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Playing Counter-Meta in a Meta-Driven World

Arena Standard Competitive 
By: Mastershake1983 - 06 Aug 2019

The signal here again with another dose of old man curmudgeon-ness for you. I have daily frustration regarding how dominating the internet has become in controlling my favorite game (and yes, I realize the irony of writing this on an internet site devoted to assisting in the development of said game, but stick with me for a bit on this). I grew up playing Magic sans-internet. I remember going to the local nerd store on Saturday mornings for tournaments, my carefully (and poorly) constructed deck in hand, rubber band bending my cards that I had no idea how valuable they would become. I also remember getting my head kicked in my older and much wiser Magic players who didn't play all counterspell, powersink, and clone decks (what did I plan on cloning if I countered everything? How could I counter everything without drawing? I don't know. I was 12). I would lose and lose and lose, every time sending me packing with new ideas about how to make things better. What about red/blue counter/burn/clone? What about....anything? The world was open and we were driven by failure and creativity, spending hours sifting through cards, playtesting over and over and over. When I finally got my first top 8 (like 96? My memory gets fuzzier by the day), I did it with a deck I made myself with only playtesting and sweat behind its carefully crafted, if slightly bent by poor card care, construction. I was so proud of it, though. I went on to be fairly competitive throughout high school using this method, consistently finishing top 8 - sometimes even 1st or split top prize if I felt like it - and all the while without knowing the word META. I didn't encounter the word, really, until Gencon in 2001, the summer I graduated high school. Growing up in a small town and playing against the same 30 or so players every weekend left me pretty limited in experience and Gencon really opened up my eyes to how big the game really was. I managed to play .500 or so that weekend in Indy - with a lot of people playing the same deck. I asked an older player why so many people were and he, of course, said it was the Meta standard and proceeded to ask me why I wasn't playing it. A lot of players gave me kudos, though, for playing something different. Those compliments stuck with me a lot more than the chastising I received from the people who made fun of my lack of knowledge and I continue to be Anti-Meta to this day. I do not know how many of you are out there - those like me who reject the standard and instead forge their own path of frustration and, let's face it, a bit of masochism - but I want to discuss my own process and how I go about countering what everyone else does. Maybe this will help some of you who get bored playing the same thing over and over again, maybe not, but I think it's worth a hearty discussion over a couple beers.

First - I start with the current Meta standard decks. Now that Arena is here, I end up just catching on after playing the same thing 2000x over, but before Arena, I would go on Aetherhub and just look it up. Currently, there are 9 decks that truly dominate the Meta on Arena. They are as follows:

Mono-Red Aggro

Main 60 cards (12 distinct)
Creature (20)
$0.20€0.10
$0.76€0.57
$0.20€0.11
$0.24€0.09
$1.37€0.82
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (19)
$0.34€0.25
$0.24€0.12
$1.49€1.17
$3.00€2.26
$0.15€0.06
Land (20)
$0.15€0.05
Planeswalker (1)
$1.20€1.12
Side 15 cards (7 distinct)
$1.70€1.49
$3.41€3.26
$0.25€0.10
$0.50€0.32
$0.50€0.33
$1.20€1.12
$0.39€0.16

Simulating MTG Arena Best of 1 starting hand
(Simplified, true algorithm in MTGA not revealed by Wizards yet)

Bant Ramp

Main 60 cards (17 distinct)
Creature (26)
$0.94€0.65
$3.92€4.42
$31.41€21.24
$0.39€0.17
$6.20€5.41
$0.18€0.07
$3.20€1.28
$1.18€0.69
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (1)
$1.93€1.18
Land (25)
$3.97€3.37
$7.94€5.57
$17.95€14.62
$9.42€7.52
$0.14€0.04
$2.26€1.81
Planeswalker (8)
$5.33€3.74
$17.77€17.30
Side 15 cards (9 distinct)
$3.92€4.42
$0.50€0.21
$3.61€2.88
$0.25€0.09
$1.05€0.54
$0.69€0.37
$0.25€0.11
$0.15€0.07
$5.99€3.33

Simulating MTG Arena Best of 1 starting hand
(Simplified, true algorithm in MTGA not revealed by Wizards yet)

Esper Hero

Main 60 cards (21 distinct)
Creature (14)
$1.07€0.89
$0.25€0.11
$3.92€4.42
$0.20€0.10
$0.24€0.12
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (10)
$1.12€0.52
$0.39€0.17
$1.81€1.11
$0.34€0.17
Land (25)
$4.64€3.99
$3.97€3.37
$0.18€0.09
$0.18€0.07
$3.40€2.95
$12.94€10.71
$11.11€8.59
$9.42€7.52
Planeswalker (11)
$22.53€18.25
$2.75€2.38
$1.55€1.48
$17.77€17.30
Side 15 cards (8 distinct)
$0.15€0.06
$1.09€0.87
$0.39€0.17
$1.81€1.11
$0.50€0.24
$0.69€0.37
$3.10€1.19
$1.55€1.48

Simulating MTG Arena Best of 1 starting hand
(Simplified, true algorithm in MTGA not revealed by Wizards yet)

Esper Control

Main 60 cards (21 distinct)
Creature (2)
$0.25€0.11
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (20)
$8.49€6.47
$0.35€0.30
$1.12€0.52
$2.00€1.61
$0.39€0.17
$0.95€0.44
$1.81€1.11
$0.98€0.47
$0.52€0.38
Land (26)
$4.64€3.99
$3.97€3.37
$3.40€2.95
$12.94€10.71
$11.11€8.59
$9.42€7.52
$0.15€0.03
$0.16€0.05
Planeswalker (12)
$179.79€0.00
$2.75€2.38
$17.77€17.30
Side 15 cards (8 distinct)
$2.49€1.81
$0.35€0.17
$0.95€0.44
$1.81€1.11
$0.50€0.24
$0.15€0.06
$0.35€0.16
$4.83€5.36

Simulating MTG Arena Best of 1 starting hand
(Simplified, true algorithm in MTGA not revealed by Wizards yet)

Bant Scapeshift

Main 60 cards (28 distinct)
Creature (15)
$0.25€0.10
$3.92€4.42
$31.41€21.24
$0.25€0.08
Instant, Sorcery, Enchantment, Artifact (12)
$15.24€10.70
$0.99€0.35
$0.32€0.15
Land (29)
$0.15€0.06
$0.15€0.05
$3.97€3.37
$2.83€2.55
$0.26€0.11
$4.40€3.53
$0.15€0.04
$7.94€5.57
$0.15€0.04
$17.95€14.62
$9.42€7.52
$0.70€0.64
$0.15€0.04
$0.26€0.10
$3.78€4.10
$0.15€0.06
$5.19€3.42
$2.26€1.81