Birmingham Analytica & Copenhagen Chain Reactions

by Tobi Henke on 29 June 2018, Friday

Tobi Henke


Birmingham Analytica & Copenhagen Chain Reactions


Data can help us understand the world. He wasn't just great in Star Trek's Next Generation. Having data is great anywhere, whether it's elections or Magic: The Gathering.


Today, I have data to share, regarding the Standard GPs in Birmingham and Copenhagen. It took a while, but I was able to compile all Sunday matches of both events, from Round 9 to the finals, and work out each archetype's win percentage in any given matchup.



For this, I needed to make a few simplifications. For instance, I didn't differentiate between Black-Green Constrictor and its Sultai counterpart. I also ushered all God-Pharaoh's Gift variants into one big tent. And I indeed didn't distinguish White-Blue Approach from White-Blue Teferi-only.


This left eleven archetypes which generated at least some meaningful data across the two GPs. In order: Red-Black Chainwhirler, Steel Leaf Stompy, Winding Constrictor, White-Blue Control, White-Black Benalia, Mono-Red Aggro, Esper Control, God-Pharaoh's Gift, Blue-Black Midrange, Green-White Midrange, and Blue-Black Control.


It's safe to ignore draws and byes, and there weren't many either. Mirror matches, on the other hand, abounded. Red-Black Chainwhirlers alone played one another 158 times in Birmingham's Sunday rounds and 126 times in Copenhagen's, the most common matchup by far.


With higher numbers comes higher confidence in the results. Too bad one can already be 100% confident that the win percentage in a mirror match is 50%. So the following findings only list win percentages for decks against other decks.



Location, Location, Location?


First, I calculated the records for each archetype against everything else:



The first row here, in particular, came as a surprise! How did Red-Black, the poster child of dominant, Chainwhirler decks everywhere, lose more than 9% from one GP to the next? And does its negative record in Copenhagen mean that Standard might be able to adapt to Goblin Chainwhirler after all?


Further investigation revealed that Red-Black really had passed its zenith, but also that the drop-off was partly due to infighting. The fall of the two-color Chainwhirler deck coincided with the rise of the mono-color Chainwhirler deck.



Either way, rumors of Goblin Chainwhirler's death are an exaggeration, or at least premature. We'll have to see what Monday's banning announcement will bring.



Who's Beating Whom?


There's strength in numbers. Starting at the top of the metagame, Red-Black Chainwhirler's numbers put its results as the most credible. Nonetheless, some pairings didn't come up often enough, their outcome was too close to call, or reality made altogether too much use of the adage that "results may vary."



For instance, while it seems safe to say that the deck is favored against Winding Constrictor, one can only be reasonably confident with regards to God-Pharaoh's Gift and Blue-Black Control.


A lot of the other matchups appear to be a wash, including Steel Leaf Stompy and White-Black Benalia. Meanwhile, White-Blue Control's shocking switch from favorable to the absolute worst demands an explanation which the numbers alone cannot provide.


The best theory I can come up with: Maybe White-Blue players in Birmingham were caught off guard by Red-Black's post-board aptitude at fighting the long game? Whatever they were doing before, in Copenhagen control players knew what they were doing, winning 21 of 26 encounters.



Steel Leaf Stompy has no discernible positive or negative matchups at all, which is notable in its own right. Everything comes within one or two matches of being fifty-fifty.



This offers barely more insight than poor matchups against various Chainwhirlers, an excellent matchup against White-Black, and a weirdly volatile one against God-Pharaoh's Gift. None of the other pairings occurred often enough or concluded with enough of a tendency to be admissable as evidence.



White-Blue Control remains the best bet to beat the deck to beat, even if the truth should lie closer to 54% than to 80%. Other than that, the deck appears to be weak to White-Black, strong versus God-Pharaoh's Gift, and about even against most everything else.



Why and how White-Black Benalia should be good at the same time against Steel Leaf Stompy and White-Blue Control is unclear. That it is less than great against Winding Constrictor is equally clear.



Mono-Red Aggro stands out as the only deck that doesn't have any negative matchups to speak of!



Esper Control didn't show up in sufficient numbers to yield much insight. The battle with Red-Black Chainwhirler looks to be a fair fight, while the deck doesn't seem to put up much of a fight against Blue-Black Control. Meh.



Losing records versus both Red-Black Chainwhirler and control decks don't paint God-Pharaoh's Gift in the best light.



Blue-Black Midrange's improved performance against Red-Black Chainwhirler gives cause for hope.



Green-White didn't get to play enough matches to lend credibility to claims of any positive or negative matchup. Its 6-2 record versus White-Blue Control, in particular, leaves me doubting.



The same is true here, only more so. Earlier I tacitly introduced the benchmark of three matches difference to speak of a relevant advantage, and Blue-Black Control doesn't clear that hurdle anywhere.


I believe that's a reasonable minimum requirement. Dumb luck or a stupid misplay can quickly turn a victory into a loss. Maybe even two, converting, say, a 6-2 into a 4-4. There are plenty of excuses for losing a match one should have won. But once such get stretched to three matches, one is merely making excuses.



Where Does This Leave Us?


Frankly, the most salient news I got from this exercise was just how little data even two GPs generate. Part of this is because so much of both events was taken up by meaningless mirror matches, of course.


In fact, this might be the biggest indictment of Goblin Chainwhirler borne out by the data. If anything, the match results themselves suggest that Standard should be able to adapt to the Goblin. Then again, being able to isn't the same as having to do something. The card indubitably warps the metagame to an uncomfortable degree.



They say Monday is the least favorite day of the week. Well, I for one can't wait to see Monday's big announcement. Do you think Goblin Chainwhirler will get the axe? The banhammer? Anything out of the toolshed?


Thanks for reading! Until next time, I hope you'll have, if not Data, then at least data on your side.

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