This weekend saw one of the highest-profile tournaments in quite some time, hosted by Magic Esports itself, the Innistrad Championship. This tournament had 249 players and was divided up into two portions: Standard and Historic. Each player registered one deck for each portion of the tournament which was split into 4 rounds: 3 Historic, 4 Standard, 4 Historic, 4 Standard, with the top 8 being double elimination Historic. You can check out the full coverage here:
- Innistrad Championship: Day One Top Decklists and Standings
- Innistrad Championship: Day Two Standings and Decklists
- Innistrad Championship: Final Results and Decklists
Being a tournament that isn’t open-registration, the deck choices for the tournament obviously change from what they might from something like a Red Bull Untapped tournament. Smaller, more high-level tournaments like these generally end up in many people either picking the ‘best deck’, or a deck that matches up well against the deck.
|1st||Yuuki Ichikawa||Izzet Turns||Golgari Food|
|2nd||Simon Gortzen||Mono-Black Zombies||Izzet Phoenix|
|3rd||Riku Kumagai||Izzet Turns||Golgari Food|
|4th||Toru Saito||Izzet Turns||Golgari Food|
|5th||Yo Akaike||Izzet Turns||Jeskai Creativity|
|6th||Zachary Kiihne||Izzet Turns||Izzet Phoenix|
|7th||Yuta Takahashi||Izzet Turns||Izzet Phoenix|
|8th||Christian Hauck||Mono Green Aggro||Selesnya Humans|
In standard, it seems people thought (and in my opinion, rightfully so) that Izzet Control/Turns was the best deck. The top 8 of the tournament contained 6 Izzet Turns decks. 3 lists are identical, likely from the same testing team. These decks also run a suite of the pathways which give access to black mana for a singular copy of Check for Traps in the sideboard. To me it’s a bit of an odd choice to splash for a single (and seemingly mediocre) card, but given how well the deck performed, it seems to be the right choice.
However, even with 6 of the top 8 decks being Izzet the big winner of this tournament was a deck that was surely a meta-call: Mono-Green Aggro. While I’ve mentioned Mono-Green isn’t in the best spot right now (since it has trouble with some other Aggro decks), it’s one of the Izzet decks’ worst matchups. Running it in this tournament is definitely a gamble on the fact that a lot of people were going to bring Izzet decks, and the winner of the Swiss portion, Christian Hauck, was right.
|Deck||Percent of Metagame||Decks||Win Rate|
In the tournament Izzet Turns was the biggest deck by a huge margin, being almost doubly represented than the next most played deck. If you add Izzet Control, Izzet Turns and Izzet Dragons together, they account for nearly 50% of the tournament – quite frankly, a number that might be worrying to those keeping an eye on the health of Standard. Even on its own, the performance of the deck is pretty frightening, especially in the hands of some of the best players in the world. This deck had a target on its back going into the tournament, and it still boasts one of the highest winrates in the whole tournament.
Izzet Turns also had the best winrate overall, with Izzet Control trailing behind. It showcases just how much changing a handful of cards can drastically change the performance of a deck. Izzet Turns is similar to Izzet Control (or maybe I should say Izzet Control is similar to Izzet Turns?), but tends to forgo the creatures for more acceleration and more support for Alrund's Epiphany (like Galvanic Iteration). Since the creatures in Izzet Control are arguably some of their best cards, many decks come prepared for them. By simply not playing the creatures, these decks ‘zig’ while their opponents ‘zag’, and at a high level of play the benefit of this really shows.
Mono-White and Mono-Green Aggro
The next two most popular decks in the tournament are also decks that I think are some of the best, but fall just shy of the top. Mono-White Aggro is the deck that I think was likely the best deck during week 1, but decks have started to adapt to it. Similarly, Mono-Green Aggro is a strong deck, but is losing some ground due to meta shifts. However, it’s a deck that does better against the Izzet decks than Mono-White. While Mono-White is incredibly efficient, its cards aren’t as resilient as Mono-Green’s. Green has cards like Esika's Chariot and Old-Growth Troll, which are hard to interact profitably with with 1-for-1 removal, putting the Izzet decks under more pressure.
Orzhov Midrange is a deck I’ve talked about before, and it’s a deck that I don’t like very much. While the deck plays some powerful cards, it’s a midrange deck with one goal: Beat Aggro. Looking at the stats this week, I can’t even say it did that. While it has a 78.9% winrate against Mono-White, it has an abysmally low 35.0% winrate against Mono-Green, a deck that it arguably should be able to easily handle. It’s winrate against Mono-Green is one of its better winrates, with is having just a few points less against Izzet Control, and only getting worse against the most popular decks. Originally I thought that if this deck could have a better plan against the Izzet decks it would be in a good spot, but seeing this week’s results has me losing faith in the deck.
Izzet Dragons is an Izzet deck which I think suffers from the current shifts in the metagame. More decks are coming prepared to deal with creatures, and more decks are coming to deal with Epiphany, and this deck is at the intersection of the two. While some of its dragons are incredibly good creatures, other decks are likely to be able to remove or counter them. On the opposite end, the deck has to fend off aggressive decks and stabilize before it can start deploying its dragons or using its extra turns effectively.
Historic is a format that’s much more diverse than Standard, which comes in part from a much wider pool of cards. It has more plans of attack that are currently viable, and much more in the way of answers to strategies – not to say that some cards aren’t staples of the format, or that there aren’t decks that simply outperform others. While I say the Historic format is fairly diverse, the top 8 may lead you to believe otherwise. In it are only 4 types of decks: 1 Selesnya Humans, 3 Golgari Food, 3 Izzet Phoenix and 1 Jeskai Creativity. But, in the same breath, Jeskai Creativity could be considered a fringe deck, not even cracking the top 10 most popular decks in the tournament which I think shows just how open the format is.
Returning to the three Izzet Phoenix decks, each of the builds were reasonably different, which is something that’s fairly interesting, and shows that the format is nowhere near solved. While I say that I should point out that the three Golgari Food decks in the top 8 are all identical. However, those decks are played by the trio that registered the same three Izzet Turns decks for the standard portion, which explains why that would be the case.
|Deck||Percent of Metagame||Decks||Win Rate|
While the most popular deck of the tournament, the deck seems to have struggled against the other popular decks. Being an aggressive deck that uses Collected Company to build out boards quickly, or rebuild after a wrath, it falters in the face of some of the grinder decks of the format. Notably, Golgari Food, Jund Food and Rakdos Arcanist all are well positioned to defend against the deck and then turn the table later in the game. Similarly, Heliod Company can play a similar game to Selesnya Humans, but has a combo finish that the deck can’t deal with particularly well.
Izzet Phoenix was a deck that was popular for some time in Historic, but was revitalized with the release of Historic Horizons. With cheap threats in Dragon's Rage Channeler and plenty of cheap cantrips/card filtering the deck is explosive and consistent. It sports a solid winrate, and is a deck that people came prepared to face. The deck cares about the graveyard immensely, and so many decks come equipped with cards to try and stifle the use of the graveyard. However, the deck still has other angles of attack making it reasonably flexible.
This deck was somewhat less popular than Selesnya Humans, and did slightly better. However, I wouldn’t say the deck did well. It has similar problems to Selesnya Humans in that it’s primarily an aggro deck, but also has a combo to keep opponent’s on their toes. That combo revolves around Scurry Oak and Heliod, Sun-Crowned. By gaining life when a creature enters the battlefield (which the deck has a dozen ways to do), and having the two cards out, you can make infinite squirrel tokens. With Collected Company, that can even be done on the opponent’s end step, meaning an almost instant victory. However, the combo can be disrupted, and if the deck doesn’t apply enough early pressure, opponent’s are likely to be able to stop the combo with a piece of removal.
Golgari and Jund Food
The Food decks are another mainstay of the Historic format, being around since before many of the recent expansions. The decks are mainly fueled by a combination of cards from Eldraine: Cauldron Familiar, Witches Oven, Gilded Goose and Trail of Crumbs. This core provides an engine that’s difficult to interact with that provides inevitability and card advantage. The Golgari version leans a little more to the controlling side, while the Jund version is more aggressive. With that being said, both decks are very flexible at switching between the two roles, either draining the opponent to death, or putting forward a wall of near impossible to remove blockers. The Golgari deck did particularly well (putting 3 copies into the top 8), while the Jund version did reasonably well. However, the small changes between the two change their favourable matchups pretty impactfully.
This deck has suffered a little by having Brainstorm and Memory Lapse removed from the format, and the results in the tournament show this. With its ability to dig for relevant cards and to slow the opponent down reduced, it struggles much more in some of the grinder matchups. Decks like Golgari Food can, once set up, progress their game plan without having to worry much about countermagic, while Izzet Phoenix can chip in little by little, then bring back all of their Phoenixes in a flurry and finish their opponent off.
This deck is a personal favourite of mine, and has been around for quite some time. Like the Phoenix deck, it also got some upgrades from Historic Horizons which show in the results. The Arcanist deck boasts the best winrate of the tournament, at 58.8%. The deck tries to shrink the game down to a few relevant cards, mainly by ripping the opponent’s hand apart and killing the things they play. Dreadhorde Arcanist is the card that helps to that, in tandem with Thoughtseize, Fatal Push and Unholy Heat.