Hello everyone,

I’m back after a little hiatus. Teaching during a pandemic is a challenging and time-consuming process. With students returning to the school building earlier this month, the challenges have multiplied. With Thanksgiving week upon us, I have some time to reflect on were standard is after the changes since the arrival of Zendikar Rising.

Today I am starting a new series called Ranking Up. The idea behind the series is to identify the decks that will help you move quickly up the MTG Arena ladder to reach Mythic in the best-of-one format. Since last month’s bannings Standard has become a very diverse format with many different decks competing well in the format. Choosing the right deck can be the difference between making or missing Mythic in a month.

Earlier this year I started using the game-tracking app Companion from untapped.gg. The app gives you a variety of information about your deck(s) and overall game play. The newest feature on the site is META game data based on user game play, so for the first time we have access to information that only Wizards of the Coast had previously about play on Arena. The free data gives information for ranked best-of-one play through Platinum rank. You can pay a monthly fee to get access to information about all formats and ranks on the Arena ladder. Below are the top two decks from Tier 1 in best-of-one. For each deck type, there are several variations of the deck. I have included the deck that has had the most success since October 12th, 2020.

Our first deck is Mono-Red Aggro.

Mono Red Aggro | Standard

CREATURES (30)
Bonecrusher Giant
Fervent Champion
Rimrock Knight
Robber of the Rich
Torbran, Thane of Red Fell
Anax, Hardened in the Forge
Phoenix of Ash
Goblin Arsonist

INSTANTS (4)
Shock

ARTIFACTS (4)
Embercleave

LANDS (22)
Castle Embereth
18 Mountain

This version of Mono-Red Aggro has a 60.6% win-rate over more than 13,000 matches since October 12th. The deck presents many cheap threats that an opponent much deal with or become overwhelmed. The ideal playout of the deck is a turn one Goblin Arsonist or Fervent Champion followed by a turn two Robber of the Rich or Rimrock Knight, and a turn three Anax, Hardened in the Forge or Bone Crasher Giant. Then on turn four casting Embercleave onto the three-drop cast on turn three to pile on damage. When I have any form of this combination in my opening hand, it becomes a near auto keep.

The deck has not changed very much since Theros Beyond Death’s release. Rotation left a couple of spots open in the deck. The first spot is in the second one drop slot. That has been filled with Goblin Arsonists in this version of the deck. Other versions use Weaselback Redcap, Akoum Hellhound, or Fireblade Charger. Each has its advantages. Personally, I like Weaselback the best because you can increase its power by two for two mana. I have won a bunch of games by attaching Embercleave to Weaselback Redcap and then pumping it up to do lethal damage.

The other addition is Phoenix of Ash. This 2/2 flyer give the deck an evasive threat with escape. When you escape Phoenix it gets a +1/+1 counter. Phoenix of Ash is particularly good against Rogue mill decks because it can return to play when it is put in the graveyard. The Rogue decks strategy of filling your graveyard works against Rogues when Phoenix is one of the cards milled or when a phoenix dies in play. Phoenix is also good against Gruul Aggo because it can fly over Lovestruck Beast and other large creatures to deliver a knockout blow.

One draw back of the deck is having only 22 total lands. Many of the loses I have experienced with the deck are the result of a mana problem. Mono-Red needs three lands for the deck to work. When you miss a land drop on turn three, this typically leads to being behind in the game quickly. I can’t tell you what percentage of my losses are because of mana issues, but it feels like a significant amount. As the META games continues to adjust, adding a land or two might become necessary to maintain the high win rate.

Our second Tier 1 deck is Mono-White Lifegain.

Mono-White Lifegain | Standard

CREATURES (30)
Alseid of Life’s Bounty
Giant Killer
Linden, the Steadfast Queen
Daxos, Blessed by the Sun
Heliod, Sun-Crowned
Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Selfless Savior
Speaker of the Heavens
Legion Angel
Luminarch Aspirant
Skyclave Apparition

PLANESWALKERS (1)
Basri Ket

SORCERIES (2)
Emeria’s Call

ARTIFACTS (5)
Glass Casket
Maul of the Skyclaves

ENCHANTMENTS (2)
Banishing Light
Sentinel’s Eyes

LANDS (20)
Castle Ardenvale
16 Plains
Sideboard (3)
Legion Angel

With over 9500 plus games played since October 12th, the deck has a 58.9% win-rate. The deck is a combination of lifegain, control, and recursion. This gives the deck a variety of ways to win games and performs well against Mono-Red Aggro.

The lifegain part of the deck focus on getting Daxos, Blessed by the Sun out on turn two or three and then playing other creatures to gain life. His ability gives you one life when a creatures enters the battlefield or dies. Daxos’ toughness is equal to your devotion to white. This makes Daxos difficult to get off the battlefield, unless you have a black removal spell. Even this can be countered because white has two important creatures that can protect others: Alseid of Life’s Bounty and Selfless Savior. Either can be sacrificed to protect another creature. Their abilities coupled with Lurrus of the Dream Den is a nearly unbeatable combination because they can be sacrificed to protect a creature and returned to play using Lurrus’ ability.

The deck has two one drops with lifelink: Alseid of Life’s Bounty and Speaker of the Heavens plus two copies of Heliod, Sun Crowned. Heliod can give a creature lifelink and when you gain life it gives a permanent a +1/+1 counter. Coupled with Daxos Heliod can quickly grow creatures and when Heliod is a creature he presents a difficult threat to remove from the game.

A part of the decks aggressive approach is Luminarch Aspirant. When you have Aspirant in play at the beginning of your attack phase, you get to put a +1/+1 counter on a creature. When you have creatures with lifelink you can give them a counter to boost your life gain.

The final piece to the Mono-White Lifegain’s aggressive strategy is Speaker of the Heavens. When you have 27 or more life, you can tap Speaker to creature a 4/4 angel token.

The Control part of the deck uses Glass Casket to remove cheap creatures from play. Skyclave Apparition provides a second source of creature removal by taking a creature with power 4 or less from play when Skyclave Apparition comes into play. Unlike Glass Casket, when Skyclave Apparition leaves play the creature taken does not return to play. Rather a token with power and toughness equal to the converted mana cost of the creature is created.

The deck includes several key recursive threats that keep the deck going. The first if Lurrus of the Dream Den. Lurrus can get any one or two mana cost permanent out of the graveyard and cast it. When Lurrus needs a protector, getting Alseid or Selfless Savior back turn after turn makes it difficult to remove Lurrus from play

The second recursive threat is Legion Angel. When Legion Angel enters play, you can put another copy of Legion Angel into your hand from your sideboard. This presents an evasive threat that can replace itself.

Overall, the deck is fun to play and presents problems for the other aggro decks in best-of-one. If you like playing aggressive decks that can control the game this is the deck for you.

Next time, I will look at the other two decks in Tier 1: Lurrus Boros Cycling and Mono-White Weenies.

Until next time, good luck finding your win condition!