The best thing about Guilds of Ravnica Standard is how every deck has felt like it has a chance to win.
That may have changed this past weekend at Grand Prix Milwaukee. Let’s look at the Top 32 archetypes:
There’s a total of seven decks in the top 32, but two make up over half of the results: Jeskai Control and Golgari Midrange. The “hot” decks leading into the tournament, Izzet Drakes and Mono-Red Aggro, severely underperformed. Mono-Blue Tempo, fresh off a 10-0 Pro Tour finish, was nowhere to be found in this Top 32. By and large, the dominating stories from this tournament are going to be 1.) the return of Golgari Midrange and 2.) the continued dominance of Jeskai Control.
What caused this? Golgari looked like it couldn’t handle having a target on its head. Aggro seemed to be running wild. Diversity was winning out and a rock-paper-scissors type format was being created. Standard was the place to be. Are we headed back to a meta where only the select few can thrive?
First off, Golgari was able to adapt, running a total of 17 mainboard copies of Cast Down, no doubt as a way to deal with Tocatli Honor Guard, as well as all of the troublesome non-legendary permanents that we’re seeing in Standard. In addition, they were also running 23 mainboard copies of Vraska’s Contempt. While Assassin’s Trophy was the early hotness, its drawback has become real and no longer worth its flexibility. It’s all about the tested and true answers for Golgari and the early returns are quite promising.
As for Jeskai, it’s easy to see why they’re doing so well: Deafening Clarion continues to be a very effective sweeper, wiping away the small and early threats from aggro, as well as the explore creatures out of Golgari. By and large, Clarion is the most efficient sweeper in the format; it’s heads and tails above Ritual of Soot and, in my opinion, edges out Golden Demise thanks to being able to hit three toughness creatures. Clarion is also allowing Jeskai players to turn the corner sooner, rather than 1.) waiting for their opponent to play into Settle the Wreckage or 2.) hit five mana for Cleansing Nova.
Is it possible that we’ll see the Standard meta adapt against these clear-cut Tier 1 decks? Absolutely; I’d be shocked if we don’t see an uptick in Selesnya Tokens; it won the SCG Classic this past weekend and its ability to adapt with either a go-wide or go-heavy strategy, depending on the match-up, makes it a very attractive option.
Of course, we could then see the top decks in the meta adapt to an uprise in Tokens, but isn’t that what we ultimately want from Standard? An ever-changing meta that continually ebbs and flows is what I’m hoping this ends up being, but it looks like we have some clear-cut top tier decks after Grand Prix Milwaukee.