Last week was packed with exciting news from Wizards and I’m still sifting through the chaos, trying to understand how my world has changed.
If I were to select one piece of information I believe will impact players the most moving forward it would 100% be that MTG Arena’s role has been greatly expanded. The Pro Tour, or Mythic Challenge, changes are neat but will ultimately only affect 0.01% of players at any given time. The fact that Arena will be a significant part of how the majority of Magic players play, view, and experience the game is the definition of a game changer.
Arena has already impacted my Magic experience. I play more than I’ve ever played before and I do it from the comfort of my own home. It’s fun and easy to play on stream, which means that I can enjoy the company of others while I’m battling foes from my desktop! I see Arena as one of the primary ways I will play Magic moving forward and I’m glad to see it prominently featured.
With Arena being such a big part of Magic’s future it makes sense that Standard will take on an enhanced role in 2019. I’m also happy to report that Standard is one of the best iterations of the format I’ve ever played. How lucky!
Whether you are returning to Standard at your LGS to enjoy one of the best formats of all time or looking for that special deck to craft with Arena wild cards, today’s article will paint a vivid portrait of a fun and dynamic format.
Like many people, I’m obsessed with making lists. When I hang out with friends, we often craft and debate top 10 lists of favorite songs, restaurants, movies, et cetera. I’ve mentioned that this Standard format is one of the best ever and a major reason I find the format so enjoyable is the wealth of viable strategies to choose from. One feature I tend to associate with weak formats is a lack of diversity. When one or two decks are head and shoulders better than the rest of the options, it gets boring quickly. I have eight decks on today’s list and each is a viable option.
Not only is there a diversity of archetypes but also a wide spectrum of ways to build them. I’ll be discussing some of the latest variations of these popular decks.
I’m not looking for controversy with the list and decided to keep the ranking system simple and straightforward: I ranked them based on their winner’s metagame percentage, but don’t worry—I’ll tell you what I really think of each deck and we can discuss their relative strengths and weaknesses in the comments below.
#8. Mono-Blue Aggro: 4% of the Winner’s Metagame
Mono-Blue Aggro rode a wave of hype early in the season after The Yellow Hatted One, Gabriel Nassif, finished second at a Grand Prix with it. The tide has largely gone out on this deck, but it is still a viable choice if for no other reason than it’s extremely budget friendly.
Mono-Blue was one of the first decks I was able to build on Arena and it’s been a solid performer for me ever since. I still dust it off from time to time.
Ben Beydler, 4th place at a PPTQ
People throw a lot of shade at this deck but I think it’s actually better than most give it credit for. It’s a very easy deck to play poorly, which doesn’t help with unfair evaluations.
The deck also has a nut draw of “evasive creature + Curious Obsession + 1-mana protection,” darting into the red zone on the second turn. It’s always good to have free wins, since when you play a deck enough times those occasional free wins start to add up.
Popular flex spot choices include:
I like Ben’s full playset of Warkite Marauder main deck. I’m a big fan of the card. I’ve always played a couple copies of Chart a Course main, but it looks like he’s got them in the board for grindy matchups.
#7. White Weenie: 4% of the Winner’s Metagame
White Weenie was the talk of the town after the Pro Tour where it was both halves of a mirror match finale.
There are various flavors of White Weenie that include a common red splash for sideboard Experimental Frenzy and Aurelia. I like and utilize the sideboard frenzy but going mono-white is also an option (especially for budget conscious builders and wild card savers). Even if the deck has Sacred Foundry, the giveaway that the list is White Weenie is 12+ 1-drops.
The red splash seems to be the consensus favorite:
Boros White Weenie
Pierson Geyer, 5th place at SCG Classic
Pierson’s version closely resembles Andrew Elenbogen’s list from the Pro Tour.
The other popular build of the deck utilizes Ajani’s Pridemate and Leonin Vanguard as a mondo combo and premium threat package.
I was surprised to see White Weenie down to 4% of the metagame. I know my Ann Arbor friends played the deck in Milwaukee and all three cashed with it, so it’s still very powerful in the hands of a capable pilot.
If I were going with my gut opinion, rather than the numbers, I would rank White Weenie higher. It is one of the decks with which I get the best results on Arena. Also, it’s a popular choice on Arena, where I’d estimate it at much higher than 4% of the metagame.
Two key reasons for the slumping paper numbers: The Red Deck Wins and The Rock matchups. Neither is as terrible by the numbers as it feels playing the games. The linear nature of the deck makes it feel pretty helpless when you fall behind and it doesn’t improve much (if any) after sideboard.
Win fast and fun—lose miserable. White Weenie is a numbers game and a powerful choice.
#6. Selesnya Tokens: 5% of the Winner’s Metagame
Selesnya Tokens was a hot deck out of the gates after the PT and has hung around to remain a solid choice. It goes bigger than most decks can match and can present a devastating alpha strike via March of the Multitudes and Flourish.
Brad Greg, 1st place at a PPTQ
There are many ways to build Selesnya, but I’m a big fan of the token builds. I find they are the most focused.
There’s a large cast of characters that Selesnya can incorporate. It is also a popular tactic to build in an Angel package that helps improve the deck’s weakness to quick sweepers like Deafening Clarion and Golden Demise.
#5. Izzet Drakes: 11% of the Winner’s Metagame
There’s a pretty noticeable breakpoint between Selesnya’s 5% of the winner’s metagame to Izzet Drake’s 11%.
This is the one deck on the list that I cannot and have not built on MTG Arena. I somehow still only have one Arclight Phoenix!
With that being said, I know little about building and playing from the Drakes side of the matchup, though I’ve played against it hundreds of times. What I can tell you is that I have immense respect for the deck and it’s challenging to defeat because it is capable of extremely explosive turns.
I associate the deck with Owen Turtenwald because he’s racked up some nice finishes with it. The fact that he plays it tells me that it is powerful, since he never plays bad decks. If you are the interested in playing the deck, I’d start by reading everything he’s written about it and doing everything he suggests.
Andrew Vorel, 1st place at SCG Classic
Andrew Vorel also knows his way around Izzet Drakes! He earned himself a trophy at the SCG Classic with the deck.
I typically only see Mystic after board from Drakes and I see he’s got it main. I’ve also never seen Conjecture, which is a very cool piece of tech that makes me excited to cash in some mythic wild cards to finish the deck.
#4. Jeskai Control: 12% of the Winner’s Metagame
Technically, we’ve got a 12% tie for 3rd/4th place. Either way, I was surprised because I assumed based on my preferences and observations that it would be a firm 2nd place.
I’m a fan of the deck and have a lot of reps with it. It’s got smooth mana and a bunch of great cards that climb the ladder into the always busted Niv-Mizzet, Parun.
Burninating all the peoples who live in thatched roof cottages!
Well, unless you are Suzychuz and you’re casually 5-0’ing with no Niv Mizzet in the main deck! Wait, what!?
SUZYCHUZ, 1st place in an MTGO Competitive League
Cutting the Niv-Mizzet and adopting a pure control role is a next level tactic, especially when one considers that Niv is an unbelievably game breaking card. The Dragon is in the sideboard, presumably for the mirror where it really shines.
It is also worth noting that other builds have pushed far to the other end of the spectrum. Adrian Sullivan’s Grand-Prix-winning deck pushed the Niv-Mizzet angle to the max… so within the archetype it is unclear, or at least left open to interpretation, exactly how to use the available tools to position oneself within the metagame.
Do you want to be all Niv all the time or do you want to be fairly Niv but only after sideboard? The choice is yours.
I’m not able to ask Suzychuz exactly why the deck is constructed the way that it is, but I would speculate that it’s a response to both Red Deck Wins and The Rock. Niv is a little bit slow to the party against a burn deck. The Rock has a million ways to swat the Dragon as though it were a fly.
There’s a whole range of great cards available to the Jeskai monk. One aspect of the format I appreciate is the wide array of cards that are playable even within the most popular archetypes. It’s really exciting to make so many choices when building even a known great deck!
#3. Red Deck Wins: 12% of the Winner’s Metagame
Good old mono-red. Slayer of stumbling draws. When asked, “who’s the beatdown?” RDW quickly answers: ME!
Red Deck Wins has been a constant threat in this Standard format without being oppressive and closing the door on the rest of the format. It’s a nuanced balance I appreciate.
Red Deck Wins
Pepeisra, 2nd place in an Online PTQ
I’ve got to admit that this list got me pretty excited. It’s more of a Big Red deck than what I expected when I clicked on the list. I love the synergy between Treasure Map and the big monsters like Siege-Gang Commander.
When I think about Red Deck Wins, these are the traditional cards that come to mind. The traditional build is where the lion’s share of the 12% came from. Again, we see the pattern where major archetypes have multiple and often far ranging variation of builds.
#2. Boros Aggro: 13% of the Winner’s Metagame
Like Jeskai and Red Deck Wins, there is a wide array of “Boros Aggro” decks that get lumped into one category. The cool thing is that Boros can be whatever you want it to be: a sleek, low-to-the-ground beatdown machine or a regal, elite Angel deck.
Paolo Alverez, 1st place at a PPTQ
Boros Angels is aggressive but it goes big and wins with big quality threats backed up by solid removal. It has individually powerful cards that can stabilize a board and dominate a game if answered by spot or mass removal.
It’s hard for me to tell exactly how the distribution of Boros Aggro decks is laid out. There is certainly a range from very aggressive decks playing a lot of 1- and 2-drops to builds like the one above going all the way up the chain to Lyra and The Immortal Sun.
I was also shocked to see various Boros decks around 13% in second place, since I see way more RDW, White Weenie, Jeskai, and The Rock on MTG Arena.
Here’s an example of a more beatdown-oriented Boros Aggro deck:
Deniz Kara, 1st place at a PPTQ
There’s a lot of overlap with White Weenie, but it’s clearly different. It’s clearly a white and red deck and not just a White Weenie deck splashing Frenzy. Still, the general idea is similar. Again, we see a major archetype with a high degree of customization.
#1. The Rock: 23% of the Winner’s Metagame
Well, it probably doesn’t come as too much a shock by this point that The Rock is on top. At a whopping 23% of the metagame The Rock has created separation from the rest of the pack and is in my opinion the best deck in Standard.
It’s important to make the distinction that best deck doesn’t mean only deck. But The Rock is clearly the deck to beat right now and shaping a lot of the metagame trends around trying to gain an edge against it.
Before I get to the list, I’d like to add one of the reasons we’ve begun to see some of the counter-intuitive builds featured in today’s article are a response to The Rock’s substantial 23% chunk of the winner’s metagame. When 1 in 4 opponents are rocking out, it makes sense to hedge against midrange Golgari decks.
Greenman11, 1st place in an Online PTQ
I really like this list. While we’ve seen bizarre warped Red Deck Wins, Jeskai, and Boros decks performing well this week, The Rock deck that won the PTQ is very “stock” The Rock.
Other decks are warping themselves to beat The Rock and Golgari Mages are getting even more in touch with their inner Vraska!
While I do believe that I’ve highlighted the best archetypes in the format, the bigger theme I hoped to illustrate is that there is a ton of customization among lists. There are a lot of options and even more options regarding how to put them together.
I chose to rank the decks in my countdown based on their place in the winner’s metagame, rather than based on my opinion because I honestly don’t think there is a big difference in one archetype over another. The advantage comes from finding thoughtful ways to gain an edge in various matchups, which I’ve tried to highlight with some of the lists I’ve chosen.
While The Rock appears to be the most popular deck, it isn’t dominating and pushing the other decks out. It’s popular, but savvy fans of other archetypes have been able to find creative solutions to push back against a Rock-heavy field.
How would you rank these decks based on your personal preference and play experience? Let me know in the comments below. I hope you all are enjoying the format as much as I am! It’s a special moment in Magic history. It’s truly a great format.