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.
Note: of course, both of these challenges took place while The Meathook Massacre was still legal in the format, so our competitive team did not lean on the data as much as usual when crafting this week’s tier list. If we had, Rakdos Anvil, for example, likely would not have fallen from S Tier on the Best-of-Three (Traditional Standard) side – and it definitely would not have fallen all the way down to B Tier.
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!
Best-of-One Metagame Breakdown
The Meathook Massacre ban will likely have less of an effect on the best-of-of-one ladder as it does on MTGO, paper play and the best-of-three ladder, as most decks were not running more than two. The card can end up dead in hand too often to include too many copies of in mainboards. Where it really shines is in sideboards, where most decks ran the rest of the playset.
Even still, Mono-Black Midrange drops to A Tier this week – eliminating S Tier entirely – largely due to this ban.
Best-of-one was already shaping up to be a largely aggressive format, with Mono-Black at the top keeping everyone in check. Without Meathook Massacre, though, the sweeper options in Black drastically decrease in quality. Malicious Malfunction won’t hit a Raffine or even properly buffed-up tokens, and Drag to the Bottom is unplayable in a two-color deck. Red is looking like the color to be in for sweepers now, with Temporal Firestorm and Burn Down the House, and Mono-Black Midrange (which was acting as the control deck in the best-of-one format) could end up transforming rather drastically over the next couple of weeks post-ban.
No matter what happens, players of aggressive decks and go-wide token decks are certainly rejoicing this week, and the tier list (and this meta guide) will reflect exactly how much they have to celebrate as early as next Wednesday and Thursday, respectively.
As mentioned above, the Meathook Massacre ban caused enough of a shake-up to the format to preclude the existence of an “S Tier” this week, dropping Mono-Black Midrange down to A Tier. Until we see the meta adapt through this week and next, we felt comfortable keeping it in the top tier.
Whether it maintains its Mono-Black identity and becomes more aggressive, maintains its Mono-Black Identity and continues leaning into its midrange role or splashes a color and assumes the control role is yet to be seen – but again, the Meathook Massacre ban will be slightly easier for best-of-one to digest, as most lists were only running two. Still, that was enough to turn games on their head and keep go-wide token strategies at bay.
Why it’s here: it beats up on everything else in format while preserving its own fairly strong win conditions. Without a quality sweeper, it could start being pushed out by go-wide strategies, which were already strong into Liliana and Invoke Despair.
Delver decks were already doing rather well against black-based decks, with a plethora of counterspells and evasion to protect itself against Meathook Massacre, Cut Down, Infernal Grasp and even Liliana of the Veil (with Slip out the Back with one creature down).
While the Meathook Massacre ban is a boon to the archetype, it already did a fair job countering it or buffing up its creatures past a reasonable point for Meathook to take out. Delver did not enter A Tier as a result of the ban; it has been here for two weeks, and it could easily become the deck to beat in Standard Best-of-One.
Why it’s here: Mono-Blue can put a 3/2 flyer on the battlefield at the beginning of their turn two, while holding up countermagic and protection spells to keep it there. The pressure that Delver of Secrets itself can apply in the early game, backed up by chonkier threats like Haughty Djinn and Tolarian Terror down the line – just when your opponent thinks they have dealt with you – is bound to keep the deck in the upper tiers in best-of-one.
One of the decks rejoicing the most over the Meathook ban, Mono Red can power through single-target removal quite well, and is faster than Mono-Blue Delver barring perfect opening hands from Delver.
The deck has already been shifting to a lower-to-the-ground curve, cutting a couple Thundering Raiju in favor of more Radha's Firebrand (which is overperforming most expectations), Bloodthirsty Adversary and Cemetery Gatekeeper. This shift to a lower curve was being punished by Meathook Massacre, and without that to worry about, Mono-Red really just needs to find a maindeckable way to deal with Sheoldred, the Apocalypse.
Why it’s here: With Mono-Black hindered in its ability to stabilize, Mono-Red is well-positioned to take the beatdown, and having the ability to turn their Lightning Strikes and Play With Fires down from the opponent’s face to their creatures when need be, the deck is very competitive with Mono-Blue Delver and the other aggressive decks on the ladder.
After spending three weeks in A Tier, Selesnya Enchantments drops down this week. This drop is largely based on data from last week’s ladder, as we didn’t want to speculate too much on the positive impact the Meathook Massacre ban would have on the archetype.
The deck is based around Hallowed Haunting, which eventually presents a pretty deterministic boardstate full of 5/5 flying, vigilance creatures. Besides this, though, the deck can have some of the faster starts in the format, depending on the build. Generous Visitor and Weaver of Harmony can easily end a game before Hallowed Haunting ever hits the battlefield.
Why it’s here: Mono-Red has trouble dealing with tall creatures, and Mono-Blue has trouble dealing with wide boards – and Enchantments deals in both. Mono-Black is decidedly a better matchup now, as single-target removal is far less effective against the deck than a high-quality sweeper.
Artifact Aggro (New!)
While we usually don’t debut decks this high on the tier list, Artifact Aggro is more of an adaptation of Rakdos Anvil than it is an entirely new archetype. While still playing four copies of Oni-Cult Anvil, this deck leans more into aggressive artifact cards like Sanguine Statuette, Sokenzan Smelter and Voldaren Epicure to create Blood Tokens and then turn them into three face damage (ideally).
I don’t like to editorialize too much in these meta guides, but this is my favorite deck in Standard best-of-one right now, and I loved playing it in Pioneer the weekend that Neon Dynasty was released. The deck is largely the same as the Standard version was last rotation, except now we have Rakdos Pain Lands and Sheoldred. I’m personally a huge fan of Voldaren Bloodcaster in this type of deck, but the list linked above is not running it, and some lists are actually running it as a Mono-Red deck.
Why it’s here: While the traditional version of Rakdos Anvil will suffer greatly from the banning of Meathook Massacre, this deck is on a different axis, dealing in early face damage from 3/3s or 3/1s rather than leaning on endless pings to get the win. Of course, those endless pings are still there, too. Aggressive Rakdos decks also have access to the best low-curve removal in the format, allowing blockers to be cleared out easily.
Already on its way up the tier list, Mono-White Aggro will also certainly improve today when the ban takes effect (stop me if I sound like a broken record).
Mono-White runs six to eight one-drop creatures and up to 16 two-drop creatures, presenting an early game that can get out of control rather quickly. Once it’s time for three-drops, cards like Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, Anointed Peacekeeperand Brutal Cathar can end games on their own, and a top end of up to four Serra Paragon keeps the deck going in longer games, recurring threats every turn if allowed.
Why it’s here: With built-in protection in Sungold Sentinel, removal in Brutal Cathar and disruption in Thalia, Guardian of Thraben and Anointed Peacekeeper Mono-White attacks the opponent from all angles, often being able to turn off the removal they need to stabilize until it is much too late.
While it looks inherently stronger than Mono-Red Aggro on paper, Gruul can’t seem to find its way into the same tier. With green giving access to Ascendant Packleader Yavimaya Iconoclast, Quirion Beastcaller and Halana and Alena, Partners, the splash is certainly worth it, and perhaps it just needs a few tweaks before it can make its way up the list – or maybe the post-ban meta will do all the work for it!
Why it’s here: Green gives Aggro the reach it needs to go longer into the midgame, and the green cards mentioned above make Thundering Raiju much more powerful than it is in its Mono-Red counterpart, enabling far more potential for modified creatures to be on the board. Still, the deck hasn’t put up the results necessary on the best-of-one ladder to boost it up to the top tier.
Best-of-Three Metagame Breakdown
Our competitive team had a fair amount of difficulty with the tier list this week, as all of the data from MTGO was pre-ban, and we didn’t want to speculate too much on the ban’s effect on the meta.
Where we did speculate rather heavily, though, was on the effect the ban would have on Rakdos Anvil – the deck that needs Meathook not only as a sweeper, but as a win condition. Our team dropped Rakdos Anvil from S Tier down to B Tier, even though the deck overperformed in the recent Standard Challenges.
An S Tier staple since the first week of the new rotation, Grixis has access to the best cards in the format right now, and can easily adapt to the Meathook Massacre ban by pulling in more red cards and assuming the control role or sticking to its midrange strategy by replacing Meathook with more countermagic.
Why it’s here: With access to premium removal and countermagic, Grixis is almost the “control” deck of the format, which boosts its pedigree in a sea of midrange decks. Being a midrange deck itself, it also has powerful finishers and can put early-game pressure on opponents with cards like Bloodtithe Harvester, Reckoner Bankbuster and Tenacious Underdog.
While it almost dropped into A Tier last week, Esper Midrange is solidly S Tier this week, with some on our competitive team speculating that it is the best deck in Standard now.
With Meathook Massacre gone, Wedding Announcement (which was already a powerhouse), becomes a serious problem for most decks in the format to deal with. Esper’s tempo game, combined with the Wedding Announcement/Raffine, Scheming Seer engine and extremely powerful top-end cards like Ao, the Dawn Skyis a deadly gameplan, and one that we will be keeping an eye on in future challenges and on the Arena Bo3 ladder.
Why it’s here: In a midrange format where every spell cast matters a great deal, cheap countermagic and removal (especially when it is attached to a decent body like Ertai, Resurrected or Obscura Obstructor), can make or break a game. A board full of Wedding Announcement tokens is a great antidote to Liliana of the Veil or Invoke Despair “sacrifice a creature” abilities, and this makes it hard to nail down Raffine, Sheoldred or Ao, the Dawn Sky.
Jund Midrange is looking very well-positioned going into a meta that may shape up to be heavy on the Wedding Announcements. Unleash the Inferno is a very powerful, clean way to deal with a creature and a Wedding Announcement (or Fable of the Mirror-Breaker) for four mana.
This midrange-focused version of Jund (as opposed to the reanimator-focused version in Jund Windgrace) just plays threat after threat, turn after turn. A curve of Bloodtithe Harvester into Graveyard Trespasser, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker or Liliana of the Veil into Sheoldred or Unleash the Inferno is a lot to deal with, and the more recent addition of Nemeta, Primeval Warden (Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet at home) is a strong tool against Tenacious Underdog and can build up a wide board, pump itself or draw cards consistently.
Why it’s here: Unleash the Inferno’s seven damage lines up perfectly to remove a Raffine + Wedding Announcement or Tenacious Underdog + Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, which can make for backbreaking plays and swing games hugely in Jund’s favor. Workshop Warchief also represents a creature you have to remove twice, and gains the Jund pilot life in the process. It struggles against countermagic, especially in games two and three (Disdainful Stroke out of the board), and any board full of 1/1 chump blockers, but it still has what it takes to be the beatdown of the format.
Winning both challenges this weekend(!), Jund Windgrace fell from grace for a bit after release weekend, but climbed its way back to the top after some optimization.
Jund Windgrace’s comeback can be seen on the Arena best-of-three ladder as well, and is actually the most instantaneous synchronization I’ve seen between MTGO and Arena results (usually, one lags at least a week or two behind the other).
Though it is even weaker into counterspells than its midrange counterpart, its payoffs are much, much more powerful. Ramping up to or cheating out a Workshop Warchief or Titan of Industry can be game-winning, and the deck is build to do just that.
There it is! The top decks in Standard Bo1 and Bo3, post-Meathook Massacre ban. I fully expect the ban to take very little time for both best-of-one and best-of-three to digest, as MTGA will see somewhere close to one million games played this week. We’ll be keeping an eye out for it, and we’ll have a breakdown of the data and our competitive team’s thoughts on the format next week!
Have fun, remember that Wedding Announcement won’t make you a 1/1 if you swing with two or more creatures, and thanks for reading!