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Metagame Mentor: Standard with Wilds of Eldraine

September 14, 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. As the hype for Magic World Championship XXIX is building up, let's take an early look at the impact that Wilds of Eldraine is having on Standard. Week 1 has only scratched the surface of Wilds of Eldraine Standard, but based on the exciting innovations so far, we should get ready for an awesome metagame in Las Vegas next week.

The Standard Metagame

Standard is a 60-card format that currently uses expansion sets from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt forward. For this year only, there was no Standard rotation with the release of the fall set, so last week's release of Wilds of Eldraine only expanded the pool of cards with hundreds of new ones.

The newest set, based on an analysis of the Saturday Challenge and Sunday Challenge on Magic Online and Blue Sky Cup on Melee, has enabled a large variety of novel strategies. To grasp the new metagame, I analyzed the decks with non-negative net wins from these events and awarded a number of points to each deck equal to its number of match wins minus losses. Each archetype's resulting share of total net wins can be interpreted as its share of the winner's metagame. It's based on a small sample size of 118 decks, but it provides a first indication.

Archetype Winner's Metagame Share
1. Golgari Midrange 13.3%
2. Domain Ramp 10.2%
3. Invasion of Alara 10.2%
4. Mono-Red Aggro 8.4%
5. Esper Midrange 7.5%
6. Esper Control 7.5%
7. Dimir Faeries 6.2%
8. Naya Tokens 4.9%
9. Azorius Midrange 4.4%
10. Mono-White Humans 4.0%
11. Azorius Soldiers 3.5%
12. Esper Legends 3.5%
13. Orzhov Midrange 3.1%
14. Selesnya Enchantments 1.8%
Other 11.5%

In this table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing decklist close to the aggregate of that archetype. The "Other" category included Sultai Reanimator, Grixis Midrange, Rakdos Aggro, Izzet Powerstones, Grixis Reanimator, Domain Control, Bant Tokens, and more.

Black remains the dominant color in Standard. Indeed, the most-played non-land cards across all main decks and sideboards were Go for the Throat; Cut Down; Duress; and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse. Yet not far behind was the most-played new card from Wilds of EldraineVirtue of Persistence. I already pointed out the power of this card when I went over the best Standard decks before Wilds of Eldraine two weeks ago, and it earned a spot in many different black decks.

While this early-game removal spell and late-game recursion engine has been a formidable addition, the innovations went far deeper. Let's embark on a closer examination of seven of the most captivating new Standard decklists.

Golgari Midrange Supplanted Dimir Midrange

Right before the release of Wilds of Eldraine, the most prominent Standard deck by far was Dimir Midrange. Yet this archetype didn't gain as much from the newest set, and it has been quickly supplanted by Golgari Midrange. This color combination gained Mosswood Dreadknight as a recurring midrange threat, as well as Restless Cottage to fix colors and mitigate flood. By contrast, Dimir did not gain a creature land nor a perfect-for-midrange adventure spell. Moreover, Glissa Sunslayer had been waiting for a proper home for a while, and this may finally be the one.

Toshihiro Saida finished second at the Blue Sky Cup with the list shown above. His main deck also features the aforementioned Virtue of Persistence, as well as Lord Skitter, Sewer King and Blossoming Tortoise from Wilds of Eldraine. Blossoming Tortoise is particularly potent with the various creature lands in the deck, as it can put Restless Cottage onto the battlefield, reduce its activation cost, and turn it into a 5/5. All in all, Golgari Midrange exploits a lot of sweet new cards, and it has quickly turned into one of the Decks to Beat in the new Standard.

Bramble Familiar Empowered Invasion of Alara

This list, which won Saturday's Magic Online Challenge, is a work of art. Instead of ramping with Topiary Stomper or Invasion of Zendikar, there is really cool explosive potential with Invasion of Alara. The new Wilds of Eldraine cards are Virtue of Persistence and Bramble Familiar, providing enough early plays without compromising Invasion of Alara.

Indeed, thanks to adventures, prototype cards, and Leyline Binding, the deck contains only five actual cards with mana value 4 or less: 1 Go for the Throat and 4 Bramble Familiar. So, when Invasion of Alara enters the battlefield, you will exile cards from the top of your library until you exile two of those five, and then you may cast one of them without paying its mana cost. Due to the way the Battle is worded, you are allowed to cast the adventure side of Bramble Familiar, which can provide a game-ending effect.

If you mill Cemetery Desecrator along with one of the many seven-drops, then you get to put Cemetery Desecrator onto the battlefield, exile the seven-drop from your graveyard, and immediately transform Invasion of Alara. So then you draw cards, add Phyrexian Fleshgorger, copy a permanent, distribute counters, destroy something else, and basically win the game on turn five. This sequence is completely absurd, and it has turned Invasion of Alara into an impressive force in the new Standard.

Charming Scoundrel Boosted Mono-Red Aggro

Sunday's Magic Online Challenge was won by Mono-Red Aggro, the well-known strategy that uses haste creatures and burn spells to take the opponent down to zero life as quickly as possible. However, the list was rebuilt to incorporate Charming Scoundrel and Goddric, Cloaked Reveler from Wilds of Eldraine.

Goddric, Cloaked Reveler is an awesome turn-three play, especially when a turn-one Kumano Faces Kakkazan exiles itself and returns to the battlefield on turn three, enabling celebration with no additional effort. The flexible Charming Scoundrel can add pressure on turn two or keep the celebration going in the late game. To synergize with both new additions, the deck features three copies of Squee, Dubious Monarch. Squee singlehandedly turns Goddric into a Dragon, can be discarded to Charming Scoundrel for value, and is a solid threat in his own right. All in all, Mono-Red Aggro received a few upgrades and remains a potent archetype.

Sleep-Cursed Faerie Facilitated Dimir Faeries

Wilds of Eldraine singlehandedly enabled a brand new archetype: Dimir Faeries. Obyra, Dreaming Duelist acts as both an enabler and a payoff, and it fits well in the flash-based game plan. Magic Online player andrw1232 took the strategy to a Top 4 finish in the Saturday Challenge, showing the deck's competitive potential. While there is some overlap with the previously dominant Dimir Midrange deck, the gameplay with Dimir Faeries is more synergy-driven.

A key card is Sleep-Cursed Faerie, which cheaply enables Ego Drain, Faerie Fencing, and Spell Stutter. These are all hyper-efficient pieces of interaction, providing a solid payoff for focusing on the Faerie type. It's almost like playing with Thoughtseize, Fatal Push, and Mana Leak in Standard, which should beat Invasion of Alara. Note that if your only Faerie is removed in response to Ego Drain, you'll be forced to exile a card from your hand, but that's why ward on Sleep-Cursed Faerie is so important.

Virtue of Loyalty Reinvigorated Naya Tokens

Wilds of Eldraine introduces a variety of sweet new cards for Naya Tokens. The list that won the Blue Sky Cup focuses on adventures, which synergize very well with Pia Nalaar, Consul of Revival. After all, whenever you cast an adventure card from exile, you'll get to create a 1/1 Thopter. Questing Druid fits perfectly because the adventure side is basically a Reckless Impulse or Wrenn's Resolve for this turn only, providing additional synergy with Pia Nalaar, Consul of Revival. You'll build up an army of Thopters in no time.

The other new adventure is Virtue of Loyalty, which supports the token strategy. When you cast the enchantment, ideally from exile to trigger Pia, all of your creatures will grow quickly, including Thopters, Humans, Knights, and other tokens. After sideboard, you gain access to Agatha’s Soul Cauldron, which can exile Voldaren Thrillseeker to grant its sacrifice ability to all of your creatures that have received a +1/+1 counter from Virtue of Loyalty. This can quickly provide lethal damage even if your opponent has good blocks lined up.

Lich-Knights' Conquests Unlocked Sultai Reanimator

Lich-Knights' Conquest is another sweet build-around from Wilds of Eldraine, and Yo Akaike took his build to a decent 5-2 record last weekend. The reanimation sorcery reminds me of The Cruelty of Gix, which saw a lot of play in Standard tournaments earlier this year, except that it can return multiple creatures. The only challenge is to gather enough sacrifice fodder and to fill the graveyard. Fortunately, Wilds of Eldraine also introduced Collector's Vault as the perfect partner in crime.

For example, you can play Collector's Vault on turn two, activate it to discard Atraxa and create a Treasure on turn three, and sacrifice Collector's Vault to Lich-Knights' Conquest on turn four. A turn-four Atraxa is nothing to sneeze at.

Alternatively, you could cycle Colossal Skyturtle on turn two, follow up with Stern Lesson on turn three, cast and activate Collector's Vault on turn four to discard Atraxa, and finally sacrifice two artifact tokens to Lich-Knights' Conquest on turn five, putting a 6/5 flier and a 7/7 flier onto the battlefield. It requires a bit of setup, but the potential to reanimate multiple creatures is quite powerful!

Three Blind Mice Cracked Bant Tokens

Soichiro Kato took this deck to a 4-3 record last weekend. Wrapped in a Bant Control shell, it features a token-based combo that instantly amazed me. With Tamiyo, Compleated Sage's -X ability, you can exile Three Blind Mice to create a copy of that card. Since this copy is a token, its second and third chapter can copy itself! This results in an ever-growing sequence of Sagas.

In fact, it's an adjusted Fibonacci sequence! In mathematics, the Fibonacci sequence is a sequence in which each number is the sum of the two preceding ones, starting from 0 and 1. In this case, the starting values are different, as we begin with 2 Sagas on the second turn and 4 Sagas on the third turn. But afterwards, the number of Sagas you control each turn follow the Fibonacci logic: 6, 10, 16, 26, and so on. Since you'll get an increasing number of increasingly large Mouse tokens every turn, you'll be able to overwhelm your opponent in no time. It's one of the coolest win conditions I've seen in a while!

Happily Ever After

With the introduction of exciting new adventures, types, and build-around mechanics, Wilds of Eldraine is shaking up the Standard metagame. The first tournaments already showcased a lot of amazing innovation, and the format looks wide open going into Las Vegas. I can only begin to imagine the brews and strategies that might be unveiled when over 100 of the best players and deck builders in the world put their minds to it.

I'm excitedly looking forward to their Standard deck choices at Magic World Championship XXIX, the pinnacle of the 2022–23 season! It will be held next week at MagicCon: Las Vegas on September 22-24, 2023, featuring the brand new Standard and Wilds of Eldraine draft. The World Championship is the most prestigious event of the year, and if last weekend's Standard innovations are any indication, then you won't want to miss any of it. Check back next Thursday for the Standard metagame breakdown!

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