Magic: the Gathering


Tier 0: Breaking Down the Scale of Broken Decks in Magic

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In recent years, Magic has become a much more complex game and this shows in its competitive scene to the point where even broken decks gain new meanings. Therefore, we need to reevaluate what Tier 0 means in the game and how to interpret it.

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Card games are changing. Where before there were three well-established pillars, with Magic: The Gathering, Pokémon TCG and Yu-Gi-Oh!, today their diversity grows every quarter. Whether through analog games, such as Flash and Blood and One Piece TCG, or digital media, with Legends of Runeterra and Marvel Snap being some of its main representatives.

But it's not just the number of products available on shelves and lying on tables in local stores and smartphones - concepts are also changing. Essential terms pre-established by Magic, such as Tempo, Card Advantage, archetypes such as Midrange, Control and Aggro, remain as pillars of the understanding of deck building and understanding of games, each with its own particularities that create a fine line between their nomenclatures.


A deck considered a “combo” in Magic can be an “Aggro” in Yu-Gi-Oh!. A Flesh and Blood Control may be closer to a Midrange in Pokémon, and there are so many definitions of Tempo in each of these games that it is difficult, even today, to say what this term really means.

Another term used in TCGs, but inherited from other competitive games, is Tiers - a separation into categories where we define the most prominent decks in the format. In general, we can separate them into the following categories:

  • Tier 1 - The best competitive decks. They produce the most expressive results and define the Metagame while demanding adaptations from the other archetypes to take advantage of them.

  • Tier 1.5 - Decks that can compete against Tier 1 strategies and demand some respect when putting together your lists, but do not frequently produce significant results/victories in major events.

  • Tier 2 - Competitive decks, but which don't produce as many results in the Top 8 of major events. These could be strategies on the rise.

  • Tier 3 - Decks that are viable for playing the format, can win local events or be good meta calls, but don't tend to demonstrate significant results.

  • Tier 4 - Viable decks, but don't produce important results and/or are extremely vulnerable, or inferior to what is at the top of the Metagame.

    In addition to these, there is another category in this spectrum, Tier 0, popularly known as the “broken decks which take over competitive formats and warps them to the point of requiring bans”, and while this description doesn't miss the general scope of what a Tier 0 means, its threshold has become much more diverse in Magic.

    In my last Pauper Tier List article and in our Pioneer Metagame video, I categorized some archetypes as “Tier 0.8” or “Tier 0.7”, as I have observed a tendency in game formats to not only be less interventionist in relation to the best decks, as well as creating levels of how acceptable a “Tier 0” is in each scenario.

    In this article, we cover the different Tier 0 categories in Magic: The Gathering, and how they have applied or have applied to the game's competitive formats.

    Back to basics: What is Tier 0?

    Tier 0 is a nomenclature that became very well known in Yu-Gi-Oh!. It serves to define an archetype, combo, or strategy present at the top of the format that has considerable Metagame dominance compared to other competitors. Other TCGs, such as Magic, Flesh and Blood and Pokémon have already adopted this term at some point.

    The best way to identify a deck in Tier 0 is by four factors:

  • Metagame Share - The higher her results and number present in major tournaments, the more likely it is to be in this category. In Magic, the representation threshold for us to consider a deck as potentially Tier 0 is around above 20%, but they can also just have a much higher number than other decks in the format.

  • Longevity - It is common for a new deck, or an old strategy with new additions, to produce several good results for a few weeks until the Metagame around it adapts and creates new approaches and/or new decks appear to prey on its strategy. The longer it takes, the more likely the deck will be or become a Tier 0.


  • Resilience - The archetype at Tier 0 is aimed at interactions with the graveyard. The other decks start to add cards like Leyline of the Void, Rest in Peace and other options to deal with it and have a chance to compete, and even so, this archetype remains at the top of the format as the best deck because the answers are inefficient, or it is excellent at dealing and playing around them, then it is certainly in Tier 0.

  • Power Level - The easiest and, usually, the most troublesome of them. The deck has interactions or individual power levels far above those of the rest of the format, or the format lacks efficient answers that are up to the task of dealing with its strategy. These tend to unbalance the format and be in the highest chain of Tier 0.

    There are always exceptions

    While these statistics can help identify a deck in Tier 0, they are never written in stone.

    It is common for rotating formats, such as Standard, to have more significant Metagame share and longevity numbers compared to eternal formats. A current symbolic example is Esper Midrange.

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    Esper Midrange remains the best deck in Standard since the ban of Fable of the Mirror-Breaker, with only a few weeks when it lost that space to other archetypes until it adapted with new proposals to deal with the Metagame, being common to find it with over 15% of representation on Standard.

    But what makes Esper so distant and resilient is the fact that it is a combination of the best cards in the current format - a common trait in the best deck of several Standard seasons, and despite its impressive numbers, it's not like it takes over or is oppressive to the format to the point of nullifying the viability of other archetypes.

    Esper Midrange is an example of ideal Tier 1. Excellent because its cards are excellent, but with their own weaknesses that we can capitalize on when it grows too much, and without suppressing the space of other macro-archetypes in the format's competitive scene - someone calling for bans on Esper Midrange and compares it to Caw-Blade almost sounds like an insult for the former.

    Why divide and categorize Tier 0?

    Magic has become more complex. Whether in the text of the cards, in the interactions in the game, or also in the way we evaluate formats and Metagames. Our relationship with social media has made us much more reactive to what happens around us in all aspects of our lives, from politics to our hobbies - and we have also become much more vocal and lost part of our critical sense.

    It is easy, today, to expose to hundreds of thousands of people opinions such as that of Boros Convoke or Abzan Amalia being the “new Hoogaks”, or to complain every week about the results of Kuldotha Red and Affinity in Pauper or to state that players who run Voja, Jaws of the Conclave are horrible people in Commander a week after complaining that sweepers ruin the gameplay experience. The modern Agora is not very coherent.

    Amid the cacophony, it is up to those who can communicate to try to adapt, understand the general scope of contemporary problems and find ways to think about them. While subcategories of Tier 0 are not new and already used in other games, it is poorly represented in Magic because “Tier 0” is easy to associate with “absolutely broken and needs bans” - But when everything looks absolutely broken according to the social media, it is necessary to deepen certain concepts and apply them to the universe in which we operate.


    In the case of Magic, this application is also due to another factor: power creep has become a natural cycle of the game and, with it, the ways of evaluating a better deck go beyond “is this deck broken?” and now they go by “how broken is this deck?” because, now, we have a “threshold” between an acceptable broken and an unacceptable broken in addition to the notorious power of social media in defining which should be banned or, at least, open a recurring debate about archetype X or Y.

    Tier 0 divided into subcategories

    Tier 0 subcategories are divided by decimal places, ranging from 0.9 to 0.1. The closer the house is to absolute zero, the more broken and detrimental to the health of a format's Metagame a deck is, while archetypes closer to 1 are more "tolerable" in their respective settings, despite the deckbuilding compromises required to compete against them.

    In ascending order of risk to the game, Tier 0 can be divided into:

    Tier 0.9 and Tier 0.8

    Decks in Tiers 0.9 and 0.8 are those that are noticeably a step ahead of the rest of the format, but whose margin of advantage is not significant enough to distort the format around it.

    It is common for these archetypes to be Tier 1 decks that received a new card in a recent expansion that gave it a boost that it didn't need, but didn't reach the point of making it oppress the Metagame. Other competitors require more concessions in Sideboard or even Maindeck to compete with it, commonly pulling it back to Tier 1.

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    Pioneer's Izzet Phoenix is a good example of Tier 0.8. It is one of the best decks in the format and, despite everyone being prepared to play against it in the Pro Tour Murders at Karlov Manor, it still managed to maintain a positive winrate in the Metagame and remains the archetype with the greatest representation in numbers in the format today.

    However, as players adapt a little more to this matchup (for example, with Ashiok, Dream Render in the maindeck or with more disruptive cards in the sideboard), it drops in position until the Metagame neglects it again.

    Any other positive addition to Izzet Phoenix could move it up to other Tier 0 categories and make it even more prevalent, leaving it on the threshold between what is expected of a Tier 1 and the extra effort needed when a strategy starts to predominate too much.

    Tier 0.7 and Tier 0.6

    Tiers 0.7 and 0.6 are the natural scale of danger when an archetype in Tier 1 receives a more powerful addition, or when it was already producing results that placed it at the start of Tier 0 and has become even better due to Metagame changes or recent additions.

    They are on a closer threshold to bans and/or are strategies that have previously had cards banned but remain at the top of the Metagame, the other archetypes of the format can compete, but need to consider heavy additions to their Sideboards, with six to eight dedicated cards to this matchup or a very efficient use of maindeck cards to not resort to so many slots in Games 2 and 3.


    It is common for decks in this category to always be in the ban debate, but sometimes, they are an essential part of maintaining a certain balance in the competitive scene so that other archetypes don't take over the format, being considered by some as a “necessary evil”.

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    Kuldotha Burn and the recent iteration of Affinity with All That Glitters are great examples of Tier 0.7. Both have already had cards banned in the format, but their shells are so efficient and/or recent additions are so good to the point that they haven't left the top of the Metagame and continue to dictate all the trends in the format.

    Players need to prepare for these matchups in any League or Challenge, increasing the number of Hydroblasts or Dust to Dust to have a chance when these strategies, and still both maintain decent results and good shares in Challenges.

    However, just like Tier 1 and Tiers 0.9 and 0.8, a well-prepared Metagame and a selection of decks more focused on these matchups avoid disastrous situations like the ones we saw with Chatterstorm in Pauper, where an archetype, alone, had over 40% of presence in tournaments, in addition to opening up a lot of room for adaptations - creating a “rock-paper-scissors” between the two best decks, the strategies that beat them, and those who prey on the decks that beat them.

    Tier 0.5

    Tier 0.5 is the threshold between absolutely broken and somewhat broken. Any strategy that reaches this mark and/or is above it has a high chance of having a card banned.

    Decks in this category tend to be very efficient and relatively difficult to play against. They have a more unfair proposal, but they don't reach the point of increasing their representation above 25% or dominating the format to the point of transforming it into a “best deck” vs. “best anti-deck”.

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    Temur Rhinos was a good recent example of an archetype in this category. After the banning of Fury and the introduction of Tishana's Tidebinder, this deck was improved week after week until it reached the point of taking over Modern with more than 20% representation and forcing the format to establish more objective measures to deal with it.

    It didn't reach levels of becoming invincible or absolutely broken, but his representation and efficiency was so high and its plan was so resilient that a ban more than was necessary.

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    If we look back a few years, Dimir Inverter is another example of Tier 0.5, but its situation was much more troublesome: it competed in the best Pioneer deck spot with two other inherently broken archetypes: Mono White Devotion and Lotus Breach, establishing the worst scenario that the format has ever seen in its competitive environment.

    None of the three combos seemed to be above Tier 0.5 (we could even argue that Mono White Devotion would be a little lower if Dimir Inverter didn't exist), but they were all broken enough to the point of leaving no room for any other strategy. , making them around Tier 0.3, as together they highly oppressed other decks.


    Tier 0.4 and Tier 0.3

    Tiers 0.4 and 0.3 are the first on the “very broken” scale.

    They are the clear best decks in the format, they maintain a positive winrate against the majority of the Metagame, they have a specific and inherent weakness that is usually exploited, but they are still difficult strategies to combat.

    Bans against them are almost inevitable and the doubts and debates don't revolve around “whether to get a ban”, but rather “what should get a ban”, with differing opinions on which card would be most beneficial to no longer exist in the competitive scene.

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    The Rakdos Evoke was a good example of Tier 0.4. It was not unbeatable, but its advantage compared with the rest of the Metagame was so big to the point that it took over games and forced substantial changes to the most played archetypes, and still prevailed as the best deck in Modern in the face of these supposed bad matches.

    Its ability to be too explosive with Evoke and means of returning creatures to the battlefield, in addition to running an efficient Midrange plan with Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer and Fable of the Mirror-Breaker were already vaguely troublesome, but Orcish Bowmasters took it to the next level by improving the deck against its worst matchup, Izzet Murktide, and without that obstacle in its way, Rakdos Evoke didn't take long to break the format.

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    Atog's pre-ban Pauper's Grixis Affinity is another example of this category, at Tier 0.3. Its structure was very solid and consistent, it attacked from multiple angles, allowed its controller to have eight or more power on the board as early as the third turn and even had a mix of combo-kill with Atog and combo off the combat with Disciple of the Vault.

    The banning of Sojourner's Companion didn't help much in removing its consistency, increased with the later release of Deadly Dispute, placing Affinity in a position as the absolute best deck in the format in the absence of Chatterstorm in an environment where players needed to dedicate ten or more cards just for that matchup.

    Tier 0.2 and Tier 0.1

    Tiers 0.2 and 0.1 are the scale of absolutely broken.

    These are archetypes where the discrepancy in power level is apparent and creates a huge disparity between the win rate of this deck with the others. The format cannot adapt because it is too resilient against hate, or because there are no efficient answers in the Metagame.

    They commonly dominate competitive formats to the point where there is a “best deck” and an “anti-best deck” – and still prevail over those with a significant win rate after adapting. The only option for the rest of the format, therefore, is to try to be faster and ignore the opponent.

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    Chatterstorm was clearly a Tier 0.2 during its time on Pauper. It dictated the format's trends and created a scenario where the only decks capable of dealing with it were those that were fast enough to ignore it (Burn, Affinity) or those with naturally good answers in their maindeck and that dedicated more slots to deal with it (Faeries, Delver).


    Without Flusterstorm or any other way to deal with the most broken mechanic in the game's history, Pauper was easily trapped by the deck, and its ability to win as early as the second turn made it a huge risk to the Metagame.

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    Hogaak was one of the most famous cases of unbalance that Modern has ever faced, to the point of transforming the Metagame into a situation of Best deck against several archetypes searching for answers for it, with the best one being “ignore it and be faster” since the deck was easy to play around hate.

    It also fits into Tier 0.2, possibly being Tier 0.1, depending on the scope we look at, but I believe that this space, in Modern, belongs to the famous Eldrazi Winter.

    Tier 0.0

    An absolute Tier 0 would be a basically invincible deck under all circumstances. Its existence would require an emergency ban in a few days because no other archetype would be able to adapt to play against it.

    There are no cases of situations like this in recent Magic or perhaps in the game's entire history. Most decks will always stop at Tier 0.1 because there are always ways to beat them or at least reduce their winrate through various deckbuilding concessions.

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    Valki Cascade may be the closest we've come to an absolute Tier 0 in recent years, given that its only concern was protecting itself from opposing interaction and dealing with the mirror, in addition to forcing an erratum in Cascade to dismantle the combo permanently instead of just being banned.

    How tolerable should a Tier 0 deck be?

    Although this answer varies from format to format, a deck above Tier 1 should not exceed the 0.7 mark, as it begins to present itself as a risk for the Metagame.

    Archetypes within categories below Tier 0.6 can have other functions in the environment where they are: being regulators of more broken strategies, as Delver has done for years in Legacy and seems to be the case with Affinity and Kuldotha Red in Pauper, or just obliging changes to other competitors to pull them back to Tier 1 or Tier 1.5, creating innovations in the Metagame.

    Tier 0.6 and 0.5 start with decks that are already starting to win too much and present more problems. Concessions go from being four to six spaces to requiring more, the maindeck starts to adjust a lot and get few significant changes, and it remains in the Tier 0 spot despite attempts to pull it down.

    Therefore, when thinking about investing in a deck, especially in Magic Arena or in-person games, consider how predominant the best archetype is if you intend to build it. At the same time, if you've been playing the format for a long time, consider what needs the Metagame requires to adapt to the best deck and whether these approaches are working - If they are, it's a good opportunity to explore the new weaknesses that are emerging from these concessions; otherwise, direct interventions are likely to occur in the coming months.


    That's all for today!

    I hope this article helps players, communicators and other content creators understand a little more the depth and how complex Magic's competitive environment has become when we talk about Metagame and winrates.


    If you have any questions or suggestions, feel free to leave a comment!

    Thanks for reading!