Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Bigger Scissors

By Adam Bialkowski

The Standard metagame is stuck in a rock, paper, scissors situation; however there is one deck that can get over all others and is deemed bigger scissors, and that is Izzet Phoenix. Paper is Jeskai Control, rock is Golgari “Aggro,” and scissors is Boros Aggro. The metagame percentage for each deck is,

 

Golgari Aggro: 23%

Boros Aggro: 13%

Jeskai Control: 12%

Izzet Drakes: 10%

 

These four decks make up almost 60% of the entire Standard metagame and for good reason. In my opinion, these percentages represent, in descending order, easiest to play to hardest. Golgari Aggro is pretty linear with the only big decisions are what cards to keep on top with Explore triggers. Boros Aggro is a bit harder, understanding when to be the aggressor and when to tempo things out, this takes experience with aggressive decks and knowledge of the format as a whole. Jeskai Control has an easier early game than most other control decks due to Deafening Clarion; that card is the deciding factor on if you win or lose against the aggro decks. The late game is where skill comes into play. With Jump-Start cards and different graveyard interactions you are forced to use counter magic more cautiously. Izzet Drakes takes the cake for the hardest deck to currently pilot to success. I have seen plenty of average players play the deck and it is powerful, but in the hands of a more experienced player, the deck can be taken to the Top 8 of any Standard event. The deck rewards players for making good decisions on every play. At first glance the deck may seem random, but it requires a lot of careful thought into what should be discarded (other than the obvious phoenix), what spells to cast before others, when is and isn’t the right time to play and attack with drakes. All these elements combined reward skilled players with wins over some of the worst matchups the deck can have, thus the “Bigger Scissors” title.

 

In this four deck metagame, each deck has its preferred matchups:

 

Golgari Aggro > Boros Aggro and Izzet Drakes

This match up is hard for the more aggressive decks due to playsets of Wildgrowth Walker being in every Golgari deck now. If the card is unanswered, the game almost becomes out of reach for aggressive and burn strategies.

 

Boros Aggro > Jeskai Control

One card in this match up makes it a living hell for Jeskai and that is Adanto Vanguard. The two mana 3/1 Indestructible Vampire is out for blood and there’s nothing Deafening Clarion can do about it. Boros Aggro has evolved in a way to beat a single Clarion.

 

Boros Aggro > Izzet Drakes

Bigger scissors doesn’t have the best matchup against any aggressive deck playing red. There’s a lot of skill involved with the matchup and I do believe the better player will have a much better shot at winning here, but Boros still has a favorable matchup.

 

Jeskai Control > Golgari Aggro

Golgari Aggro is slow enough for Jeskai to have a steady game against it. Carnage Tyrant and Midnight Reaper are control’s biggest concerns but with a lot of mainboard sweepers from Jeskai, they can keep up. Clarion being copied by Expansion/Explosion clears everything Golgari has to offer. The matchup is grindy but it favors the deck playing Teferi.

 

Izzet Drakes > Everyone

Though mentioned above that it has a hard time against Golgari and red based aggressive decks, most matchups reward the better player. The microdecisions during each matchup will lead to wins that come down to skill and experience. Having the tools to fight every deck in the format will make it, in my opinion, the best deck in the format for a skilled player.

 

All the other decks in Standard not listed above aren’t necessarily bad, but most of them end up resembling one of the Tier 1 decks above. For example, the best version of control is Jeskai with Esper coming in second, the difference in these two decks is how good the Golgari, Boros, and Drake matchups are in relation to each other. Jeskai is well equipped with a three mana sweeper but lacks exile, whereas Esper has a slower sweeper but gets great exile potential by adding black. They both have their pros and cons, but I believe Jeskai is easier and better suited against the whole field than Esper.

 

How to beat the Rock, Paper, Scissors, and Bigger Scissors?

 

You can’t! {insert frowny face here.}

As someone who enjoys making meta stomping decks I’ve found almost impossible to

create a deck that has a good matchup against all four of the listed decks. You can run a lot of mainboard sweepers but then give up percentages in the control matchups or even run a lot of slow, powerful creatures and give up on the aggro matchups. That’s not a bad thing, though. If there was a single option that had good matchups against all of them, everyone would just play that and we’d have a stale format. Don’t let that keep you from trying to brew, though. Metagames change based on just a couple of cards, and maybe you’ll be the one to find the key. Going forward, Ravnica Allegiance will push Standard out of its comfort zone by introducing all ten buddy and shock lands in Standard again, giving each deck a viable manabase to work with and opening up several more options.

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