New Decks and Results
Today, I will be continuing on with our metagame analysis for the World Magic Cup from my previous article, which can be found here.
The majority of our metagame analysis was largely based on the assumptions portrayed above. However, this was done at the very beginning of our testing, and over the coming weeks there was new information emerging that brought in new thoughts and changed some past assumptions:
- The emergence of UR Kiln Fiend on Magic Online. In our testing, we found this deck to be an inconsistent, and overall inferior version of Infect. However, the deck is slightly favoured against Infect and it had a good matchup against Dredge, so it was well positioned against the two top decks. Due to Mutagenic Growth, it couldn’t be run alongside Infect, but the deck doesn’t play Noble Hierarch or Inkmoth Nexus which meant that you could swap out Infect for this deck if you wanted to play another Noble Hierarch deck or Affinity and didn’t mind giving up Lightning Bolt. Naturally, we expected Bant Eldrazi and Affinity may become slightly more popular because of this.
- Lantern Control was becoming increasingly popular on Magic Online, especially between the pro players. The deck seemed well positioned for the event as it has a great Dredge matchup and some of your unfavourable matchups such as Burn and Jund were expected to be less popular than usual. This is also a deck that only uses Thoughtseize as a key card. This meant that it would be easy for most teams to fit it into their configuration if they wanted to. However, we believed that the deck was too hard to pilot for most teams to pick up on short notice. We expected it wouldn’t be that popular, but some of the stronger teams may pick it up.
- Ad Nauseum was going to be more popular than we initially expected. Lee Shi Tian, who we were working with for the event, believed that the deck had a favourable Dredge and RG Valakut matchup. We also learnt that the deck is quite popular in Europe, so we expected some of the European teams may play it.
- Frank Karsten posted an article on ChannelFireball about what he expected the metagame would look like, which can be found here. We believed many teams will base a lot of their metagame assumptions off this, which put Affinity and Tron as some of the most popular decks. This meant that we expected people will play more artifact hate than usual, so we wanted to actively avoid playing any deck based around artifacts. It’s interesting to note that this article wildly differed in views with ours, but we were confident that our views were more accurate as his analysis was largely based around giving preference to decks that clashed the least. However, as explained before, we believed that the format was very open and that you didn’t need to compromise with decks that didn’t occupy many key cards. So instead, we believed that most teams will prioritise decks that had been performing well recently, which were decks like Infect and RG Valakut, and not Affinity and Tron.
- The biggest impact was Grand Prix Dallas/Fort Worth, with Skred Red taking it down. This was a deck that was never on a radar, yet its win really caught our eye. Lightning Bolt was the only key card the deck played, and the deck seemed favoured against Dredge, Infect and all the midrange decks. We expected that by this time, most teams would have already decided on their line up since there was only two weeks left to go, but we believed this result would make an impact – we just weren’t sure how much.
- The other key results from this event was Infect’s dominance with three copies in the Top 8 and the total lack of Affinity, with zero copies making the Top 64. This solidified our belief that Infect will be the second most popular deck after Dredge and that Affinity won’t be very popular. Both Bant Eldrazi and UR Kiln Fiend had decent showings, with multiple copies of both decks making Top 64. Since we believed Infect was mostly a better version of UR Kiln Fiend, we didn’t think the latter would be popular, but if it was played it would be to support Bant Eldrazi alongside it.
Our Expected Metagame
Based on all this information, the following was our final expected metagame. At this point our deck choices were largely decided, but this helped determine certain card choices and our third deck. I will be going into more detail about that in my next article.
Category "A"- the most popular decks – most teams will play one or both of these decks in their line-up:
Category "B" – second tier of decks – many teams will play one of these decks, in rare circumstances they will play multiple of them:
- Red-Green Valakut
- Bant Eldrazi
- Ad Nauseum
Category "C" – other common decks – a decent portion of teams will play one of these decks, but highly unlikely they play multiple of them:
- Eldrazi and Taxes (added based on Lee Shi Tian’s suggestion)
- Suicide Zoo
- Blue-Red Kiln Fiend
- Skred Red
- URx Control decks (UWR Nahiri and Corey Burkhart-style Grixis Control)
We also believed that the most popular configurations will be Dredge-Infect-Abzan and Dredge-Infect-RG Valakut.
Skred Red was the deck we were least sure about, but we did some testing with it and found the deck to be quite underwhelming, so we believed that it likely wouldn’t make as much of an impact as we initially thought right after the Grand Prix.
The Actual Metagame
The actual metagame breakdown from the event looked as following (I didn’t include decks that were less than 1% of the field):
Our metagame predictions were mostly spot on. We correctly identified that Dredge and Infect will be by far the two most popular decks, as they were the only archetypes that were more than 10% of the field. However, it was surprising to see that Infect ended up being more popular than Dredge, which may have been due to the relative difficulty of piloting Dredge as well as the Fear of hate cards.
Affinity and Lantern Control ended up being much more popular than we expected, with the former being the third most popular deck. This was surprising, especially as Infect ended up being the most popular deck as well. We also underestimated just how many teams were willing to play Lantern Control, a deck we thought only the better teams would play. Both of these decks should have been in Category B.
Ad Nauseum was also not as popular as we expected it to be, and we should have put it in Category C. Ad Nauseum has an almost unwinnable matchup against Infect, and we should have correctly identified that the fear of that matchup would stop most teams from wanting to pick that deck up. Other than that, our Category B was correct as RG Valakut, Bant Eldrazi and Abzan were the other commonly played decks as they took up 5% or more of the metagame.
Our Category C was close to exactly right, other than Affinity and Lantern Control as explained just before. Bogles ended up being more popular than we expected, but it was still only played by four teams. Zero teams ended up playing Skred Red, the deck we were least sure about. Even though we found the deck to be bad in testing, this was still surprising as the deck did seem decently positioned anyway and I thought at least a couple of teams would be swayed by the Grand Prix win.
The two most popular configurations were Infect-Dredge-Abzan and Infect-Dredge-Lantern Control. This meant we were right on one of them, but wrong about the RG Valakut configuration. Funnily enough, RG Valakut was actually more popular than Lantern Control, but the Lantern Control configuration ended up being more popular. This may have been due to a couple of European teams who were working together and all decided to run that line-up.
Overall, I’m happy with how our team predicted the metagame. This was a brand new format that had never been played at a premier level before, and we were able to almost exactly predict the field. Personally, I really enjoyed the whole process as I love analysing information in Magic, and the whole experience felt rewarding as we found out how close we got. Unfortunately, we weren’t able to translate this into a good result at the event, but that’s just how it goes sometimes.
I hope you enjoyed these past two articles as I covered Team New Zealand’s metagame analysis for the World Magic Cup. In my next two articles, I will be going over our deck selection process for the event and how we ultimately decided on our final deck choices.
Until next time!