2008 Worlds Metagame Analysis

Posted in Feature on December 19, 2008

By Paul Jordan

Worlds 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
Zoo28%
Elf Ball16%
Storm9%
Next-Level Blue7%
Junk6%
Faeries5%
Deathcloud Rock5%
Affinity4%
All-In Red4%
Burn4%
Dredge2%
Hulk Combo1%
Life from the Loam Rock1%
Tezzerator1%
Bant Control1%
Martyr Proclamation1%
Second Breakfast1%
Blue-Red Tron1%
White-Blue Tron1%
Bant Aggro0%
Goblins0%
Swans0%
Battle of Wits0%
Beasts0%
Belcher Combo0%
Black-Green Rock0%
White-Black Tokens0%
Green-White Slide0%
Mindlock Orb Control0%
Mono-Blue Control0%
Rift Slide0%
Seismic Loam0%
Blue-Black Tron0%

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:

DeckCountPercent
Faeries7927.34%
Zoo5920.42%
Elf Ball3010.38%
Burn144.84%
Tezzerator144.84%
Deathcloud Rock144.84%
Dredge113.81%
Swans103.46%
UB Tron103.46%
Goblins82.77%
All-in Red72.42%
Gifts Rock72.42%
Affinity51.73%
Doran Rock31.04%
UW Tron31.04%
BG Rock20.69%
Goblin Bidding20.69%
Hulk20.69%
Orb Control10.35%
UG Tron10.35%
Slide10.35%
Storm10.35%
UR Tron10.35%
BRG Rock10.35%
RDW10.35%
LftL Rock10.35%
Next Level Blue10.35%

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:

DeckWinning PercentageTotal Matches
Next Level Blue75%4
Storm67%6
Slide67%6
UG Tron67%6
RDW67%6
Affinity65%26
All-in Red61%36
Burn59%76
Deathcloud Rock58%69
Swans58%59
UW Tron53%15
Faeries51%312
Zoo50%261
Tezzerator50%66
LftL Rock50%6
Hulk50%12
Gifts Rock48%33
Elf Ball45%126
Goblin Bidding40%10
Dredge40%50
Goblins40%45
UB Tron34%44
Doran Rock33%12
UR Tron33%6
BG Rock33%12
Orb Control17%6
BRG Rock17%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!

OpponentWinning PercentageTotal Matches
Affinity100%5
Gifts Rock100%2
BG Rock100%1
Goblin Bidding100%2
UB Tron83%6
Tezzerator60%5
Deathcloud Rock50%6
Dredge50%2
UW Tron50%4
Burn50%4
Faeries44%39
Goblins43%7
All-in Red33%6
Zoo31%29
Orb Control0%1
Swans0%5
Hulk0%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

OpponentWinning PercentageTotal Matches
UR Tron100%2
Orb Control100%1
Hulk100%2
BG Rock100%3
RDW100%1
Doran Rock100%2
Goblin Bidding100%1
Goblins69%13
Elf Ball69%29
Swans60%15
Dredge60%15
UB Tron50%6
Faeries49%95
All-in Red44%9
Gifts Rock40%5
Affinity40%5
LftL Rock33%3
Burn33%21
Deathcloud Rock27%15
Tezzerator14%14
Next Level Blue0%1
UW Tron0%1
Slide0%2
Total45%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.

OpponentWinning PercentageTotal Matches
Orb Control100%3
UR Tron100%1
BRG Rock100%3
Next Level Blue100%1
Goblins75%8
Storm67%3
Slide67%3
Hulk67%3
Tezzerator59%22
Elf Ball56%39
All-in Red56%9
Deathcloud Rock53%19
Zoo51%95
Doran Rock50%6
LftL Rock50%2
Gifts Rock50%10
UB Tron45%11
Burn45%22
Swans45%20
Dredge36%11
BG Rock33%3
UW Tron20%5
Affinity11%9
Goblin Bidding0%2
UG Tron0%2
Total51%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?

DeckCountPercent
Faeries9027.36%
BW Tokens4914.89%
5cControl3911.85%
Red Kithkin298.81%
Kithkin226.69%
RB Aggro164.86%
UW Merfolk144.26%
Rock144.26%
RDW103.04%
Doran51.52%
BG Elves51.52%
WUB Reveillark41.22%
Elves!41.22%
Jund Ramp41.22%
WUG Merfolk30.91%
Black Kithkin30.91%
WUG Reveillark20.61%
Planeswalkers20.61%
BR Aggro20.61%
UW Reveillark20.61%
5cElementals20.61%
BW Reveillark10.30%
RW Aggro 10.30%
RW Reveillark10.30%
Tezzerator10.30%
RUB Reveillark10.30%
GW Aggro10.30%
GW Elves10.30%
Quillspike10.30%

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.

DeckWinning PercentageTotal Matches
RW Aggro 83%6
BR Aggro71%14
GW Aggro67%6
BW Reveillark67%6
Black Kithkin59%17
UW Reveillark58%12
BG Elves57%30
Red Kithkin56%153
BW Tokens55%245
RB Aggro52%94
Faeries52%403
Kithkin50%129
WUG Reveillark50%12
RW Reveillark50%6
Doran50%30
Quillspike50%6
RDW48%60
5cControl46%228
WUB Reveillark45%22
UW Merfolk45%78
WUG Merfolk44%18
Rock43%83
Elves!42%24
Jund Ramp33%24
Planeswalkers25%12
5cElementals25%12
Tezzerator17%6
GW Elves17%6
RUB Reveillark17%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.

OpponentWinning PercentageTotal Matches
Tezzerator100%3
RUB Reveillark100%2
5cElementals100%2
Quillspike100%2
GW Elves100%1
WUG Merfolk75%4
Planeswalkers75%4
Jund Ramp75%8
5cControl64%64
WUB Reveillark60%5
UW Merfolk57%21
Elves!56%9
Red Kithkin53%51
GW Aggro50%2
UW Reveillark50%2
RW Reveillark50%2
RB Aggro50%28
BG Elves50%10
BW Tokens49%80
Kithkin46%39
RDW39%18
Rock37%19
WUG Reveillark33%3
Black Kithkin33%6
Doran22%9
BR Aggro0%4
RW Aggro 0%2
BW Reveillark0%3
Total52%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

OpponentWinning PercentageTotal Matches
Tezzerator100%2
Elves!100%2
5cElementals100%3
BW Reveillark100%1
Black Kithkin100%2
WUB Reveillark75%4
Rock73%11
RDW71%7
UW Merfolk69%16
Red Kithkin57%21
Faeries51%80
WUG Merfolk50%2
Planeswalkers50%2
RB Aggro50%16
5cControl50%36
RW Reveillark50%2
Doran50%4
Kithkin45%22
BG Elves33%6
UW Reveillark33%3
Jund Ramp0%2
BR Aggro0%1
Total55%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

OpponentWinning PercentageTotal Matches
WUG Merfolk100%2
Planeswalkers100%4
BR Aggro100%1
UW Merfolk71%7
Black Kithkin67%3
Kithkin65%17
Rock55%11
Red Kithkin52%21
5cControl50%20
BG Elves50%4
RUB Reveillark50%2
BW Tokens50%36
RDW44%9
Faeries36%64
Doran33%3
RB Aggro23%13
Elves!0%1
Quillspike0%2
5cElementals0%3
RW Reveillark0%1
Jund Ramp0%3
WUB Reveillark0%1
Total46%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.

Latest Feature Articles

FEATURE

Magic Story Podcast: Mark Winters by, Blake Rasmussen

This week, we're on episode six of six of the Magic Story Podcast, and we're joined by Mark Winters, Magic senior art director and the art director for Aether Revolt. He's here to talk ab...

Learn More

FEATURE

Duel Decks: Mind vs. Might by, Nicholas Wolfram

The battle of brains and brawn is one of nature's classic recurring struggles, and at the core of this struggle is time. Does brains have enough time to concoct a clever plan and outwit b...

Learn More

Articles

Articles

Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All

We use cookies on this site to enhance your user experience. By clicking any link on this page or by clicking Yes, you are giving your consent for us to set cookies. (Learn more about cookies)

No, I want to find out more