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ICYMI – MTG Worlds

In case you missed it, the Magic: The Gathering World Championship was held this past weekend, from October 28 – 30, 2022.  The main attraction of the Magic30 event in Las Vegas, MTG Worlds pitted the top 32 players from around the world in a massive Draft, Standard and Explorer battle.  The prize: $100,000, the coveted championship trophy, and bragging rights as the best Magic player in the world.

Standard at MTG Worlds

We learned a lot about the current state of Magic from MTG Worlds.  At this highest level of gameplay, the composition of the metagame is surprisingly homogeneous – especially in Standard.  Esper Midrange decks absolutely dominated the field, accounting for something like 60% of all decks played.  You can count the number of decks NOT running black on one hand.  Hint: There were four.  Grixis Midrange ended up taking the title by tournament’s end, piloted by Nathan Steuer.  The next three, unsurprisingly, were Esper Midrange.

Deck Breakdowns and Analysis

Breaking down the decks card by card, by far the most played was Wedding Announcement.  It’s neat to see how far this enchantment has come since prerelease weekend when everyone who pulled one groaned and called it trash.  At one point I took it out of my trade binder entirely and consigned it to the bulk box.  Then Dominaria United came along, and sometime in September of this year the price jumped from below $5 up over the $10 mark.  Cut to MTG Worlds and Wedding Announcement appears in 77% of the standard decklists, with a whopping total of 90 copies played.

Wedding Announcement
Her Phyrexian Eminence

The individual card counts only tell part of the story, though.  Fully 80% of the Standard decks at MTG Worlds had at least one copy of The Wandering Emperor.  An astounding 83% were running at least one of Cut Down and Infernal Grasp.  Sheoldred, the Apocalypse trailed not far behind those.  Her Phyrexian Eminence appeared in 70% of the decklists, with a total of 59 copies played!

Are black decks too good?

A first look at the field might make you think there need to be more bans in black, that Meathook Massacre getting the ax just wasn’t enough to end its reign at the top.  If you dig into the percentages though, it comes down to the removal more than anything.  And Her Phyrexian Eminence Sheoldred, of course.  Banning Sheoldred might drop the overall power level of black + x decks, but it’s unlikely.  There are too many good removal spells, too many great early-game threats to dethrone black in this Standard rotation.  And what we’ve seen so far from The Brothers’ War spoilers is only going to add to black good stuff.  With Go For The Throat and Dreams of Oil and Steel coming in, not to mention the powerful tutor Diabolic Intent, it’s pretty safe to say that Standard black decks are here to stay.

Go for the Throat

Dreams of Steel and Oil
Diabolic Intent

Explorer at MTG Worlds

The Explorer decklists at MTG Worlds were a good bit more diverse than in Standard.  We saw a lot more of Abzan Greasefang than many Explorer players were expecting, and a whole lot less Rakdos Sacrifice.  Temur Transmogrify and Mono-Blue Spirits were the other common repeats.  Our champion, Nathan Steuer, was one of the Rakdos Sacrifice players.  By-card breakdowns are less telling in this format because the decklists themselves are fairly varied.  We saw a lot of Fatal Push and Fable of the Mirror Breaker, but there were no clearly overwhelming presences like in Standard. All in all, the field at MTG Worlds makes Explorer look like a nice, healthy, well-balanced format.

Silver’s Soapbox

Stepping away from the decklists and card counts for a moment, I would like to just take a moment to rant about the fact that all of Magic Worlds was played in Arena.  For me, Magic: The Gathering is a paper trading card game first and foremost.  A face to face paper game has a lot of nuances that are lost when playing on a digital tabletop.   Yes, you can watch what they’re mousing over.  Sure, Time is saved by players not having to manually shuffle, watch their triggers, and being able to check graveyards/deck counts on demand.  But you also don’t see those small differences that set true pro players apart from the rest of us.  You don’t see the bluffing as much, the frenetic shuffling of cards in your opponent’s hand.  Players can’t watch for facial tics and tells.  Arena reminds you when you have triggers that need resolved, so there’s no question of missing a may trigger.  No possibility of a judge catching a missed must trigger and getting dinged for it. 

Maybe I’m just showing my age, but for something as significant as Magic Worlds, the game should be played with real cards.  Face to face.  With all of its complications and inconveniences.

Did you watch MTG Worlds live?  Catch a few matches on demand?  What do you think of the diversity among the decks being played?  Is it time to look for more Standard bans?  Share your thoughts in the comments below, or drop me a line on Twitter!

About the Author
Silver has been playing Magic: The Gathering and other trading card games off and on since 1999, and is a lifelong roleplayer. They believe in Rule 0 and The Rule of Cool, and that the gaming table should be a safe space for everyone.

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