Field of the Dead is breaking MTG’s Standard meta

Apparently, the new black is getting a ton of zombies for free.

Field of the Dead Art Magic Core Set 2020
Image via Wizards of the Coast Magic: The Gathering

Field of the Dead has come to define Magic: the Gathering‘s Standard format meta.

This unconventional land is the engine behind some of the format’s most explosive decks and it has effectively warped the entire meta around itself. Here’s what you need to know about this busted card.

Field of the Dead Magic Core Set 2020
Image via Wizards of the Coast Magic: The Gathering

Field was a top contender last season

As a part of Core Set 2020 (M20), Field of the Dead was present in the previous Standard season. Before rotation happened for Throne of Eldraine (ELD), it was also very strong, particularly in combination with Scapeshift.

Scapeshift Magic Core Set 2019
Image via Wizards of the Coast Magic: The Gathering

The best-performing version of this deck, Bant Scapeshift, combined the power of Scapeshift and Field with the instant speed ability of Teferi, Time Raveler. The easiest way to victory then was to use Teferi’s +1 ability to cast Scapeshift on your opponent’s end step, bring in a ton of lands to get a bunch of Field triggers, then attack immediately with an army of zombies.

The previous Standard season also had a number of powerful lands in it, including the Checkland cycle, Arch of Orazca, and several others. This made for an optimal deck that had an impact on Standard last season, even though it was highly contested by a few other phenomenal decks.

Rotation was supposed to break Field, but it only made it stronger

Wizards of the Coast has been tight-lipped thus far about this specific card, but many pundits have made guesses about what happened. Scapeshift was practically invisible in the meta until M20 came out, but it got popular for a few months before rotating out thanks to Field.

It’s likely that Wizards thought the removal of Scapeshift would depower Field enough to not have to worry about its powerful ability. The removal of Checklands also likely played a factor, leaving few options for multicolored decks like Bant Scapeshift.

What Wizards didn’t factor in, apparently, is that the strongest counters to Field also rotated out—namely, Blood Sun, Alpine Moon, and Field of Ruin.

Blood Sun Magic
Image via Wizards of the Coast Magic: The Gathering

There’s also the problem that the best partner to Field was printed in the same set. Golos, Tireless Pilgrim might as well read “search your library for Field of the Dead and put it into play tapped.”

There are two “best” ways to beat Field and they both have major drawbacks. The first, Assassin’s Trophy, is similar to Field of Ruin, but requires two different colors of mana (compared to zero). The other answer, Agent of Treachery, is a late game hard counter. But it’s also a great payoff for the Field deck, which means your opponent can just steal it right back.

When the clearest answer to the best deck is to play the best deck, you know the meta is in trouble.

Field is taking over

Decklists for the Mythic Championship V were posted this week and Field of the Dead unsurprisingly had a strong presence, showing up in 40 percent of the field. There are two major variants: Bant Golos and Golos Fires.

Bant Golos is all about ramping and shutting down counterplay while setting up for a magical Field wonderland. Teferi and Golos appear here, combined with a slew of ramp cards and a few other payoffs like Kenrith, the Returned King.

Golos Fires, on the other hand, leans away from ramp and more into flexibility. Fires of Invention plays a key role here, allowing for free spellcasting to be combined with powerful on-board ability activations from Kenrith. Fae of Wishes is also important because when combined with Fires, it allows you to fetch and play your best sideboard card for free.

Fires of Invention Magic Throne of Eldraine
Image via Wizards of the Coast Magic: The Gathering

Most of the other decks being played are aggro ones aimed at beating Field decks before they can get going or decks singularly aimed at Field decks. Jeskai Fires, for example, relies almost exclusively on Sarkhan, the Masterless to fly over Field’s 2/2 zombies for the win. Other decks use Questing Beast as a sneaky surprise attacker.

Perhaps most damning is the total lack of control decks. There simply aren’t enough board wipes and there’s no way to win when you’re having to match land falls with actual spells. The Esper Control deck featuring Dance of the Manse—which was popular for a couple weeks at the start of the season—has completely disappeared.

There’s an end in sight

The only good news in all this is that Wizards has shifted the next banned and restricted update to immediately after MCV. While this isn’t being presented as an “emergency ban,” it has all the trappings of aiming to gut Field decks.

Whether Wizards will outright ban Field remains to be seen—it may just opt to cut out some of its support like Golos or Circuitous Route. If the company learned anything from Hogaak Summer, it’s that banning around a problem card only highlights and worsens the problem.

We think Field will be gone on Oct. 21. Enjoy it while it lasts.