Best of Throwback Standard Gauntlet

Posted in Magic Online on November 29, 2017

By Randy Buehler

Edit: After hearing feedback from players and consulting with Magic R&D, we came to the conclusion that Jar’s matchup against the other decks in this Gauntlet is too good and would provide an awful experience for many.

So we’re prepared to declare Jar the best deck and let the rest of the decks fight it out for second place, and let players have more fun in doing so!

For our last Throwback Standard Gauntlet, we are taking the deck with the highest match win percentage from each of the previous gauntlets and having them face off in a final cross-Standard-era brawl to see which Standard deck is truly the best! Below you can see the event details, decklists, and decklist descriptions from Randy Buehler.

Lee Sharpe

Digital Product Manager – Magic Online


Note: This league is in the Limited Leagues area of the Play Lobby.

Start Time: December 6, 2017 at 10 am PT

Closed Time: December 13, 2017 at 1 am PT

End Time: December 13, 2017 at 4 am PT

Entry Options:

  • 10 Event Tickets
  • 100 Play Points

Structure: Players receive one random deck, and play up to 3 matches at their convenience


  • 3 wins: 150 Play Points
  • 2 wins: 100 Play Points
  • 1 win: 40 Points
  • 0 wins: 10 Points


When people talk about how blue was just the best color in the early days of Magic, they aren’t wrong. Even four years after the game launched and in a format where Ancestral Recall was never legal, the mono-blue deck proved to be the best, winning a gaudy 63% of its matches. Deadguy Red was second at 58% and then the other mono-blue deck – Forbidian – was third at 56%.


Download Arena Decklist


The Invasion through Onslaught window (aka the early 2000’s) proved to be just as balanced, diverse, and interesting as it is often remembered. Only one deck won less than 46% of its matches (Battle of Wits - sorry, Huey), and only one deck won more than 56% - Goblin Bidding at 60%. The beatdown decks did claim 3 of the top 4 spots, for whatever it’s worth, with Madness proving 2nd best and Fires coming in 4th. Only the Slide deck broke up the all-aggro podium.

Goblin Bidding

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This metagame played out somewhat similarly to the way it did in the real world. The affinity decks were obviously ridiculous, which led to a lot of specifically anti-affinity decks, but that polarized the metagame so much that you could actually do well by ignoring Affinity and feasting on everything else. That was the strategy Gabriel Nassif used to make the Top 8 of Worlds, and it worked even better in this gauntlet, where Affinity decks were artificially limited to 25% of the field. Philosophically the same basic control strategy that Gab still delights in streaming to this day posted win rates of 38% and 37% against the two Affinity decks, but won at least 60% against every other deck in the field, including a crucial 62% rate against Elf and Nail - a deck it never played against in real life, and the second most successful deck in this field (tied with Skullclamp Affinity).

White-Blue Control

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We had to go to the third decimal place to determine a winner from the Ravnica-era gauntlet, but the Zoo deck apparently needed to top-deck one or two more Lightning Helixes as it came up just short: 58.62% to 59.28%. Instead the era was won by the deck used by unknown amateur Yuuya Watanabe to win GP Kyoto and qualify for his very first Pro Tour. He hasn’t missed one since. (For those who might be curious: Dragonstorm was 3rd best and Owling Mine (god help us all) finished 4th.)


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When the dust settled from our Lorwyn gauntlet the best tribe turned out to be ... the snow-covered Mountain tribe. Good removal and efficient hybrid cards did win US Nationals and a GP back in the day, so I guess that’s not entirely surprising. What was most surprising to me is that the best performing actual tribe was Kithkin (claiming 2nd best honors at 57%). Meanwhile the most successful tribe back in the day – Faeries – won only 47% of its matches here. (3rd place honors went to Black-White tokens, while Merfolk claimed 4th.)

Skred Red

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The Worldwake-era gauntlet proved very popular as many gamers wanted to get their hands on the legendary Caw Blade deck and see what all the fuss was about. However, combining Stoneforge Mystic with Jace, the Mind Sculptor did not turn out to be the most successful strategy. Caw Blade was in fact the most successful Jace deck, finishing 3rd and winning 57% of its matches, but two other Stoneforge Mystic decks performed better. The raw aggression of the Boros Stoneblade deck claimed 2nd-best honors at 58% and at 59% the most effective strategy during one of the most “broken” eras of Standard turned out to be combining Stoneforge Mystic with the Splinter Twin combo.


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The Innistrad Gauntlet turned out to be a re-run of Worlds 2011, with Tempered Steel doing great, but Wolf Run Ramp coming out on top in the end. To be fair the Wolf Run Ramp list we used is Kibler’s list from a few Pro Tours after Jun’ya Iyanaga won Worlds, but still. I guess what this really tells us is that the Return to Ravnica era decks just could not quite compete with the raw power of New Phyrexia, not even the mighty Delver deck (which did come in well over .500, but placed 5th- best overall).

Wolf Run Ramp

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This one surprised me a bit as I remember Black Devotion, Abzan, and then Bant Company as the boogeymen of these years, but they came in only 6th, 4th, and 3rd best respectively. Instead they all finished several percentage points behind the 57% winning percentage of the Red-Green monsters deck, which was still 3 points worse than Green-White Tokens.

Green-White Tokens

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