Metagame: Pauper needs a ban, Modern is evolving, Legacy is diverse.

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Metagame: Pauper needs a ban, Modern is evolving, Legacy is diverse.

This week, we can see Modern is still evolving, while we have some new Legacy lists and Pauper desperately needs a ban.

By Romeu, 07/01/21, translated by Romeu, with help from our readers

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We are back with another Weekly Metagame, surveying the results of the Challenges and other events this weekend. Events that we've had loads of: At Historic, we had The Gaming Stadium's two-year anniversary event. At Modern we had the Insight E-Sports event and at Pauper we had the ManaTraders Series and Pauper Masters this weekend. So, we have a lot to talk about, analyze and debate in this analysis. Without further ado, let's go by parts:

Standard

As usual, we will start with the Standard, necessarily the Challenges.

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On Saturday, the Standard Challenge ended with the following Top 32: 8 Jeskai Cycling 4 Sultai Ultimatum 4 Naya Adventures 4 Mono-Red Aggro 3 Dimir Rogues 3 Izzet Dragons 2 Temur Lukka 1 Gruul Magda 1 Rakdos Sacrifice 1 Mono-White Aggro 1 Mono-Green Midrange And the Top 8 had the following decks: 3 Jeskai Cycling 1 Sultai Ultimatum 1 Rakdos Sacrifice 1 Dimir Rogues 1 Mono-White Aggro 1 Naya Adventures The Sunday's Standard Challenge finished with the following Top 32: 8 Jeskai Cycling 8 Sultai Ultimatum 4 Naya Adventures 3 Izzet Dragons 2 Dimir Rogues 2 Temur Lukka 2 Gruul Magda 1 Mono-White Aggro 1 Rakdos Sacrifice 1 Mono-Black Sacrifice And the Top 8: 2 Jeskai Cycling 2 Sultai Control 1 Temur Lukka 1 Gruul Magda 1 Naya Adventures 1 Mono-White Aggro I'm not going to linger too long on Standard because, as I mentioned in another article, the format will remain in this cycle until the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.
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The first thing we noticed is the expressive return of Sultai Ultimatum and a significant reduction in the number of Izzet Dragons, which was to be expected when Izzet Dragons was clearly at the top of the format and this caused decks to adapt and/or players to choose for decks that were more complicated for the archetype to deal with. With that, the Sultai Ultimatum returns to the top this week. Or is what we could say if another deck hadn't stood out even more:
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What makes Jeskai Cycling the best deck this week is the significant amount of angles the deck can attack. It has the "go-big" with Flourishing Fox, It has the "go-wide" with Valiant Rescuer and Improbable Alliance (which, by the way, is great at dealing with complicated board situations), it can go with direct damage with Irencrag Pyromancer and Drannith Stinger and can even go into inevitability with Zenith Flare. This range of angles the deck can use to win the game makes Jeskai Cycling a versatile archetype, inexpensive (50 tix is cheaper than some of Pauper's Tier 1 decks), and extremely competitive on today's Standard.

Historic

The Gaming Stadium's two-year anniversary event was Historic's most expressive event this weekend, with 168 players. The event had the following Top 32: 7 Azorius Auras 6 Jeskai Control 4 Izzet Phoenix 2 Mono-White Aggro 1 Izzet Creativity 1 Jund Food 1 Azorius Control 1 Goblins 1 Mono-Blue empo 1 Selesnya Company 1 Mono-Black Aggro 1Temur Creativity 1 Esper Yorion 1 Selesnya Angels 1 Five-Color Niv 1 Gruul Midrange And the Top 8 finished with: 2 Azorius Auras 2 Izzet Phoenix 1 Mono-White Aggro 1 Jund Sacrifice 1 Jeskai Control 1 Izzet Creativity
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What has made Auras a great answer to the current Metagame is that the deck has everything needed to handle the Steam Vents decks. Staggering Insight is a card that, on its own, can turn the tables against Izzet Phoenix while becoming relevant against other Aggro decks. Adanto Vanguard is great against decks with removals that doesn't exile, like Jeskai Control. And Spell Pierce is a great way to hold both Combo decks like Izzet Creativity and delay players from playing their most explosive spells. Good to see Historic is adapting to the URx decks, although I remain skeptical of the format's health and haven't played a single game of the format since Time Warp's ban.
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This does not mean that the format cannot bring good surprises: this Mono-White Aggro, which won the championship, is a good example of this. The deck's creature pack is similar to the Standard Mono-White pack, but with the decent addition of other super efficient cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Adanto Vanguard, plus the inclusion of Declaration in Stone, the best white removal the format has to offer.

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The deck's game plan is pretty straightforward, at the same time it manages to extend the game as needed since it has good attrition elements and hard-to-remove threats. It wouldn't surprise me to see it doing more results in the future.

Pioneer

Back to the Challenges, Saturday the Pioneer Challenge finished with the following Top 32: 5 Bant Spirits 4 Izzet Phoenix 3 Lotus Combo 3 Gruul Aggro 2 Rakdos Pyromancer 2 Mono-Black Aggro 2 Mono-Red Aggro 2 Boros Burn 2 Niv-to-Light 1 Dimir Control 1 Jund Sacrifice 1 Jund Food 1 Boros Heroic 1 Mono-Black Vampires 1 Mono-Green Devotion 1 Izzet Aggro And its Top 8 had: 2 Rakdos Pyromancer 2 Bant Spirits 1 Mono-Black Aggro 1 Dimir Control 1 Mono-Red Aggro 1 Boros Burn On Sunday, the Pioneer Challenge had the following decks: 5 Mono-Black Aggro 5 Dimir Control 4 Izzet Phoenix 3 Bant Spirits 3 Boros Burn 2 Niv-to-Light 2 Orzhov Yorion 1 Rakdos Pyromancer 1 Izzet Aggro 1 Jund Sacrifice 1 Mono-Blue Spirits 1 Grixis Control 1 Grixis Arcanist 1 Orzhov Auras 1 Temur Marvel With the Top 8: 3 Mono-Black Aggro 1 Izzet Phoenix 1 Rakdos Pyromancer 1 Lotus Combo 1 Dimir Control 1 Izzet Aggro Pioneer seems to have their main decks well-defined and, particularly, are good archetypes to have at the top. None of them are really less fun to play against, matches can be set by attrition or speed, and the format has enough to keep combo decks in check. In summary, Pioneer still remains one of Magic's healthiest formats after all that turmoil of the past year. But that doesn't mean there isn't room for innovation:
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Aetherworks Marvel was one of the biggest bets of all players when Pioneer was announced. The deck never delivered the expected results, especially since unlike the Standard from which the card was banned, Pioneer had several options for how to deal with the artifact and more options emerged with each new release. Still, in an unprepared metagame, Temur Marvel can do good results and this list has many interesting points, like the inclusion of Golos, Tireless Pilgrim which, when coming into play, will search for Shrine of the Forsaken Gods and, with the next turn's land drop, it will grant 8 mana to cast Ugin, the Spirit Dragon.
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The possibility of making an Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger on turn 4 is always attractive, but it's always good to remember that cards with the Energy mechanic are usually good on their own and can even promote a good fair game with Whirler Virtuoso, although these options do not compare well to the effectiveness of the threats present in Pioneer today. I miss the inclusion of Emrakul, the Promised End who essentially won games on her own back in Standard's days, and I believe the list could use at least one copy of The World Tree to ensure the means to use Golos' ability if necessary.
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Another deck that stood out, with some lists doing results this weekend, was Orzhov Yorion. The deck essentially operates as a Midrange that seeks to abuse ETB's abilities with Charming Prince and Yorion, Sky Nomad. The deck also features a very interesting interaction between cards like Skyclave Apparition and Elite Spellbinder along with Wasteland Stranger to create advantageous effects like the opponent being no longer able to cast spells exiled with Elite Spellbinder.
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In addition, the deck also has other means of holding the game with good ETB effects such as Oath of Kaya, Trial of Ambition and Elspeth Conquers Death.

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Modern

With one more week with Modern Horizons II, Saturday's Challenge presented us the following Top 32: 6 Rakdos Midrange 4 Amulet Titan 3 Urza’s Kitchen 2 Rakdos Shadow 1 Jeskai Monkeyblade 1 Boros Prowess 1 Azorius Stoneblade 1 Boros Death & Taxes 1 Mono-White Martyr 1 Izzet Blitz 1 Eldrazi Tron 1 Golgari Yawgmoth 1 Orzhov Stoneblade 1 Esper Control 1 Izzet Delver 1 Mono-Green Scales 1 Elementals 1 Naya Enchantress 1 Niv-to-Light 1 Dredge 1 Dimir Mill 1 Tron And the Top 8 had: 2 Urza’s Kitchen 2 Amulet Titan 1 Jeskai Monkeyblade 1 Izzet Blitz 1 Eldrazi Tron 1 Rakdos Shadow On Sunday, we had the following Top 32: 4 Rakdos Midrange 3 Urza’s Kitchen 3 Hammer Time 2 Izzet Tempo 2 Izzet Blitz 2 Living End 2 Amulet Titan 1 Elementals 1 Grixis Shadow 1 Hardened Scales 1 Eldrazi Tron 1 Enchantress 1 Azorius Control 1 Scapeshift 1 Izzet Delver 1 Humans 1 Gruul Ponza 1 Mono-Red Ponza 1 Mono-Red Aggro 1 Grixis Control 1 Jeskai Control And the Top 8: 2 Rakdos Midrange 2 Izzet Tempo 1 Hammer Time 1 Urza’s Kitchen 1 Elementals 1 Izzet Blitz This weekend, Modern's Insight E-Sports 5K also took place, with 81 players. The Top 32 of the event was composed by: 6 Rakdos Midrange 4 Izzet Prowess 2 Amulet Titan 2 Urza’s Kitchen 2 Scapeshift 2 Jeskai Monkeyblade 1 Temur Tempo 1 Four-Color Shadow 1 Living End 1 Naya Enchantress 1 Infect 1 Humans 1 Pyromancer Ascencion 1 Eldrazi Tron 1 Orzhov Stoneblade 1 Izzet Tempo 1 Temur Cascade 1 Four-Color Turns 1 Esper Stoneblade 1 Gruul Ponza And the Top 8: 3 Rakdos Midrange 1 Living End 1 Naya Enchantress 1 Amulet Titan 1 Temur Tempo 1 Four-Color Shadow We definitely have enough events to look into today, don't we?
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Rakdos Midrange (or Rakdos Ragavan, as some call it), stands out this week with 16 copies in the Top 32 of the events and 5 copies in the Top 8. It may not seem like much, but we are talking about Modern, the format that is a real jungle and with the most varied and diverse archetypes. So, what makes Rakdos Midrange so successful? It's just that it brings together the two elements that make decks like Jund and Death's Shadow become big hits for Modern: Card Advantage and mana efficiency. I'll try to exemplify this by going back to 2017's Modern: Jund has always been the great Midrange of Modern. It had a good curve, efficient threats, a lot of card advantage and won games based on attrition. However, this made the deck vulnerable to decks that could play on top of it, such as Big Mana decks or decks where it could interact very slowly and/or couldn't set up a clock properly. It was technically on top of this need to set up a good clock that Jund Shadow emerged, which traded attrition and abundant Card Advantage sources for mana efficiency. You lost powerful effects like Dark Confidant, Tireless Tracker and Huntmaster of the Fells, but gained speed and efficiency that allowed you to apply a lot of pressure against decks that traditional Jund had trouble coping, at the expense of losing gas in longer games and not getting as much value in attrition matchups. What Rakdos Midrange does is essentially blend Jund Shadow's mana efficiency along with a lot of card advantage and ways to get value in attrition matches like traditional Jund. From the very first turns of the game, cards like Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Dauthi Voidwalker generate significant advantages for every turn they stay in play and/or connect to the opponent, which is not too difficult with disruptions. such as Thoughtseize and efficient removals such as Unholy Heat and Lightning Bolt.

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The deck may not even have the most efficient clock in the world, like a 5/5 on turn 2 like Death's Shadow, but Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger makes a good impression of a strong threat to end the game, while Dragon's Rage Channeler and Dauthi Voidwalker are cheap, evasive threats that set a significant clock on board. It wouldn't surprise me if Rakdos Midrange becomes the archetype's flagship deck in the format, as it combines the best of both worlds of Midrange decks.
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Another deck that continues to stand out is Urza's Kitchen, which in case you're wondering is essentially the Urza decks I talked about last week. There is no other deck in the format that makes better use of Urza's Saga than this one, and the combination of Asmoranomardicadaistinaculdacar and The Underworld Cookbook gives the deck even more advantages in resorting to a theme of artifacts that take full advantage of Urza, Lord High Artificer. Urza’s Kitchen (I'll call it that until a better name comes up, as it allows me to cover all of its variants) was the most respected deck this weekend, which is noticeable by the amount of artifact hate on players' sideboards. And it will likely continue to be respected in the coming weeks. There's one thing that has been worrying me for some time and now, with Urza's Saga and Dragon's Rage Channeler, it seems even more evident: the significant effectiveness of Mishra's Bauble.
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Mishra's Bauble was already a card that had been seeing a lot of play for years, after all it was a free "cantrip", which enabled Delirium, Revolt, interacted well with other artifacts and is functionally superior to Opt or Serum Visions, and was already growing in the format since Lurrus of the Dream-Den came out in Ikoria. However, with Modern Horizons II, the card is everywhere thanks to interaction with cards like Urza's Saga or Dragon's Rage Channeler, and has become one of the biggest Staples of the format in recent times, as well as which was already a super efficient card back when Urza's decks were prevalent because it is, with the creature, a copy of Mox Sapphire that can be sacrificed to draw a card. Given Wizards' record in banning free spells in Modern, I wouldn't be surprised if, in some future, Mishra's Bauble end up banned from the format if the decks it sees play become too prevalent.
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Another deck that stood out this weekend was Elementals. This deck is an ocean of fun and interactions, and the fact that so many good elementals have come out in recent years makes the deck a veritable engine of powerful and interesting interactions. Cards like Risen Reef, Omnath, Locus of Creation, Fury, Solitude, and Omnath, Locus of the Roil create various snowball effects in the game. Cards like Unsettled Mariner and Voice of Resurgance punish your opponent for needing to respond to these cards, and [[Flamekin Harbinger can easily be considered the card that makes it all possible in the archetype. And it's obvious. You couldn't help using so many elementals with Evoke and so many cards with powerful ETB effects without having Ephemerate to abuse these effects, in addition to serving as another means of protection. Ultimately, Elementals is a deck that needs to be responded to quickly and properly, or it creates situations in the game where it becomes impossible to get back, as it becomes capable of generating more value than most decks in the format.

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Pauper

Another week of a polarized Pauper defined by archetypes that are clearly oppressive in format. The Top 32 of the Pauper Challenge was composed by: 11 Affinity 8 Rakdos Cascade 4 Dimir Delver 3 Dimir Faeries 2 Burn 1 Orzhov Monarch 1 Mono-Black Control And the Top 8 had the following decks: 4 Affinity 2 Rakdos Cascade 1 Dimir Faeries 1 Orzhov Monarch On Sunday, we had these decks on Top 32: 9 Rakdos Cascade 7 Dimir Delver 3 Affinity 2 Tron 2 Burn 1 Boros Bully 1 Walls Combo 1 Dimir Faeries 1 Black Burn 1 Zombies 1 Mono-White Heroic 1 Jeskai Metalcraft 1 Grixis Cascade 1 Gruul Storm And this Top 8: 3 Rakdos Cascade 2 Dimir Delver 1 Tron 1 Burn 1 Black Burn This weekend we also had the ManaTraders Series, one of the most important Pauper events of the current season and one of the few occasions where ManaTraders made their main circuit in the Pauper format. The event's Metagame was composed of: 30 Affinity 26 Storm 7 Burn 6 Dimir Delver 6 Dimir Faeries 4 Bogles And the event finished with the following Top 8: 4 Affinity 2 Storm 1 Dimir Faeries 1 Bogles Finally, we had the first Pauper Masters Online championship this weekend, which ended with a mixed Top 8 between established decks and decks we didn't particularly expect to see: 3 Affinity 2 Boros Bully 1 Storm 1 Infect 1 Jund Cascade The first thing we continue to conclude is that Pauper is broken, and they are absolutely letting the format wither. I particularly find it shameful that they let one of the most important events of the season be set with almost 65% of the Metagame being represented by the format's two oppressive decks. It's embarrassing that it's been a month, and we're still dealing with a format where there are two best decks and everything else is way behind. They promised quick action on problematic cards, and they didn't deliver it to us. That said, we need to look at things as they are, and therefore we also need to adapt until they decide to do the obvious in the format and apparently the best answer you have for current broken decks is to just try to ignore what they're doing .
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The player JherjamesB reached the Top 4 of the Pauper Masters Online piloting an Infect list whose only objective is to kill your opponent as soon as possible and prevent him from interacting well with you. Infect is an archetype that stands out when it comes to non-interactive decks because it has a fast clock, consistent as it has many cards with the same ability and virtually reduces the opponent's life to 10. In the Masters games, we could even see him win the match against the event's champion, A_AdeptoTerra, by simply making a turn 2 kill in both games, which is essentially one or two turns faster than Storm usually takes to go-off safely.
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Bogles essentially follows the same line, and still takes advantage of the fact that many players today are opting for targeted maindeck removals like Echoing Decay rather than sacrifice effects. For Bogles, it doesn't matter if your opponent is making an awful lot of squirrels or filling the board with 4/4 creatures if your Ethereal Armor set has Armadillo Cloak and/or Rancor to create a bigger creature with a more significant clock.
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The same can be said for Burn decks. If your clock is fast enough, it doesn't matter what your opponent does. You just need to win first.
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By the way, I think this is the first time that Black Burn has made a Top 8 in a Challenge, which is a nice highlight as the list costs less than 3 Tix to build and has a game plan that is easily understandable for most players.

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So, if you want to start in Pauper without spending practically anything, I present you the list above that made Top 8 in a Pauper Challenge of a broken format. Anyway, the conclusion I come to is that the best way to play Pauper these days is to just try to do your own stupid thing against other decks that are trying to do their stupid thing. There is no room for too much attrition, there is no room for value-based decks. Pauper games, while the format is defined by Storm and Affinity, are games based on raw speed, they are games of going to the race and trying to win before your opponent defeats you It's fun? Particularly for me, it is. I love doing stupid things on Magic. But when this becomes the only viable option, it means that the format is in a pretty bad shape, and unfortunately this is the case with Pauper.

Legacy

On Saturday, we had the following Top 32 in the Legacy Challenge: 4 Selesnya Depths 3 Snow Miracles 3 Doomsday 3 Elves 2 Jeskai Midrange 2 Mono-Red Stompy 2 Sneak and Show 2 Death and Taxes 1 Bant Midrange 1 Omni-Tell 1 Aeon Bridge 1 Lands 1 Esper Vial 1 Mono-Green Post 1 Golgari Depths 1 Izzet Delver 1 Four-Color Loam 1 Grixis Control 1 Grixis Stiflenaught 1 Painter Stone And the Top 8 was: 2 Jeskai Midrange 1 Bant Midrange 1 Lands 1 Selesnya Depths 1 Esper Vial 1 Aeon Bridge On Sunday, the Top 32 was: 4 Izzet Delver 3 Snow Miracles 2 Mono-Red Stompy 2 Hogaak 2 Mono Blue Urza 2 Selesnya Depths 2 The Epic Storm 2 Maverick 2 Lands 1 Azorius Urza 1 Grixis Delver 1 Golgari Depths 1 Death and Taxes 1 Sneak and Show 1 Ad Nauseam Tendrils 1 Elves 1 Jeskai Stoneblade 1 Karn Echoes 1 Steel Stompy 1 Hollow One And the Top 8: 2 Izzet Delver 1 Mono-Red Stompy 1 Grixis Delver 1 Steel Stompy 1 Hogaak 1 Golgari Depths
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The deck that stood out this week was the Selesnya Depths. Unlike the Golgari version, Selesnya Depths is a value deck with multiple micro-interactions that isn't interested in closing the combo as quickly as possible (although it can do it if needed), but rather establish a game plan with cards that are naturally good at both tutoring their lands and setting a clock against the opponent if they have too many resources to handle the combo. Green Sun’s Zenith is essentially a tutor for the deck's toolbox that allows you to deal with different situations and protect your Marit Lage.
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Another deck that has resurfaced in recent times is the StifleNaught decks, which have not had much success in Legacy over the past decade, but which gained new elements in Modern Horizons II such as Dress Down serving as a Stifle (for the effects this deck desires) that draws a card and Urza's Saga that can tutor Phyrexian Dreadnought and put it directly into play.
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And it even brings up some decks that you wouldn't normally expect to see on the challenge or even heard of, such as Aeon Bridge. Aeon Bridge was a deck that emerged in 2010 with the release of Rise of the Eldrazi, where the archetype's goal was to be a StifleNaught deck that also could play Emrakul, the Aeons Torn for free with Mosswort Bridge, thus giving a second use to Phyrexian Dreadnought. The deck also featured the Show and Tell package to cast Emrakul early. In fact, Show and Tell was a cheap card before Rise of the Eldrazi was released since the most you could cheat in play with the card before was a Progenitus, and there were decks that could play Progenitus more efficiently with Natural Order. With Modern Horizons II, not only does the deck have a more efficient version of a card to “nullify” the effect of Phyrexian Dreadnought, it also uses Urza’s Saga to tutor it.

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Elvish Reclaimer also stands out on this list, being able to tutor both lands needed for the combo, and being able to fetch certain lands from the sideboard in game 2 or 3 like Bojuka Bog, The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale or Boseiju, Who Shelters All. Finally, the deck has essentially the same base used by Omni-Tell, only trading some of its consistency and agility for other means of doing broken things in the game.
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This week we can also see versions of Urza's decks leaving aside white in favor of a more agile manabase using Ancient Tomb and making room for cards like Hullbreacher.
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Another deck that has stood out in recent weeks is Jeskai Midrange, which uses the most diverse means of interaction and some of the best cards recently added to the format such as Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, Murktide Regent and the already mentioned many times Urza's Saga, in addition to well-known cards in the format such as Standstill.

Conclusion

This was the Weekly Metagame, this time marking exactly one month since the digital release of Modern Horizons II. There's not much to say about Standard, Historic and Pioneer as these formats will only receive new cards with the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, but Historic may be stabilizing now that Azorius Auras seems like the efficient answer against the URx decks. As far as I can tell, Modern is still going through the most diverse transformations, and while some decks are getting established, there still seems to be plenty of room to explore the format. Pauper, unfortunately, is in a state of broken format, with Affinity and Storm being prevalent everywhere and giving little or no room to the rest of the decks. Don't be fooled by Sunday's results, just because Affinity didn't make a Top 8 in

one event

doesn't mean he's okay. Banning Chatterstorm is an obvious choice, but what about Affinity? What could be banned to weaken the archetype? Sojourner's Companion? Atog? The artifact lands that enters untapped? The decision is not an easy one. If you ban something too soft, the deck remains very consistent. If you ban multiple cards, you can potentially kill the deck. And among these options, which would be the best? Finally, Legacy seems to be establishing a new Metagame and the fear of an oppressive deck seems to be fading away. Urza’s Saga has been very prominent in the format, which may eventually turn on the alarm bells of some players in the future. Thanks for reading!
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Romeu

Writer and translator for Cards Realm. Plays virtually Magic: The Gathering competitive formats. Pauper Masters' Organizer.

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