Day One Metagame Breakdown

Posted in Event Coverage on February 2, 2018

By Frank Karsten

The numbers are in. My colleague Chapman Sim and I went through all 464 decklists, categorized them, and tallied up the totals. The most popular decks were 5-Color Humans, Affinity, and Burn, but no deck clinched 10% of the metagame. Rather, dozens of archetypes were represented, and Modern continued to show its vibrant diversity.

The Archetype Breakdown

Let's take a look at the breakdown of all archetypes with at least five pilots, and explore what the numbers show.

Archetype Number of players Percentage of the field
Five-Color Humans 43 9.3%
Affinity 37 8.0%
Burn 34 7.3%
Tron 32 6.9%
Grixis Shadow 30 6.5%
Eldrazi Tron 26 5.6%
Jeskai Control 23 5.0%
U/R Gifts Storm 23 5.0%
W/U Control 23 5.0%
Dredge 17 3.7%
Titan Shift 16 3.4%
Devoted Company 14 3.0%
Mardu Pyromancer 13 2.8%
Traverse Shadow 13 2.8%
Abzan 10 2.2%
B/G Midrange 9 1.9%
Lantern Control 9 1.9%
Bogles 8 1.7%
Titan Breach 6 1.3%
Hollow One 6 1.3%
Grixis Control 5 1.1%
Madcap Moon 5 1.1%
U/R(/W) Breach 5 1.1%

Aggressive one-drops, whether it was Champion of the Parish, Vault Skirge, or Goblin Guide, were key to the game plans of the three most popular decks. Affinity and Burn are well-known quantities in Modern, but Five-Color Humans is a recent addition to the format.

Five-Color Humans was mainly fueled by Ixalan's Unclaimed Territory, which allowed the deck to run the best Humans in Modern from all five colors without having to worry about mana consistency. The other major addition from Ixalan was Kitesail Freebooter, which in conjunction with Meddling Mage and Thalia, Guardian of Thraben offered enough disruption to beat combo decks like U/R Gifts Storm.

The fourth most popular deck was Tron, often mono-green or black-green. The most recent individual Modern Grand Prix had three Tron decks in the Top 8, and it was still a popular choice here in Bilbao. Plenty of players were indeed hoping to deploy Karn Liberated as early as turn three.

Beyond these top decks, a wide variety of archetypes were represented. Grixis Shadow, Jeskai Control, Dredge—the table goes on and on. Indeed, it continues below. Here are the archetypes played by four or fewer players each.

Archetype Number of players Percentage of the field
Bant Knightfall 4 0.9%
Death & Taxes 3 0.6%
Infect 3 0.6%
Ad Nauseam 2 0.4%
Elves 2 0.4%
Ironworks Combo 2 0.4%
Jund 2 0.4%
R/G Land Destruction 2 0.4%
U/B Faeries 2 0.4%
U/R Pyromancer 2 0.4%
G/W TurboLand 2 0.4%
Merfolk 2 0.4%
4-Color Company 1 0.2%
5-Color Copycat 1 0.2%
Abzan Company 1 0.2%
Bant Company 1 0.2%
Bant Evolution 1 0.2%
Blue Moon 1 0.2%
Bring to Light Scapeshift 1 0.2%
Bushwhacker Zoo 1 0.2%
Domain Zoo 1 0.2%
Eldrazi & Taxes 1 0.2%
Eldrazi Spirits 1 0.2%
Esper Control 1 0.2%
Esper Goryo's 1 0.2%
Esper Shadow 1 0.2%
G/W Company 1 0.2%
G/W Hatebears 1 0.2%
Green Moon 1 0.2%
Grishoalbrand 1 0.2%
Jeskai Ascension 1 0.2%
Kiki Chord 1 0.2%
Living End 1 0.2%
R/G Eldrazi 1 0.2%
R/G Evolution 1 0.2%
Skred Red 1 0.2%
U/R Kiki-Jiki 1 0.2%
U/R Kiln Fiend 1 0.2%
W/B Eldrazi 1 0.2%
W/B Zombies 1 0.2%
W/U As Foretold 1 0.2%

Just looking at this table makes me smile. Modern never fails to disappoint when it comes to the sheer amount of wacky strategies.

The Most-Played Cards

Of course, I have more stats for you. Here is the list of all cards with at least 150 copies among decklists submitted by Pro Tour Rivals of Ixalan Competitors; the real Modern staples, if you will. The list of cards is sorted by the sum of all copies between main decks and sideboards of all players. Basic lands are excluded.

  1. Lightning Bolt
  2. Thoughtseize
  3. Path to Exile
  4. Scalding Tarn
  5. Serum Visions
  6. Bloodstained Mire
  7. Fatal Push
  8. Snapcaster Mage
  9. Wooded Foothills
  10. Inquisition of Kozilek
  11. Collective Brutality
  12. Noble Hierarch
  13. Relic of Progenitus
  14. Flooded Strand
  15. Horizon Canopy
  16. Cavern of Souls
  17. Expedition Map
  18. Urza's Mine
  19. Urza's Power Plant
  20. Urza's Tower
  21. Cryptic Command
  22. Windswept Heath
  23. Verdant Catacombs
  24. Polluted Delta
  25. Dismember
  26. Ancient Grudge
  27. Lightning Helix
  28. Street Wraith
  29. Grafdigger's Cage
  30. Steam Vents
  31. Rest in Peace
  32. Opt
  33. Liliana of the Veil
  34. Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
  35. Mox Opal
  36. Stomping Ground
  37. Ghost Quarter
  38. Stony Silence
  39. Celestial Colonnade
  40. Blood Moon
  41. Ancient Stirrings
  42. Death's Shadow
  43. Walking Ballista
  44. Reflector Mage
  45. Thought-Knot Seer
  46. Champion of the Parish
  47. Thalia's Lieutenant
  48. Kitesail Freebooter
  49. Unclaimed Territory
  50. Spire of Industry
  51. Meddling Mage
  52. Æther Vial
  53. Mantis Rider
  54. Karn Liberated
  55. Darksteel Citadel
  56. Field of Ruin
  57. Surgical Extraction
  58. Ceremonious Rejection
  59. Faithless Looting
  60. Cranial Plating
  61. Ornithopter
  62. Springleaf Drum
  63. Tarmogoyf
  64. Monastery Swiftspear

Near the top of the list are several fetch lands alongside the most powerful, most efficient, and most iconic one-mana cards in Modern—Lightning Bolt, Thoughtseize, Path to Exile, Serum Visions, and Fatal Push. That last one is the newest addition to this group, and it has made its mark on the format in a big way.

Check back tomorrow, when I'll go over many of the individual archetypes to explain their game plans and analyze their conversion rates to the Saturday competition!

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