Hello and welcome back to Metagame Mentor, the weekly column in which I highlight the decks to beat and the latest Constructed developments on the path to the Pro Tour. While it's exciting to see the return of the Pro Tour at MagicCon: Philadelphia in five weeks, most competitive Magic journeys start at local stores with Regional Championship Qualifiers.
The possible formats for RCQs are Limited, Modern, Pioneer, and Standard. If you are eager to participate in a Standard RCQ but are unsure what to expect in that format, this article can act as your one-stop shop to help you get started!
To find RCQs nearby, check the Store & Event Locator or your regional organizer's website. Through April 3, players can earn a qualification for the third cycle of Regional Championships, which will be held in May, June, or July (depending on your region) and will feed the Pro Tour at MagicCon: Europe in July.
The Standard Metagame
Standard is a 60-card format that rotates every fall. Currently, it allows expansion sets from Innistrad: Midnight Hunt forward. It's the most popular way to play Constructed on MTG Arena, and it's the format for the second cycle of Regional Championships, which will be held in March and April (depending on your region).
To grasp the latest Standard developments, I analyzed 376 decklists from large competitive events over the past few weeks. Specifically, I used all available Magic Online decklists from Standard Challenge and Super Qualifier events held from December 13, 2022 through January 9, 2023. In addition, I used Top 8 decklists from three Standard events in Tokyo—the Premier RCQ, Area RCQ, and The Last Sun—as well as all MTG Melee decklists with net positive wins from the Cool Spot Year Finale and The Pizza Box: Standard Slice. I chose these events because they either provide an indirect path toward the Pro Tour or because they act as a barometer for the format.
To provide a metagame snapshot that combines popularity and performance, I assigned an archetype label to each deck and awarded a number of points equal to the deck's net wins, i.e., its number of match wins minus losses. For example, a deck that went 5–1 in the Swiss followed by a loss in the quarterfinals was assigned three points. The sum of these numbers for every archetype yields its record-weighted metagame share, which represents its share of total net wins. It may be interpreted as a winner's metagame that you can expect to see at the top tables.
|Archetype||Record-Weighted Metagame Share|
|1. Grixis Midrange||24.2% ↓↓|
|2. Azorius Soldiers||13.0% ↑↑|
|3. Esper Midrange||11.1% ↑↑|
|4. Mono-White Midrange||10.0%|
|5. Mono-Red Aggro||8.6%|
|6. Izzet Powerstones||6.4% ↑↑|
|7. Rakdos Midrange||4.3%|
|8. Mono-Blue Tempo||4.0%|
|9. Mardu Midrange||3.9%|
|10. Boros Midrange||2.1%|
|11. Mono-Black Aggro||1.8%|
|12. Esper Legends||1.5%|
|13. Azorius Midrange||1.3%|
|14. Mardu Angels||0.9%|
|15. Jeskai Powerstones||0.9%|
|16. Esper Control||0.7%|
|17. Naya Reanimator||0.6%|
In this table, each archetype name hyperlinks to a well-performing, representative decklist, and the arrows represent the biggest changes compared to my metagame roundup from early December. The "Other" category, continuing the descending order, includes Boros Aggro, Mono-White Aggro, Jund Midrange, Jund Sacrifice, Mono-White Soldiers, Azorius Aggro, Izzet Tempo, Grixis Powerstones, Boros Reanimator, Naya Enchantments, Orzhov Midrange, Mono-White Angels, and more.
The most-played non-basic cards across all main decks and sideboards were
The breakout metagame development over the past month is the emergence of Izzet Powerstones. This archetype, which I'll cover in more detail later, is capable of going over the top of Grixis Midrange, even though it struggles with aggro decks. This has led to a downtick in Grixis Midrange and an uptick in Azorius Soldiers. Izzet Powerstones has become the premier artifact-based deck in Standard, which has led to the disappearance of Grixis Sacrifice.
The Top 10 Standard Deck Archetypes
To take a closer look at the 10 archetypes with the highest record-weighted metagame share, I've used a decklist aggregation algorithm that takes into account the popularity and performance of individual card choices.
At 24.2% of the winner's metagame, Grixis Midrange continues its domination of Standard. The deck won last year's World Championship in the hands of Nathan Steuer, and its popularity has skyrocketed since then. Grixis has the best threats, interaction, and card advantage across blue, black, and red, and there are various ways to build it. But all versions aim to have higher individual card quality than opposing decks. You can control the early game with
When playing with or against this deck, it's important to recognize the interplay between
Azorius Soldiers, at 13.0% of the winner's metagame, has become the second-most popular archetype in The Brothers' War Standard. The deck has a great mana curve that can put a lot of pressure on your opponent right from the start. You could start with
When playing against this deck, remember that they have various ways to give their Soldiers +1/+1 at instant speed. If they attack a 2/2 Soldier into your 2/3, then check if they can activate
Esper Midrange, at 11.1% of the record-weighted metagame, has the best threats and interaction across blue, black, and white. The curve of turn two
When playing against Esper Midrange, don't forget about the static ability on
Mono-White Midrange, at 10.0% of the winner's metagame, is arguably the most consistent midrange deck in Standard, as it sticks to a single color and has two-mana creatures that help find land drops. The deck has access to
When playing against this deck, consider boarding out most of your spot removal spells.
Mono-Red Aggro, at 8.6% of the record-weighted metagame, is a fast, aggressive deck that aims to take the opponent down to zero life as quickly as possible. While Mono-Red Aggro is mostly about haste creatures and burn spells, the prowess mechanic is important as well. To reliably trigger
When playing against this deck, it's important to recognize that Mono-Red has a lot of burn spells that can target players. If you've stabilized at a dangerously low life total, consider exiling one of your own creatures with
Izzet Powerstones is the new hotness in Standard, made possible by The Brothers' War. The game plan is to use Powerstones to ramp into
When playing against this deck, you'll usually be at a disadvantage if the game goes long, so you'll want to quickly end the game before they can cast their heavy-hitters. However, keep in mind that they can sweep the board with
Rakdos Midrange is basically Grixis Midrange without the blue splash. This results in a superior mana base, and the in-color replacements like
Mono-Blue Tempo contains an enormous amount of instant and sorcery spells to boost
When playing against this deck, keep jamming your creatures into open mana because they don't have that many ways to counter them, and even if they do, it means they can't spend their mana on
Mardu Midrange has access to both
When playing against this deck, be aware of the capabilities of
Boros Midrange is basically Mono-White Midrange splashing for
While I covered the top ten deck archetypes in Standard, many other strategies are competitive viable as well, and the metagame keeps on developing. Nevertheless, it's always good to be aware of the Decks to Beat at the moment, as this knowledge helps you enter a Standard RCQ with confidence. Pick your favorite deck or construct your own, then set out for battle!
In the coming weeks, other Constructed formats are on the docket as well. This weekend, January 14-15, competitive play is kicking off with a bang, as the weekend features several large tabletop events where players may earn Regional Championship invites, reunite with fellow competitors, or reach impressive new accomplishments:
- The Modern Grand Open Qualifier at LMS Trieste, with live coverage on Twitch, 32 Regional Championship invites at stake, and prizes exceeding $30K in value.
- The Modern $20K at SCG Con New Jersey, with live coverage on Twitch on Sunday and 4 Regional Championship invites at stake.
- The Pioneer/Modern NRG Series Championship, an invite-only tournament for the top 16 players from the 2022 NRG Series, with live coverage on Twitch starting at 10:00 AM CT.
I'm looking forward to dive into Modern next week, especially when the 8-player Magic Online Champions Showcase on January 21 will also feature the format. I'm excited to see what competitive Magic will have in store for us in 2023!