Grand Prix Kyoto 2013 - Splitting It All Up

Posted in NEWS on November 23, 2013

Here in the middle of Round 5, things are beginning to truly separate. Only 165 of the initial 578 have managed to avoid picking up two losses on the day. The top tables are populated with some incredible talent, including many of the teams we've looked at already [insert a hyperlink here to the Kyoto's Killer Teams article from earlier]. Looking at these matches, it is clear that certain color combinations are more favored than others.

Here is the color breakdown from the top twenty teams:

WR – 11
UG – 11
UB – 11
UW – 9
BR – 4
RG – 3
Mono-green – 3
GW – 2
BW – 2
BUG – 1
UR – 1
Mono-black – 1
BG – 1

As you can see, there are four color combinations that appear to be running away with things: white/red, white/blue, blue/green, and blue/black. Well ahead of the other color combinations being run, the fact that it is these four combinations can tell you a great deal about the format.

First, there seem to be three decks that each team is trying to build: the green deck, the white deck, and the black deck. Virtually every team has some variation on these three decks, be they mono-colored decks or even more than two-color combinations. These colors offer the clearest backbones for what a deck will become. The green deck is generally going to be built around larger than average creatures, while the white deck tends to skew towards the faster, more aggressive decks. Black decks are built upon their removal suite, tending towards the control side of things.

Second, blue seems to be the most versatile color in the field. White only shows up in force in two color combinations, green in one, black in one, and red in one. Blue, on the other hand, is in three of the top four combinations. This owes to the fact that it is generally the deepest and most versatile support color in the format. The aggressive fliers are great in either aggressive decks or decks that like to stall the ground game out. The card drawing and tempo-oriented cards are also multi-purpose cards. In short, the blue cards are ideal to support any game plan, though not often enough to be the main focus of a deck.

Finally, red seems to be getting the shaft. From speaking to a number of players throughout the day, red seems to be the most maligned color in the format. Many of the best red cards have two red mana in the cost, forcing Mountains to fight for space alongside Plains (for Wingsteed Riders) and Swamps (for Gray Merchant of Asphodel). Often, this causes some issues with mana bases that can cost games. In most of the red/white decks shown above, the red is a minor part of the deck, only really represented by the most powerful cards, like Lightning Strike, Ordeal of Purphoros, and Anax and Cymede. Another issue with red is that the cards are one-dimensional. They tend to work best in aggressive decks, making them much less appealing than the more versatile blue cards. The creatures don't have much evasion, either, again reducing their value. It is little surprise to find that red is the least played color among the top tables.

As the weekend continues, and more Sealed Deck rounds are in the books, this picture will continue to be refined. It is important to observe the trends this weekend, as the results showing success in Team Sealed Deck tend to mirror the results that would be seen in Booster Draft. Team Sealed Deck is far more like constructed than individual Sealed Deck, and ultimately far more like Booster Draft because of it.