A Brief History of Cycle and how its impacted Standard.
The focus of this piece is to help inform you of the three major changes to the current standard cycling archetype, and how it has evolved over the past 6+ months. We will talk about the key objectives/strategy of the deck, look at three key transformations that have ensued, and give some background context on the cycle ability as a hole.
I will start with the generic context first because it is pretty fascinating being a long-time magic player myself. However, for those of you that came for the best cycle deck version, you can find the latest and greatest deck version here:
Cycling is the ability to discard a card from your hand, when you pay it, and it resolves you get to draw a card. It was first introduced during the Tempest design, and is one of the non-evergreen keywords featured in more blocks than any other ability. First, seeing play in Urza’s saga, it has been a pivotal part of many key sets. Others to note: Onslaught, Time Spiral, Alara blocks, Amonkhet, and Modern Horizons. The latest set being Ikoria. In terms of MTG Arena, we saw it with Amonkhet Remastered as well.
Bringing us to the present! The cycle archetype has great roots both in casual as well as competitive play. The main idea is to quickly siphon through your deck to get to answers, and top end game closers like zenith flare. The deck has gone through several evolutions, and even more notably not being just a BO1 deck, rather a healthy BO3 deck with the current version. It is also well positioned in the Meta.
When we look at this organic change that has occurred over the last few months I will work backwards. Most notably we have the Jeskai Pyromancer version. The deck also received some land smoothing boost with the new Kaldheim modals. This one leverages some new key pieces that has enabled the deck to do two things well. One provides another win condition, and two add more versatility to removing creatures plus dodging a lot of removal as well with the 0/4 Irencrag Pyromancers. The deck has recently had several great showings and took down the March SCG $5K Kaldheim Tournament. It also has several top 500 MTGA showings, and day 2 success for the Mythic Qualifier this past month.
The iteration prior was greatly impacted by the Zendikar Rising Modal lands. This 4C to Boros Cycle gave us access to swamp, and some ability to remove cards from our opponents hands. The first version of this one in KHM was a similar one found here. The biggest feature here is to actually begin to digress from the previous versions’ linearity. This does two things, it opens the deck up for alternative plays, as well as access to new colors. The flip side of this is it can be equally distracting, and more challenging to pilot. The deck was a nice pull through from the Ikoria set and remained competitive.
The very first iteration of the current standard cycle archetype was brought to life with the release of Ikoria. Here the very first versions were Jeskai/Boros, extremely linear, and ran lurrus .The companion as of recently has fallen out of favor due to some other new lines of play, but also it removes part of the deck tell for your first match, which can make a difference in your opponents mulligan strategy.
The final call out I would like to make is that cycle has certainly prevailed as a top archetype for the last few sets, and months as a competitive deck in both BO1 & BO3. The other key part is that as a new player is certainly in my opinion one of the best budget decks! The newest version not so much, however it isn’t the worst thing you need to worry about when it comes to crafting.
I hope you enjoyed today’s piece on the Evolution of the Cycle Archetype, where it resides in the current standard format, and some of its history!