Arena Meta Mine: Ravnica Allegiance Arrives!

Welcome

Hello everyone! My name is Jack, and this is the second edition of Arena Meta Mine, a series intended to give anyone a good sense of the Magic Arena Metagame and how to best build for it. For today, we’ve got a special episode already! This is because Ravnica Allegiance (RNA) hits Arena tomorrow, and there’s not really a point in speaking concretely about a meta that is about to have a major shake-up. The last edition of Arena Meta Mine was written about a very well-defined metagame and absolutely still holds up to the current meta.

A major difference of Magic Arena to tournament Magic is that the Arena metagame will shift more slowly. For at least the first couple of weeks people will be playing limited and building up their staples from RNA. That means Golgari, White Weenie, Jeskai Control, and all of the various midrange flying decks will still be all over Arena for some time. Most of us will be transitioning one card at a time, and I want to make it easier for you! I am going to talk about the top decks in each RNA guild colors and how they may be getting a boost with the Shock lands and more. Before I get there however, there is already a Tier-1 archetype that has been tearing through Arena’s ranked ladder and can’t go anywhere but up: Teferi Taking Turns.

Bant Turbo Fog & Esper Turns

This is absolutely the deck to look out for as RNA arrives. These two decks are essentially controlling Combo decks that win by taking infinite turns cycling Nexus of Fate while having a Teferi, Hero of Dominaria and Azcanta, the Sunken Ruin on the field. The Bant (B/U/G) version employs Green for ramp and Fog effects while the Esper (W/U/B) build is structured as a more traditional Control deck with the combo finish. Many decks play all four colors. Regardless of the build, having Hallowed Fountain and either Breeding Pool or Godless Shrine is going to make both decks more consistent. Wilderness Reclamation is a likely inclusion into Bant builds that has many people terrified. As Nexus of Fate is an instant, you can cast it main phase, untap at end step with Wilderness Reclamation and Nexus again without the opponent ever getting a chance to untap. The Azorius guild is also bringing plenty of new control options to help Turbo-Fog survive even easier such as Absorb. Nexus of Fate certainly has the potential to be a broken deck in standard and will force the meta to shift around it.

The Orzhov guild with new toys like Kaya’s Wrath has me even more enticed. I was initially going to feature Esper Turns as the focus of today’s article. However, the first deck I tried out turned out to be pretty perfect, and that’s largely because it was built with Arena, and specifically Ranked Best-of-One in mind. The deck I’m talking about is Wedge of the Mana Source’s Esper Control/Taking Turns deck. Wedge has stated that his win rate with the deck is over 80 percent, and after 20 games with the deck myself, I am above that win rate as well. The deck is absurd for Arena, and I didn’t really feel like it needed changes; as such here is Wedge’s Taking Turns deck with some minimal changes that I made to suit myself:

Esper Taking Turns - (by Wedge)

Main Deck  
Planeswalkers (7)
2 x Karn, Scion of Urza
4 x Teferi, Hero of Dominaria
1 x Tezzeret, Artifice Master

Spells (27)
2 x Cleansing Nova
3 x Moment of Craving
1 x Negate
4 x Nexus of Fate
4 x Opt
2 x Revitalize
2 x Ritual of Soot
2 x Search for Azcanta
1 x Spell Pierce
2 x Treasure Map
4 x Vraska's Contempt
Lands (26)
4 x Drowned Catacomb
4 x Glacial Fortress
3 x Island
4 x Isolated Chapel
3 x Plains
3 x Swamp
4 x Watery Grave

While this deck is very powerful and will get even more firepower from Azorius and Orzhov being featured in RNA, it has some things going for it in particular that give it an advantage that could easily be taken away should the meta shift. Because the deck plays Blue and looks like a pretty standard control deck, many players will play around counterspells very heavily despite the deck not featuring very many. There are just a few to protect the combo. The deck also runs white and leaves up mana all of the time forcing players to play around Settle the Wreckage despite it not being in the deck. The deck also runs zero creatures giving opponents plenty of dead draws. All of this to say, sometime opponents beat themselves by giving you too much time to set up the combo while you just hold up instant-speed draw spells. The metagame could shift to counteract it, but with Teferi Control lists already being incredibly powerful, having Azorius join standard is likely going to keep control in the top tiers of the format. With all of that said, there are surely going to be more contenders in the Arena meta, and I’m going to talk a little about some of them by going through the guilds one by one.

Azorius (W/U)

So we know Hallowed Fountain as well as Absorb and Quench are going to give WUx Control and Turns builds plenty to utilize, Wizards has really seemed to push Azorius as the Tempo guild rather than the Control guild with Warrant//Warden being a particularly interesting card for this archetype. Mono-Blue Tempo is already an imposing deck, and Essence Capture is pure upside over Essence Scatter for that deck. It may also have a home in another Tempo deck that has already impressed me despite Azorius not joining standard yet: WU Tempo. This is a deck that runs the Mono-Blue Tempo package in the early game but runs finishers like Lyra Dawnbringer over Tempest Djinn. It also has access to Tocatli Honor Guard giving it a potent hate card against Golgari. These types of decks already play creatures and enchantments in the main phase, and now will access to additional upside with the addendum mechanic. With the new counterspells and Tempo instants, be on the look out for this deck or one like it.

Rakdos (B/R)

Rakdos is the guild that I am personally looking forward to most and the one that I think has the best chance of going under Teferi Control decks. B/R Aggro was the best deck prior to Guilds of Ravnica’s release, and it could easily reclaim that position with access to Blood Crypt and ultra-aggressive cards like Footlight Fiend, Gutterbones, and Skewer the Critics. I’m more interested in blending the new cards with the already powerful Golgari Midrange to create some scary Jund (B/R/G) Midrange builds. Many players have already been playing with Rakdos Midrange builds, notably Jim Davis in the SCG Invitational. I haven’t had much success with the deck personally, but it shows a lot of promise for when RNA drops.

Rakdos Midrange - (by Jim Davis)

Main Deck Sideboard
Planeswalkers (2)
2 x Angrath, the Flame-Chained

Creatures (24)
4 x Dusk Legion Zealot
3 x Goblin Instigator
3 x Midnight Reaper
4 x Plaguecrafter
2 x Ravenous Chupacabra
4 x Rekindling Phoenix
4 x Siege-Gang Commander
Spells (9)
1 x Arguel's Blood Fast
4 x Lava Coil
2 x Moment of Craving
2 x Vraska's Contempt

Lands (25)
4 x Cinder Barrens
4 x Dragonskull Summit
3 x Memorial to Folly
7 x Mountain
7 x Swamp
Sideboard
1 x Banefire
2 x Deadeye Tracker
2 x Dire Fleet Daredevil
4 x Duress
2 x Golden Demise
2 x Moment of Craving
2 x Vraska's Contempt

Gruul (R/G)

Gruul has not had a strong showing thus far in our current standard, but has amazing potential from RNA. The new mechanic, Riot, plays perfectly with existing Red Aggro cards and new Rakdos Aggro pieces meaning that Gruul and Jund Aggro may have a place in the format. Personally, I have had a lot of fun playing Gruul decks on Arena, from Dinosaurs to Sarkhan’s Unsealing to Zoo (featuring Jadelight Ranger, Rekindling Phoenix, etc.) My personal favorite, however, is a Ponza deck of my own design. Although technically Naya, it is based in R/G, and follows the traditional Ponza recipe: one part ramp, one part land destruction, and one part big finishers. It is not the most competitive deck, but it is incredibly fun and could become a tier option with RNA as it can go over Aggro decks and keep Nexus decks off of their seventh land.

Standard Ponza - (by Jack Parker)

Main Deck  
Planeswalkers (2)
2 x Vivien Reid

Creatures (18)
2 x Carnage Tyrant
1 x Druid of the Cowl
1 x Etali, Primal Storm
2 x Knight of Autumn
4 x Llanowar Elves
2 x Ranging Raptors
1 x Regisaur Alpha
1 x Ripjaw Raptor
4 x Sumala Woodshaper

Spells (8)
1 x Banefire
2 x Deafening Clarion
1 x Fight with Fire
2 x Lava Coil
1 x Star of Extinction
1 x Thunderherd Migration
Artifacts & Enchantments (9)
1 x Crucible of Worlds
4 x Gift of Paradise
4 x Haphazard Bombardment

Lands (23)
2 x Clifftop Retreat
1 x Evolving Wilds
5 x Forest
1 x Memorial to War
3 x Mountain
1 x Plains
3 x Rootbound Crag
2 x Sacred Foundry
2 x Sunpetal Grove
2 x Temple Garden

Orzhov (W/B)

Orzhov is another guild that hasn’t quite found its place in standard. Unlike Gruul, however, two Orzhov decks are incredibly popular on Arena in specific due to being featured in the preconstructed decks and tribal being a popular archetype: Knights and especially Vampires. Which has the best chance of surviving the influx of RNA? I think tribal is likely going out the window in favor of tokens and Aristocrats-style decks. Vampire Tribal decks already have some synergies that support these archetypes, however, so building a vampire-tribal deck with a token slant may be the best idea if you are really into that color pairing. The deck I’m looking at? Straight Wb Tokens with the now classic curve of Legion’s Landing, Adanto Vanguard, and History of Benalia.

Simic (U/G)

The final pair we’re going to talk about is Simic. We already know that Breeding Pool and others will enhance Turbo-Fog, but what else are we looking at. Maybe the best, and definitely the most popular U/G deck at the moment is Merfolk. The deck is very explosive and will receive some updates from RNA. Zegana, Utopian Speaker is a top-end threat that can give all of your Merfolk trample while Benthic Biomancer and Combine Guildmage are earlier plays that mess around with the +1/+1 counter theme. Do I think this is going to be the go-to Simic deck post-RNA? I’m not so sure. My plan for building Simic early is to use the Breeding Pools to splash Blue in Mono-Green Stompy builds that are already quite powerful. Pelt Collector and Nullhide Ferox feel too good to pass up, and the deck can use Blue for Hadana’s Climb and Zegana, Utopian Speaker to give the deck reach. U/G is also a potent color combination for control hate. Access to Negate and other counterspells can help Mono-Green against control which would typically just go over it. With plenty of lifegain to defend against Aggro, U/G Stompy feels like a deck that can compete with much of the field.

Conclusion

Well that is it for today’s article! Check back in a couple weeks for lots of data on the new Magic Arena metagame as it develops around RNA. Personally, I’m going to be looking at picking up Hallowed Fountains and other Shock lands early as I know they will slot into plenty of decks. Beyond that, I’ll be waiting to see what other rares and mythics find themselves in multiple decks, but until then Esper Turns is looking like my go-to for competitive play. Thanks for reading the article and have fun playing with Ravnica Allegiance on Magic Arena!

I would love to hear your questions, comments, and suggestions about this article and the Magic Arena metagame! Please leave a comment below, or shoot me a message at bossmtgjack@gmail.com or Twitter @mtg_jack!

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