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I'm new to Magic. One of the default decks you can unlock when you start playing Arena is called "Line of Fire". It consists of:

The description you get when you first unlock it advises that sacrificing creatures may be necessary for progress. However, I've never won a game with this deck nor lost a game against it. Even when I do sacrifice the token creatures my cards create, my creatures aren't powerful enough to stand against late-game finishers or numerous enough to close out the game early. Is this just a bad deck, or are my opponents and I simply too new to understand its subtleties?

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The default decks are all bad. Just look at the cards it runs - it has underpowered spells like Infuriate, underpowered creatures like Slaughter-Priest of Mogis, and doesn't max out on the actual power cards like Kroxa.

Of course, the point of the default decks is to give new players a taste of Magic's gameplay. From that point of view, the fact that good decks will destroy this one isn't actually a bad thing, and chances are it was constructed to provide an enjoyable game against other default decks. It is entirely possible this deck is bad relative to other default decks - I have not played or followed Standard for several months so I do not know - but that would just be a sign that you should upgrade this one by replacing the bad cards with good ones (hint hint).

What this means is ...

  • If you are looking to play a fair game (i.e. both players have similarly-powered decks), try the draft formats. Caveat: last I saw these formats are expensive to enter, and quite skill-intensive. As a new player you could very well lose gold quickly.
  • Alternatively, you can spend money on cards and build an actual competitive deck. Again I am not familiar with the Arena meta anymore, but there is a legitimate sacrifice deck in Historic, and in the past, BR sacrifice was also a real thing in Standard (I suspect it fell out of the meta after recent sets however).
  • Finally, if you want to get an overall view of what's good in the metagame, the default decks are not the place to start. Try instead a website like MTG Top 8 which indexes the winner's metagame.

Warning: there is apparently some wrinkle in MTG Arena's matchmaking algorithm such that "good decks" are queued into other good decks. It is why back when I played, if I queued up with monored, I was odds-on to play against other monored decks. It means that you are in for a shock if you upgrade your deck thinking you will get easy wins against bad decks. I don't know how Wizards define "good deck", however, and Wizards certainly has good reason not to reveal it or people will game the definition.

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    Rakdos sacrifice is still in standard a bit, but it's not as common. Historic seems to be ruled by a Grapeshot deck powered by Grinning Ignus as a mana source and storm count building method (with Runaway Steam-Kins, Hazoret's Monument, and/or Birgi, God of Storytelling to actually make it mana positive) – Andrew May 3 at 14:17
  • On the topic of draft being expensive: while you're not wrong that it is expensive in terms of game resources, it doesn't have to be expensive in real money, because the gold you get from completing quests and accumulating four wins per day is enough to pay for a draft almost once a week. (I picked up this tip from one of the Limited Resources episodes where Ryan Spain came on to talk about the Arena ecosystem, and I've been making good use of it myself.) – David Z May 3 at 15:59
  • @DavidZ one draft a week would not be enough to get 4 wins per day, though. To play only against similarly-powered decks one needs to win on average 5-6 wins each draft, which is doable but not easy. – Allure May 3 at 20:24
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    @Allure What I was saying is the other way around, that 4 wins per day (plus completing quests) is enough to afford about one draft per week (without investing any money). – David Z May 3 at 22:50
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I am fairly consistent in Diamond on Best of One Ladder for constructed. I started Arena about a year ago.

The Black/Red sacrifice deck I was given was a bit different what you have, but I found it the hardest of the free decks to play. I personally find knowing when to sacrifice for benefit extremely difficult to get right.

Bottom line, yes it is a hard deck to play, and yes there are Black/Red sacrifice decks that are competitive in the current meta, but they play only the very best cards from your deck. They are usually called "Rakdos Sacrifice."

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There have only been a few "good" default decks, and even those were pretty easy to improve. Of the current decks To Adventure was the best in my opinion, and I did play a modified version of it for a while. Starry eyed isn't bad either, and Knights needed some modification before it was any good. Before that Jungle Secrets and Eternal Thirst were the best in that standard. I think those were the only ones I saw decently competitive straight out of the box.

Starter decks aren't meant to be amazing, they aren't meant to be competitive challengers, in MTGA they are meant to give you a starting point and some understanding of strategy and themes, to suggest a strategy that might be built upon.

On top of that Wizards often gets things wrong. Their staff aren't the most observant, and it has been getting worse not better, of what will dominate the meta. The pro players are far, far better at building "good decks" than the company that prints the cards.

There ARE decks that play Black and Red, they play some of the cards in that deck, but they play more copies of the better cards, four copies of Kroxa, they play two to 4 copies of Woe Strider - This too is why starter decks are never the best, they run fewer copies of the better cards. They also play cards that didn't exist in MTGa when the starter decks came out.

Magic the Gathering's Standard format rotates every year. Starter decks come out at the start of a rotation, when only the first half of the new standard exists - when these decks came out that was Throne of Eldraine, Theros Beyond Death, Ikoria Lair of Behemoths, M21. All of the cards in that starter deck were from one of those 4 sets. This means that players now have access to cards like Immersturm Predator, Awaken the Blood Avatar or even lands like Blightstep Pathway.

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  • I've actually found the green-red deck to be the best of the default decks, butI do agree the green-white one is relatively good as well. – David Z May 3 at 15:52
  • @DavidZ I didn't mention that one in part because it has cards that have since been banned (Escape to the Wilds) and in part because of personal preference (I am not usually a Gruul player) – Andrew May 3 at 20:28
  • It doesn't have Escape to the Wilds, or at least it didn't for me. Maybe they've changed the decklist over time. – David Z May 3 at 22:47
  • @DavidZ The decklist has one copy of Escape to the Wilds. – Andrew May 3 at 23:32
  • The deck that showed up in my account when I (re)started using Arena recently did not. So it would appear that list is out of date. – David Z May 3 at 23:39

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