Kaldheim has been out for three weeks now, so it’s time we take a big look at the metagame. That means it’s back to the tier list, where we’re going to break down the most played Standard decks on MTG Arena.
This tier list is intended to help you choose decks for the Standard Ladder. While that might translate over to an event like the SCG Online Opens or the CFB Clash, metagames may vary from weekend to 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 right now. Maybe things will change with time, but for right now, there is no “best deck” in the format.
Sultai Ultimatum goes over the top of every other deck in the format right now. It combines early interaction and ramp spells with Emergent Ultimatum and some truly game-ending cards. If Ultimatum finds Kiora Bests the Sea God, Vorinclex, and Alrund’s Epiphany, you’re guaranteed another turn against aggressive decks. And if you need to clean up the battlefield, Shadows’ Verdict, Extinction Event and Valki, God of Lies are all great targets.
The best thing about this Sultai deck is that it has plenty of tools to win the game. Control decks will often stabilize, but fail a top-deck war against a string of creatures or an Embercleave. This was a common problem for Esper Doom last season, but Sultai Ultimatum seems to be avoiding it by quickly and efficiently ending the game.
While the deck is heavy on expensive cards and demanding in color requirements, it still boasts good match-ups against most of the top decks. However, it can struggle against a few of the top players. Decks like Mono-Red and Mono-White can beat this deck while it’s setting up, especially if the Sultai player doesn’t have enough early interaction. Rogues can pressure Sultai and counter any big spell they try to cast to stabilize the game. And in order to gain an edge in the mirror, Sultai players have to give up points in better match-ups. Taken altogether, these factors are keeping Sultai from running the metagame right now; it has a strong presence, but it’s certainly beatable.
It may be a new Standard format, but Gruul is just as good as ever. It still 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!
When I’ve written about Gruul previously, I said that the only thing holding it back is its mana base. That still holds true today. While other decks have gotten upgrades, that hasn’t been the case for Gruul. They gained a few tools to change things up, but ultimately, the deck is virtually the same as it was pre-Kaldheim. And while that’s not a terrible place to be — it was the best deck in the format — it’s been getting destroyed by Sultai these past few weeks. Some Gruul decks have adopted Roiling Vortex or splashing blue, but the deck’s mana troubles and predictable play patterns are still holding it back a bit.
Mono-White had a very impressive showing this past weekend — it got 1st and 2nd at the SCG 5k, and it won the MTGO Challenge.
Mono-White preys on running over the clunkier decks like Sultai, and it can keep up with the other aggressive decks in the format. Players have opted to move away from the card advantage engine of Showdown of the Skalds in order to have better mana. This makes a lot of sense given how Sultai operates: it slams the door with Ultimatum instead of bleeding opponents out of cards like a traditional control deck.
Decks that go slightly bigger like the Mono-Green Food decks of last season might be able to force this deck out, but only time will tell if the format can produce a foil to this deck. Otherwise, this might be the next “best deck” in Standard. It was certainly the deck to play last weekend, and it will probably be around in some form for weeks to come.
Much like Gruul, Rogues didn’t get many upgrades from Kaldheim, and it hasn’t changed much in the last few weeks. While the ability to cast Tibalt in the late-game is nice if you’re willing to splash red, Rogues has tougher match-ups now than it did before Kaldheim. Mono-White, Jund and Rakdos are major players in the format now, and they’re all looking to push Rogues out.
Rogues is my favorite deck to play in Standard, and it’s the deck I’ve spent the most time on. You have no real slam dunk match-ups besides Sultai Ultimatum, and you have to work for every win. That’s certainly doable if you have experience with the deck, but unless Rogues’ bad match-ups start to fall by the wayside, it isn’t the best choice for the moment, especially if you’re looking to pick up a new deck.
While it didn’t put up quite the same numbers as Mono-White, Mono-Red also made a big splash this past weekend. In typical Mono-Red fashion, this deck excels at preying on decks like Gruul and Sultai when they stumble. However, the deck lacks ways to realistically catch up if it ever falls behind. If your opponent is able to answer your turn two and three play, it can be hard to get enough traction before they start overpowering you.
There will always be players that gravitate to Mono-Red; if that sounds like you, definitely give it a try. But the current decks in Standard will only get more streamlined with time, and unless something changes, Mono-Red may not be able to do the same.
This is the other build of Sultai that’s running around. While it lacks the explosive plays that Ultimatum provides, it does have many more answers. In theory, this allows you to run the Ultimatum decks out of threats while keeping up with the aggressive decks. There’s only one problem: How do you win the game?
Koma, Cosmos Serpent and Ugin are both powerful threats that this deck can use to overpower the competition. But if your opponents can answer them — or you fail to find answers yourself — you might run into some trouble.
Izzet Tempo was the biggest deck during Week One of Kaldheim Standard. Everyone was casting Goldspan Dragon and countering everything their opponents tried to do. But as the format has evolved, players have adapted to Goldspan Dragon and found ways to beat the deck.
Izzet Tempo’s game plan is to stick a threat and ride it to victory while holding the opponent off with reactive spells. It’s a solid game plan, but it’s also exploitable. One of the reasons why Rogues succeeds as a tempo deck is because it has a variety of cheap win conditions. The cheapest win condition this deck has costs three mana. Playing a reactive game while trying to play spells that cost three mana or more just doesn’t cut it against some of the aggressive decks in the format.
The biggest thing Izzet Tempo has going for it right now is a fine Sultai Ultimatum match-up. I could see this deck becoming a B-tier player with some changes, but in the current metagame, it’s not in the running for a top spot.
Rakdos put up some good results two weeks ago, but has since fallen by the wayside. The deck gets overpowered by most decks in the format, and it doesn’t have many strong draws outside of a turn four Kroxa. The deck does excel at beating up on lower-tier decks — including some not listed today — but it can’t really hang with the top tier decks.
Some players have tried turning this into a Jund deck by splashing green for Korvold, Fae-Cursed King. I prefer those builds to more Kroxa-focused ones, but the archetype still feels a bit underpowered.
That’s the tier list for this week’s Standard metagame. The format is still being figured out, and maybe this weekend will be the breakout weekend for a deck!
What deck are you looking to play with? Tweet at @masoneclark and @card_kingdom and let us know!
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.