Weekly Metagame: the impact of Modern Horizons II - week 2

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Weekly Metagame: the impact of Modern Horizons II - week 2

On today's article, I take a closer look into the Challenges' Top 32 and the growing impact of Modern Horizons II in the competitive formats!

By Romeu, 06/16/21, translated by Romeu

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Players, welcome to another edition of the Weekly Metagame, where we survey the Challenges and other major events of the weekend. Given the good reception last week, I will be approaching the events differently today, focusing on the Top 32 to have a broader view of how the Metagame of each format is doing and how they are developing. Especially the Eternal formats with Modern Horizons II. In this edition, I won't be focusing on Historic, as there were no major events last weekend and the Historic Challenge promoted by Magic Arena this weekend has no results posted.

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And although I know you probably came here to see more lists with Modern Horizons II, let's delve first into Standard and Pioneer.

Standard

Saturday's Standard Challenge finished with the following Top 32: 8 Izzet Dragons 4 Jeskai Cycling 4 Naya Adventures 4 Mono-Red Aggro 3 Sultai Ultimatum 3 Temur Lukka 2 Dimir Rogues 1 Jeskai Mutate 1 Gruul Magda 1 Rakdos Sacrifice 1 Azorius Control And the following Top 8: 3 Jeskai Cycling 2 Izzet Dragons 1 Naya Adventures 1 Jeskai Mutate 1 Temur Lukka And on Sunday, we had on the Top 32: 6 Izzet Dragons 4 Jeskai Cycling 4 Naya Adventures 3 Sultai Ultimatum 2 Dimir Rogues 2 Mono-White Aggro 2 Temur Lukka 2 Gruul Magda 1 Mono-Red Aggro 1 Mono-Green Midrange 1 Temur Adventures 1 Rakdos Sacrifice 1 Titans’ Nest 1 Jeskai Mutate And the Top 8: 2 Naya Adventures 1 Izzet Dragons 1 Jeskai Cycling 1 Temur Lukka 1 Sultai Ultimatum 1 Mono-White Aggro 1 Temur Adventures What we can see in these events is that the Izzet Dragons has really become the best deck of the format, taking up more and more space that previously belonged to the Sultai Ultimatum.
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It is worth noting that the great advantage of the Izzet Dragons in the current Standard is precisely that it is a deck that preys on decks that normally prey on the Sultai Ultimatum, such as Aggro decks that tries to go under and that is probably precisely this focus in Sultai Ultimatum that makes the Izzet Dragons successful. Probably, when the metagame adjusts to handle this deck, we'll see a return of Sultai Ultimatum to the top of the format. Another deck that has gained prominence and has done expressive results on Arena, but not so much on Magic Online, is Jeskai Mutate, and I'm pretty sure this has something to do with the number of clicks needed to perform your combos on this platform.
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What's important to note is that the deck has been showing a significantly good winrate in the last week since its boom in the Strixhaven Championship. This can still be mainly because players are still unaccustomed to playing against this kind of combo, and therefore it is easy to misplay. But it is no longer possible to say that this is just a stroke of luck for the players, Jeskai Mutate is real, and you should expect to face it in the next tournaments.

Pioneer

Pioneer has been in a turbulent quorum issue on the last Challenges, something we'll probably cover better in another article shortly. This week, however, both Pioneer Challenge events had enough players and brought results. The Top 32 of Saturday's Pioneer Challenge was composed of: 4 Boros Burn 3 Lotus Combo 3 Niv-to-Light 3 Dimir Control 2 Sultai Valki 2 Bant Spirits 2 Izzet Phoenix 2 Rakdos Pyromancer 1 Abzan Company 1 Jeskai Creativity 1 Izzet Prowess 1 Boros Heroic 1 Gruul Company 1 Mono-Black Aggro 1 Grixis Arcanist 1 Gruul Aggro And it had the following Top 8: 1 Sultai Valki 1 Jeskai Creativity 1 Izzet Prowess 1 Abzan Company 1 Boros Heroic 1 Gruul Company 1 Bant Spirits 1 Mono-Black Aggro On Sunday, the Top 32 had the following decks: 5 Jeskai Creativity 4 Izzet Phoenix 3 Niv-to-Light 3 Rakdos Pyromancer 3 Lotus Combo 2 Dimir Control 1 Bant Spirits 1 Boros Burn 1 Naya Winota 1 Enigmatic Fires 1 Mono-Black Aggro 1 Boros Heroic 1 Mono-Green Devotion 1 Gruul Aggro 1 Big Red 1 Lotus Turns 1 Azorius Control 1 Izzet Prowess And the following Top 8: 2 Jeskai Creativity 2 Izzet Phoenix 1 Bant Spirits 1 Mono Green Devotion 1 Lotus Combo 1 Gruul Aggro Pioneer appears to be in a diversified state right now while bringing some new archetypes, including migrating some decks from Historic, for example:

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Having a total of five copies in Sunday's Top 32, Jeskai Creativity is clearly moving up in Pioneer's Metagame as the newest Combo-Control of the format. We don't have extra turns or

Mizzix's Mastery

to break

Indomitable Creativity

with

Velomachus Lorehold

, but we do have another combination of cards that could very well be an even more efficient combo in the format:
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By putting both cards into play with

Indomitable Creativity

, which essentially works like a one-card combo by sacrificing the various tokens the deck can produce,

Sage of the Falls

's ability will trigger, and you may draw a card and discard a card. Every time you draw a card,

The Locust God

will create a 1/1 Insect token with Haste that will trigger Sage of the Falls again. With this combination, you can have an army of 1/1 tokens with flying to attack the opponent and win the game in the same turn. Otherwise, the deck works essentially as a Jeskai Control with counters, removals, draw spells,

Shark Typhoon

, among other options. However, it's not just Jeskai Creativity that seems to be migrating from another format straight to Pioneer:
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We've been seeing an increase in blue and red spell-oriented decks for some time in almost every format, and Pioneer's Izzet Prowess seems to be a pretty effective mix of what the format has to offer based on the available cards.

Curious Obsession

is an option that doesn't usually see play outside of blue decks like Mono-Blue or Spirits, but is almost as effective in this deck as it would be in the other Tempo decks as it allows you to maintain a card advantage engine while clears the opponent's board with your spells. It wouldn't surprise me to see Izzet Prowess become one of the mainstays of the format in the near future.

Modern

Now, we'll talk about what probably brought you to this article, Modern Horizons II: On Saturday, the Modern Challenge finished with the following Top 32: 5 Amulet Titan 3 Four-Color Cascade 2 Dimir Mill 2 Izzet Blitz 2 Izzet Tempo 2 Esper Control 2 Living End 2 Golgari Yawgmoth 2 Golgari Foodgaak 2 Humans 1 Niv-to-Light 1 Bant Stoneblade 1 Jeskai Stoneblade 1 Domain Aggro 1 Jund 1 Soulherder 1 Four-Color Goodstuff 1 Electrodominance 1 Enchantress And the Top 8: 2 Dimir Mill 2 Amulet Titan 1 Jeskai Stoneblade 1 Golgari Yawgmoth 1 Golgary Foodgaak 1 Niv-to-Light And on Sunday, we had: 3 Amulet Titan 3 Golgari Yawgmoth 2 Izzet Blitz 2 Heliod Company 2 Rakdos Midrange 1 Bant Soulherder 1 Hardened Scales 1 Ad Naueseam 1 Orzhov Stoneblade 1 Izzet Delver 1 Dimir Mill 1 Humans 1 Burn 1 Infect 1 Grixis Shadow 1 Jund Shadow 1 Mardu Shadow 1 Sultai Shadow 1 Jund 1 Golgari Foodgaak 1 Izzet Phoenix 1 Jeskai Stoneblade 1 Taking Turns 1 Boros Stoneblade 1 Four-Color Kiki-Chord With the following Top 8: 1 Bant Soulherder 1 Izzet Blitz 1 Golgari Foodgaak 1 Heliod Company 1 Mono-Green Scales 1 Four-Color Kiki-Chord 1 Amulet Titan 1 Boros Stoneblade We can see another event where Modern Horizons II brings significant additions to the archetypes. And one of the most used cards this week in the format was

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

.
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If

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

made a huge impact on Legacy last week, this week was the time to see the albino monkey doing results in Modern with different archetypes as well.
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The Jeskai Stoneblade, or

MonkeyBlade

as they're calling it, bets on a good old Control plan, using Ragavan mostly to get value with the ability to Dash while responding to what the opponent proposes to do.

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Kaldra Compleat

is another MH2 addition that has received a lot of popularity on the

Stoneforge Mystic

decks and, unlike many players expected, is not necessarily competing with

Batterskull

. Instead, it's being played alongside the classic artifact that defined Stoneblade as one of Magic's main archetypes for the past decade.
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The Izzet Tempo lists essentially seeks to reproduce the Legacy Izzet Delver strategy, with its limitations, since the format does not have

Daze

,

Force of Will

or good cantrips. The best cantrip of the format, however, is

Mishra's Bauble

, which in addition to being free to play, enables Delirium for

Dragon's Rage Channeler

and can be constantly reused with

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

.
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The new version of Rakdos Midrange has decreased its mana curve and included some interesting new cards in addition to Ragavan. First, the deck has a clear “playing the opponent's stuff” strategy by including a Rogues sub-theme with

Thieves' Guild Enforcer

,

Dauthi Voidwalker

and

Robber of the Rich

, creating a creature engine that is not only very efficient at proactively playing with discard and removals, but also creates a variety of ways to produce 2-for-1 effects.

Lurrus of the Dream-Den

has finally gained space with the departure of

Seasoned Pyromancer

, and it becomes impossible not to enable it with the well-known

Mishra’s Bauble

.
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Death’s Shadow was another archetype that took advantage of the albino monkey this weekend. And also

Dragon's Rage Channeler

as a more aggressive drop than the other one-drops the deck used to play.

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Another nice addition to the archetype, which has some ease with splashing colors, was

Prismatic Ending

which deals with permanents that are naturally problematic for the archetype such as

Auriok Champion

,

Heliod, Sun-Crowned

, among others. However, it wasn't just the Ragavan decks that stood out this weekend. Let's start with Boros Stoneblade:
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The Boros Stoneblade takes the Death & Taxes base that is already well known in Modern and adds a slight splash of red to the deck for

Imperial Recruiter

, who acts as a tutor for almost every creature the deck has, always based on what exactly you need. The deck has a huge number of creatures with great ETB effects such as

Skyclave Apparition

,

Stoneforge Mystic

,

Charming Prince

, among others, and of course, this interaction couldn't miss

Solitude

, which with

Ephemerate

can generate enormous value by exiling the opponent's creatures. The deck's Sideboard brings even more versatility by having a toolbox of cards that fit within specific matchups, but which can all be tutored with

Imperial Recruiter

, thus creating a great base of Hatebears that the opponent needs to respect.
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Another deck that received additions with Modern Horizons II was Dimir Mill, which was already present in the metagame before the release of the new set and has now received

Fractured Sanity

to speed up its clock. In many ways, Mill ended up becoming significantly similar to Prowess in Modern, with

Hedron Crab

and

Ruin Crab

being their versions of

Soul-Scar Mage

and [[Monastery Swiftspear] ] for what the deck proposes to do.
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Another deck that reappeared this weekend was Izzet Phoenix, using the "bad copy of

Faithless Looting

" or

Faithless Salvaging

if you prefer, as well as including a robust base of creatures from the new set with

Murktide Regent

and

Dragon's Rage Channeler

. It might not sound like a big deal, but the fact that

Faithless Salvaging

works as a free spell the next turn after it's cast makes some significant difference to the archetype, as it frees up mana the next turn to prepare the explosive plays with

Arclight Phoenix

.
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Amulet Titan remains one of the decks that benefited the most from the new set, taking off straight to the top of the format with

Urza's Saga

, which tutors

Amulet of Vigor

to close the combo with the bouncelands or

Expedition Map

which makes it possible to close the combo with

Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle

, making it even more consistent. Amulet Titan is very likely to become the best deck of the format in the coming weeks due to the consistency the deck gained with the new land-enchantment, and it will be up to the rest of the Metagame to exploit the archetype's weaknesses.
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Another deck that has stood out is Golgari Yawgmoth, which received the addition of

Ignoble Hierarch

to speed up mana and improve the deck's beatdown plan, and

Grist, the Hunger Tide

, which can be Tutored with

Chord of Calling

and

Eldritch Evolution

and has a set of abilities that interact incredibly well with the rest of the deck and adds yet another inevitability to the archetype. In many ways, Golgari Yawgmoth reminds me of the old

Birthing Pod

decks, but with a lot more focus on performing your combo rather than looking to play with toolbox elements that happen to include a combo. This consistency between threats that are good on their own and interact for infinite combos with

Yawgmoth, Thran Physician

makes the deck a great choice for Modern these days.

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Pauper

On Saturday, the Pauper Challenge had the following Top 32: 7 Grixis Affinity 6 Boros Bully 5 Dimir Faeries 3 Rakdos Storm 2 Burn 2 Orzhov Pestilence 1 Rakdos Monarch 1 Gruul Cascade 1 Tron 1 Mardu Monarch 1 Stompy 1 Dimir Control And with the following Top 8: 3 Grixis Affinity 1 Tron 1 Orzhov Pestilence 1 Boros Bully 1 Dimir Faeries 1 Dimir Control And on Sunday, the Challenge had the following Top 32: 7 Izzet Affinity 5 Dimir Faeries 3 Rakdos Storm 2 Grixis Affinity 2 Gruul Cascade 2 Dimir Delver 1 Izzet Faeries 1 Tron 1 Burn 1 Jund Cascade 1 Orzhov Monarch 1 Jeskai Ephemerate 1 Jeskai Bully 1 Golgari Threshold 1 Rakdos Monarch 1 Mono-Black Control And the following Top 8: 4 Affinity 2 Izzet Faeries 1 Dimir Faeries 1 Dimir Delver The first thing we can notice about both events is a more timid and less present appearance of Storm at the events, being played solely on the Rakdos version (as this one is faster, although more susceptible to hates or inconsistency), and with only one list making Top 8 on Sunday.
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Does that mean the format is ready to handle Storm decks right now? Or is the format trying to adapt too much against the archetype? While Storm seems to be in check, the format's indomitable beast has become Affinity.
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Affinity today presents itself as the main deck of Pauper's Metagame and appears in two ways: the Izzet versions have a cleaner and more robust manabase, and a more direct game plan, being able to use

Gearseeker Serpent

to increase the clock and also serve as a stonewall against the opponent's

Myr Enforcer

, while also choosing to use

Etherium Spinner

to better handle the matchup against Faeries. The Grixis version, on the other hand, is more focused on Mirror, and perhaps because of that it is the one that gets the most good results nowadays.

Disciple of the Vault

makes a big difference in this game, where it punishes the opponent for sacrificing their artifacts. This version also creates an extra reach for games where the board gets crowded and full of creatures, as it opens up another efficient angle of attack.
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We can still see other players innovating in their lists with cards from the new set, such as this list by Jeskai Ephemerate that seeks to generate value with the combination of

Cleansing Wildfire

and artifact lands, in addition to using

Chrome Courier

to get another 2-for-1 ability in an evasive body.

Legacy

On Saturday, the Legacy Challenge had the following Top 32: 5 Izzet Delver 4 Selesnya Depths 3 Bant Control 2 Hogaak 2 Elves 2 Lands 2 Miracles 2 Snow Miracles 1 Mono-Red Prison 1 Food Chain 1 Mono-Black Curses 1 Karn Echoes 1 Omni-Tell 1 Reanimator 1 Death & Taxes 1 Hollowvine 1 Bant Stoneblade 1 Colorless Stompy And the Top 8 was composed by: 1 Bant Control 1 Selesnya Depths 1 Mono-Red Prison 1 Sneak & Show 1 Izzet Delver 1 Elves 1 Bant Food Chain On Sunday, the Top 32 had the following decks: 4 Izzet Delver 4 Elves 3 Hogaak 3 Bant Control 2 Doomsday 2 Sneark & Show 2 Selesnya Depths 1 Mono-Green Post 1 Golgari Depths 1 Grixis Delver 1 Temur Delver 1 Death & Taxes 1 Snow Miracles 1 Orzhov Stoneblade 1 Azorius Stoneblade 1 Azorius Salvagers 1 Painter Recruiter 1 HollowVine 1 Bant Standstill And the Top 8 had the following decks: 2 Bant Control 1 Mono-Green Post 1 Hogaak 1 Doomsday 1 Elves 1 Golgari Depths 1 Sneak & Show As mentioned last week, you'd expect an increase in the number of decks looking to prey on Delver decks this weekend, but that doesn't mean we didn't have interesting or nice additions this weekend:

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Bant Control is a list I've seen quite often over the past week, and with good reason: the quality of your cards and the value they wield is just too efficient. The mix of strong card advantage effects like

Ice-Fang Coatl

,

Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath

and

Jace, the Mind Sculptor

, along with a set of cantrips by

Brainstorm

and

Ponder

plus

Abundant Harvest

(which, don't tell anyone, but interacts absurdly well with Brainstorm), plus a pack of removals and super efficient counters make this deck a real competitor in the Metagame. The inclusion of

Endurance

in the maindeck with a fourth on the side catches my attention, but the new Elemental has proven its worth within the Legacy by showing itself as a card that interacts incredibly well against some major decks in the format today like Hogaak and Doomsday, while its body, cost and the fact of having flash are relevant when playing against Delver or when you need to establish pressure at the board.
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Another deck that caught my attention was this Sneak & Show variant using

Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer

to gain value and speed up the deck's clock when creating Treasure tokens. It may seem unproductive to use Ragavan and thus create a valid target for cards that are commonly useless in the opponent's hand against this type of deck, but Ragavan is an extremely relevant card when your opponents don't have those cards in hand, as it's preferable not to counter it since, despite the amount it accumulates, cards like

Show and Tell

and

Sneak Attack

are much more important targets as they essentially win the game.
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Another deck that caught my eye this weekend was HollowVine, which thanks to the addition of

Blazing Rootwalla

now has even more consistency in being able to play

Vengevine

from the graveyard. One of the most fascinating interactions this deck has is how

Lion's Eye Diamond

can essentially function as a one-card combo in this list even on turn 1, if your hand has enough resources to make explosive plays.
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Speaking of

Lion's Eye Diamond

,

Auriok Salvagers

's combo gained new pieces and more consistency with

Urza's Saga

. The combo, which essentially consists of playing

Auriok Salvagers

and then using

Lion's Eye Diamond

to add 3 white mana, using two mana to return it to the hand and then playing it again, generating, that way, Infinite white mana that can then be used to make a giant

Walking Ballista

, or create infinite tokens with

Retrofitter Foundry

, now has a strong tutor in the form of

Urza's Saga

that allows the deck not to just fetching the combo pieces and adopting other means of stabilizing the board with the Construct tokens.

Conclusion

This was my Weekly Metagame analysis. We see that Modern Horizons II is still impacting formats where the set is legal, and new decks are still emerging as the Metagame tries to find its natural balance. In some formats, such as Pauper, the Metagame already seems to be entering a phase of being solved and the changes brought about by the new set are more evident. In formats like Modern and Legacy, the pendulum still seems to be unstable, with new decks still emerging and ideas gradually blossoming, while players experiment with new cards in the most different ways we could see with Ragavan, for example. I believe that in these formats, we will still have some significant adjustments taking place in the coming weeks, and it should still take around 15 to 30 days to see exactly how these formats have transformed after the launch of the new set.

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Finally, if you liked this new approach where I expand the Metagame's vision beyond the Top 8, analyzing the Top 32 decks and that way we can have a more comprehensive notion of how the Metagame is developing, leave a comment or share with your colleagues and friends. It's a little more work to do, and the reading gets longer, but I believe it's a beneficial decision to be able to better analyze the context of each format instead of just sticking to the Top 8 of each event. Therefore, it would be important to know whether this decision counts with your approval or disapproval. 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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