Last week I didn’t play a single game of Magic. I chose instead to kick back with the proverbial bag of popcorn and absorb the Pro Tour. With next season of TDL incoming, a new standard format unsettled, and my workload increasing with each week… it seemed necessary to just tuck in and let my focus on Magic marinate for a little while.

Something that occurred to me this weekend was the elephant in the room going into the Pro Tour, its form materializing as a red aggro deck. Since week one of this standard format, with Michael Braverman going undefeated with his little stinky red creatures at the SCG Richmond invitational swiss portion, I had the sense this deck was naggingly the best deck in the room. I kind of get why, too. With so many beautiful new midrange and control tools available to us with Dragons of Tarkir, why would we default to a dirty red aggressive strategy?

Hugh Kramer, friend of Hipsters and occasional victory writer, decided to sleeve up Bravermans list for a PPTQ and took the place down in flames, battling his way through fellow hipster Zac Clarks Gruul Midrange beat down deck in the finals. In a room full of come into play tapped lands, it seems the red one drop is king. Hugh correctly analyzed the format and decided to keep it hyper aggressive while most were durdling over trying to out-midrange the other. And then red aggro took down the Pro Tour, but with a spicy Atarka’s Command and Become Immense splash. Turns out, dash is p good. Red, after its successful presence at the recent modern pro tour, might just be the strongest color in modern magic right now.

So what now, I thought. Where could this data take us with the format? This is, of course, the big question on everyones lips going into this weekend. While i’ve heard several things about the Rock, Paper, Scissors metagame of standard the format just seems too diverse, too unpredictable. There are enough viable archetypes to not foolishly narrow it down to only a few ‘actual’ choices. The threat quality is high enough, and the answers are conditional enough that the format should organically begin to evolve.

Maybe we can start by looking at the best answers to Mono-Red and UB control and try for a 75 that competes with them both equally effectively. Or maybe we start by making subtle adjustments to the red deck and the UB control deck and keep grinding these matchups. Adding cards like Surge of Righteousness and Virulent Plague to combat tokens and red decks, for instance. Or Rending Volley against Dragonlord Ojutai and Icefall Regent. These are awesome options for sideboards – a side of Standard that has definitely had some seriously mean additions – that shore up existing matchups and should be tested aggressively. Ultimately our commitments are rewarded as we keep a strong pulse on the format and predict what decks will show up to a given tournament. If we are correct and play well, we maximize our chances of taking it all down. A healthy Standard looks for us to stay in close proximity in order to achieve results, and the ease of information circulation has certainly been the largest impactor to this facet of competitive magic. Between podcasts, dailies, and weekly events like the open series, we have a lot of data to sift through. This information guides not only our own choices, but the collective decisions most grinders will make. The concept of public information is important to capitalize on, and less than advisable to just copy and print.

I’m not here to tell you what to play. I’m here to tell you Standard is full of quality lists, most of them very capable of taking down a given tournament. But the beauty lies in the details. Our best list is the one that combats whatever people want to play and that we are comfortable navigating the deck through the field. So pick the deck you like to play, and understand the field you’re bringing it into. This is elementary stuff, but it’s worth reminding ourselves when formats are fresh.

On another note, in prep for the next season of Team Draft League, i’ve been paying attention to the Dragons of Tarkir draft format, and what the Pros had to say about it. What managed to 6-0 the draft tables was not consistent and presented different theories, and preferences. The overarching whisper over the weekend was that UB, or Silumgar, was the best archetype. That burying your opponent in card advantage and defensive creatures was simply the way. Others capitalized on green aggressive creatures, and still others prioritized reds reach and dash creatures. Overall, however, most agree that DTK Limited is heavily skewed towards tempo, and being pro-active heavily prioritized. This is, gratefully, my favorite way to build draft decks. So good news for this guy going into next season!

Derek Gallen lives and writes in Brooklyn, NY.

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