Standard has had a lot of churn these past few weeks. Since Omnath’s ban, five or six different decks have become top dog, only to be dethroned a few days later. This is great for Standard, if you ask me!
But the amount of change we’ve seen may also leave you feeling unsure what to play in the Arena Open or the CFB Clash this weekend. That’s where our latest Arena Ladder Tier List comes in! This is where the decks in Standard currently sit, in my opinion. Don’t think of this as a “Bible” necessarily, but if you’re looking for opinions on decks, hopefully we can help inform your choice for this weekend.
Before we dive into the list, here’s a quick refresher on the Tier List grading criteria:
S Tier: Decks that are above the rest. This is normally the default “best deck in the format” and the deck(s) you should have in mind when building or picking your deck.
A Tier: Decks that are great. These decks are knocking on the door of S Tier, but they may have a small weakness that keeps them out of the upper echelon.
B Tier: Good, solid decks. You wouldn’t be surprised if a B Tier deck takes down an event, but they have bigger weaknesses or liabilities than the decks in A Tier.
C Tier: Decks that are totally fine, but not notable. These decks aren’t exactly tearing up the tournament or ladder scene, but you should expect to face them every now and then.
D Tier: Decks with strong elements, but that generally aren’t great choices compared to the rest of the format.
Without further ado, here’s the list!
There are no S-tier decks at time of writing. A few decks that you’ll see further down on this list have been S-tier for a weekend, but each has some exploitable weaknesses.
We’re starting off A tier with the stompy Gruul Clans. Gruul has powerful creatures that demand answers, as well as one of the best cards in Standard — Embercleave. Even your smallest creatures can become game ending threats thanks to the ‘Cleave!
Gruul has a proactive game plan with strong cards on rate — the only thing really holding it back is the mana. This deck wants lots of green sources in the early game to curve out, and it also wants to have double red on turn four for Embercleave. Plus, it’s an aggressive deck that plays six fetchlands that won’t all the lands to come into play untapped til mid-game at the earliest. Some Gruul players have been to help fix this problem by playing Lotus Cobra. Cobra isn’t as hard-hitting as the rest of the creatures in the deck, but it does allow you to consistently cast your spells, and it even allows for some “double spell” turns earlier in the game.
If people continue to work on Gruul and solve its mana problems, it might become the coveted S-tier deck of the format.
Black-Red Kroxa is the premier midrange deck in the format. Your goal is to run your opponents out of resources using spot removal, Liliana, and Kroxa, then win with any resources you have leftover.
Kroxa decks use their graveyard as a resource to cast their namesake card and Ox of Agonas as early as possible. This gives the deck a natural advantage against Rogues — a deck that can only be effective if opponents have cards in their graveyard. While you do turn Rogues’ cards on a bit earlier, your Kroxa plan suddenly becomes much stronger. This leads to lots of challenging games for Rogues if your able to find an early escape creature.
This deck really struggles with the various green decks, but with decks like Black-Green Adventures and Mono-Green on the downswing, it’s in a much better spot.
Rounding out A tier is Lurrus Rogues. This deck has been a player since the most recent ban announcement, thanks to powerful cards like Drown in the Loch, Into the Story, and Lullmage’s Domination. While it does have a challenging Kroxa match-up, the deck has real game against just about everything else in the format.
However, one of the things holding Rogues back is how difficult it is to play. In some games, you need to be beating down with Thieves’ Guild Enforcers; in others, you need to be prioritizing milling them out with Ruin Crab. Sometimes, you’re shifting between plans mid-game. This gives the most experienced Rogues players a pretty big advantage.
There are a few different ways to build Rogues, and personally, I think the Lurrus builds are the strongest. While there is some merit to the Shark Typhoon builds, having access to Lurrus does a lot for you in a few match-ups — like Black-Red Kroxa and green-based midrange decks — and gives you a lot of game when you’re flooding out.
There may not be an S-tier deck this week, but if I had to pick the best deck overall, it would be Rogues.
UB Control is very similar to our last deck — instead of playing Lurrus and Crabs, you have four Shark Typhoons and more spells. In games where holding up mana is vital to victory, this gives you a way to do that and punish opponents who are doing the same. It also dodges Skyclave Apparition, which was a card many were expecting to be out in full force last weekend. Finally, it makes your deck more focused; winning with damage, rather than milling with Crab, is the main goal here.
This deck was a great metagame call for last weekend, and it was a great choice for MPL/Rivals League Weekend. Everyone was expecting a lot of Yorion decks, which have a hard time answering shark tokens outside of Glass Casket, and it also solved Rogues’ Dream Trawler problem. Now, we’re seeing a decrease in Yorion decks and Dream Trawler. So, if you’re planning on playing in a tournament this weekend, you’re better off playing the Lurrus build.
Temur Ramp appeared to be lost to time with the banning of Escape to the Wilds, but it returned to form in the last week or so. You can really feel the loss of Escape in this deck, but it’s far from unplayable. You can still go over the top of a lot of decks in the format with game-ending cards like Ugin, Genesis Ultimatum, and Terror of the Peaks.
I’ve included this deck in B tier this week because it has some problems with interaction and fast clocks. Rogues’ counterspells can be very tricky for the Temur player to overcome, especially if Rogues has a more aggressive draw with its one-drops. Black-Red Kroxa is also annoying, but not as much as Rogues; discard spells can break up your plans, but you can still peel off the top and outlast almost anything besides an early Kroxa. Gruul can just run this deck over if it doesn’t find some of its early plays like Cobra or Bonecrusher Giant.
Even with all that in mind, the rest of the decks on this list are fairly soft to Temur Ramp, especially its “unbeatable” draws. Ramping into Terror and another payoff can help you win even some of your worst match-ups.
Our last B-tier deck is nothing to sleep on. Green-White Adventures was Card Kingdom’s own NumotTheNummy’s choice for the MPL split this past weekend, and it’s slowly rising in popularity on the Arena ladder.
This deck uses the Edgewall Innkeeper Adventure engine, but it’s much more proactive than its Black-Green counterpart. And a proactive midrange deck is very appealing right now — you can aggro out your bad match-ups and grind a bit when you need to. One of the more powerful and neat interactions in this deck is using Shepherd of the Flock to generate card advantage. If you’re flooding out and you have to Shepherds and an Edgewall Innkeeper, you can keep returning Shepherds to your hand and drawing a lot of cards. You can also use Shepherd to pick up an Emeria’s Call you played as a land and cast it as a spell. Things like this allow you to be proactive in the early game and avoid getting punished by the other midrange decks.
Green-White Adventures has a lot of play to it, and it’s a real player in the format. I would not be surprised to see this deck creep up into the A tier in the coming weeks. If you’re looking for a dark horse deck to play in this weekend’s events, this might be the deck for you.
If you read my last article, you may remember that I was very low on Esper Dance in a Yorion-focused metagame. However, after this past weekend, it seems Yorion is much more manageable than we thought.
I also mentioned that Esper Dance would be a strong choice if fewer decks were flooding the board, and the metagame is certainly trending that way now. Players have also worked on the deck a good amount in the last couple of weeks, and now it has fewer middling enchantments and more powerful cards. Esper Dance also gets access to Extinction Event — a powerhouse card that few players are really prepared for right now.
This deck still has problems, but players have been hard at work to fix them and the trends in the metagame have really helped its spot on the Tier list.
Abzan Yorion looks to be the ultimate greedy Yorion deck. Green-White Yorion can have a hard time in the late game, and this deck looks to fix that problem by adding Eerie Ultimatum and Doom Foretold. This allows you to have a late-game play that should go over the top of everything else in Standard.
Abzan Yorion is already built around maximizing “enter the battlefield” effects — after all, it’s a Yorion deck. This works great with Eerie Ultimatum, which will not only bring all your creatures back, but will most likely bring back a Yorion for even more triggers. You do have a big weakness to Ugin, but luckily for Abzan Yorion, that card isn’t seeing widespread play.
Your Embercleave problem, on the other hand, is a much bigger one. While you can try to take that into account with sideboarding, you will need to be cautious of picking this deck up if you think the ’Cleave will be out in force.
This deck is very fun, and if you have the wildcards, you should at least give it a couple games to fully appreciate all the value.
Two weeks ago, all you could find online and on the ladder was Black-Green Adventures. Since then, the deck has fallen off in a big way. Too many decks simply go over or under you, and the biggest culprit is Yorion. You also don’t have a real power draw outside of straight curving out, and not many real ways to break up your opponents’ draws. You’re just a small midrange deck in a metagame full of much bigger midrange decks.
Golgari Adventures has some really powerful cards, but lacks a real way to take over the game or thwart the opponent from doing as much. If you’re playing this deck, pray you don’t see Yorion — which might be a fair bet given how much hate that deck is seeing right now.
Our last deck in C tier, Jeskai Polymorph hasn’t really taken off despite a great first showing from Will Pulliam. This is partly due to a lack of good targets for Transmogify or Lukka. The best option at the moment is Dream Trawler — a strong card that can win lots of games, but that can’t generate nearly as much value as Yorion. Previous iterations of this deck could use Agent of Treachery to steal permanents and swing wins, but the current plan relies too much on answers that don’t always line up. If the format becomes softer to Dream Trawler, you can pick this deck back up, but it’s just not the best choice right now.
Blue-White Yorion is another deck that I was low on in my last article. Since then, the deck has overgone some drastic changes — the newer builds are much more controlling and less focused on blinking permanents. Jean-Emmanuel Depraz played this deck in the MPL split, and while I don’t think it’s perfect, I do like its approach to the format. You have plans for everyone trying to go over the top, and you can interact early with the decks that are trying to go under you.
That said, I still don’t think UW Yorion is in a great spot. One of the biggest problems with the deck is ending the game. You’ll find yourself in lots of spots where you have to keep Yorion back on defense for a turn or two while you get a stranglehold on the game or try to find a Dream Trawler. This is a real problem when lots of decks have big swing cards and others have ways to grind out; for UW Yorion, prolonging the game may not be quite good enough.
Mono-Red is a deck that we’ve seen very little of, and for good reason. While it’s the most consistent Embercleave deck in Standard, it lacks great threats to hold the hardware. This leads to incredibly polarizing and easy-to-break-up games. A lot of the time, the deck will present one “real” threat with Embercleave, and if you answer that, it becomes very easy to manage afterward. Meanwhile, every creature in Gruul outside of Edgewall Innkeeper is a powerful creature that demands an answer, especially if it’s wearing an Embercleave.
Even with strong cards like Torbran and Anax to back up ’Cleave, Mono-Red can’t quite hold a real spot in this metagame. Most of the top decks in the format also have a decent amount of interaction in the early game, which can make it hard for you to get in early chip shots or build up a board. You can win games with Mono-Red in this format, but it might be the hardest red deck to play that we’ve seen in the last year or two.
Green-White Yorion is a deck I was high on last week, but as we approached the weekend, players were able to identify and exploit the deck’s weaknesses. The deck didn’t go over the top as hard as other decks, and its non-synergistic draws became a liability as the metagame adapted.
Nowadays, you don’t see very much Green-White on the ladder, especially now that Abzan Yorion is on the rise. If we see more decks move away from grinding and start building up wide boards again, then you might want to look at this deck for a weekend. For right now, though, I think Abzan Yorion is the better Green-White Yorion deck.
This Standard format is very deep, and it’s been very fun to play. We covered and talked about a lot of decks today — hopefully, this gave you some insight into the metagame ahead of the Arena Open this weekend.
Do you have any feedback on the tier list? Tweet at @masoneclark and @card_kingdom and let us know what you would change!
Mason Clark is a grinder in every corner of the game who has played at the pro level and on the SCG Tour with Team Nova. Whether he’s competing in Standard, Historic or Modern, Mason plays with one goal in mind: to be a better player than he was the day before. Check out his podcast, Constructed Criticism, and catch his streams on Twitch.