Feature: Day Two Theros Block Constructed Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Event Coverage on May 17, 2014

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.

Round 4 yesterday gave us our first glimpse into Journey into Nyx Block Constructed, and there were as many surprises as there were met expectations.

Green, black, and white were played roughly equally, each being played in just over 200 decks in the field. Blue and red checked in at about half of that amount. This lines up very well with the general consensus about the various power levels of the cards in the format. Considering the number of players that keyed in on Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix as being essential to success in the format, I almost expected to see a larger number for green, but the other two big colors had a lot going for them as well. Black aggressive decks were the most-played decks in the format on Magic Online coming into the event, so it was no real surprise that it was as well-represented as it was. In addition, many top players pointed to the power of black removal at both slowing the aggressive decks and disrupting the synergistic decks. As for white, that can really be summed up in one word: Elspeth.

Elspeth, Sun's Champion was the most common response we got when asking for the most powerful card in the block, and she's a driving force behind white's following. In addition, the white heroic creatures form the core of the consensus most-powerful aggressive strategy in the format: W/U Heroic.

Before I dive too much into what we learned about the format, here are the numbers from Day One:

Archetype Number % of Field Day 1 Win %
Junk Constellation 53 15.1 45.65
R/G Elspeth 51 14.6 51.19
Black Aggro 47 13.4 48.29
BUG Control 35 10.0 55.43
W/U Heroic 22 6.3 43.93
Junk Reanimator 17 4.9 51.52
Red Heroic 17 4.9 45.00
B/G Constellation 12 3.4 52.87
Esper Control 12 3.4 53.11
WR Heroic 9 2.6 47.62
R/G Monsters 7 2.0 54.29
Junk Midrange 6 1.7 73.33
Infinite Blossoms 5 1.4 31.88
Jund Monsters 5 1.4 50.00
R/G Aggro 5 1.4 76.00
U/B Inspired 5 1.4 66.67
White Heroic 5 1.4 60.00
Green Constellation 4 1.1 45.00
Blue Devotion 3 0.9 42.86
BUG Constellation 3 0.9 28.57
U/B Control 3 0.9 46.67
W/B Aggro 3 0.9 53.33
Bant Heroic 2 0.6 40.00
W/B Midrange 2 0.6 25.00
5c Midrange 1 0.3 80.00
Bant Constallation 1 0.3 0.00
Bant Control 1 0.3 40.00
Bant Midrange 1 0.3 20.00
Bant Planeswalkers 1 0.3 100.00
B/G Reanimator 1 0.3 80.00
B/R Midrange 1 0.3 0.00
Grixis Crontrol 1 0.3 0.00
W/G Monsters 1 0.3 0.00
Junk Monsters 1 0.3 20.00
W/B Heroic 1 0.3 40.00
W/B/R Control 1 0.3 60.00
W/B/R Midrange 1 0.3 80.00
W/G Devotion 1 0.3 80.00
White Aggro 1 0.3 0.00
W/U Control 1 0.3 80.00
W/U Hour of Need 1 0.3 20.00

As you can see, Junk Constellation was the biggest deck in the field, though by a narrow margin. Multiple teams, including Team MTG Mint Card and Team TCGPlayer came to the same conclusion about the format and opted to run a deck capable of packing Courser, Caryatid, black removal, Elspeth, and Eidolon of Blossoms, the best card-drawing engine in the format, into the same deck. It was certainly not an unknown deck, as virtually every player in the room tested both with and against it for this tournament. There was a bit of variation within the deck, such as how deep the white splash went and whether or not to play Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, but the decks were all about 75-80% similar.

While it may not be particularly apparent, this deck is very similar to the BUG Control decks that made up 10% of the field. Independently developed and piloted by both of the ChannelFireball teams, BUG Control also runs based on the theory of cramming Courser/Caryatid and the essential black removal into one deck. From there, the decision falls to whether or not to go white for Elspeth or blue for Ashiok, Nightmare Weaver, and Prognostic Sphinx. It appears that BUG Control was slightly better on Day One than Junk Constellation, but it paled in comparison to the Junk Midrange version of the deck that eschews the constellation mechanic in favor of just simply playing the best possible cards.

Black Aggro was the most-played aggressive deck in Day One, making up 13.4% of the field. Just like on Magic Online, these numbers didn't necessarily translate to performance, as it had just shy of a 50% win rate, mirroring the online results. W/U Heroic, pegged by many of the Pros in attendance as the best aggro deck in the field, fared even worse, just barely clearing a 40% win rate. Still, there is a large variation in the builds players are using, and the aggressive decks are deceptively hard to play in the face of the excellent defensive creatures and spot removal that is ubiquitous in this format. There were a few players who performed exceptionally well with the deck, including Jared Boettcher, who went a perfect 5-0 in the Block Constructed portion of Day One. The most successful aggro deck on the first day of play was R/G Aggro deck, which features the traditional green and red monsters, but also dips into the lower portion of the curve for cards like Fanatic of Xenagos, Eidolon of the Great Revel, Golden Hind, and Firedrinker Satyr. Former Mexican National champion and Grand Prix Mexico City finalist Marcelino Freeman managed a perfect 5-0 record on Day One on the backs of these very angry green and red men.

Perhaps the most surprising deck to come from this tournament was the U/B Inspired deck played by Team Revolution. This French/American collaboration is spearheaded by Hall of Famer Raphael Levy, Melissa DeTora, and the two finalists from Pro Tour Theros, Pierre Dagen and current Player of the Year leader Jeremy Dezani. This deck features the best black and blue cards in Block Constructed, including Bile Blight, Hero's Downfall, Ashiok, and Prognostic Sphinx. Supporting this core are a number of cards with the inspired mechanic, including Daring Thief, Pain Seer, and Macar, the Gold-Cursed. To enable these cards, as well as fix mana, is the innocuously-powerful Springleaf Drum. Considering the impressive 67% win rate of the deck on Day One, it would be easy to predict a spot for Springleaf Drum in the Top 5 cards of the weekend. If Levy can continue playing like he did to take the deck to 5-0 on Day One, it'll be hard to make a case against it.

With all of this data for your perusal, I'll go ahead and give you just a little more to take a gander at. Here's what the field for Day Two looks like going into the Block Constructed rounds:

Archetype Number % of Field
R/G Elspeth 34 15.45
Black Aggro 29 13.18
Junk Constellation 29 13.18
BUG Control 28 12.73
W/U Heroic 15 6.82
Junk Reanimator 11 5.00
Red Heroic 10 4.55
Esper Control 8 3.64
B/G Constellation 6 2.73
R/G Monsters 6 2.73
W/R Heroic 6 2.73
Junk Midrange 5 2.27
R/G Aggro 5 2.27
U/B Inspired 4 1.82
White Heroic 4 1.82
Jund Monsters 3 1.36
Green Constellation 2 0.91
Infinite Blossoms 2 0.91
U/B Control 2 0.91
5c Midrange 1 0.45
Bant Control 1 0.45
Bant Heroic 1 0.45
Bant Planeswalkers 1 0.45
B/G Reanimator 1 0.45
Blue Devotion 1 0.45
W/B Aggro 1 0.45
W/B/R Control 1 0.45
W/B/R Midrange 1 0.45
W/G Devotion 1 0.45
W/U Control 1 0.45

There are a few facts worth taking away from this. First off, Junk Constellation, the most-played deck in the field for Day One, fell hard against the horde of people well-prepared for it. It had a sub-50% win rate on Day One and had the largest drop in players of any of the top decks. Just barely over half of the players playing the deck made the cut to Day Two, and it's clear from the win rate that this is definitely due to the deck, not the drafting prowess of the pilots. The most successful of the top decks was definitely BUG Control deck, which put 80% of the players that played it into the second day of play. Lastly, with R/G Elspeth taking over the most-played deck in Day 2, the complexion of the field actually changes quite a bit. While the deck is obviously another Caryatid/Courser deck, the end game is to beat opponents to death rather than control the game.

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