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The New Standard Metagame and an Aggregate Archetype Gauntlet

Last weekend marked the debut of Standard with Shadows over Innistrad. The SCG Open in Baltimore provided a ton of data on decks, players, and records, but it’s easy to drown in all that data. In this article, I’ll attempt to compile the raw numbers into informative overviews.

The Record-Based Metagame Breakdown

The following table provides the record-based metagame breakdown of the Top 64 according to my metric that weights both popularity and performance. The basic idea is to award 1 point per win and subtract 1 point per loss. The result represents the “winner’s metagame,” which indicates what you might expect to face next week.

Deck Archetype Record-Based Metagame Percentage

  1. Bant Company 15.9%
  2. WB Midrange 14.9%
  3. WU Humans 13.7%
  4. WB Eldrazi 12.0%
  5. GR Ramp 7.1%
  6. RW Eldrazi 6.6%
  7. Mono-White Humans 5.1%
  8. WG Humans 4.9%
  9. Esper Dragons 3.4%
  10. Mono-Red Eldrazi 2.9%
  11. UR Thing in the Ice 2.4%
  12. GW Tokens 1.7%
  13. Jund Midrange 1.7%
  14. Esper Demonic Pact 1.5%
  15. GB Tokens 1.2%
  16. Jund Company 1.2%
  17. Sultai Delirium 1.2%
  18. WG Midrange 1.2%
  19. WU Tokens 1.2%

Bant Company, which won the tournament in the hands of Jim Davis, can be called the deck to beat after week 1. But if you lump together all the white Human decks (23.7% in total) or all the white/black decks (26.9% in total), then those macro-archetypes would have higher numbers than Bant Company. So it all depends on how you classify decks.

Aggregate Lists of the Best Decks

When testing new or old decks, it is helpful to run them against a gauntlet—a small collection of decks that encompass the most popular strategies and cards. A reasonable 3-deck gauntlet for the new Standard, based on the table above, would be composed of Bant Company, White/Blue Humans, and White/Black Eldrazi.

If you want more than 3 decks, then G/R Ramp and/or U/R Thing in the Ice would be decent additions. You could also include White/Black Midrange instead of White/Black Eldrazi, but since red-based Eldrazi decks were popular, I’d like to have at least one Thought-Knot Seer deck in my gauntlet. So for a 3-deck gauntlet, Bant Company, White/Blue Humans, and White/Black Eldrazi is a good collection.

GR Ramp

UR Thing in the Ice

For each of these archetypes, you could simply copy the best-performing list, but I like to take the card choices in the other Top 64 lists (many of which were just one win away from the Top 8) into account as well. To do so, I determined the aggregate lists according to the method outlined here. I slightly tweaked the method by counting lists from the Top 8 twice.

Aggregate Bant Company

On Sunday, 9.9% of the players played Bant Company (based on the Day 2 metagame breakdown) and they turned into 15.9% of the record-based metagame breakdown. This is indicative of a high match win percentage.

The aggregate list, as shown above, turned out to be nearly identical to Jim Davis’ winning deck list. The only differences are that the aggregate has a Stratus Dancer and a Forest instead of a Hidden Dragonslayer and a Canopy Vista in the main deck, and it has a Void Grafter instead of a Tireless Tracker in the sideboard. To obtain this aggregate list, I ignored the 4 Bant Company versions with 11 Plains, Knight of the White Orchid, Thraben Inspector, and Archangel of Tithes (such as Alexander Davis’ deck below from the Top 64) because those lists were too different from the slightly more common list with more blue and green cards.

Roughly one-third of the Bant Company players had a version with Deathmist Raptor, but it doesn’t show up in the aggregate list because the majority of players avoided the 1GG card. There are several good reasons for this: First, the megamorph won’t come back from the graveyard all that often when Declaration in Stone and Stasis Snare are the removal spells of choice. Secondly, by not requiring double-green on turn 3, you can reasonably fit the double-white Archangel Avacyn into the mana base (although this still comes at the cost of a lot of tapped lands).

Aggregate White/Blue Humans

Approximately 17.6% of the players in Day 2 played White/Blue Humans, which turned into 13.7% of the record-based metagame breakdown. This is indicative of a popular deck with a below-average match win percentage.

The above list is very similar to the ones piloted to the Top 8 by Collin Stiles and Christopher Juliano. The only notable differences are that they had a second Meandering River and a second Westvale Abbey instead of 2 Plains, as well as an additional 5-drop flyer instead of a Consul’s Lieutenant.

Notably absent from these lists are aggressive 1-drops like Dragon Hunter. Roughly 1/4th of the Blue/White Humans players in the Top 64 ran the 1-drop, but it doesn’t show up in the aggregate list because the majority of players opted for a midrange variant with 5-drop flyers. Between Thraben Inspector and Knight of the White Orchid, it should be possible to get to 5 mana consistently, so these cards fit the deck well enough.

Aggregate White/Black Eldrazi

On Sunday, 7.6% of the players played Black/White Eldrazi (including notable players such as Michael Majors and Brad Nelson) and they turned into 12.0% of the record-based metagame breakdown. This is indicative of a high match win percentage.

There is a lot of overlap between the Black/White Eldrazi and Black/White Midrange. Both decks have Caves of Koilos, Knight of the White Orchid, Archangel Avacyn, Declaration in Stone, etc. But where the Eldrazi variant has Hedron Crawler, Eldrazi Displacer, and Thought-Knot Seer, the Midrange version has a token theme with Hangarback Walker, Secure the Wastes, and extra copies of Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Moreover, the Midrange version typically has extra removal spells such as Stasis Snare or Languish, and they make up for their lack of pressure with Pitiless Horde from the sideboard.

Conclusion

Week 1 of Standard has shown the power of Archangel Avacyn, Thalia’s Lieutenant, Thraben Inspector, and Declaration in Stone. With access to good creatures, solid removal, and card advantage, white may just be the best color right now!

But this was just the very first event. Next, we have to find answers to questions like: how do you beat Bant Company, White/Blue Humans, and Black/White Eldrazi? What options are afforded to us by the available mana bases? And is there a way to break the format?

There’s still over a week before the Pro Tour starts.

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