Day Two Constructed Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Event Coverage on May 18, 2013

By Nate Price

A longtime member of the Pro Tour and Grand Prix coverage staff, Nate Price now works making beautiful words for all of you lovely people as the community manager for organized play. When not covering events, he lords over the @MagicProTour Twitter account, ruling with an iron fist.

The results from the first day of play are in, and we have pared the field down to a just 246 players, dropping nearly a third of the field. Five rounds of Return to Ravnica Block Constructed have brought us to the mid point of the tournament, and we can finally begin to see which of the decks in the field have begun to rise to the top.

First, the numbers:

Deck Archetype Number Played Percentage of Field
Esper Control 73 29.67
Bant Control 27 10.98
Junk Midrange 18 7.32
Selesnya Aggro 16 6.50
UWR Control 13 5.28
Naya Domri 10 4.07
Mono-Red Aggro 9 3.66
Golgari Aggro 8 3.25
Maze's End Fog 8 3.25
Azorius Control 7 2.85
Borzhov Midrange 7 2.85
Naya Midrange 6 2.44
Maze's End Control 5 2.03
Naya Aggro 4 1.63
Naya Blitz 4 1.63
Bant Aggro 3 1.22
Boros Blitz 3 1.22
Jund Aggro 3 1.22
Esper Aggro 2 0.81
Junk Aggro 2 0.81
No-Green Control 2 0.81
Selesnya Bant 2 0.81
Selesnya Midrange 2 0.81
BUG Aggro 1 0.41
BWR Control 1 0.41
Grixis Control 1 0.41
Gruul Blitz 1 0.41
Izzet Control 1 0.41
Jund Domri 1 0.41
Jund Midrange 1 0.41
Naya Black 1 0.41
Naya Doublstrike 1 0.41
Prime Speaker Bant 1 0.41
Rakdos Aggro 1 0.41
WRB Control 1 0.41
Total 246

Esper / Bant / Azorius Control

The biggest story to come out of yesterday was the overwhelming number of Hallowed Fountain-based control decks that were brought to the tournament. Just under 40% of the field yesterday was made up of either Esper or Bant Control decks, with Esper alone making up a whopping 105 decks, or 27% of the field. With access to Sphinx's Revelation, Supreme Verdict, and the incredibly potent Blood Baron of Vizkopa, Esper was clearly the elephant in the room.

Deck Archetype Win Percentage
Esper Control 61.00
Bant Control 62.47
Junk Midrange 61.11
Selesnya Aggro 61.25
UWR Control 59.49
Naya Domri 56.00
Mono-Red Aggro 60.00
Golgari Aggro 52.50
Maze's End Fog 53.33
Azorius Control 65.71
Borzhov Midrange 57.14
Naya Midrange 63.33
Maze's End Control 64.00

One day of play has served to concentrate these numbers, with Esper and Bant Control actually increasing their percentage of the field for Day Two. It wasn't all due to the pilots' efforts in Return to Ravnica Booster Draft, either. Esper had a respectable 61% win rate, while Bant Control did it one better with 62%. Of the 15 undefeated players in the Block Constructed portion of Day One, 4 of them were sporting one of these two decks. This tells us that the most popular decks were chosen for a very good reason, as riding Ætherling and Blood Baron of Vizkopa, backed with a ton of removal, card drawing, and permission seems to be a winning strategy moving forward.

Interestingly, the Hallowed Fountain deck that had the best performance on Day One happened to eschew a third color entirely. Azorius Control, piloted by a smattering of players from across the globe, had a whopping 66% win rate against the field, making it the most successful of all of the decks with at least five horses in the race. It was played by an incredibly underwhelming ten players in Day One, but seven of those players made it to Day Two, including one undefeated player. While cutting black or green reduces the options available to players, leaving the black removal and the green creatures on the drawing boards seemed to be an incredibly strong play against the inundation of control decks this weekend.

Junk / Borzhov Midrange

Midrange decks made up a little over ten percent of the field on Friday, and things didn't really change from Day One to Day Two. Junk was a slightly better performer overall, tallying a nearly identical win rate to Esper Control. Borzhov was not nearly as lucky, posting one of the lowest win rates of 57%.

What was most impressive about these midrange decks was the fact that three Junk Midrange decks managed undefeated records, the same number as Esper Control, but coming from a significantly smaller portion of the field. After watching a couple of matches between the Junk deck and the Esper Control deck, it was easy to understand why. Lotleth Troll and Varolz, the Scar-Striped are very powerful cards against the premier removal spell in the format: Supreme Verdict. Voice of Resurgence and Sin Collector are also very powerful cards against the heavily instant-based Esper and Bant decks. While it isn't a landslide advantage for Junk, the needle certainly swings in its favor.

Borzhov gets a few cards of note that Junk doesn't, such as Sire of Insanity and Slaughter Games, which are great against Sphinx's Revelation, Ætherling, and Jace, Architect of Thought. The deck finds itself much more vulnerable to both the board clearing effects and heavily aggressive decks, however, resulting in a worse perfomance on the first day of play.

Selesnya / Mono-Red / Golgari Aggro

The yin to Esper and Bant Control's yang, this trifecta of the biggest aggro decks in the field had their work cut out for them. Golgari Aggro seemed to stumble the most, turning in the lowest win percentage of the top decks, a lowly 52%. No player playing the deck escaped the Block Constructed rounds with a record better than 3-2. Compare that to Selesnya Aggro, which had a slightly better win percentage than Esper Control, and it's a tale of two aggro decks.

The main difference between the two decks was how they confronted the major threats of the control decks: Supreme Verdict and Jace, Architect of Thought. Golgari relied on regeneration and a cheap scavenge to fill the void after Supreme Verdict, but their generally smaller creatures made Jace harder to deal with. Selesnya, meanwhile, relied on Voice of Resurgence, Rootborn Defenses, and Advent of the Wurm to get around Supreme Verdict. The double duty that these cards do against the other control elements in Esper and Bant gave the edge to Selesnya in the heads up fight. Another all-star against control has been Precinct Captain, only available in Selesnya. An early Captain that goes unanswered takes over games, capable of demolishing a player's life total in a few short turns.

Mono-Red Aggro was the other major deck coming into this event. Due to its massive exposure and popularity on Magic Online, this was probably the deck that the largest number of players in the tournament came prepared for. Still, despite being an incredibly well-known commodity of the format, the archetype posted a 60% win rating while helping one player to a perfect 5-0 record and three more to 4-1 records. One of the biggest advantages it has is the fact that it is simply the absolute most aggressive thing you can do in the format. In any less-established format, assking the questions is always better than trying to answer them, as you are not as sure what you will have to prepare for. While many of the other aggro decks available to players, such as Selesnya and Golgari, seem to have the edge on this deck, the field of blue mana sources was a perfect killing field for the deck to thrive.

Maze's End

The final decks of note are the two variations on Maze's End decks. Of the two, I was initially going to give the edge to the Fog version of the deck running Riot Control and Druid's Deliverance. After surveying the literal sea of Islands, however, it soon became clear that preventing combat damage wasn't going to do anything of value. Sure enough, the Fog variant posted a result only slightly better than Golgari Control, 53% win rate, while the standard Control variant was the second-most successful deck, winning 64% of its matches.

It's easy to see why with a look around the field. Control decks are everywhere, and Maze's End is able to fight them on their own terms, fighting an even control battle, while winning on a level that Esper and Bant Control can't touch. Having a win condition that is an uncounterable land is a massive advantage in a control-heavy field, as Nephalia Drownyard has proven recently in Standard. While the success of the Maze's End Control deck may be simply surprising because of the fact that it contains Maze's End, comparing it in context, like we have done with all of the other decks, reveals a completely justifiable picture.

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