Standard Meta Guide: December 15

KarnageKards and BiRDxC0Re get into best-of-three and rose-emoji gets into best-of-one Standard in this week's meta guide!


Each week, we here at PlayingStandard take a deep dive into the Magic Online and Magic Arena results for Standard. We take what data we do have and break down which decks sit where in the overall Standard metagame. These tier lists include a rolling average to ensure decks don’t move too volatility on the tier list after one good week. If you’re looking for an example of that tier list, here is this week’s best-of-three list and here is the best-of-one list.

This metagame breakdown article will accompany that tier list each Thursday and will go over the top decks, why they have seen increases, decreases, or stagnation in play, and cover what stands out for why these decks are contenders in the metagame.

So, let’s break down the various events we are drawing data from this week!


This week we have our standard set of data looking at the Magic Online Pioneer Challenge along with a Magic Online Championship Series Showcase Challenge, and various Preliminary events throughout the week. For the Challenges, we are looking at all decks that earned the same number of points as the player in 16th in each event and for the Preliminary events we are looking at all 4-0 and 3-1 decks.

Standard Challenge December 10

Standard Showcase Qualifier December 10

The Pizza Box Open December 11 (101 Players)

Standard Challenge December 11

Each of these finishes are called qualified finishes and are part of how we determine which decks have seen success over the past weekend. While the number of finishes doesn’t account for all the purposes of decks moving, it can serve as a backbone to various arguments for moving a deck up or down the rankings.

While we do not take Standard Bo3 Arena ladder results into consideration for the best-of-three tier list, we, of course, solely use Arena ladder results for our best-of-one tier list. For this, we use data from players Platinum tier and higher.

Now that we’ve covered our data set, let’s get into the decks that will show up at your upcoming events and on the ladder!

Metagame Breakdown

All hail Grixis Midrange! Grixis Midrange reigns king of the standard metagame. The biggest sign of its dominance can be seen in the standard showcase qualifier over the weekend. The showcase qualifier is a tournament that qualifies you for the Magic Online Championship Series and the Pro Tour. Only players with a showcase win can play. Thirteen of the best MTGO players were in the event and nine of them registered Gixis midrange. This means 60% of the best players decided Grixis gave them the best shot to play in the Pro Tour. Currently, you either need to be playing Grixis midrange or beating it. You will see this week that was the theme. Decks are trying to out-aggro it or go over the top of it, because you can’t “out-midrange” it. 

S Tier

Grixis Midrange

Not much has changed from this week to last to dethrone the S-Tier powerhouse that is Grixis Midrange. Red-based value generators like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Corpse Appraiser keep this list ahead of other Midrange archetypes. Cards like this provide a strong advantage in grindy matchups, and the Grixis colors still allow access to Counterspells in the sideboard (providing a wide-array of strategies that other decklists like Rakdos Midrange or Mono-White Midrange don’t have access to). 

Why it is Here: Reckoner Bankbuster appears to remain a staple in all (or most) Midrange lists presently in standard, as everyone attempts to out-grind their opponents. Should this effort continue, Grixis remains to benefit from both playing the Bankbusters themselves and having access to counter-removal in utility cards like Abrade that give it an edge in these types of matchups without losing a removal slot mainboard. Grixis Midrange also continues to hold more than half the meta-share in Standard Event finishes this week… outshining all other archetypes in the meta by more than double the top-finishes! 

A Tier

Mardu Midrange

Mardu Midrange, or sometimes known as Mardu Angels, is a list that continues to perform well and gain popularity. Piloted by our very own Alessandro Carvallo to an impressive Challenge first-place finish – it is a list that provides access to “the best of both worlds” from Grixis and Mono-White Midrange. Playing all the best White cards in the format like The Wandering Emperor, Depopulate and Sanctuary Warden alongside cards like Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and two-drop removal like Go For the Throat and Infernal Grasp – it’s no wonder this deck has game.

Why It Is Here: While many of our competitive guides bickered about whether this deck should be in A or B tier week – the fact remains that it still holds the third-highest metashare – just behind Grixis and Mono-White Midrange – and in the right hands (like Alessandro’s), can be an absolute powerhouse in the current Standard Meta.   

Mono-White Midrange

Mono-White Midrange is kind of the new kid on the block this week. It is benefitting greatly from the new Brothers’ War cards – like Steel Seraph and Lay Down Arms. Lay Down Arms especially is the reason to be playing this deck currently. It is a one-mana removal spell that exiles. Its only catch is that you need a high-density of Plains in your list. Mono-White Midrange is closer to control than midrange. It is trying to go over the top of other Midrange decks with sticky threats. Sanctuary Warden is a nightmare for enemy Midrange decks as it is hard to kill, flies and draws cards. It is the ultimate end-game. 

Mono-White Midrange won a challenge and put four other copies into the Top 8. The deck is new and people are still messing around with the 75. Adding red has been a new take (Boros Midrange) which could be the better version eventually. Time will tell.

Why is it here: As stated above, it is trying to go over the top of the other Midrange decks with things like Sanctuary Warden, Farewell, The Wandering Emperor and Steel Seraph. It has a great early game and very efficient removal spells. As the archetype continues to be explored, and the 75 solidified – the deck will only get better.  

Esper Midrange

Esper Midrange is still here. The deck continues to be a force to reckoned with. Brothers’ War hasn’t been as kind to it as it has other archetypes, but Esper Midrange is still one of the best decks in the format. Grixis Midrange has separated itself as the best Midrange deck and the gap continues to grow. Esper Midrange takes a more aggro look at the Midrange matchup with Raffine, Dennick and some players have even moved to Gix. Changing over to be the aggro deck is where we think you want to be for this deck at the moment and we are excited to see where things go.

Esper Midrange put one copy into the finals of a Challenge and one copy in the Top 8 of the Standard Showcase this weekend. It is still hanging around, but has a very low conversion rate for most players.

Why is it here: Esper Midrange is still a good deck, however, we do believe its days as an S-Tier deck are behind it, though. It will continue to challenge and compete, but ultimately, the meta is leaving it behind. Black-based midrange is still where you want to be in Standard though – so this deck won’t disappear – but overall, it is just a worse version of Grixis Midrange.

Best-of-One Metagame Breakdown

Best-of-one saw fewer shakeups this week when compared to Traditional Standard, but the tier list changes that did happen were somewhat significant.

While Mono-Black Midrange still holds the top slot on the tier list, it is no longer alone, joined this week by Mono-Red Aggro. Other aggro decks moved up the list this week as well, including Mono-White Aggro, Azorius Soldiers and a newcomer, Boros Prowess.

Tier List Changes

Mono-Red Aggro (Up to S Tier)

Mono-Red has far surpassed Gruul Aggro at this point, and this week beat out Selesnya Enchantments by a wide enough margin to push it into S Tier alongside Mono-Black Midrange.

With nearly double the playrate of Selesnya this week, while maintaining a 60% winrate (the same as Mono-Black), Mono-Red is looking like it could eventually catch up with Mono-Black in playrate, too.

Its Mono-Black matchup can be tough, but with more and more Mono-Black players leaning into a more aggressive angle, Mono-Red can quickly outpace it. Where it struggles is against some of the lifegain and endless chump blocker decks like Selesnya Enchantments and some builds of Mono-White.

Mono-White Aggro (Up to A Tier)

Mono-White moved up a tier this week, holding up a 60% winrate and an about-even playrate with Selesnya Enchantments. Its Mono-Black matchup is excellent, and can cede the beatdown to Mono-Red, leaving back big blockers like Adeline, Resplendent Cathar for inevitability.

Cards like Thalia, Guardian of Thraben shore up the Black, Red and new Boros Prowess (below) matchups even further, keeping the opponent off-curve and providing some amount of protection to creatures on board.

Azorius Soldiers (Up to A Tier)

Like Mono-White, Soldiers boasts a favored Mono-Black matchup, and goes just a bit wider than Mono-White Aggro, finishing games with Valiant Veteran to pump the wide board for big swings in the midgame.

Being in Azorius gives the deck the opportunity to play some countermagic if the meta calls for it, but few lists are doing so in best-of-one at the current moment.

Boros Prowess (New)

Essentially a Heroic deck in Standard, Boros Prowess leans on Illuminator Virtuoso to grow and filter through the cheap protection and pump spells in the deck. Electrostatic Infantry (which has Trample, crucially) also presents a major threat if left unchecked, and Monastery Swiftspear acts as a hasty version of these two cards, providing a big later-game swing to finish control opponents off or an early one-drop chips away while the other two creatures soak up their permanent +1/+1 counters.

With a plethora of protection spells and Valorius Stance acting as protection and removal, the deck looks promising and did rather well this week, holding up a 60% winrate but a relatively low playrate. 

Wrapping Up

There you have it! The top decks in Standard and Standard Best-of-One. While Standard never truly settles down fully, we expect next week to be less volatile, as Brothers’ War additions become more fully digested by the metagame and MTGO events slow down for the holidays. See you next week!

  • Tyler "BiRDxC0Re"

    Editor/Explorer Competitive Guide

    Tyler Hilton aka BiRDxC0Re, a proud magic player for over 22 years, his love for the game started during the Onslaught era of Magic. At a kitchen table with friends, some basic Mountains, and a pair of Raging Goblins going face – his adventure began, and he’s never looked back. Much has changed since then though, for both Tyler and Magic, and these days you can find him playing high-level Burn at many Canadian Modern events or grinding Mythic Rank on MTG Arena season after season. A canny Pioneer/Explorer brewer, young father, and KarnageKardsENT’s biggest fan – he joins our team to help the crew with whatever he can in the hopes of sharing his love for this game with the next generation!

  • KarnageKardsENT

    Competitive Guide

    KarnageKardsENT has been playing Magic since Scars of Mirrodin. During the Pandemic, he moved to playing MTGO. Today, you can find him playing Pioneer, Modern and sometimes Standard. A mainstay in the Pioneer Challenges, Karnage can be found at Most Eastern F2F stops in Canada.

  • rose-emoji

    Network Administrator/Publisher

    rose-emoji started playing Magic: The Gathering during Battle for Zendikar, then took a break from the game until Throne of Eldraine. Pioneer got him back into Magic full-force, and the launch of Arena on mobile hooked him in forever. Now that his favorite format is working its way onto Arena, he can be found grinding the format to death. Only ever Grixis colors, but sometimes he can have a little Jund as a treat.

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