Pro Tour Nagoya Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Feature on June 17, 2011

By Paul Jordan

Block Constructed has historically been a portent of things to come in Standard.

The format typically doesn't get a whole lot of love in most circles, since the full block is only available for a few short months before a shiny new block with fancy new toys comes into town. The card pool is smaller than Standard, which leads to solved formats. Generally a block can be fully explored in Constructed pretty quickly. Adding in another block or two plus a main set, obviously, changes that math.

But, for one glorious weekend, Block Constructed gets to shine. And that shine, which this past weekend shone its shiniest in Nagoya, is likely to be the foundation for Standard in the future. Kind of makes sense to dig into the data and see what really happened, right?

With a Top 8 played using 40-card decks, we don't have a nominal champion deck. Some might argue that Sharfman's White Weenie deck is the champion deck, since he played it in the Swiss and he won the tournament. While that logic has some merit, it's not really what we're looking for. Instead, let's mine a little deeper into the results and see if a dominant deck appears.

Elephant hunter extraordinaire Nate Price did yeoman's work cobbling together a summary of what all 364 players were running, which you can read here. I've posted the meaty table below for convenience:

Archetype Count Percentage
Tempered Steel 7620.88%
Big Red 6217.03%
Tezzeret Control 4712.91%
Red-Green Con-Troll 359.62%
Infect 287.69%
White-Blue Control 164.40%
Black-Red Removal 143.85%
Blue-Black Control 143.85%
White Weenie 133.57%
Birthing Pod 133.57%
Esper Control 113.02%
Grand Architect 102.75%
Big White 71.92%
Bant Control 51.37%
Black-Green Control 41.10%
Green-White Aggro 30.82%
Grixis Control 30.82%
Kuldotha Red 10.27%
Red-White Aggro 10.27%
Green-Blue Control 10.27%
Total 364100.00%

Tempered Steel surprised nobody by being the most played deck. The surprise, in fact, was that only 21% of the field had the enchantment. Usually the second most popular deck is somewhere around 10% less common than the most popular deck. There are extreme examples where that balloons to 15% or shrinks to 5%. This is the smallest gap I've seen in the 3 years I've been doing this series. That Tempered Steel was expected to be dominant likely led to an increase in Big Red, perceived prior to the tournament as able to tame the Steel's temper. We'll get to the question of whether it actually did, but first let's look at how each deck did overall. I'm only showing the Constructed portion of the tournament, of course, and I've also excluded mirror matches.

DeckWin RateTotal Matches
White Weenie61.70%94
Green-Blue Control60.00%10
Tempered Steel56.67%427
Black-Red Removal52.69%93
Tezzeret Control51.52%264
Bant Control51.28%39
Big Red50.69%361
Kuldotha Red50.00%6
Grixis Control50.00%20
Big White48.94%47
White-Blue Control48.18%110
Birthing Pod47.44%78
Esper Control44.78%67
Red-Green Con-Troll44.62%195
Grand Architect42.03%69
Green-White Aggro40.00%15
Blue-Black Control33.77%77
Black-Green Control30.00%20
Red-White Aggro0.00%4

Well, well, well. We have a surprise deck sitting atop the standings. White Weenie decks (as distinct from mono-white Tempered Steel decks) came in some different variations, including adding blue for Shape Anew. The majority (10 of 13), however, went with Equipment, and a lot of it. The Equipment versions did even better than 62%, as you can see below below:

White Weenie SubtypeWin RateTotal Matches
Shape Anew40.00%5

Here's how all of White Weenie did against the field:

White WeenieWin RateTotal Matches
Bant Control100.00%1
Green-Blue Control100.00%1
Red-White Aggro100.00%1
Big White100.00%2
Birthing Pod100.00%2
Grand Architect85.71%7
Big Red77.78%18
Tempered Steel72.73%11
Esper Control66.67%3
White-Blue Control57.14%7
Red-Green Con-Troll50.00%10
Grixis Control50.00%2
Tezzeret Control36.84%19
Blue-Black Control25.00%4
Black-Red Removal0.00%1
Grand Total61.70%94

Winning over 70% of your matches against the two most popular decks is a good recipe for success. Of course, 18 and 11 matches, respectively, aren't a whole lot to go on, but they sure look like a good start. Losing 63% of your matches against deck #3 (Tezzeret) is the only thing keeping White Weenie from being the presumptive best deck. I imagine that if the format were to be played more going forward it would fluctuate between people playing a lot of White Weenie and people switching to Tezzeret to beat it, allowing people to move back in on Tempered Steel and Big Red, bringing us right back to a lot of White Weenie. Almost Rock-Paper-Scissors–like, just with two Rocks. Let's test the theory—how did Tezzeret do against Big Red and Tempered Steel? If I'm right, not well.

Tezzeret ControlWin RateTotal Matches
Kuldotha Red100.00%1
Grixis Control100.00%4
Blue-Black Control92.31%13
Black-Green Control75.00%4
Grand Architect71.43%7
Red-Green Con-Troll65.22%23
White Weenie63.16%19
Esper Control60.00%5
Birthing Pod57.14%7
Big White55.56%9
Green-White Aggro50.00%2
White-Blue Control46.67%15
Tempered Steel44.44%63
Big Red43.14%51
Black-Red Removal38.46%13
Bant Control28.57%7
Green-Blue Control0.00%3
Grand Total51.52%264

As expected. This is a scenario where beating White Weenie (and deck #4, Con-Troll), in addition to any miscellaneous decks people can come up, with gave the deck a winning record. So far the theory is holding up. Rock (Tempered Steel / Big Red) loses to Paper (White Weenie) loses to Scissors (Tezzeret), which loses to Rock. So how do the two Rock decks compare?

Tempered SteelWin RateTotal Matches
Red-White Aggro100.00%1
Esper Control80.95%21
White-Blue Control73.91%23
Blue-Black Control66.67%12
Bant Control66.67%12
Kuldotha Red66.67%3
Grand Architect64.71%17
Birthing Pod61.54%13
Red-Green Con-Troll60.47%43
Tezzeret Control55.56%63
Green-White Aggro50.00%2
Big Red49.09%110
Black-Red Removal37.04%27
Grixis Control33.33%3
Big White33.33%15
White Weenie27.27%11
Green-Blue Control0.00%2
Grand Total56.67%427

Big RedWin RateTotal Matches
Red-White Aggro100.00%1
Blue-Black Control80.00%5
Birthing Pod76.92%13
Green-White Aggro75.00%4
Bant Control62.50%8
Tezzeret Control56.86%51
Black-Red Removal52.17%23
Tempered Steel50.91%110
Green-Blue Control50.00%2
Black-Green Control50.00%2
White-Blue Control47.62%21
Grand Architect46.67%15
Red-Green Con-Troll40.54%37
Big White40.00%5
Esper Control36.36%11
White Weenie22.22%18
Grixis Control0.00%1
Grand Total50.69%361

They don't perform the same, that's for sure. Tezzeret, White Weenie, and Bant Control are really the only ones with similar records. Every other match has either a large delta between Tempered Steel and Big Red or simply doesn't have enough matches. And, of course, they're about even against each other. Below is a summary of the two next to each other to make a comparison easier.

OpponentTempered Steel Win RateTempered Steel MatchesBig Red Win RateBig Red MatchesDelta
Bant Control67%1263%84%
Big Red49%110N/AN/AN/A
Big White33%1540%57%
Birthing Pod62%1377%1315%
Black-Red Removal37%2752%2315%
Esper Control81%2136%1145%
Black-Green ControlN/A050%2N/A
Grand Architect65%1747%1518%
Grixis Control33%30%133%
Green-White Aggro50%275%425%
Kuldotha Red67%3N/A0N/A
Red-Green Con-Troll60%4341%3720%
Red-White Aggro100%1100%10%
Tempered SteelN/AN/A51%110N/A
Tezzeret Control56%6357%511%
Blue-Black Control67%1280%513%
Green-Blue Control0%250%250%
White-Blue Control74%2348%2126%
White Weenie27%1122%185%
Grand Total56.67%42750.69%3616%

So while they effectively play the role of Rock together, you need a different type of Paper to beat each one if you aren't using White Weenie. In the cases of Con-Troll and Esper Control, one Rock's Paper is another Rock's Scissors.

We've talked about Red-Green Con-Troll a couple of times. Just under 10% of the field came equipped with Mountains and Forests, and overall they were not a successful group. Only 44.6% of their matches were worth 3 points.

Red-Green Con-TrollWin RateTotal Matches
Green-Blue Control100.00%1
Green-White Aggro100.00%1
Black-Red Removal100.00%4
Big Red59.46%37
Blue-Black Control50.00%16
White Weenie50.00%10
Black-Green Control50.00%4
White-Blue Control46.67%15
Grand Architect40.00%5
Tempered Steel39.53%43
Tezzeret Control34.78%23
Big White33.33%3
Birthing Pod30.00%10
Esper Control25.00%4
Bant Control0.00%2
Grixis Control0.00%3
Grand Total44.62%195

The red-green deck looks like it was trying to game the metagame, anticipating Tempered Steel haters to show up in big numbers with Big Red, forcing Tempered Steel out of the tournament altogether. The plan did not go as expected, it seems. Red-Green players executed on beating Big Red, but Tempered Steel and Tezzeret were both sub-40% matches for them.

If you recall, there was a Green-Blue Control deck that had the second-best win rate. That number is the result of Norway's Sveinung Bjørnerud going 6-4. Since it was only one player, there's not a whole lot to analyze, but I'll at least share which decks he beat:

Green-Blue Control WinsLosses
Big Red11
Red-Green Con-Troll01
Tempered Steel20
Tezzeret Control30
White Weenie01
Grand Total64

In addition to the successes and failures of specific decks, I always like to look at how different countries performed. Since we were granted two formats, I decided to look at the Constructed / Limited splits. The U.S., for instance, won 49.3% of its Limited matches and 48.7% of Constructed, for a pretty balanced attack. Other countries with format parity (or close to) include Japan (52.2% vs. 49.1%) and Italy (50.7% vs. 47.4%). Some others, however, had some pretty large gaps, and none moreso than Spain, featuring a 30.9% win rate in Constructed and 60.7% in Limited. They featured five Tezzeret players, two Tempered Steel, and one each of Big Red, Birthing Pod, and Grand Architect for a combined 17-38 record. It took them just over half as many matches in Limited to get the same number of wins (17-11 record).

Slovokia was almost the opposite, posting an impressive 71.8% record in Constructed but faltering in Limited with only 47.8%. Canada was the opposite again, winning 45.5% of its Constructed matches but 64.9% of its Limited matches.

I don't know if any of these country-specific stats hold any meaning, but it sure is interesting to me. I should point out that Slovakia, despite its wide gap between Constructed and Limited results, came out with the highest win rate for a country at 62.9%. The Slovakians also had the best Constructed record, while Canada had the best Limited record among countries with at least ten Limited matches.

Latest Feature Articles


September 20, 2022

(Almost) Everything to Know About Unfinity Boosters! by, Mike Turian and Adam Styborski

Welcome to the lights and excitement of Unfinity! Magic's latest Un- set release is packed with attractions (and Attractions) to delight players—from the fresh-faced thrill seekers ready ...

Learn More


September 20, 2022

Unfinity Mechanics by, Matt Tabak

Welcome to Myra the Magnificent's Intergalactic Astrotorium of Fun! It's the galaxy's most awesome entertainment complex. For just a few credits, or whatever currency your planet uses, th...

Learn More



Feature Archive

Consult the archives for more articles!

See All