Standard Meta Guide – January 5, 2023

KarnageKards breaks down the "Big Three" Standard metagame that recently emerged, now featuring non-black midrange decks.


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 and a holiday super qualifier. For the Challenges and super qualifiers, we are looking at all decks that held a top 32 finish this past week.

Standard Super Qualifier December 27

Standard Challenge December 31

Standard Challenge January 1

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

Standard is great right now! This week was a great showing for the wide-openness of the format. While just three decks had more than ten finishes, twenty decks in total put up at least one qualifying finish, being the most we have seen since we launched PlayingStandard at rotation. Along with this, we are finally starting to see a rise of non-black midrange decks. 

Grixis remained the best-performing deck in the recent events, but not by much. Esper Midrange and Mono-White Midrange were close on its heels, which knocked Grixis down to A Tier this week, as we believe the gap between Grixis and the field has significantly shortened. We now have a “Big Three” settled at the top of the format.

A Tier

Grixis Midrange

Grixis has fallen! The gap between it and the field is smaller enough now that we have removed it from S Tier. This doesn’t mean Grixis midrange is any less powerful, though. 

The deck put up 18 qualifying finishes and continues to be a tough out. Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is what sets this deck apart from other black-based midrange decks. Fable allows the user to catch up, draw cards and threaten the opponent all in one shot. Grixis has been changing recently, moving away from Corpse Appraiser and towards Wandering Mind. The deck is looking to be more Grixis Control than midrange as the meta shifts, it seems.

Why it is here: The meta has caught up. Decks have decided to go under or over Grixis midrange. It is certainly the hunted deck, but Grixis pilots are starting to make changes to the deck to attack the meta that is coming after it. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it rise back into S Tier in the near future.

Esper Midrange

Esper Midrange was the huge winner this weekend. With 14 qualifying finishes, it was hot on the heels of Grixis Midrange. Esper was a deck that dominated Standard before Grixis did, but we have slowly seen it fall off in recent weeks. Well, Esper players brought it back! 

The deck made some changes to be less creature-dense and more counterspell-heavy to fight against the increasingly hostile meta. These changes have made Esper Midrange a contender again. 

Why It Is Here: The deck is good! The swap to a more go-big strategy, using counterspells, minimal creatures and a new finisher in Sanctuary Warden has made it a tough matchup for Grixis and the field. The deck has all the right answers and sticky threats. The deck has jumped into the new “Big Three” of Standard.

Mono-White Midrange

Mono-White Midrange is consistent. This deck is a well-oiled machine. It doesn’t have mana issues – never missing a color – and has redundancy. The deck plays the best removal spell in Lay Down Arms, the best sweepers, the best finisher and the best planeswalker in the format. How can it be bad? Mono-White Midrange has cemented itself as a top deck. This deck can win against any deck and has no bad matchups. 

Why is it here: As stated above, it just has it all. Being a mono-colored deck is the edge it has on the field. You never worry about missing a color or being mana screwed, since it finds lands easily with Restoration of Eiganjo and Ambitious Farmhand. This deck plays Farewell, The Wandering Emperor, Lay Down Arms, Sanctuary Warden and Reckoner Bankbuster – all great, powerful cards. Going forward, I think this deck has the most possibility of claiming the title of top deck in standard.  

Wrapping Up

There you have it! Standard has a “Big Three” and S Tier is gone! The format is fresh, fun and still wide open, and I’ve been enjoying it since rotation. Being the format of the next Regional Championships, you can expect us to put out more deck guides, meta guides, weekly tier lists and other competitive information about the format here at PlayingStandard to make sure you’re ready for the events or the Arena ladder. 

See you next week!

  • KarnageKards

    Competitive Team Lead

    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.

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