The results are in. I was able to compile info on the deck choice of 1,069 players across the two most recent Standard GPs. They completed a total of 3,862 matches against one another. This includes the whole of Grand Prix Kansas City (2,900 matches), the whole Day 2 of Grand Prix Taipei plus Round 9 (687 matches), and all the matches from Taipei’s earlier rounds that involved two Day 2 players (a surprisingly large number of 275).
This is sufficient data to draw relevant conclusions. Which decks are evenly matched? Which matchups favor one deck over another? You may have read the assessments of various notable experts on this very site. Now you’re getting cold, hard facts.
But first I want to add a few words to the topic of overall performance …
Overall Archetype Performances in Kansas and Taipei
Last time, we learned about the most successful archetype at Grand Prix Kansas City. The green-blue or green-blue-white strategy of ramping toward some big payoff, usually Mass Manipulation, proved the big winner. Its 64% win rate was by far the highest in the field, followed at more than a few steps behind by Gruul’s 57% and Command the Dreadhorde‘s 54%.
These three archetypes’ records were significant. That is, it’s unlikely to see results as strong as theirs if there isn’t an actual advantage at play. The majority of the field hovered somewhere around a win rate of 50%, which is insignificant all around. A few fringe strategies performed significantly badly, most notably the traditional reactive form of Absorb-wielding Esper Control.
Grand Prix Taipei is another story. For one thing, we can only draw upon the results of Round 9 onward to generate a comparable sample with a baseline of 50%. This limitation, in turn, leads to a sample not quite comparable in size. Apart from the technical side, we also might expect the wizards and witches of the east to do some things differently. After all, I’ve a feeling we’re not in Kansas anymore.
So it is reassuring that Mass Ramp players had by far the best result in Taipei too, winning 150 of 259 matches. Granted, this equals 58% instead of the earlier 64%. But if the archetype had been able to maintain 64% that would’ve been unsettling rather than reassuring.
Gruul did worse in Taipei, only winning 50.2% of 269 matches, and Command the Dreadhorde did much worse, winning 44.2% of 120 matches. Though we shouldn’t assign too much importance to these percentages. The respective samples from Kansas City, which told a much more optimistic tale, totaled 689 and 648 matches.
Likewise, Grixis exhibited a remarkable win rate of 56% in Taipei, but it did so over a mere 86 matches. That Taipei’s single remaining Feather player after the cut went 6-1 doesn’t allow much in the way of extrapolation either. Both decks’ overall performance had been insignificant back in Kansas.
Red Aggro had been the most popular deck in Kansas, with a field share of 18% where no other archetype even made it past 10%. Its win rate, however, came in at a subpar 48.2%. Even after the cut to Day 2 it didn’t improve past 49.6%, and in Taipei the deck earned another 48.5%.
In conclusion, we can state with some confidence that Simic/Bant Ramp has cemented itself as the best deck in current Standard, with Gruul the most likely runner-up. All the other mainstream decks fall somewhere in the middle, including all Esper variants except for the outdated traditional control approach. Red Aggro has consistently proven to be marginally but noticeably below average.
Enter the Matrix
The following decks seem to be the major players in Standard. At least they accounted in a very literal sense for the most play across the two-GP sample.
- Red Aggro (1,150 matches)
- Gruul Beatdown (1,051 matches)
- X-Color Dreadhorde (817 matches)
- Esper Hero (627 matches)
- Simic/Bant Mass Ramp (562 matches)
- Jeskai Superfriends (429 matches)
- Arclight Phoenix (411 matches)
- Esper Superfriends (347 matches)
- Grixis Midrange (342 matches)
- White Aggro (260 matches)
- Bant Midrange (227 matches)
- Nexus of Fate (226 matches)
Their pairings among each other had the following results:
This is a lot of data to digest. Let me break it down:
Red Aggro’s best matchup (White Weenie) is considerably less good than its worst matchup (Gruul) is bad. Even though the others are all inconclusive themselves, the overabundance of negative records gives an indication as well. Several of these negative records surprised me. I always thought Red Aggro was favored against Dreadhorde, for example. You only have to take care of Wildgrowth Walker and you basically can’t lose, right? Apparently that’s wrong, and it isn’t just wrong among some supposed bottom tier. Dreadhorde won a larger share of battles against Red after the cut to Day 2 than before the cut: 55% compared to 50.6%. Once again, you can’t blame any of these results on the stereotypical “noob on mono-red who doesn’t know what they’re doing.”
Gruul exhibited a very strong tendency to lose to Simic/Bant Ramp, a strong tendency to beat Red Aggro as well as Jeskai Superfriends, and a mild tendency to beat X-Color Dreadhorde.
X-Color Dreadhorde revealed itself to be at a huge disadvantage against Ramp, at a clear disadvantage against Nexus of Fate, and at a probable disadvantage against Gruul. On the flip side, it was a huge favorite against Esper Superfriends and Grixis Midrange, a clear favorite against Jeskai Superfriends, and a likely favorite against Esper Hero. The deck seems positioned at a focal point in Standard’s midrange slugfest, going over the top of various Superfriends team-ups, but losing to the Ramp and Nexus decks with their even bigger endgame.
Hero of Precinct One and Arclight Phoenix make for true allrounders, featuring a grand total of zero clear matchups among the major archetypes. If you’re looking to take advantage of the effect described in my most-liked article ever, you should avoid both of these decks. You could apply the same logic to White Aggro and Bant Midrange, although their matchups may look more even than they are because of the lower sample size. Instead, you should try Dreadhorde which has the most extreme matchups, both in number and extremeness.
Simic/Bant Ramp won by highly significant margins versus Gruul and Dreadhorde and by barely significant margins versus Jeskai and Esper Superfriends. It also won by respectable if technically totally insignificant margins against most other decks.
Jeskai Superfriends had a clear advantage over Nexus of Fate and was at a clear disadvantage versus Gruul as well as Dreadhorde. Interestingly, Jeskai’s battle with Red Aggro, which I have seen touted as the most hopeless for the red deck, didn’t have a very clear outcome.
The only clear matchups for Esper Superfriends and Grixis Midrange, on the other hand, were very clear and very negative. Both decks lost to Command the Dreadhorde, and additionally Grixis earned the consolation prize for the cleanest losing streak in all of Standard with its 0-11 run against Nexus.
So Nexus demolished Grixis, beat Dreadhorde, and succumbed to Jeskai Superfriends. Going by the available data, we can’t call any other of the major matchups for or against Nexus. But the limited sample sizes leave ample room for such a possibility. For example, historic precedence from antebellum Standard leads me to believe that White Aggro would have achieved a meaningful victory over Nexus too, if only the two decks had met one another often enough.
Additional Significant Match Results
Of course there are more than twelve decks in Standard. In fact, I identified more than 50 different archetypes when I categorized the decks of Kansas City, including highlights such as Merfolk, Dinosaurs, Vampires, and Niv-Mizzet Reborn. Most of them only had a couple of players in the running and most of them crashed ignominiously.
As a consequence, very few of them generated meaningful records against anyone. But some did. For the sake of completeness, here’s the best of the rest:
- Dimir Control went 15-4 versus Red Aggro.
- Dreadhorde decks went 19-7 versus traditional Esper Control.
- Abzan Hero went 6-0 versus Red Aggro.
- Mono-Blue Tempo went 8-1 versus Dreadhorde decks.
- Simic/Bant Mass Ramp went 5-0 versus Golgari.
- Feather, the Redeemed went 7-1 versus Simic/Bant Mass Ramp.