Week two of Rivals of Ixalan Standard is in the books. I linked to this tweet in my column yesterday, but here it is, in all its glory:
standard metagame on mtgo through 20 leagues (100 matches) January 18th - January 26th pic.twitter.com/WV6arXTPBP— Logan Nettles (@Jaberwocki) January 28, 2018
A few things to note here:
-That is a lot of different decks
-100 matches isn't a lot, but it's a fine sample size, given a two-week span, for figuring out a metagame
-Rivals of Ixalan went live on Magic Online on the 15th, and the tweet was made on the 28th, so Nettles had to play more than one league per day in order to hit 100 matches in 13 days
Using this framework, we can break down the metagame deck-by-deck. I'm going to cover all the decks that had a metagame share of 4% or more. Here goes nothing.
There are a LOT of ways to Grixis, but DeCandio's deck is the most popular version, even if it has the added wrinkle of shaving some of the “stock” early-game removal for stuff like Glorybringer and Rekindling Phoenix. Rekindling Phoenix in particular is a smart approach to combating opposing Vraska's Contempt.
The only flaw in this archetype, in my mind, is its mana curve. Lots of times, the deck asks you to keep three-land hands with maybe 1-2 castable cards. The agony of mulliganning is exacerbated when you've got a deck so heavily reliant on one-for-oneing its opponent until it can deploy The Scarab God and Torrential Gearhulk and what-have-you, so a good amount of opening hands end up being a sweat.
The choice to ban Rampaging Ferocidon and not Hazoret the Fervent was deliberate enough to allow mono-red to continue being a deck—the core of the mono-red deck is unchanged, minus however many Rampaging Ferocidon you liked to maindeck. Rivals of Ixalan added nothing to the deck, instead shaping a new metagame around it. There's an opportunity for mono-red to remain one of Standard's best decks, but there's not a ton of room for customization in the maindeck, so whether or not this deck is good will depend less on the red deck itself and more on how the metagame shakes out around it.
B/R Aggro is characterized by Unlicensed Disintegration and Scrapheap Scrounger. Other than that, it's pretty close to a mono-red deck that gives up the consistency of a mono-colored deck in exchange for lots of game against hard control decks in the form of Scrapheap Scrounger. It also doesn't hurt that Unlicensed Disintegration is likely Standard's most powerful removal spell—well worth jumping through the hoop of playing more artifacts. Bomat Courier, Pia Nalaar, and Scrapheap Scrounger are all cards you wanted anyways. Again, Rekindling Phoenix is a clever way to stretch opposing Vraska's Contempts thin, but this deck would likely be better off maxing out on Hazoret the Fervent before turning to Rekindling Phoenix.
SCG Open grinder Joe Lossett notched a Top 8 in last weekend's MOCS with U/B Control. This U/B Control iteration is virtually identical to the U/B Control deck that broke out during Worlds 2017, which some slight changes. Moment of Craving is an obvious upgrade. Consign // Oblivion saw wide play in U/B Control after post-Worlds as a spicy way to clean up a problematic permanent once an opponent's handsize gets low.
I'm surprised to not see any Pull from Tomorrow anywhere. Looking at the results of the MOCS, enough Grixis decks pivoted to more of a controlling complexion that I'd expect to see lots more Search for Azcanta and other similar mirror-breakers going forward. Maybe even a Pull from Tomorrow or two!
There are two two-mana 4/4s that stick out to me in the history of Magic: Flesh Reaver and Heart of Kiran. One had an extremely steep drawback that brought both players closer to the game's end simultaneously. The other has flying and vigilance. Sure, Heart of Kiran has its own drawbacks—it's an artifact, it needs to be crewed—but holy moly, a 4/4 flier for two is GINORMOUS. Mardu isn't the most versatile aggro deck in Standard, but its god-draw is second to none, and it has to be accounted for.
Yet another deck that lost nothing in the bans yet gained nothing from Rivals of Ixalan, W/U Approach long stood as the Standard deck that had an impeccable game one against the field and immediately folded to sideboards. I see no reason why that isn't still the case, but Nezehal, Primal Tide makes a compelling argument for Approach decks to compete in sideboarded games. Card's real good.
Oh yeah. This is the good stuff right here. A JIm Davis original that he took to the Top 4 of the Standard Classic after missing the day two cut of the Open with Bant Approach, this deck can do some pretty gnarly stuff. Sram, Senior Edificer and Curious Obsession are capable of drawing tons of cards, keeping the deck ahead of even the grindiest decks, and a low land count gives Auras a massive advantage in a topdeck war. This deck is comprised of underwhelming cards, but the synergies they provide put it over the top. Is it worth playing at something more serious than a PPTQ? Probably not, but this is the ideal deck to mess around with and really dunk on people at your local game store with.
As far as I can tell, the black in this deck comes from Scrapheap Scrounger's activated ability. This deck technically isn't the furthest you could get from traditional midrangey Jund, but it certainly ain't Jund. The goal here is to play a ton of creatures that are both great on rate and have relevant text boxes and attack with them until the game ends. As much as I want to love Ghalta, Primal Hunger, I have watched too many feature matches with this deck where the Monsters deck lost with a Ghalta stranded in their hand where any other spell would've kept them in the game, if not won the game for them outright. A dictionary definition of “win-more Magic: the Gathering card” would have a picture of Ghalta, Primal Hunger next to it.
I'm guessing Nettles ran into the Abzan Tokens decks closer to the 15th than to today. The deck simply hasn't performed at the highest levels yet, despite being full of powerful stuff like Anointed Procession and Hidden Stockpile. Those cards are uniquely awesome, but are perhaps reliant on too many things going right in a deck that can't really smooth out its draws. Abzan Tokens quickly proved itself mediocre in Ixalan Standard, and it appears as though history's repeating itself.
Going forward, I think I like one of the top two decks. As tempting as going full-control is, that's a very hard thing to pull off successfully in a wide-open metagame. Mono-Red has a tight, aggressive game-plan, and Grixis Energy is going to brute-force its way into match wins based on the sheer power level of the individual cards in the deck. I would be thrilled to play either deck going into week three of Rivals of Ixalan Standard.