Tuning The Standard Metagame

With Standard decks to aim for, let the metagaming begin! GerryT gives his latest takes on the top possibilities for the format!

With the first big Standard results in, the metagame is officially solidified. Realistically, though, it isn’t much different from the online metagame. Golgari Midrange is the most popular deck, Jeskai Control seems to be the winningest deck, and Izzet Phoenix is just getting started.

With tech cards like Tocatli Honor Guard, The Immortal Sun, Star of Extinction, and Carnage Tyrant out of the bag, it’s time to adapt again. Even Adanto Vanguard is doing good work as a check to some of the decks in the format. Golgari, in its current form, doesn’t have a great chance against opponents utilizing those cards to target them. Additionally, Rekindling Phoenix and Arclight Phoenix are both issues.

Enter Necrotic Wound.

Some of the work can be done with Cast Down, but Necrotic Wound gives you one of the most efficient answers to the two Phoenixes in the format and had the added bonus of taking out Adanto Vanguard. Necrotic Wound doesn’t solve all of the problems, but it’s a start.

Let’s revisit an old favorite of mine.

If I were playing Golgari, I’d be interested in making Necrotic Wound work as well as possible. You likely don’t have to go as hard as I am here, but if you want Necrotic Wound to be as good as it possibly can, you’re going to need more than a few explore creatures.

Molderhulk plus Memorial to Folly embarrasses mirrors whose trump is Carnage Tyrant. Many of your cards, like Stitcher’s Supplier and Glowspore Shaman, are weaker than theirs on average, but your late game will trump theirs unless they can keep a planeswalker active. Post-sideboard, you have The Immortal Sun as another trump.

You could (and probably should) get some Vivien Reids in the maindeck, but you want as many creatures as possible. Tocatli Honor Guard has to die on sight, as does every Phoenix you see, so you can’t afford to have Stitcher’s Supplier turn over blanks. The one-two punch of Midnight Reaper and Vivien Reid is how you’re going to beat control decks.

Normal Golgari is still fine, but I highly recommend playing some Cast Downs maindeck like Christoffer Larsen did in Lille. Having a plan against Star of Extinction would be great, but there isn’t much you can do to insulate yourself from it. Respect it as a Duress target.

The second-most-popular deck will continue to be Jeskai Control. It had a good weekend, no one is hard targeting control (unless you count Carnage Tyrant), and it has very few distinct weaknesses.

Using Opt, a lower land count, and Crackling Drake is largely the consensus at this point. Star of Extinction is the go-to answer for Carnage Tyrant and Golgari in general. Aside from Duress, there’s not much they can do about it as the tempo loss is too great to overcome.

Getting an extra two damage out of your counterspell is almost always going to matter less than surveil 1, but I typically err on the side of being able to cast my spells. The mana is a little dicey for Sinister Sabotage, but the most successful lists have been playing it instead of Ionize, so it’s time to try it again. Search for Azcanta could always use the help.

Others have been shaving on Search for Azcanta, but that’s not what I want to be doing with my Jeskai deck. Star of Extinction is a huge part of my plan against Golgari, and while Search doesn’t transform as quickly as it used to, it’s still an incredibly potent control tool. Having a card advantage engine and a tool for acceleration is exactly what control wants, especially since they have large mana sinks these days.

Adanto Vanguard is an issue, hence the necessity for Seal Away. I’d prefer to keep the deck as Izzet-centric as possible because basic Plains doesn’t play well with Crackling Drake or Niv-Mizzet, but you do what you gotta do. Even with the Plains, there are still only thirteen white sources, so it’s not perfect. Settle the Wreckage is a possible answer, but it’s hard to cast and tends to fuel their Banefires post-sideboard.

Trying to neutralize Adanto Vanguard with Crackling Drake isn’t effective, at least in pre-sideboard games when your opponent will have massive amounts of removal. Revitalize is helpful for buying you some time, but you need to remove the threat eventually.

Tocatli Honor Guard is a card that’s even been showing up in Jeskai sideboards as a means to combat Golgari Midrange.

What about the breakout deck from last weekend, Izzet Phoenix?

Last weekend was the debut of Izzet Phoenix on the big stage. It was gaining popularity on Magic Online in the days leading up to the event, and was the deck we recommended playing on The GAM Podcast thanks to its good matchups against Golgari and Jeskai. While it had some successes, putting one copy in each Top 8, it ultimately fell short. Given that the deck is relatively new and there is no consensus best version, it’s only a matter of time before a strong version is found. At that point, the metagame will have to adapt again.

On the surface, it looks like this deck doesn’t do much. Yes, your Crackling Drakes are large, but is Goblin Electromancer actually good? Does Arclight Phoenix really pressure people enough? Isn’t this deck just spinning its wheels a bunch before ultimately dying?

In short, this deck is great. You can be all-in on Drakes and Arclight Phoenix with Maximize Velocity or try to play a more controlling game in certain matchups. Since I’m not much of an Infect or Hexproof fan, naturally I lean toward the latter. Also, I just think it’s a superior strategy to be able to pivot when necessary.

I haven’t changed much from the stock Magic Online lists. Tormenting Voice might seem weaker than the other blue cantrips, but being red has huge upside. When you have a Goblin Electromancer turn, casting a bunch of cantrips, you will often have red mana that goes unspent. Splitting your cantrips between red and blue allows you to be more efficient on those turns.

There’s also the upside of being able to filter through Arclight Phoenixes and excess lands. When you cast as many cantrips as this sort of deck does, you will eventually flood out and having some insurance against that is paramount. Tormenting Voice was a great edition.

Radical Idea is the worst cantrip on rate, but it serves the important purpose of being able to have enough spells to return Arclight Phoenix. It also makes it so you’re unlikely to run out of gas, but that’s less of an issue.

The only other differences are my use of some protection (in the form of Disdainful Stroke and Dive Down) and swapping the removal. Lava Coil is probably the best removal spell in the format at the moment, so maxing on those instead of playing Beacon Bolt makes sense. You lose percentage points against specifically Lyra Dawnbringer, but it’s not like she’s unbeatable.

Disdainful Stroke is a fine maindeck card now, even though it wasn’t a couple weeks ago. It serves double duty, both able to protect you or protect your threats, especially since the majority of Golgari’s answers to your creatures are expensive. Having one-mana interaction is incredible in this format since most of the things it will stop cost four or more mana. Dive Down is incredible.

Is Blink of an Eye worth playing? The Vierens used it alongside The Mirari Conjecture in Lille, but that plan is mostly worse than trying to pair Niv-Mizzet with Dive Down. If Ixalan’s Binding ticks up in usage, having Blink of an Eye as an out would be helpful, as having a Crackling Drake trapped underneath is difficult to overcome.

My sideboard plan is the best part about the deck. Search for Azcanta is easy to transform thanks to all the card drawing and accelerates you into Star of Extinction or Niv-Mizzet. Protecting Niv-Mizzet basically always leads to a concession. Most games are won by out-valuing your opponents who sideboard like they’re playing against an aggressive deck.

Does this deck even want Fiery Cannonade anymore? If Mono-Red Aggro ticks up in popularity, you might need your anti-aggro tool to be Fountain of Renewal instead. Either way, Selesnya is on the decline.

If you’re looking for something to attack the metagame, there’s always Grixis.

Grixis seems like it should be able to make an impact very soon. Not only do you have access to the red removal that exiles threats like Rekindling Phoenix, you have Moment of Craving and Dead Weight for Adanto Vanguard, and Thought Erasure for Carnage Tyrant.

Even though Thought Erasure is your main line of defense for hexproof creatures, you could play The Eldest Reborn or Vona’s Hunger to beat them, but it’s difficult to actually make those work. Golgari has so many value creatures that they will very rarely have Carnage Tyrant and nothing else. You’re better off playing Star of Extinction and getting everything.

Honestly, Nicol Bolas, the Ravager isn’t something I’m excited about at the moment, but I’m into both of the red and black removal options and we need something to kill our opponents. Thought Erasure is a strong option at the moment and that leads me to Grixis.

Unlike two weeks ago, this is not a format where I’m interested in Thief of Sanity. There are Shocks, blockers, and none of the decks in the format give you all that much time. Thief of Sanity is a great Ophidian, but that sort of card hasn’t been truly great in quite some time.

Spell Pierce is excellent against most decks. Being able to counter History of Benalia, Experimental Frenzy, Tormenting Voice, and Teferi on the cheap is backbreaking.

Again, we have Fountain of Renewal in the sideboard to shore up aggro matchups. It isn’t the strongest anti-aggro card we’ve ever seen, but it gets the job done. Even though this deck has Moment of Craving and Vraska’s Contempt, Grixis could still use the help.


None of these decks is a poor choice. The information is out there and you know who your enemies are. You can almost certainly engineer your deck to have a better chance in any given matchup. You can even build an entirely new deck, like Grixis Midrange, and potentially wreck the entire field. If I had a Standard event this week, I’d absolutely register something with Crackling Drake and Star of Extinction.

I’m more excited for Pro Tour Guilds of Ravnica than I have been for any PT in recent memory. First, though, I get to play Modern at Grand Prix Atlanta, where I’ll likely be attacking with Tajic, Legion’s Edge!