Discover the best Magic: The Gathering Arena Historic decks and archetypes that the players are using to climb the ranked ladder and win tournaments. Our MTG Arena Best of Three (Bo3) Historic Meta Tier List regularly reviews and ranks the top decks in the format, carefully curated by our expert Altheriax. We also follow up our choices based on a variety of factors and sources, with comprehensive analysis from the data available. Updated for The Brothers' War(BRO)!
|Tier 1||Rakdos Trapfinder Combo 🆕|
|Tier 1||Azorius Affinity|
|Tier 1||Rakdos Goblins|
|Tier 1||Izzet Wizards|
|Tier 2||Boros Thopters 🆕|
|Tier 2||Izzet Phoenix 🔼|
|Tier 2||Azorius Control|
|Tier 2||Selesnya Heliod Combo 🔼|
|Tier 2||Rakdos Midrange|
|Tier 2||Mono Green Elves|
|Tier 2||Dimir Ninjas 🔽|
|Tier 2||Simic Merfolk|
|Tier 2||Esper Greasefang|
|Tier 2||Mono Red Burn|
|Tier 2||Izzet Belcher 🆕|
|Tier 3||Azorius Auras 🔽|
|Tier 3||Orzhov Angels 🔽|
|Tier 3||Five-Color Niv-Mizzet|
|Tier 3||Mono Red Aggro 🔽|
|Tier 3||Kethis Combo|
December Update Tier Changes
The first major change is the addition of the new Rakdos Trapfinder Combo which definitely feels like the top deck in the format right now, so it’s a new addition to Tier 1. With the addition of this deck (which packs a lot of interaction and incentivizes a lot of other decks to run more interaction to stop the Ominous Traveler combo), I’ve moved Orzhov Angels down to Tier 3 since that’s a deck that really struggles in a format with a lot of removal, and also struggles against combo decks.
On a similar note, I also think the increased prevalence of spot removal and discard spells makes for a very hostile environment for Azorius Auras which struggles the most against that type of interaction, so that’s also moved down to Tier 3 – I would definitely move this back up to Tier 2 if single target removal becomes less popular though since it is a generically powerful deck.
Another new addition is Boros Thopters to the top of Tier 2 – while powerful, this deck has always had a big issue against mass artifact removal since you have no good counterplay (unlike Azorius Affinity that has access to counterspells), and with the recent addition of Brotherhood's End and Fade from History which are seeing a reasonable amount of play, you can often just get blown out in post-sideboard games.
Another new deck that’s emerged since the release of The Brothers War is Goblin Charbelcher, which is an all-in combo deck that operates on a completely different axis – I’ve put this at the bottom of Tier 2 since it is powerful and fast, and blanking creature removal gives you a big edge game 1, but there is a decent amount of counterplay to it especially post-sideboard whether that’s discard spells, counterspells, cards that shut off Goblin Charbelcher like Pithing Needle or Karn, the Great Creator, or simply racing, so I don’t see it climbing much higher in Bo3 anyway.
It’s also a lot closer right now between Izzet Wizards and Izzet Phoenix – I’ve left Wizards in Tier 1 and Phoenix in Tier 2 for now since I think Wizards is still a very strong deck, but if the format continues to become more interactive I could see an argument for Phoenix being the better spellslinger deck since it’s much more resilient to removal.
Finally, the last change in tiers is Selesnya Heliod Combo moving from Tier 3 to Tier 2 – the biggest issue with that deck previously was that it struggled to recover from behind against interactive decks, but I’ve recently been working on a new build which runs 4 Kayla's Reconstruction alongside 4 Collected Company which not only gives you more ways to assemble the combo, but also gives you good tools to be able to recover against interactive decks.
Tier 1 Decks
Rakdos Trapfinder Combo
This is a combo deck that is trying to combine a 0 mana Ominous Traveler (which you can set up by sacrificing Goblin Trapfinder) with Ashnod's Altar, which enables you to loop Ominous Traveler repeatedly, and sacrifice the spellbook creatures to generate mana in order to play more spellbook creatures.
By prioritizing picking the cheaper creatures in the spellbook, and setting up Headless Rider (which turns all of your future spellbook Zombies into an additional 2 mana because of the zombie tokens in generates), you can go positive on mana, and once you have enough mana available, you can win by stealing all of your opponent’s blockers with Dominating Vampire, making a lethal Champion of the Perished, giving it haste with Dominating Vampire, and then attacking for lethal.
The big strength of this deck is that the combo package is so lean (the actual combo only takes up 12 slots, and the necessary sacrifice outlets for Goblin Trapfinder only take an additional 4 slots since Ashnod's Altar and Phyrexian Tower work double duty) which means that you can fill the rest of the deck with great quality interaction, and a plan B.
Weaknesses: Aggro is the closest thing to a bad matchup, but you have do have good tools game 1 in Fatal Push, Claim the Firstborn, and Phyrexian Fleshgorger, and have good options post-sideboard like Brotherhood's End too so I’d say overall that matchup is probably favored post-sideboard.
The biggest issue for this deck is probably combo hate pieces: creatures like Hushbringer and Anointed Peacekeeper aren’t usually an issue since you run a lot of creature removal, and artifacts like Damping Sphere are only really an issue post-sideboard where you have access to answers like Kolaghan's Command and Brotherhood's End.
The more difficult hate pieces for this deck to deal with are enchantments like Roiling Vortex, Curse of Shaken Faith, Curse of Silence, Rule of Law etc. since you only run 1 Feed the Swarm in the sideboard as an out, although you can tutor for it with Diabolic Intent. Karn, the Great Creator can also be an issue since it’s passive prevents you from activating Ashnod's Altar so decks that can get Karn, the Great Creator into play and protect it can prove troublesome.
Having said that, the deck does run a plan B of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Jegantha, the Wellspring, creaturelands, and Phyrexian Fleshgorger (or Karn, the Great Creator if you’re running Mystmin’s build), so you can often still win even through combo hate.
When is it good to play? This definitely feels like the best deck in the format and doesn’t feel like it has any truly bad matchups so will be good to play unless there’s a major innovation, or the deck gets hit by a rebalance or ban. Even if other decks start to run more hatepieces, this deck has a lot of room for flexibility, so you can just change up your removal suite to answer whatever hatepieces start seeing more play – not to mention you also run an unconditional tutor so you can run more narrow answers if needed too.
Decklist updates: I’ve added 4 Karn, the Great Creator to the list since it’s great in the mirror against other artifact decks, shuts off Ashnod's Altar against the Ominous Traveler combo decks, and shuts off other cards like Goblin Charbelcher too.
This is an artifact synergy deck that is capable of fast aggressive starts but also has access to good interaction like Portable Hole and Metallic Rebuke, and card advantage like Thought Monitor. Retrofitter Foundry provides very fast starts when paired with Ornithopter, and can also be used as a mana sink when you are light on resources or want to hold open mana for Metallic Rebuke. Nettlecyst provides a huge amount of stats and can force through lethal fairly easily when attached to a flier or paired with Shadowspear.
In terms of card advantage, Thought Monitor is by far the best card in the deck and can be reduced to 1 mana fairly consistently, and Ingenious Smith is great at digging for specific artifacts and then growing, plus Esper Sentinel often provides card advantage or forces the opponent to play off curve.
Weaknesses: The biggest weakness of Affinity is that it’s incredibly vulnerable to mass artifact removal like Divine Purge, Brotherhood's End, and Fade from History. With Affinity being a known top deck right now, it’s not unlikely for certain decks to be sideboarding these more narrow effects, but you do thankfully have access to counterspells, so you do have some counterplay.
There is also a lot of good single-target removal for artifacts right now, for example Abrade, Kolaghan's Command, Goblin Trashmaster, and more generic options like Portable Hole and Skyclave Apparition. A lot of decks will have access to these effects, but the rest of their deck needs to be able to keep up with or go over the top of the rest of your engines for those to be effective.
When is it good to play? The overall power level of this deck means it’s good to play in most fields unless there’s a lot of decks running mass artifact removal like Divine Purge, Brotherhood's End, etc.
Decklist updates: I’ve added 2 Abrade to the sideboard which alongside the 4 Fatal Push and 4 Munitions Expert should give you a decent amount of early interaction to help stabilize against aggro decks like Wizards which are usually your worst matchups, as well as being able to stop the Ominous Traveler combo, and provides a way to destroy Pithing Needle against Affinity which they can use to name Goblin Trashmaster to shut off your best card against them.
This is a tribal deck that is capable of attacking on multiple different angles: you can go wide and attack, boosting your board off cards like Battle Cry Goblin, and Rundvelt Hordemaster, you can drain the opponent out using cards like Sling-Gang Lieutenant and Pashalik Mons, you can repeatedly copy cards like Munitions Expert off Reflection of Kiki-Jiki, and you have access to Muxus, Goblin Grandee which essentially acts as a one card combo. The deck also has a lot of resilience to interaction and good ways to grind into the mid-lategame off the back of cards like Conspicuous Snoop, Rundvelt Hordemaster, and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker.
This Rakdos build doesn’t go as ‘big’ as Krenko, Mob Boss builds, but is much more resilient (which makes its overall matchup spreads a lot better especially against more interactive decks). The only major matchup where Krenko, Mob Boss builds have a leg up is against Affinity, but I think Krenko, Mob Boss builds largely feel ‘win-more’ in most other matchups you’re already likely to win, while having a higher mana curve in order to fit in the hastelords which usually lead to slower and clunkier draws, and those builds are generally much more reliant on Muxus, Goblin Grandee to win which makes it more vulnerable to discard spells and counterspells – you can see full details on my view on build comparisons in my guide here.
Weaknesses: This is a pretty well-rounded deck overall, but it can sometimes struggle against a really fast deck like Izzet Wizards, especially going second since you’re not able to chump block their fliers, although you do have access to cards like Munitions Expert and Fatal Push which is very effective at slowing them down if you have them early. Since you often win by draining the opponent out once they’re at a low life total, decks that are capable of a lot of life gain like Selesnya Helioak or Affinity off the back of Shadowspear, can sometimes be tough matchups too.
When is it good to play? Since this deck is very much built like a midrange deck that has access to drain, can attack, and has a one-card combo, it’s going to have tools to fight most of the decks in the format no matter what else is going on so will usually be a good pick.
Decklist updates: I’ve added 3 Roiling Vortex to the sideboard which is decent against control and life gain decks like Selesnya Helioak and Orzhov Angels, and is really good against the Ominous Traveler combo deck since it essentially stops them from comboing off.
This is probably the fastest aggressive deck in the format right now that leverages cheap creatures, pump spells, and burn spells to force through a ton of damage often out of nowhere. This deck really punishes slower decks or decks that don’t have early removal, and it also has a decent ability to grind due to Dreadhorde Arcanist and card advantage spells like Expressive Iteration and A-Mentor's Guidance (especially since A-Symmetry Sage and Balmor, Battlemage Captain can boost the power of Dreadhorde Arcanist which allows it to recast more expensive spells like Expressive Iteration and Wizard's Lightning).
Burn spells also give you good reach which enables you to finish off the opponent from a low life total, even if they manage to take out all of your creatures. Reckless Charge, in particular, gives the deck a huge amount of speed since you can force a lot of damage through even if you started the turn with no creatures in play which makes it very risky for the opponent to ever tap out against you.
Weaknesses: This deck is vulnerable to cheap early interaction since so much of your early pressure comes from your creatures, so decks with a lot of early cheap interaction like Rakdos Midrange and Rakdos Altar Traveler Combo, or certain builds of Azorius Control are often difficult matchups.
Additionally, since you’re reliant on red-based removal you can often struggle to deal with bigger creatures so a deck like Orzhov Angels that has creatures with high toughness and access to a lot of life gain can be tough matchups too.
When is it good to play? As long as the meta isn’t filled with decks running a lot of early interaction, this is going to be a good pick. The speed and overall power level of this deck is so high that it’s generally a good pick and will be at its best If the format is full of linear, less interactive decks, or slower decks.
Tier 2 Decks
This is a very low to the ground artifact-based aggressive deck that is capable of some incredibly fast starts, can apply pressure, and has some good tools to grind into longer games too. Retrofitter Foundry is very much the centerpiece of the deck, allowing you to sacrifice your early Thopters on turn 1 or 2 to start generating 4/4s which are both great on offence, and at stonewalling other creatures.
Michiko's Reign of Truth is another card that provides a lot of raw power and will often allow you to close games out when used on a flying creature or paired with Shadowspear to trample through. Lurrus of the Dream-Den also gives the deck both a good way to grind into longer games and a great mana sink in games where you flood out, and using it to loop Ornithopter every turn with a Retrofitter Foundry in play, or Yotia Declares War as a removal spell each turn, is hard for a lot of decks to beat.
Weaknesses: By far the biggest weakness of this deck is mass artifact removal like Divine Purge, Brotherhood's End, and Fade from History. Unlike the Azorius Affinity deck which has access to better counterspells, you don’t really have good counterplay to these sort of cards (outside of Mana Tithe and Teferi's Protection, neither of which are particularly great answers) and so it will be very difficult to beat Azorius Control if they’re packing a lot of copies of Divine Purge, red decks running Brotherhood's End, or green decks running Fade from History. The Rakdos Trapfinder matchup is also difficult – you do have Hushbringer which stops the combo but they run a lot of spot removal which can kill it, and have access to Brotherhood's End and Kolaghan's Command postboard which slows you down a lot.
When is it good to play? This will depend entirely on how much mass artifact removal is being run – if it’s very common then this won’t be a good choice, but if people gradually start removing mass artifact removal from their sideboard then this becomes a very appealing deck to play.
Decklist updates: Check out DoggertQBones’ recent article here explaining the new changes to the deck.
This is a spell-based deck that is somewhat similar to Izzet Wizards, but trades speed for resilience.
The deck attacks on two fronts: you have Arclight Phoenix which you can pitch to the graveyard off cards like Faithless Looting and Ledger Shredder, and you can then repeatedly bring back from the graveyard over and over again to either apply pressure and force damage through, or hold back on defense to block. This side of the deck is very resilient to non-exile single-target removal, but is vulnerable to graveyard hate.
You also have your other creatures like Ledger Shredder (there are other good options like A-Symmetry Sage, Sprite Dragon, Stormwing Entity, Crackling Drake, etc.,) that are more vulnerable to single-target removal, but don’t care about graveyard hate.
This makes it very difficult for the opponent to attack both sides of your deck since they each require different answers. Since Izzet Phoenix is so good at spinning its wheels and has a lot of ways to pull back card advantage off cards like Expressive Iteration, it can also grind very well and play a pretty good long game too. This means that it can often pivot its game plan post-sideboard which gives it more flexibility than a deck like Izzet Wizards.
Weaknesses: This was top of the format for a long time but the nerf of A-Unholy Heat to only deal 4 damage with delirium opened up a lot of threats like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Baneslayer Angel, Narset, Parter of Veils at 5 loyalty etc., that Phoenix now struggles to deal with. I think this is one of the reasons why Izzet Wizards has overtaken Phoenix since Wizards usually closes the game out too fast for those sorts of threats to matter, whereas Phoenix will sometimes have slightly slower starts and will often struggle to deal with these bigger threats.
Additionally, Unlicensed Hearse is almost a staple in Historic sideboards right now which is a very problematic card for Phoenix (although you do have access to answers like Abrade post-sideboard.)
When is it good to play? I would choose to play Phoenix over Wizards if there’s a lot of early creature interaction being run since Phoenix is much more resilient against removal and is capable of grinding a lot better. Phoenix also becomes a lot better if there’s less graveyard hate being run so Phoenix will generally be best positioned when there’s more single-target removal, less graveyard hate, and fewer big creatures like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Elder Gargaroth, and Righteous Valkyrie.
Weaknesses: This deck is very weak to decks that have a lot of early interaction or discard spells like Rakdos Midrange since if they can take out all of your creatures, you’ll just be left with a bunch of auras that do nothing. Additionally, this deck can often need to mulligan if you end up with hands without a good balance of creatures and auras, and keeping hands with just one creature (while often correct to keep) can easily be punished by early removal.
When is it good to play? How well auras is positioned will almost always be determined by the amount of early single-target interaction that’s being run. I already moved Auras down from Tier 1 to Tier 2 in my last tier list due to an increase in spot removal that largely arose because of Izzet Wizards and Thopters, and the format has only become more overrun with single-target removal and discard spells since then, mainly off the back of the Altar Traveler combo deck. This deck is generically powerful though so if single-target removal starts to be run less then I would definitely move this back up to tier 2 again.
Decklist updates: This is my current build of Azorius Control and is what I played for the last mythic qualifier. The most notable updates here are in the sideboard – Hushbringer has been great at improving otherwise tough matchups like Rakdos Goblins, Selesnya Humans, and Ominous Traveler combo, and is even more effective post-sideboard since those decks will usually board out their creature removal against you. Similarly the two angels are great at stabilizing against creature matchups when they’re likely to not have much removal, and Wedding Announcement is great in the mirror, and against grindy decks like Rakdos Midrange.
This is a deck that is trying to interact with the opponent in the early game in order to stabilize, make the game go long, and then win the long game off the back of finishers like Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, Calim, Djinn Emperor, and Shark Typhoon. Being able to run four Divine Purge is one of the biggest appeals to running Control right now since it’s very strong against creature decks (which there are quite a lot of right now), and is a complete blowout against Affinity. You also have good options to be able to deal with combo decks like Ominous Traveler with sideboard cards like Rest in Peace, Authority of the Consuls, and Hushbringer.
Control as an archetype is also very flexible since it has access to a lot of different options to improve specific matchups, so is fairly adaptable depending on how the meta shifts.
Weaknesses: While Control does have great options, a lot of other decks have access to good options that make them strong against you as well. Esper Sentinel and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben are often difficult to play around effectively, Blue aggressive decks like Wizards and Merfolk have access to cheap counterspells like Spell Pierce and Mystical Dispute, decks running Black like Rakdos Midrange and Altar Traveler Combo have access to discard spells, and most decks can also bring in planeswalkers against you which are often hard to deal with if they resolve.
In particular, I’ve found Merfolk and Rakdos Goblins to be the tougher matchups right now, so if they become more popular, it’s probably not the best idea to play Control. Having said that, Hushbringer definitely helps a lot against decks like Goblins and Humans, and you do have access to sweepers and Mystical Dispute against Merfolk so you do have good tools to help in those matchups. Overall, tuning your deck for the metagame is one of the most important parts of having success with Control.
When is it good to play? Control is at its best when there are less disruptive cards like Esper Sentinel and Spell Pierce being run. There are also certain decks that try and capitalize on the opponent not having specific removal or sweepers like Elves, Auras, or Wizards, and Control is great at punishing those sorts of strategies. Overall, I think Control will always be a good choice (assuming disruptive aggressive decks like Humans and Merfolk aren’t the most played decks) if you’re able to tune your list to combat what the top decks are likely to be at any given point.
Selesnya Heliod Combo
Decklist updates: The addition of Kayla's Reconstruction has been huge at finding the combo more consistently and giving you more ways to recover from behind which was previously a big issue with the deck. For new additions to the sideboard: Rule of Law is a great hatepiece against Ominous Traveler combo decks, Fade from History is sick against artifact decks like Azorius Affinity, Ajani, Sleeper Agent helps improve the Azorius control matchup (which is probably your weakest matchup), and Anointed Peacekeeper is good against both Ominous Traveler and control.
This is a combo deck built around assembling Heliod, Sun-Crowned, Scurry Oak, and a life gain enabler like Soul Warden, which essentially produces infinite life, infinite +1/+1 counters on Scurry Oak, and infinite 1/1 squirrel tokens. The deck also runs a ‘fair’ life gain plan B which utilises the life gain enablers like Heliod, Sun-Crowned, alongside Voice of the Blessed and Trelasarra, Moon Dancer, to produce huge creatures that provide additional value and sometimes win the game on their own without even needing to combo.
The fact this deck is built around so many life gain synergies means it’s naturally favoured against aggressive creature decks, especially since Soul Warden also triggers on your opponent’s creatures entering the battlefield, which can produce huge amounts of value if you have it alongside Trelasarra, Moon Dancer, Voice of the Blessed, or Heliod, Sun-Crowned.
Collected Company is incredibly powerful in this deck since it can hit all three of your combo pieces, so it threatens to win at instant-speed, even if you only have one combo piece in play, and Kayla's Reconstruction can find all three combo pieces even on a completely empty board if you have 6 or more mana available. Even if you don’t hit the combo, putting Trelasarra, Moon Dancer, Voice of the Blessed, or Heliod, Sun-Crowned into play alongside a life gain enabler often puts so many stats into play that it’ll end up winning you the game anyway.
Weaknesses: The biggest weakness of this deck in the past was that it’s very vulnerable to interactive decks packing ways to take out your creatures and combo pieces as you play them. This weakness has definitely been mitigated by the addition of Kayla's Reconstruction to the deck as you now have 8 cards that are great at helping you recover from behind, and it means you topdeck a lot better.
This does cause a new weakness to arise though in that you have to cut interaction from the maindeck in order to fit Kayla's Reconstruction which essentially means you’re forced to race game 1 which can sometimes be an issue going second against other fast decks. Another weakness is that the combo doesn’t win you the game immediately, and so even if you do make 100s of Squirrel tokens during your turn, the opponent can just untap and use a board sweeper to completely stabilize.
When is it good to play? With the new additon of Kayla's Reconstruction to the deck, your previously bad matchups against interactive decks become better which gives it better matchup spreads overall. However due to the power of the Ominous Traveler deck, I can see more red decks running hatepieces like Rampaging Ferocidon and Roiling Vortex, both of which are incidentally good against this deck too which could be an issue.
Decklist updates: Misery's Shadow is a great addition to the maindeck that provides a solid manasink and incidental graveyard hate that is great against Goblin Trapfinder. In the sideboard, Brotherhood's End pulling double duty against artifacts and go wide creature decks is great, and Roiling Vortex is another nice hatepiece against Ominous Traveler, that’s also decent against control and lifegain decks like Heliod combo.
This is your typical midrange deck full of generically powerful threats and interaction, and will pivot its game plan post-sideboard depending on the deck it’s up against. Discard spells give you good tools to fight the control and combo decks, and Rakdos colours give you access to great creature removal like Fatal Push and Molten Impact to stabilise against the faster creature decks.
The quality of threats in these lists is very high too – Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger, Seasoned Pyromancer, and planeswalkers like Liliana of the Veil and Chandra, Torch of Defiance are incredibly powerful threats that pull you ahead once you have a foothold in the game. There are also Dreadhorde Arcanist variants that are generally faster on tempo in terms of their interaction, but tend to make the deck weaker to graveyard hate.
Weaknesses: Since these lists lean pretty heavily on discard spells in a lot of matchups, it’s naturally weak to the opponent top decking well. There are a lot of decks in the format that have cards that are great at recovering from behind like Expressive Iteration, Thought Monitor, Collected Company, etc., so even though it’s fairly easy to strip the opponent of their early resources, if you don’t apply pressure on board quickly enough, the opponent can often easily draw out of it.
Additionally, midrange decks have traditionally been decks that you can tune to beat anything, but can’t tune to beat everything, and in a format like Historic where every deck is so streamlined and efficient at what it’s doing, that can be really punishing if you queue into a matchup you weren’t expecting or prepared for with your suite of interaction, which can definitely be an issue especially if you’re playing on the ladder.
When is it good to play? Due to the nature of being a pure midrange deck, these lists are usually pretty good to play if you have a good understanding of the current top decks and tune your list accordingly. Since these lists have access to a lot of discard spells and threats that snowball advantage, you’re usually well positioned if Control or Combo is very popular, and you generally do well against decks that are weak to single-target removal like Auras or Wizards since the premium removal in these colors is largely single-target (like Fatal Push or Molten Impact.)
On the flip-side, you generally tend to struggle more against go-wide decks (although you do have access to Brotherhood's End in the sideboard), and the worst matchups are decks that have good ways to grind, refuel, and produce 2-for-1s like Rakdos Goblins.
Mono Green Elves
Decklist updates: The biggest innovation in this new list I’ve been working on is running 4 Karn, the Great Creator which is great here since it’s very easy to ramp into, and Elves is great at producing a lot of mana which enables you to cast expensive cards you can pull from the wishboard like Wurmcoil Engine. The biggest draw to Karn, the Great Creator in Elves (outside of the fact it’s great against Ominous Traveler combo and Goblin Charbelcher) is that it lets you fetch Staff of Domination which lets you draw your whole deck and produce infinite mana if you have Elvish Archdruid or Circle of Dreams Druid and 5 Elves in play – you can then win the same turn by fetching Aetherflux Reservoir once you draw another Karn, the Great Creator.
This is a go-wide tribal deck with combo elements to it. The deck is largely built around ramping multiple Elves into play fast off Llanowar Elves and Elvish Mystic – this then enables you to produce a lot of mana off Elvish Archdruid and Circle of Dreams Druid which you can then use to activate Allosaurus Shepherd or Elvish Warmaster to pump your whole board and attack for lethal fast.
The deck is incredibly linear and capable of some insanely fast starts, plus the addition of Leaf-Crowned Visionary as a 2-mana lord that produces card advantage is huge and gives the deck more ways to grind into the mid-late game. This is another great Collected Company deck since it can hit all of your ‘combo pieces’ like Elvish Archdruid, Circle of Dreams Druid, Allosaurus Shepherd, and Elvish Warmaster at the end of the opponent’s turn, often allowing you to combo out of nowhere the following turn.
Weaknesses: While Leaf-Crowned Visionary definitely helps provide the deck with better options to grind, it doesn’t fix the biggest weakness of the deck which is board sweepers like Divine Purge or Supreme Verdict. Elves has always been incredibly soft to board sweepers which has held it back in Best of 3 where a lot of decks in Red, Black, and White will have access to sweepers post-sideboard. Having said that, this particular build running more planeswalkers (4 Karn, the Great Creator in the maindeck and 3 Freyalise, Skyshroud Partisan in the sideboard) does help mitigate the issue slightly but not entirely.
When is it good to play? Elves is a great choice if sweepers aren’t seeing much play since that’s by far the biggest weakness of the deck. It also generally prefers less interactive formats since it has such a strong linear game plan (which is one of the main reasons it’s great in Best of 1).
Decklist updates: Brushland and Recruitment Officer are nice additions to the maindeck, and in the sideboard I’ve swapped Unlicensed Hearse for Rest in Peace (which shuts off the Goblin Trapfinder death trigger), swapped Outland Liberator for Fade from History for the artifact decks, and added 2 Curse of Silence to stop the Ominous Traveler decks from comboing.
This is a tribal deck that is all about aggression paired with disruptive elements. Humans is capable of some incredibly fast aggressive starts off the back of cards like Thalia's Lieutenant and Adeline, Resplendent Cathar, and can run four Collected Company and four Inquisitor Captain at the top end which gives it a lot of explosiveness and pressure, as well as providing a way back into the game if the opponent stabilises against your early aggression.
It also has access to great disruptive cards like Esper Sentinel, Thalia, Guardian of Thraben, Ranger-Captain of Eos, etc., that make it very difficult for slower decks relying on non-creature spells to interact, which is a huge advantage over most other aggressive decks that can often struggle against Control. Against opposing creature decks, you have access to decent interaction in Skyclave Apparition and Brutal Cathar, both of which can be hit off Collected Company and Inquisitor Captain so you have good tools against most decks.
Weaknesses: Even with access to Skyclave Apparition and Brutal Cathar, Humans will tend to struggle the most against other creature decks that go bigger than them like Goblins and Heliod combo. Decks like Rakdos Midrange can also be tricky if their removal lines up well (especially if they board in cards like Brotherhood’s End), but your linear game plan is so powerful that you can often end up beating their clunky draws anyway.
When is it good to play? As long as the format isn’t full of creature decks that are going much bigger than you, then Humans is a great choice since your pro-active game plan is so strong that even close or bad matchups can be won off the back of a fast start from you or a clunkier start from the opponent. Humans will be at its best if the format slows down and is more focused around getting value off non-creature spells since the pairing of aggression plus taxing effects is incredibly difficult for those sorts of decks like Izzet Phoenix to beat.
Decklist updates: This is sanomituru‘s list who finished #1 on the ladder in August playing Dimir Ninjas and the main new changes here are the addition of Underground River which helps improve the mana a lot, running more counterspells instead of discard spells, and Unmoored Ego in the sideboard to deal with combo decks like Ominous Traveler.
This is a tempo deck that is looking to leverage powerful Ninjitsu cards like Ingenious Infiltrator and Moon-Circuit Hacker, whilst also having access to disruptive cards like Fatal Push and Spell Pierce in order to go underneath the opponent and kill them before they can establish their game plan. This deck got a huge addition in Retrofitter Foundry that can produce bodies to help you Ninjitsu, and is also able to produce big 4/4s in the first few turns by sacrificing Ornithopter and Changeling Outcast (which counts as a Thopter because of its changeling ability.)
This is a deck that is capable of some insanely fast starts and can snowball advantage very quickly, while Retrofitter Foundry also provides a way for you to grind if the game does go longer. The combination of unblockable and flying creatures makes it easy for Ninjas to pull off Ninjitsu abilities whilst also making it easy to force through the final points of damage needed to win.
Weaknesses: Like most tempo decks, this is weak to other very low to the ground aggro decks like Humans, and is also vulnerable to decks with a lot of early single-target removal like Rakdos Midrange. Having said that, Retrofitter Foundry is a lot more difficult for those interactive decks like Rakdos Midrange to deal with (and is very strong at grinding in those matchups), and you’re still capable of beating go-wide aggressive decks if you have a fast start, especially going first.
Additionally, this deck will usually struggle against a decks that are capable of blocking in the air, gaining life to undo your early damage, or generally going bigger than you into the mid-late game.
When is it good to play? This will be a good choice if there aren’t too many low to the ground creature decks in the format, since it really wants to take advantage of slower decks by repeatedly generating card advantage and holding up protection for it’s board state.
Merfolk is an aggressive tribal deck that is looking to leverage a high number of ‘lord’ effects to put a lot of power into play fast, as well as having disruptive elements like Merrow Reejerey, Brazen Borrower, and Spell Pierce to win on tempo. This deck is all about tempo and is especially well positioned against slower decks like Control, Combo, or bigger Midrange decks that often need to spin their wheels in order to set up.
With the new addition of Vodalian Hexcatcher, the deck now has access to 16 good lords (which can put a crazy amount of power and pressure into play fast), and a lot of instant-speed flash threats that can often blow the opponent out if they’re not careful. It’s typically weakest against opposing creature-heavy decks, but Savage Swipe, Brazen Borrower, Merrow Reejerey, and Merfolk Trickster (not to mention the extra power the lords can put into play), gives the deck decent tools to help in those matchups too.
Weaknesses: This deck struggles the most against other creatures decks that tend to go bigger like Goblins and Elves, and can also struggle against other tempo decks with more interaction like Izzet Wizards. Additionally it will tend to struggle against the Altar Traveler combo decks since it doesn’t have great ways to interact with the combo outside of counterspells.
When is it good to play? Merfolk is at its best when there are fewer go-wide creature decks since it preys on the slower decks with its tempo game plan, so if there’s a lot of control, combo, or midrange, Merfolk is a great choice.
Decklist updates: Guardian of New Benalia is a nice upgrade over Seasoned Hallowblade that provides more utility, and Evangel of Synthesis is a decent upgrade of Ledger Shredder that provides the loot immediately and leans nicely into the aggressive gameplan. In terms of sideboard changes, I like Anointed Peacekeeper as a card that’s good against both control and Ominous Traveler, Go for the Throat is largely an upgrade over Heartless Act, Heliod's Intervention has helped a lot against Affinity which can be a difficult matchup, and Witch's Vengeance has felt important against go wide aggro decks which can also be tough.
This deck is essentially an aggressively-slanted midrange deck that also has access to a very strong combo. Greasefang, Okiba Boss + Parhelion II has proven to be a very effective combo since it can deal 13 damage out of nowhere and put two 4/4 flyers into play as early as turn three, but it’s also vulnerable to both instant-speed creature removal and graveyard hate which makes it very risky to build your deck around too heavily since most decks will have access to good answers post-sideboard.
This build tries to circumvent that weakness by essentially having the Greasefang, Okiba Boss combo as the Plan B of the deck, so the deck is still very capable of winning even if the opponent does have instant-speed interaction or graveyard hate. Guardian of New Benalia, Diviner of Fates, Raffine, Scheming Seer, and Evangel of Synthesis all enable you to pitch Parhelion II into the graveyard to enable the combo, whilst also being generically good cards in their own right that can smooth your draws when you don’t have the combo, and beat down as part of an aggressive game plan.
Alongside these enablers, the deck also runs Esper Sentinel and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben as great disruption against slower, interactive decks like Control and Midrange, as well as slowing down decks like Auras and Izzet Wizards. Then at the top end, the deck runs Inquisitor Captain which fits well into the aggressive game plan and can also dig for your powerful ‘hand-smoothing’ combo enablers like Diviner of Fates and Raffine, Scheming Seer, as well as being able to find Greasefang, Okiba Boss to combo off too.
The combination of a solid aggressive game plan full of disruptive creatures that are hard to kill and a combo means the deck is attacking on two different fronts and makes it awkward for the opponent; they will often want to bring in graveyard hate to stop the combo, but that does very little against the fair beat down part of the deck.
Weaknesses: While the deck is very powerful overall, it tends to struggle against aggressive creature decks that go-wide faster like Humans, Goblins, Elves, etc. The combo does give you a way to go over the top of those decks, but this build isn’t great at consistently setting up the combo in the early game, so while sometimes you’ll be able to win those bad matchups by getting lucky with a turn three combo, that won’t happen very often, and a lot of the other faster creature decks in the format can take advantage of that (although Witch's Vengeance does help a lot against the tribal go wide decks).
When is it good to play? If the format isn’t full of go-wide creature decks then this is a great choice. It’s a very generically powerful deck that is particularly hard to stop if the opponent is relying on interacting to pull off their game plan, since it attacks from a lot of different angles, and is very consistent at smoothing its draws and applying pressure.
Mono Red Burn
Decklist updates: Monastery Swiftspear is the best new addition to the deck which takes the place of A-Dragon's Rage Channeler. The only other notable changes are the swap from Shatterstorm to Brotherhood's End in the sideboard (since it’s cheaper against the artifact decks and can be used against go wide decks like Elves), and going up to 3 Roiling Vortex which was already a card burn wanted to run but is even better now since it’s great against Ominous Traveler combo.
This is a deck full of creatures and burn spells, which are flexible damage-based spells that can be used to either kill opposing creatures or planeswalkers, or go directly to the opponent’s life total. The flexibility of the burn spells means that you can play like a control deck against opposing aggro decks by using burn spells to kill creatures, and also allows you to play as a fast aggro deck against slower decks by burning the opponent directly.
The creatures enable you to deal consistent damage if you can clear the way for them to attack which then often enables you to finish off the opponent with your burn spells – one of the biggest strengths of this deck is that you have incredibly good reach in the late game, so even if the opponent is able to kill all of your creatures, you can still finish them off with burn spells without needing to attack if they stabilize at a low life total.
This build in particular, also has a lot of ways to refuel since you have cards like Electrostatic Blast, Light Up the Stage, Chandra, Dressed to Kill, and Laelia, the Blade Reforged that can all provide you card advantage so you very rarely run out of gas which was a problem with previous iterations of burn.
This can be a difficult deck to play optimally since pointing a burn spell at the wrong target can often end up losing you the game, but it’s also a strong deck that has very fast starts, is capable of grinding well into the mid-late game, and is very punishing if the opponent doesn’t have any incidental life gain.
Weaknesses: Since you’re Mono Red, you’re reliant on damage-based removal which makes you very vulnerable to bigger creatures and you’ll generally have a hard time dealing with cards like Sheoldred, the Apocalypse, Baneslayer Angel, Elder Gargaroth etc., unless you have two burn spells immediately (and even then that’s a pretty bad exchange for you).
Additionally, you’re very weak to decks that are packing incidental lifegain like Orzhov Angels (unless you manage to use Roiling Vortex every turn) so there are definitely some matchups that are going to be hard to win.
When is it good to play? Burn will be a good choice if the majority of the creatures being played are low toughness, and there aren’t a lot of decks that have incidental life gain.
This is a combo deck that is looking to find and activate Goblin Charbelcher which will almost always kill the opponent on the spot (unless the opponent has an insanely high life total) since the deck runs no actual lands.
In order to make mana, this deck uses the modal double faced lands from Zendikar (which don’t count as lands in the deck so they still work with Goblin Charbelcher), and mana accelerants like Strike It Rich, Prismari Command, and Irencrag Feat (which provides exactly enough mana to cast Goblin Charbelcher and activate it the same turn).
Since you’re good at generating treasures, you can run 4 Indomitable Creativity as another way to find the Goblin Charbelcher, and you can run counterspells like Pact of Negation and An Offer You Can't Refuse to protect your combo. It also gets to completely blank creature removal which is a big advantage game 1.
Weaknesses: Having to run the modal double faced lands means all of your lands will either enter tapped, or deal you 3 damage to enter untapped which can lead to slow or painful starts, both of which can often get punished by fast aggressive decks especially on the draw. Additionally the deck is pretty vulnerable to both discard spells and counterspells, and cards like Pithing Needle and Karn, the Great Creator that prevent you from activating the Goblin Charbelcher.
When is it good to play? Charbelcher is a good option if the format is focused around interacting with the board, since this deck operates on a completely different axis and doesn’t really care about the board at all.
Tier 3 Decks
This deck is focused around getting one of its two mana creatures like Kor Spiritdancer into play, protecting it, and then loading it up with a load of auras which is capable of going over the top of a lot of other decks in the format. It operates on a completely different axis to most decks in the format and really punishes decks that don’t have early interaction since it can usually outrace most decks if it’s left unchecked. The deck is capable of some incredibly fast starts, and lifelink auras like Staggering Insight mean you are usually capable of racing against aggressive decks too.
By far the biggest weakness of the deck is that it’s very vulnerable to early single-target removal and discard spells (since your deck basically does nothing if the opponent can pick off all of your creatures), but you also have access to protection in the form of Selfless Savior, Spell Pierce, Slip Out the Back, etc., as well as Lurrus of the Dream-Den to recover if the opponent is able to pick off your early creatures.
Additionally, the deck now has access to such a high density of good creatures that it’s often a difficult ask for the opponent to have enough removal to shut you out of the game if you have a creature-heavy hand.