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A World of Standard


This past weekend, we had an exciting showing of some of the best players in the world at an event named none other than Worlds XXVI (or Worlds 26 if you don't speak Roman numerals). Without having checked, I'm going to assume this is the 26th World Championship, and that Magic: The Gathering has been around for 26 years, with one Championship taking place each year. My only issue with this naming convention is that it becomes difficult to associate a year with a number that corresponds to Magic's release, but I guess that's a minor gripe.

While I complain about Standard from time to time, this particular Standard event was interesting for a few reasons. Only 16 players were invited to this event, and among those 16, there were five distinct archetypes present throughout the event:

  • Azorius Control (3 copies)
  • Jeskai Fires (4 copies)
  • Jund Sacrifice (1 copy)
  • Mono-Red Aggro (4 copies)
  • Temur Reclamation (4 copies)

That's a pretty crazy distribution, with nearly everything being equal except for one copy of Azorius Control being replaced by one copy of Jund Sacrifice. One thing I'm extremely grateful for is that the Cauldron Familiar / Witch's Oven combo was only present in the single copy of Jund Sacrifice, and the deck didn't manage to breach the Top 8. As you may know, this deck was a bit of a pet peeve of mine (no pun intended there), and I'm glad to see the format is in a healthy position to combat it. But not only that, I'm glad to see that 16 of the best players in the world also find enough merit in five different decks to battle with them at an event this prestigious.

One of the most powerful cards to be printed in Theros Beyond Death is surely Dream Trawler, and you can find the creepy Sphinx in Paulo Vitor Damo da Rosa's winning deck list. Except... he's only playing a single copy, which always strikes me as a super aggressive decision for control decks. I get that you want to free up slots and protect your single win condition after you run the opponent out of resources, but it still makes me anxious.

Archon of Sun's Grace
In fact, only one of the three copies of Azorius Control was playing the full set of four Dream Trawlers, while the other two decks had only a single copy. The other win condition for the deck is one copy of Archon of Sun's Grace, with all three of the decks being very Enchantment-heavy, taking advantage of such versatile cards as Omen of the Sea, The Birth of Meletis, Banishing Light, and Elspeth Conquers Death.

But as much as I like this deck, and even though it won the event, there was only one copy in the Top 8. The other decks in the Top 8 were three copies of Mono-Red, two copies of Temur Reclamation, and two copies of Jeskai Fires.

As a huge fan of the fun things you can do with Fires of Invention, the Jeskai Fires deck might be my favorite of the bunch. However, I think the Temur Reclamation deck is easily the most interesting deck. Reason being, we all thought we had seen the last of Wilderness Reclamation after Nexus of Fate had rotated on down the road. Not so, dear reader!

The deck is basically a control deck with card advantage, counterspells, sweepers, and huge spells.

Thassa's Intervention
You're basically looking to spend big amounts of mana to cast spells like Expansion // Explosion and Thassa's Intervention. You're also able to tap out for a huge Hydroid Krasis, and still have mana to play all of the deck's other available Instants. With 27 lands in the deck, Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath should typically have a land in hand to put into play for free, making the Titan a great addition to supplement the four copies of Growth Spiral. One card out of the sideboard I love is Nightpack Ambusher, which allows you to tap out during your turn, and still present another threat on the opponent's turn.

While this is a far cry different from the Wilderness Reclamation decks of old, looking to loop turn after turn thanks to a broken, turn-taking Instant, this deck plays a much more fair game as primarily a ramp deck that's also looking to cast X spells. While this deck can easily cast an Explosion that's big enough to kill you, I would assume you're far more often losing to 6/6 Titans.

Unlike Nexus of Fate, where Wilderness Reclamation and Search for Azcanta were vital parts of the deck's engine, I'm not actually sure how integral the enchantment is in this version of the deck. Sure, it can net you a ton of mana, but with 27 lands, and at least eight cards that let you put a second land into play, the deck has a lot of efficient ways to ramp without it.

The third interesting deck of the event was Jeskai Fires. The following list was played to a Top 4 finish by none other than Hall of Famer Gabriel Nassif.

Fires of Invention
One thing the Fires of Invention decks are doing, in addition to eschewing the Fae of Wishes package, is adding cards that can be activated with the mana you aren't using the cast spells during your turn. Cards such as Cavalier of Flame and Kenrith, the Returned King are the two most common mana sinks, and with good reason, considering they can both give your team haste. In fact, playing any two creatures in the deck on the same turn, then using either one of the above to pump and give haste is usually an unmanageable chunk of damage to the opponent.

Outside of that, again, just as with Wilderness Reclamation, I almost feel like the four-mana enchantment is being wasted. It isn't, of course, but I would like to see some cards that cost more than five mana, which is where the deck tops out at. There isn't a single 6-drop in the deck! While playing two five-mana spells on turn five is still a huge mana bump, I would love to see cards that cost more being utilized. I guess my greed is just much, much higher than that of the more disciplined Worlds competitors. I would love to see more dragons, in the form of Nicol Bolas, Dragon-God or Niv-Mizzet Reborn. While neither of those cards cost more than five mana either, they are still far more ambitious (and greedy) than the cards chosen. It is worth noting that two of the Jeskai Fires decks did have copies of Dream Trawler, a six-mana spell, and that's pretty cool, especially with how strong the card is.

Just to be clear, I don't think a single one of these decks are built incorrectly. I just have preferences when it comes to Magic and what I enjoy playing, or seeing played, and I feel like it's my job to communicate those desires in things like articles and videos.

Guys, I'll be honest: Worlds seemed pretty cool, and even the different copies of the same archetypes were still built somewhat differently from each other. Standard could be good right now, especially considering the fact that things like Magic Online Leagues will also have completely different decks for you to play against. What do you think? Is Standard healthy? Was Worlds a good display of diverse decks? Let me know down below in the comments!

Thanks so much for reading, I love you all, use promo code FRANK5 for 5% off, and I'll catch you next week!

Frank Lepore

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