Pro Tour Paris Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Feature on February 17, 2011

By Paul Jordan

The idea is simple—splice a Grand Prix onto a Pro Tour weekend. The execution quickly spirals away from simplicity for everyone involved—ask the judges, organizers, dealers and players (see: Rietzl, Paul). The logistics alone would scare off most folks from even making an attempt at such an ambitious weekend. Thankfully, those putting together Magic Weekend Paris were not deterred and the result was a spectacular success of a weekend. With nearly 300 sanctioned events for over 2,700 players in there was certainly a cavalcade of result slips indicating success or failure. I'd love to be able to sift through all of those results but a full time job and MBA classes at night are somewhat greedy for my time. Failing that though, we can take a walk through the results of the PT and the 2,466 matches that were played. That should give us enough to talk about, no?

Going into the tournament, chatter I was hearing centered on White-Blue Control (or Caw-Go), Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Kuldotha, White Weenie, Blue-Black Control and probably some other decks. We know this was mostly correct, as Rashad Miller took the time to sieve through all 482 deck registration sheets and get his MS Excel on here. For reference, so you don't have to keep clicking back and forth, here's the metagame that was PT Paris 2011:

DeckNumber%
Valakut 10521.78%
Blue-Black Control 10020.75%
Caw-Go 6713.90%
Kuldotha Red 367.47%
Vampires 347.05%
Boros 285.81%
Quest 183.73%
Blue-Red-Green153.11%
White-Blue Control 153.11%
Green-White Aggro 112.28%
Tempered Steel 91.87%
Mono-Red 81.66%
Blue-Black-Green61.24%
Eldrazi Ramp 61.24%
Infect 40.83%
Mono-Green Ramp 40.83%
Elves 30.62%
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control 30.62%
Mass Polymorph 20.41%
White Weenie 20.41%
Allies 10.21%
Bant Aggro 10.21%
Grixis Control 10.21%
Mono-Black 10.21%
Naya 10.21%
Red-Green Aggro 10.21

Chatter is what it is for a reason and for the most part the metagame's top representatives were accurately predicted. The proportions may not have been exact but the basics were there. Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was the 800-pound gorilla in the room, with most people expecting it. As we'll see, a target on your back can mean bad things for performance. Here's how those decks did overall.

DeckWin %Matches
Allies70.00%10
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control65.22%23
Caw-Go60.86%396
Bant Aggro60.00%5
Blue-Red-Green57.73%97
White Weenie57.14%14
Quest56.56%122
Boros55.93%177
Green-White Aggro54.24%59
Infect51.43%35
Naya50.00%4
Grixis control50.00%4
Vampires49.51%204
White-Blue Control49.41%85
Tempered Steel48.39%62
Valakut Ramp47.66%535
Mono-Red46.67%45
Blue-Black-Green46.15%26
Blue-Black Control45.22%513
Mass Polymorph42.86%14
Kuldotha Red42.06%214
Red-Green Aggro40.00%5
Blue-Black-Green 40.00%5
Mono-Green Ramp39.13%23
Eldrazi Ramp35.71%28
Elves7.14%14
Unknown0.00%1
Green-White Ramp0.00%5
Mono-Black0.00%5

Aaron Cooney's Allies deck (he was the only pilot) came out with a 7-3 record in Standard, netting him the nominal "best deck" title. Of course, 10 matches aren't quite enough to just hand over the title (if you want to see his list, it is in the top decks here). Likewise, Chapin's Tezzeret put on an impressive show and had a lot of people talking. I'm going to need 23 matches (in the hands of such skilled pilots as Chapin, Michael Jacob and Guillaume Matignon) to give out the gold star. My unofficial pick for best deck at PT Paris is the one that won over 60% of its almost 400 matches. Caw-go, Brian Kibler's current love, came back after a disappointing Worlds performance to silence its doubters. The Equipment package pushed the deck over the top (where Hawks like to go).

Caw-GoWin %Matches
Elves100.00%2
Green-White Aggro80.00%5
Eldrazi Ramp71.43%7
Vampires70.97%31
Blue-Black Control69.32%88
Kuldotha Red68.97%29
Mono-Red63.64%11
Valakut Ramp57.94%107
Boros57.69%26
Blue-Black-Green55.56%9
White-Blue Control55.00%20
Tempered Steel54.55%11
White Weenie50.00%4
Allies50.00%2
Infect50.00%2
Mono-Green Ramp50.00%2
Red-Green Aggro50.00%2
Quest45.45%22
Blue-Black-Green41.67%12
Naya0.00%2
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control0.00%2
Grand Total60.86%39

Good gravy, that's a lot of 50+! At Worlds, White-Blue decks (admittedly not all were Caw-Go) had a paltry 45% record against Blue-Black decks. A couple of months later there's almost a 25% swing. Looking at this, I honestly can't find a single thing to complain about. When all of your sub-.500 records combined account for less than 8% of the metagame you're looking pretty good. When the worst you've done against a Top 4 deck (excluding, of course, your 50% mirror match) is 58%, I mean, yeah, you're doing OK. Ben Stark, I'm sure, would agree. The only thing I would caution against is that I'm sure Tezzeret is going to gain popularity. Both Caw-go losses to Tezzeret came at the hands of Chapin. They were against brand name Magicians in Owen Turtenwald and Shouta Yasooka. Two matches hardly means a thing, but the deck seems well positioned to make a splash against the PT winner.

ValakutWin %Matches
Red-Green Aggro100.00%1
Green-White Ramp100.00%1
Elves100.00%6
Blue-Black-Green100.00%2
Mono-Black100.00%2
Blue-Black-Green100.00%2
Eldrazi Ramp80.00%5
Mass Polymorph75.00%4
Mono-Red66.67%12
Kuldotha Red66.04%53
White-Blue Control62.50%16
Mono-Green Ramp60.00%5
Green-White Aggro52.94%17
Blue-Black Control50.00%140
Allies50.00%2
Caw-Go42.06%107
Vampires41.46%41
Quest36.00%25
Tempered Steel33.33%9
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control33.33%3
Boros32.56%43
Infect30.00%10
Blue-Red-Green22.22%27
White Weenie0.00%1
Grixis control0.00%1
Grand Total47.66%53

The only deck in the tournament that I know of that could, in theory at least, win a game via damage without playing a single spell or attacking is Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. A lot of people must enjoy that, since Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was the best represented. And a lot of people were disappointed. The only Top 5 deck it did well against was Kuldotha Red. Even the more fringe decks came prepared for the Molten Pinnacle. Sometimes having a target pinned to your back is not a good thing. Looking back to Worlds though, this wasn't entirely unpredictable. Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle was a third of the field there and won just shy of 50% of the matches. Less people shuffled up the mana-ramping songs this time around but people were still very much prepared to handle it.

UB ControlWin %Matches
Naya100.00%2
Green-White Ramp100.00%1
Red-Green Aggro100.00%1
Elves100.00%1
Mono-Black100.00%2
White Weenie66.67%3
Grixis Control66.67%3
Tempered Steel62.50%16
Quest62.50%24
Mono-Red54.55%11
Kuldotha Red52.83%53
Valakut Ramp50.00%140
Mass Polymorph50.00%6
Boros43.75%32
Vampires43.64%55
Blue-White Control42.86%14
Blue-Black-Green42.86%7
Blue-Red-Green41.18%17
Infect33.33%9
Eldrazi Ramp33.33%6
Caw-Go30.68%88
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control20.00%5
Green-White Aggro18.18%11
Bant Aggro0.00%2
Mono-Green Ramp0.00%3
Blue-Red-Green0.00%1
Grand Total45.22%51

Blue-Black Control, less than 15% of the field at Worlds, was about 6% more of the field at Paris. With more people at the helm, the results suffered. Blue-Black Control moved from 5% over 50% to 5% under, decidedly the wrong directly. In addition to getting worse against White-Blue Control, Blue-Black also got worse against Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle. In Chiba Blue-Black was able to beat Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle 55% of the time, but just broke even in Paris. Strategies were certainly altered from one tournament to another, and of course a new set was available. I expect that Blue-Black Control will drop in popularity as people who would normally play this deck up migrate to Tezzeret.

Kuldotha RedWin %Matches
Unknown100.00%1
Mass Polymorph100.00%1
Green-White Aggro100.00%3
Mono-Green Ramp100.00%2
Blue-Red-Green77.78%9
Boros58.33%12
White-Blue Control50.00%4
Infect50.00%4
Blue-Black Control47.17%53
Tempered Steel42.86%7
Vampires41.18%17
Valakut Ramp33.96%53
Caw-Go31.03%29
Quest25.00%12
Mono-Red0.00%1
White Weenie0.00%1
Allies0.00%2
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control0.00%1
Red-Green Aggro0.00%1
Blue-Black-Green0.00%1
Grand Total42.06%21

At about 7.5% of the field, Kuldotha Red is one of those decks that you have to be prepared for, but maybe not one that you have more than a couple of sideboard cards for. Judging by its performance at Paris, you won't have to be any more prepared than you currently are. It's possible that twelve matches against Boros are predictive and it becomes more popular thanks to Mr. Reitzl and as a result Kuldotha Red is the Boros-slayer. It's possible. But I don't think even that would be enough to move Kuldotha Red to the top tier.

VampiresWin %Matches
White Weenie100.00%1
Infect100.00%1
Elves100.00%1
Mono-Red66.67%3
Kuldotha Red58.82%17
Valakut Ramp58.54%41
Blue-Black Control56.36%55
White-Blue Control50.00%4
Eldrazi Ramp50.00%2
Boros47.62%21
Quest40.00%10
Green-White Aggro33.33%6
Tempered Steel33.33%3
Blue-Red-Green33.33%6
Caw-Go29.03%31
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control0.00%1
Blue-Black-Green0.00%1
Grand Total49.51%20

Vampires is one of the few decks to stay the same between Chiba and Paris. 8% of the field in Chiba, 7% in Paris. 49.69% win rate in Chiba, 49.51% in Paris. That's pretty impressive, really. Not really meaningful, but impressive. This is a deck that has enough of a following and stable enough performance that you should continue to be prepared. I'm not saying this is the deck to play or anything like that. The results aren't sexy, but they are effective enough to cause a problem or two on the road to winning a tournament.

BorosWin %Matches
Green-White Ramp100.00%2
Elves100.00%1
Tempered Steel100.00%2
Blue-Black-Green100.00%1
Infect100.00%3
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control75.00%4
Valakut Ramp67.44%43
Blue-Red-Green60.00%5
White-Blue Control60.00%10
Blue-Black Control56.25%32
Vampires52.38%21
Mass Polymorph50.00%2
Caw-Go42.31%26
Kuldotha Red41.67%12
Quest33.33%6
Mono-Green Ramp33.33%3
Mono-Red0.00%3
Allies0.00%1
Grand Total55.93%17

A small following will likely increase with two berths in the top 8. Boros saw a modest 1.5% increase in popularity from Worlds and 2.4% increase in win rate. So it was already doing fine. Not great, but fine. And it improved. I'm a little surprised there weren't more people running this deck, actually. It should, in theory, be the default aggro deck. Historically people have liked aggro decks. If Caw-go does indeed become more popular, this may not be the right call after all. Listening to coverage of the PT it sounded like people thought Paul Reitzl was the favorite in the finals. Looking at the numbers it seemed pretty obvious he was not. Then again, Paul had been undefeated against Caw-Go (3-0-1) until that point, so what do I know?

I really enjoy when there are back-to-back tournaments for the same format. As we've seen, things do not usually remain constant. An archetype will look entirely different from one tournament to the next and this can lead to wild swings that we may not anticipate. This was no exception. All told, I can't wait for PT Nagoya in June when we get to see how Block Constructed is panning out.

I've also included a spreadsheet of the full deck-on-deck results, which I'm sure my editor will link to somewhere around here.

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