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Arena Championship 3 Standard Metagame Breakdown

May 26, 2023
Frank Karsten

It's almost here: Arena Championship 3 runs this weekend, May 27–28! In this prestigious tournament, which will be streamed live starting at 9 a.m. PT each day on, 32 top MTG Arena players have brought their best Standard decks and will battle it out for $200,000 in prizes and two Magic World Championship XXIX invitations.

What Is the Arena Championship?

The Arena Championship, a thrice-yearly event, is the pinnacle of competition on MTG Arena. Previously in the 2022–23 season, Arena Championship 1 was won by Sam Rolph and Arena Championship 2 was won by Hiroshi Onizuka. The upcoming third edition invites players who earned the most wins across Qualifier Weekend Day Twos held in January, February, March, and April of this year.

To earn a spot in these monthly Qualifier Weekends, as described in more detail on the MTG Arena Premier Play page, there are various methods: by finishing in the Top 250 of the Constructed or Limited ladder at the end of the preceding month, by reaching enough wins in Day 2 of an Arena Open, or—most commonly—via a Qualifier Play-In event. During a Qualifier Weekend, it's quite an accomplishment to reach seven wins on Day One followed by even more wins on Day Two, but the payoff is worth it.

The list of qualified players for Arena Championship 3 is absolutely stacked with talent, featuring numerous Magic superstars:

  • Reigning World Champion and Pro Tour champion Nathan Steuer
  • Hall of Famer Seth Manfield
  • 2020-21 Magic Pro League winner Ondřej Stráský
  • Mythic Championship Cleveland 2019 runner-up Yoshihiko Ikawa
  • Players Tour Nagoya 2020 champion Kenta Harane
  • 2008 United States National champion Michael Jacob
  • 2020 Season Grand Finals champion Austin Bursavich
  • World Championship XXVIII competitor Jonny Guttman

Given the list of invited players, available on MTG Melee, I'm hyped to watch the event. This will be high-level Magic featuring some of the best players in the world, and if Nathan Steuer continues his streak of successive Top 8s, then he would set new records. After World Championship XXVIII, Pro Tour Phyrexia, and Pro Tour March of the Machine, Steuer could potentially go four-for-four!

Standard Metagame Breakdown

Day 1 of Arena Championship 3 leads off with March of the Machine Draft followed by three rounds of Standard Constructed. Day 2 features three more rounds of Standard Constructed with a cut to a Top 8 Standard Constructed playoff to determine the champion.

Standard is the most popular way to play Constructed on MTG Arena, and it recently took center stage at Pro Tour March of the Machine. There, Rakdos Midrange dominated the tournament, with the highest metagame share and win rate across all major archetypes. However, with such success comes a glaring bullseye on the deck's back. As competitors sought to uncover the hidden strategies and secret weapons that could dismantle the once-untouchable Rakdos titan, where did their deck choices for Arena Championship 3 end up?

Deck Archetype Number of Players Percentage of Field
Rakdos Midrange 9 28.1%
Jeskai Dragons 5 15.6%
Five-color Ramp 4 12.5%
Grixis Reanimator 3 9.4%
Selesnya Enchantments 2 6.3%
Rakdos Breach 2 6.3%
Boros Midrange 2 6.3%
Grixis Midrange 2 6.3%
Orzhov Midrange 1 3.1%
Mono-White Aggro 1 3.1%
Azorius Soldiers 1 3.1%

All decklists will become available on the Arena Championship 3 event page after the event gets underway.

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The most-played non-land cards at Arena Championship 3 are Reckoner Bankbuster, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, Duress, Bloodtithe Harvester, and Go for the Throat. Indeed, decks with a black-red core make up exactly half of the metagame. However, they may falter at this event.

There's no Esper Legends decks to prey upon, and everyone else came prepared with a plan. For example, Five-Color Ramp, Selesnya Enchantments, Orzhov Midrange, and Azorius Soldiers had a good matchup against the Bloodtithe-Fable decks at the Pro Tour, so they've surged in popularity and appear well-positioned in this field.

607329 Invasion of Gobakhan

The biggest surprise was introduced by five daring individuals. Eager to shake the meta to its core, they embraced the challenge by arming themselves with an innovative Jeskai Dragons deck. This midrange deck harnesses the most potent cards available in white, blue, and red, and it exploits the powerful union of Invasion of Gobakhan and Zurgo and Ojutai.

Zurgo and Ojutai can swiftly defeat Invasion of Gobakhan on turn five, and with its inherent hexproof ability and a scarcity of flying blockers in most decks, there are scant defenses against this. Once the battle transforms into an enchantment, it can grow and safeguard the mighty Dragon in the following turns, providing an interaction that few will be able to withstand.

"It's like the new Splinter Twin," one of the Jeskai Dragons players excitedly told me. "Best deck I've had in years!"

Standard Deck Summaries

To explain deck compositions in more detail, let me to briefly summarize and introduce all the archetypes one-by-one.

Rakdos Midrange (9 players): Rakdos Midrange puts together the most efficient interactive spells, creatures, and value engines available in black and red, with a mana base that supports Invoke Despair. Most lists look strikingly similar to the one that Nathan Steuer used to win Pro Tour March of the Machine, with Chandra, Hope's Beacon and Duress in the main deck.

Jeskai Dragons (5 players): Jeskai Dragons features the usual suspects for a midrange deck, such as Make Disappear, Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, and The Wandering Emperor, with Zurgo and Ojutai as a win condition that provides card advantage turn after turn. Invasion of Gobakhan disrupts the opponent, boosts attackers, and protects the Dragons.

Five-Color Ramp (4 players): Five-Color Ramp, also known as DinoMite, uses Topiary Stomper and Invasion of Zendikar to ramp up to Atraxa, Grand Unifier as early as turn five. A domain mana base heavy on tri-lands enables Herd Migration and Leyline Binding. This strategy can go over the top of the base black-red decks, as David Olsen proved by making it to the semifinals of Pro Tour March of the Machine.

Grixis Reanimator (3 players): Grixis Reanimator relies on The Cruelty of Gix to return Atraxa, Grand Unifier from the graveyard. The ubiquitous Bloodtithe Harvester and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker are even better in this deck, as they can discard Atraxa, Grand Unifier to enable the reanimation strategy. The blue splash provides Corpse Appraiser and countermagic.

Selesnya Enchantments (2 players): Selesnya Enchantments can use Jukai Naturalist to ramp into Hallowed Haunting on turn three, which will quickly provide a wide board filled with enormous Spirits. Generous Visitor is also a Spirit, and the rest of the deck is essentially comprised of enchantments or spells that draw enchantments. One of the two decks uses Calix, Guided by Fate, which could run away with the game if left unopposed.

Rakdos Breach (2 players): Rakdos Breach is a midrange deck with a powerful top-end. The primary game plan is to use Big Score to ramp into a turn-five Breach the Multiverse. The sorcery will always provide a formidable battlefield presence, and players can dream of milling Etali, Primal Conqueror themselves while grabbing Atraxa, Grand Unifier from the opponent's graveyard.

Boros Midrange (2 players): Boros Midrange can be described as Mono-White Midrange with a red splash, using Jetmir's Garden and Cabaretti Courtyard to support Lay Down Arms. Red unlocks Fable of the Mirror-Breaker and Etali, Primal Conqueror. The sweetest card to exile is Guardian of Ghirapur, which can blink Etali to reap the benefits of yet another enters-the-battlefield trigger.

Grixis Midrange (2 players): Grixis Midrange is similar to Rakdos Midrange. It accepts a slightly weaker mana base in exchange for access to blue cards like Corpse Appraiser, Halo Forager, and/or Make Disappear.

Orzhov Midrange (1 player): Orzhov Midrange can be described as Mono-White Midrange with a black splash, using Raffine's Tower and Obscura Storefront to support Lay Down Arms. Breach the Multiverse and Duress provide the right tools to crush base black-red decks, as Autumn Burchett proved by making it to the semifinals of Pro Tour March of the Machine.

Mono-White Aggro (1 player): This Mono-White Aggro brew combines Progenitor Exarch and Norn's Inquisitor to build a wide board of oversized Incubator tokens. The aggressive curve of creatures begins with Hotshot Mechanic, which enables Roadside Reliquary and crews Reckoner Bankbuster. Invasion of Gobakhan is included in this deck as well, showing that it's one of the most important March of the Machine cards for Standard.

Azorius Soldiers (1 player): Azorius Soldiers leverages the best one-mana and two-mana Soldiers in blue and white for a synergistic assault. With Make Disappear and Protect the Negotiators, the deck holds the potential for flashy, interactive gameplay. Knight-Errant of Eos provides staying power, and Zephyr Sentinel can bounce it to keep the card advantage train rolling in grindy games.

Cards from March of the Machine: The Aftermath did not make a large impact on this event. The only cards from the new set that were registered for Arena Championship 3 were four copies of Calix, Guided by Fate in one Selesnya Enchantments deck and three copies of Blot Out across various Rakdos Midrange sideboards.

On the whole, Standard may still be dominated by Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, but the metagame has evolved, and the introduction of Jeskai Dragons is a breath of fresh air. Will Zurgo and Ojutai indeed crush the Rakdos Midrange decks? And will Nathan Steuer win yet another premier event?

Find out live at, starting 9 a.m. PT on May 27–28! Details can be found in the viewers guide.

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