Where AFR Standard Is Headed After SCG Tour Online $5K AFR Championship Qualifier #1

Brad Nelson breaks down the Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Standard decks from the SCG Tour Online. What happened last weekend, and where will the metagame go?

Winota, Joiner of Forces
Winota, Joiner of Forces, illustrated by Magali Villeneuve

Last weekend was the first of eight SCG Tour Online weekends leading into the recently announced SCG CON. The format was Standard and really set the stage for what we can expect to come out of the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Today I’ll be reviewing this past weekend’s results, and then I’ll break down everything you’re going to need to know leading into the next SCG Tour Online weekend starting this Friday. Let’s get into it!

Last Weekend’s Overview

Mono-Green Aggro❄ started exceptionally strong in Friday’s SCG Tour Online Satellites. The archetype got a huge facelift from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms in the form of Ranger Class, Werewolf Pack Leader, and Lair of the Hydra. The metagame also played into the deck’s hand with Sultai Ramp (Yorion) and Izzet Dragons❄ seeing heavy play. After the first couple of Satellites, Mono-Green Aggro❄ took over as the most played deck with Sultai Ramp dropping in popularity. 

This time in the spotlight for Mono-Green Aggro❄ would quickly diminish as the competitors of the SCG Tour Online quickly reacted to the exploitable strategy with Temur Adventures and Naya Winota. Both of these decks were capable of executing proactive plans that could effectively go over the top of Mono-Green Aggro❄ while still competing with the rest of the metagame.

Temur Adventures becoming popular and also doing well was a real shock to my system. I played the deck for MPL League Weekend a few weeks back, and regretted it immensely. I guess the reason for that was due to only having two bad matchups to play against, Naya Adventures (Jegantha) and Sultai Ramp. Once I thought about it for a bit, it started to make sense.

Temur Adventures is a strong choice against Mono-Green Aggro❄, and can still hold its own against a subset of the metagame. Even the bad Naya Adventures matchup is mainly dependent on how prepared the Naya deck is. Lately they’ve been cutting down on Drannith Magistrate, which is a huge boon for Temur Adventures.

Much like what happened to Mono-Green Aggro❄, Temur Adventures’s bad matchups started to gain popularity as players exploited the metagame. Dimir Rogues (Lurrus), Jeskai Cycling, and Sultai Ramp all gained slight popularity as time grew closer to the $5K SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier.

On Saturday night, while many of the SCG Tour Online players slept, the Season 2 Japan Championships were finishing up. With an impressive 12-1-2 finish, Yuta Hirosawa took the tournament down with the Magda take on Gruul Adventures. This thrusted the archetype out of the shadows for the $5K SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier with eleven pilots, a second-place finish, and the best overall win percentage in the tournament.

In the end it was Naya Winota in the hands of Martin Del Güercio winning $1,500, an invitation to compete in the MTG Arena Championship, and another invite to battle it out in the Star City Games Invitational at SCG CON! Now I have no clue if Martin’s going to embark on that journey, but I’m excited to meet him if he does!

Breaking Down the Information

I’ll try to compartmentalize today’s content in the best possible way I can, but it’s really dense. There are upwards of twelve archetypes in Standard right now that I believe could win a tournament on any given day. It just depends what the metagame for that event was, and how prepared the archetype is to defeat the most played decks. As we saw from last weekend, the metagame percentages shifted quickly and consistently, meaning it’s vital to get the timing correct.

Redcap Melee

Take Redcap Melee for example. This card started off as a two-of in the sideboard of most Standard decks that could support it. Mono-Green Aggro❄ was popular out of the gates so Burning Hands was taking up more sideboard slots. As Naya Winota gained popularity, and with Gruul Adventures currently picking up steam, a card like Redcap Melee is starting to see more play.

This puts a lot more strain on decks like Jeskai Mutate, Jeskai Cycling, and Izzet Dragons❄ as they all rely on red creatures to get their business done. It also pretty much puts a nail in the Mono-Red Aggro❄ coffin, but that deck was already pushed out of the metagame for various green-related reasons. Burning Hands is good, but it’s just not good enough to bring Mono-Red back to life.

So now we have a large swath of the metagame in the form of Temur Adventures, Naya Winota, and Gruul Adventures prioritizing cards like Redcap Melee and Burning Hands, and ignoring more universal removal spells like Scorching Dragonfire and Fire Prophecy.

Thieves’ Guild Enforcer Luminarch Aspirant

This leaves a pretty wide hole for decks like Dimir Rogues and Mono-White Aggro❄ to sneak into the metagame. Sure these decks are slightly unpowered relative to where the metagame is now, but with the format distracted by red and green creatures, they stand a chance. Remember my golden rule of Standard?

Standard is about three things; card advantage, optimizing your interaction, and minimizing the effectiveness of your opponent’s interaction.

Now that doesn’t always work when certain strategies are more powerful than others, and that brings us to breaking down our first deck.

Naya Winota

One of the most successful decks from last weekend was Naya Winota. I heard rumblings about a new Winota, Joiner of Forces deck early last week, but just assumed it would be bad. You know, because every other Winota deck in the past ended up being bad. Once I saw it crushing the SCG Tour Online weekend I had to give it a spin myself to see what all the commotion was about.

I won my first ten matches with the deck…

Prosperous Innkeeper Esika’s Chariot

What I learned was the deck no longer was a gimmick once Prosperous Innkeeper gave the deck enough acceleration to no longer be a gimmick. Now the deck had a plethora of options to not only accelerate into Winota, but trigger its ability on the very same turn. Esika’s Chariot also became a very punishing play when an opponent would leave up interactive mana for the deck’s namesake.

This shell is still fairly underdeveloped, but it’s doing something more powerful than the archetype ever could before. I’m confident there will be an improved list of the deck that comes out this weekend or even the following during the Challenger Gauntlet that will solidify the deck as a Tier 1 option until the format rotates. That’s not to say it’s a bad choice right now; in fact I think it may be one of the most popular and best decks going into this weekend.

This is where things get interesting, because I do think the deck struggles against Temur Adventures and Dimir Rogues. This is also not the easiest deck to have heavy-handed transitional sideboards for bad matchups as Winota brings along with it a pretty steep deckbuilding constraint. For example, the old sideboard strategy of 4 Scorching Dragonfire and 4 Ox of Agonas will greatly reduce the effectiveness of Winota triggering and finding Humans. That’s not even taking into account that there’s just not enough room for all of those cards!

Now it’s not the end of the world, as I’ve found decent success against Dimir Rogues simply by resolving Esika’s Chariot, but my results are Arena ladder only, which isn’t the best litmus test for the matchup (I may just be overly paranoid about this one matchup). Naya Winota will be popular this weekend regardless of my reservations, and that will push some decks out of my playability range.

  • Izzet Dragons❄
  • Naya Adventures (Jegantha)
  • Rakdos Sacrifice
  • Mono-White Aggro❄
  • Mono-Red Aggro❄
  • Mono-Green Aggro❄

That’s a lot of decks, I know. It’s just that I can’t imagine playing any of them when the fear of dying to Winota on Turn 3 or 4 is so likely. All of these decks just don’t put enough pressure on the battlefield or interact well enough with Winota. This leaves us with:

  • Sultai Ramp (Yorion)
  • Gruul Adventures
  • Dimir Rogues
  • Jeskai Cycling
  • Jeskai Mutate
  • Temur Adventures

These six decks along with Naya Winota make up what I believe to be the top decks in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Standard. It’s not just that they all can hang with Naya Winota, but rather they’re just more robust choices. They have lean curves and powerful interaction, and can all go over the top of each other under the correct conditions. The previous six decks simply just have too many holes and they’re all shown when paired against such a powerful deck like Naya Winota.

Gruul Adventures

Gruul Adventures is the deck I’ve been most excited to work on, I loved Kai Budde’s take on the deck splashing blue when he played it in the Strixhaven Championship. At the time the deck was very weak to Jeskai Cycling, and he lost his last three matches to the deck to end up with a poor finish. I don’t know if that’s what attributed to the deck not picking up in any popularity, but I at least like to think that.

Anyway, I started playing Yuta Hirosawa’s list earlier this week, and really liked it. Well, parts of it anyway. One of the first issues I had with the deck was that it was almost impossible for Ranger Class to be impactful when on the draw. On the play it was great, and I really loved getting a +1/+1 counter on Goldspan Dragon the turn it entered the battlefield. I would have loved the card if I didn’t lose any die rolls!

Prosperous Innkeeper

I was initially skeptical about adding Prosperous Innkeeper to a deck trying to beat down, but like I just said, getting in midrange damage was not always easy against Temur Adventures, Naya Winota, or the mirror. It really felt like I needed a surge of mana each game to be able to do something powerful enough to keep up. It also allowed me to more easily splash counterspells for the Sultai Ramp matchup, which was great because I’ve always found cards like Roiling Vortex to be lackluster.


The real “gem” was when I discovered Gemrazer while scrolling through all of the playable green and red cards. If you know me, then you know how much I pride myself on finding functional sideboard plans when on the draw. That’s why I was bouncing around my house like a kid on Christmas when I put some thought into this card and realized how insane it is right now. Apologies to my loving fiancée who had to hear all about it even though she hasn’t followed any Magic in over a year!

Earlier I brought up how devastating the Esika’s Chariot and Winota “pinch” can be. You have mana up, so they cast Esika’s Chariot. You then need to put enough meat onto the battlefield to beat the Vehicle. Sometimes this will tap you out, especially on the draw, leaving you wide open for the fatal blow from Winota. Well, Magda, Brazen Outlaw and Prosperous Innkeeper have a few things in common.

  1. They can be cast on Turn 2.
  2. They’re not Humans.
  3. They leave you with access to a fourth mana on Turn 3 via a Treasure token.
  4. Redcap Melee can be cast off a single Treasure token.

You see what I’m getting at? Gemrazer is the perfect answer to being on the draw against Naya Winota. Now obviously this plan takes up a whole lot of sideboard slots as you need a high density of Gemrazer and Redcap Melee. Luckily for us there are a lot of matchups where these cards have overlap.

Lair of the Hydra

Another big change I made was switching around the new Adventures in the Forgotten Realms creature-lands. Den of the Bugbear is much better on rate, but I can’t afford the additional red-only lands as I needed to make room for Riverglide Pathway. I’ve also found Lair of the Hydra to be a great Lovestruck Beast enabler which this deck greatly needs sometimes.

The Akroan War

Had I written this article three days ago, I would have told you all to play more copies of The Akroan War, as they combo so well with Jaspera Sentinel and Esika’s Chariot. Now I just punish my opponents with Gemrazer and cackle the entire time I’m doing it. Maybe I should still have access to a copy or two, but I’ve found Burning Hands to be more impactful against Temur Adventures and never play against Naya Adventures.

This sideboard does leave me vulnerable to Mono-White Aggro❄ and Dimir Rogues, but I still think this is the way to go as long as Naya Winota and Gruul Adventures are the most popular decks.

If Gruul Adventures picks up in popularity for any reason, I think Jeskai Cycling gets added to the “do not play” pile. This is yet another boon for Temur Adventures, as another bad matchup will be less played. If that happens, I’m pretty confident Jeskai Mutate has the capability of dominating a portion of the weekend.

Jeskai Mutate is not the most widely played deck given its intense learning curve, but it may very well be worth learning in a short period of time if Naya Winota, Gruul Adventures, and Temur Adventures continue to cannibalize each other with new tech. I wish I could say I’ve also mastered this deck, but sadly I have not. I will however be streaming it soon to give myself enough time to master it before this weekend’s tournaments.

Decisions, Decisions

I’m pretty sure you can’t go wrong playing Naya Winota. I wish I could objectively say my take on Gruul Adventures was a sure thing, but I know I’m a bit biased. Still though, I even think stock Gruul Adventures is a great deck as long as you respect Naya Winota with upwards of four copies of Redcap Melee.

Temur Adventures is a decent choice, as it has game against both the aforementioned decks, but I find it clunky and weak to much of the metagame. Personally, I’d steer clear but I wouldn’t fault anyone for making the high-risk, high-reward choice. I think a better choice than Temur would be either Dimir Rogues or Jeskai Mutate, but only if you have ample experience with the archetypes.

I’m still on the fence about the playability of Sultai Ramp. To preface this section, I have no interest in playing this deck myself after the abysmal weekend the deck just had. That said, it’s the sort of archetype that needs an influx of innovation each weekend, which it seems to not have gotten in some time. I think the first thing you have to do with the deck is gear it towards creatures by removing copies of Mystical Dispute from the maindeck and placing them in the sideboard. It’s also important to incorporate Elspeth’s Nightmare back into the deck if you want to reliably stick an Elder Gargaroth with all the copies of Burning Hands running around.

If everything goes right, I’ll be playing my Gruul Adventures deck on Friday in an SCG Tour Online Satellite and crushing the Arena Open with it on Saturday. That’ll make for a very stressful Sunday, but it’s something I’ll happily do now that I’m finally settled in Roanoke.

Good luck this weekend!