War of the Spark is now legal and with SCG Richmond in the books we have our first look at the Standard format. There was not a rotation but a new set brings new possibilities and this Standard now contains more Planeswalkers than any before it. Going into War of the Spark, Esper Control was the deck to beat but an old standby has risen to meet it. All decklists are available here.
Red is Never Dead
This should not come as much of a surprise. Red aggro has been a consistently playable archetype since Atarka Red in Khans Standard. It is almost always the top performing deck in Week 1 due to its linearity. It is hard to choose a deck based on matchup spread or tune your list for the metagame. So many players default to single-minded aggression and it pays dividends. This time it really paid off as it was more than 25% of the Top 32 metagame while taking 1st, 2nd, and 3rd place. Interestingly, the decklists were not much different from what we saw pre-WotS with the only widespread adaptation being sideboard Tibalts. One of the lower placing lists did have a green splash in the board but this is not a new innovation. I do expect Red to remain a force of the format but it likely will not become a menace.
This time around we only had three other notable archetypes. Chief among them was the defending champion in UBx Control. In reality, all but two of these lists were the Esper lists from pre-WotS with a few updates. We did see a Bolas-heavy Grixis list and a straight Dimir list just barely make the Top 32 cut though. Two of the Esper Control pilots made it all the way into Top 8. Behind them we see, the bane of Arena players everywhere, Simic Nexus. The new Tamiyo is a great inclusion despite the archetype missing out on Top 8; it made 9th. This performance is quite impressive in the face of the red onslaught. A significant step down we see the final recognized archetype in Esper Midrange; the Hero of Precinct One deck. It may have missed Top 8 but there were two pilots on it within the Top 16. These are the decks to beat looking forward.
Finally we come to the “Other” archetypes. The most important one to note is Bant Midrange. Despite not being a popular choice it put two players into the Top 8 as it slaughters the red decks. Keep an eye out for this one. We also saw a lone Selesnya Tokens player battle their way into the Top 8 without many updates over the old lists. Behind this we saw the old fashioned White Weenie lists; one with a red splash in Top 16 and a lower placing one further down. Then finally we come to the two Gruul Aggro lists which did not make Top 16 but did land among the Top 32. It is very clear that in Week 1, this format is far from solved.
Though my heart will always rest with Modern, I have enjoyed Standard quite a bit since the Amonkhet block rotated out. In fact I have not enjoyed Standard this much since Innistrad-RTR. How have you been liking it? Do you expect Red to subside as the format shakes out? Let us know your thoughts in our discussion group. Or if you would like to take a swing at writing content for the site you can contact us directly here. We will be back tomorrow with a closer look at the Top 8 decklists. Until then my friends.