Magic: the Gathering
Metagame of the Week. Instead, I'll just be naming it
Metagame, as I believe the purpose of the articles is already clear to our readers. But, if by chance you're here now, Metagame's main objective is to analyze the landscape of competitive formats each week, identifying and analyzing the decks that go up and down, the impact of new sets, the general diversity of the format, the innovations and new lists that emerge in tournaments.
Alrund's Epiphanyand any other spell. So, the best way to prey on this deck is to try to go under and establish a pressure where the opponent can't conjure their bombs in time and/or it's too late when they do because your game is already guaranteed, and therefore, aggressive decks are your best option. And that's where Izzet Dragons comes in, being the main deck that preys on aggressive decks with removals, 2-for-1 effects and a relevant clock with
Goldspan Dragon. If the Metagame bends too far to prey on the Sultai Ultimatum, this deck benefits because it's a list designed to deal with creatures and generate value.
Edgewall Innkeeperand Adventures package is essentially a pillar of the format and is the basis of other decks like Gruul Magda and Temur Lukka, but when you add
Reidane, God of the Worthyand
Showdown of the Skalds, in addition to
Giant Killeras an efficient answer to many creatures of the format and
Clarion Spiritto populate the board, you create a real card advantage machine that clocks aggressively enough to be able to apply enough pressure on the Sultai Ultimatum while punishing the Izzet Dragons for betting on 1-for-1 exchanges.
Zenith Flarecould easily make Jeskai Cycling the best option of the format until the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms, as exemplified by Rivals League in this weekend, where it was the most played deck and also for its strong presence in the Top 8 of all events. That said, Standard still has one more week before the new set arrives to the format, and I believe the Metagame will stay the same until then. So if you have the cards to do that, I'd bet on playing with Sultai Ultimatum this week and if you don't have it or prefer a more agile and proactive game plan, Cycling remains a great option that is also financially sustainable. Adventures in the Forgotten Realms arrives later this week to Magic Online and the Magic Arena, and we will be able to see the impact of the new set on Standard as early as next week.
Brainstormpositioned as the big pillar of the format, having a playset of
Narset, Parter of Veilsis one of the best things this deck can have, especially considering that the planeswalker serves as a
Dig Through] Timesplit over two turns and remains in play after doing so, significantly hindering any deck that tries to draw a significant number of cards in a single turn.
Indomitable Creativityand other problematic spells from the combo decks, and
Cling to Dustis a great maindeck cantrip that also helps with holding Izzet Phoenix decks and other decks that can take advantage of the graveyard such as Mono-Black Aggro, which has resurfaced in recent weeks.
Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hungeras quickly as possible using the famous artifact. This deck can be very functional, especially when opponents don't expect it, but particularly I don't see it becoming a force in the Metagame because it's a predictable deck, with predictable interactions, and it uses under-optimized cards to make broken things Once the format knows the deck and waits for it, it becomes much harder to play an Ulamog on turn 4, and without it, the deck doesn't seem to have enough to hold the game well.
Jeskai Ascendancyin play, cast
Sylvan Awakening(which conveniently makes your lands indestructible as well) and from there, start playing successive spells to trigger
Jeskai Ascendancy's ability to significantly increase the power of your lands until they can attack to lethal. The deck, which for a time was considered one of Pioneer's great promises in its conception, never ended up doing great results due to the number of interactions present in the format such as
Thoughtseizeand the lack of consistency, as it depends on not only on a 2-card combo, but also a significant lack of interaction, as your cards need to be used proactively to increase enchantment triggers. However, perhaps catching players off guard and with the inclusion of powerful cards recently released like
Omnath, Locus of Creation, which generates a significant amount of value and
Expressive Interation, which has become one of the best cards ever released recently, the deck managed to achieve a perfect result in this event and possibly this will motivate more players to try it out in the coming weeks.
Faceless Haven, and
Rally the Ranks, adding even more consistency to the deck and allowing it to maintain a low curve that enabled the use of a large staple from Pioneer and other formats:
Lurrus of the Dream-Den.
Mishra’s Baubleis essentially the best card in the format today precisely because it allows any deck to filter the top and draw more cards at no cost and, for the most part, without any concessions. When you multiply the number of cards dedicated to this function, as in the case of Izzet Tempo with
Expressive Iteration, you increase the speed of which the deck you can find the answers, threats, and protections you need to proceed with your game plan. Add to that the fact that Izzet Tempo's threats are all creatures with some built-in value like
Ragavan, Nimble Pilfererand
Dreadhorde Arcanistor cards that close the game quickly like
Dragon's Rage Channelerand
Murktide Regent, you create a deck that definitely manages to establish a significant advantage in the game. I don't know how much Izzet Tempo really is the best deck of the format and, if so, how long it will remain with this title, but definitely the inclusion of Modern Horizons II cards has finally given Tempo Decks a place to shine in the Modern Metagame.
Teferi, Time Raveleras an advantage card engine and a means of preventing unwanted interactions, as well as make room for the inclusion of
Ardent Pleaas another card to add consistency in casting
Crashing Footfallsfor free. Modern players worried in the first week of Modern Horizons II that Cascade decks would be too strong for the format due to the inclusion of
Shardless Agentand this fear was alleviated by the emergence of other decks in the weeks later and a lesser representation of the archetype. I believe that Cascade is a good competitor in Modern, but that, like many other decks in the format, it can be defeated by other decks when players are thoroughly prepared to face it.
Liliana of the Veiland
Lingering Soulsas relics of the past, cards from a time when decks like Jund and Abzan resorted to threats like
Huntmaster of the Fellsto win the game and a format where playing a Liliana as soon as possible was a sign of a significant advantage in the game. Modern's speed has increased significantly in recent years and this has made these strategies obsolete, but when you have a good clock, good answers and ways to speed up your mana with cards like
Ignoble Hierarch, these decks end up taking their place in the format, as they can accumulate a lot of value throughout the game, and the increase in the curve also allows for more efficient cards and more ways to win the attrition games in the format. The interesting thing to notice with this Abzan Midrange list is that, no matter what your Modern deck is, it probably needs Modern Horizons II additions, just as they needed Modern Horizons additions. These cards are too powerful to not use them.
Urza's Saga. It is even a deck that I would recommend any player to use, as it has a very efficient, redundant, intuitive, very resilient game plan and has some great results in the hands of good players. My conclusion about Modern after looking at the format this past month is that the format's Metagame keeps changing and, it seems, creating a cyclical nature where every week there's a different deck that stands out. This week it was Izzet Tempo, last week it was Rakdos Midrange and the week before it was Urza's decks. What will be the next deck? And will this formula, following the steps we commonly see in Standard where every week there is one deck that stands out more than the others, that we'll see in the format later on? Time will tell.
Peregrine Drake, so... Let's talk about the different decks that manage to emerge, survive and appear in these Challenges.
Arcum's Astrolabe's ban (and looking at the current format, it doesn't even seem like the card was all that to the point of being ban-worthy, right?). The deck, without its main value engine, started to bet on a more reactive game plan, giving up on
Kor Skyfisherin favor of using other means of responding to what the opponent does or creating other soft-lock effects.
Cleansing Wildfirewill be enough to hold back decks like Tron in the Metagame, or if even a punctual maindeck hate which can also be used for ramp and card advantage will not be enough to deal with the archetype that stands out as the main Control of the format.
Ulamog’s Crusherthroughout the game and has a significant number of cards that can help speed up your game plan. It's the deck that works great when your opponent isn't interacting with you, as long as you can find the right pieces at the right time. And very few decks make it back after an
Ulamog’s Crusherattacks in the first few turns of the game.
Serpentine Curveand even open up the possibility of a combo-kill with
Essence Harvest. Despite being a valid option, I believe this deck doesn't have enough elements to handle multiple 4/4 creatures and the
Atogs that Affinity makes, and not enough to handle Storm's redundancy and consistency, especially post-sideboard since, without the opponent establishing pressure, Storm can wait as many turns as necessary to make its combo work smoothly. I like this list, though. It's the deck that's interesting to play and every good fan of a Combo-Control deck should check out the
Serpentine Curvedecks, although the archetype doesn't have the great advantage that other decks of this style usually have: being able to go to the race and try to win the game quickly closing the combo in unfavorable matches. The setup necessary to perform the combo makes this archetype need to control the game constantly.
Parasitic Strixto infinitely drain the opponent's life.
Ukkima, the Stalking Shadow, has a game plan in the colors of Bant and is much more value-oriented with creatures like
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath,
Endurance, plus the classic cantrip package, removals and
Force of Will, along with a way to tutor combo pieces or even
Grist, the Hunger Tidewith
Recruiter of the Guard. What would happen if we turned this 3-card combo into just a 2-card combo? That might be what we'll discover with the release of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms.
Chain of Smogcombo that we've seen in the format in several variants since the release of Strixhaven, but which never became a 100% competitive strategy within the Metagame, then being thrown into the Tier 2 of the format. Probably, the Acererak combo with Aluren could have the same fate, since the archetype itself is no longer as popular or efficient in Legacy naturally. Other than that, there's not much to say about the Legacy this week. The format appears to be stabilized. Delver has indeed gotten stronger and is, just like before the release of MH2, the main deck of the format. However, the other decks also got stronger and this ended up balancing the Metagame set to the point that the format didn't polarize, as initially expected. I've seen some players say that
Ragavan, Nimble Pilfererare cards that have been in the format too long, and while I'm seeing a wide inclusion of these cards among the archetypes, I don't I know how to assess whether they really need to be banned, as they're not necessarily showing blatant numbers, In fact, Ragavan is the fifth most played creature in Legacy right now (and, interestingly, the first is
Endurance, which is a great answer for Doomsday decks and Delver decks), and
Urza's Sagait is not, so far, among the ten most played cards in the format. Therefore, I cannot simply claim that these cards are breaking the format. But
Arcum's Astrolabe, and
Oko, Thief of Crownshad similar effects in not necessarily being oppressive, but creating a Metagame that was very focused around these cards and their permanence to the course of the game.
Demolichseeing play in Historic or other formats. Histori, seems to be increasingly adapting to the current Metagame, and it is possible that it will not become necessary of another direct intervention in the coming weeks. Pioneer, it seems, remains in its healthy-format state, and old and new strategies have been constantly reappearing. Modern seems to be creating its own cyclical nature similar to what we see in Standard, where every week a different deck stands out, so the decks try to adapt to it and then the following week another deck emerges as a better deck. The question that remains is whether the format will retain this nature in the coming weeks, which could be indicative of a healthy format. In the case of Legacy, despite some comments, it seems to be healthy. As I mentioned, Delver became a stronger deck, but other decks also gained new elements (especially
Urzars Saga) and this created a Metagame where decks can maintain a balanced representation of the format. If you want an example of the difference between a balanced format and a broken format, just look at Pauper this week, where two decks make up more than 50% of the event's Metagame and make good results with a significant margin of advantage over the other decks. It could be that all opinions and analysis presented here today will change next week. After all, Magic is a game that changes a lot and that the Formats' Metagame behaves like a puzzle that is not always obvious to unravel and analyze, and we'll also see if there is any impact for the eternal formats with Adventures in the Forgotten Realms. Thanks for reading!