Innovations In AFR Standard From SCG Tour Online $5K AFR Championship Qualifier #1

Bryan Gottlieb searches the most recent SCG Tour Online results for new Adventures in the Forgotten Realms Standard decks and tech. Say hello to Ranger Class!

Prosperous Innkeeper, illustrated by Eric Deschamps

Intro from Optimistic Bryan: The SCG Tour Online is back, and my life has purpose and meaning again. Maybe that seems a little dramatic, but without a tentpole event to shape metagames on a week-to-week basis, it felt like a tremendous part of my professional life was missing. I love tracking new decks and watching and predicting their rise to prominence. I also love seeing the names and faces I’ve known and followed for years achieve meaningful successes.

To me, the SCG Tour Online is Magic: The Gathering in the pandemic era. I can’t wait for the day when other forms of competitive play are back to help shoulder part of the load, but for the time being, you can bet I’ll be walking you through the SCG Tour Online results every week.

Intro from Pessimistic Bryan: Really? Another set with negligible Constructed impact? Three more months of a Throne of Eldraine fueled (or is it Ikoria these days?) nightmare is not what anyone needs at this moment. Is the marquee card in Adventures in the Forgotten Realms actually Burning Hands?

So, which one of these charming fellows is the real Bryan? I think for once I lean closer to the optimistic side of things. Sure, by raw quantity there were not many new cards in Sunday’s $5K SCG Tour Online Championship Qualifier. There’s no denying there’s been a massive metagame shift though. There were few copies of Dimir Rogues, Sultai Ramp (Yorion), or Naya Adventures anywhere among the top tables.

Meanwhile, fortune smiled on decks that were known quantities, but firmly sitting in Tier 2. Temur Lukka, Gruul Adventures, Jeskai Mutate, and Naya Winota all had a big Sunday, and their ascendance should open space for more Adventures in the Forgotten Realms cards to eventually see play. After spending most of preview season saying “I love this card, but I’m not sure how it fits into a metagame defined by Dimir Rogues and Sultai Ramp,” you bet I spent my time searching through satellite results for new technology that might be ready to shine. First though, let’s check on an aforementioned pre-existing deck that benefited just as much from new cards as it did from the metagame shift.

Ryan McDonough was the first person I saw having success in the satellites with a new take on Naya Winota, so I was pleased to find out they carried that early adoption to a fine result in Sunday’s main event. In the main deck, we’re looking at four new cards, and they’re big ones.

First, we’ve got to start with Prosperous Innkeeper. Moving the Winota, Joiner of Forces turn from 4 to 3 completely changes everything for the deck. Doing so while providing an additional triggering attacker and padding life totals is just icing on the cake. So much of unpacking Prosperous Innkeeper’s impact on the Winota archetype just boils down to me reading the card, and while that certainly doesn’t make for engaging content, it does function as very good evidence that Prosperous Innkeeper is exactly what Winota decks have been missing.

To a smaller extent, Winota decks have also been missing solid mana sinks. The other three cards added are all willing to fill that role, but they’re doing so while also advancing the primary game plan even in less mana-rich circumstances. Lair of the Hydra will get big, but I’d argue it’s doing its best work when it’s able to function as an extremely cheap to activate creature-land on a big Winota turn.

Prosperous Innkeeper Lair of the Hydra

Minsc, Beloved Ranger Ranger Class

Likewise, I’m happy to pump random fodder with Minsc, Beloved Ranger’s activated ability, but it’s bringing that to the table as both a hit for and fuel for Winota. Minsc is a card I’m just generally high on, and too many folks are sleeping on great synergies alongside The Akroan War and even Claim the Firstborn. Winota might be the best home for Minsc, but it’s not the only one.

Finally, a single copy of Ranger Class rounds out the maindeck and I just love this inclusion. It helps in any possible gamestate the Winota deck could find itself in. Long time readers know I’ve had a long love affair with Winota during its time in Standard, and I’ve gotten hyped about the card’s potential several times in the past. Well, consider this the blind squirrel having found his nut. Winota is finally a Tier 1 deck in Standard.

Despite a pretty mediocre performance on Sunday, Ranger Class was all over the satellites, mostly in the hands of Mono-Green Aggro mages. It seems like an increased number of Burning Hands was enough to keep the green deck down, but I don’t think there’s any reason to give up if you’re a Ranger Class fan. The addition of white and the card advantage and disruption that comes with it seems promising if people are just going to try to lean on one-for-one removal to keep pace.

Izzet Dragons not only got clowned all weekend long in satellites, but it was also basically absent from Sunday’s main event. Without a control deck to pick on, the tempo focused approach of Izzet Dragons found very little natural pray. Could a shift to Grixis be a game changer for Goldspan Dragon and friends?

In the absence of Sultai Ramp, this deck makes a lot of sense. The Shambling Ghast/Deadly Dispute team up allows you to play some games at an absurd pace. There just aren’t a lot of folks ready to take on a Turn 3 Goldspan Dragon.

The addition of black to the deck is also giving you access to sweepers at a moment when the metagame is becoming very creature centric. I’m a little concerned about the state of the manabase and how often tapped lands might derail your plans, but maybe the presence of additional Treasure will cover up a lot of shortcomings.

One thing is certain: lovers of Goldspan Dragon plus Alrund’s Epiphany can’t just be content registering last format’s Izzet Dragons deck.

Nothing makes me happier than seeing people with better versions of my half-baked ideas. I’ve no clue if I had any hand in influencing Gary or Rashid or if it was just parallel development, but I think both players “get” the card Monk Class, and I love what they’re trying to do.

It’s hard to argue against Rashid’s decision to make Azorius Control into a Yorion, Sky Nomad deck. I was leaning the same way when I first built my Monk Class deck, but ultimately wanted to focus on learning as much about Monk Class as possible, and therefore locked in a 60-card version. The expansion to 80-cards opens up a lot of great synergies though, chief among them an increased focus on an enchantment sub-theme, paid off by Archon of Sun’s Grace.

Rashid’s take on the deck is better at taking advantage of the tempo generated by Monk Class, but Gary’s approach looks a lot more in line with my own. Basically, if you get a Monk Class online and enable it, it should be possible to take full control of a game. However, Gary wisely used Alrund’s Epiphany to reduce the length of time you’re required to hold that full control, and I agree with the decision. Some cards are just too powerful to exclude once you’re in their colors, and I think Alrund’s Epiphany falls in that class. A couple Brazen Borrowers also help with that annoying business of actually winning the game, without getting away from the core idea of keeping your opponent from doing anything.

Shout outs to both players for continuing to work on the archetype, and even if it’s not there right now, I’ll be watching Monk Class carefully post-rotation.

Finally, we close out with the surprise resurgence of the week, Abzan Blink (Yorion). Satellite #7 actually concluded with the last two undefeated players matched in an Abzan Blink mirror! Sunday was not quite as kind to the archetype, but again, Prosperous Innkeeper is a big deal here. Not only are these decks far more efficient at racing to critical four-mana plays, but they’re also benefiting far more from Yorion/Charming Prince loops that previously felt like spinning your wheels. Lukas’s deck floats a bit more to the middle than classic Abzan Blink, with Lovestruck Beast ready and willing to provide some early beatdowns.

I really like the addition of Lolth, Spider Queen here. It’s felt like a card without a home to me, and even if this deck skips direct sacrifice synergies, it’s still really good at using its creatures as fodder and powering up Lolth for the long game. Again, this is another great example of a deck that has a chance to shine if the champions of the last format are kept in check.

On the whole, I’m pleased with Week 1 of our new metagame. Even if the players are familiar, the win-rates are not. It’s like Tier 1 and Tier 2 swapped overnight, and the long-term ramifications and ripples from that swap have the potential to open up plenty of space in the future. Stay tuned to this column because I’m expecting the spice to keep flowing.