For a while it looked like the top 8 of Grand Prix Memphis, the first Standard Grand Prix since Portland back in mid-November, would be a stacked affair. Heading into day two a wide array of established pro players were looking at an opportunity to make the final cut. Among them were Brad Nelson, Corey Baumeister, Thiago Saporito, Sam Black, Ari Lax, and Eric Froehlich, all sitting at X-1 or better.

In the end, only Eric Froehlich made the cut, but that doesn’t diminish from how solid the talent was in the final matches of the event. Blake Miller, Andrew Tenjum, Heath Vance, Eric Froehlich, Matthew Kling, Michael Cochran, and eventual finalists Aaron Barich and Tyler Schroeder filled out one of the more compelling top 8’s from a competitive standpoint in a long time.

The quarterfinal matches were Mardu Vehicles vs. Grixis Energy, Blue/Black Control vs. Sultai Constrictor, Red/Green Monsters vs. Blue/Black Control, and a Grixis Energy mirror. The semifinal matches were Grixis Energy vs. Sultai Constrictor and Red/Green Monsters vs. Grixis Energy. The finals were Sultai Constrictor vs. Red/Green Monsters.

That’s seven matches of the top Standard competitors in the world and fans got to watch seven distinct matchups unfold while also getting to see the incredible journey and evolution of the Sultai Constrictor and Red/Green monsters deck. So in short, congratulations to Tyler Schroeder for winning the whole thing, but thanks to the entire top eight for putting on an incredibly entertaining look at the new Standard metagame.

What We Learned About Standard

As mentioned above, the last Standard Grand Prix was in mid-November at Grand Prix Portland which was won by Shahar Shenhar with Temur Energy. The weekend before that saw three Standard Grand Prix held in Atlanta, Warsaw, and Shanghai, won by Alex Lloyd with Approach of the Second Sun, Jean-Emmanuel Depraz with Four-Color Energy, and Song Huachao with Temur Energy respectively. One week before that, Seth Manfield won Pro Tour Ixalan with Sultai Energy.

There was also a team trios event in January in Santa Clara to kick off the new year of Grand Prix events, and all four of the top four teams were running energy decks in the Standard seat. That’s six major Standard events with five energy decks on top. Oh, and Grand Prix Atlanta, which was won by Approach, well, half of the top-eight decks in that event were energy decks.

In January Wizards of the Coast finally took action against the menace and once again found themselves banning cards in the Standard environment, this time giving the axe to Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner as well as Ramunap Ruins and Rampaging Ferocidon to prevent the mono-Red decks from completely dominating the format. How did they do?

Say Hello to Your New Standard Overlord

Overall I think the format diversity was fine. Energy decks still made up three of the top eight decks and they were joined by two blue/black control decks as well as Mardu Vehicles, Red Green Monsters, and Sultai Constrictor. The fact that an energy deck was unable to win the whole tournament was refreshing. The three energy decks didn’t even make it to the finals. But there was another concern.

The Scarab God appeared in five of those top eight decks, and at times seemed to be the most dominant card in Memphis, quickly swinging games that were otherwise evenly matched. Is this the new menace in Standard now that the old gods are gone and forgotten?

Looking at the top 32 decklists another nine decks plus the five in the top eight were running The Scarab God. That’s 14 out of 32 decks, just under 50%. I’m not sure that should be too concerning because the format seems fairly balanced against the mix of Blue/Black Control and Blue/Black/Whatever energy decks that are running the reanimating deity.

The 18 decks that don’t run The Scarab God represented 11 different archetypes with mono-red aggro leading the pack. That’s an incredibly diverse field of decks, almost on-par with Modern’s metagame pre-Jace unbanning. Of course the big question is whether or not the metagame will shift towards the blue/black decks or remain wide open. The next high-level Standard competitions will be a pair of team trios events in Madrid on March 10th and then Kyoto on March 23rd. The next solo Standard event will be Grand Prix Seattle on April 6th.

Time will tell if Standard is finally healthy, but if Grand Prix Memphis was any indication, the storm might have finally passed.

Rich Stein is a retired Magic player, an amateur content creator, and a Level 2 Social Justice Sorcerer. He hopes to eventually become a professional content creator and a Level 20 dual class Social Justice Sorcerer/Bard but he’s more than content to remain a retired Magic player. You can follow his musings on Twitter @RichStein13.

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