Tier lists are controversial for lots of reasons. Players will argue if matchup strength is more important than consistency. Or the data itself will come into question. Sometimes readers just want to debate whether or not tiers even exist. But here at Top Tier Tactics, the general thought is “well, we’ve got tier in the name, might as well have a got at it.” With that philosophy in mind, I’ve put together the definitive, ultra-official, right-until-you-prove-otherwise breakdown of the best decks in the game.
Please note: Except where stated, decks are in no particular order within their tiers.
s in the S-Tier have speed, synergy, and removal, placing them extremely well against other decks. In this case, Avacyn’s Glory establishes clear threats as early as turn 1 (Champion of the Parish), then continues to pile on efficiently-costed cards that only increase the value of existing permanents (like Gather the Townsfolk). While AG has plenty of scary late game cards (primarily angels), the deck’s synergy means that even a turn 12 Mentor of the Meek can cause a splash by triggering effects or enabling combos.
As if this wasn’t enough, Avacyn’s Glory is packed with spot removal: Fiend Hunter and Oblivion Ring are just two examples. This means that even when an opponent gets a moderately sized threat into play, it can be swept out of the way in time for lethal damage. While AG is theoretically weak to board sweeps and mass burn, these types of cards are notoriously absent in the Magic 2014 metagame (at least pre-DLC). For these reasons it should be no surprise that Avacyn’s Glory comprised 100% of the top 3 decks in the T3 August Tournament.
- Mind Maze
Decks in the A-Tier have a lot of the power of Avacyn’s Glory, but are open to weaknesses their S-Tier counterpart doesn’t share. Both Deadwalkers and Mind Maze are capable of putting incredible damage on the board early in the game, though neither can win on Turn 4 under normal conditions. These decks feature creatures that geometrically increase the power of their brethren, often at the expense of the opponent. And both decks can create tempo situations that are difficult or impossible to recover from.
For Mind Maze, that means getting a few big (or small) illusions on the board, then protecting them with countermagic. For Deadwalkers, sacrifice effects can essentially limit opponent creature counts (while DW itself continues unhindered). A-Tier picks fall short, however, in a few important situations.
In DW, it’s board stall. There are few cards in the necrotic pile that allow it to break through or climb over a solid defense, not withstanding inconsistent cards like Grave Pact. On Mind Maze’s side, there’s the omnipresent threat of any targeting whatsoever. The blue deck’s lords do protect its fragile creatures to some extent, but if these cards aren’t pulled, there is no guarantee the entire illusory army is safe from, say, Fiery Justice.
What do the B-Tier decks have in common? Much like the S and A-Tier lists, they’re capable of producing clear and present danger in the form of powerful creatures. They’re also brimming with inter-card synergy, ensuring late game draws are relevant no matter what. Every sliver dropped is another boon to the hive. Both creatures and enchantments are valuable as long as the other is sitting around. And for Eldrazi fanatics, even basic lands can be game-winning bombs.
Although all three B-Tier options are slower than the higher-rated decks, they all have powerful stall mechanics to help them reach the mid-game. Sliver Hive has tons of removal, including Fiery Justice, which is incredibly powerful against most of the decks in Magic 2014. Chant of Mul Daya can rely on a surplus of tempo tricks and the epic All is Dust sweeper, while Guardians of Light can easily reach 100+ life with just a few cards.
But these benefits come at a cost: the B-Tier decks are simply too fragile to reliably beat their betters. A sniped Bonescythe Sliver can dismantle an entire attack, as can well-timed removal on an Artizan of Kozilek or a 15/15 triple-aura’d enchantress. While all three of these decks have some means to protect their fatties, these methods simply are not reliable against effects like exile, sacrifice, or bounce… the main tools of the top three decks.
Decks this far down aren’t exactly bad but… they’re not good either. With a godlike draw, they can beat the B-Tier handily, but will still struggle to outpace S or A-Tier decks for a variety of reasons. And sure they can all smash Enter the Dracomancer, but I could beat up the paraplegic kid in my high school and you don’t see anyone patting me on the back.
Interestingly, all three decks at this level have a different problem. For Masks of the Dimir, it’s creature strength. Since this blue/black deck is extremely light on removal, you’d imagine it would be packing lots of scary critters like Vampire Nighthawk, right? Instead, it’s stuck with rats that are behind-the-curve for power and toughness. And while the discard/tempo effects of these rodents would be powerful against midrange, combo, or control decks, those types of opponents simply aren’t in large supply in Duels of the Planeswalkers 2014.
Hunter’s Strength has a lot of the same issues as Guardians of Light. It’s got nasty creatures and big-buff enchantments, but it’s too easily dismantled by even small amounts of removal. What sets GL ahead in B-Tier is that even when its huge beatsticks die, they have typically produced a large amount of card draw or life gain in the process. When a pumped Garruk’s Companion bites the dust, you pretty much just lost two cards (and most of your momentum).
Firewave is easily the worst of the C-Tier for several reasons. First, its creatures under four converted mana cost are mostly terrible. You won’t find Kiln Fiends, Kirkstrom Nobles, or even decent goblins here. Second, the burn spells included are pretty much trash, too. Shocks, Lightning Bolts, and Fireblasts are nowhere to be found. But more importantly, there’s basically no mass-damage sweepers like Pyroclasm or Earthquake, meaning once Firewave falls behind, it’s never catching up.
Again, these decks can win, but it’s an uphill battle. Masks of the Dimir is probably best suited to take on the B-Tier, if only because its tempo tricks are stronger than HS’s brute strength or FW’s… um… earnest desire to win?
The only deck in the D-Tier has a D in its name. There’s a joke there somewhere. Regardless, enter the Dracomancer sucks compared to the rest of the decks in Magic 2014. None of its early game plays are scary. Its huge bombs are slow and susceptible to every type of removal in the game. Not only that, its dragons rely on consuming your other creatures for power, so you’ll typically sac everything for a game-winning swing… then lose your sky lizard when he eats a Path to Exile.
Maybe Enter the Dracomancer could have been good, but it would’ve required a lot of utility cards. Battlefield-decimating burn spells would’ve been a start. Or how about some kind of control-ish artifact like Ensnaring Bridge? Dragons love artifacts. The deck could have included some reanimation tricks to bring back slain bombs, or green sorceries to fetch game-winners straight out of the library.
Unfortunately, none of that happened and, as a result, Enter the Dracomancer is simply not competitive, even with the best possible hands. While I’ve never been a fan of dragon decks, it always sucks to see one pile get left so far behind.
Bonus DLC speculation
Fact: Elves have never been bad in Duels of the Planeswalkers. Fact: Elves have never been bad in casual Magic anywhere. Therefore it stands to reason Sylvan Might will continue the tradition of being a generally competent option. Imperious Perfect, Coat of Arms, and a lot of elves mean trouble for anything that can’t contain key cards (C and D-Tier decks). Expect this to drop into lower B-Tier, losing primarily to the Izzet deck and possibly Lord of Darkness.
Sword of the Samurai
Hey look – it’s another creature-based aggro deck! That’s not surprising in and of itself, but the fact that it’s chock full of powerful equipment kind of throws a wrench in the works. Very few decks in Magic 2014 have good answers for artifacts, and the ones that do almost never run them main deck. No matter how good your B, A, or S-Tier deck is, it will be facing real problems if it can’t contain an Umezawa’s Jitte, a card that warped its metagame considerably.
Dodge and Burn
Sporting tons of sweeping burn, to-the-face burn, and burn-activated creatures, I wouldn’t be surprised to see Dodge and Burn become DOTP’s first-ever “strong” Izzet deck. With a dozen ways to roast weenies as early as Turn 2, Dodge and Burn will pose real problems for the current S and A-tier decks. If it comes down to topdecks, DB will take victory with fire to the face.
That siad, many B-Tier decks will be the only ones surviving the initial cleansing, and Izzet will have a tough fight against the lifegain of Mul Daya and Guardians of Light. Slivers could go either way, and Dimir could pose problems even if its rats get roasted. As such, I’m placing Dodge and Burn in solid B-Tier.
Hall of Champions
This kind of terrible exalted deck becomes a not-so-bad beats deck when you drop out 80% of the stock cards and replace them with Daunltess Escorts, Rhox War Monks, and a bunch of undercosted angels. Throw in 4x Bant Charm, a decent amount of lifelink, and two copies of Martial Coup and you might just have enough to survive early game rushes. Another solid mid-range deck, Hall of Champions could work in tandem with the other DLC to pull Avacyn’s Glory out of the S-Tier (although it will be landing on a pillow of power in A-Tier).
Lords of Darkness
A bit of a strange battlecruiser-type deck, Lords of Darkness relies on a little stall, a lot of removal, and demons, glorious demons, to win the day. It doesn’t have a lot of sweepers and only a few “you lose” enchantments, so I don’t think this is going to be a powerhouse, especially against removal-based decks. Hell, even Firewalkers may fare well against it with the right build. As such, it feels like it’s destined for the C-Tier.