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Metagame Mentor: The Final Four 2024 Standard Regional Championships

June 06, 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, over 1,600 competitors entered four different Regional Championships across the world, resulting in awesome matches of high-stakes Standard. In this article, we'll take a closer look at the metagame and the spiciest decks from these events. But first, let's celebrate the new champions!

Congratulations to the Latest Regional Champions!

Adam Weiss

Congratulations to Adam Weiss, the winner of Dreamhack's U.S. Regional Championship! He won the tournament with Gruul Prowess, defeating Chris Barone, playing Boros Convoke, in the finals.

Both finalists earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30 (held at MagicCon: Las Vegas) and the top 64 players who were not yet qualified for Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 (held at MagicCon: Amsterdam) earned an invitation to that tournament.

Weiss' version of Gruul Prowess almost plays like a combo deck. Thanks to two copies of Two-Headed Hunter and one copy of Twinferno, Slickshot Show-Off can reliably gain double strike, potentially attacking for upwards of 20 damage in a single turn! "You don't need agency if your opponent is dead," Weiss said.

With this list, he surgically sliced through a Top 8 that was dominated by Boros Convoke. While Boros Convoke can go wide with creature tokens, it lacks instant-speed interaction, so it's largely defenseless against an enormous double-striking flier. Weiss' deck also leverages the plot mechanic very well, favoring Demonic Ruckus over Ancestral Anger, so it can strike out of nowhere. "Slickshot Show-Off is the best red aggro card in the format," the new Regional Champion concluded.

Richie Ong

Congratulations to Richie Ong, the winner of the South East Asia Champonship! Hailing from Philippines, he earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30, and the top 6 players who were not yet qualified for Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 earned an invitation to that tournament.

Golgari Midrange, which uses Duress to clear the opponent's hand and Caustic Bronco to get ahead on cards, had an amazing weekend. The deck claimed a big share of the metagame across the various Regional Championships, and it won two of them. According to Richie Ong, Duress was his best card of the weekend: "all the meta decks have relevant spells, even the aggro decks."

Due to the wide variety of top-notch creatures in black and green, every Golgari Midrange list looks different. Ong's list opted for Sentinel of the Nameless City, Archfiend of the Dross, and Sharp-Eyed Rookie, which are atypical choices for the creature slots, but all of them are formidable cards. The depth of the Standard card pool is enormous, so there's tremendous potential for personal tweaks.

The next Regional Champion that I'd like to congratulate is Erick Manuel Lopez Basulto, the winner of The Gathering Showdown Series (i.e., the Regional Championship for Mexico, Central America, and Caribbean)! He earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30, and the top 4 players who were not yet qualified for Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 earned an invitation to that tournament.

Erick Manuel Lopez Basulto was the second player to become a Regional Champion with Golgari Midrange. His list has a different creature base than Richie Ong, favoring Graveyard Trespasser, Hostile Investigator, and Glissa Sunslayer, all of which are more customary choices for this archetype.

Pedro Perrini

Finally, congratulations to Pedro Perrini, the winner of the South American Champonship! The eight-time Pro Tour competitor from Brazil, who qualified via Friday's Last Chance Qualifier, earned an invitation to Magic World Championship 30 with his victory. The top 4 players who were not yet qualified for Pro Tour Modern Horizons 3 earned an invitation to that tournament.

This list does not use Slickshot Show-Off or Monstrous Rage. Instead, it employs a wide suite of damage-based removal spells that can prolong the game until Urabrask's Forge becomes unstoppable. It's the main threat in the deck, and it's difficult to stop with removal spells.

Perrini's main deck is nearly identical to Riki Kamo's list from Pro Tour Thunder Junction, and his sideboard features similar flexibility. After sideboard, you could either take a control role with spot removal, The Elder Dragon War, or Koth, Fire of Resistance, or take an aggro role with early drops, burn spells, and Furnace Punisher. Nevertheless, aggro is still what the deck excels at, and Perrini said that Kumano Faces Kakkazan was his best card of the weekend.

The Metagame and Win Rates

Around 1,600 submitted decklists were available across the five 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, based on the available data. 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. Azorius Control 14.5% ↑↑ 51.2%
2. Esper Midrange 11.6% 47.7%
3. Temur Analyst 11.2% 51.9%
4. Golgari Midrange 10.2% ↑↑ 48.1%
5. Boros Convoke 8.8% 52.8%
6. Domain Ramp 8.4% 41.9%
7. Four-Color Legends 7.4% 56.0% ✓✓
8. Bant Toxic 5.4% 48.6%
9. Dimir Midrange 2.9% 57.3% ✓✓
10. Gruul Prowess 2.9% 49.3%
11. Mono-Red Aggro 2.9% 52.8%
12. Dimir Control 2.0% ↓↓ 50.0%
13. Jund Ramp 0.9% 48.4%
14. Simic Cookies 0.7% 55.4%
15. Five-Color Legends 0.6% 56.1%
16. Azorius Artifacts 0.5% 45.3%
17. Other 9.0% 44.6%

The "Other" category included such deck archetypes as Esper Legends, Rakdos Aggro, Esper Control, Gruul Ramp, Jeskai Convoke, Orzhov Bronco, Orzhov Midrange, Jund Analyst, Selesnya Enchantments, Rakdos Midrange, Cornucopia Ramp, Domain Midrange, Jeskai Control, Boros Prowess, Five-Color Niv, Mono-Black Midrange, Golgari Crimes, Orzhov Blink, Azorius Flash, Dimir Reanimator, Mono-Black Bloodletter, Temur Prowess, Boros Aggro, Grixis Hidetsugu and Kairi, and more.

On the whole, the metagame featured many of the same decks that we had already seen at the preceding Regional Championship weekend. However, there were several notable developments and observations:

  • The continued disappointment of Domain Ramp: For the second weekend in a row, the Pro Tour-winning archetype had a terrible win rate. Despite the strategy's inherent power and card choice innovations like Ancient Cornucopia, it is simply poorly positioned in the current metagame. In particular, Domain Ramp struggles heavily against Bant Toxic, Azorius Control, and Temur Analyst, all of which had soared in popularity over the past month.
  • The rise of Azorius Control: Azorius Control went from 4.8% of the metagame at the Pro Tour to 8.6% at the first Regional Championship weekend, 12.0% at the second Regional Championship weekend, and 14.5% at the final Regional Championship weekend. With a good matchup against Domain Ramp, Temur Analyst, and Boros Convoke, it's a good choice for the current metagame, especially when more difficult matchups like Four-Color Legends and Bant Toxic are not as numerous. Meanwhile, Dimir Control has ticked down, largely because it lacks Temporary Lockdown to stop Boros Convoke. At the moment, Azorius Control is the superior control strategy, proudly sitting on top of the metagame chart.
  • The excellence of Four-Color Legends: Due to the various trigger-heavy card advantage engines, Four-Color Legends is difficult to pick up and play, but preparation does pay off. The deck won multiple Regional Championships this cycle and has consistently posted amazing results, including a 56.0% match win rate this past weekend. With a good matchup against Azorius Control, Four-Color Legends is one of the strongest choices at the moment if you can commit to learning a Standard deck inside out.
  • Golgari was popular, but Dimir was superb: Golgari Midrange certainly had an impressive weekend, as it rose in popularity and won two of the four Regional Championships. Nevertheless, across all the black midrange decks, the highest match win rate belonged to Dimir Midrange. One reason for that is that more and more players are finding success with Invasion of Amonkhet in their Dimir Midrange decks. If it transforms into Lazotep Convert and copies Aclazotz, Deepest Betrayal in your graveyard, then it will return to the battlefield transformed upon death, meaning that it enters as Lazotep Convert. As it enters, it can once again copy Aclazotz, so this combination results in a unkillable creature.

On the whole, the Regional Championship Top 8s showed a wide diversity of archetypes, indicating that Standard is a place where you can succeed with a large variety of decks. For the most part, you can pick a Standard deck you like and be rewarded for practice and preparation.

Moreover, Standard still features plenty of potential for exploration and innovation. Let's take a closer look at fascinating lists that put up amazing results this past weekend.

New Orzhov Strategies Emerge

Jason Chan went 10-3-1 at the U.S. Regional Championship, good for a 35th place finish and a Pro Tour invite. Exploiting bounce, blink, and sacrifice synergies, this deck makes the most of Tithing Blade and Hopeless Nightmare.

After they deprive the opponent of a resource, you can bounce them with Nurturing Pixie, sacrifice them to Braids, Arisen Nightmare or Rite of Oblivion, or blink the artifact with Guardian of Ghirapur. Filled with spicy synergies, this is one of the sweetest lists to break onto competitive Standard this past weekend.

Weimin Lee went 6-2 at the South East Asia Regional Championship, very close to a Pro Tour invite, with four copies of Hunted Bonebrute. The 6/2 Skeleton enables various powerful synergies in this deck. First, Doorkeeper Thrull annuls the enters-the-battlefield trigger, meaning that you can play a huge menace creature for three mana without giving your opponent any tokens. Second, since Hunted Bonebrute is a Skeleton, it gains haste from Corpses of the Lost, allowing you to set up an immediate attack after going through the five-mana disguise route.

Another card that receives a boost from Corpses of the Lost is Case of the Stashed Skeleton, which can eventually select one of the many singleton cards in the deck. If you want some bone-rattling fun, give this deck a try!

New Takes on Plaza of Heroes

Jason Ye is now undeniably the Slogurk, the Overslime master. Following up its Top 8 finish at Pro Tour Thunder Junction, Ye made another Top 8 at the U.S. Regional Championship with the same core strategy, albeit now with a fifth color.

White offers Elas il-Kor, Sadistic Pilgrim as an upgrade over Vial Smasher, Gleeful Grenadier, in addition to Kellan, Daring Traveler as an early-game card advantage engine. Moreover, Pest Control can swing the matchup against Boros Convoke after sideboard. The requirements on the mana base are tricky, but between Relic of Legends, Plaza of Heroes, Cavern of Souls, and tri-lands, the colored mana consistency is acceptable.

While Jason Ye added the fifth color, Christopher Henderson cut the red, moving towards Sultai Legends instead. Henderson, who went 10-4 to finish in 57th place at the U.S. Regional Championship, replaced Inti, Seneschal of the Sun with Tinybones Joins Up and tweaked the legends slots to synergize with the enchantment.

When you control Tinybones Joins Up, every legendary creature can put a +1/+1 counter on Vadmir, New Blood. Alternatively, if you control The Reality Chip and don't like your top card, you can mill yourself to improve your draw steps. These are sweet alternative strategies, and the resulting mana base is far cleaner than four-color or five-color versions. It's the classic trade-off between power and consistency in the end, but it appears that many different approaches are all viable.

Amidst all the hype involving Slogurk, the Overslime; Rona, Herald of Invasion; and Relic of Legends, it's easy to forget the original Plaza of Heroes deck—Esper Legends. It was one of the top decks at last year's cycle of Standard Regional Championships, and it's still viable today. At the U.S. Regional Championship, Joseph Cruz went 11-3 with this list, finishing in 15th place.

Cruz's finish proves that Thalia, Guardian of Thraben is still a house. Every deck has noncreature spells, so Thalia imposes a relevant tax for everyone. Meanwhile, curving Skrelv, Defector Mite into Dennick, Pious Apprentice; Raffine, Scheming Seer; and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse remains a formidable game plan. Esper Legends may not be popular, but it should not be forgotten.

The Road to Magic World Championship 30

All Regional Champions, as well as the finalists in Europe, Japan, and the United States 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.

At the 2005 World Championship, a total of 287 competitors from 56 countries came to Yokohama, Japan to compete across Standard, Draft, and Extended. In the end, Katsuhiro Mori won the tournament, playing a Selesnya deck built around Glare of Subdual and Vitu-Ghazi, the City Tree. Yet it was also a particularly memorable tournament for me. My second-place finish was my best-ever result at a World Championship, and I got there with a homebrew of my own design.

Greater Good Yosei, the Morning Star Gifts Ungiven

In my second-place deck from the 2005 World Championship, the primary strategy revolved around locking opponents out using Yosei, the Morning Star. The ideal sequence involved sacrificing Yosei to Greater Good, temporarily stunning my opponent while replenishing my hand with five fresh cards. If I happened to find another Yosei, Goryo's Vengeance, or a splice enabler among those cards, I could perpetuate the lock on subsequent turns. The end goal? To keep the opponent permanently tapped down and eventually deliver lethal damage with hasty 5/5 Dragons!

This combo was wrapped in a control-ramp shell with Wrath of God to handle aggro decks and Gifts Ungiven to fetch anything I needed. The standard Gift Ungiven setup was to grab Greater Good, Recollect, Reclaim and Yosei. However, as I showed during the semifinals, it's also possible to Gifts for two cards. This puts them into the graveyard, guaranteeing a target for Goryo's Vengeance!

This Standard Greater Gifts deck drew inspiration from the Kamigawa Block Gifts Ungiven deck, which I had extensive experience with. After an intense week of in-person testing in the Netherlands—featuring forty Gifts Ungiven mirror matches per day—the deck propelled me to multiple Block Constructed Grand Prix Top 8s. I relished solving the intricate puzzles it posed, from Sensei's Divining Top tricks to crafting wild Gifts Ungiven piles and leveraging potent mana acceleration. All of this perfectly carried over to Standard.

Frank Karsten had a plan.

My sideboard at the 2005 World Championship was quite spicy, as it featured a transformational plan. Expecting opponents to disrupt my combo with cards like Cranial Extraction, Naturalize, and Pithing Needle, I would take out several copies of Greater Good and Yosei, the Morning Star. Instead, I brought in the powerful recursion engine that had dominated Kamigawa Block Constructed. In post-sideboard games, I gained the option to play Gifts Ungiven for Hana Kami, Soulless Revival, Death Denied, and Kagemaro, First to Suffer, providing a Death Denied loop that was hard to beat. Meanwhile, I made my opponent's sideboard cards mostly irrelevant.

In 2005, I was at the peak of my game and had an amazing tournament. The adrenaline rush of making it to the Top 8 still resonates with me today, almost two decades later. Now, as we approach the 30th Magic World Championship, I can't help but imagine the exhilaration the top contenders will feel when they climb the standings. Mark your calendars: October 25–27, 2024!

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