Sometimes a deck is the most popular because it's oppressive and the clear best deck available. Sometimes a format is small and there aren't a lot of options. Yet still, other times a deck's popularity is a result of a format being new and untested and the "obvious" deck is chosen by the majority. I'm not convinced that the Pro Tour Return to Ravnica metagame was a result of any of those reasons. The format actually seems healthy with plenty of innovation happening. However, the cascading bogeyman of Jund still cast a large shadow over the format.
Ray Walkinshaw, AKA blisterguy, had the honor of sifting through 383 decklists and classifying each deck so we could start to see what the metagame looked like, which you can see here. I've re-posted the table for ease of viewing, and focused only on the Day 1 metagame so we can see what people chose, not how those decks performed. We'll be getting to that part shortly.
|Naya Kiki-Jiki Combo||18||4.70%|
|Splinter Twin Combo||5||1.31%|
|BG Zombie Dredgevine||2||0.52%|
|4 Color Jund Doran||1||0.26%|
|4 color Delver||1||0.26%|
|GUR Through the Breach||1||0.26%|
|Mono Red Burn||1||0.26%|
|Mono Red Highlander||1||0.26%|
|Mono Black Control||1||0.26%|
|GUR Aggro Control||1||0.26%|
|Mono Blue Faeries||1||0.26%|
If you're unfamiliar with any of the deck names, please take a minute to read through Nate Price's excellent glossary.
There Jund is, representing about the same number of players as the next five most popular decks combined. This is, I believe, the result of two things. First, Jund is an obvious choice any time it is legal. It was dominant when it was in Standard and many people are very familiar with how to play it while still owning the cards. Second, outside of Jund, the format is vibrant. No other deck even managed 10% of the field. So there are a lot of decks with 10 or so people playing them in a 383 person field.
The unfortunate side effect of such a varied landscape is that there are fewer matches played by each deck, allowing for much less significant analysis. But, in the words of Osyp Lebedowicz, never let the truth get in the way of a good story. So we'll carry on and examine what data we do have and maybe take an educated guess or two to fill in the blanks.
|Mono Red Burn||70.00%||10|
|BG Zombie Dredgevine||53.33%||15|
|Mono Red Highlander||50.00%||10|
|Naya Kiki-Jiki Combo||48.59%||142|
|Splinter Twin Combo||48.57%||35|
|Mono Blue Faeries||25.00%||4|
|Mono Black Control||20.00%||5|
|GUR Aggro Control||20.00%||5|
|4 color Delver||20.00%||5|
|GUR Through the Breach||14.29%||7|
|4 Color Jund Doran||0.00%||5|
As is usually the case when a single deck has so much of the field, overall it was not an overwhelming favorite. In this case, however, it wasn't even a favorite. Bear in mind that I've excluded mirror matches (what with them being a guaranteed 50% and all).
Starting at the top of the list, what you see is really a lot of decks with only a handful of players using them. 60% is generally considered a very good win rate for a deck in a tournament. But for a single player in that same tournament it means losing 2 out of every five matches, which is not a recipe for making the top 8 (the lowest threshold of points for top 8 is usually around 36, which is a 12-4 record. Sometimes it's 12-3-1. Either way, that's at least a 75% win rate).
I normally try to sift through these results and identify a "best deck" for a tournament. It's subjective, at best, but I look at overall win rate as well as some larger number of matches played. With such a varied field, there's really not a lot to look at. Judging by this, I'd say Robots (or Affinity) was the clear best deck. No other deck within five percentage points of win rate had anywhere near the number of matches played. That's what I would say in a vacuum, with only the above table as information.
Thankfully, I have more information. Like many of you, I was watching coverage throughout the weekend, either on my computer or, yes, I stole a few moments of #PTRTR while out with my family with the aide of my smart phone. And the clear story of the event was the Second Breakfast deck. 50 matches is certainly enough to warrant discussion, showing that it had more than just one dominant performance from Stanislav Cifka. Let's dig deeper.
|Second Breakfast||Win Percent||Matches|
|Splinter Twin Combo||100.00%||1|
Okay, that hardly gave us anything to go on. Outside of Jund, there weren't any pairings of even five matches. And 13 isn't really enough to go on. So instead of looking into how each match went, unfortunately we can only say one thing: Second Breakfast performed well against a varied field.
|GUR Aggro Control||100.00%||1|
|4 Color Jund Doran||100.00%||1|
|BG Zombie Dredgevine||75.00%||4|
|Splinter Twin Combo||42.86%||7|
|Naya Kiki-Jiki Combo||33.33%||18|
|Mono Red Burn||25.00%||4|
|Mono Red Highlander||0.00%||3|
I have to be honest here, I'm a little surprised by this. There is only one bad matchup, and even that one could easily be a fluke of 18 matches. However, there are positive results against the two most popular decks, including a staggering record against the bogeyman of Jund.
|Mono Blue Faeries||100.00%||2|
|4 Color Jund Doran||100.00%||1|
|Mono Black Control||100.00%||1|
|Mono Red Highlander||75.00%||4|
|Splinter Twin Combo||70.00%||10|
|GUR Through the Breach||66.67%||3|
|GUR Aggro Control||66.67%||3|
|Mono Red Burn||50.00%||2|
|Naya Kiki-Jiki Combo||42.22%||45|
|BG Zombie Dredgevine||40.00%||5|
Jund mangled UWR Delver of Secrets and GU Scapeshift decks but otherwise had a wholly unsatisfactory showing. This is even worse than I expected. Typically, a popular deck such as Jund would have a mix of strong and weak pairings balancing each other. Here, however, it's almost mono-bad. Six different decks had 20+ matches against Jund and came out one top better than half of the time.
|UW Control||Win Percent||Matches|
|4 Color Jund Doran||100.00%||1|
|GUR Through the Breach||100.00%||1|
|Mono Red Highlander||66.67%||3|
|Naya Kiki-Jiki Combo||54.55%||11|
|Splinter Twin Combo||50.00%||2|
|4 color Delver||0.00%||1|
UW control, despite being the second most common deck in the field, only played against two decks more than 20 times, both of which we've already covered.
This was an odd Pro Tour in the respect that there were so many different decks out there that there wasn't a clear, slam-dunk answer. Jund, with 31% of the field on Day 1, managed to gain share when looking at Day 3 up to 37.5%.