Season 8 Week 1 Metagame Update

by Looter-Scooter

128 players are competing in season 8 of the VML for a $7,000 prize pool and an invite to the Regional Championship. With Meathook Massacre’s banning a few weeks ago and the World Championship last weekend, Standard has gone through a few metagame shakeups leading up to the league. So let’s see what people brought for the first week of the season.

Week 1 Decks

(“Other” decks were decks represented by 2 or fewer copies)

It’s no surprise seeing Esper and Grixis Midrange as the most popular decks this week. Esper is arguably the best deck in the format and dominated the World Championship last week, comprising 3 of the top 4 decks. Thanks to its access to some of the best cards in Standard at every mana value, it’s able to play a flexible game depending on the matchup. Tenacious Underdog Tenacious Underdog , Raffine Raffine, Scheming Seer and Sheoldred Sheoldred, the Apocalypse put a lot of pressure on the opponent while Infernal Grasp Infernal Grasp , Destroy Evil Destroy Evil and The Wandering Emperor The Wandering Emperor help control an opponent trying to go faster. However, Grixis was the deck to win it all and has gained popularity as a result (many of the Grixis lists registered this week are Nathan Steuer’s winning deck), Grixis trades Raffine Raffine, Scheming Seer , Wedding Announcement Wedding Announcement Wedding Festivity
and The Wandering Emperor The Wandering Emperor for Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Reflection of Kiki-Jiki
, Corpse Appraiser Corpse Appraiser and Invoke Despair Invoke Despair , the latter two being especially good against Esper. “Other” decks round out our top 3. Those who’ve played in past seasons know they’re usually among the most popular decks and continue the trend into this season.

Outside of the top 3, Izzet and Mono Blue Tempo are the next most popular decks. Both are similar, built around Haughty Djinn Haughty Djinn and cheap instants and sorceries. Mono Blue plays Tolarian Terror Tolarian Terror and Delver of Secrets Delver of Secrets Insectile Aberration
as additional threats while Izzet has two main builds: an aggressive version also playing Tolarian Terror Tolarian Terror or Balmor, Battlemage Captain Balmor, Battlemage Captain and a controlling version that plays Lier, Disciple of the Drowned Lier, Disciple of the Drowned

Selesnya Enchantments is an aggro deck built around Generous Visitor Generous Visitor and Michiko's Reign of Truth Michiko's Reign of Truth Portrait of Michiko
. Thanks to Borrowed Time Borrowed Time and Circle of Confinement Circle of Confinement being enchantments, it’s able to play more removal spells than an average aggro deck, and Wedding Announcement Wedding Announcement Wedding Festivity
and Serra Paragon Serra Paragon allow the deck to keep up in the mid-late game. Hallowed Haunting Hallowed Haunting in the sideboard gives the deck a different angle of attack that doesn’t rely on keeping creatures alive.

Orzhov and Rakdos Midrange are variants on Esper and Grixis respectively, losing the Blue cards in favour of a more consistent manabase. Raffine Raffine, Scheming Seer and Corpse Appraiser Corpse Appraiser are the best Blue cards from the 3 colour versions, but Graveyard Trespasser Graveyard Trespasser Graveyard Glutton
fills that slot decently well. The better manabase is notable for Rakdos, which does play Invoke Despair Invoke Despair .

Featured Decks

Our first deck is this Mardu Midrange/Combo deck from Lemon Cassidy. At first, this looks like another take on Rakdos Midrange, playing Bloodtithe Harvester Bloodtithe Harvester , Invoke Despair Invoke Despair and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Reflection of Kiki-Jiki
. But there’s a special combo involving Jaxis the Troublemaker and Ratadrabik Ratadrabik of Urborg . By copying Ratadrabik Ratadrabik of Urborg with Jaxis the Troublemaker then sacrificing the token to the legend rule, you’ll get a second nonlegendary Ratadrabik Ratadrabik of Urborg token that stays around. By repeating this once every turn, you’ll net a Ratadrabik Ratadrabik of Urborg token. If any of them die, the other will trigger and you’ll get a token copy. Adding Sheoldred to this kills the opponent very quickly. While Ratadrabik Ratadrabik of Urborg isn’t amazing on his own, Jaxis the Troublemaker still has value, copying Bloodtithe Harvester or Virus Beetle Virus Beetle . A cool twist on an otherwise traditional midrange deck.

Jodah, the Unifier Jodah, the Unifier got a lot of hype during spoiler season, though it was directed at Commander not Standard. Nonetheless, Vivian brought a sweet Human Tribal deck built around Jodah Jodah, the Unifier and other legendary humans. The humans of choice have a lot of utility. Thalia Thalia, Guardian of Thraben , Adeline Adeline, Resplendent Cathar , King Darien King Darien XLVIII , and Halana and Alena, Partners, push through damage early, helps fix your mana and ramp to Jodah the Unifier, Ertai Ressurected and Lagrella Lagrella, the Magpie interact with opposing creatures/spells and Dennick Dennick, Pious Apprentice Dennick, Pious Apparition
and Shanna Shanna, Purifying Blade give the deck mid-game card advantage. Thanks to Plaza of Heroes Plaza of Heroes and Secluded Courtyard Secluded Courtyard , the manabase isn’t that bad for a 5 colour deck. I’m a huge fan of this deck and hope it does well this season. 

If there’s anything I love, it’s 5 colour control decks and Ailee did not disappoint with her Domain Control deck. The Kami War The Kami War O-Kagachi Made Manifest
and Herd Migration Herd Migration are the main win conditions, with the latter providing mana fixing in the early game. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Fable of the Mirror-Breaker Reflection of Kiki-Jiki
and The Wandering Emperor The Wandering Emperor are excellent mid-game threats, and there are a lot of removal spells to slow opponents down. Drag to the Bottom Drag to the Bottom is a card I would’ve initially expected to see in the deck, but Ailee does play 9 creatures that would die to the Drag Drag to the Bottom . The most surprising inclusion to me is Llanowar Greenwidow Llanowar Greenwidow , but it trades with a lot of threats and opens up a possible aggro plan if multiple are drawn. This deck looks like a lot of fun and The Kami War The Kami War O-Kagachi Made Manifest
is one of my favourite cards from Kamigawa, so I’m happy to see it played. 

That wraps up this week’s metagame update. Next week I’ll be going over the results from this week. Will Esper and Grixis perform well or will players find adaptations to stop them?