Magic Math – The Record-Based Metagame Breakdown of the New Standard

Last weekend marked the debut of the new Standard with Dragons of Tarkir. The SCG Invitational and Open tournaments provided a plethora of data on decks, players, and records, but it’s easy to drown in this data. In this article, I’ll attempt to compile all the numbers into a single metagame breakdown.

Before providing my methodology, I’ll go over two alternative approaches and point out several issues with them.

The first option is to do a Day 2 or Top 64 metagame overview, where we simply count the players on any deck archetype. The problem with this approach is that it treats players who didn’t win many matches on the second day in the same way as players who went undefeated. Moreover, if you combine data from multiple events with a different number of rounds, then a simply tally of player numbers won’t tell the whole story.

The second option is to focus on the Top 8 deck lists only. The problem with this approach is that it throws out a lot of the available information and, as a result, doesn’t give a reliable measure of a deck’s overall popularity. Furthermore, in a multi-format event, the measure becomes muddled by performance in the other format.

Instead, I’d like to adequately take into account both popularity and performance, in a way that rewards match wins and handles multiple events. I have used point systems that accomplished this in the past, but I’ve always set the details haphazardly. Today, I’ll fix ideas for posterity and define what I will call “the record-based metagame breakdown.”

The idea is as follows: For every player whose archetype and Standard record were known, award 1 point per match won and subtract 1 point per match lost in the Swiss rounds. So, for example, a played who went 6-2 in event A gets 4 points and a player who went 12-3 in event B gets 9 points. I handle Swiss rounds and Top 8 rounds in the same way. Afterwards, I add up all the points for every archetype and compute the relative percentages.

This wouldn’t be Magic Math without a formula, so here is the formal definition:

Record-based metagame formula

I like this method because it uses all of the available information in an elegant way. There are alternatives (e.g., use the total win percentage of every archetype rather than the difference between wins and losses) that would do something similar, but a key characteristic of my approach is that adding a win and a loss to a player’s record doesn’t affect the numbers. So if you would interpret the resulting breakdown as a “winner’s metagame” (and that is indeed my goal) and let all of those decks play another round against each other under the assumption that each has a 50% matchup against that top-table metagame, then the expected new record-based metagame breakdown would remain the same.

After compiling all the data from the Invitational and the Open, here is the record-based metagame breakdown:

Screen Shot 2015-03-30 at 5.47.33 PM

A small note: In the process of making this table, I adjusted a few labels from the ones presented on the coverage page. I re-labeled all “Abzan Midrange” decks as “Abzan Control” to limit the number of different Abzan categories; I re-labeled “G/R Monsters” as “G/R Aggro” because it’s pretty much the same deck; and where appropriate, I re-labeled “R/G Aggro” as “Mono-Red Aggro splash Atarka’s Command” to ensure a clear distinction between Elvish Mystic and Foundry Street Denizen decks.

All-in-all, Reid Duke and Jacob Wilson put up an impressive performance last weekend, but looking at the numbers, Abzan Aggro is the dominant deck in Standard. It was already a top contender before Dragons of Tarkir, and it got a boost with Dromoka’s Command. Here is the best-performing Abzan Aggro list from last weekend:

Abzan Aggro by Hunter Nance

If you want to succeed next weekend, you’d better have a plan against this deck. Welcome to the new Standard!


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