Block Constructed formats have historically been easier to figure out and harder to secretly break before a Pro Tour. The smaller card pool, compared the other Constructed formats like Standard or Modern, means it is easier to iterate and test deck ideas. That does not mean everyone tries every deck, but the fact remains that the possibility of someone dominating with a deck that the rest of the field had not considered is significantly smaller than for formats with more extensive card pools. Going into Pro Tour Avacyn Restored, the talk was circulating around Naya colored decks featuring an assortment of Wolves and Angels. Players were also aware of reanimation strategies and aggressive White-Red, or sometimes White-Green, Human decks as well. As you'll see, there was a surprise lurking unseen in the format.
Coverage reporter Nate Price compiled and categorized the event's 379 decklists and illustrating the landscape for us here. I've included the summary for ease of reading.
|WRG Wolves and Angels||102||26.91%|
|RG Wolf Run Aggro||18||4.75%|
|WUR Miracle Control||12||3.17%|
|WU Miracle Control||11||2.90%|
|BRG Vampires and Wolves||9||2.37%|
|UGw Tempo Pump||8||2.11%|
|WUR Creature Control||7||1.85%|
|WBG Planeswalker Control||4||1.06%|
|WBG Wolves and Angels||3||0.79%|
|WUR Burning Vengeance||3||0.79%|
|RGb Wolf Run Aggro||1||0.26%|
|Still Had All Trees||1||0.26%|
The format was wide open with only four decks capturing the hearts of more than 5% of the field. We'll also take a peek at the UGw Tempo Pump deck, which only 8 people played (you'll see why in a bit.) The reason we won't be taking a more thorough examination of the other decks is that they simply have too few matches played to teach us anything. Before we get into specifics, let us first examine overall performance.
|UGW Tempo Pump||63.24%||68|
|WRG Wolves and Angels||57.51%||579|
|RG Wolf Run Aggro||56.83%||139|
|WBG Wolves and Angels||54.17%||24|
|WUR Burning Vengeance||47.06%||17|
|BRG Vampires and Wolves||43.08%||65|
|WU Miracle Control||42.25%||71|
|WUR Miracle Control||42.22%||135|
|RGB Wolf Run Aggro||40.00%||5|
|WBG Planeswalker Control||37.93%||29|
|Still Had All Trees||0.00%||1|
Note that this is only looking the Constructed portion of the event, and excludes any mirror matches which are, by definition, 50% splits. Also note, now you see why we're going to talk about UGw Tempo Pump, better known as the Geists that Jon Finkel and Gaudenis Vidugiris piloted to the Top 8. Spirits is credited to Sam Black as the main designer behind it.
Of the most popular decks, only one was below 52% success: WR Humans. WR Humans may have had a lot of hype going into the tournament but hype does not always translate into results.
So, how did all of this happen, anyway?
UGW Tempo Pump aka Geists
First, we need to clarify. There were eight people playing decks that fit under this umbrella, but five of those prepared together as members of team SCGBlack. In addition to Finkel and Vidugiris, you also had Sam Black, Kai Budde, and Jelger Wiegersma all running the same version. The deck's variations as a whole earned a 63% win rate against the field which is impressive, but not as impressive when looking at just the SCGBlack version:
|SCG Black's Spirits||69.57%||46|
As you can see, SCG Black's list put up a near 70% win rate against the field across 46 matches. It's fair to criticize the number based on the, ahem, slightly-above-average pedigree of those playing the deck which might influence these results.
UGW Tempo Pump
|WBG Planeswalker Control||100.00%||2|
|WU Miracle Control||100.00%||1|
|RG Wolf Run Aggro||100.00%||2|
|WRG Wolves and Angels||70.00%||20|
|WUR Miracle Control||50.00%||2|
|BRG Vampires and Wolves||0.00%||1|
Unfortunately at this point all we can say about the deck are these three things:
1. It beat the field handily
2. It had a 70% record against the most popular deck in a limited quantity of matches
3. Some very good players were playing it
WRG Wolves and Angels
If a hundred people choose a deck, you kind of have to assume the deck is good. 27% of the field is quite a lot, though not a record.
|Wolves and Angels||Win %||Matches|
|WUR Miracle Control||66.67%||48|
|WBG Planeswalker Control||55.56%||9|
|BRG Vampires and Wolves||52.63%||19|
|RG Wolf Run Aggro||50.98%||51|
|WUR Burning Vengeance||50.00%||4|
|WU Miracle Control||47.83%||23|
|WBG Wolves and Angels||44.44%||9|
|UGW Tempo Pump||30.00%||20|
|RGB Wolf Run Aggro||0.00%||1|
And yeah, it was good.
If it is over a quarter of the field and wins over 50% of the time then it's pretty impressive. 57.5% is really good. Wolves and Angels got there by dominating the aggro WR human decks as well as control with a healthy portion of handling the random element. It did fall just below average against Reanimator decks and the two non-red variants of decks it dominated, WG humans, and WU miracles.
Every format has its default aggressive deck and this format was no different. Leading up to the event, WR humans was considered by some to be the largest portion of the field.
|WR Humans||Win %||Matches|
|WU Miracle Control||100.00%||5|
|WUR Miracle Control||69.23%||13|
|BRG Vampires and Wolves||66.67%||6|
|UGW Tempo Pump||42.86%||7|
|RG Wolf Run Aggro||36.36%||11|
|WRG Wolves and Angels||28.17%||71|
|WBG Wolves and Angels||25.00%||4|
But 42% isn't going to bring home a trophy, and in fact not a single WR human deck is playing on Sunday. Like most of these, we see the bulk of our results as having way too few matches to infer any deck supremacy. What we can see though, is the beginnings of a really long, really frustrating testing session if WR humans is your pet deck. It might be able to handle Reanimator decks, maybe Three-Color Miracle decks then again maybe not. We can say with pretty high confidence that it cannot handle Angels. And at best it might be even with its green cousin.
There's something exciting about playing gigantic creatures on turn three or four while your opponent is playing creatures not even half the size. And while that surely is fun, it's even effective to some extent.
|WBG Planeswalker Control||100.00%||1|
|WBG Wolves and Angels||100.00%||1|
|WUR Miracle Control||66.67%||9|
|WU Miracle Control||60.00%||5|
|WRG Wolves and Angels||51.43%||70|
|BRG Vampires and Wolves||50.00%||2|
|RG Wolf Run Aggro||30.77%||13|
|UGW Tempo Pump||25.00%||4|
It was just above average against the most popular deck, which is a fine starting point. Not much beyond that screams success, but there's some comfort to be found in winning 4% better than average.
WG Humans is similar to WR humans but struggled largely due to lack of reach and bigger creatures.
|WG Humans||Win %||Matches|
|Still Had All Trees||100.00%||1|
|RGb Wolf Run Aggro||100.00%||1|
|UGw Tempo Pump||66.67%||6|
|WRG Wolves and Angels||53.03%||66|
|WBG Wolves and Angels||50.00%||2|
|WBG Planeswalker Control||50.00%||2|
|RG Wolf Run Aggro||40.00%||5|
|BRG Vampires and Wolves||33.33%||3|
|WU Miracle Control||33.33%||6|
|WUR Miracle Control||25.00%||8|
|WUR Burning Vengeance||0.00%||1|
Green and White was another strong performer against Wolves and Angels and the start of something good against its sister deck in WR Humans.
Coming into this Pro Tour there were three teams which garnered a lot of attention, though others drew notice through the event. ChannelFireball had been the biggest name in teams for a while now, but rival StarCityGames put forth two competing teams for this event. Looking for something to distract me from doing another TPF draft on Magic Online , I asked my trusty spreadsheet some questions. Here's what I found out.
SCGBlack (the Finkel/Kai team) was the best overall team. SCGBlue was on pace with them in Constructed but 11% worse in draft. ChannelFireball was 4% worse than SCGBlack in Limited and twice that in Constructed. I find it interesting that SCGBlue was very strong in Constructed but not as much in limited while CFB was the opposite.
|Team||Average Match Points|
This shows how those percentages translate into match points. SCGBlack was a full win better than ChannelFireball, and 2.5 wins better than SCGBlue.
Top 8 Preview
The past couple of Pro Tours I've done a Top 8 preview over Twitter (@famouspj) showing how each player did in the swiss against the deck they're going to face. Using that data I generated the following table. Take it for what you will:
|Vidugiris, Gaudenis [LTU]||UGw Tempo Pump||5||1|
|Shimizu, Naoki [JPN]||WRG Wolves and Angels||0||1|
|Yukuhiro, Ken [JPN]||Reanimator||1||0|
|Rachid, Denniz [SWE]||WG Humans||0||0|
|Finkel, Jon [USA]||UGw Tempo Pump||0||0|
|Hayne, Alexander [CAN]||WU Miracle Control||0||0|
|Cho, Joshua [USA]||WRG Wolves and Angels||2||0|
|Holzinger, Thomas [AUT]||WRG Wolves and Angels||2||1|