shifted over to the U/G Tron version that utilizes Chord of Calling. Naoki gives his breakdown of the deck here, so be sure to check it out.

Coming in fourth, and rounding out the eight, is an interesting an under-utilized R/B Storm deck that may be related to Zac Hill Splitting Headache deck. It looked a lot of fun, if you’re into suspenders. I think I prefer my decks to be a little more straightforward.

945061 – Standard 2x Premier Event

1 – B/R/W Tron – Manabogged
2 – U/B Tron
3 – Dragonstorm w/ Teferi main
4 – R/B Ignite Dragonstorm – vinmania
5 – Dragonstorm
6 – Zoo
7 – Dragonstorm
8 – Gruul

This Top 8 had two decks of distinction. The first won the whole thing – B/R/W Tron, played by a guy called Manabogged. I’d not seen the deck before, and it looks powerful and fun. I urge you to go watch the Top 8 replays of his games, as anything that utilizes the Urzatron without Blue deserves our attention. Another thing I must mention… Dragonstorm with Teferi maindeck? Did I miss a meeting?

The other deck of note was another take on the R/B Storm strategy, featuring Ignite Memories and Dark Confidant main, that morphs into Dragonstorm for games 2 and 3. Its pilot gave us the following insight into the deck:

Who are you, and what is your MTGO name?

My real name is Jeff Blystone. I have several accounts on MTGO, including vinmania, shoktroopa, mpgumble, and adubk.

Where are you from, and do you play Magic in real life?

I am from Northeast Ohio and play primarily at "the dungeon" and Oberlin "Matrix." Both stores have some very good players.

Here is the decklist that took me to the Premier Event Top 8:

Where did you get the deck?

This deck has been floating around for quite some time. There was an older version of it on Karsten’s deck-o-pedia. I changed a few cards, re-worked the sideboard, and figured it was a great deck for the current metagame (Tron, Dragonstorm, and Gruul).

Have you any cool MTGO stories about the deck?

After I qualified for the IPA Sealed tournaments, I realized how good this deck could be. I played in four Premier Events in the past week, and made Top 4 in all four. I have to admit that 60% of the games won are because of the sideboard. There’s been countless times where I sideboard into Dragonstorm and just completely catch my opponents off guard. The best play with the deck actually saw me losing. I had three land in play, with three Rite of Flames and Dragonstorm in my hand. JoeBags, my opponent, was playing B/W Aggro Control, and I played two Rites, only to see the third Rite of Flame get Mana Tithed for the loss! Probably the best play in a long time.

Have you played on the Pro Tour? If so, how did you do?

I haven’t played in many “major tournaments.” Everyone I seem to talk to thinks I should at least try. It’s not that I don’t think I’m good enough (I know I am), it’s just I haven’t really been that motivated to jump into PTQs and such. This year, however I might start.

What do you like in TSP Block? What about Extended?

In Block, I like Wild Pair. Not that it’s the most competitive deck out there, but because the possibilities with that card are ridiculous. As far as Extended, the online scene is rather lame. Scepter Chant and the different Tron variants appeal to me the most.

Are you looking forward to Future Sight? Why (or why not)?

Of course I am! I haven’t really looked into the previews much, but I’m sure its gonna be a decent set. Anything that can change the metagame of Tron and Dragonstorm in Standard I will definitely like.

Thanks for the info, fella!

945215 – Standard 2x Premier Event

1 – U/G Tron (Shimizu)
2 – Dralnu du Louvre
3 – Boros
4 – U/G Tron (Shimizu)
5 – Dragonstorm
6 – U/B Tron
7 – Izzettron
8 – Gruul

At last, the first appearance of one of the truly innovative decks to come out of Grand Prix: Kyoto. As I’ve mentioned previously, the U/G Tron deck created by GP Top 8 competitor Naoki Shimizu is the future of the Pickles archetype, and I’m a well-documented lover of Chord of Calling (having won English Nationals on the back of that particular convoking tutor). And yes, I’ll be mentioning that as often as I can these coming weeks. The U/G deck won the whole thing here, as well as placing another player in the Top 8. I hope this is more than a case of “Deck of the Day,” but only time will tell on that.

One deck that is waning in popularity of late is Dralnu du Louvre. Perhaps the discerning control player has now found solace in the varying forms of Big Mana decks available out there. Indeed, Izzettron and U/B Tron make up the other two Tron decks in the Top 8. Rounding out we have more of the usual, with Dragonstorm, Gruul, and Boros completing the picture.

Again, nothing really Green. Sure, Gruul is Green, but we all know it’s nothing more than slightly fatter Boros under the hood. Jamie, get into those Premier Events!

945216 – Standard 2x Premier Event

1 – B/W Control
2 – Dralnu du Louvre
3 – R/B Ignite Dragonstorm
4 – Gruul
5 – U/B/R Tron
6 – Magnivore (well, Detritivore)
7 – Mono-Green Aggro
8 – R/G Storm

Now this was a surprise. Black/White Control took the top spot. In a Control field, I suppose discard has its merits… though I’d rather have my hand-rippage backed by a respectable early clock. I do like B/W Control, though… probably because the name “Angel of Despair” fits well with my current Lovecraftian mood (I recently purchased the boardgame Arkham Horror… highly recommended, if only for the massive amount of game components).

Ignite Dragonstorm again made the final table (piloted by vinmania again? Probably), which proves it’s no mere flash in the pan. Of course, no the secret sideboard switcheroo is out of the bag, perhaps it’ll need some other trickery to smash faces with such regularity. Dralnu du Louvre proved that while the archetype may be down, it certainly isn’t out for the count, and Gruul kept the faithful happy by making a 3/3 on turn two and going to work.

Green had its first real appearance here, with the out-of-favor Mono-Green Aggro deck bringing home the bacon. It’s understandable why it’s not doing so well these days… after all, its main food group (Dralnu du Louvre) is fading from the collective palette, therefore those pesky Ledgewalkers have little to feast on. Perhaps the most interesting deck in this Top 8 is the Red/Green Storm Abuse deck that managed a mighty eighth place. Sadly, his games were largely one-sided affairs, and not in his favor, so more information on this particular archetype is not forthcoming. Something to look out for in the coming week, methinks.

Oh, and Magnivore stood up to be counted, although I didn’t see one copy of Magnivore in the games I watched. Detritivore appears to be the new boy in town, and with good reason. With Ton so rampant, uncounterable Land Destruction seems quite the value.

945217 – Standard 2x Premier Event

1 – Gruul
2 – Izzettron
3 – Izzettron
4 – U/B/R Tron
5 – G/R/W Mid-Range LD
6 – Izzettron
7 – U/R Wildfire w/ Lotus Bloom
8 – Dragonstorm

Three Izzettron decks in this Top 8, which means that Gruul (the slow-deck destroyer) gets a real chance to shine. It’s nice to see aggression rewarded at last, though I suspect it’s merely an obligatory fifteen minutes of fame rather than a Renaissance for Beatdown. Another Tron deck made up the requisite four-Tron package that seems to plague many of the Top 8 breakdown these days, though I suspect the Black in there was mainly for more Signet abuse rather than color concerns. Or was it the Red? I can’t remember.

The seventh-place deck, while sadly not shining in the Top 8, looked to be the definition of mid-range. Green/Red/White, with Land Destruction and Worship main. It’s not a horse I would back at the sound of the starter’s pistol, but it seemed to do the business here. Hell, it finished higher than the token Dragonstorm, so it must have something going for it.

Last up, we have U/R Wildfire, powered by Lotus Blooms. Whatever will those crazy kids think of next?

945218 – Standard 2x Premier Event

1 – G/W Aggro Glare
2 – Dragonstorm
3 – Dragonstorm
4 – B/R Warrens
5 – Dragonstorm
6 – Gruul
7 – Angelfire
8 – Gruul


I love Green/White. After all, I piloted it to the top at last year’s English Natio- oh, hang on… I’ve already mentioned it once this article. Don’t wanna cut into my allotted quota of bragging just yet. Next week, maybe.

Seriously though, good to see the older archetypes getting some lovin’. Of course, I don’t extend a similar courtesy to Izzettron – that deck feels like it’s been around since Noah (and no, I don’t mean Weil). How the hell did it combat the mass power of Dragonstorm?

Aside from the G/W deck’s surprise win, this Top 8 looks rather mundane. Many Dragonstorms, a couple of Gruul decks. Nothing to be worried about. Even Angelfire and B/R Storm aren’t to be feared. However, underneath it all we have a startling fact… zero copies of the Urzalands in the Top 8? How the hell did that happen? Is the iron grip of the Mine, Power Plant, and Tower finally loosening?

I doubt it.

945221 – Standard 2x Premier Event

1 – B/W Discard
2 – Dragonstorm
3 – Gruul
4 – Dragonstorm w/ Teferi main
5 – Dragonstorm
6 – Dragonstorm
7 – B/R Aggro Rack
8 – Gruul

Of course, this is the second Top 8 in a row without the filthy Tron kicking ass and taking names. And again, it’s a Top 8 dominated by Dragonstorm. Food for thought…

Again, a relatively fringe deck takes top honors this time, facing down the Four Hellkites of the Apocalypse. Craig Jones has talked about Dragonstorm’s weaknesses in the past, and I believe they are well highlighted here. While it’s assured that the deck is the most powerful force in the metagame, it plays largely without regard for the opponent. Thus if it is doing well and beating the popular (and prolific) decks, there is more space for the fringe strategies to strut their stuff. Dragonstorm is just as likely to win on turn 4 against Gruul as it is against a 75-card squirrel deck, as their interactions are minimal. Definitely not a deck for the FNM crowd, as it can post a 2-2 record in the casual room just as well as it can rock the world championships.

The B/R Aggro Rack deck seemed pretty quirky. While I didn’t see much of it, it was fun to see Bad Moon getting some brief and unfulfilling lovin’. Backed by The Rack, I can see why it has pedigree. Of course, if you’re really looking for discard, the Ravenous Rats and Cry of Contritions in the deck belonging to the eventual winner is the way forward.

945222 – Standard 2x Premier Event

1 – Gruul
2 – Dragonstorm
3 – Izzettron
4 – U/B Tron
5 – U/W/G Control
6 – Dralnu du Louvre
7 – Magnivore
8 – Dragonstorm

Rounding out the week, we have another victory for Gruul. For an aggro strategy, this Red/Green machine won’t curl up and die. It’s a shame, because every time someone makes a Scab-Clan Mauler on turn 2, Craig Jones kills a kitten. Rumors that the two things are unconnected are unproven at this time.

More Dragonstrom, more Tron, and a couple of old favorites in Dralnu and Magnivore. Again, nothing to report here. Other than the U/W/G deck that I’ve mentioned in a previous article.


Now the dust has settled, here’s what I’ve learnt about the current Standard metagame on Magic Online:

  • It seems to comprise of three distinct powerhouses: Izzettron, Gruul, and (the strongest) Dragonstorm. In order to succeed, you need game against all three. If you ain’t got game, be sure to have plans at the very least.
  • Dralnu du Louvre has faded from the eye. Thank Christ.
  • The Storm strategy comes in a ton o’ crazy flavors. Experiment now, before the inevitable mechanic-hoser appears in Future Sight.
  • If you’re looking to play something a little off-the-wall, cross your fingers and hope that Dragonstorm is out in force.. That way you’ve got more than a fighting chance.
  • If you’re looking to play something off-the-shelf, I recommend a deck that includes Shivan Reefs. And Urza’s Lands. And possibly Signets.

Until next time, remember – you can’t stop the signal.

Craig Stevenson
Scouseboy on MTGO
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