I get it. You’re excited.

And I can’t blame you for being excited. Heck, I’m excited too. When the concept art and general description of Thrones of Eldraine came out, I was pretty convinced that it was simply not a set for me. After all, I’m a grown adult. I have things to do and payments to make and kids to yell GET OFF MY LAWN at. Why would I be drawn to a set that was previewed with a card about Goldilocks? And that was okay. In the wide realm of MTG sets, not every one has to be made for me. But the set release has blown away any expectations that I might have had. I really like the new mechanics (although I’m sad that we didn’t get new two-color lands) and there are some REALLY powerful cards in the set… so powerful that I’ve heard more concerns that ELD might be too strong for the rest of Standard rather than the worry that it won’t change the meta much.

And with new cards comes the demand for new decklists. Everyone and their mother are fervently testing whatever build they’ve had in their heads, ESPECIALLY since the “Play Every Deck” event gives even the freest of free-to-play competitors the chance to try every mythic their heart desires. I’ve probably liked at least fifteen unique decklists on Twitter that have blown by like fall leaves in the wind. I’ve been reading as much as I can about the format, and yes, I’ve been playing. Much like you, I’ve got several ideas about new decks that might be fun and outside of the mainstream and I’m really excited to tell you about them in the upcoming weeks.

But I’m not going to do that today.

I know that sounds weird. I KNOW that you may even say, “Bruh…you’re a Standard columnist. It’s your JOB, nay, your CALLING to write articles on Standard.” And I agree in part. But it’s too soon. And the expectations and, more importantly, the cost of play has changed drastically. And it’s mostly because of Arena. At this point (since many of you are still recovering from one or more midnight prereleases), Arena is the only place where Standard is officially being played. And investing into a new Arena deck has quite the opportunity cost at the beginning of a new meta. Unless you’re investing a couple hundred dollars into Arena at the launch of every new set to get a playset of every rare, you’re going to have to make a choice to invest your wildcards into a finite number of cards. Economists call this “opportunity cost”: once you make a choice, the cost of that choice can be described by every other choice you can’t make as a result.

Oko, Thief of Crowns & Questing Beast

And it’s this opportunity cost that makes me reticent to start throwing decks in your face. I have no idea what the meta is going to be, and to tell you the truth, neither does anyone else. I’ve read multiple MTG writers who are MUCH better players than I am writing contradictory things. I’ve read that Standard will be both a lightning fast and a completely durdly format. I’ve read that both control and creature-based decks will dominate Standard. So without that knowledge that comes with experience, I want to help you get ready to use those precious wild cards on decks that will make your MTG experience as good as it can be. So there’s no decklists today, but instead a list of things that I’m doing and assessing as a new format begins, as well as things that I think you ought to be doing if you don't have your heart set on your first deck.

  1. Take full advantage of both prerelease and Arena to get general impressions of individual cards and NOT the meta as a whole. Prerelease Limited is NOT the Standard meta, but you can still tell what’s going to be good and what strategies you’re suddenly going to have to strategize against. For instance, if you’ve played for more than a couple of minutes this week, you know that cards like Oko, Thief of Crowns and Questing Beast are just strong, and you’d better have a plan against them. You also know that removal stapled to creatures in the form of Adventures like Bloodthirsty Knight and Bonecrusher Giant are really powerful and going to be 4-ofs in a lot of decks. Arena Standard has also given us a few decks that might be good and might be meme decks. But even there, there’s gold to be found. The two meme-iest (is that a word?) meme decks are the Cooked Cat decks that use Cauldron Familiar and Witch’s Oven to recycle food to cats to food to cats and the “Standard Stax” decks that push Doom Foretold and Dance of the Manse in order to ruin your day and not let you play Magic. Note that both of these decks are really graveyard-based decks. Other than a couple of tier 2 Blood For Bones reanimator decks, we haven’t had much of a need to consider running graveyard hate in Standard. But now? I’d be eyeing those copies of Leyline of the Void and Grafdigger’s Cage that have been gathering dust in your Standard collection and thinking about how I’d get those into sideboards.
  2. Play your “old” Standard decks in the new meta. I know this isn’t the exciting choice. But if you have a pet deck that performed well before ELD was released, it might still be good. Your Elementals deck or your Gates deck or your ramp deck is still probably ramping and gating and Elemental-ing just fine. I’m amazed how often people just ghost decks from the previous meta and have to be dragged kicking and screaming back to it. But playing your old deck has a couple of advantages that new brews don’t. For one, you’re good at playing it. You understand what you want to be accomplishing on each turn and how you win games. So if you suddenly see new cards that keep you from doing that, it’s information that will guide your decisions in the future. You’ll also see new cards that make you say, “Hey…that card makes my deck better!”. Nothing wrong with that.
  3. Make sure your outside-of-the-game practices are on point. There are so many things that influence your ability to play Magic well that are easy to overlook. For instance, study after study shows that your brain works better when it gets more circulation and blood flow. Your brain gets more circulation and blood flow when you exercise. So, are you getting exercise every day? As a weightlifter (my OTHER hobby), this one is close to my heart. Something as minor as a twenty-minute walk every day makes you think better, which in theory makes you play better. I don't want to sound like your dad (clean your room), but... are you watching TV and streaming YouTube at the same time you’re playing Arena? Hey, when it comes to your recreation, you do you, but there really isn’t such a thing as “multitasking” unless you want to make yourself bad at two things at the same time. Go over your sideboarding strategy; the first time you think about what you’re going to bring in against the best decks in the format should not be before game 2 in match 1 of a tournament you care about. Make sure the little things are ready to go while you’re figuring out the big things.

I know it’s easy to go all-in on something because the format is new and new things are obviously more fun than old things. But if you can’t, there are lots of things you can be doing right now to level up your Magic play and make a decision you won’t regret for months because your first guess at the meta didn’t work out. Try them out and let me know how they go, and if you have any of your own that I missed. Enjoy the Adventure, and as always… please drive friendly!