US Nationals Post-Mortem

Posted in Feature on August 8, 2008

By Paul Jordan

The United States have a new champion, and one that would make Dave Price proud. While Michael Jacob grabbed the headline, there were 217 other players fighting through the 17 rounds. We'll be diving into the specifics on how each Constructed deck performed. In another week or so I hope to be able to provide some numbers from the Limited portion of the event. Before any of that, we have a glimpse at how people qualified for the event.

Player Invite SourcePlayersPercent
Regionals Championship9041.28%
Top 100 Composite Rating5022.94%
Grinder2611.93%
City Championship Winner2511.47%
Players Club 2+198.72%
2007 U.S. National Team41.83%
Military Regionals Championship20.92%
Special Invitation20.92%
Grand Total218100.00%

I found this interesting, as I guess I had never really thought about it before. When you look at it another way, with the 2007 Nationals team, top 100 composite rating and Players Club invites all being considered pros and the remaining invites being offered to amateurs you see that about 2/3 of the field would not be considered pros. Armed with this information, I decided to see if I could support or refute the commonly held theory that the amateurs (or "Joe's" if you like rhyming) are more prepared for Constructed and would falter in the Limited portion of the event.

Player StatusDataConstructedLimitedGrand Total
Amateurwin_pct47.06%45.54%46.25%
matches6667651431
Professionalwin_pct55.40%57.94%56.78%
matches368429797

A quick glance shows us that the pros lived up to their name, winning about 57% of the time. Amateurs were below the 50% mark by a pretty sharp margin. There was not a large drop-off between Constructed or Limited for either group, though Pros did do better with 40 cards, as expected, even if it was only by 2.5%. If we break it out further by invite source, the splits become more apparent.

Player InviteDataConstructedLimitedGrand Total
2007 U.S. National Teamwin_pct57.14%69.23%63.83%
matches232649
Top 100 Composite Ratingwin_pct55.60%58.60%57.20%
matches253286539
Players Club 2+win_pct54.44%53.85%54.11%
matches92117209
Special Invitationwin_pct50.00%53.85%51.85%
matches141327
Grinderwin_pct49.21%47.83%48.48%
matches126139265
City Championship Winnerwin_pct51.30%42.62%46.84%
matches115122237
Regionals Championshipwin_pct45.77%45.38%45.56%
matches405489894
Military Regionals Championshipwin_pct0.00%50.00%12.50%
matches628

Each of the three Pro categories performed admirably. The only Amateur grouping to break .500 was the Special Invitation which consisted of Dave Williams and Scott Kasliner. Surprisingly, the folks that 5-0'd on the day preceding Nationals fought the good fight in the main event, almost hitting 50%. City Champs winners had a very good idea of what they were doing in Standard, but failed to back up that strong showing when their decks were smaller and not filled with 4-of's. The only other grouping to have a wide gap between formats was the '07 National team, who showed a pronounced dominance of the draft tables, taking 3 points in 69% of their matches.

That gives us a sense of who was in the field and how they did. We can now start to look at what they played in Constructed. I've already done a preliminary breakdown of the environment, so I'll jump right into the proverbial belly of the beast and show you some numbers.

The variance of a two-format tournament makes it entirely pointless to include any kind of average or median finish/earnings information, thus all you'll see is the number of matches along with a win percentage. Please bear in mind that it is generally accepted that any sample size lower than 30 will not provide statistically relevant information. Obviously, the bigger a sample, the better a predictor it will be. In the instances where we have less than 30 matches played, please remember that the sample size is small. Don't go into a tournament with Merfolk based on a 3-0 record against Black-red Tokens at U.S. Nationals. Take this as a starting point and finish off the testing within your group.

Player DeckDataDay 1Day 2Day 3Grand Total
Kithkinwin_pct55.56%87.50%n/a70.59%
matches98017
Mono-red Aggrowin_pct56.72%73.68%75.00%63.30%
matches67424113
Red-green Aggrowin_pct52.38%66.67%0.00%56.76%
matches2115137
Zurwin_pct75.00%25.00%n/a55.00%
matches128020
Quick ‘N Toastwin_pct44.44%73.33%0.00%53.49%
matches2716144
Faerieswin_pct50.81%48.53%66.67%50.26%
matches124703197
Swanwin_pct66.67%0.00%n/a50.00%
matches124016
Merfolkwin_pct50.77%45.45%n/a48.98%
matches6533098
Black-red Tokenswin_pct45.83%52.94%n/a48.78%
matches2417041
Elveswin_pct47.95%48.00%66.67%48.41%
matches73503126
Red-green Big Manawin_pct51.35%40.00%n/a48.08%
matches3715052
Otherwin_pct54.17%30.00%0.00%45.71%
matches2412137
Mono-blackwin_pct66.67%25.00%n/a42.86%
matches3407
Doranwin_pct40.00%n/an/a40.00%
matches150015
Reveillarkwin_pct44.90%30.43%0.00%39.73%
matches4924174
Juniper Order Druidwin_pct33.33%0.00%n/a22.22%
matches6309
Black-green Rockwin_pct11.11%40.00%n/a21.43%
matches95014
Predatorwin_pct0.00%n/an/a0.00%
matches3003

Let's walk through some of the more successful and more popular decks to see what led to their successes or failures.

Kithkin

Our surprise "best deck" is one that was helped the most by Eventide. Kithkin picked up Figure of Destiny and posted a crazy 70% record. There were only three people running the little white critters, so the sample size is admittedly quite small. Diving further in, the deck didn't play more than four matches against any single deck, so it's a very shaky foundation.

Opp.’s DeckWin Pct.Matches
Red-green Big Mana100.00%1
Black-green Rock100.00%1
Black-red Tokens100.00%2
Elves100.00%2
Faeries100.00%3
Quick ‘N Toast100.00%1
Merfolk50.00%4
Red-green Aggro0.00%3
Grand Total70.59%17

It's enough to warrant further inspection though. I will be adding it to my gauntlet, and possibly to my short list.

Mono-red

The next best deck, and probably the real "best deck" of the weekend is Mono-red. During 113 matches, including the title, the deck ran at 63%; there really isn't much more you could ask of a deck. I had heard some speculation prior to the event that the field could be as much as a quarter Mono-red because of its ability to handle Faeries. While the field percentage of that prediction was wrong (it was only 11%), the second part held true.

Opp.’s DeckWin Pct.Matches
Zur100.00%4
Black-green Rock100.00%1
Juniper Order Druid100.00%1
Doran100.00%3
Faeries77.42%32
Merfolk71.43%14
Other66.67%5
Quick ‘N Toast57.14%7
Elves57.14%14
Reveillark54.55%12
Black-red Tokens40.00%5
Red-green Mana33.33%9
Red-green Aggro25.00%4
Mono-black0.00%1
Swan0.00%1
Grand Total63.30%113

Against Faeries: 77%. Seriously. Seventy-Seven Freaking Percent. Granted, 32 isn't a gigantic sample size, but it is statistically significant. It is also 28% of Red's matches. Throw in 12% from Merfolk, also over 70% (granted, a small sample size, but I throw in my anecdotal 2 cents that the Merfolk matchup is a good one for Mono-red) and you have a deck that is over 70% against more than 40% of the field. None of the other matchups had enough matches to reach any conclusions, but the bad ones only took up approximately 15% of the field combined. If you have a good-to-great chance against 85% of the field, you're probably in good shape.

Faeries

So how did the presumptive best deck do? Faeries are a Block powerhouse and were expected to take down Hollywood, but fell on their tiny sprite-like faces. The Fae were under 50% for the Pro Tour but still took up a quarter of the U.S. Nationals field. They did a little better than last time, going slightly over even on the weekend.

Opp.’s DeckWin Pct.matches
Reveillark81.48%27
Red-green Mana75.00%12
Mono-black75.00%4
Juniper Order Druid75.00%4
Black-green Rock66.67%3
Red-green Aggro62.50%8
Other58.33%12
Quick ‘N Toast50.00%11
Doran50.00%4
Elves45.95%37
Merfolk44.44%27
Black-red Tokens37.50%8
Swan33.33%3
Mono-red Aggro22.58%32
Zur0.00%2
Kithkin0.00%3
Grand Total50.26%197

Total dominance of Reveillark kept Faeries alive, along with the ability to beat basically all of the fringe decks. It continues to struggle against Black-green Elves, Merfolk and the previously mentioned Red decks.

Red decks represented 11% of the field and 16% of the Faeries matches, so there's something to be said for a little bit of bad luck there. However, random pairings within records will lead to some variance, so this is to be expected.

Merfolk

The deck of choice for almost one in five amateurs was Merfolk, though it was largely ignored by the pros. It came in just shy of 50%.

Opp.’s DeckWin Pct.Matches
Quick ‘N Toast100.00%4
Predator100.00%1
Black-red Tokens100.00%3
Mono-black100.00%1
Black-green Rock75.00%4
Red-green Mana60.00%5
Faeries55.56%27
Kithkin50.00%4
Other50.00%2
Elves35.71%14
Zur33.33%3
Doran33.33%3
Reveillark33.33%6
Swan33.33%3
Mono-red Aggro28.57%14
Red-green Aggro25.00%4
Grand Total48.98%98

Nothing really surprising to see here. Also, not enough information to really say for sure if any pairing is good or not.

Elves

The winner of Hollywood and Worlds got to the finals, but fell in the end. Judging by the numbers though, getting to the finals at all is outperforming expectations.

Opp.’s DeckWin Pct.Matches
Predator100.00%2
Other71.43%7
Black-green Rock66.67%3
Merfolk64.29%14
Faeries54.05%37
Doran50.00%2
Black-red Tokens45.45%11
Mono-red Aggro42.86%14
Zur40.00%5
Red-green Mana40.00%10
Swan33.33%3
Red-green Aggro33.33%3
Quick ‘N Toast25.00%4
Reveillark25.00%8
Juniper Order Druid0.00%1
Kithkin0.00%2
Grand Total48.41%126

Beating up on Faeries and losing to Red. So the Top 4 went as projected. The trend continues where we're left with too few matches to be conclusive. Having half of the event in a different format will do that. While we can't really nail down any matchups, we can say that an overall losing record over a large sample size is not what you're hoping for when choosing a deck.

Quick 'N Toast

The darling of Pro Tour-Hollywood has ended its honeymoon and is now settling into a healthy marriage. Gone is the blissful, relaxing win percentage and now it is just in a comfortable, if not flashy, relationship with the metagame.

Opp.’s DeckWin Pct.matches
Zur100.00%2
Black-red Tokens100.00%1
Swan100.00%1
Juniper Order Druid100.00%1
Elves75.00%4
Red-green Mana66.67%6
Reveillark60.00%5
Faeries50.00%11
Mono-red Aggro42.86%7
Kithkin0.00%1
Merfolk0.00%4
Red-green Aggro0.00%1
Grand Total53.49%44

A number like 53% is nothing to take lightly, though the Red pairing seems to need some attention. I'd like to see another 50 matches in there to see if that 43% sticks or not, but that could be how to burn the Toast (pardon the pun).

None of the other decks really jumped out with numbers, either via popularity or success. Also, none of the decks showed a big jump from Day 1 matches played to Day 2 matches played. Elves had the biggest jump, 12.6% to 15.3%. Doran had the biggest drop, from 2.6% to 0%.

We've looked at the Constructed records by each deck type. Now I'm going to examine something that, admittedly, may not bear any relevance. Indulge me for a moment. Below are the Limited records of how people did based on the deck they played in Constructed.

Player’s DeckWin Pct.Matches
Mono-black85.71%7
Quick ‘N Toast60.87%47
Predator60.00%5
Black-green Rock56.25%16
Black-red Tokens55.81%43
Elves55.41%148
Other53.85%40
Reveillark53.19%94
Red-green Aggro52.78%36
Zur52.00%25
Faeries49.83%304
Red-green Mana47.06%68
Mono-red Aggro46.48%142
Merfolk45.52%146
Kithkin38.89%18
Swan36.00%25
Doran31.82%22
Juniper Order Druid25.00%8

The lone Mono-black player (Chris McDaniel) posted a 6-1 Limited record. Our Champion deck seems to be chosen by people who aren't nearly as good with 40 cards. This is surprising to me, considering that the Mono-red deck in Limited is considered by many to be the best deck one can draft. Billy Moreno's 0-3 with Predator didn't stop him from going 3-2 in draft, small-sample-sizing his way to the 3rd best Limited record based on Constructed deck.

I'm not going to go over each deck, as this really doesn't seem to be a meaningful stat. This has the feel to me as one of those, "He's hitting .658 in day games against left handed pitchers at home following a two game losing streak with runners in scoring position and an 0-1 count" stats. Sure, it says something. Sure, it might be kind of fun. But, no, it doesn't actually help us at all.

I'm working with Limited Information columnist Steve Sadin to put together some meaningful Limited numbers together. We're currently in the process of keying in almost 400 draft decklists from the weekend. Once that's done, we'll start looking for patterns.

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