Strixhaven Championship: Standard Review
The past weekend the Strixhaven Championship took place as the last event for those involved with the Magic Pro League. The event showcased some of the best players playing the decks we have all come to know as some of the best in the format for months now. Sultai-Yorion, Prismari Midrange, Cycling, and a slew of different colored Adventure decks dominated the Standard portion of the event to the surprise of, well, not many. Luckily, there have been some great additions to these decks that really take them to the next level in the current meta-game and I would like to showcase some of the sweetest things I saw over the weekend as far as Standard is concerned.
Magda in a vacuum has one fatal flaw: it needs to attack in order to tap itself and create a treasure, but it has 1 toughness. Dying to even 1/1 pest creature tokens, having Magda live long enough to activate her ability and search up any dragon or equipment is more fantasy than reality. Luckily, some sweet tech in the form of Jaspera Sentinel allows for Magda to be tapped out of combat and creates an incredibly powerful turn 2 for any Green + Red deck. Even if you are not doing anything with the one extra mana in your pool after tapping Magda, putting you one treasure closer to getting a free Goldspan Dragon or Embercleave on the battlefield puts a very real clock on your opponent. While the strategy is still weak to spot removal and boardwipes, this synergy just adds another layer of value to decks that were previously struggling in the meta. Oh, and Rimrock Knight is also a dwarf which just adds to how sweet this strategy can be.
UB Rogues may have taken the backseat until Forgotten Realms
Fortunately, Magda will get better with the addition of new dwarfs despite it being powerful already. Unfortunately, UB Rogues is struggling in the current meta-game and will likely not see many strong showings until future sets add more to this tribe. Kaldheim’s Frost Bite gave any deck playing red a 1-mana spell that, at instant speed, could kill any creature in this deck. Strixhaven added two new creatures that both fly and, if they enter the battlefield, can be really troublesome for Rogues to deal with. Elite Spellbinder and Galazeth Prismari either trade with or survive combat with every creature in UB Rogues while generating negative tempo for the opponent (Elite Spellbinder) or positive tempo for the caster (Galazeth Prismari). This one-two punch of Kaldheim and Strixhaven introducing cards incredibly powerful against UB Rogues certainly has taken its toll on the deck. Until 4 power OR 4 toughness rogues make their way into Standard, the deck may take a permanent backseat.
Mutate is still a very strong mechanic
Once upon a time, Umori, the Collector Mutate combo decks were running rampant in standard up until the Companion rule errata. After this errata, Umori and its swath of Mutating creatures left the format and Adventures and UB Rogues took their places at the top. Now, after some time has passed the dust has settled, those returning to the creatures with the Mutate ability are finding plenty of success in just how strong of a mechanic it is. Both Lore Drakkis and Vadrok, Apex of Thunder saw a tremendous amount of play together in Jeskai Mutate lists, and these two, when Mutated onto a Goldspan Dragon, can provide a ridiculous amount of value in these more mid-range style lists. I believe we are really at the beginning of revisiting this Mutate mechanic and there will be more people attempting to abuse just how strong it really is now that tempo decks such as UB Rogues has stepped back from its tier-1 place in the metagame. It's only a matter of time until we start seeing more Gemrazer ’s and Auspicious Starrix ’s being cast in Standard again, and I for one cannot wait to start making giant monsters.
Cycling will always be a contender until it rotates
When doing a review of Standard right before the launch of Strixhaven, I mentioned how this deck might as well be called Old reliable until it rotates out. It’s strength and showing at the Strixhaven Championship is proof of just how true that is. With almost 0 additions from sets outside of Ikoria, Flourishing Fox and Irencrag Pyromancer are showing that they are big enough threats to carry the deck until they just rotate out. It makes sense too, sometimes in game 1 decks just didn’t keep a hand with a way to deal with a rapidly growing Flourishing Fox, or a board wipe to deal with Valiant Rescuer. The deck's power comes from every card in the deck, aside from its lands, being a must answer threat that attacks the opponent in a different way. Flourishing Fox goes tall; Valiant Rescuer and Improbable Alliance go wide; and Drannith Stinger, Irencrag Pyromancer, and Zenith Flare all hit the opponents face for game-winning damage. Expect this deck to be around, and be very playable, until rotation kicks it out.
One of the best parts of Magic is that there is always room for innovation. Despite all the thoughts of how the current meta-game is stale, or how the current best decks in Standard have been the best decks for quite some time, there is always room for improvement and new synergies. No matter what the current best decks are, keep testing new strategies, keep finding new synergies because who knows, maybe there is something out there that we all missed!
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