The Arena Bo1 Metagame

Hello people, Kratos coming to you with another piece for Team Genji

I’ve been playing a ton of MTGA. My goal for this month is to retain a top 1000 mythic finish so that I can qualify for the Mythic championship Qualifier Weekend and so that I am free to play all kinds of nonsense next month into mythic.

      The thing is, I have a real, 9 to 5 day job which prevents me from playing most of the day. Luckily, I got a decent computer at work and not a lot of things to do so I have some spare time to play from work! Don’t worry, my employer knows this and he’s fine with it as long as it does not keep me from getting things done work wise.

      My line of work requires handling customers, which means anyone may arrive anytime of the day, so if I’m playing a game of Magic I have to either concede or make very fast plays to make sure the customer’s experience is as pleasant as possible.

      Luckily, Wizards provided us with a play mode that can be fast and efficient for climbing. I’m talking about Bo1 Ranked of course!

      So I’ve been playing a ton of Bo1 and will provide you here with the decks I’ve piloted and faced during my trip to Mythic, along with a short analysis for each one:

  1. Esper Control:

The deck is similar in power level to its Bo3 variant. It has a 50/50 matchup versus Monored (which is by far the most played deck and one of the 2 best decks to use overall in my opinion), kills creature decks with its vast variety of removal and has Teferi to beat up on other decks trying to go long.  All in all, I would say this is one of the two “tier 1” decks for Bo1 ladder play.

As far as card choices go, I would definitely main deck a Kaya as she is an extra source of lifegain plus it provides for a faster win condition that Teferi should a game go the long way.

Multiple copies of Moment of Craving are required in this meta, so I would cut on the Cast Downs to make room for that. Also, Negates usually find good value, as most Monored lists run Experimental Frenzy. Getting their Light up the Stage is good as well.

I would stay away from cards like Chromium or other win conditions of the sort. While they provide the deck with a mirror breaker, the card slot could be used elsewhere and, against a metagame like this, that’s full of creature decks, Chromium won’t serve you well.  

  1. Monored:

The elephant in the room, the boogey man. When queuing bo1 ladder, most of the times you are met with an opponent that starts with a turn one Mountain. The deck is cheap, fast and efficient, thus making it a prime choice for laddering.

I will admit it was my most played deck overall this month.

I will also admit that after a point, my relationship with Monored has become something more than a means to an end. I started playing it because of how efficient it was but I got addicted pretty fast.  

Some people try to hate on it but I can assure you, I’ve beaten a lot of “lifegain” strategies just by jamming my efficient burn spells into their guys and faces.

The matchup I lost to the most was Esper on the draw and, of course, the mirror on the draw. Basically, if you lose the coin flip you lose a significant amount of percentage points with this deck. That is true for most matchups in bo1 but in Monored this is highlighted even more.

All in all I’d suggest you give this deck a try since its cheap enough to craft, easy enough to play and it definitely wins a ton.

As far as card choices are concerned, here’s the list I’ve had the most success with:

At the time this article is being written, I am on top 200 Mythic and going for #1 with it.

I’ve tried all cards and versions. I would say the flex spots are: 0-4 Runaway Steam-Kin, 0-4 Risk Factor, 17-19 lands, the 4th Wizard’s Lightning and 1-4 Skewer the Critics. Other card options are: Electrostatic Field, Experimental Frenzy, Legion War Boss. I would never play Lava Coil in this deck. It’s dead vs Esper and, in the mirror, no creature has 4 toughness, so the other burn spells are infinitely better because they also get to go face. And these 2 are the most common matchups.

Electrostatic field has been good for me, especially in the mirror but in the end, Steam-Kin is a raw power card and that is what I want.

Experimental Frenzy is another card I wish to tackle. There are games that only Frenzy can win you. It is an amazing card versus Esper. It is pretty good in the mirror if you resolve it on a stalemate. Apart from that, I think the card is worse than advertised. It makes the deck slower overall, which is something i do not like all that much. If you include frenzy in your deck, you end up relying on it to finish up the game. Against a prepared opponent that is not likely to happen.  On the other hand, Risk Factor has less of an upside but makes the deck faster, which is what I want. In Bo3 I would definitely, 100% go for the frenzy as in games 2 and 3 you are bound to be slower since your opponent will side in cards to stop you. Not in Bo1 though.

I’ve beaten a lot of Monored players (in the mirror match) that were behind on board and resolved a turn 4 Frenzy. I just attacked them and kept sending burn to their face until they died. If you resolve Frenzy and you are ahead or on equal terms then sure, you are most likely going to win. But that is not always the case. Especially in games where you get to go second. And there’s always the cringy scenario that your frenzy reveals another frenzy. Or 2 lands in a row.  For that reason, I prefer Risk Factor over it.

All in all I’d say it comes down to preference. If you like the gameplay Experimental Frenzy provides then, by all means, go for it. What I would definitely stay away from is, lists with both Frenzy and Risk Factor. That’s a big no-no in my book.

  1. White Weenie:

Another archetype that can get you to Mythic very, very fast. White Weenie has those draws that just win the game on turn 3, no matter what the opponent is doing. What keeps this deck from a tier 1 status is a bad matchup versus Esper ( and also a somewhat bad matchup versus Monored. Sure, you have some draws that Monored just cannot beat, but in my experience, if the Monored side keeps killing white dudes with burn spells and has a Chainwhirler on turn 3 , you’re gonna have a bad time. However, if you are on the play and have a Venerared Loxodon, you are favored, as they cannon efficiently deal with all your small white dudes.

  1. Gruul Aggro:

This deck has gained some popularity the past month and has risen as one of the better decks this month. I would describe it as Monored, but bigger. There are also versions that focus on the green side of things, cutting Chainwhirler in the process, but I would not go that way. Chainwhirler is a big part of what makes Monored so strong and I want to have access to the full 4 copies in Gruul.

Fewer burn spells, more powerful creatures. You have a decent matchup vs Esper but lose some percentage points versus White Weenie as you have fewer removals. Against Monored, they cannot beat a Llanowar Elves into Gruul Spellbreaker, but they can race you very efficiently in any other scenario, especially if they go first. I’d say you are favored, but only slightly.

  1. Mono Green Stompy:

One of my favorite decks to play in bo1, but it certainly has its issues. Against Monored you are ahead since their removals don’t line up that well versus your beefy dudes, but the matchups are definitely not a walk in the park. I’ve lost to Monored a couple of times piloting Monogreen and I’ve beaten Monogreen players a lot of times, especially one that keep hands that rely too much on Llanowar Elves to accelerate them. Versus Esper, the moto is, be quick or be dead. Kaya’s Wrath is game ending and they’re running 4 of it. But you cannot only play 1 beater since they’re running Cast Down, Mortify and Vraska’s Contempt as well. Blimey, this matchup is bad.

  1. Monoblue Tempo:

Last but not least, the Bo3 boogeyman has a Bo1 variant that is powerful as well. The matchup vs Esper is close to 50/50, but the creature matchups are harder and require metagaming. Some copies of Entrancing Melody and Surge Mare will take you a long way, along with Merfolk Trickster and Essence Capture heavy hands. Versus Monored, Melody and Mare are equally good and, if you manage to stick a Tempest Djinn you are at a great spot to win (I know I know, this is true in all matchups, duh!). All in all, this is a deck I would suggest playing if you wish to catch people off guard. Sure, it is a known quantity, but most people are playing stock Bo3 lists, thus losing lots of percentage points vs the field.

There are lots of other decks I’ve faced during my climb but I feel these are the ones that define the metagame.

That’s it from me this week, hope to meet you on the ladder!