Artwork by: Jason Felix | Wizards of the Coast
Long-time player, caster and content creator Luis-Scott Vargas (or LSV for short) is one of the pillars in Magic: The Gathering. With a career that goes back to 2004, he’s one of the people you might listen to if you want to get better at MTG.
This weekend, LSV shared what he considers to be the best four MTG Arena decks in the Ravnica Allegiance (RNA) Standard. The expansion launched a couple of weeks ago and already it has brought on new archetypes or improved older ones. So, what’s LSV’s list?
Mono red aggro
Even before RNA, mono red was one of the premier decks in standard. With cards like Runaway Steam-Kin and persistent damage like Risk Factor, mono red was the choice for those wanting quick games to crush the best-of-1 ladder with.
RNA only improved on mono red. The expansion introduced the “Spectacle” mechanic — a way to cast spells for cheaper if damage is dealt that turn. And damage, of course, is the heart of red. So, RNA gave the deck Light Up the Stage and Skewer the Critics. The former is a card draw for red, which is already rare and unusual. The latter is a nod to the good old Lightning Bold: a 1-mana, 3-damage burn.
If you’re playing MTG: Arena, you will be seeing a lot of this deck. So you can either beat them, or join them.
Mardu (BRW) aggro midrange
To be honest, this isn’t a deck that’s played a lot in Arena right now, but is having some success in MTG: Online, apparently. The deck revolves around Judith, a new RNA rare, which buffs all your creatures with +1/+0 and has them deal damage when they die.
The Mardu army grows through tokens from Hero of Precinct One and Elenda. It then starts attacking with them with the Judith buff or sacrifices them through Priest of Forgotten Gods for direct damage.
The playstyle is similar, though slower, than that of mono red. It’s also a way more expensive deck, especially given its mana base, so we’d actually recommend playing mono red unless you really, really want to play a three-color aggro.
Sultai (UBG) midrange
Before RNA, the midrange deck to beat was the Golgari (BG) midrange. It was everything you’d expect from a good such deck: fluent curve, great value creatures and spells and planeswalkers to back them up.
With RNA, the archetype got a great new creature, but it meant it had to splash blue. Meet Hydroid Krasis, the four-in-one jellyfish hydra beast. Yeah, just like Simic likes it.
Hydroid Krasis adds to the finishing power of the midrange deck by giving it a flying, trampling monstrosity. Krasis also draws cards, which helps vs. controls and heals, which stabilizes the deck further against aggro. The rest is as you know it: the Wildgrowth Walkers, the Jadelight Rangers and Vivien Reids.
Esper (UWB) control
Jeskai (UWR) was the control deck to beat pre-RNA. The new expansion, however, has ushered the resurgence of the Esper colors.
The list does what you’d expect: answers everything, then plays Teferi and or Chromium and wins off them. With the Orzhov and Azorius guilds being introduced in RNA, there are also way more ways to deal with threats.
Kaya’s Wrath is the WB nod to Wrath of God, the 4-mana destroy-all-creatures sweeper. Absorb is the counter spell that will make aggros hate you. And Mortify is a flexible removal and one of the few ways to remove enchantments in the new block. And believe us, there are enchantments you’ll want to kill (see below).
The list that LSV recommends is a very unusual one and teched to beat aggro, featuring a lot of life gain. More traditional lists will run the likes of Precognitive Perception and/or Karn, but you should fine-tune according to the meta.
Bant (UGW) Nexus combo
This is an infuriating deck to play against, especially in best-of-1’s on the ranked ladder.
The deck revolves around casting endless copies of Nexus of Fate, an instant that gives you an extra turn and then shuffles it back into the deck. The Bant color scheme allows you to do it very fast through ramping spells like Growth Spiral and especially Wilderness Reclamation. With a few good draws and doubling the mana through Reclamation, you can often cast Nexus as early as Turn 4 and then it’s up to you how you’ll kill the enemy (usually, it’s with Teferi).
A two-color version of this deck (linked above) runs only Simic colors (UG), packs the deck with fog spells (damage prevention) and kills with Hydroid Krasis over several consecutive turns. Play with both and decide which one you like best.