Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar Standard Metagame Breakdown

Posted in PRO TOUR BATTLE FOR ZENDIKAR on October 16, 2015

By Adam Styborski

Stybs has played Magic the world over, writing and drafting as part of the event coverage team and slinging Commander everywhere his decks will fit.

Battle for Zendikar has been churning for just two weeks. With several large tournament weekends and Magic Online sharing the set this past week, there's been a flurry of activity in the new Standard world. The Pro Tour is where the bits and pieces enter a crucible of the world's best deck builders, testers, and players.

This is what they came up with:

Archetype Count % Field
Atarka Red 53 14.40%
Dark Jeskai 51 13.90%
Green-White Megamorph 40 10.90%
Esper Dragons 23 6.30%
Abzan 18 4.90%
Esper Control 15 4.10%
Red-Green Landfall 14 3.80%
Blue Abzan 11 3.00%
Naya Megamorph 11 3.00%
Bant Megamorph 10 2.70%
Five-Color Bring to Light 10 2.70%
Four-Color Dragons 9 2.50%
Blue-Black Aristocrats 8 2.20%
Jeskai Dragons 7 1.90%
Four-Color Control 5 1.40%
Jeskai Tokens 5 1.40%
Mardu Dragons 5 1.40%
Mardu Tokens 5 1.40%
Red Abzan 5 1.40%
Bant Tokens 4 1.10%
Black-Red Dragons 4 1.10%
Esper Planeswalkers 4 1.10%
Jeskai 4 1.10%
Four-Color Megamorph 3 0.80%
Four-Color Rally 3 0.80%
Jund Company 3 0.80%
Red-Black Dragons 3 0.80%
Bant Hardened Scales 2 0.50%
Bant Megamorph 2 0.50%
Dark Jeskai Dragons 2 0.50%
Green-Black Aristocrats 2 0.50%
Green-White Eldrazi 2 0.50%
Jund Dragons 2 0.50%
Abzan Rally 1 0.30%
Bant Warriors 1 0.30%
Blue Mardu 1 0.30%
Esper Demonic Pact 1 0.30%
Esper Throne 1 0.30%
Esper Warriors 1 0.30%
Five-Color Control 1 0.30%
Five-Color Midrange 1 0.30%
Four-Color Aristocrats 1 0.30%
Four-Color Planeswalkers 1 0.30%
Green-Black Demonic Pact 1 0.30%
Green-Black Eldrazi 1 0.30%
Grixis Dragons 1 0.30%
Grixis Tutelage 1 0.30%
Mardu Aristocrats 1 0.30%
Mardu Planeswalkers 1 0.30%
Naya Eldrazi 1 0.30%
Red Dragons 1 0.30%
Red-Black Aggro 1 0.30%
Temur Dragons 1 0.30%
Temur Eldrazi 1 0.30%
Temur Landfall 1 0.30%
TOTAL 367 100.00%

If it feels like there's a lot going on, it's because there is. The combination of Khans of Tarkir fetch lands—Polluted Delta and friends—with the new cycle of battle lands from the new set—Cinder Glade and company—mean it's possible to play three, four, and even five colors with relative ease.

This split the field into a few directions, but rolling things up a bit makes the lay of the land make more sense.

Archetype Count % Field
Jeskai (All Types) 69 18.80%
Red Aggro (All Types) 67 18.30%
Megamorph (All Types) 64 17.40%
Esper (All Types) 44 12.00%
Abzan (All Types) 34 9.30%
Four/Five-Color (All Types) 31 8.40%
All Other Archetypes 58 15.80%
TOTAL 367 100.00%

Pulling together the core of different angles of similar decks reveals a much simpler affair. Jeskai—in "Dark" versions with black or more Token or Dragon-laden ways—all shared red removal and countermagic with a Mantis Rider or four. Red aggressive decks were mostly Atarka Red—the natural descendant of Martin Dang's Pro Tour Dragons of Tarkir-winning list—and a handful of Snapping Gnarlid-led landfall.

Green-White Megamorph was the broadest section of the reliable Den Protector-Deathmist Raptor duo, but some decks splashed in Radiant Flames, Dig Through Time, or other colorful cards to enhance their position. Esper variants were all control decks of some sort—Dragons, Planeswalkers, or Planar Outburst/End Hostilities battlefield cleaners—and the count above doesn't include the one-of Warrior tribal deck in the colors.

Abzan, the once mightiest of Standard's decks, has fallen in favor with Battle for Zendikar. While Siege Rhino remains an impressive threat, even the opportunity to splash in blue (Treasure Cruise another ways to reload) or red (Radiant Flames as a board sweeper) had kept the deck at the top.

While there's a considerable swath of decks beyond the Four- and Five-Color lump ending the summary table, it's the fact there is such a lump that's meaningful: The mana means anything is possible. Four-Color and Five-Color Bring to Light are ostensibly "the eight copies of Siege Rhino decks" but it can also tutor out so much more. Others jammed every awesome Planeswalker the colors could fit, or packed in powerful interactions such as Zulaport Cutthroat and Liliana, Heretical Healer and Rally the Ancestors and Jace, Vryn's Prodigy and Catacomb Sifter and, well, pretty much anything else you wanted.

As always the remaining decks not covered by the major groups are where the most curious of curiosities exist. Hardened Scales? Sphinx's Tutelage? Demonic Pact and Dark Petition? Sigil of the Empty Throne? They're all there, in the hands of players looking to surprise opponents expecting something very different.

Somewhere in those 367 decks is a Pro Tour winner's choice, but that's a story for Sunday.