As I'm writing this article, it is officially crunch time. The biggest tournament from a monetary standpoint in the history of professional Magic is going to be upon us shortly. I only have a few days left to submit my Standard decklist. In fact, I have to submit my decklist for Worlds the exact same day as my Pioneer decklist for the Players Tour event in Phoenix (don't ask me why the dates are what they are). That is a lot I need to prepare for!
Before I get into my preparation process, I want to thank everyone who has picked me to win the event on MTG Arena. The #FindYourChampion promotion Wizards is running is really cool, and I recommend checking it out if you haven't already!
One more aside: both the Players Tour and the World Championship will feature Booster Draft. Since Draft doesn't change in the same way as the Constructed metagame, I wanted to get the drafts out of the way first. I did about 40 drafts on Magic Online, and played in Grand Prix New Jersey which was Sealed. This I felt was sufficient. I'm not going to go into specifics here about my draft preferences and card evaluations.
Theros Beyond Death is essentially a brand new format, or it was a couple weeks ago anyway. This means it's not easy to find a deck you like. In fact, I knew that some innovations would need to be made on my own. Sometimes this means adding a single card to a known archetype, other times it means designing a completely new deck. One brew of mine that ended up catching my interest is Orzhov Doom Foretold.
The idea for this started with trying to find the best home for Treacherous Blessing.
A three-mana way to draw three cards is quite strong, but the downside of losing lots of life from Treacherous Blessing makes it a tough inclusion in a number of decks. However, in a deck that has a good way to get rid of the Treacherous Blessing in Doom Foretold, it can be good to have an extra permanent on the battlefield. Previous versions of Doom Foretold have traditionally been Esper. I wanted to be only two colors because there is better mana, and enough reasonable options from only two colors.
The Birth of Meletis is a card that I have liked in more controlling decks. All three modes of the card are very relevant. You can cheat a bit on lands since this is a nice way to curve from two lands into hitting additional lands, and the deck thinning has a bit of value too. The blocker and life gain aren't particularly relevant versus other control decks, but will be great in any of the creature-based matchups. This deck also wants permanents that can become graveyard fodder for Aphemia, the Cacophony after sideboard.
Still, you need a decent number of creatures and planeswalkers to make Elspeth Conquers Death the best it can be. Exiling an opposing permanent is nice, but you really want to be able to grab back things from your graveyard also. Cards like Orzhov Enforcer or Davriel, Rogue Shadowmage may seem like surprising maindeck options, but they do fill an important role, even if they get sided out fairly often.
With this deck I prefer playing against creature-based decks because all your cards have a use. Against control and combo, cards like Kaya's Wrath don't look so hot. With the built-in edict effects the deck isn't very vulnerable to Dream Trawler, which is nice. Card draw and hand disruption allow you to grind out games. Temur Reclamation is the matchup I'm struggling with the most, which is unfortunate because that is a very strong deck right now.
This deck has surged in popularity, and has started to be referred to as the best deck early on in this format. Temur Reclamation was already very strong, but the new additions may have pushed it over the edge.
This list that I found on Crokeyz stream is pretty similar to what most other players are playing, with a couple exceptions.
Storm's Wrath is probably the biggest upgrade to the deck. This card is much better than Flame Sweep as a maindeck sweeper that can also hit planeswalkers, so that is an easy swap compared to previous versions of the deck. There are also many new options in terms of card selection with both Omen of the Sea and Thassa's Intervention. Chemister's Insight has officially been outclassed here.
This deck definitely wants some ramp, and while there are of course four copies of Growth Spiral, we can also add Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath into the mix. Seemingly every deck in the format that can cast Uro wants to be playing some number of these, as the escape is very valuable and provides an alternate win condition. Arboreal Grazer isn't in all the lists, but this particular one is dense on ramp effects as it has a couple copies of Nissa, Who Shakes the World. While not typically known for seeing play in Temur Reclamation, Nissa can be referred to as the fifth and sixth Reclamation in some ways. Being able to make additional mana is, after all, what Wilderness Reclamation is for.
I would consider Temur Reclamation a tier 1 strategy at the moment. Traditionally, the best way to attack a deck like Temur Reclamation is with aggression, which leads me to the next deck I want to talk about. Mono-Red Aggro is another tier 1 strategy that could be a potential foil to Temur Reclamation, depending on how this metagame ends up playing out. This is my latest list:
We have a lot of usual suspects from previous builds of Mono-Red, alongside some new additions. This is probably the fastest deck in the format, and it's not surprising when you can manage a turn-four win with it.
The biggest addition is Anax, Hardened in the Forge. This card is just massive alongside Embercleave—it will almost always be enough to win the game. Also, Anax gives you very important protection against removal, especially sweepers. The trigger when one of your creatures dies is very relevant.
Phoenix of Ash isn't quite as important, but it's still a nice role player. It pushes through damage and gives you something to do in the late game if it ends up dying. These are quite nice against control decks, which is where I bring in the other two copies. The list has felt very solid, without many holes in it; this is a deck that must be respected right now.
The format seems to be in a pretty healthy spot right now, as there is pretty much an answer to every strategy. Life gain is traditionally the way to beat Mono-Red for example, and this is a deck I have dabbled with:
With all the life gain this deck has, creature-based decks are really going to struggle playing against it. Of the decks I have mentioned so far, this is the one I'm the least sure on, because it is a pure metagame call. The deck has lopsided matchups, but it is still pretty sweet to see Heliod, Sun-Crowned being used effectively in Standard. Ajani's Pridemate can become insanely large in this deck with all the life gain triggers, and Hushbringer shuts down a lot of the Simic creatures from being able to do their thing. Ajani, Strength of the Pride provides the late-game redundancy the deck needs.
The other piece to this decision is that I'm only one person. Since Andrea Mengucci is helping me prepare for this tournament, I may very well consult him on not only my deck choice but also specific card choices. I will also run ideas by other close friends not attending the tournament. Metagames can change quickly: last week Mono-Red Aggro was not being played, and this week it is everywhere. I want as much time as possible to watch the format play out.
Seth Manfield is a professional Magic player and member of both the Magic Hall of Fame and the 2020 Magic Pro League.