This past weekend showed us all kinds of the wild gameplay at Pro Tour 25th Anniversary. Unlike the usual fare that alternates between Limited and a specific Constructed format, there was nothing but constructed goodness across three formats from a number of amazing teams. We saw all kinds of great games all the way through, like the final Legacy match, and some new decks entered the fray with old favorites coming to the forefront once again. In Legacy, we saw the Death’s Shadow list and in Standard the boogeyman Nexus of Fate reared its ugly head in the form of the monstrous new Turbofog list.

Now it’s another week, and with that a whole new batch of premier Magic gameplay. I myself will be attending Grand Prix Orlando, ready to bring my A-game to some Standard goodness. I’ve played a bit since my run at GP Seattle, but the metagame has changed dramatically. While the Mono-Red list I once rocked is still as solid as ever, it’s fallen out of favor to make way for a bunch of new decks from the release Dominaria and Core Set 2019. As such, I’ve had to prepare for a whole new metagame to know what to expect at GP Orlando this coming weekend.

The Standard Fare

Truth be told despite numerous shifts in the metagame, quite a lot of remains the same. Mono-Red branched off into a couple varieties, including Red-Black Aggro (owning arguably the largest share in the format currently) and Bolas Red. Second Sun Control turned into Blue-White Control and Esper Control builds revolving around Teferi, Hero of Dominaria. Even the Blue-Black Midrange added a smattering of red cards to become more Grixis-oriented, thanks in no small part to Nicol Bolas, the Ravager.

Not everything looks the same as before, though.

Steel Leaf Stompy (SCG Indianapolis Classic 4th Place)

Creatures (28)
Scrapheap Scrounger
Greenbelt Rampager
Llanowar Elves
Steel Leaf Champion
Thorn Lieutenant
Thrashing Brontodon
Ghalta, Primal Hunger
Rhonas the Indomitable

Spells (8)
Blossoming Defense
Heart of Kiran
Skysovereign, Consul Flagship
Lands (24)
12 Forest
Blooming Marsh
Hashep Oasis
Woodland Cemetery

Sideboard (15)
Aethersphere Harvester
Greenbelt Rampager
Thrashing Brontodon
Vine Mare
Hour of Glory
Nissa, Vital Force
Vivien Reid

The deck that arguably gained the most was Mono-Green Stompy. With Dominaria came the likes of Llanowar Elves and Steel Leaf Champion. People were skeptical of the original mana dork’s capabilities in the brave new world of Goblin Chainwhirlers, but the allure of a turn two Steel Leaf Champion or Rhonas proved too enticing to be ignored. It put up numbers, but none quite so much as when Core Set 2019 arrived on the scene, bringing with it powerful upgrades: Thorn Lieutenant, Vivien Reed, and most notably Vine Mare. All of these showed the promise of a powerful new deck that has been sweeping tournaments over the last month, bringing new force to what was before roughly a tier two deck.

A Challenger Approaches

With the Pro Tour over, a new deck come to the forefront: Bant Turbofog. The deck is arguably like the Blue-White Control lists with a little extra flair to keep your opponents at bay. While I expect to see a decent amount of the latter at the event this weekend following its showing at the Pro Tour, I’m not sure I can say the same for Turbofog. According to SaffronOlive, who spoke with a number of the pros who played the deck at the PT, the deck reportedly had a roughly 73% win rate, which sounds absolutely absurd. But that may be an effect of playing at a Pro Tour compared to what you might find at a Grand Prix or your local FNM even.

Consider a few things. For one, Pro Tours are absolutely infamous for having an outrageously inbred metagame. While we certainly see some of the top performers continue to do well, many also end up falling off the map completely. To make matters worse, this event was much smaller in the grand scheme of things. As I understand it, the number of people who qualified for this event was smaller than a typical PT, in small part as you couldn’t qualify through Magic Online and other venues the way you might a traditional one. On top of that, the number of people playing Standard exclusively was even smaller—one player on each of the 150-odd teams. As such, if you come into such a small metagame expecting the greater chunk to be some form of creature-based aggro, then Turbofog can be a fantastic option.

On the other hand, compare this to a Grand Prix, which often surpasses the thousand-player mark and features players of all skill levels running all kinds of different decks. At GP Seattle I faced everything you could imagine, including the mirror, Blue-Black Control and Midrange, Sultai Constrictor, Vehicles, Hour of Promise Control, Selesnya Aggro, and even the Blue-Red God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck that made waves for a short while. The metagame of a grand prix is much more open, and thus Turbofog can struggle to find the matchups it excels in a bit more.

Just as well, you need four copies of hard-to-find mythic rare Nexus of Fate. I’ve even seen some more pro-level players on Twitter talking about how they’d love to play the deck, but are absolutely struggling to get their hands on a playset. As a result of all of this, I expect the deck to show up, but in very small numbers.

Expect the Unexpected

Pro Tours aren’t always where you find decks breaking out. It’s at events like Grand Prix or the local Open Series where you can find new hotness showing up when you least expect it. Sometimes what you see everywhere else won’t be reflective of the event you’re attending. For example, when testing for GP Seattle with Mono-Red, I found myself facing a large number of Black-White Vampire decks that featured a tremendous amount of lifegain effects that made it highly challenging to come back. When it came time for the event, however, I saw hardly any in the room, if any at all. Instead I saw a lot of the aforementioned Blue-Red God-Pharaoh’s Gift deck that was making a big splash by people testing it online. People liked it enough to take it to the event and it even made Top 8. Within a few weeks found itself falling off, though its Blue-White cousin continues to put up results.

We’ve seen the rise of a handful of new decks recently. Mono-Black Zombies is making a resurgence thanks to many new tools that Core Set 2019 supplied; and while it doesn’t boast a tremendous metagame share, it is still a force to be reckoned with. Another list that has been putting up solid numbers that I fully expect at this weekend’s events, however, is the Mono-Blue Artifacts or Aetherflux Combo deck. The deck has been around for awhile now, relying on cheap artifacts and the likes of Baral’s Expertise and Paradoxical Outcome to fuel Aetherflux Reservoir into firing a laser beam straight at your opponent’s face.

Mono-Blue Artifacts by Niels Noorlander (PT 25th Anniversary)

Creatures (9)
Glint-Nest Crane
Sai, Master Thopterist

Spells (32)
Baral’s Expertise
Paradoxical Outcome
Metallic Rebuke
Commit // Memory
Aetherflux Reservoir
Metalspinner’s Puzzleknot
Prophetic Prism
Mox Amber
Renegade Map
Inspiring Statuary
Karn, Scion of Urza
Lands (19)
Inventors’ Fair
Zhalfirin Void
14 Island

Sideboard (15)
Glint-Nest Crane
Karn, Scion of Urza
Aether Meltdown
Baral, Chief of Compliance
Jace’s Defeat
Exclusion Mage
The Antiquities War
Tezzeret, Artifice Master

It gained some cool cards with Dominaria like Karn. Mox Amber was a cool, cheap artifact that worked well when trying to combo off, but it wasn’t as good as it couldn’t generate mana. That’s not so much the case anymore. With Core Set 2019, the deck gained an absolute powerhouse in the form of Sai, Master Artificer. Now playing artifacts not only fuels your combo, they give you blockers and an alternate strategy via attacking, especially when paired with Karn, Scion of Urza’s Construct tokens. More important is the ability to sacrifice unneeded artifacts to keep your gameplan moving full speed ahead to crush your opponent.

It’s only been a few weeks since these and other decks have emerged, but the metagame is still ripe for new builds to be discovered. Will you bring one yourself to counteract all these great decks or will you bring something already well established?

The sky’s the limit with this Standard format, and that’s amazing. There’s all kinds of things you can do. Even though there’s a pretty firm tier one, Standard is more open and more enjoyable to play than it has been in years. Be it at an FNM, on MTG Arena or MTGO, or even at a Grand Prix or Pro Tour, there’s a little something for everyone and so much more still to come in the coming months with the likes of Guilds of Ravnica right around the corner. What will you be playing?

Kendra has been playing Magic since Urza block and never looked back. Playing a variety of formats and being known for championing Pauper in particular, the Elf Queen can be found hanging out on Twitter as well as streaming on Twitch, always seeking to better the community at large.

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