I feel like a broken record at this point.
Week in, week out I’m here shouting at whoever will listen to me that Alrund’s Epiphany will soon break the format. Then each week the results get tallied up showcasing the stupidly good win rates from the aggro Faceless Haven decks.
We’re at the point now that even if Alrund’s Epiphany becomes too dominant, I’ll just look like a broken clock and not the prophet my delicate ego needs me to be…
Oh, and it’s not like I can subjectively point at Yuta winning Magic World Championship XXVII or some Magic ringers winning $2,000 in the Arena Open with Alurnd’s Epiphany either. I mean, I could I guess, but there’s just too much data out there at this point to make an argument like that. We’ve got Untapped.GG, MTG Data, and now MTG Melee’s Premium Matrix all spitting out data constantly that consistently points towards Mono-Green Aggro❄ and Mono-White Aggro❄ being the clear best decks.
Yet here I am, once again, back on my bullshit.
So maybe the card doesn’t need to be banned. It still needs to be respected though. Day in and day out, high-level players are working diligently on trying to perfect this deck. Many of them also have Izzet Epiphany as the best deck in the format even though claims like that get weakened by the aggregated data. Even now, a month into Innistrad: Midnight Hunt Standard, we’re seeing tons of unique builds of the archetype inching closer and closer to a “final form.”
Is a “final form” even possible though? Probably not, no. Since this deck needs so much time to do its thing, there’s just not a perfect cocktail of interaction that will set it up to beat hyper-aggressive decks and other blue mirrors consistently. Therefore, each card decision will affect the percentage points one way or another. The best we can possibly do is try to predict the metagame from week-to-week, and try to master which combinations of cards gives us the best possible chance at success.
The Predictable Metagame and Match Win Percentages
I took a deep look into the past ten days’ worth of Standard tournaments held on MTG Melee. Out of the 2,781 decks registered, here are the Top 10 archetypes and their rounded metagame percentages.
- Mono-Green Aggro❄: 18%
- Mono-White Aggro❄: 11%
- Izzet Epiphany: 12%
- Izzet Dragons: 11%
- Grixis Epiphany: 6%
- Temur Midrange: 5%
- Dimir Control: 3%
- Azorius Aggro: 3%
- Azorius Epiphany: 3%
- Mono-Black Control: 2%
To get an even better understanding of what’s going on, here’s a little peak at Melee’s new Premium Archetype Matrix. Just don’t tell my partners I’m giving this one away for free, deal? Deal.
Before we dissect this information, I do want to lay down some ground rules for when you look at data like this. It’s often wrong to put too much stock into it as a ton of factors might not show up in the next batch. For example, a new deck could emerge, completely throwing the metagame out of sorts, or a new piece of tech in a high-performing decklist could change a specific matchup. Data like this should help guide your decision making, but never control it.
On the flip side, any person’s limited testing of a specific matchup isn’t more telling than hundreds of matches played by a community. For example, Cedric Phillips may get on Twitter and boast about beating Mono-White Aggro❄ with Mono-Green Aggro❄, but that’s not going to convince me over these 379 matches played. What could have happened is Cedric outplayed his opponents. More likely, he was a lucksack.
With that out of the way, let’s dive into this information under the scope of being an Izzet Epiphany player. The data points towards playing an aggressive-leaning strategy roughly 40% of the time, and all four of the most common aggressive decks are sub-50% matchups. This trend isn’t new either. Ever since Izzet Epiphany came onto the scene, aggressive strategies have preyed on it.
While I’d accept one’s opinion that Izzet Epiphany is just bad against aggro decks, it’s not one I’d share. What I believe is happening is something that commonly occurs in metagames that don’t have a dominant midrange strategy. Without one, a larger portion of the metagame is control or combo/control like Izzet Epiphany. Since these “blue” decks are a higher percentage of the metagame, the “blue” decks have to decide if they want to hammer aggro decks in Game 1, and in the process almost assuredly lose to other “blue” decks that didn’t respect aggro decks as much.
In situations like this, it’s almost always correct to lose equity against the aggro decks in Game 1, and then hammer them after sideboarding. Aggro decks try to end games quickly, which reduces the number of cards you get to see each game. To compensate for this, you’re forced to drastically increase the density of interactive spells you have access to so you actually have them when the game begins.
Now, if you do this for Game 1, you’ll probably beat aggro decks a high percentage of the time. The problem is, you’ll also draw a lot of these cards against the “blue” decks in Game 1 when you face them. There, the games go way longer, meaning that you’ll draw more dead cards. If your opponent has way fewer dead cards in Game 1 than you, odds are you’re going to lose most of the time.
That’s why you see most control or combo/control decks run a few sweepers and removal spells maindeck, and that’s it. They understand it will lower their chances of beating the aggressive decks in Game 1, but the overall win % will be higher if they play against a large swath of the projected metagame. That’s because they won’t lose every Game 1 against other “blue” decks.
I’m a firm believer in the aforementioned rule, but think we’ve hit the point where the exception to the rule is necessary. There just aren’t enough true “blue” mirrors to justify making our deck worse in Game 1 for them. Even if we lose to them a higher percentage of the time, completely dominating the aggro and rogue decks seems like a great place to be right now. And thus brings me to today’s decklist.
Now I wish I created this decklist, but as much as I love tuning great lists, I pride myself on being able to identify greatness. Just don’t tell my brother this because last week on the Bash Bros Podcast he was talking about something similar and I told him it was a bad idea. This will be our little secret, okay?
Anyway, without further ado, here’s Yuuki Ichicawa’s amazing take on anti-aggro Izzet Epiphany!
Now I’m not really sure why no one else has been talking about this decklist. Who knows, maybe I’m completely out of touch with Standard right now, but I think this list is absolute fire. It could be that everyone on this side of the world was sleeping at the time Yuuki was streaming it this past Saturday. I mean, the only reason I was watching his stream was that my sleep schedule got wildly interrupted from being sick and I found myself awake at 1 AM Saturday morning.
I was blown away when I saw his list and immediately realized I was going to have to eat crow next time I talked to Corey. Then I opened Arena to give it a spin myself, even though I previously had no intentions or energy to play Magic. Still, even with a nose full of snot and eyes full of water, I crushed opponent after opponent after opponent. I used the deck to qualify for Day 2 of the Arena Standard Open before finishing 5-2 on the following day. All the while having limited cognitive skills thanks to this horrific flu going around.
So what makes this deck so good against aggro? Well, it’s no surprise by now that the duo of Lier, Disciple of the Drowned and Fading Hope is exceptionally powerful against the aggressive decks in the format. In fact, Lier is so good against these strategies that you don’t even need the turn-taking side of the deck to eventually beat them. All you need to do is stay alive long enough to untap with a Lier and the game is pretty much over.
VS Aggressive Decks
Sideboard games against these aggressive decks play out like a dream. You have a ton of cheap spells that interact with the opponent, Smoldering Eggs to distract them, and eventually Lier to close the door. Four copies might seem like a lot, but you always want one and having Unexpected Windfall can help get rid of additional copies. Unexpected Windfall is also amazing in this deck, as you always want some additional mana to go with your Lier turns anyway.
VS Blue Decks
Like I alluded to earlier, here’s where the rose-colored glasses need to come off. Yuuki’s unique build of Izzet Epiphany loses points in the mirrors, because Lier isn’t good in other blue matchups. Other builds of the deck instead have cards like Goldspan Dragon, Memory Deluge, or more counterspells or Galvanic Iterations. I guess some have sweepers, but more often than not this build of the deck will be the least-equipped for the mirrors.
After sideboard, things even out enough against the blue decks as long as they also respect the aggro decks. Still, cards like Test of Talents may need to find their way back into the deck if this version doesn’t pick up traction and enough pilots revert back to Memory Deluge builds similar to what Logan Nettles has been cooking up.
Still though, it’s not like you’re just dead in the water as we’re only talking about a couple of unique card choices. You still have access to eight cheap threats, and the same powerful late-game engine. It’s just, things might be difficult if an opponent is able to deal with your early threats and draw a few more card advantage spells than you can. I wouldn’t say anyone would be insanely ahead of this build, but they would have an advantage. One that I believe is worth giving up, since you gain it all back and more in the probably 40% aggro metagame.
Actual Metagame Predictions
So here we are. I’m suggesting a build of Izzet Epiphany that completely hammers the aggro decks. You, the reader, now have to first choose if you believe me. Then, if you do, decide if the sacrifices are even worth it. Lastly, you have to account for the article itself and what sort of impact it could have on the metagame.
Let’s cover the last “if” first. I honestly don’t think an article like this will change the metagame all that much. Maybe, maybe, 1% of Izzet Epiphany players will read this and start playing the list. This means that you’ll be on the receiving end of some bad mirror matchups.
On the flip side, this probably doesn’t spook the aggro players all that much either, so they will continue to eat up metagame share as more players give up trying to beat the Faceless Haven decks and instead join them. I believe Mono-White Aggro❄ and Mono-Green Aggro❄ will both continue to increase in metagame share as they simply are the best-performing decks.
Now if you’re not interested in playing Izzet Epiphany, Mono-White Aggro❄, or Mono-Green Aggro❄, I’ve got bad news for you. These are pound-for-pound the best decks in Standard. Izzet Dragons may have had a resurgence for a week, but it’s back to being pushed out of the metagame with targeted hate from both Mono-Green Aggro❄ and Izzet Epiphany. I’m also not a believer in Dimir Control or any Azorius deck out there.
Odds are I will play this exact 75 in the Mana Traders Standard Series this weekend, and if things go well, I’ll run it back again at the Star City Games Invitational at SCG CON next weekend. I honestly believe it’s just that good and hope you give it a shot yourself.