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Metagame Mentor: Standard at the May 2024 Brazil and Canada Regional Championship

May 09, 2024
Frank Karsten

Hello, and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, your weekly guide to the top decks and latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. This past weekend, the cycle of Regional Championships in the Standard format kicked off with championships in Canada and Brazil. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the Standard metagame and the hottest decks from these events.

Congratulations to the Latest Regional Champions!

Liam Hoban, who qualified via RCQ at Sentry Box Cards in Calgary, won the F2F Tour Championship (i.e., the Regional Championship for Canada) with Azorius Control. In the finals, he defeated Asha Mills Emmett, playing Esper Midrange. Both finalists earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30, and the top twelve players who were not yet qualified for Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 at MagicCon: Amsterdam earned an invitation to that event.

"I was impressed with the performance of the deck at Pro Tour Thunder Junction, boasting a 59.2% win rate in the Swiss rounds of Standard," Liam Hoban explained after his victory. "Aside from Yuta Takahashi's 2nd place finish, Team ChannelFireball Ultimate Guard had solid finishes between Seth Manfield and Gabriel Nassif, which lead me towards exploring Azorius Control. Aside from the deck performing well at the Pro Tour, I have always enjoyed playing control decks, and naturally found myself wanting to play a deck of that style for this tournament."

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Although the Pro Tour results may have pointed him towards Azorius Control, his card choices were his own, as he settled on fewer counterspells than Takahashi and fewer sweepers than Nassif or Manfield. But regardless of the specifics, Azorius Control has a wealth of strong options nowadays. "The last two Standard sets brought along multiple key staples, which helped boost the deck's power level," Hoban said. "The new cards are reimagined versions of iconic control staples: Three Steps Ahead is a reimagined Cryptic Command, Deduce is a reimagined Think Twice, and No More Lies is a reimagined Mana Leak."

When asked about his best card of the weekend, it was hard for Hoban to choose a single one, but he narrowed it down to Memory Deluge or The Wandering Emperor: "The consistent flow of cards that Memory Deluge provides helps you transition from the middle of the game, pulling ahead of your opponent as you consistently make your land drops, and can dig for specific cards that you need. On the other side, The Wandering Emperor is a true Swiss Army Knife with its versatility, performing the job of multiple cards, all on its own. Exiling a creature while stabilizing with life gain ... and a win condition ready to turn the corner at any moment."

Competitive Magic veteran Jonathan Lobo Melamed won the City Class Games Showdown (i.e., the Regional Championship for Brazil) with Four-Color Legends, earning an invitation to Magic World Championship 30. The top six eligible players earned an invite to Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3, which will take place on June 28–30.

"Sick run ... with Four-Color Legends thanks to Jason Ye's articles and side guide and Nicole Tipple's stream!" Jonathan Lobo Melamed posted. "Picked the deck Monday, and got there thanks to their content! Had so many questions and they've answered all!"

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Four-Color Legends was one of the breakout decks at Pro Tour Thunder Junction, as numerous players from Team Sanctum of All, including Jason Ye and Nicole Tipple, posted excellent finishes with it. They not only introduced a well-oiled combo engine but also were able to explain the inner workings in a way for Melamed to quickly grasp the intricacies. Four-Color Legends can be a challenging deck to pick up and play, so an in-depth understanding is important.

Many of the cards provide interlocking triggers. For example, when you channel Takenuma, Abandoned Mire, then Inti, Seneschal of the Sun triggers because you discard a card, Slogurk, the Overslime grows because a land is put into the graveyard, and Titania, Voice of Gaea gains life for the same reason. Then when you resolve Takenuma's mill effect, Slogurk and Titania might trigger again, so it's a lot to keep track of. But well-prepared pilots like Malamed can squeeze maximum value out of every interaction, levering the synergies to emerge victorious.

The Metagame and Win Rates

In total, 511 decklists were submitted across the two Regional Championships. After fixing mislabeled archetypes, I determined the combined metagame share and the match win rates (non-mirror, non-bye, non-draw) of every archetype this past weekend. In the following table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing decklist close to the aggregate of that archetype.

Archetype Percentage of Field Match Win Rate
1. Domain Ramp 17.4% ↑↑ 52.4%
2. Esper Midrange 14.3% ↓↓ 49.4%
3. Boros Convoke 12.5% 44.1%
4. Azorius Control 8.6% 45.1%
5. Golgari Midrange 7.8% ↑↑ 49.7%
6. Temur Analyst 7.6% 60.2%
7. Mono-Red Aggro 4.3% 49.3%
8. Four-Color Legends 4.3% 56.0%
9. Dimir Midrange 3.5% 42.6%
10. Bant Toxic 2.9% ↑↑ 58.1%
11. Dimir Control 1.6% 60.3%
12. Jund Analyst 1.6% 39.1%
13. Orzhov Bronco 1.2% 52.6%
14. Azorius Artifacts 1.2% 42.5%
15. Boros Prowess 0.8% 27.6%
16. Gruul Prowess 0.8% 51.4%
17. Simic Cookies 0.8% 60.0%
18. Other 8.6% 44.3%

The "Other" category included such deck archetypes as Rakdos Aggro, Rakdos Midrange, Orzhov Midrange, Jeskai Soldiers, Gruul Counters, Rakdos Reanimator, Grixis Crimes, Azorius Mentor, Esper Control, Quintorius Combo, Simic Merfolk, Bant Control, Mardu Control, Azorius Mindsplice, Boros Angels, Dimir Reanimator, Jeskai Convoke, Mono-Blue Tempo, Mono-White Control, Four-Color Analyst, Mono-Black Crimes, Five-Color Legends, Boros Tokens, Temur Prowess, Esper Zur, Azorius Tokens, and more.

The metagame across the two Regional Championships was somewhat similar to the metagame at Pro Tour Thunder Junction, but as indicated by the arrows at the table, there were also major differences. Most notably, following Yoshihiko Ikawa's victory, many players copied his winning Domain Ramp decklist, and the archetype's metagame share soared from 6.8% to 17.4%. Anticipating this development, Bant Toxic reemerged to prey on Domain Ramp, with strong results. Meanwhile, the share of Esper Midrange players dropped, while Team CFB Ultimate Guard's new build of Golgari Midrange with Duress and Caustic Bronco ticked up, changing the landscape of black midrange decks.

While Standard can reward players who adapt week by week in both deck and card choices, many players found success at their Regional Championships by sticking to what they knew. For example, Diego Nonato Moreira de Almeida made Top 8 in Brazil with Esper Midrange because he "was used to playing it this whole season" and Douglas Rosa da Silva made Top 8 in Brazil with Boros Convoke because "it was the deck that I was more comfortable with, so I didn't wanted to re-invent the wheel." This shows that no matter which Standard strategy you prefer, you can pick up and play what you want. Familiarity and experience with your deck will often be a deciding factor.

On the aggregate, though, Boros Convoke performed below average, while Temur Analyst performed above average. At the moment, it appears that many Standard decks are well-prepared for small creature strategies but not properly prepared for graveyard-based combo decks. The average Esper Midrange sideboard, for example, features more Pest Control than Rest in Peace, which partly explains the Boros Convoke's struggles and Temur Analyst's propitiousness. It's hard to predict how things will develop over the next few weeks, but keeping an eye on such sideboard numbers can be helpful.

Bant Toxic is Back!

Roby Moreau made Top 8 at the Regional Championship in Canada with Bant Toxic, which had an excellent 58.1% across the weekend. After zero players registered Venerated Rotpriest or Skrelv's Hive at Pro Tour Thunder Junction, its return was a masterstroke of metagaming. As mentioned, many players flocked to Yoshihiko Ikawa's winning Domain Ramp deck, and Bant Toxic absolutely crushes that matchup. It's fast, it doesn't care about life gain, and it exploits March of Swirling Mist to dodge sweepers while triggering Venerated Rotpriest. In fact, Bant Toxic defeated Domain Ramp 22-2 (92%) this weekend, which is an edge that is almost unheard of in competitive Magic.

So, the strategy of proliferating towards 10 poison counters is still sound. The deck did not gain anything from the latest set other than Botanical Sanctum, but there was another innovation in the mana base: Thran Portal. It might be painful, but that doesn't matter much when the metagame is filled with slow, grindy strategies. Moreover, having the right colors to curve out in the early turns of the game is more important for an aggro strategy. Previous versions were always a bit light on blue sources, making it difficult to cast March of Swirling Mist when you need it, so this is an improvement. With a hospitable metagame and a clever mana base innovation, Bant Toxic has made a triumphant resurgence in Standard.

Three Regional Championship Top 4s in a Row

William Bossaneli Araujo is rapidly making a name for himself as Brazil's end boss, as he made Top 4 at all three Regional Championships this season! He won the Pioneer one with Boros Convoke in November 2023, finished third at the Modern one with Rakdos Grief in January 2024, and now finished third again with Mono-Red Aggro in Standard! With this amazingly consistent string of finishes, he has proven his mastery of aggressive red decks across three different formats, and the deck he brought this past weekend looks very well constructed.

In last week's article, I highlighted how the best-performing Mono-Red Aggro deck at Pro Tour Thunder Junction was the version played by Riki Kamo, the only player to favor main deck Scorching Shot and Urabrask's Forge. This allowed him to play a more grindy game if needed. Brazil's William Bossaneli Araujo, just like Canada's Massimo Verrecchia, found success with similar card choices. Yet the Brazilian made a few tweaks by bringing back Slickshot Show-Off and Monstrous Rage, along with a spicy Two-Headed Hunter to give it double strike. As a result, his list has the tools to play an aggressive, midrange, or control game, and it can fluidly switch roles while sideboarding. This makes it more difficult for opponents to find their footing.

Not the Gumdrop Button!

Noah Michaud made Top 8 at the Regional Championship in Canada with a blue-green artifact deck that many affectionately refer to as Simic Cookies. Named after Tough Cookie and Gingerbrute, the deck could turn tasty artifacts into enormous attackers. It had been a fringe archetype in Standard for a while, but prior to the release of Outlaws of Thunder Junction, it always struggled to cast both Teething Wurmlet and Spyglass Siren consistently on turn one. Botanical Sanctum was a much-needed mana base upgrade that gave the deck the boost it needed.

"It is fun to play and the games are quick," Noah Michaud said about his deck choice. It can indeed be a lot of fun to exile Gingerbrute with Agatha's Soul Cauldron and make your creatures unblockable. And when almost every card in the deck puts an artifact onto the battlefield, Teething Wurmlet and Zoetic Glyph provide a fast clock, resulting in quick games. Simic Cookies is particularly strong against Temur Analyst—the best-performing deck out of all major archetypes last weekend—because Agatha's Soul Cauldron mitigates Aftermath Analyst, because Subterranean Schooner gets around Ill-Timed Explosion, and because Spell Pierce stops Worldsoul's Rage. So, the deck is not only fun and quick, but it's also powerful and well-positioned in the metagame.

Gruul Counters Enjoys Cookies Too

Simic Cookies is not the only way to exploit Teething Wurmlet and Agatha's Soul Cauldron. As a player nicknamed BestSmurgNA showed with a 9-4 record at the Regional Championship in Canada, these cards also fit into a Gruul shell based around +1/+1 counter synergies. This Gruul Counters deck can be a sweet option to consider if you want to catch your opponents by surprise.

The key card in the deck is Ozolith, the Shattered Spire. It doubles the counter accumulation of Quirion Beastcaller, makes Agatha's Soul Cauldron even more threatening, and grows your board when you're flooding out. An important new addition from Outlaws of Thunder Junction is Goldvein Hydra. You can boost the Hydra with Voldaren Thrillseeker, attack with an enormous trampler, and then sacrifice it to deal damage equal to its power. If that doesn't finish off the opponent outright, you'd create a hoard of Treasures, setting up enough Syr Ginger, the Meal Ender triggers to win the game.

Four-Color Legends Evolves

After Dom Harvey played Four-Color Legends with a singleton Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines at the Pro Tour, he explored something new at his Regional Championships in Canada: A full-blown roster of white cards, shaving Cut Down and Go for the Throat. By exploiting Annie Joins Up alongside the motley crew of Kellan, Daring Traveler; Loran of the Third Path; Skrelv, Defector Mite; and Jirina, Dauntless General, he went 9-4 in the tournament.

Afterwards, he posted that white is "not worth it overall," even though Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines was great and splashable by itself. Indeed, trying to fit the white early drops into the mana base may be too much of a challenge, but Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines could easily be superior to Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier. You want one of these legends to turn a profit when you're looping double Honest Rutstein, but Elesh Norn is a far stronger card on its own, nullifying Temur Analyst's fetch lands. You don't need dedicated white lands in the mana base, as Relic of Legends and Plaza of Heroes is enough. Hence, if I were considering Four-Color Legends for upcoming Standard tournaments, then I would surely give Elesh Norn, Mother of Machines a try.

Dimir Control Can Mill for the Win

The metagame and top-performing decks at the Regional Championships differed from the Pro Tour in numerous ways. As a final development to highlight, Edgar Magalhaes took a creatureless Dimir Control deck to a Top 4 finish at the Regional Championship in Canada, and he was super stoked to be back on the PT. According to him, his Dimir Control list has an "almost unlosable Domain matchup" and is favored against Four-Color Legends and Esper Midrange. "Felt like those were the decks to prey on this weekend."

His best card of the weekend was Deadly Cover-Up. It not only sweeps the board, a staple effect in almost all control decks, but it also works towards his win condition: Milling. Indeed, his list has zero creature cards, and he will often win the game by depleting the opponent's library via Jace, the Perfected Mind and Restless Reef triggers. The extraction effect from Deadly Cover-Up supports this plan. As he posted, he enjoyed the idea of "counting your opponents deck on turn 7."

More Standard Regional Championship Coming Up

The next Regional Championship weekend will be May 25–26, with championships for Australia/New Zealand, Europe/Middle East/Africa, China, Chinese Taipei, and Japan/Korea. These Melee links can help you follow the standings and decklists during that weekend. There will be live coverage of the Regional Championship in Europe on

Afterwards, on June 1–2, we'll have the final Regional Championships of the cycle in the United States, Southeast Asia, South America, and Mexico/Central America/Caribbean. I look forward to seeing the Standard innovation as the metagame marches on.

The Road to Magic World Championship 30

At Regional Championships in the 2023–24 season, the champions from all events and the runner-ups from the United States, Europe, Japan, and Canada receive an invitation to Magic World Championship 30—the crown jewel of Magic organized play. As we count down the weeks leading up to that tournament in late October, each week I'm taking a look at a great deck from a past Magic World Championship. After reviewing the World Championships from 1994, 1995, 1996, 1997, 1998, 1999, and 2000 in past installments, let's go back in time to 2001.

A total of 296 competitors from 54 countries came to Toronto, Canada to compete at the 2001 World Championship for a $400,00 prize pool. In the end, three-time Dutch National Champion Tom van de Logt claimed the trophy with a red-black midrange deck called "Machine Head," marking the first of many victories for the Netherlands. My own home country would go on to provide multiple World Champions, multiple Pro Tour champions, and multiple Hall of Famers, and I look forward to welcoming everyone at MagicCon: Amsterdam in late June!

Deck names from several decades ago are often unintelligible by today's standards. Nowadays, I try to label decks informatively and homogenously, but back then you would regularly encounter obscure names like Fruity Pebbles, The Rock, Trix, or Machine Head. To the best of my memory, "Machine Head" referred to the robot pictured in the original art of Urza's Rage and Void, and there also was the song Machine Head by Bush: "Got a machine head, it's better than the rest". Different times.

The basic game plan of this deck is similar to Rakdos Midrange in Pioneer. Even though Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, and Bonecrusher Giant had not been printed yet in 2001, Duress, Terminate, and Flametongue Kavu had similar effects on the game. You would exchange resources and eventually win the game with a large creature. Flametongue Kavu in particular was the posterchild of a two-for-one. It was typically card advantage and mana advantage all in one, and any time you played a 4-toughness creature, there was always the fear of Flametongue Kavu turning the game around.

Yet the real draw to this black-red deck was the potential for turn 1 Dark Ritual - Plague Spitter. To understand why, let me give some metagame context. Earlier in 2001, the Standard metagame was dominated by "Fires" decks, which would use Birds of Paradise or Llanowar Elves to ramp into Fires of Yavimaya, Blastoderm, and Saproling Burst to set up big hasty attacks. But around the time of the World Championship, "Orbosition" decks were designed to beat the Fires decks.

These decks would combine Opposition and Static Orb to put the opponent in a lock, then tap Static Orb so that you could untap yourself. To fuel Opposition activations, this lock was typically included in a mono-blue deck with Merfolk Looter or a blue-green deck with Saproling Generation. Such strategies emerged as a major force at the 2001 World Championship, defining the field.

Yet Plague Spitter was a natural foil to their one-toughness creatures. "This is a freakin' nightmare ... there's just no way to win this," finalist Alex Borteh laughed as Tom Van de Logt summoned Plague Spitter in the finals. The matchup was about as bad the one between Bant Toxic and Domain Ramp in today's Standard, and both players knew it. The lesson is that deck selection is not about identifying the strongest strategy in the abstract. It's about estimating what the metagame will be like and then being one step ahead, selecting the cards and decks that line up the best. Machine Head was a good example of that in 2001, and Bant Toxic was a good example of that this past weekend.

Tom van de Logt, 2001 Magic World Championship Winner

When I think back to the 2001 World Championship, I not only remember celebrating Tom's victory, but I also remember him carrying the Dutch flag at the start of the event. In the inspirational World Championship opening ceremony, each participating country's flag was carried by a team member. As flag after flag passed, it became evident that Magic was a global phenomenon, offering players from all across the world a chance to compete at the highest level. Magic World Championship 30, featuring dozens of invited Regional Champions, will also give everyone a local champion to cheer for, though now with live streaming coverage for everyone to follow. Save the date: October 25–27, 2024!

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