Posted in NEWS on January 29, 2014

I took a quick peek at the first twenty tables during Round 13 to see what decks are up at the forefront. Though Josh Bennett's complete archetype breakdown will provide a grander picture of this Sunday's bout, not everyone who is in Day 2 can make Top 8—if you catch my drift (sorry Rapter and Ocho). Looking towards the top end will likely better serve as a portal to see exactly what will make Top 8 in three more rounds.

Top 20 Tables by Archetype:

Archetype # of players
Mono-Blue Devotion 14
Azorius Control 6
Mono-Black Devotion 5
Orzhov Control 4
Esper Control 2
Gruul Monsters 2
Boros Devotion 2
Colossal Gruul 1
Golgari Midrange 1
Pyromancer Red 1
Orzhov Humans 1
Maze's End 1


So what can we glean from this besides the obvious that Mono-Blue Devotion is consistently performing well—very well? Firstly, there are about as many Orzhov Control decks as there are Mono-Black Devotion decks. Many have been saying that the evolution of the Black decks has gone away from the Gray Merchant of Asphodel and going towards Elspeth, Sun's Champion and Blood Baron of Vizkopa. The deck still gets the Underworld Connections, Hero's Downfall and the Pack Rat that make the deck so solid, but the end game becomes way more consistent. The six-cost planeswalker is clearly an incredible boss, and not beholden to the whims of something as silly as black mana symbols.


Additionally, Azorius Control seems the clear winner over Esper Control. The deck's consistent mana allows for more than enough ways to deal with the other decks. Now that the format is pretty figured out, control pilots know what spells to counter and what spells not to. The addition of black is likely not worth the effort. Divination is a good-enough drawer; Jace, Architect of Thought is a good-enough Planeswalker; Dissolve is a good-enough counterspell. I talked to Huey Jensen on this issue—he's already had great success with the Azorius Control deck, and is making a Top 8 run today. He talked about how Last Breath is an acceptable replacement for Hero's Downfall, considering the beating double-black casting cost does to the manabase. He then looked up, laughed and said, "I like my lands to come into play untapped if I can help it." Makes sense.


William Jensen 

And the recipient of all those Hero's Downfalls and Last Breaths, at the bottom of the list are all of the aggressive decks. They are there, but are struggling. If you want to be "aggressive," the most consistent way is the slower, devotion-heavy paths that Blue and Black provide. Boros Devotion and Pyromancer Red are awesome and disruptive, but Fanatic of Mogis is almost out of reach from the top of the standings.


The top three decks, Mono-Blue Devotion, Mono-Black Devotion, and Azorius Control make up exactly 50% of the decks in the top tables. That sounds healthy to me. Though not a traditional rock-paper-scissors format, having three viable strong decks that are at the forefront, but still allow for (at least) ten other viable deck archetypes percolating below the surface shows a strong format. If you want consistency, there are some good choices, and if you want to go out of the fringes but remain competitive, there are some good choices too.

So now, back to the obvious. Mono-Blue Devotion is everywhere. Does this mean it's the clear "best deck"? It's certainly not overpowered the way that Affinity, Caw-Blade, Faeries, or Jund seemed in their respective Standard environments. The deck is beatable for sure; but the consistency with which it can beat just about any deck is a real draw. And the deck is streamlined such that it's fairly easy to play—at least compared to the control decks in the format. So although there are options in each color, if you want to be casting creatures and attacking—if you know how to pilot Mono-Blue and you can prepare for the mirror matches, full of Gainsays and Domestications—you should sleeve up the servants of Thassa, and shoot for the stars.


Top Tables 

The big question what will break through into the Top 8? Here's a relevant number to consider. There were a total of 25 Mono-Blue Devotion decks that made Day 2. So it's just shy of 20% of the decks in Day 2, but a whopping 32.5% of the decks in the Top 20 tables. This data should be taken with a grain of salt—there were still more decks past Table 20 that are in contention for the Top 8; but that percentage is still powerful.

It's almost time to ask the question how many Mono-Blue Devotion decks will make the Top 8, rather than if the deck will. There was only one Grand Prix this season that Mono-Blue Devotion did not finish in the top eight decks. It seems likely that it will stay that way.

There's still three rounds to play before the cut. Anything can happen!