For the past few months, the larger tournament scene has been dominated by Attune with Aether and Rogue Refiner. The mana bases of Energy Energy decks and the raw efficiency of the threats that they get to play have catapulted our current metagame into mid-range mirrors while tournament competitors watch over their shoulders for Ramunap Red and a variety of “Tier 2” and “Tier 3” strategies. Thus emerges a “Best Deck” meta.

The “Best Deck” Meta

Regisaur Alpha
   When WotC designs a set, they intend the design for both the limited and standard formats. They try to put enough intricacy into the cards and interactions that seasoned magic players can’t “solve” the format within a few weeks while also not putting too much complexity in the set to deter newer players from picking up the game. The more interesting interactions between cards and options on cards there are, the more sifting there is to be done in order to find the best cards. The catch is that evaluating a card and its effectiveness is based on its surroundings, not only the other cards in the set or block, but also other blocks surrounding it. The first comparison that comes to mind is Regisaur Alpha. “Reggie” is an objectively powerful card and there is no doubt, however in a standard environment where games are typically about removing your opponents threats while deploying your own at the same time, Glorybringer gets the nod.

   Imagine this, I have a Regisaur Alpha in hand and 3 more on top of my deck, and you have a Glorybringer and 3 more on top of your deck, whoever gets to play first wins. But when you are playing the energy mirror and the board tends to get clogged up with Bristling Hydras and Rogue Refiners, Flying becomes much more important. It’s these situations that dictate where the metagame settles and what cards shine through. If there is a consistent pattern leading to the same cards over and over again, typically the deck being able to reliably cast more of those cards will bring itself to the forefront and become the best deck. Our most obvious example in Magic history of this is the Cawblade era. Now, I don’t think that current tournament results are as homogenous as they were in that era, but if you lump together all Energy variants, then we’re pretty darn close.

Why Energy is awful for standard

Energy highres
   Right now, because WotC made the conscious decision to “power down” standard cards starting with Amonkhet, we have a Block made with the old philosophy in Kaladesh, and two blocks designed with the new philosophy, the power level of that first block is inherently more powerful and therefore more likely to produce the best deck. Also due to the parasitic nature of Energy, the more cards you play that use Energy, the more powerful the resource becomes. Pair all of this with the fact that the card pool for Energy is only one block, the deck options grow smaller and smaller.

Why energy is GREAT for standard

   If we’re going to be in a “best deck” metagame, some kind of midrange deck is the optimal choice. Midrange, by definition can go bigger than aggressive decks but should be able to get under control decks if they try hard enough. This means you should be able to adjust some flex slots in your Energy deck to beat other decks that have a known game plan. For example, if you know that on the play your opponent is going to leave their Longtusk Cubs in and bring in a Nissa, Steward of Elements to play on turn three, you can make sure to have Lightning Strike in your deck to take care of that Nissa on turn three. If their playing a version that is using 4 Glorybringer and 3 Chandra, Torch of Defiance, then you can make sure to bring your Chandra's Defeat to efficiently remove them. If we lump all Energy decks together you’ll note that they all have a similar core of cards, however the additional cards they play around that core is different. This means you can be midrange slanting aggressive with Sultai Energy, you can go big with planeswalkers and The Scarab God with 4-color energy or you can split the difference with Temur Energy focusing on Bristling Hydra and Glorybringer. Even within those Energy factions, there are additional deckbuilding decisions to be made. Do you play Sultai with Constrictor and Hostage Taker or do you play Color U/Color G/Color B Pummeler? Should you play Chandra, Torch of Defiance in Temur Energy or Vizier of Many Faces? Which two drop is optimal in the 4 color build? Longtusk Cub or Glint-Sleeve Siphoner?

   The beauty of this Energy umbrella is that there is not one right answer. On any given weekend, any of these could be correct. Even just picking the ones you like or happen to have is not going to make your deck specifically worse. 4-color Energy started off as Temur splashing for 2 copies of The Scarab God and 2 copies of Vraska, Relic Seeker, now they (apparently) can play a Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh, a Nissa, Vital Force, and a Vraska, Relic Seeker, while also having the options for Gonti, Hostage Taker, Rhonas the Indomitable or really anything else that tickles the pilots fancy.

   In short, The Energy archetype means that everyone is going to play Attunes, Aether Hubs, and Rogue Refiners, but what you play around those cards can really be whatever you want. For the semi-competitive FNM player, they can play The Locust God because it’s their favorite card, while the Grand Prix player and adjust the colors or individual cards they play to suit their playstyle without losing a distinguishable amount of percentage points.

   Join me in part two to discuss what happens when we look past Energy into the decks that currently make up tier 2 and 3. We’ll talk about why those decks make for one of the best FNM formats I’ve had the pleasure of playing in.

   As always, thank you for spending your time reading and for leaving your thoughts in the comments! Feel free to stop by the stream

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