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Players Tour Online 1 and 2 Standard Metagame Review

June 16, 2020
Frank Karsten

On the weekend of June 13 and June 14, Players Tour Online 1 and Players Tour Online 2 took place, and Standard now has a clear top dog: Both events were dominated by Temur Reclamation.

But the deck is not completely unbeatable. Let's take a closer look.

Overall Metagame and Performance Breakdown

The following table shows the combined metagame breakdown of both Players Tour Online events, using the archetypes as assigned by the event coverage team. Each archetype name links to the highest-placing decklist of that type. For reference, the two events drew 198 and 243 competitors respectively, so 2% of the combined Day 1 field corresponds to 9 players total. The table also provides the match win rates for each archetype in non-draw, non-mirror, non-bye matches during the Swiss rounds.

Deck archetype Companion % Field Day 1 % Field Day 2 Win Rate
Temur Reclamation   34.3% 42.3% 56.6%
Jund Sacrifice   12.3% 13.5% 49.8%
Sultai Ramp   9.8% 7.9% 44.6%
Bant Ramp   8.2% 10.2% 52.8%
Mono-Red Aggro   5.7% 5.1% 44.8%
Azorius Control Yorion, Sky Nomad 3.4% 0.9% 36.8%
Mono-Green Monsters   2.5% 3.3% 53.0%
Azorius Control   2.3% 2.8% 52.9%
Temur Adventure   2.0% 1.4% 41.5%
Rakdos Sacrifice   1.8% 1.4% 52.0%
Jund Sacrifice Jegantha, the Wellspring 1.8% 1.4% 51.9%
Gruul Aggro   1.8% 0.9% 44.1%
Rakdos Sacrifice Jegantha, the Wellspring 1.6% 2.3% 53.8%
Bant Ramp Yorion, Sky Nomad 1.1% 1.4% 55.9%
Boros Cycling Lurrus of the Dream-Den 1.1% 0.9% 51.0%
Mardu Knights   0.7% 0.5% 43.3%
Simic Monsters   0.7% 0.0% 27.8%
Other   8.8% 3.7% 44.7%

The Deck to Beat: Temur Reclamation

Temur Reclamation was by far the most popular deck in Day One. It then increased its metagame share after the cut to Day Two, and improved further after the Top 8 was announced. The finals of both Players Tour Online events were a Temur Reclamation mirror, which means that the deck wasn't just popular—it was also successful.

Before diving in, I'd like to congratulate Elias Watsfeldt and Ryuji Murae on their victories as well as congratulate Dominik Görtzen and Jean-Emmanuel Depraz on reaching the finals. Looking over their decklists, the Temur Reclamation version that I expect to become the standard is the one that is best-suited for the mirror match.

Watsfeldt had zero copies of Scorching Dragonfire, Flame Sweep, or Storm's Wrath in his main deck. Instead, he included four copies of Aether Gust. "Aether Gust was a way of adding additional cards for the mirror, without losing answers to Mayhem Devil and such," he explained. Very similar builds were played to good results by Ivan Floch and Martin Jůza, two experienced veterans of the game.

Top 8 competitors Abe Corrigan and Jeong Woo Cho also agreed that red removal spells or sweepers should not be in the main deck. Their main decks included Nightpack Ambusher and Teferi, Time Raveler rather than a play set of Aether Gusts, but the underlying idea is the same: In the current metagame, it's essential to get an edge in the mirror match, where the red removal spells are close to useless.

How to Beat Temur Reclamation?

As we saw, one way to beat Temur Reclamation is to run a version of Temur Reclamation geared toward the mirror. But there are other ways.

I crunched the Players Tour Online numbers and found three archetypes that had at least a positive win rate vs. the field and a win rate that improved over that base rate when it faced off against Temur Reclamation, with a sample size of at least three pilots.

Let's take a look at the three most promising answers to Temur Reclamation.

Arguably the best way to attack Temur Reclamation is with Teferi, Time Raveler. Teferi nullifies their counterspells, prevents them from casting enormous and Expansion // Explosion in their end step, and is hard to answer by a creature-light deck. One of the best homes for Teferi is Bant Ramp, which combines the planeswalker with Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath and Growth Spiral. The ramp spells allow you to keep pace against Temur Reclamation, which means that you can match their powerful plays in the mid-to-late game.

Bant Ramp comes in two versions: with Yorion, Sky Nomad and without. Both performed well throughout the weekend, with positive win rates against the field as a whole and against Temur Reclamation in particular. Louis-Samuel Deltour, for example, made the Top 4 at Players Tour Online 1 with a 60-card, companionless Bant Ramp version. But as a group, the 80-card Bant Ramp versions with Yorion had the better overall win rates. Impressively, they went 18-8 against Temur Reclamation. This comes with the caveat of a small sample size, but for now I'd lean towards starting the game with Yorion ready.

Brandon Nelson finished in 22nd place at Players Tour Online 2 with the Yorion, Sky Nomad list shown above. It's very similar to a typical 60-card build, except with additional Narset, Parter of Veils, Dovin's Veto, Mystical Dispute, Omen of the Sea, Shark Typhoon, and lands to reach 80 cards. But the choice of running Yorion or not is ultimately more of an aesthetic choice than anything. What's important is that the core of the Bant Ramp strategy is well-positioned against Temur Reclamation, and I expect the deck to rise in popularity going forward.

This particular Mono-Green Monsters list was the highest finish, and that honor belonged to Cedric Philips. And those top-heavy versions also performed well, with positive win rates against the field as a whole and against Temur Reclamation in particular.

But the players who registered Gingerbrute, Syr Faren, the Hengehammer, Giant Growth, and Titanic Growth, which results in a deck that is reminiscent of a 1997 deck called Señor Stompy, had a slightly higher combined win rate than the top-heavy Mono-Green players. Across both two events, the three Señor Stompy players posted a combined 24-20 record, going 9-4 against Temur Reclamation opponents in particular.

The mastermind behind this build is Hall of Famer Zvi Mowshowitz. As he explained in a detailed deck and sideboard guide, "you can't hedge your bets and play value cards like Vivien. You need to go for the throat. ... About half your opponents will utterly bury you in card advantage and value if you let the game go long."

Indeed, you can't grind out Wilderness Reclamation, but you can go under them. Some players tried to do that with Mono-Red, but due to the creature sizing that deck doesn't actually have a favorable matchup against Temur Reclamation. Their Scorching Dragonfire cleanly answers Anax, Hardened in the Forge, their Flame Sweep kills all red two-drops, and their Nightpack Ambushers dominate the board. Against Mono-Green, however, Scorching Dragonfire doesn't fry Lovestruck Beast, Flame Sweep doesn't torch Barkhide Troll, and Nightpack Ambusher will frequently be chump blocking. Meanwhile, Gemrazer destroys Wilderness Reclamation for free. The difference is enormous.

With all this in mind, Zvi managed to construct a consistent, well-positioned, dedicated turn-four kill deck whose single goal is to win the game quickly, before the opponent can leverage their more powerful cards. There's no late game staying power—it's all speed. With multiple Giant Growths and Syr Faren, the Hengehammer, it's even possible to win on turn three! According to Zvi, Temur Reclamation is a great matchup, and this was borne out by the results at the Players Tour Online.

It's well-known that Mayhem Devil, Woe Strider, Priest of Forgotten Gods, Cauldron Familiar, Claim the Firstborn, and Witch's Oven form a coherent package of synergistic cards. The cards may be weak on their own, but the sacrifice engine is very powerful when it comes together. Still, some versions did better than others.

Against Temur Reclamation in particular, Rakdos Sacrifice builds performed far better than Jund Sacrifice builds. This makes sense because it's a challenge to compete with Temur Reclamation's late game. If you try to grind them out with Gilded Goose, Trail of Crumbs, and Bolas's Citadel, then they'll still go over the top with Wilderness Reclamation and Expansion // Explosion. A better plan is to go fast. This means Gutterbones, Dreadhorde Butcher, a consistent two-color mana base, and Rotting Regisaur after sideboard. In other words, it means Rakdos Sacrifice.

With the list shown above, Matthew Vook finished in 42st place at Players Tour Online 2. Jegantha, the Wellspring as the companion means that you cannot run Fiend Artisan in your main deck, but having access to an extra card is worth it, even if it's "just an eight-mana 5/5."

Rakdos Sacrifice versions with Jegantha as their companion, although played by only seven competitors, had the best overall win rates across all Cauldron Familiar decks, going 15-12 against Temur Reclamation in particular. This record is not as impressive as the ones of Bant Ramp or Mono-Green, so I have less confidence that the deck is truly well-positioned against Temur Reclamation, but the win-loss record is at least encouraging.

What Does This Mean Going Forward?

This weekend again features a number of high-profile Standard events on MTG Arena: Players Tour Online 3, Players Tour Online 4, and the June 2020 Mythic Qualifier.

Having analyzed last weekend's metagame developments, I'll make the following bold predictions:

  • Temur Reclamation will remain the most popular deck, and it do well in the hands of experienced players. It will probably still win more than 50% of its matches against the field, but it won't display the same level of dominance as last weekend. Temur Reclamation will have a clear, undeniable target on its head, and almost everyone will actively try to beat it.
  • Many Temur Reclamation players will gear their lists for the mirror match, which will simultaneously weaken them in other matchups.
  • The three archetypes I highlighted (Bant Ramp with Yorion, Mono Green Monsters, and Rakdos Sacrifice with Jegantha) will grow in popularity, and they will perform well.
  • Decks that performed poorly last weekend, including Jund Sacrifice, Sultai Ramp, and Mono-Red Aggro, will decrease in popularity. You need to have a good reason (such as a great list, a specific metagame expectation, or a lot of experience) to choose them for the upcoming events.
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