A Unified Modern Number Crunch

Posted in GRAND PRIX ROTTERDAM 2016 on November 20, 2016

By Frank Karsten

In my metagame breakdown, I gave a full metagame breakdown of the Team Unified Modern choices of all teams. Check it out if you haven't done so yet. In this article, after seeing seven more rounds of Team Unified Modern, I'm running some numbers to determine the best-performing decks and configurations.

Deck Construction Must Account for Overlap

Let me start by recapping the rules. In Team Unified Modern, each team must construct three Modern-legal decks and assign them to players A, B, and C. Then every round, one country is paired against another country, so player A of one country plays a best-of-three match against player A of the other country, and so on, and the country that wins at least two matches wins the round. But there's a restriction: other than basic lands, no two decks on the same team may contain any copies of the same card.

This means that if one player registers a Jund deck with 1 Stomping Ground, their teammate cannot play a Naya Burn deck with any copies of Stomping Ground, not even a single one. Fortunately, Modern is a vast format, so there are over a hundred viable configurations with little to no overlap. As a result, the Modern decklists from this weekend can reasonably carry over to individual events as well.

The Top 16 Breakdown

With hundreds of viable configurations, how can we make sense of the Unified Modern metagame? It is impossible to divide the deck choices of all teams into three disjoint groups, but the majority chose their decks as follows:

  • Deck 1—Often an Inkmoth Nexus deck, either Infect or Affinity
  • Deck 2—Usually a deck with Stomping Ground or Lightning Bolt (Naya Burn, Dredge, TitanBreach, or Blue-Red Kiln Fiend)
  • Deck 3—The most variable slot, but frequently it was Bant Eldrazi or Abzan

You can find the deck configurations chosen by the Top 16 teams listed below. (I've structured the order of configurations to follow the aforementioned fashion wherever possible.) The Top 8 teams are in bold.

Country First deck Second deck Third deck
Belgium Infect Naya Burn Goryo's Vengeance
Dominican Republic Infect Naya Burn Bant Eldrazi
Spain Infect Naya Burn

Dredge

Bulgaria Infect

Dredge

Lantern Control
Macedonia Infect

Dredge

Abzan
Greece Infect Dredge Abzan
Malaysia Infect

Dredge

Black-Red Eldrazi
Italy Infect Ad Nauseam Lantern Control
United States Infect Grixis Delver Green-White Tron
Lithuania Infect Naya Burn Abzan
Germany Affinity TitanBreach

Jeskai Ascendancy

Belarus Affinity Jund Bant Eldrazi
Panama Affinity Blue-Red Kiln Fiend Bant Eldrazi
Ukraine Merfolk TitanBreach Bant Eldrazi
Australia Dredge Blue-Red Kiln Fiend Bant Eldrazi
Finland Dredge Blue-Red Kiln Fiend Lantern Control

What's the Best Unified Modern Configuration?

Good question. The two most popular configurations, registered by five out of 73 teams each, were Infect/Dredge/Abzan and Infect/Dredge/Lantern Control. Over the course of the tournament, Infect/Dredge/Abzan posted a record of 20-15 (57%), whereas Infect/Dredge/Lantern Control did no better than 12-15 (44%).

This is a very small sample size, but if I had to pick an early winner it would be Infect/Dredge/Abzan. You get three top-tier decks, and there is almost no overlap so long as you can manage the green fetch lands. Greece made the Top 8 with this configuration.

The best overall records in the Modern rounds were scored by Australia, Belarus, and Ukraine. Each of these countries had eight wins and one loss. They each had a different deck configuration, but all of them ran Bant Eldrazi, which could be seen as a good sign for fans of that archetype.

What Were the Best-Performing Decks?

The win percentage of individual players was not recorded—only the team record matters—but after some data crunching, I could determine the overall Modern match win percentage of teams who had a certain deck in their lineup.

Deck Team Modern Match Win Percentage
Infect 109-106 (50.7%)
Dredge 92-93 (49.7%)
Affinity 55-47 (53.9%)
Abzan 50-54 (48.1%)
Red-Green Valakut 41-44 (48.2%)
Lantern Control 31-28 (52.5%)
Bant Eldrazi 50-27 (64.9%)
Naya Burn 37-25 (59.7%)
Jund 21-20 (51.2%)
Ad Nauseam 21-18 (53.8%)
Merfolk 15-14 (51.7%)
Blue-Red Kiln Fiend 23-11 (67.6%)

To explain the meaning of these numbers, let's look at Blue-Red Kiln Fiend in the bottom row. The score of 23-11 means that teams who had Blue-Red Kiln Fiend in their lineup won 23 of their Modern rounds and lost eleven of them. The data doesn't reveal how many individual matches the player with the Blue-Red Kiln Fiend deck won. It could be zero (with teammates carrying them in 23 matches) or even 34. But if one of their teammates always won and the other always lost, then the best prediction of the individual match win rate of Blue-Red Kiln Fiend was 67.6%—a very impressive number.

Keeping that inherent uncertainty in this data in mind, I can indicate two winners: Bant Eldrazi and Blue-Red Kiln Fiend. Teams with either of these decks in their lineup had the best overall match win rates. Besides that, they are the most popular decks in the Top 8; you can find four Bant Eldrazi decks and three Blue-Red Kiln Fiend there.

The performance of Blue-Red Kiln Fiend in particular is remarkable. Only five teams registered such a deck, but three of them made the Top 8! So this deck is for real. Next time you play Modern, pack some removal spells for Kiln Fiend. Before you know it, a flurry of spells plus a Temur Battle Rage could turn the Elemental Beast into a lethal attacker.

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