Standard Meta Guide: Top Decks for the Week of Oct. 6

rose-emoji provides a bit of philosophy on best-of-one formats in general before breaking down the top decks in Bo1 and Bo3 Standard this week.


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.

·         MTGO Challenge #12480069

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

While the best-of-three Standard ladder is largely a soup of big-mana midrange decks that spend about an hour crashing into each other until someone just barely grinds out the win, the best-of-one Standard ladder is full of aggro, tempo and go-wide creature decks. 

There are a lot of reasons for this difference, and it has been a recurring theme since the best-of-one format was born. In Historic and Explorer (and in past Standard rotations that supported it), the best-of-one ladder is full of aggressive decks and combo decks that would often lose to certain sideboard cards in games two and three in best-of-three. These combo decks count on a lack of countermagic in the 60-card maindecks in best-of-one, and the aggressive decks count on a lack of mass removal or cheap single-target removal. This can sometimes be a safe bet, as in best-of-one, these types of cards can be dead draws (drawing creature removal against a spell-heavy deck or counterspells against aggressive creature decks). Of course, in best-of-three, these cards can just be boarded out.

Currently, the best-of-one ladder is sticking to this philosophy, featuring a plethora of fast, aggressive decks – all kept in check, though, by the one deck dominating the format.

S Tier

Mono-Black Midrange

While it is outclassed by bigger, three-color midrange decks in best-of-three, Mono-Black Midrange is, in my opinion, the best deck in Standard best-of-one right now. Built correctly, it can fend off aggressive decks, tempo decks and go-wide Wedding Announcement-based decks while still presenting sufficient aggression and hand disruption against the few other midrange or control decks in the format. 

While the urge to splash red for Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker is strong, Standard best-of-one just isn’t currently the format for grinder midrange decks, and playing Mono-Black allows us to play four copies of Crystal Grotto while still playing four copies of Invoke Despair – one of the better top-end spells in Standard right now. 

Why it’s here: it beats up on everything else in format while preserving its own fairly strong win conditions after the aggressive decks have been beaten back (around turn four).

A Tier

Selesnya Enchantments

With the ability to spiral a game out of control rather quickly, Selesnya Enchantments has been in A Tier on the best-of-one ladder for two weeks now.

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. Even Mono-Black, with access to Meathook Massacre, Cut Down and Infernal Grasp can have a hard time dealing with the deck if they shaved down on copies of any of those cards or draw the wrong one for the wrong circumstance.

Mono-Blue Delver

Another deck that has spent some time in A Tier, Mono-Blue Delver is only held back by the number of Cut Downs Mono-Black feels like playing at the time.

It took about two weeks for players to optimize this archetype post-rotation, varying on the number of Faerie Vandal (now largely down to zero), Ledger Shredder and even Delver of Secrets itself. The current lists are well-tuned, and can win games very quickly when left unchecked. Of course, “left unchecked” is the keyword here, as the single-target removal prevalent in Mono-Black and Mono-Red really give the deck a hard time, even with the plethora of evasion spells in the 60-cards.

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.

Mono-Red Aggro

Always a staple in the top tiers of best-of-one formats, Standard Bo1 Mono-Red is a very low-to-the-ground creature deck featuring full playsets of the format’s best burn spells (Play With Fire and Lightning Strike). 

With 15 one-drops, the best-of-one Mono-Red deck is much smaller than its best-of-three counterpart, which is playing a bit more of a “big red” strategy to compete in the field of midrange decks. Here in best-of-one, speed is key, and the current build is the fastest deck in Standard – not wasting any deck space for cards like Consider or any protection spells.

Why it’s here: Just barely fast enough to eek out wins against Mono-Black before they stabilize and easily fast enough to beat out other aggressively-slanted decks, Mono-Red also has the ability to turn their Lightning Strikes and Play With Fires down from the opponent’s face to their creatures when need be, keeping it competitive with Mono-Blue Delver and the would-be blockers in Mono-Black.

Best-of-Three Metagame Breakdown

S Tier

Grixis Midrange

The first of three three-color midrange decks I’ll discuss today, Grixis is the most-played deck on the best-of-three Arena Standard ladder, but is actually the second-highest ranking deck in MTGO challenges behind Rakdos Anvil.

Grixis colors in general give access to some of the best cards in Standard right now – from Sheoldred, the Apocalypse to Fable of the Mirror-Breaker to countermagic and Corpse Appraiser. Being in these three colors allows the deck to adapt to whatever is going on around it, and we find it very unlikely that Grixis Midrange will leave the top tiers of play anytime soon; rather, we expect the actual list to change (even drastically sometimes) to adapt to the changing meta going forward.

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.

Rakdos Anvil

With the most Top 16 finishes of any Standard deck in this past weekend’s MTGO Challenges, Rakdos Anvil is winning the grind game. With a very low-to-the-ground engine, fueled by Oni-Cult Anvil, Experimental Synthesizer and some flex slots in Wedding Invitation and Lantern of the Lost, the deck is quick to build up a boardstate that gums up the ground combat game while pinging the opponent’s life total for two or three damage per turn.

Players have largely started including bigger top-end cards for later in the game, like Sorin, the Mirthless and Sheoldred, the Apocalypse (both of which can create very awkward Experimental Synthesizer hits) rather than rely solely on the grindy ping-life-total strategy, but the anvil engine is still certainly Plan A. 

While it’s been slower to catch on on Arena thus far, it has certainly been cropping up over the past four or five days in numbers we hadn’t seen this season. Here’s hoping everyone forgot that Hidetsugu Consumes All is a Standard-legal card!

Why it’s here: Anvil is able to grind out the larger midrange decks that dominate the format, and the aggressive flier decks that would usually keep the archetype at bay are largely absent from the best-of-three ladder. It is one of the few “go wide”-style decks that can shrug off a Meathook Massacre, and lines up well against a field largely built on single-target removal.

Esper Midrange

Faltering a bit (nearly dropping into A Tier this week), but holding onto the top tier this week, Esper Midrange is the best-of-three format’s premier tempo deck, full of card advantage, counterspells, cheap removal and a go-wide token strategy fueled by Wedding Announcement and Raffine, Scheming Seer.

As Raffine’s connive-on-attack trigger is not a “may” (ie, you must connive as many times as you have attacking creatures), this deck just folds to a resolved Sheoldred, the Apocalypse – which, it turns out, everyone is playing. To compensate, Esper has had to adjust and increase its removal suite, taking it off any linear strategy it had ever so slightly. Still, when the deck gets going, it can be very hard to deal with, and Raffine’s Ward 1 ability often takes opponents off their game entirely.

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

A Tier

Jund Midrange

The lowest-performing of the big three-color black midrange decks, Jund still holds a strong grip on the format, and may just be a couple card decisions away from rounding out the triome-having black midrange decks in S Tier. 

Jund looks to be the big-mana beatdown style midrange deck of the format, featuring cards like Workshop Warchief and Unleash the Inferno with the green splash. As the big-mana deck, it struggles against countermagic, which is rampant in the S Tier decks outside of Rakdos Anvil. Against Rakdos Anvil, it struggles a bit to swing through the 1/1 Construct Tokens, but it can certainly get there (and has access to Hidetsugu Consumes All).

The green splash is certainly justified in Warchief, Unleash the Inferno and Riveteer’s Charm, but it seems there are better colors to splash into in Standard right now.

Why it’s here: Unleash the Inferno’s seven damage lines up perfectly to remove a Sheoldred + Meathook Massacre, 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 a board full of 1/1 chump blockers, but it still has what it takes to be the beatdown of the format.

Mono-Black Midrange

The deck that started it all. Like I mentioned in the best-of-one section above, Mono Black tends to be outclassed by the three-color midrange decks of the format, which tend to have more options in the sideboard to pick up a match after a game one loss. The draw to playing Mono Black – besides faster, more consistent mana – is really the ability to play four copies of Invoke Despair with no worry about the four black mana pips. 

Some describe the deck as Mono-Black Aggro, which is fair, given the playsets of Evolved Sleeper, Tenacious Underdog and Graveyard Trespasser seen in most versions of the deck, but it is truly a midrange deck that is just capable of some fast starts. 

Why it’s here: As mentioned, Mono-Black Midrange can take the aggro role very comfortably, as Evolved Sleeper is a powerful start if it lives long enough to get out of Cut Down range. When the game does go late, though, Sorin, the Mirthless, Sheoldred, the Apocalypse and Invoke Despair are some of the better mid-game spells in the format – especially if you are ahead, which the aggressive creature package in the deck can usually ensure. Still, there are some powerful things to be doing in red, blue and white, and with the Triomes available to us, it is easy to get pulled away from Mono Black in one direction or the other.

Wrapping Up

There it is! The top decks in Standard Bo1 and Bo3 right now. Although the meta is starting to really solidify in the upper tiers, the format still feels fresh and undiscovered, and the two strongest aggro decks in the format (Mono-Red and Gruul) both moved up a tier this week, just missing the cutoff for this article. Keep an eye on it for next week, remember not to pump your Evolved Sleeper into a 3/3 until it is targeted with Cut Down, and thanks for reading!

Liked it? Take a second to support PlayingMTG on Patreon!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *