Posted in GRAND PRIX ORLANDO 2014 - COVERAGE - EVENTS on October 5, 2014

By Rich Hagon

Rich Hagon combines a deep knowledge of the players of the Pro Tour with a passionate love of the game. He's a regular commentator for Pro Tour and Grand Prix live video coverage, and is the official Pro Tour Statistician. He has been covering Magic events since 2006.

As some of you may know, I'm quite partial to numbers. Numbers rock, and when you get to type things like this less than 20 feet away from over 2200 decklists, the little Excel icon in the corner of the laptop starts to look really appealing. However, we don't have days and weeks to number crunch our way through 2200 lists. What to do?

How about we take a select group of decklists, say an incredibly significant number of decklists, like 33? How about we make sure that these people know their stuff? Let's make sure that these are people like Pro Tour Champions Charles Gindy, Craig Wescoe, Stanislav Cifka, Darwin Kastle, and Ben Stark. Let's add in the combined Top 8 knowledge of Chris Fennell, Martin Juza, Frank Skarren, Neal Oliver, Conley Woods, Pat Cox, Matt Costa, Stephen Mann, Marijn Lybaert....look, you get the idea. The deal is, even if you haven't heard of some of them, I have, and I trust them to provide solid data. So here it is:

The Colors of Magic

Boy oh boy is this ever a gold format. Of our 33 players, even the least popular colors – red and green – were both utilized by almost 75% (24/33). Just ahead of them was blue with 25 players, while first place was shared. 27/33 played white, and the same number played black.

How Many Colors?

So clearly people were playing many colors, but how many? The spread looks like this:

2 colors 1 player
3 colors 11 players
4 colors 13 players
5 colors 8 players

Just because a player had access to a particular color didn't mean that we automatically counted it as a 'color' for them – tri-lands and fetchlands can both be used without full value. In general, we counted a color only when a player had an actual spell that involved that color, or at least a relevant activation mana on a creature. The two color deck, incidentally, was a true freak, being an aggressive red-white deck that had almost no gold cards in the pool at all.

How do the Clans fare?

Competitive Magic players are notoriously 'flavor-blind', and will freely admit that they would happily let Jace, the Mind Sculptor turn out to be Urza's grandmother disguised as Gaddock Teeg, provided the Fateseal ability still locked their opponent out of the game. So how many Clan decks are out there? Here are the results:

Abzan 5 players
Jeskai 3 players
Mardu 3 players
Sultai 4 players
Temur 3 players
None 14 players

We were generous in our definitions. If a deck had a single card splash for a fourth color outside the Clan, we still counted it as a Clan deck. It's worth noting that, facing any of our sample, you are roughly 3-4 times as likely to play against an 'outside the Clans' deck as any particular Clan, so aiming to play cards that are good against particular Clans may not be the best plan.

How Many Lands?

Mana is always super-important, but never more so than in a true gold format. How many lands were people playing to make sure they could cast their spells?

19 lands 1 player
18 lands 20 players
17 lands 12 player

In some ways this list is no surprise. The 19-lander may or may not be someone who can't count. Anecdotally we would expect more 18 land than 17 land decks, but the margin is pretty significant. Still, even though we know how many lands, we don't know how those are made up. Let's take a look:


The range of Non-Basics available to our sample squad went from 6 to 11. Here's the spread:

6 3 players
7 9 players
8 9 players
9 8 players
10 3 players
11 1 player

7 of our players elected to run 100% of their non-basics, while even the poorest-served ran at least two. In total, 175/273 non-basics were played. How did this relate to the gold cards in the pools?

The Gold Factor

There was a huge spread here. Gold cards played ranged from zero right up to eleven, with the higher end naturally falling in the 5-color camp. At the extreme ends, there were players running 5/6, 5/6, and 6/7 of their gold cards. At the other end, notable pools used 0/7, 1/10, 1/10, and 3/13. Of course, the gold cards themselves were only part of the story, as there are plenty of ways to create the feel of a gold set without actual gold cards, whether that's off-color activations on cards, to creating synergies that demand leaning towards certain sets of colors. In total, 139 gold cards made their way into our decks, and 208 were left kicking their heels.

The Banners

One last thing before we go – the Banners. With an average of 3.78 colors per deck, you might expect that our players would be wanting every form of mana-fixing they could get their hands on. Not so. The banners took a kicking at the hands of our value-rific crew. 11/96 were played, and only 9 players of our 33 went anywhere near them. Even in Sealed, it seems that the big names don't want to hoist the flag!

So there you have it – a whirlwind tour of a small sample of some of the best players in the room. But the big question has yet to be answered – are any of their decks going to get them to day two?!?!