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2009 World Championships Metagame

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The letter T!he 2009 Magic tournament year came to a close in Rome, with André Coimbra being crowned the World Champion, Bo Li, Wu Tong, and Zhiyang Zhang of China taking World Team Championship, and Yuuya Watanabe taking the Player of the Year title. The titles will be remembered forever, but what may get lost to time is how they got there.

Worlds is easily the most grueling tournament to play in, with preparation required for three formats at a minimum. Those fortunate enough to represent their country in the team portion could have a fourth format to test for! This all culminates in four days of rigorous tournament play and eventually a winner. Surviving the tournament is a feat by itself; walking out on top is a monument not only to skill, but also to endurance.

The first day featured the most commonly played format, Standard. Bill Stark has already done yeoman's work in breaking down which decks were out there. Jund was easily the most popular deck, and even with more than a third of the field sporting Savage Lands, it still performed well. Jund won almost 53% of its matches, which is extremely impressive when you consider how many people were playing it and what a wide range of ability its pilots had (not to mention their opponents). The cacophony of cascading card advantage certainly managed to live up to the hype, as it has been doing all year long.

While Jund came out looking good, it wasn't the top deck.

Standard Archetypes by Win %
Archetype Win % Matches
Turbo-Fog 66.67% 12
Mono-Red 64.71% 34
Vampires 62.50% 24
Other (Aggro) 60.56% 72
Zoo 59.26% 27
Other (Fast) 58.33% 12
Valakut 55.56% 18
White Tokens 54.05% 37
Naya 53.25% 78
Boros Bushwhacker 52.94% 324
Jund 52.54% 729
Red-White-Blue Control 47.92% 48
Junk 46.53% 204
Eldrazi Monument 43.86% 174
Other (Control) 43.04% 159
Unearth 40.98% 64
Bant 40.66% 182
Pyromancer Ascension 39.29% 28

Looking at this list, it is difficult to peg a single deck type that was the "best." The Fog deck was a surprise, but with only two players running it I don't feel comfortable giving it the title. Mono Red decks put up a heck of a fight, but again with only 34 matches there just isn't enough to say one way or another. Vampires has the same fate. The first real contender is "Other (Aggro)," which means deck that were aggressive with creatures in nature, but didn't fall into one of the broader archetypes.

"Other (Aggro)" Breakdown
Deck Win % Matches
White-Blue Aggro 72.22% 18
Green-White Aggro 57.45% 48
White-Black-Red Aggro 50.00% 6
Grand Total 60.56% 72

So maybe Green-White Aggro should be called the best. I can't really argue against that. None of the other contenders really gave us enough to look at, which I have to blame on Jund. If Jund took up less of the metagame, we would see more of the other decks, and consequently we would have more data on them.

While calling a deck the best is eluding us, we can still see how some other decks did. I feel pretty comfortable saying that Bant simply was not up to the task in Rome. When trying to see why, one only has to look back to Jund.

Bant
Opposing Deck Win % Matches
White Tokens 100.00% 1
Valakut 100.00% 1
Eldrazi Monument 80.00% 10
Mono-Red 66.67% 3
Naya 60.00% 5
Unearth 50.00% 6
Jund 40.91% 66
Junk 38.10% 21
Boros Bushwhacker 37.84% 37
Zoo 33.33% 3
Red-White-Blue Control 33.33% 3
Other (Control) 26.67% 15
Other (Aggro) 25.00% 4
Other (Fast) 0.00% 1
Vampires 0.00% 4
Turbo-Fog 0.00% 1
Pyromancer Ascension 0.00% 1
Grand Total 40.66% 182

Bant got absolutely rocked by Jund, and really didn't fare much better against anyone else.

Unearth—the so-called return of Dredge to Standard—appeared in its first major tournament at Worlds, and the results were not pretty. And what, you may ask, was standing in the way of a triumphant return to the pedestal for graveyard strategies? Lightning Bolts, Putrid Leeches and Bloodbraid Elves, of course.

Unearth
Opposing Deck Win % Matches
Pyromancer Ascension 100.00% 1
Junk 83.33% 6
Red-White-Blue Control 66.67% 3
Eldrazi Monument 50.00% 6
Bant 50.00% 6
Naya 50.00% 2
Other (Aggro) 33.33% 3
Jund 32.00% 26
Boros Bushwhacker 16.67% 7
Mono-Red 0.00% 1
Other (Control) 0.00% 3
Grand Total 40.98% 64

So far we have seen how Jund helped shape the metagame, knocking out what might otherwise be contenders. Let's dig a little deeper into really how much Jund distorted things and what, if anything, can stop it.

Jund
Opposing Deck Win % Matches
Turbo-Fog 100.00% 2
Vampires 72.73% 11
Unearth 68.00% 26
Unknown 66.67% 3
Other (Control) 60.00% 55
Bant 59.09% 66
Junk 56.58% 76
Pyromancer Ascension 54.55% 11
Red-White-Blue Control 53.33% 15
Eldrazi Monument 52.94% 69
Boros Bushwhacker 52.21% 136
Jund 50.00% 148
Mono-Red 45.45% 11
Zoo 40.00% 10
Naya 40.00% 25
White Tokens 38.89% 18
Valakut 37.50% 8
Other (Aggro) 36.11% 36
Other (Fast) 33.33% 3
Grand Total 52.54% 729

Jund won 50% of the time or more against decks that constituted 85% of its matches. The problem decks they faced did not represent a big part of the metagame. When I look at this I see a number of strong performances with a couple of bad ones that we cannot fully substantiate due to sample size. What Mike Flores might see is that he was right and Naya was the best deck. I'll leave it to him to elaborate, but in my opinion the data is inconclusive.

The only other deck with any kind of sample size was Boros Bushwhacker, which overall was slightly better than Jund.

Boros Bushwhacker
Opposing Deck Win % Matches
Unearth 83.33% 7
Other (Control) 70.97% 31
Other (Fast) 66.67% 3
Bant 62.16% 37
Eldrazi Monument 61.76% 34
Pyromancer Ascension 60.00% 5
Red-White-Blue Control 57.14% 7
Naya 57.14% 7
Mono-Red 50.00% 4
White Tokens 50.00% 8
Boros Bushwhacker 50.00% 2
Valakut 50.00% 2
Turbo-Fog 50.00% 2
Jund 47.79% 136
Junk 34.48% 29
Zoo 33.33% 3
Other (Aggro) 33.33% 6
Unknown 0.00% 1
Grand Total 52.94% 324

If Jund was not part of this metagame, Boros Bushwhacker would be at about 57%, a great number. Of course, losing 52% of the time to a deck that represents a third of the field is going to hurt your overall numbers, and certainly your chances of winning.

To this point, I haven't made mention of the Top 8 decks, and this is with good reason. Frankly, those decks are meaningless. Or at least they could be. After all, they were only used for a third of the tournament leading up to the Top 8. To make the Top 8, each competitor needed thirteen wins (and a draw). In other words, it was possible to go 1-4-1 in Standard and win out to play on Sunday. So we can't simply say that a Standard deck in the Top 8 is automatically a good deck. We saw that last year, with Jamie Parke going 2-3-1 in Standard.

Now that I've said all of that, let's shoot it down, shall we? Each of the Top 8 was 4-2 or better on Day 1. So yes, Billy, these are at least decent decks.

  Standard Draft Extended
Top 8 Competitor Wins Losses Draws Wins Losses Draws Wins Losses Draws
Bucher, Manuel 5 1 0 3 3 0 6 0 0
Cavaglieri, William 5 1 0 3 3 0 6 0 0
Coimbra, André 4 2 0 6 0 0 3 0 3
Lybaert, Marijn 6 0 0 5 1 0 2 2 2
Pils, Florian 4 2 0 5 1 0 4 1 1
Reitbauer, David 6 0 0 4 2 0 4 1 1
Snepvangers, Bram 6 0 0 5 1 0 2 3 1
Soh, Terry 4 2 0 5 1 0 5 1 0

Standard was actually the best format for those at the proverbial final table, with an 83% win rate. Draft was "only" 75% for them, while Extended was the middle child at 80%. Another takeaway here: look at your champion, Mr. Coimbra, in Extended. Those three draws came after eleven straight victories. He literally made the Top 8 with three rounds to spare, sat around collecting some draws, went to sleep, woke up, and picked right up again with his winning ways. It's a good gig if you can get it.

While André only needed three rounds of Extended, the rest of the room still had a full day. Again, Bill Stark hooked us up with the landscape of the metagame.

Even with over 400 fewer matches than Standard, we have more archetypes with a significant sample.

Extended Archetypes by Win %
Archetype Win % Matches
Elves 66.67% 6
Tezzerator 65.00% 106
Scapeshift 58.33% 114
Martyr 56.82% 46
Bant 55.77% 117
All-In Red 55.75% 117
Dark Depths 53.79% 139
Rock 51.28% 44
Burn 50.91% 56
Faeries 50.00% 16
Other (Aggro) 50.00% 2
Other (Control) 49.30% 82
Trinx 47.50% 44
Zoo 46.24% 391
Other (Combo) 46.88% 33
Dredge 46.31% 161
Affinity 43.75% 18
Other (Fast) 40.00% 12
Hypergenesis 39.62% 162
Gifts 35.29% 36
Junk 33.33% 6

And we have a surprise winner here. Tezzerator has made a comeback. Scapeshift, Bant, All-In Red, and Dark Depths all had very strong numbers. Zoo, the far-and-away most popular deck, however, had some issues. Unlike Jund in Standard, Zoo decks were not able to support the hype.

Zoo
Opposing Deck Win % Matches
Other (Fast) 100.00% 5
Other (Aggro) 100.00% 1
Affinity 80.00% 6
Faeries 80.00% 5
Junk 66.67% 3
Gifts 63.64% 12
Bant 59.26% 32
Dark Depths 54.55% 44
Trinx 53.85% 13
Other (Combo) 53.85% 14
Other (Control) 50.00% 16
Dredge 47.73% 46
Scapeshift 40.00% 36
Tezzerator 39.39% 33
Hypergenesis 38.64% 45
Rock 37.50% 18
Burn 35.71% 15
All-In Red 31.25% 32
Martyr 25.00% 13
Elves 0.00% 2
Grand Total 46.24% 391

There were a few good-news stories here, and a few more bad-news stories. Looking at this, you get the sense that Zoo players were perhaps focusing on mirror-match technology and kind of ignoring the rest of the field, while the rest of the field was worried about fast, efficient creatures.

Most of the other match-ups offer very little of interest, either as a result of very few matches played or because they're something we've seen several times before. I'll include the entire rundown as a spreadsheet for those who want to get into it.

That is the story of how André Coimbra won Worlds. He went 4-2 with a Naya deck in Standard and then failed to lose the rest of the way. For his efforts, he was awarded the title of World Champion.

Another title handed out was for the Player of the Year, earned by Yuuya Watanabe. Yuuya had a fantastic year by all measures. He propelled himself to the forefront of our game with a consistency rarely seen. He "only" had one PT Top 8, but his success on the Grand Prix circuit demonstrated how important GPs are in the Player of the Year race. With that in mind, I got a little curious. How well did our Player of the Year do on the actual Pro Tour? Since I have been fortunate enough to do the analysis on each Pro Tour this year, I decided to take a peek at some 2009 Pro Tour numbers. First, our Player of the Year:

Yuuya Watanabe
Event Wins Losses Draws Win %
Kyoto 1 4 0 20.00%
Honolulu 3 4 0 42.86%
Austin 12 3 2 80.00%
Worlds 10 7 1 58.82%
Grand Total 26 18 3 59.09%

That's certainly a fine number on the year, though not really as high as you might expect for the Player of the Year, once more underscoring how vital his Grand Prix success was. In fact, there were sixteen players who had better years on the Pro Tour than Yuuya did. We'll get to that shortly.

For those of you who follow the Pro Tour coverage from home, it may be difficult to judge exactly how many players hit every Pro Tour. Sometimes it seems like hundreds, as there are so many recognizable names out there and we keep seeing them in coverage. This year, however, there were only 66 players who participated in each of the four Pro Tours. Japan led the way, with 19 players at each event, while the U.S. was second with 15. France had 7, and no other country had more than 4. With an average Pro Tour seeing about 400 players, that means that only about 17% of the field at each Pro Tour is a gravy-trainer.

To find the best-performing Pro Tour player (that is, the best performer at Pro Tour events) in 2009, I limited it only to players who were at each event. Otherwise, your World Champ would be considered best, as his 16-2-3 record over one event would easily beat anyone who played in all four events. Looking only at those who were at every Pro Tour, we can see that Gabriel Nassif was the best performer in 2009.

  Player Country Wins Losses Draws Win %
1 Nassif, Gabriel FRA 40 17 2 70%
2 Levy, Raphael FRA 43 19 2 69%
3 Juza, Martin CZE 43 20 2 68%
4 Scott-Vargas, Luis USA 38 19 1 67%
5 Mitamura, Kazuya JPN 41 21 1 66%
6 Saito, Tomoharu JPN 41 22 1 65%
7 Yasooka, Shouta JPN 39 22 2 64%
8 Yamamoto, Akimasa JPN 36 21 1 63%
9 Nyström, Per SWE 35 22 0 61%
10 Snepvangers, Bram NLD 30 19 1 61%
11 Nakano, Yoshitaka JPN 38 25 0 60%
12 Thaler, Sebastian DEU 37 25 2 60%
13 Ootsuka, Koutarou JPN 34 23 0 60%
14 Nakamura, Shuhei JPN 38 26 0 59%
15 da Rosa, Paulo Vitor BRA 29 20 0 59%
16 Karsten, Frank NLD 29 20 7 59%
17 Watanabe, Yuuya JPN 26 18 3 59%
18 Yukuhiro, Ken JPN 27 19 0 59%
19 Scheel, Brandon USA 27 19 0 59%
20 Phillips, Cedric USA 27 19 2 59%

Fellow Frenchman Raphael Levy came in a close second to Nassif, with Martin Juza, Luis Scott-Vargas, and Kazuya Mitamura rounding out the Top 5. You can see that Yuuya is not in the Top 10, as he was all the way down at #17. You may also notice that Japan is the clear dominant force, with 9 of the Top 20 and no other country having more than three. That is an impressive display, but does it carry through to all Japanese players?

Country Constructed Limited Total
Win % Rank Win % Rank Win % Rank
Czech Republic 55.99% 2 63.47% 1 58.76% 1
Austria 60.18% 1 47.52% 20 55.31% 2
Slovak Republic 53.90% 6 56.00% 5 54.63% 3
Japan 55.85% 3 52.38% 10 54.52% 4
Russian Federation 55.49% 4 52.63% 8 54.44% 5
Netherlands 50.88% 9 58.45% 2 53.73% 6
Brazil 53.95% 5 52.17% 11 53.32% 7
Germany 50.74% 10 53.25% 7 51.65% 8
France 51.25% 8 51.90% 13 51.49% 9
Sweden 51.37% 7 50.30% 15 50.98% 10
Portugal 49.72% 12 52.13% 12 50.55% 11
Belgium 48.99% 14 52.56% 9 50.37% 12
United States 50.31% 11 49.87% 16 50.15% 13
Poland 45.59% 19 57.14% 3 49.77% 14
Canada 48.22% 16 51.37% 14 49.37% 15
Switzerland 48.31% 15 49.00% 17 48.56% 16
Finland 43.85% 21 56.16% 4 48.28% 17
Australia 43.23% 22 54.23% 6 47.44% 18
Argentina 46.05% 18 48.10% 19 46.75% 19
Spain 49.19% 13 42.18% 22 46.56% 20
England 45.11% 20 48.23% 18 46.28% 21
Italy 47.22% 17 44.44% 21 46.23% 22

This table shows all the countries with at least 200 matches on the Pro Tour in 2009. As you can see, overall Japan ranks 4th, with the Czech Republic putting up an incredible win rate—1st in Constructed and 2nd in Limited. The United States was the most consistent country, with an extremely small difference between Constructed and Limited. The Czech Republic accomplished its success with about 75% fewer matches than the Japanese, and about 90% fewer matches than the U.S.

Below are the Top 20 competitors in Constructed among those who played in all four Pro Tours.

Top 20 Players in Pro Tour Constructed Matches
Player Win % Matches
Levy, Raphael 73.68% 40
Yamamoto, Akimasa 72.22% 37
Saitou, Tomoharu 71.79% 40
Yasooka, Shouta 70.27% 39
Jacob, Michael 67.65% 35
Nassif, Gabriel 66.67% 38
Mitamura, Kazuya 66.67% 40
Ootsuka, Koutarou 64.71% 34
Thaler, Sebastian 63.16% 40
Nakamura, Shuhei 62.50% 40
Nakano, Yoshitaka 62.50% 40
Scott-Vargas, Luis 62.16% 38
Sacher, Aj 61.76% 34
Juza, Martin 61.54% 41
Zatlkaj, Matej 61.29% 31
Snepvangers, Bram 61.29% 32
Mihara, Makihito 61.11% 36
Nyström, Per 61.11% 36
Ruess, Jan 60.00% 31
Lindgren, Tommi 60.00% 35

And Limited ....

Top 20 Players in Pro Tour Limited Matches
Player Win % Matches
van Medevoort, Robert 80.00% 20
Juza, Martin 79.17% 24
Ikeda, Tsuyoshi 76.92% 13
Nassif, Gabriel 76.19% 21
Scott-Vargas, Luis 75.00% 20
Watanabe, Yuuya 73.33% 15
Lax, Ari 73.33% 15
Doise, Jan 68.75% 16
Scheel, Brandon 68.75% 16
Massicard, Yann 66.67% 24
Mitamura, Kazuya 65.22% 23
Künzler, Matthias 64.71% 17
Phillips, Cedric 64.71% 17
Fabiano, Gerard 64.71% 17
Kohl, Reinhold 64.71% 18
Bohny, Nico 63.16% 19
Yukuhiro, Ken 62.50% 16
Larsson, David 62.50% 16
Levy, Raphael 62.50% 24
Nyström, Per 61.90% 21
Kurihara, Shingou 61.90% 21
Malin, Antti 61.90% 21
Kitayama, Masaya 61.90% 21

As you can see, Nassif was 4th and 6th in these, but combined that gave him enough to be the best overall. While 70% may not sound all that amazing—7-3 would mean you need to go 5-1 to make Top 8 of a Pro Tour—to do that consistently for an entire year is a feat. If you still are not convinced, consider this: Jon Finkel and Kai Budde both have career win rates of 63%. Raphael Levy had 54% when he was voted into the Hall of Fame. When taken in that context, 70% starts looking impressive indeed. Congratulations to Gabriel Nassif!

All of these players should be proud of their 2009 seasons. And, like you I'm sure, they're all looking forward to 2010.


You can download a full breakdown of Standard and Extended match-ups at the 2009 World Championships by archetype in Excel format (111 KB).

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