Traditional Historic (BO3) Metagame Tier List and Rankings – January 2021

Hydroid Krasis

Introduction

Discover the best Magic: The Gathering Arena Historic decks and archetypes that the players are using to climb the ranked ladder and win tournaments. Explore the Traditional (BO3) Historic metagame as we regularly rank the top decks in a tier list, as well as our comprehensive analysis and review.

  • Click here to view the separate analysis and tier list for Arena (BO1) Historic.
  • Click on the deck archetype name to find a brief description, links to the full deck guide with a more detailed overview and to find the latest decklists representing it.
  • Each deck will be ranked in numerical order as well as tier order. The higher something is within the tier, the better it is than other decks.
  • Below the tier list you will also find a curated decklist for each archetype as well as a full explanation and reasonings behind these rankings and tiers.

Methodology

When constructing the tier list, we take into account a variety of factors and sources:

  • Field representation, win rate and matchups: How prolific a deck is on the Mythic ladder and how it stacks up against the other popular decks in the metagame.
  • Third-party applications: that track matches and publishes the data directly from ladder play. Currently, we have access to Untapped.gg, MTGA Assistant, MTG Arena Pro and MTG Arena Tool.
  • Tournaments: Important results shaped professional players. MTGmeta.io and MTG Data aggregates these results to analyze their performance.
  • Game Mode: As a general rule, best-of-one (BO1) prefers linear strategies and the metagame is different from Traditional best-of-three (BO3). Read more about the differences here. Generally speaking, the tournaments results are in BO3 only, have a much smaller sample size and its environment is very different from an open MTG Arena ladder experience.
  • Opinion: Our own ladder experience and in consultation with players.
  • Others: If a deck doesn’t appear below, either the play rate of it is too low for it to make a tangible impact or it falls below the tier 3 threshold which we sometimes will highlight as Honorable Mentions below. It doesn’t mean it’s a bad deck either, as this will just be focused on the most popular decks in the current metagame.

Legend

  • Tier 1: The best of the best. The most consistent decks that sport the highest win rates and generally, the highest play rates.
  • Tier 2: Very solid decks that are slightly lacking in some capacity, whether it’s consistency or power compared to the Tier One archetypes. These can still be strong choices for ladder or for tournaments if you are highly skilled with the archetype or play them during the right metas.
  • Tier 3: Either these decks are poorly positioned or have a lot of power/consistency issues. These are decks that see play, but are generally worse choices than your other options.

Tier List

  • December 11, 2020: With the Zendikar Rising Championship (click for the post-tournament analysis) now over, we got to see how the very best of Magic innovated both Standard and Historic. Although a lot of the Historic decks that were showcased were already known strategies, there was a lot of mobility within the tier list based on the data we aggregated from the event. Furthermore, a lot of decks are going to be falling off of the tier list as their play rate and viability plummeted with the format’s decks becoming more refined.
  • November 25, 2020: Welcome back everyone! Historic’s been the format to play since Kaladesh Remastered released and many, including myself, have been enjoying it immensely. For better or for worse (in my opinion, better), Kaladesh Remastered wasn’t so ground breaking that the entire Historic metagame has been upended, but a lot of nice tools have been introduced to old archetypes and some new archetypes have become popular as well! Let’s take a look!

TIER ONE

1. SULTAI MIDRANGE (FOUR-COLOR CONTROL)

As predicted and despite everyone’s best efforts, Sultai is still the top dog of Historic. With it’s extremely efficient interaction and insanely powerful threats like Uro, Nissa, and Hydroid Krasis, the deck is unbelievably powerful and is such a tough combination to fight through for a plethora of strategies. Taking the 2 highest win rates in the Zendikar Rising Championship (Sultai with 57.14% and 4 Color with 56.92%) and also placing 6 pilots in the Top 8, clearly this is the deck to beat in the format. Not to say this deck has no bad matchups, but even its worst matchups tend to not even be that bad for the deck. I suspect Uro is likely not going to be in Historic for too long, but better get used to playing with or against this deck while it’s still here.

Players are still stuck on whether Sultai or 4 Color is better as 4 Color helps improve most of your poorer matchups, but straight Sultai is better in the mirror. For an open metagame I would opt towards 4 Color, but probably play Sultai in an upcoming tournament since I think having the edge in the mirror is more important overall. I’ll include both lists here and you can make the judgement call.

2. JUND SACRIFICE

Last Tier list I grouped Jund and Rakdos together, but I believe the decks have no split up enough to warrant 2 separate inclusions. The largest factor in this is that the Jund Collected Company variant which was very similar to Rakdos has fallen off the radar in favor of it’s larger counterpart, Jund Food.

Jund looks to use the powerful Cauldron Familiar/Witch’s Oven synergy with Trail of Crumbs, Mayhem Devil, or Korvold, Fae-Cursed King to accrue large amounts of value. Despite only posting an overall 50% win rate at the Championship, Jund performed very well against every matchup that wasn’t a Sultai varient. If you want to hedge for more of an open metagame, Jund is a great choice for that.

3. RAKDOS SACRIFICE

  • Change: New
  • Win Rate: 56.0%

The leaner version of Jund Food, Rakdos looks to utilize a lot of the same synergies as Jund but it looks to close the game a lot faster. Rakdos did slightly better than Jund at the Championship sporting a 53% win rate, and had much better win rates against Sultai and 4 Color comparatively. However, Rakdos performed worse against every other archetype at the event and has a lower win rate on Ladder as well. Despite that, with Sultai being top dog you could do worse than play a deck that targets it.

4. GOBLINS

Old Muxus and his gang of Goblin goons is still a great deck in Historic. Personally, I think Goblins is the second best deck in Historic, but the data doesn’t support that opinion right now. With it having a pretty subpar win rate in the Championships and doing poorly against both Sultai and the Sacrifice strategies, it doesn’t look like the best choice per the data. However, anecdotally, I always thought the Sultai varients were some of your better matchups so I’m surprised to see such poor win rates and wonder if maybe the sample size was too small or the pilots less skilled than those on other strategies. Andrea Mengucci got the Goblins treatment with his 3 losses in Historic all being to Autumn Burchett on Goblins. I think Goblins is in a great spot right now and would be one of my top choices for this weekend.

TIER TWO

5. AZORIUS CONTROL

Sultai was the top dog of the Championship, but UW Control was the real talk of the tournament. Although the deck performed poorly in terms of data (46.8%), Champion Brad Barclay crushed the event going undefeated with it throughout the entire tournament. Not dropping a single match with a deck is an extremely impressive feat and many on ladder are clamoring to pick up the strategy before people dedicate too much of their deck beating it. Although I think it’s a solid choice, I’m quite concerned about the deck’s Goblins and Sultai matchups where both can give the deck a very hard time. However, if you know how to craft your sideboard to keep up with meta shifts and can effectively play with this notoriously challenging deck, it’s a great choice for either ladder or a tournament.

6. AURAS

How the mighty have fallen. Auras got chewed up and spit out at the Championship with a dismal 33.9% win rate, the worst performing deck of the tournament. This is counterbalanced by Auras having the highest win rate on Diamond and Mythic ladder with 59.4%. So what gives? Personally, I think Auras is poor against Sultai and the Sacrifice strategies which made up 60% of the tournament, but is excellent in functionally every other matchup. Orzhov has pretty much been replaced by Azorius as the draw to the card draw enchantments was more alluring than a cleaner mana base, but I’m still not completely convinced that Orzhov isn’t worth consideration anymore. For an open metagame like ladder, I think Auras is a great choice and there is still room for innovation in the archetype which can help improve it’s poorer matchups, so we’ll see how this deck develops for the future. As a note, the deck guide will be for Orzhov Auras although the list is for Azorius as we don’t have one specifically for UW, but the decks play very similarly.

7. BANT CONTROL

  • Change: New
  • Win Rate: 54.3%

An iteration of UW Control that trades more efficient answers and cleaner mana for the sheer power of Uro and friends, this is a great way to get into playing a more controlling deck while still having a lot of powerful cards to bail you out of tight spots. The nice part about Bant is with the deck’s power level being higher, mistakes are punished less than they are with UW where mis-timing a spell can be game losing. This deck is still a little too new to say if it’s better or worse than UW, but I really like the look of Aspiringspike’s build which utilizes a whole fleet of planeswalkers to bury the opponent in card advantage over being a purely reactive strategy.

TIER THREE

8. GRUUL AGGRO

Although Gruul is the darling to many and plays a lot of powerful cards, it’s having a very hard time stacking up against the premiere threats in the format like Uro, Muxus, Cauldron Familiar, or Kor Spiritdancer. Gruul certainly isn’t a bad deck by any stretch and can steal games from any strategy, but it’s just really poorly positioned right now.

9. MONO RED AGGRO (BURN)

A lot of what I said about Gruul applies here as well, but I think Monored utilizes less powerful cards for a very minor upgrade in consistency. I’m not a big fan of traditional Monored, but the Burn variant is a nice spin on it that circumvents having powerful cards in general for the highest levels of consistency. The deck is capable of enacting the same game plan pretty much every game and a lot of decks can randomly struggle against it, but sadly, Uro is both the best way to beat Burn and one of the most popular cards in the format, so it’s not Burn’s time to shine yet.

10. RAKDOS ARCANIST

Rakdos Arcanist has lost a lot of popularity as Sultai has functionally overshadowed it as the premiere midrange strategy of the format. Uro really needs to get banned for Arcanist to have a shot at being a real contender in the metagame again, however, if you like piloting challenging, but skill rewarding decks, Rakdos Arcanist is probably the most engaging deck in the format to meet those ends.

HONORABLE MENTIONS

MONO WHITE PRISON

The oddball of the format which was mostly a meme until Rivals member Grzegorz Kowalski showed us his grit by playing it. The deck looks to lock your opponent out from dealing damage to you with Solemnity/Nine Lives then eventually winning with Dawn of Hope or Castle Ardenvale tokens. This deck is super funny as it can be really powerful against linear decks like Goblins, but can struggle massively against Control or decks that happen to have effects that negate the lock like Bonecrusher Giant or Questing Beast. Is this deck cool? Absolutely. Is it taking down tournaments any time soon? Probably not.

DoggertQBones

DoggertQBones

Robert "DoggertQBones" Lee is a streamer and high ranked Arena player. He has one GP Top 8, has 3-0d 3 professional draft pods, and loves writing and teaching!

5 Responses

  1. Adam says:

    I’d argue that Simic/Bant Nexus aren’t tier 1 in Historic, rather tier 1.5 or tier 2. The introduction of Questing Beast and Bonecrusher make fogs much worse, and Teferi and Unmoored Ego do a good job of stopping Nexus. The introduction of Meddling Mage is another way to disrupt Nexus, and Maelstrom Pulse can take out Tamiyo, Wilderness Reclamation, and Azcanta.
    I think Nexus feels like a very strong deck because it’s very unfun to play against and it usually takes a long time to win, so even if you have a 60% win rate against Nexus it feels like you struggle.

    • Jose says:

      I think that Nexus is fine in tier 1 or 1.5 at the moment, because as the article states, this initial tier list is more warped by FotD. Tier 1 all have great matches vs FotD decks, either going under and harder (RDW and Gruul) or comboing (Kethis and Nexus). The tier 1.5 do fine but might not be as good vs Tier 1. Tier 2 can’t overrun the zombies generated by FotD (Pridemates, Dinos without the Cleave, Hero’s tokens). Of course there are a lot more interactions but it is also true that this list is influenced by “encountering more frequently”. As Ranked queues begun, Nexus probably went very high, same as Gruul, due to many many people trying jank and achieving wins vs those new decks. Now they have a spot in mythic and are likely to be found around. Who knows, there’s very little to do to understand the exact situation, but this is a starting point.

      * Also, the impact of this and other lists will influence the meta forward. People might pick up on tier 1 listed here so adapt to them.

  2. ViR ViR says:

    Always interesting update on the meta, please keep it coming.
    Just a heads up, the format of comments is slightly over the place, Kethis analysis continue after Temur REC.

  3. Worst meta ever, u only play with goblins, white life gain and control so it suck better play standard.

  4. Chrysologus Chrysologus says:

    The comments are a graveyard because this article keeps getting updated!

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