Metagame Breakdown: I Will Beat You Until You Are Black, White, Red, Green, and Blue

Posted in Event Coverage on March 3, 2006

By Ted Knutson

A robust hall of 410 players showed up in paradise to get their game on this weekend, which is great for attendance statistics, but hell on your friendly neighborhood metagame guru. With attendance supersized, there were another 100 or so decklists to pore over and categorize Friday so that you, the loyal reader and fan, can know exactly what the field looked like on Day One.

Also of note this weekend is that I must use the phrase "metagame guru" loosely (goofru is more like it), because I whiffed on just how many people would run Orzhov aggro decks here in Hawaii. We'll get to the analysis part in just a bit though - first, I present to you… the numbers!

Archetype Players
Zoo 55
Roxodon Hierarchy 47
Orzhov Aggro 38
Orzhov Descent 27
Greater Gifts 27
Izzetron 26
Bad Religion 19
For Whom the Knell Tolls 19
Gruul Beats 18
Owling Mine 15
Heartbeat Combo 13
U/R Wildfire 11
Ghazi Glare 10
Greater Good 9
Gifts Control 7
Enduring Ideal 6
Eminent Domain 5
Ghost Dad 5
Boros Deck Wins 5

Yowza! An astounding 19 archetypes were played by five or more players this weekend, showing that Guildpact has likely made the format even more diverse than it was previously. Technically Zoo is the most-played archetype, but if you combine the Orzhov Aggro and Orzhov Descent archetypes (the Descent strain runs Descendant of Kiyomaro for a better game against beatdown decks), you end up with more players than ran Zoo.

descendant of Kiyomaro

Roxodon Hierarchy is a blanket term referring to Green-White-Black decks that have moderate to strong control elements and Loxodon Hierarch in common, and it weighs in as the second most popular individual archetype. (Some of us can no longer bear to call decks in that color combination The R… I'm not even going to type it.) Following the Rox are two control-ish decks, the first being variations on Frank Karsten's Greater Gifts decklist from Worlds, and the second being Izzetron, most of which are basically updated versions of the South African Hattori Hanzo Tron deck that also debuted at Worlds.

Next on the list are two slightly different strains of Black-White Control. Bad Religion is the full Orzhov control, while For Whom the Knell Tolls distinguishes decks that ran two or more Debtors' Knells as part of their plan for victory.

The last three decks you'll want to note are all new entries to the metagame. Owling Mine is a deck designed to abuse Howling Mine/Kami of the Crescent Moon plus Boomerang/Eye of Nowhere/Exhaustion, and Ebony Owl Netsuke/Sudden Impact/Gaze of Adamaro. The translation of the sentence for those of you who don't speak cardese is "It makes the opponent keep a lot of cards in their hand and then kills them for it."

Gruul Beats is a simple, obvious aggressive entry on the list, and eschews the color white in favor of better mana.

Tallowisp

The last deck listed there is called Ghost Dad, and happens to be a (wait for it) Black/White Tallowisp/spiritcraft deck. The brainchild of Magic Online clan Cymbrogi, the deck has already put two of its members into Day Two here in Hawaii and has a chance to put all five in, provided things go well for the players in the last round. We can't show you any decklists just yet, but you can expect to see every single one of them later in the weekend.

As for how the metagame looks, even people who were prepared for it were a bit surprised that 103 Black-White decks showed up here on Day One. The Orzhov are all about resource attrition, and though it remains to be seen just how well these decks will do overall, you can now be assured that they will be everywhere in the Standard metagame. The Zoo decks caught fire the last couple of weeks before the Pro Tour and everyone knew they would be popular, but many of the people I talked to were also surprised that there weren't more Gruul builds running around.

Zoo players have sold their souls to the devil in return for a painful manabase and the best in balls-to-the-wall aggression. There is some Wildfire out there, but not as much as I personally anticipated (maybe Godless Shrines were that much easier to find than Steam Vents? Maybe Wildfire just isn't good at all…), and many of the best players still felt that Gifts Ungiven was the way to go, whether in control form (Gadiel Szleifer), or Karsten form (Karsten, Maaten, Oiso, Tsumura, Mori).

We're still a long way from knowing exactly which decks will come out on top here in Hawaii, but whichever ones they are, know that they will have fought through 16 rounds of battle against a metagame sporting decks of almost every conceivable aggro/beatdown/control and color combination. For fans of the Standard format, this news should be extremely exciting.

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