World Championship Metagame Analysis

Magic: the Gathering

Competitive

World Championship Metagame Analysis

In today's article, I analyze the decks that will be played in the World Championship, commenting on maindeck and sideboard choices, as well as delving into the new archetypes that have emerged.

By Romeu, 10/07/21, translated by Romeu, with help from our readers

Versions:

The sixteen contestants of the 2021 World Magic Championship have chosen their weapons: after a leak due to a technical error, Wizards of the Coast posted each player's lists on its official website, making them public to all the Internet, which gives us the possibility, before the tournament, to analyze how the event's Metagame was formed and what we can expect from the players, besides, of course, we can analyze the lists that each one will play and their particular choices. In this article, I intend to share my impressions and analysis of the decks and comment on each player's particular choices based on reference lists, as well as providing a guide for spectators to follow, from October 8th to 10th, the games keeping in mind how each list works.

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The World Championship's Metagame

Without further ado, the World Championship's Metagame is composed of the following decks: 4 Izzet Epiphany 4 Grixis Epiphany 3 Mono-Green Aggro 2 Mono-White Aggro 1 Azorius Tempo 1 Izzet Dragons 1 Temur Treasures The first thing we can conclude from looking at player choices is that Alrund's Epiphany decks are considered the best decks in the format: when eight of the top sixteen Magic players in the world decide to play with the same archetype (even with the Grixis being a new list, we'll talk more about that in a moment), which makes 50% of the Metagame based on a single strategy, there's no way to say that Epiphany isn't at the top of Standard these days. The second most played archetype is the other currently prevalent Standard archetype: Mono-Green Aggro, which many consider to be at the top of the format today as the best predator of Epiphany decks, and I'm particularly surprised that only three players opted to play it, given that if we look at the Standard Metagame for the past fourteen days, we'll see that the format is essentially Epiphany vs. Mono-Green vs. the Rest, where Izzet decks makes an average of 30% of the Metagame, while Mono-Green makes up about 23%, and the third most played deck, Mono-White Aggro, has just 5%. Speaking of Mono-White Aggro, two competitors choose on the plan to play faster and more evasive than Mono-Green by betting on this archetype. Mono-White Aggro may not have the big bodies that Mono-Green cards have, which essentially makes them more vulnerable to red removals from Epiphany decks, but they have the advantage of being able to play fast and with threats that has a strong disruptive effect, such as Reidane, God of the Worthy and Elite Spellbinder. Among the players who used different lists, we have Izzet Dragons, Temur and Azorius Tempo, two of these decks are already well known and have some usual results, but they may initially look like worse versions of the other decks (which can say a lot about the current state of Standard), however, the choices from these lists also symbolize from which angles their pilots intend to attack. Azorius Tempo, meanwhile, is an entirely new archetype, with card choices that were clearly thought to play well against Epiphany decks, and the big question is whether this deck will be able to dodge or do well against Mono-Green and other decks archetypes present in the championship. With that said, let's take a look at archetypes and comment on the lists!!

Izzet Epiphany

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Let's start with the format's current best deck,

Izzet Epiphany

, which is essentially a Combo-Control that seeks to play a combination of Alrund's Epiphany with Galvanic Iteration to play two extra turns, and in then use Burn Down the House copied with Galvanic Iteration's flashback to create six 1/1 tokens with Haste, or it can also win the game with Smoldering Egg (which is transformed with Epiphany's cost), or Hall of the Storm Giants activations. While you can't perform the combo and/or prepare the setup to use it, the deck has a multitude of interactions of all kinds to hold the game, such as removals, counterspells and other means of interaction that allow you to prolong the game. Some players may disagree with the definition that it is a Combo-Control because its combo doesn't win the game right away, but particularly, playing two extra turns and putting four Bird tokens on the board, if you don't win the game, will put you in such an advantageous position that it will be very difficult for you to lose because your plays during these extra turns will be a huge accumulation of resources and value, it is a situation similar to the combination of Time Warp with Mizzix's Mastery or Velomachus Lorehold that led to Time Warp's banning in Historic: If you don't win the game, you're so far ahead that you've virtually won.

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And to further reinforce this deck's combo nature, three of the event's four lists rely on the use of a specific card that hasn't been seen previously:
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Unexpected Windfall has the advantage that the Treasure tokens created by it are essential in mirror matches, where this mana advantage allows you to play the combo faster or have more mana for interactions, and also to speed up the plan against decks that tries to play under, like Mono-Green Aggro.
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Another important card is Divide By Zero as it not only serves to delay the opponent's plans, but also to give access to a “Lessonboard” that offers some flexibility during the game.
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Three of the lists are very similar to each other, with only a few occasional differences between card numbers on the maindeck and/or sideboard, except for the player

Keisuke Sato

's deck, who seems to bet less on speed and more on playing an attrition game, using specific cards as one-ofs, and including Smoldering Egg to hold Aggro decks on early game while serving as a late-game wincondition, while the other lists have opted to keep the Dragons package on the Sideboard.
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The three maindeck highlights of these lists in relation to the current Metagame are Test of Talents, as a way to try to resolve the mirror quickly even on Game 1, Burning Hands for Esika's Chariot and Wrenn and Seven and Fading Hope that, in the current context where the biggest threats are tokens, works as a blue Fatal Push with Scry 1. The sideboard of all lists is somewhat similar and with similar choices, but Keisuke's list stands out again for the 1-of Rowan, Scholar of Sparks, an interesting choice that reduces the cost of your spells while stacking some value with both sides, including the ability to serve as another means of copying your own spells.

Grixis Epiphany

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The big news for this tournament is

Grixis Epiphany

, a variant of Epiphany decks, designed by the player

Gabriel Nassif

, who I particularly consider one of the best deckbuilders in the world today. A curious fact to mention is that the four lists are

exactly the same

, with the exact same 75 cards, which proves how confident they feel about each card choice. Grixis Epiphany looks like a more grindy version of Izzet Epiphany, focused on winning games against mirror match and against Izzet's main predator, Mono-Green Aggro, and the addition of black makes room for the inclusion of great cards in the current format such as Power Word Kill and Duress, as well as making room for other important cards such as Go Blank on the Sideboard. An interesting point I see in this archetype is the significant amount of one-ofs the list uses: Cathartic Pyre, Cinderclasm, Demon Bolt, Power Word Kill, Prismari Command, Burn Down the House, and Bloodchief's Thirst are all cards used in just one copy, which can be somewhat flawed in the consistency with which the archetype has access to them at the right time, but it also opens up a greater gap between the flexibility of its choices during the game and detracts from the predictability of answers to the opponent, something that would count for much more if the decklists hadn't been leaked. Two cards from this list stand out in my view:

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The Celestus was definitely not the card I expected to see in a World Championship deck, especially since no one took for granted throughout the spoiler season and the beginning of the competitive season, but there are always those cards that surprise us when they appear in a high-profile tournament, and The Celestus could become the next Mazemind Tome. The artifact, along with the Slow Lands, makes a three-color manabase much more accessible than we essentially believed, giving the deck consistent access to the colors it needs depending on the situation. In addition, the card also produces a significant means of hand filtering with a looting effect and a way to buy some time (however small and, on occasion, not relevant) against aggressive strategies, thus being a card which will hardly be useless during the game.
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A five-mana creature that essentially doesn't do anything on its own isn't a very exciting card, but with so many useful spells on the list and so many ways to grind games, Lier, Disciple of the Drowned makes you get a card advantage machine if it stays in play, and with access to cards like Duress and Fading Hope in your graveyard, it's not too difficult to protect it from removals or other means of interaction from opponents and, if you untap with it, you can extract so much value that it will be just as impactful as if you had cast an Alrund's Epiphany. By the way, Lier, Disciple of the Drowned allows you to cast any copy of Alrund's Epiphany that has been countered or discarded by the opponent. The deck's sideboard also has some interesting options:
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Apart from the extra copies of discards and removals, the deck has some cards that haven't seen much game in the format yet: Cyclone Summoner is a very peculiar choice that can go very right or very wrong, depending on the progress of the game, managing to hold or even turn the game on its own against aggressive decks while keeping a 7/7 body on the board, and this deck doesn't seem to have a hard time getting up to seven mana. Mind Flayer is the 2021 version of cards that have seen a lot of play on previous world championships winning lists, such as Sower of Temptation and Confiscation Coup. Finally, one card that has grown in format and, in my view, will be the highlight of the tournament is Malevolent Hermit as a creature that holds the main Standard threats today, while its other side allows you to cast your combo without being interrupted by opponent's interactions. This seems, to me, to be the deck with the greatest potential in the event, and all the players who chose to play it are well known for their good results and innovative lists, and if the deck was actually built by Gabriel Nassif, I would say that it is an almost certain passport to the last day.

Mono-Green Aggro

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Mono-Green Aggro has a very straightforward strategy: Hit and hit hard. And the archetype manages to execute this game plan very well because it mixes a very stable manabase with a devastating cost-effective creatures base, with Werewolf Pack Leader being a 3/3 creature for two mana, while Old-Growth Troll and Kazandu Mammoth will commonly be 4/4 and 5/5 respectively for three mana. The deck also has a powerful grindy package that goes through two of the main Staples in the format today: Esika's Chariot, which usually dominates the game if it stays on board, creates two 2/2 tokens when it comes into play and still interacts very well with the other cards in this package: Wrenn and Seven and Ranger Class.

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Wrenn and Seven is probably the most powerful card in Innistrad: Midnight Hunt, as it is a ramp, threat and wincondition on the same card for five mana, but commonly its main ability will be to create a huge Treefolk token, who will then crew Esika's Chariot, which will copy the token and this combination usually wins the game. Finally, we have Ranger Class, which creates a token when it comes into play, pumps up your creatures, and serves as a card advantage engine in Late-Game, where you can abuse its ability to play multiple threats over and over again, making it difficult for your opponents to keep 1-for-1 trades. Speaking of 1-for-1 trades, this deck has a natural advantage against the Izzets decks because of the difficulty the archetype offers in making the opponent maintain their favorable trades: Cards like Old-Growth Troll replace themselves if they die, while Esika's Chariot will commonly force a 3-for-1, and cards like Faceless Haven and Primal Adversary give plenty of late-game reach and force the opponent to respect and consider well every exchange they make. Paulo Vitor and Sam Pardee are using essentially the same list for the event, while Seth Manfield's list has some differences, and I believe some can be mentioned here:
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The main difference between the lists is the mana dork choice, where PV and Sam Pardee opt for Sculptor of Winter while Seth opts for Lotus Cobra. Both have advantages and disadvantages, and I believe the crux between them is the consistency with which you can ramp and, if possible, perform the Esika's Chariot on turn 3 and Wrenn and Seven on turn 4 streaks, or even keep resource parity on the draw during a mirror match, if your opponent doesn't play a mana dork while you do. As for consistency, Sculptor of Winter is a better option, as it doesn't depend on using another card to ramp, while Lotus Cobra, despite being a better attacking creature and this is relevant in matchups against Control decks, rely on an extra resource in your hand to ramp that sometimes fails and this failure can cost you the game. Another interesting choice is Unnatural Growth as a one-of on the maindeck of Seth Manfield's list, while the others opt for a copy of Snakeskin Veil, and that also depends a lot on the match you expect to face: Unnatural Growth is particularly good on the mirror or against creature decks while also setting a clock that isn't bad against Fading Hope, as is the case with the Wrenn and Seven tokens, while Snakeskin Veil is better at handling opponent's removals and offers favorable exchanges as a combat trick between players. The inclusion of Unnatural Growth makes the archetype's mana more greedy, which may justify the two copies of Lair of the Hydra on Seth Manfield's list. There are also interesting options on the three players' sideboards, like Devouring Tendrils and Choose Your Weapon, or Ashaya, Soul of the Wild on Seth's list, but the most interesting part is for sure the inclusion of Tajuru Blightblade, that expendable draft card that is now on the sideboard of three of the World Championship decks because it's good at serving as a “removal” in creature matchups.
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That said, I believe the tournament's clock will be set by Mono Green, and the three players who opted for the archetype are great competitors, including two who were world champions in past editions, and will definitely know how to play very well and make the best decisions according to each occasion.

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Mono-White Aggro

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The last deck with more than one copy that we'll look at today is

Mono-White Aggro

, and in reality, both players are playing with the same list. The archetype was the best deck of the Standard 2022 season prior to the release of Innistrad: Midnight Hunt and apparently continued to compete alongside the format, even in the face of the two powerhouses Izzet Epiphany and Mono-Green Aggro. Its game plan is quite simple: play low-cost threats and cards that interact well with each other to play "under" the Control decks, while evasive threats and the board interactions that some cards offer allows it to do well against Mono-Green Aggro, making it a relatively good option to be “in the middle” of these two decks. Currently, I consider the most important cards in the deck to be in cost 3.
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Reidane, God of the Worthy is an especially devastating taxing effect against both of the format's main decks, while significantly the delaying mirror match by forcing snow lands to enter the battlefield tapped, while its ability to boost the cost of the opponent's spells is relevant against sweepers and Alrund's Epiphany Elite Spellbinder is a powerful staple, and offers an evasive threat, which is important against Mono-Green, while delaying the opponent's spells and giving you information on how to plan your next moves and try to play around the opponent's answers. Adeline, Resplendent Cathar is a new addition to the archetype and recalls, in many ways, Brimaz, King of Oreskos which was, for a time, a staple of a past Standard, and it puts a lot of pressure with a body that needs specific removals to be answered by the opponent, and its ability to create tokens can significantly increase the clock during a match, and it becomes practically unbeatable when equipped to a Maul of the Skyclaves.
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The two additions to the list that are not common to see in traditional versions are Stonebinder's Familiar and Sungold Sentinel. Stonebinder's Familiar has a relevant utility in a format where the list makes recurrent use of exile effects with Brutal Cathar, Skyclave Apparition, Elite Spellbinder, Portable Hole and Fateful Absence, plus the newly added Sungold Sentinel, making this creature a threat that can grow faster than other commonly seen creatures in this slot, reaching 3/3 or even 4/ 4 with the right sequences. Sungold Sentinel is an interesting choice: in addition to interacting well with Stonebinder's Familiar and dealing with opponents' Flashback or Disturb cards, its Coven activated ability (being relatively possible and easy to use on this list) allows it to become an unlockable creature against aggressive decks, while protecting it from targeted removals from control decks, as well as offering a 3/2 body for two mana, which is relevant in games with few creatures like Izzet Epiphany.
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On the Sideboard, the highlight is Curse of Silence to delay opponents' sweepers or Epiphanys without becoming a useless card over the course of the game, in addition to creating a longer delay than Paladin Class. The other highlight is You're Ambushed on the Road, which can serve as an inexpensive way to protect your most important creatures from removals and sweepers, as well as serving as a useful combat trick in mirror match, and it interacts very well with cards that have some ETB effects like Elite Spellbinder, Intrepid Adversary, or Sungold Sentinel.

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Azorius Tempo

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Now that we've come to the lists that only has one copy of each, we'll start with the exclusive list created by theJapanese player Noriyuki Mori,

Azorius Tempo

. One point I'd like to make about this deck is that its existence among the decks that will compete in the format makes me a little depressed by the early leak this week because this deck is a real Metacall juice that would definitely work much better if its opponents didn't understand exactly how it works. But, now that the lists are available, surely the most diverse players have already tested Noriuky's deck and understand its advantages and disadvantages, which can result in a terrible strategic failure caused by a technical error that was not the player's responsibility, significantly harming him in the Standard portion of the event. I'm not saying the list is bad, on the contrary, it has enormous potential to be one of the highlights, but it would definitely be much better against unprepared opponents. That said, what Azorius Tempo seeks to do is the classic Tempo deck game plan given Standard's proportions: Resort to efficient threats, many of them with added value, and add them to low-cost interactions that allows you to delay the opponent's game plan long enough to establish a significant advantage. This deck, which is based on Mono-White Aggro, trades in the one-drops and speed of the monocolor version for a more interactive game that works great when you build a board in the first few turns, as you'll put pressure on your opponent to play their bombs, and if we look at the two main decks of the format, we see that they're about trying to drop the bombs as soon as possible, and delaying them with Concerted Defense, which works well with a little Party subtheme that list has, or removing creatures with Fading Hope is a huge advantage.
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Like Mono-White, this list bets on attacking from the air to deal with decks like Mono-Green Aggro, and does it much more efficiently as it has more flying threats. In particular, among them, I highlight Spectral Adversary as a card that plays very well against aggressive decks when dealing with blockers, messing up the opponent's combat math and even coming into play with Flash, while also serving to protect others of your threats by phasing them out in front of a removal or sweeper, and all while offering a relevant and evasive body. There's also Legion Angel, which offers a nice clock that “multiplies” over turns, fetching additional copies of it from the Sideboard.
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Copies of Malevolent Hermit in the maindeck are especially relevant to an archetype whose target is definitely spell-oriented decks, as it offers a good body to attack, a counterspell, and an evasive graveyard threat all in a single card.
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The Sideboard can be divided into the three categories seen above: — Cards to deal with more aggressive matchups, with removals and 1-for-1 exchanges; — Cards to deal with spell-based matchups, such as additional copies of Malevolent Hermit and Concerted Defense; — And cards to extend the game and get more breath in attrition matches, with Loyal Warhound as a clock + a means of maintaining land drops equity and Alrund's Epiphany as a late-game bomb.

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In particular, this is the most interesting list of the championship for me, and I really hope that Noriyuki Mori can show us how much potential this deck has in the current Standard metagame!

Izzet Dragons

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Izzet Dragons doesn't have Izzet Epiphany's “infinite turns” package, but its choice for this tournament can be very well rewarded due to the number of decks and cards aimed at dealing with the creatureless version of the archetype, making it a deck that preys on decks that seek to prey on Epiphany decks, while still being a somewhat fragile archetype against removals and Wrenn and Seven. The Izzet Dragons essentially function as a Midrange, looking to perform 1-for-1 trades with their removals until they can play Goldspan Dragon to start attacking the opponent from the air, while the mana offered by the dragon can be used to cast more answers or start the Alrund's Epiphany streak, which essentially wins the game with a Dragon on the battlefield. It's important to point out that Midranges are currently down precisely because of the combination of Mono-Green's speed vs. Izzet Epiphany's inevitability puts it into an uncomfortable situation in this event, but works very well against smaller aggressive decks like Mono-White, and its efficient clock mix with favorable exchanges can yield good games for

Yuta Takahashi

.
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Yuta's list also features an interesting number of one-ofs, including a copy of Dissipate, which is particularly somewhat unexpected, but is an interesting addition against Memory Deluge, Galvanic Iteration or Disturb. Another point that catches my attention on the list is the absence of Burning Hands in the maindeck, where Yuta preferred to use Thundering Rebuke as a more comprehensive answer that better handles other Goldspan Dragon and Smoldering Eggs, leaving the other card as three copies on the Sideboard, which also includes a "lessonboard" to be fetched with Divide By Zero, plus other specific answers and a Malevolent Hermit playset.

Temur Treasures

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Last but not least, we have

Temur Treasures

, which will be piloted by

Jean-Emmanuel Depraz

.
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In many ways, Temur Treasures essentially works like last season's Gruul Magda, where you use Jaspera Sentinel's interaction with Magda, Brazen Outlaw to speed up mana quickly and use bombs like Goldspan Dragon and Esika's Chariot The choice of Goldspan Dragon over Wrenn and Seven is very interesting and sounds like a conscious choice to increase the pressure the deck manages to establish and become less susceptible to the main “removal” of the format these days, Fading Hope, since the card, despite “buying” a turn when used on the Dragon, will not only give you a token, but they will have to solve the problem again in the next turn.
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Other powerful cards on this list include Moonveil Regent as an evasive threat that allows you to replenish your hand, essentially functioning as an Experimental Frenzy with a body, and Reckless Stormseeker as an aggressive drop that essentially turns all of your creatures into immediate-impact threats, being powerful with Esika's Chariot or Moonveil Regent.

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But where does blue fit in?
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Essentially, this deck would easily lose to any Epiphany deck because it doesn't establish enough pressure to win the game quickly and interacts very poorly with spells, especially when your opponent can direct removals to the best creatures. Therefore, the deck needs ways to interact with the bombs that opponents presents, and cards like Negate and Disdainful Stroke are the best options for this and the archetype will hardly be punished for using this splash when having Pathways, plus Jaspera Sentinel's manafixing and Treasure tokens.
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This deck has some weird options on the Sideboard, where I'm not sure why Reckless Stormseeker there is more important than four copies on the Maindeck, but I can assume that some cards needed to come out to get some interaction into the list, especially with Negate. But what about Kessig Naturalist? Is it there to help ramp up on matchups where you need to play fast while setting a clock? I'm not sure where this card fits into the deck's strategy for earning a sideboard slot in place of another more useful card, but who am I to question someone who's worked hard during the season to make it to the Worlds? I'm sure Jean-Emmanuel Depraz knows what he's doing, and we'll see the usefulness of Kessig Naturalist throughout the matches!

What about the bannings?

There have been many debates about Standard bans over the past few weeks, especially Alrund's Epiphany and Esika's Chariot as they seem to be above average in the format in the two predominant archetypes. I believe this subject deserves an article of its own, so I won't go on too long here, but we've seen in recent weeks how both cards can take games to states where there's no way the opponent can come back, as they offer a significant number of advantages (Also, how come Wrenn and Seven's token isn't a legendary creature called Seven?). Personally, I believe it will be a matter of time before Alrund's Epiphany is banned because it has become evident that its deck is considered the best deck in the format, and it is an archetype that leads to unfun game patterns, something Wizards has tried to avoid at Standard for a few years. Esika's Chariot's case is a little more complicated, as we would need to assess how the format would look without Epiphany, which would allow for the existence of midrange decks that could possibly handle the artifact without necessarily having to ban it, but there is a real hypothesis of Esika's Chariot becoming the mandatory card to play, and where green decks prevail in the Metagame in several variants due to its existence, and then we must question if we want another Standard where the predominant decks are green-based, this time, built around the interaction of Wrenn and Seven with Esika's Chariot. Either way, the fate of both cards is

directly linked

to their results in this weekend's event, and it won't surprise me if, if these decks dominate the tournament, next week or the next fortnight, we have a Banned and Restricted update.

Conclusion

This was my review of the 2021 World Championship metagame, which takes place this weekend,

October 8 to 10

, and you can check out the full coverage of the event live on the official Magic channel. Next week, we will be able to analyze the results of the participants and what this could mean for Standard's future.

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I close this article wishing the competitors good luck, especially to our countryman, Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa, which will be competing for his second World Champion title! 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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