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.
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!
Brothers’ War seems to have had little disruptive impact on the absolute top tier of Standard competitive play thus far, with Grixis Midrange remaining the standalone top deck in the format two weeks into the new meta, dominating all four of the events mentioned above.
While Grixis Midrange got a couple additions from the new set, they are just slot-ins and haven’t changed the play pattern of the deck in any meaningful way. Brothers’ War did, however, grace us with Grixis Sacrifice, Azorius Soldiers, Mono-Black Aggro and a different build of Mono-Red Aggro, all of which I’ll get into below.
Grixis Midrange remains the lone S-Tier deck, remaining here through another set that just seemed to throw good cards at it. Many lists have swapped Infernal Grasp for Go For the Throat entirely. Brotherhood’s End, a single copy of Gix’s Command and some number of Phyrexian Fleshgorger have made other lists. Of course, Brothers’ War also made the manabase for Grixis nearly perfect, with some more aggressive Grixis Midrange builds running the full playset of Underground River and some slower builds running down to zero.
Out of the four events we looked at for the tier list this week, Grixis Midrange placed 19 copies into the Top 8, representing a 59% metashare in the Top 8 results. The second-most represented deck was Azorius Soldiers at 12.5%.
Why it’s here: The meta is struggling to find a way over or under Grixis Midrange, as it can have aggressive starts and powerful midgames that punish the decks trying to go over it and has the removal suite, lifegain and effective blockers to deal with the decks trying to go under it. With the addition of Go For the Throat and a midgame/lategame powerhouse like Phyrexian Fleshgorger, things are only looking up for the deck, and any player queuing into a competitive Standard event should be prepared to face it.
As PlayingStandard’s own Cabezadebolo showed us in the November 19th Standard Challenge, the traditional midrange pile isn’t the only way to play Grixis anymore. Saheeli, Filigree Master, Third Path Iconoclast and Mishra’s Research Desk looked promising for a revival of the Anvil archetype, and we could count on Cabezadebolo to give it a go immediately.
While the deck hasn’t put up a wide number of results (and hasn’t been ported into Arena much, by the looks of the data), the results it has put up are promising, and theoretically, any Anvil deck played by a skilled player will have a strong shot against the current meta.
What it’s about: In a meta where everyone is looking for a way to beat Grixis Midrange, Anvil could be the key, while also holding up a good matchup against any aggressive deck like Soldiers or Mono-Black Aggro. Some versions of Grixis Midrange are already starting to run up to three copies of Brotherhood’s End between the mainboard and the sideboard, though, and this represents a real problem for Sacrifice’s viability going forward.
Soldiers was certainly the Standard breakout deck from Brothers’ War, proven this week by its Top 8 representation placing second only to the long-standing Grixis Midrange.
The archetype not only got eight new very playable Soldiers, but it got a soldier-tribal land in Fortified Beachhead and an anthem effect with In the Trenches (it’s almost like this was a war set). What this created is a very aggressive, disruptive go-wide deck that has a good shot of working its way to the top tiers.
What it’s about: Thalia, Guardian of Thraben (a soldier), goes a long way in slowing down Grixis Midrange and essentially shutting off Mono-Blue Tempo. With the new lord, anthem and pump effects exclusive to soldiers, the archetype has a little bit of digging to do before it can consider itself fully optimized, but it’s tough to beat this kind of turn four:
Those that just skim over Mono-Black lists may have missed it, but the deck formerly known as “Mono-Black Midrange” has fallen solidly into an aggro shell since Brothers’ War released, largely on the backs of new cards like Gix, Yawgmoth Praetor, Mishra’s Foundry, Misery’s Shadow and Phyrexian Fleshgorger.
The inclusion of these new cards pushed the deck into playing more copies of Evolved Sleeper than the midrange build had been. While the newer aggro build is still running “midrange” cards like Sheoldred, Invoke Despair and a fair amount of removal, this shift into aggro is clear and intentional.
What it’s about: The inclusion of the new aggressive cards in black and colorless has pushed Mono-Black in a new direction, focusing now on getting creatures (and creature lands) down early, drawing cards when they hit off of Gix, applying pressure throughout the game and then topping off with Invoke Despair and Sheoldred to finish things off. With a fair amount of removal mainboard, the deck has the ability to kind of revert to the pre-BRO Mono-Black Midrange deck in post-board games, with access to Sorin, the Mirthless, Soul Transfer, Liliana of the Veil, and Malicious Malfunction to sweep the board.
Best-of-One Metagame Breakdown
The post-Brothers’ War best-of-one metagame hasn’t solidified itself quite as much as the Traditional Standard side has. Within the early data, though, we have seen Mono-Black Midrange remain on top, followed closely by another holdover in Selesnya Enchantments. Breakout archetypes from Brothers’ War are making fast headway though, especially in the last week.
Mono-Red Mechanized Warfare
It turns out Monastary Swiftspear wasn’t the only powerful red aggro card that Brothers’ War gave us! Mechanized Warfare was released with very little fanfare, but has opened up a burn archetype in Standard that Monastary Swiftspear was looking for (and I personally wasn’t sure she would find).
Brothers’ War’s Feldon, Ronom Excavator is seeing play in a few of these lists as well, as they are focused on casting multiple cheap spells per turn and can run out of gas rather quickly. Reckless Impulse and Chandra, Dressed to Kill both address this drawback as well.
Soldiers are also doing well on the best-of-one ladder, and the lists largely look the same at this point. Eventually, I suspect that the best-of-one lists will start to differ, possibly even switching to Mono-White to keep up aggression, reduce mulligans and appease the hand smoother (which purportedly does not take mana color into consideration when performing t h e s m o o t h).
Soldiers was bound to do well in Bo1 – even moreso than in Traditional Standard, in my opinion – as there is far less to prey on the deck and it just runs circles around the Liliana/Invoke Despair “sacrifice a creature” effects.
This week, I tried to focus on new inclusions to the format (which tend to start their careers lower on the tier list) rather than the top couple of tiers, which haven’t changed much in the post-Brothers’ War format. Next week, I will return to going over the top couple of tiers, and hopefully we will see a couple of new faces there! Until then, stay safe and have fun, and join us on the PlayAway Discord server for our monthly prized MTGA Standard League (the next one kicks off with the New Year)