The Problem with Standard

What’s happening saltlings? Hope everyone’s having a fantastic weekend. I’ve got something a little different for you guys today. As I was working last night I was unable to attend FNM so instead I’m going to do an in-depth look at the current standard metagame and give my best attempt to decipher it for you guys!

The first step to fixing a problem is admitting you have one, however I don’t see WotC coming out with a press release about rehab. Ever since the release of Shadows Over Innistrad, the face of standard has changed. The loss of fetch lands has turn these four color power decks into nothing more than jokes, seen anyone playing Jeskai Black lately? With the inability to create any four colors via fetch lands, decks need to now stream line their mana base, thus forcing people to play one or two colors.

After my dismal showing at GP Toronto I decided to take a break from standard for a while until I decided on what to do. I took a step back and decided to look at the big picture, and that is what I’m going to try and show you today.

The Current Meta-Game

As a preface, I’m taking my information from Mtgtop8.com.

The current state of the meta is broken down into three subsections; Aggro (75%), Control (24%), and Combo (1%). Let us take a look at the majority of the deck lists, Aggro. The top five aggro lists in standard right now are; Bant Company (17%), G/W Aggro (13%), Mono-White (12%), Green Splash Ramp (11%), and G/B Aristocrats (8%). You know what I see when I look at this? I see that green creatures are very good, accompanied by white enablers make for an unstoppable combo. In terms of the control decks; Orzhov Control (6%), Grixis Control (3%), and Esper Control (3%). White, white, and more white.

The Colours

White

Probably the most powerful color in Magic right now. The SoI introduction of Archangel Avacyn, Always Watching, Declaration in Stone, and various humans have made it the most dominant color in the format. Declaration in Stone is a better version of Detention Sphere from Return to Ravnica, without the second color. Always Watching is so good, especially when you have creatures with evasion such as flying, which white creatures have in spades. Don’t get me started in Avacyn, they might have well called her “Wall of text”. What makes a color good isn’t always just the good cards, but the synergy between those cards. Thalia’s Lieutenant is one such card. Reminiscent of the Innistrad favourite Champion of the Parish, Lieutenant also pumps your team which makes it that much better. Comboing Lieutenant with other colors increases this cards power ten fold.

Even older white cards like Gideon, Ally of Zendikar, Planar Outburst are having showings in top tier decks.

Green

Shadows Over Innistrad gave us Duskwatch Recruiter, and Tireless Tracker to add to the green roster. These two low cost terrors have been wreaking havoc on the pro circuit, being included in Bant CoCo lists around the world! Both sides of Duskwatch recruiter enable creature based strategies to flourish. Tireless Tracker gives you bonus’ for playing land, and who doesn’t love to play a land. Getting clues, and then sacrificing them to draw cards in green is amazing, and putting counters on the tracker is straight up gravy.

We are seeing a lot of older cards being used a lot too. Things like Sylvan Advocate, Oath of Nissa, Collected Company and Nissa, Voice of Zendikar are all seeing a substantial amount of play. I’ll even include World Breaker, even thought he’s technically not green.

Red

Red is in a super weird spot right now. Unless you’re playing R/G Goggles, you will not see much red. The lack of a two mana three damage burn spell is hurting the color. With the rotation of Monastery Swiftspear, red has lost potentially the best turn one play in that color. The only times you will see red in standard is when Falkenrath Gorger is dropped turn one and you are swarmed via vampires, or you get ramped into Pyromancer’s Goggles.

There aren’t many new red cards dominating the format, but there are some returning hitters. Fall of the Titans in combination with Goggles can deal an insane amount of damage if distributed properly. Chandra, Flamecaller is included in some decks strictly as a board wipe, and if you manage to stick her on the field in control matchups, she can end a game quikly.

Black

Black is in a sad spot currently. With the loss of Murderous Cut, black does not have an instant “Destroy target creature”. Also, with the loss of Crux of Fate, black does not have a board wipe. Sure they have Languish, but all you have to do is play five toughness creatures. I don’t think that there are any mono-black cards from SoI that are seeing competitive play.

Older black cards like Ultimate Price, Ob Nixilis Reignited, and the infamous Nantuko Husk are still seeing decent play. Hopefully with the new set, Eldritch Moon we will see some better cards for black, and the it gets some love!

Blue

Blue, like black, is in a sad state right now. Sure WotC gave us Jace, Unraveler of Secrets, and the cult favourite Thing in the Ice, but other than that SoI was dismal for blue. Epiphany at the Drownyard was a decent addition for control decks, allowing for a potentially large number of cards to be drawn. One card I was hyped about personally was the OP spirit Rattlechains. Blue has a mix of spirit and zombie tribal undertones.

Jace, Vryn’s Prodigy is still the most expensive card in standard sitting at $65. The only 1UU counterspell in rotation right now is Void Shatter and that hardly sees any play. Blue needs to be splashed.

Dual Colors

Nahiri, the Harbinger even sees modern play. However she only sees play, standard wise, in Naya ramp decks. Sorin, Grim Nemesis sees play in Abzan decks, Orzhov decks, and the like.

Now that we’ve looked at mediocre multicolored cards, let us take a look at some statistics. The top multicolored cards used in recent standard tournaments are Dromoka’s Command (30.8%), and Reflector Mage (25.5%). The interesting thing about these two cards is that they are both white, and form a nasty Bant combination.

Well that’s all she wrote! In my completely professionally salty opinion, white needs to get reigned in. It’s got some of the best creatures, the best removal, and just all around silliness in rotation.

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