The State of Standard

The first Standard MOCS event since the release of Core Set 2020 happened, and SCG Open Worchester is wrap! Let's dive into the meta, and see where we are headed!

At some point during this article I think we will cross the threshold of inevitability, and I will have to say: one, "LandSayGo did it first," and two, "I told you so." But, you knew that was coming.

The Magic Online Championship Series is an age-old tradition, a pastime unlike any other, an organized event for Magic's original digital platform where throngs of dedicated, and recognizable names vie for supreme glory...and are all playing one of 4 decks. (Sad Trombone)

Which is fine. There is no doubt that the deck lists that are released to the public have a profound impact on the direction the meta game shifts after the release of a new set. These titans of industry get into the mix on MTGO, and duke it out, aiming to establish the best list of 75 cards available to the rest of us rabble for consumption.

Let's face it: most of us don't want to brew. More of us are actually interested in winning as many games as possible than attempting to pull of janky combos. Some of us would rather just take a deck list that took first place at the most recent MOCS event, build it, and take it to FNM. That's our sense of pride and accomplishment: we can read and put cardboard in plastic sleeves.

Common Themes Among Uncommon Players

If you were hoping that Core Set 2020 would shake things up in a dramatic fashion, then I'm sorry in advance. The current competitive archetypes will not be loosening their grip on Standard until rotation in September 2019.

1st Place - "MATTI" - Matti Kuisma

There's just too much value packed into Esper Hero for it to be so easily toppled from the summit of the mountain. An interesting observation: the only Core Set 2020 cards included in this list come in the form of Lands - at that only two copies of Temple of Silence - for a couple Scry triggers.

I checked out the Standard League postings for 5-0 deck lists, and Matti is right there at the top again today with this same list. So, a little fuel to the flame regarding this list being a major contender until several pieces rotate out in a couple of months. This whole "Team Teferi" trope is getting a little tiresome, although I tire quickly these days. Esper domination will give way to new archetypes - the ebbs a flows of the meta never cease - always leave the old behind. Out of the Top 32 players at the MOCS - 5 were playing some form of Esper Hero (meaning they had access to 4 copies out the 75 total cards. Esper Hero/Control decks accounted for 15.6% of the total Top 32 field.

2nd Place - "SNEAKY ROBOT" - Identity Unknown

This is that I told you so moment. Way back in November of last year I was clamoring for a way to make Jund Dinosaurs a thing, and there was never the engine we needed to truly exploit the Enrage triggers. Dinosaurs were just neutered in many respects. They felt big and dumb until Core Set 2020, which about what one should expect. Now, although still big, they feel more agile - more capable and the competitive player base is agreeing.

It really should be no surprise that WOTC's design team would postpone the release of the Marauding Raptor until this point in the Dino life-cycle. It's just too good, not unbeatable by any stretch of the imagination, but it's really really good. 4 players made the Top 32 with some variation on the Dinosaur theme. LandSayGo dropped a deck tech two weeks ago highlighting the abusive synergies of the Raptor. So, been there, done that, got the T-Shirt. The control elements included in the sideboard are really sexy in this list of 75 cards, and definitely something I missed the mark on in generating the deck tech. All in all, I'm really happy about the prospect of having Dinos around for some good old-fashioned butt kicking for a couple more months. Veil of Summer is likely a big reason why Dinos can stand up to Esper decks, and hopefully the Dino players realize that Carnage Tyrant still need to be played - most of them left him in the binder. Dino Decks (Jund and RG) accounted for 12.5% of the total Top 32 deck lists with 4 players getting there.

3rd Place - "CHA21" - Identity Unknown

Now we are getting into some really exciting and new stuff! This is a deck list the community has not seen before, and I'm excited to give it a showcase here - even if only briefly. This deck feels like "old school" UG Tempo. It's an extremely unique take on the available card pool, and seems like the type of list we could be seeing after rotation out of UG.

Only two players showed up with the UG Ambusher deck to the July 14th MOCS. Which means, they are pulling this list from somewhere is in the community or they are part of team of Magic players who are orchestrating their engagements with the meta in targeted ways. As I've mentioned several times before, Veil of Summer is going to be a competitive staple for decks in Green on a go forward basis; it's interesting that these effects and assurances are compounded by the addition of another color-hate card like Aether Gust. It makes these types of tempo decks, which are already full of counters and instant speed interactions, that much more viable, to have color specific answers. Taste the Rainbow.

Let's switch gears to paper for a moment, and this last weekend's SCG Standard Open.

4th Place - Orzhov Vampires - Zachary Kiihne

SCG Open Worchester just finished up this weekend, and the Top 8 had decks which mirror the archetypes found in the MOCS with a little more flare and variance. Orzhov Vampires is making a steady comeback with some encouragement from cards like: Knight of the Ebon Legion (which is completely BUSTED), Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord, and Noxious Grasp in the sideboard.

I was expecting more in the way of anthem style effects in these Orzhov Vampire lists, and I'm shocked Elenda, the Dusk Rose is nowhere to be seen. Then again, maybe I'm not surprised. This deck slearly anchors off of Sorin, Imperious Bloodlord. Vampire Tribal need look no further to find its sweet spot than four copies of this Planeswalker; deathtouch, lifelink, and +1/+1 counters on the uptick? BARF. Good sideboard options for clamping down ETB nonsense, which surprisingly enough, given the scarce numbers of the green explore package these top decks are running, may bode well for a new series of decks to be the interest of the pro-player base and in parallel the new archetypes that the masses will buy and play. Or you could be original, think for yourself, and play jank, but you won't, and neither will I.

3rd Place - Temur Elementals - Chris Johnson

I'm not surprised that Temur Elementals claimed a Top 4 spot at the SCG Open, but I am taken aback by the version of the list that cracked the Top 4. I have seen several of these Elemental lists come across my desk since full spoilers were made available, and this one is unique.

I was initially unimpressed with Living Twister and Cavalier of Thorns has been touted as the worst of the Cavalier cycle in Core Set 2020. Apparently we are all wrong. You. Me. You. All of us, because a third place finish for Temur Elementals in a field of 400 or so is not shabby at all. For the next couple of months until rotation I would recommend that blue players consider Selective Snare as a sideboard option. Too many tribal decks. Just Say No. Even still this list clearly makes use of the bombastic Omnath and Chandra additions given to us via the new set and I widely anticipate that this list will evolve to become something more feared and deadly over time. Elementals are the new Slivers folks. Witchcraft, I tell you!

2nd Place - Ye Olde Mono-Blue - Ross Merriam

This above all: to thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man. Has there been a deck in Standard more successful in the long term than this mono-blue deck? Maybe, but this is coming close to being one of the best, and most notorious, lists of all time. Once rotation occurs, it's definitely done, but to take 2nd at the SCG Open, and be nearly identical to the deck Autumn Burchett won the MC with is astounding.

There are a couple of notable new additions to the deck: Spectral Sailor, Cerulean Drake, Aether Gust, Tale's End. Spectral Sailor just might be better than Pteramander here; the additional card draw and Flash ability make this one exceptional uncommon. Sideboard changes include Cerulean Drake with Protection from red, and another Siren Stormtamer style effect which gives us a sacrifice and counter trigger - talk about a total crusher against Red. Aether Gust for more Red and Green hate, and a single copy of Tale's End to make sure your opponent's Teferi emblem never really gets there. But seriously, will this deck ever go away? The answer: yes, in September 2019.

1st Place - Mono-Red Aggro - Aaron Barich

Red Deck Wins. Forever. Now until the end of time. Red Deck Wins. That's the story that unfolded in Worchester, MA this past weekend. Granted, rotation will see the disappearance of several of the cards that make this deck so lethal, but there are core components that represent the card draw engine that will remain and clearly tell us to keep playing some form of this mono-colored maestro. Red is evolving to the mid-game, and this deck proves it.

Chandra's Spitfire? Hey, that's a good idea! Why not actually find an outlet for the obscene amounts of direct damage that this deck is capable of producing? Ember Hauler replaces the usual four copies of Viashino Pyromancer for this championship deck, and it makes sense. Having the ability to direct the damage instead of rely on the ETB trigger is just better, not to mention the bump in toughness is a much needed addition. The sideboard still goes all in on the Experiemental Frenzy game plan, tamps down life gain decks, makes use of Chandra, Acolyte of Flame for additional pressure and mid-game removal, and even showcases (as expected) color hate with Fry. No Folks, Red is not going anywhere. Not until rotation.

Other Big Meta Decks & Final Thoughts

We would be remiss to not mention Bant Ramp. We would be behindhand to ignore the occasional dominant displays of Simic Nexus. White Weenies aren't going anywhere. We would be derelict in assuming that Boros Feather is not still a contender.

The pool is just so broad - there are so many different directions to take our deck building. It's exciting and at the same time very frustrating to see nothing new in the winning deck lists. Ultimately, it makes me want to see a rotation. It's time to take the Standard pool back down to 4 sets, and force players to start over with new archetypes. Ixalan will have been out for almost two years come rotation time. That's 1/35th of my life if I live to be 70.

Hope you have enjoyed this article. Each of these deck lists will win you games, and I believe each of them represents the most common decks you will see until September 2019 rotation.