Skip to main content Download External Link Facebook Facebook Twitter Instagram Twitch Youtube Youtube Discord Left Arrow Right Arrow Search Lock Wreath icon-no-eye caret-down Add to Calendar download Arena copyText Info Close

Metagame Mentor: Standard at the Regional Championships in Mexico, China, and Canada

March 30, 2023
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. Today, I'll cover the Regional Championships for Mexico/Central America/Caribbean, China, and East Canada. After celebrating the champions, who earned their trophies by displaying their prowess in the Standard format, I will provide the combined metagame breakdown and match win rates for all major archetypes, followed by an overview of the most notable Standard developments, including spicy lists that earned a Pro Tour qualification.

To put the tournaments into perspective, the following infographic provides a visual overview of all Regional Championships and their qualifying seasons in 2023.

As this graphic indicates, top eligible players from last weekend's Regional Championships earn an invitation to Pro Tour March of the Machine. This Pro Tour, which features Standard and Draft, will be held during MagicCon: Minneapolis on May 5–7. Tickets are on sale right now, with single-day badges starting at $30. The event schedule will be live later today featuring PTQs for the Pro Tour at MagicCon: Barcelona, alongside competitive events such as the Secret Lair Showdown with some exclusive cards to win—which I did myself at MagicCon: Philadelphia.

Congratulations to the Three Regional Champions!

Jesus Adan Calzada won the The Gathering Series Final Showdown (i.e., the Regional Championship for Mexico/Central America/Caribbean) with a Rakdos Reanimator deck, earning an invitation to World Championship XXIX. In addition, the Top 4 players earned an invite to Pro Tour March of the Machine. You can find the Top 8 bracket, photos, and more on the Gathering Series Final Showdown coverage page.

Jiang Yiren won the China Open (i.e., the Regional Championship for China) with a Mono-White Midrange deck, earning an invitation to World Championship XXIX. In addition, the Top 8 players earned an invite to Pro Tour March of the Machine. You can find the Top 8 bracket, photos, and more on the China Open coverage page.

Philippe Gareau won the F2F Tour Championship Ottawa (i.e., the East Regional Championship for Canada) with a Mono-White Midrange deck, earning an invitation to World Championship XXIX. In addition, the top 8 players earned an invite to Pro Tour March of the Machine. You can find the Top 8 bracket, photos, and more on the F2F Tour Championship Ottawa coverage page.

The Metagame and Win Rates

Based on all decklists from the three Regional Championships held over the past two weekends, I determined the combined metagame share of every archetype. I also calculated their non-mirror, non-bye, non-draw match win rates. I used my own algorithms and definitions to assign archetype labels, thereby sidestepping any potential mislabeling on MTG Melee. Let's take a look!

Archetype Percentage of Field Match Win Rate
1. Grixis Midrange 24.0% 49.8%
2. Esper Legends 14.1% ↑↑ 52.3%
3. Mono-White Midrange 9.9% 53.1%
4. Selesnya Toxic 8.9% 48.6%
5. Mono-Red Aggro 8.7% 46.8%
6. Azorius Soldiers 4.8% 37.6%
7. Rakdos Midrange 3.9% ↑↑ 63.1% ✓✓
8. Grixis Reanimator 3.5% 45.2%
9. Rakdos Reanimator 3.5% 53.5%
10. Mono-Blue Tempo 3.3% ↓↓ 49.1%
11. Domain Control 2.5% 47.3%
12. Jund Midrange 1.4% 47.8%
13. Four-Color Legends 1.0% 47.2%
14. Selesnya Enchantments 1.0% 60.8% ✓✓
15. Esper Control 0.8% 51.9%
16. Rakdos Aggro 0.8% 51.9%
17. Orzhov Midrange 0.8% 46.4%
18. Other 6.8% 45.7%

In this table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing decklist close to the aggregate of that archetype, and the arrows represent the biggest changes compared to the second weekend of this Regional Championship cycle. The "other" category, continuing the descending order, included such deck archetypes as:

And more.

Two Regional Championship trophies and several additional Pro Tour qualifications were clinched by Mono-White Midrange, which remains a strong option in Standard. Although East Canada Regional Champion Philippe Gareau used zero copies of Demolition Field or Field of Ruin in his list, all other qualifying Mono-White Midrange players used four to eight copies of these lands. These card choices follow the example set by William La Hay, won the West Canada Regional Championship two weeks ago with a "Mono-White Strip Mine deck."

To combat the rise of these land destruction effects, many opponents added an extra basic land to their lists. For example, an extra basic Swamp has become the norm in Grixis Midrange, and Alexander Hayne returned to the Pro Tour with a basic Island in his sideboard.

While Mono-White Midrange had a good weekend, Azorius Soldiers disappointed with a poor win rate. One possible reason for this is that many Grixis Midrange players moved towards the build with main deck Graveyard Trespasser and Cut Down that Michael Rohrböck's used to win the European Championship two weekends ago. These tweaks make the aggro matchup more favorable.

The Rise of Esper Legends

Esper Legends ballooned towards a 14.1% metagame share across the last three Regional Championships. Its rise is also evident when we look at the two most-played card across all submitted Standard main decks and sideboards; these are no longer the Grixis Midrange main stays Reckoner Bankbuster or Fable of the Mirror-Breaker. Instead, it's now Cut Down and Go for the Throat, which are also found in the 75 of Esper Legends. However, there is no consensus on the ideal build for the archetype.

Following the success of Esper Legends with main deck Wedding Announcement at the European Championships two weeks ago, many players took up the archetype, but specific card choices differ. Among the Esper Legends players who earned Pro Tour invites over the past two weekends, some used Wedding Announcement in their main deck, others had it in their sideboard, and some didn't use it at all.

For example, Omar Beldon's second-place finishing list from the Cananda Regional Championship had Suspicious Stowaway instead of the enchantment. Suspicious Stowaway is a good fit for the deck, as it lowers the mana curve and helps you cash in excess copies of all of your four-of legends. It also synergizes well with Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor, which might be worse than Wedding Announcement in traditional builds but may be superior if he can turn your two-drop into a card drawing machine. While players are finding success with different builds, Esper Legends is on the rise, and Plaza of Heroes remains awesome.

Two Breakout New Decks from Canada

The East Canada Regional Championship provided several memorable player stories, such as the return of Alexander Hayne, the victory of Philippe Gareau, and the success of Omar Beldon. But in terms of potential impact on the future Standard metagame, the emergence of Rakdos Midrange and Selesnya Enchantments is arguably even more important.

Although most players who played these decks fell right outside of the Top 8, needing one extra win or better tiebreaks to make it, the overall win rates of these novel builds were excellent.

Rakdos Midrange had an impressive 63.1% across the three Regional Championships, in large part due to a group of players from Canada. The 8th, 9th, 10th, and 11th place at the East Canada Regional Championships were all taken by Rakdos Midrange, with Mohamad Qadi making it with the best tiebreakers. Barely missing the Top 8 was Joseph Karani, who had won a Regional Championship in Canada in the previous cycle with Rakdos Midrange, made the Top 4 at the West Canada Regional Championship a few weeks prior with a spicy Rakdos Aggro build, and now came close with a spicy Rakdos Midrange build. These results prove his skills as a player and deck builder, as well as his mastery of the Rakdos color combination. He also adapts his card choices to the ever-changing metagame—while Kumano Faces Kakkazan and other aggressive elements were well-positioned two weeks ago, the removal spells in the metagame had become more targeted at aggro decks since then, and he switched over to a midrange strategy.

Their Rakdos Midrange list looks very similar to Grixis Midrange, with Graveyard Trespasser replacing Corpse Appraiser. That's only a small sacrifice, and the leaner two-color mana base with fewer tapped lands is a big benefit. The ability to play more basic lands is particularly valuable when cards like Furnace Punisher, Field of Ruin, and Razorlash Transmogrant are on the upswing.

Given these developments, and judging by the amazing results at last weekend's Regional Championships, Rakdos Midrange might be better positioned than Grixis Midrange in the current Standard metagame, which could represent a significant shift. Joseph Karani shared a sideboard guide on Twitter.

Four players ran Selesnya Enchantments at the East Canada Regional Championship, and although none of them made it to the Top 8, their combined 60.8% win rate stands out. According to Pro Tour veteran Pascal Maynard, the deck is great versus Grixis, and it can beat creature decks like Esper Legends by outscaling them with Generous Visitor and Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr.

Although the core of the strategy was already available half a year ago, Razorverge Thicket and Ossification were important upgrades from Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Ossification proves efficient interaction, enables the second chapter of The Restoration of Eiganjo, and triggers Jukai Naturalist or Hallowed Haunting. These enchantment-matters cards can also be triggered repeatedly by Shigeki, Jukai Visionary, which Maynard highlighted as a key card in the deck. Shigeki bins Katilda, Dawnhart Martyr, finds land drops, helps you recover from Farewell, and acts as the glue that holds it all together. All in all, this Selesnya Enchantments list is well tuned, had good results, and is an innovation to consider as we move towards the U.S. Regional Championships in two weeks.

The Spice Corner

Besides the Rakdos Midrange and Selesnya Enchantment decks that were played by a sizable group of players in Canada, last weekend's Regional Championships also featured more offbeat brews. In particular, two players earned a Pro Tour invite with a spicy deck.

Izzet Powerstones was the new hotness in Standard at the end of December 2022. Its game plan is to use Powerstones to ramp into Cityscape Leveler and Skitterbeam Battalion ahead of the curve, thereby going over the top of midrange opponents. For most midrange players, it's really hard to beat the curve of turn three Stern Lesson, turn four The Mightstone and Weakstone, and turn five Cityscape Leveler.

Nevertheless, Izzet Powerstones largely disappeared from the competitive metagame after it didn't gain anything from Phyrexia: All Will Be One. Other factors, such as its struggles against aggro decks or the addition of countermagic and discard spells to Grixis Midrange decks, may also have played a role.

However, Yang Feng stuck with the deck and emerged with a Pro Tour invite. An important innovation are 4 Demolition Field and 4 Field of Ruin. These lands can be activated with Powerstones, provide additional ways to punish greedy mana bases, and can take Grixis opponents off of countermagic mana. Perhaps this mana denial angle played an important role in his success.

Patrick Wu's Jeskai control list is close to the one that Tobia Daniele Nappi took to a tenth-place finish at the European Championship two weekends ago. With two players making the Pro Tour with this offbeat archetype, Jeskai Control is not a fluke. The color combination features a good combination of spot removal, sweepers, countermagic, and card draw to keep opponents at bay, which is all you need. Winning is an afterthought after you've run your opponent out of resources, but copying Sanctuary Warden with Reflection of Kiki-JIki will lock up the game in short order.

A major benefit of playing control is that you don't really care about spot removal spells like Cut Down, Go for the Throat, or Abrade, which are prevalent in Standard. They are not entirely dead, as they potentially interact with Fable of the Mirror-Breaker or other cards, but since your game plan does not involve affecting the battlefield with creatures on turns 2, 3, or 4, and your card advantage grants inevitability in the long game, opposing removal is largely ineffective. If there are too many main deck copies of Cut Down in the metagame, then Jeskai Control is a good way to punish that.

Looking Ahead

While Esper Legends is slowly taking over Grixis Midrange's place as the one deck to beat in Standard and other players are finding success with off-meta decks like Rakdos Midrange, Selesnya Enchantments, Izzet Powerstones, and Jeskai Control, the Standard format appears wide open. That's an exciting prospect as we move to the last Regional Championships of this cycle. There are just two to go.

This weekend, April 1–2, will feature the Regional Championship in South America.

Next weekend, April 8–9, the cycle concludes with the Regional Championship in the United States. There will be live coverage on the DreamHackMagic Twitch channel, provisionally estimated to start at noon PT / 9 p.m. CET on Saturday and at 10 a.m. PT / 7 p.m. CET on Sunday.

Best of luck to all competitors! I'm excited to see what you will bring in this dynamic Standard format, and we'll see the best of you at Pro Tour March of the Machine in five weeks from now.

Share Article