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2008 Worlds Metagame Analysis

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The letter W!orlds 2008 featured more Constructed formats than we’re likely to see in a single event any time soon. With one-third of the Swiss dedicated to Extended and Standard each and the addition of the three formats featured in the team portion (Standard, Extended, and Legacy) all thrown together with more rounds of single elimination in both teams and Standard on Sunday, there were plenty of matches played with 60-card decks. We’re going to do a deep dive on the individual portions of the event, looking at both Standard and Extended extensively.

In all cases throughout, mirror matches are ignored. By definition, they are a split and only serve to muddy the numbers. In doing this exercise, we are limited by the number of matches that were played. In some cases, this means that we do not really have enough information to form any conclusions about a given matchup. When this happens I will still display the data, but I will do my best to refrain from commenting on them. There were 29 distinct Standard decks, and 27 distinct Extended decks. During the tournament there were about 1,000 Standard matches. Since Extended served as the format for the final day, there were several players who were out of contention for anything and opted out of the tournament. As a result, there were about 25 percent fewer matches recorded. I’ll begin with Extended and conclude with Standard.

Extended

With Elves! dominating the most recent Pro Tour, it would be reasonable to expect a good number of players going with that deck. There were those, however, who believed that the deck only performed so well due to so many people underestimating it and showing up unprepared to battle against it. So one could postulate that the numbers for Elves! would not spike noticeably. We have a unique opportunity to see how professionals react to an established metagame—one that they established. Normally we only get to see how they define formats, and the only time we get to see them participate in the same format within months is when there’s a Grand Prix season. Back-to-back Pro Tours featuring the same format very rare, but yet here we are. With that in mind, let us first revisit what the field looked like in Berlin:

Deck Percent
Zoo 28%
Elf Ball 16%
Storm 9%
Next-Level Blue 7%
Junk 6%
Faeries 5%
Deathcloud Rock 5%
Affinity 4%
All-In Red 4%
Burn 4%
Dredge 2%
Hulk Combo 1%
Life from the Loam Rock 1%
Tezzerator 1%
Bant Control 1%
Martyr Proclamation 1%
Second Breakfast 1%
Blue-Red Tron 1%
White-Blue Tron 1%
Bant Aggro 0%
Goblins 0%
Swans 0%
Battle of Wits 0%
Beasts 0%
Belcher Combo 0%
Black-Green Rock 0%
White-Black Tokens 0%
Green-White Slide 0%
Mindlock Orb Control 0%
Mono-Blue Control 0%
Rift Slide 0%
Seismic Loam 0%
Blue-Black Tron 0%

It doesn’t look anything like what you read about in Worlds coverage, and that’s because it isn’t. Here’s what Worlds was like:

Deck Count Percent
Faeries 79 27.34%
Zoo 59 20.42%
Elf Ball 30 10.38%
Burn 14 4.84%
Tezzerator 14 4.84%
Deathcloud Rock 14 4.84%
Dredge 11 3.81%
Swans 10 3.46%
UB Tron 10 3.46%
Goblins 8 2.77%
All-in Red 7 2.42%
Gifts Rock 7 2.42%
Affinity 5 1.73%
Doran Rock 3 1.04%
UW Tron 3 1.04%
BG Rock 2 0.69%
Goblin Bidding 2 0.69%
Hulk 2 0.69%
Orb Control 1 0.35%
UG Tron 1 0.35%
Slide 1 0.35%
Storm 1 0.35%
UR Tron 1 0.35%
BRG Rock 1 0.35%
RDW 1 0.35%
LftL Rock 1 0.35%
Next Level Blue 1 0.35%

Faeries came from almost nowhere (5 percent of the field in Berlin) to take up more than a quarter of the Worlds field. Zoo fell off by 8 percent, but still maintained a fifth of the field. Elves, or Elf-ball, actually lost share. It would seem that people saw Elves! as more of a target rather than a top dog, and they aimed to take it down. Faeries, it would seem, was the deck of choice to do so. Based on Berlin results, Elves were a slight ‘dog to Faeries with a 47.5 percent record. I am certain that the Faerie players at Worlds were packing more potent—as well as just plain more—hate against the creature-based combo deck. Here’s how the field fared against one another:

Deck Winning Percentage Total Matches
Next Level Blue 75% 4
Storm 67% 6
Slide 67% 6
UG Tron 67% 6
RDW 67% 6
Affinity 65% 26
All-in Red 61% 36
Burn 59% 76
Deathcloud Rock 58% 69
Swans 58% 59
UW Tron 53% 15
Faeries 51% 312
Zoo 50% 261
Tezzerator 50% 66
LftL Rock 50% 6
Hulk 50% 12
Gifts Rock 48% 33
Elf Ball 45% 126
Goblin Bidding 40% 10
Dredge 40% 50
Goblins 40% 45
UB Tron 34% 44
Doran Rock 33% 12
UR Tron 33% 6
BG Rock 33% 12
Orb Control 17% 6
BRG Rock 17% 6

At the top, we have a number of decks with one or two players who went 5-1 or 4-2. They’re interesting, sure, but we have way too little to talk about with them. Our first heavily played deck to show up on the leaderboard is All-in Red. Burn, Deathcloud Rock, and Swans were the other decks with significant play to post records over 55 percent. Zoo and Faeries, our two most represented decks, won barely more than half of their matches. Elves!, however, was thoroughly hated out. From winning 60 percent of its matches in Berlin to only 45 percent in Memphis, it is pretty clear that people were much more prepared this time around. Who was the culprit in the demise of Elves!?

Elves!

Opponent Winning Percentage Total Matches
Affinity 100% 5
Gifts Rock 100% 2
BG Rock 100% 1
Goblin Bidding 100% 2
UB Tron 83% 6
Tezzerator 60% 5
Deathcloud Rock 50% 6
Dredge 50% 2
UW Tron 50% 4
Burn 50% 4
Faeries 44% 39
Goblins 43% 7
All-in Red 33% 6
Zoo 31% 29
Orb Control 0% 1
Swans 0% 5
Hulk 0% 2

Zoo and Faeries are to blame, representing over half of their opposing matches and holding a clear advantage. It’s interesting that the Zoo matchup was so bad for Elves! in Memphis, after it held a 57 percent advantage in Berlin. Those Zoo players came better prepared, both in their deck boxes as well as with their game plans.

Zoo

Opponent Winning Percentage Total Matches
UR Tron 100% 2
Orb Control 100% 1
Hulk 100% 2
BG Rock 100% 3
RDW 100% 1
Doran Rock 100% 2
Goblin Bidding 100% 1
Goblins 69% 13
Elf Ball 69% 29
Swans 60% 15
Dredge 60% 15
UB Tron 50% 6
Faeries 49% 95
All-in Red 44% 9
Gifts Rock 40% 5
Affinity 40% 5
LftL Rock 33% 3
Burn 33% 21
Deathcloud Rock 27% 15
Tezzerator 14% 14
Next Level Blue 0% 1
UW Tron 0% 1
Slide 0% 2
Total 45% 12

Zoo was spread pretty evenly against the field, with some seemingly good pairings along with some seemingly bad ones. The biggest thing holding it back appears to be Faeries and the mirror match. Between those 2, that is 48% of their matches played at a 50% winning rate. That’s putting you at a coin flip against too much of the field to be successful. The good news is that Zoo did manage to move up about 5% over its win percent from Berlin.

Faeries

Faeries took on a couple of different forms in Extended, including classic blue and black, mono-blue and even more colorful version with assorted splashes. It is not quite as dominant as it looks to be in Standard, but the volume warrants some investigation.

Opponent Winning Percentage Total Matches
Orb Control 100% 3
UR Tron 100% 1
BRG Rock 100% 3
Next Level Blue 100% 1
Goblins 75% 8
Storm 67% 3
Slide 67% 3
Hulk 67% 3
Tezzerator 59% 22
Elf Ball 56% 39
All-in Red 56% 9
Deathcloud Rock 53% 19
Zoo 51% 95
Doran Rock 50% 6
LftL Rock 50% 2
Gifts Rock 50% 10
UB Tron 45% 11
Burn 45% 22
Swans 45% 20
Dredge 36% 11
BG Rock 33% 3
UW Tron 20% 5
Affinity 11% 9
Goblin Bidding 0% 2
UG Tron 0% 2
Total 51% 312

Faeries players kept their heads above water by keeping the slimmest margin over 50 percent. While there are some good and some bad, in the end they suffered the same fate as zoo decks: 46 percent of their matches are against a mirror or against Zoo, both of which being essentially coin flips. If one of those two decks were to develop a better strategy against the other, there would be a pretty significant shift in the metagame. As long as they continue to knock each other around, though, there’ll still be hope for folks who don’t have favorable chances against one or both of those decks.

Standard

While Extended played a major role in who got to play on Sunday, Standard was the format that saw all the Sunday action in the Top 8. In addition, it set the tone for the tournament, serving as the table-setter for the weekend back on Thursday. Of course, in a multi-format event such as Worlds, the Sunday decks will not necessarily represent the most successful decks. That holds true in any event, but is even more evident in an event where only one third of the qualifying rounds are played with each format. This is something we should get used to with the upcoming format for Pro Tours—it is much easier for a sub-optimal deck to reach the Sunday stage. That’s not saying it is any easier for a given player to do so, just that the flaws of your Standard deck can be concealed by strong performances in other formats.

And that was the case with the final two players of the weekend. Our two finalists could not have been feeling very good about their chances after Day 1. Annti Malin ended the day at 3-3, while Jamie Parke was at an even more depressing 2-3-1. Both players used their Limited prowess to turn the tables, disguising a poor Standard performance with a combined 12-0 on Day 2. So while there were five Faerie decks still playing on Sunday, that does not necessarily indicate the level of dominance you would think it might. So, were Faeries dominant in Standard?

Deck Count Percent
Faeries 90 27.36%
BW Tokens 49 14.89%
5cControl 39 11.85%
Red Kithkin 29 8.81%
Kithkin 22 6.69%
RB Aggro 16 4.86%
UW Merfolk 14 4.26%
Rock 14 4.26%
RDW 10 3.04%
Doran 5 1.52%
BG Elves 5 1.52%
WUB Reveillark 4 1.22%
Elves! 4 1.22%
Jund Ramp 4 1.22%
WUG Merfolk 3 0.91%
Black Kithkin 3 0.91%
WUG Reveillark 2 0.61%
Planeswalkers 2 0.61%
BR Aggro 2 0.61%
UW Reveillark 2 0.61%
5cElementals 2 0.61%
BW Reveillark 1 0.30%
RW Aggro 1 0.30%
RW Reveillark 1 0.30%
Tezzerator 1 0.30%
RUB Reveillark 1 0.30%
GW Aggro 1 0.30%
GW Elves 1 0.30%
Quillspike 1 0.30%

Well, the deck was certainly well represented. Frighteningly similar numbers to their Extended brethren, Faeries again accounted for better than one of every four players at the tournament. Alleged Faerie killer BW tokens was 15 percent of the field, meaning that at least 42 percent of the field came equipped with Bitterblossom. Five-Color Control [all versions included here] was about 12 percent and Red and mono-White Kithkin filled out the top 5.

Deck Winning Percentage Total Matches
RW Aggro 83% 6
BR Aggro 71% 14
GW Aggro 67% 6
BW Reveillark 67% 6
Black Kithkin 59% 17
UW Reveillark 58% 12
BG Elves 57% 30
Red Kithkin 56% 153
BW Tokens 55% 245
RB Aggro 52% 94
Faeries 52% 403
Kithkin 50% 129
WUG Reveillark 50% 12
RW Reveillark 50% 6
Doran 50% 30
Quillspike 50% 6
RDW 48% 60
5cControl 46% 228
WUB Reveillark 45% 22
UW Merfolk 45% 78
WUG Merfolk 44% 18
Rock 43% 83
Elves! 42% 24
Jund Ramp 33% 24
Planeswalkers 25% 12
5cElementals 25% 12
Tezzerator 17% 6
GW Elves 17% 6
RUB Reveillark 17% 6

Faeries

Once again though, Faeries is sitting there, hovering around the .500 mark. For a deck that is so allegedly dominant, it is sure lacking the empirical data to back that up. Admittedly, it did get the title, but look at the Top 8. Even with the best possible pairings for the five decks (meaning only one mirror, and the rest were spread out against non-mirror decks), the only Faerie deck to push past the quarterfinals was from that single mirror match.

Opponent Winning Percentage Total Matches
Tezzerator 100% 3
RUB Reveillark 100% 2
5cElementals 100% 2
Quillspike 100% 2
GW Elves 100% 1
WUG Merfolk 75% 4
Planeswalkers 75% 4
Jund Ramp 75% 8
5cControl 64% 64
WUB Reveillark 60% 5
UW Merfolk 57% 21
Elves! 56% 9
Red Kithkin 53% 51
GW Aggro 50% 2
UW Reveillark 50% 2
RW Reveillark 50% 2
RB Aggro 50% 28
BG Elves 50% 10
BW Tokens 49% 80
Kithkin 46% 39
RDW 39% 18
Rock 37% 19
WUG Reveillark 33% 3
Black Kithkin 33% 6
Doran 22% 9
BR Aggro 0% 4
RW Aggro 0% 2
BW Reveillark 0% 3
Total 52% 403

As expected, Faeries performed admirably against the Five-Color Control decks. The token deck, one that was supposed to be a Faerie stopper, only barely won more than one out of every two matches. The problem children came from Kithkin, RDW and Rock, with a host of problems coming from the lesser-represented portion of the metagame.

BW Tokens

Opponent Winning Percentage Total Matches
Tezzerator 100% 2
Elves! 100% 2
5cElementals 100% 3
BW Reveillark 100% 1
Black Kithkin 100% 2
WUB Reveillark 75% 4
Rock 73% 11
RDW 71% 7
UW Merfolk 69% 16
Red Kithkin 57% 21
Faeries 51% 80
WUG Merfolk 50% 2
Planeswalkers 50% 2
RB Aggro 50% 16
5cControl 50% 36
RW Reveillark 50% 2
Doran 50% 4
Kithkin 45% 22
BG Elves 33% 6
UW Reveillark 33% 3
Jund Ramp 0% 2
BR Aggro 0% 1
Total 55% 245

One of the other Bitterblossom decks to show up in force, BW tokens performed quite well. It was able to handle the majority of random decks while holding up against the most common decks of Faeries and Five-Color Control. What impresses me the most is the seeming lack of a truly terrible matchup. Kithkin doesn’t look very good, but it also does not scare me all that much as it only represented 7 percent of the field. Looking at these numbers, it would not have surprised me to see multiple BW token decks in the Top 8 if this had been a single-format event.

Five-Color Control

Opponent Winning Percentage Total Matches
WUG Merfolk 100% 2
Planeswalkers 100% 4
BR Aggro 100% 1
UW Merfolk 71% 7
Black Kithkin 67% 3
Kithkin 65% 17
Rock 55% 11
Red Kithkin 52% 21
5cControl 50% 20
BG Elves 50% 4
RUB Reveillark 50% 2
BW Tokens 50% 36
RDW 44% 9
Faeries 36% 64
Doran 33% 3
RB Aggro 23% 13
Elves! 0% 1
Quillspike 0% 2
5cElementals 0% 3
RW Reveillark 0% 1
Jund Ramp 0% 3
WUB Reveillark 0% 1
Total 46% 228

Here is another deck that seems to have some trouble with random decks. That, coupled with a very bad matchup against the most popular deck, makes this deck look like a bad choice. We do suffer a lot here by not having enough information to really draw some conclusions, but the small sample size is not promising.

Overall I find it very interesting in Standard how many coin flips there seem to be among the top three. Faeries vs. Tokens. Tokens vs. Five-Color. If this was Rock-Paper-Scissors, and those were the only three decks out there, I would have to say the advantage goes to Faeries. The coming months will show if people figure out a way to make Cruel Control better against Faeries or not. If not, it’ll be up to the remainder of the field to tame the Fae.

Worlds showed us a lot of exciting moments. I wish I had some more information regarding the Limited portion, but what we learned from looking at Extended and Standard has been quite a lot. Have a happy and safe holiday to everyone out there, and see if you can’t end the year with a draft or two.

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