Magic: the Gathering is a game of different ‘formats.’ These competitive formats serve as puzzles that Wizards of the Coast presents to its customers to solve. The catch-22 of this model is that an MTG format is never meant to be solved. The MTG hivemind has solved countless formats in the past, and another was solved over this past weekend.
Standard is Dead… For Now
For those wondering what a solved MTG format looks like, here it is. MTGO and MTGA username SneakyMisato fired up a Standard Challenge on the client this weekend playing Jeskai Hinata. This deck was featured on our Standard tier list last week as the current number one position. SneakyMisato would play eight straight mirrors against other Jeskai Hinata players, eventually losing in the top four against another Jeskai Hinata player.
Jeskai Hinata is a combo control deck that features Hinata, Dawn Crowned from Kamigawa, Neon Dynasty. Hinata allows its user to reduce the spells that they cast by one generic mana for each thing the spell targets. Because Magma Opus can split four damage any which way it wants, it is capable of targeting six different targets (as it also taps two permanents). Therefore, Magma Opus can be cast for UR as long as its controller has Hinata in play.
For more Standard discourse, check out our tier list from last week.
Choosing an Ending
In the case of past formats that have hit a wall, it’s sometimes due to decks that are way better than the rest of the field. It either dominates the field or horrifically warps the format while still being a viable option. Hogaak, Arisen Necropolis dredge in Modern is an example. When this deck was legal, playing four Leyline of the Void in the main deck of almost every deck became commonplace. Even though other decks adapted to this extent, Hogaak decks still kept a positive win rate. The only way to unwarp the solved puzzle, as a result, was to ban Hogaak from Modern. I don’t think this is the case for current Standard.
Hinata is a very beatable strategy. It is challenging for Jeskai Hinata to deal with threats like Hullbreaker Horror that can’t be countered and come in at instant speed. When both players are waiting to answer the other with a load of counterspells, Hullbreaker Horror breaks the parity.
The problem is that it doesn’t matter whether Hinata is the best deck in Standard or not. If players decide that Jeskai Hinata is the best deck in Standard, and play nothing but Jeskai Hinata, then this MTG format is in a solved state.
Is it Time to Ban?
The quick answer is not yet.
This is the first week that Standard has seen Jeskai Hinata dominate at this level. Last week, the control combo deck also had the best field results, but was relatively unheard of before the recent New Capenna Championship.
There are records of other decks beating Jeskai Hinata in previous weeks. Izzet Control featuring multiple copies of Hullbreaker Horror in the main deck beat Jeskai Hinata in two major tournaments last weekend. Orzhov Midrange also took down Japan’s 2022 Championship last week, the most recent major tournament. These decklists can be found on our tier list from last week.
Hopefully, this trend doesn’t continue, but history suggests that, if it does for even one more week, Standard will lose a lot of players until the format sees a shakeup.