The world of competitive Magic moves faster today than it ever has before. Just a few weeks ago, we watched Javier Dominguez win Mythic Championship V against a sea of Golos decks. Since then, we saw Field of the Dead banned, and players have had a much different Standard puzzle to solve. And now we’re rushing headlong into Mythic Championship VI this weekend!
If this one-two punch of big events has left you feeling a little behind the meta, let me offer you a quick refresher on the big spells and archetypes you’ll see your favorite pros sleeve up in Richmond.
OKO, THIEF OF BALANCE
One thing that did not take professional skills to predict after MCV was the current dominance of UGx Food. That tournament was overwhelmingly a two-deck meta: most pros chose between Golos decks and the UG decks accelerating into Oko, Thief of Crowns and Nissa, Who Shakes the World. After the event, one of these decks was banned out of existence. The other was untouched, despite rumblings about Oko’s flattening effect on the choice of playable creatures.
Wizards’ rationale for not banning the three-mana Planeswalker was that with only one standout deck in the metagame, players would find decks that effectively targeted Oko. Unfortunately, the best answer to the UG Food deck turned out to be the UG Food deck itself, splashing black for Noxious Grasp and other answers. As the serpent (krasis?) continues to devour itself, these decks keep hedging against the mirror, using Vraska to take out Oko and Massacre Girl to wither away the Wicked Wolves.
Sultai Midrange by Crokeyz
The resultant spectrum of Sultai Food decks are very similar to the UG Food deck from MCV – the points I made about it in my event report still apply. Whoever wins MCVI will probably have to run a gauntlet of these lists. The question for each player attending is how they want to go about it. Do they try to squeeze in extra maindeck tech to win through the mirror wars? Or can they find one of the fringe decks that attacks Sultai Food on a different, less expected angle?
TOO CRUEL FOR GRUUL
When you start to look for “the best of the rest” decks which might take down MCVI, you might well ask about Gruul. After all, it did beat the Oko decks to win MCV, and Embercleave is still just as powerful as it was for champion Javier Dominguez then. However, when you look at the match footage, that run had more to do with Dominguez’s immense skill than Gruul being especially well-positioned. With maindeck Noxious Grasps appearing throughout the meta, going all-in on green creature beatdown seems worse than sleeving up Hydroid Krasis.
A better approach to red-green is to change up the angle of attack. Sultai rules the creature-based midrange niche, but Wilderness Reclamation is still a completely busted mana engine that can outpace a midrange deck by playing multiple spells per turn cycle. The Temur color combination provides ramp, versatile answers, and the extremely clean win condition of Expansion//Explosion. While a canny Oko player might eat a couple food tokens to stay alive, a sufficiently large Explosion tends to let you untap into a second, and a third, and so on. Oko can’t turn enchantments into elks, and Wilderness Reclamation is the strongest way to build around an enchantment in current Standard.
KORVOLD AND THE ARISTOCATS
Faithful readers of this blog will remember my piece a week ago, where I got excited about the potential of BR Aristocats in Standard. Determined card scientists have continued to test and tinker with the solid shell of Cauldron Familiar + Witch’s Oven + Mayhem Devil, and they have cooked up a sumptuous deck indeed! Brawl precon commander Korvold, Fae-Cursed King is here to remind MCVI attendees that he is indeed Standard-legal. Korvold, Wicked Wolf, and Feasting Troll King give this Jund version the top end the Rakdos builds lacked.
Jund Aristocats by Ciri (8-0, MC VII Qualifier Weekend)
While it may prove foolish for this list to challenge Sultai Food on its own terms, its combination of non-combat damage and better card draw (through Korvold and Midnight Reaper) do seem to offer an edge. Oko himself is the most dangerous card for a deck relying on creature abilities, but Vraska, Golgari Queen has proven an effective answer for other BG decks. And at worst, you can always follow the trend and main-deck Noxious Grasp!
A CAVALIER ATTITUDE
Since the release of Throne of Eldraine, Fires of Invention has flown slightly under the Standard radar. As the clear third-best build centerpiece card after Oko and Field of the Dead, it made sense that at least one Fires build would become prominent now that it doesn’t have to acknowledge the difficult Golos match-up. While the Planeswalker-focused Superfriends lists were favored early on, the best Fires deck is one which has mana sinks to get extra efficiency out of the namesake card.
The Cavalier-heavy build of Jeskai Fires adds that edge in the form of hasty Cavalier of Flame kills, and enough card selection that you’ll never run out of gas – the other main Fires problem. Bonecrusher Giant, Teferi, Time Raveler, Prison Realm, and Deafening Clarion ensure you can interact while building up to four mana. While this deck is not quite as good at beating Sultai Food as Temur Reclamation can be, its strategy (building around an enchantment and then going over the top of midrange decks) is still sound.
It’s been an odd time in Standard for fans of traditional UW Control this last year. After a period of Esper dominance pre-WAR, we suddenly had to deal with Teferi, Time Raveler. This traitor to his own colors made playing reactive, instant-speed answers a liability, ushering us into our current green-on-green midrange arms race.
But total numbers of T3feris are currently lower than they’ve ever been since the card’s printing. This is great for those looking to attack the Sultai Food deck, as countering an Oko or Nissa is among the best trades you can take against them. Should a Planeswalker or Wicked Wolf make it to the battlefield, Prison Realm is at least as good an answer as Murderous Rider AND it’s elk-proof. Gadwick the Wizened offers a very flexible draw spell/threat/tempo engine and assists greatly with non-Oko match-ups.
UW Control by Edmvyrus (10-0, MC VII Qualifier Weekend)
The biggest thing to remember for these UW decks is that you don’t really have inevitability in the face of Hydroid Krasis, so there needs to be a concrete plan for ending the game once you have some breathing room against Sultai. Perhaps that means Esper Dance will make a comeback as the best control deck – now able to reanimate more anti-Planeswalker solutions in Prison Realm as well as Sorcerous Spyglass.
OKO MUST DIE
So, that’s the metagame we’re expecting heading into the weekend. Despite a second straight Mythic Championship where a single deck has completely dominated the discussion, there is still excitement around this event. Whoever can beat the most Okos has a great shot at being crowned the winner.
Tom’s fate was sealed in 7th grade when his friend lent him a pile of commons to play Magic. He quickly picked up Boros and Orzhov decks in Ravnica block and has remained a staunch white magician ever since. A fan of all Constructed formats, he enjoys studying the history of the tournament meta. He specializes in midrange decks, especially Death & Taxes and Martyr Proc. One day, he swears he will win an MCQ with Evershrike. Ask him how at @AWanderingBard, or watch him stream Magic at twitch.tv/TheWanderingBard.