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A detailed look at the performance of each Constructed deck at US Nationals.

US Nationals Post-Mortem

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The letter T!he United States have a new champion, and one that would make Dave Price proud. While Michael Jacob grabbed the headline, there were 217 other players fighting through the 17 rounds. We'll be diving into the specifics on how each Constructed deck performed. In another week or so I hope to be able to provide some numbers from the Limited portion of the event. Before any of that, we have a glimpse at how people qualified for the event.

Player Invite Source Players Percent
Regionals Championship 90 41.28%
Top 100 Composite Rating 50 22.94%
Grinder 26 11.93%
City Championship Winner 25 11.47%
Players Club 2+ 19 8.72%
2007 U.S. National Team 4 1.83%
Military Regionals Championship 2 0.92%
Special Invitation 2 0.92%
Grand Total 218 100.00%

I found this interesting, as I guess I had never really thought about it before. When you look at it another way, with the 2007 Nationals team, top 100 composite rating and Players Club invites all being considered pros and the remaining invites being offered to amateurs you see that about 2/3 of the field would not be considered pros. Armed with this information, I decided to see if I could support or refute the commonly held theory that the amateurs (or "Joe's" if you like rhyming) are more prepared for Constructed and would falter in the Limited portion of the event.

Player Status Data Constructed Limited Grand Total
Amateur win_pct 47.06% 45.54% 46.25%
matches 666 765 1431
Professional win_pct 55.40% 57.94% 56.78%
matches 368 429 797

A quick glance shows us that the pros lived up to their name, winning about 57% of the time. Amateurs were below the 50% mark by a pretty sharp margin. There was not a large drop-off between Constructed or Limited for either group, though Pros did do better with 40 cards, as expected, even if it was only by 2.5%. If we break it out further by invite source, the splits become more apparent.

Player Invite Data Constructed Limited Grand Total
2007 U.S. National Team win_pct 57.14% 69.23% 63.83%
matches 23 26 49
Top 100 Composite Rating win_pct 55.60% 58.60% 57.20%
matches 253 286 539
Players Club 2+ win_pct 54.44% 53.85% 54.11%
matches 92 117 209
Special Invitation win_pct 50.00% 53.85% 51.85%
matches 14 13 27
Grinder win_pct 49.21% 47.83% 48.48%
matches 126 139 265
City Championship Winner win_pct 51.30% 42.62% 46.84%
matches 115 122 237
Regionals Championship win_pct 45.77% 45.38% 45.56%
matches 405 489 894
Military Regionals Championship win_pct 0.00% 50.00% 12.50%
matches 6 2 8

Each of the three Pro categories performed admirably. The only Amateur grouping to break .500 was the Special Invitation which consisted of Dave Williams and Scott Kasliner. Surprisingly, the folks that 5-0'd on the day preceding Nationals fought the good fight in the main event, almost hitting 50%. City Champs winners had a very good idea of what they were doing in Standard, but failed to back up that strong showing when their decks were smaller and not filled with 4-of's. The only other grouping to have a wide gap between formats was the '07 National team, who showed a pronounced dominance of the draft tables, taking 3 points in 69% of their matches.

That gives us a sense of who was in the field and how they did. We can now start to look at what they played in Constructed. I've already done a preliminary breakdown of the environment, so I'll jump right into the proverbial belly of the beast and show you some numbers.

The variance of a two-format tournament makes it entirely pointless to include any kind of average or median finish/earnings information, thus all you'll see is the number of matches along with a win percentage. Please bear in mind that it is generally accepted that any sample size lower than 30 will not provide statistically relevant information. Obviously, the bigger a sample, the better a predictor it will be. In the instances where we have less than 30 matches played, please remember that the sample size is small. Don't go into a tournament with Merfolk based on a 3-0 record against Black-red Tokens at U.S. Nationals. Take this as a starting point and finish off the testing within your group.

Player Deck Data Day 1 Day 2 Day 3 Grand Total
Kithkin win_pct 55.56% 87.50% n/a 70.59%
matches 9 8 0 17
Mono-red Aggro win_pct 56.72% 73.68% 75.00% 63.30%
matches 67 42 4 113
Red-green Aggro win_pct 52.38% 66.67% 0.00% 56.76%
matches 21 15 1 37
Zur win_pct 75.00% 25.00% n/a 55.00%
matches 12 8 0 20
Quick ‘N Toast win_pct 44.44% 73.33% 0.00% 53.49%
matches 27 16 1 44
Faeries win_pct 50.81% 48.53% 66.67% 50.26%
matches 124 70 3 197
Swan win_pct 66.67% 0.00% n/a 50.00%
matches 12 4 0 16
Merfolk win_pct 50.77% 45.45% n/a 48.98%
matches 65 33 0 98
Black-red Tokens win_pct 45.83% 52.94% n/a 48.78%
matches 24 17 0 41
Elves win_pct 47.95% 48.00% 66.67% 48.41%
matches 73 50 3 126
Red-green Big Mana win_pct 51.35% 40.00% n/a 48.08%
matches 37 15 0 52
Other win_pct 54.17% 30.00% 0.00% 45.71%
matches 24 12 1 37
Mono-black win_pct 66.67% 25.00% n/a 42.86%
matches 3 4 0 7
Doran win_pct 40.00% n/a n/a 40.00%
matches 15 0 0 15
Reveillark win_pct 44.90% 30.43% 0.00% 39.73%
matches 49 24 1 74
Juniper Order Druid win_pct 33.33% 0.00% n/a 22.22%
matches 6 3 0 9
Black-green Rock win_pct 11.11% 40.00% n/a 21.43%
matches 9 5 0 14
Predator win_pct 0.00% n/a n/a 0.00%
matches 3 0 0 3

Let's walk through some of the more successful and more popular decks to see what led to their successes or failures.

Kithkin

Our surprise "best deck" is one that was helped the most by Eventide. Kithkin picked up Figure of Destiny and posted a crazy 70% record. There were only three people running the little white critters, so the sample size is admittedly quite small. Diving further in, the deck didn't play more than four matches against any single deck, so it's a very shaky foundation.

Opp.’s Deck Win Pct. Matches
Red-green Big Mana 100.00% 1
Black-green Rock 100.00% 1
Black-red Tokens 100.00% 2
Elves 100.00% 2
Faeries 100.00% 3
Quick ‘N Toast 100.00% 1
Merfolk 50.00% 4
Red-green Aggro 0.00% 3
Grand Total 70.59% 17

It's enough to warrant further inspection though. I will be adding it to my gauntlet, and possibly to my short list.

Mono-red

The next best deck, and probably the real "best deck" of the weekend is Mono-red. During 113 matches, including the title, the deck ran at 63%; there really isn't much more you could ask of a deck. I had heard some speculation prior to the event that the field could be as much as a quarter Mono-red because of its ability to handle Faeries. While the field percentage of that prediction was wrong (it was only 11%), the second part held true.

Opp.’s Deck Win Pct. Matches
Zur 100.00% 4
Black-green Rock 100.00% 1
Juniper Order Druid 100.00% 1
Doran 100.00% 3
Faeries 77.42% 32
Merfolk 71.43% 14
Other 66.67% 5
Quick ‘N Toast 57.14% 7
Elves 57.14% 14
Reveillark 54.55% 12
Black-red Tokens 40.00% 5
Red-green Mana 33.33% 9
Red-green Aggro 25.00% 4
Mono-black 0.00% 1
Swan 0.00% 1
Grand Total 63.30% 113

Against Faeries: 77%. Seriously. Seventy-Seven Freaking Percent. Granted, 32 isn't a gigantic sample size, but it is statistically significant. It is also 28% of Red's matches. Throw in 12% from Merfolk, also over 70% (granted, a small sample size, but I throw in my anecdotal 2 cents that the Merfolk matchup is a good one for Mono-red) and you have a deck that is over 70% against more than 40% of the field. None of the other matchups had enough matches to reach any conclusions, but the bad ones only took up approximately 15% of the field combined. If you have a good-to-great chance against 85% of the field, you're probably in good shape.

Faeries

So how did the presumptive best deck do? Faeries are a Block powerhouse and were expected to take down Hollywood, but fell on their tiny sprite-like faces. The Fae were under 50% for the Pro Tour but still took up a quarter of the U.S. Nationals field. They did a little better than last time, going slightly over even on the weekend.

Opp.’s Deck Win Pct. matches
Reveillark 81.48% 27
Red-green Mana 75.00% 12
Mono-black 75.00% 4
Juniper Order Druid 75.00% 4
Black-green Rock 66.67% 3
Red-green Aggro 62.50% 8
Other 58.33% 12
Quick ‘N Toast 50.00% 11
Doran 50.00% 4
Elves 45.95% 37
Merfolk 44.44% 27
Black-red Tokens 37.50% 8
Swan 33.33% 3
Mono-red Aggro 22.58% 32
Zur 0.00% 2
Kithkin 0.00% 3
Grand Total 50.26% 197

Total dominance of Reveillark kept Faeries alive, along with the ability to beat basically all of the fringe decks. It continues to struggle against Black-green Elves, Merfolk and the previously mentioned Red decks.

Red decks represented 11% of the field and 16% of the Faeries matches, so there's something to be said for a little bit of bad luck there. However, random pairings within records will lead to some variance, so this is to be expected.

Merfolk

The deck of choice for almost one in five amateurs was Merfolk, though it was largely ignored by the pros. It came in just shy of 50%.

Opp.’s Deck Win Pct. Matches
Quick ‘N Toast 100.00% 4
Predator 100.00% 1
Black-red Tokens 100.00% 3
Mono-black 100.00% 1
Black-green Rock 75.00% 4
Red-green Mana 60.00% 5
Faeries 55.56% 27
Kithkin 50.00% 4
Other 50.00% 2
Elves 35.71% 14
Zur 33.33% 3
Doran 33.33% 3
Reveillark 33.33% 6
Swan 33.33% 3
Mono-red Aggro 28.57% 14
Red-green Aggro 25.00% 4
Grand Total 48.98% 98

Nothing really surprising to see here. Also, not enough information to really say for sure if any pairing is good or not.

Elves

The winner of Hollywood and Worlds got to the finals, but fell in the end. Judging by the numbers though, getting to the finals at all is outperforming expectations.

Opp.’s Deck Win Pct. Matches
Predator 100.00% 2
Other 71.43% 7
Black-green Rock 66.67% 3
Merfolk 64.29% 14
Faeries 54.05% 37
Doran 50.00% 2
Black-red Tokens 45.45% 11
Mono-red Aggro 42.86% 14
Zur 40.00% 5
Red-green Mana 40.00% 10
Swan 33.33% 3
Red-green Aggro 33.33% 3
Quick ‘N Toast 25.00% 4
Reveillark 25.00% 8
Juniper Order Druid 0.00% 1
Kithkin 0.00% 2
Grand Total 48.41% 126

Beating up on Faeries and losing to Red. So the Top 4 went as projected. The trend continues where we're left with too few matches to be conclusive. Having half of the event in a different format will do that. While we can't really nail down any matchups, we can say that an overall losing record over a large sample size is not what you're hoping for when choosing a deck.

Quick 'N Toast

The darling of Pro Tour-Hollywood has ended its honeymoon and is now settling into a healthy marriage. Gone is the blissful, relaxing win percentage and now it is just in a comfortable, if not flashy, relationship with the metagame.

Opp.’s Deck Win Pct. matches
Zur 100.00% 2
Black-red Tokens 100.00% 1
Swan 100.00% 1
Juniper Order Druid 100.00% 1
Elves 75.00% 4
Red-green Mana 66.67% 6
Reveillark 60.00% 5
Faeries 50.00% 11
Mono-red Aggro 42.86% 7
Kithkin 0.00% 1
Merfolk 0.00% 4
Red-green Aggro 0.00% 1
Grand Total 53.49% 44

A number like 53% is nothing to take lightly, though the Red pairing seems to need some attention. I'd like to see another 50 matches in there to see if that 43% sticks or not, but that could be how to burn the Toast (pardon the pun).

None of the other decks really jumped out with numbers, either via popularity or success. Also, none of the decks showed a big jump from Day 1 matches played to Day 2 matches played. Elves had the biggest jump, 12.6% to 15.3%. Doran had the biggest drop, from 2.6% to 0%.

We've looked at the Constructed records by each deck type. Now I'm going to examine something that, admittedly, may not bear any relevance. Indulge me for a moment. Below are the Limited records of how people did based on the deck they played in Constructed.

Player’s Deck Win Pct. Matches
Mono-black 85.71% 7
Quick ‘N Toast 60.87% 47
Predator 60.00% 5
Black-green Rock 56.25% 16
Black-red Tokens 55.81% 43
Elves 55.41% 148
Other 53.85% 40
Reveillark 53.19% 94
Red-green Aggro 52.78% 36
Zur 52.00% 25
Faeries 49.83% 304
Red-green Mana 47.06% 68
Mono-red Aggro 46.48% 142
Merfolk 45.52% 146
Kithkin 38.89% 18
Swan 36.00% 25
Doran 31.82% 22
Juniper Order Druid 25.00% 8

The lone Mono-black player (Chris McDaniel) posted a 6-1 Limited record. Our Champion deck seems to be chosen by people who aren't nearly as good with 40 cards. This is surprising to me, considering that the Mono-red deck in Limited is considered by many to be the best deck one can draft. Billy Moreno's 0-3 with Predator didn't stop him from going 3-2 in draft, small-sample-sizing his way to the 3rd best Limited record based on Constructed deck.

I'm not going to go over each deck, as this really doesn't seem to be a meaningful stat. This has the feel to me as one of those, "He's hitting .658 in day games against left handed pitchers at home following a two game losing streak with runners in scoring position and an 0-1 count" stats. Sure, it says something. Sure, it might be kind of fun. But, no, it doesn't actually help us at all.

I'm working with Limited Information columnist Steve Sadin to put together some meaningful Limited numbers together. We're currently in the process of keying in almost 400 draft decklists from the weekend. Once that's done, we'll start looking for patterns.

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