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Pro Tour Aether Revolt: By The Numbers


Pro Tour Aether Revolt is in the books, which means it's time to break down the event by the numbers. Which decks performed best in constructed? Which decks underperformed on Magic's biggest stage? These are the questions we'll be answering today. We'll start off by breaking down the numbers of the eight most played decks at Pro Tour Aether Revolt (every deck that started day one with a metagame share of at least 3%). Then, we'll talk a little bit about how the lesser-played decks performed in the all-pro field. After that, we'll shine the spotlight on a handful of the most interesting under-the-radar decks that managed at least 18 points (six wins) in constructed, before wrapping up with a list of the most played cards in the event, so let's get to it! If you want to see all of the decklists in their glory, be sure to check out the Pro Tour Aether Revolt Tournament Page.

The Big Eight

First off, we need some baseline stats to guide our discussion of the decks at Pro Tour Aether Revolt. There were 425 players at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, and of these players, 62.6% performed well enough to come back on day two. Then, at the end of the tournament, a total of  27.8% of the day one field ended up with at least six wins in constructed (18 points+), 14.6% managed seven or more wins (21+ points), and 6.8% finished with at least eight wins and / or made the Top 8 (24+ points). These numbers will form the foundation of our deck breakdown. In theory, decks that performed well at the Pro Tour will post percentages better than the baseline, while decks that performed poorly will have percentages that are worse than the baseline.

Day One Players Day Two Players Conversion Rate 18+ Point Players 18+ % 21+ Point Players 21+ % 24+ Point Players 24+ %
96 72 75.8% 43 44.8% 29 30.2% 17 17.7%

Let's start with the elephant in the room: Mardu Vehicles at Pro Tour Aether Revolt has a solid argument for being the single best deck at any Pro Tour in the mythic era of Magic. Let that sink in for a moment. By the numbers, we witnessed history this weekend with an almost unheard of dominance. A couple of years ago, during Pro Tour Magic Origins, the breakout deck was UR Ensoul Artifact, and we were writing about how its performance was Caw Blade-level good. The thing is that UR Ensoul Artifact was played by only 33 day-one players, and many of them were among the best in the room (Team ChannelFireball). Mardu Vehicles at Pro Tour Aether Revolt posted similar numbers to UR Ensoul Artifact and Caw Blade, but it started with 96 players, which means the average skill level of a Mardu Vehicles player was almost certainly far below that of UR Ensoul or Caw Blade. 

It's also important to note that, in saying this is the best Pro Tour performance ever, we aren't talking about number of Top 8 berths. While taking up 75% of the Top 8 is certainly impressive, it's also true that Mardu Vehicles was the most played deck at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, so it naturally has a leg up at putting players far in the tournament, so this isn't really a good measure. Instead, what makes Mardu Vehicles so great is its numbers in other areas (which are controlled for by the number of players with the deck). For example, just under 45% of day one Mardu Vehicles ended up performing well enough to have their list published on the Mothership, which is an absurd rate, and 30% got at least seven wins in constructed (which is even more impressive considering only 75% made it to day two, which means about 95% of Mardu Vehicles players who did well enough on day one to make day two ended up with at least seven wins in constructed). Basically, by every measure, Mardu Vehicles had an all-time great Pro Tour performance and backed this up with the "soft" numbers of making up 75% of the Top 8 and more than half of the 8+ wins decks. Not only is Mardu Vehicles the winner of Pro Tour Aether Revolt, it's the only real winner of the event. 

Day One Players Day Two Players Conversion Rate 18+ Point Players 18+ % 21+ Point Players 21+ % 24+ Point Players 24+ %
72 26 36.1% 7 9.7% 2 2.7% 1 1.4%

Heading into Pro Tour Aether Revolt, the Copy Cat combo was the scariest thing in the format, to the point where people were calling for a preemptive ban, but after this Pro Tour performance, this seemed unlikely. Not only was Jeskai Copy Cat Control not great, it was actively bad, ending up—by far—the least successful of any of the most played decks at the event. It started off poorly, putting just 36% of its players into day two (more than 25% below average), and it followed this up by performing below average at every point on day two as well.

Unfortunately for Jeskai Copy Cat Control, it seems unlikely that things will get better in the near future because the Mardu Vehicles matchup is horrible, and with the epic Pro Tour performance, it seems likely that the next few weeks will be overloaded with Mardu Vehicles decks at FNMs, Grands Prix, and SCG events around the world. As such, it's probably best to leave Jeskai Copy Cat Control at home for the time being. Not only was it the worst-performing Copy Cat deck but the worst-performing control deck as well.  

Day One Players Day Two Players Conversion Rate 18+ Point Players 18+ % 21+ Point Players 21+ % 24+ Point Players 24+ %
66 45 68.2% 24 36.3% 14 21.2% 4 6.06%

Day One Players Day Two Players Conversion Rate 18+ Point Players 18+ % 21+ Point Players 21+ % 24+ Point Players 24+ %
31 23 74.2 9 29% 4 12.9% 2 6.4%

While GB Constrictor and GB Delirium are technically different decks, they are similar enough that we should probably talk about them together (although, as you can see above, there are individual statistics for each build). From a meta-perspective, each of the decks performed a bit above average, posting really solid conversion rates from day one to day two and then posting slightly above average numbers at most points of day two. As such, there really isn't much that separates the decks by the numbers. GB Delirium did slightly better as far as high-end finishes thanks to putting a player in the Top 8, while GB Constrictor did slightly better at giving players solid (18- and 21-point) finishes. Taken in sum, the numbers suggest that these decks are a wash (which isn't that surprising, considering how many cards the two decks share in common), so if you are planning on playing GB in coming weeks, the numbers don't have very strong feelings about which build you should play. So, what are the differences between the two builds anyway? 

There are maybe 10 cards that are different between the two decks. For instance, GB Constrictor tends to play Glint-Sleeve Siphoner as a two-drop, while GB Delirium plays Grim Flayer; in the three-drop slot, GB Constrictor often has a couple of Aethersphere Harvesters, while GB Delirium usually has a couple of Nissa, Voice of Zendikar; and in the four-drop slot, GB Constrictor plays something like Gonti, Lord of Luxury, while GB Delirium plays Mindwrack Demon. Otherwise, GB Constrictor is more likely to go on the ramp plan with Servant of the Conduit, while GB Delirium fills this slot with a package of Scrapheap Scrounger and Traverse the Ulvenwald

On the other hand, the package of Winding Constrictor, Walking Ballista, Rishkar, Peema Renegade, Tireless Tracker, and Verdurous Gearhulk is the same in both decks, as is most of the removal, featuring cards like Fatal Push, Grasp of Darkness, and maybe a Murder. The point of all this is that it might be worthwhile to consider these decks the same, at least from an analytical perspective. The numbers are the same, and many of the cards are the same, so perhaps we just don't need two different GB lists muddling up the data. As for building one of these decks, I'm not sure it matters which one you choose, as long as you don't mix synergies (for example, if you just slot Traverse the Ulvenwald into GB Constrictor without the other pieces, you'll probably have a bad time). Otherwise, either GB deck is solid, and nothing in the numbers really separates them, so play whichever one you like best!

 

Day One Players Day Two Players Conversion Rate 18+ Point Players 18+ % 21+ Point Players 21+ % 24+ Point Players 24+ %
25 14 56% 8 32% 2 8% 0 0%

While certainly better than Jeskai Copy Cat Control on day one, the overall performance of Four-Color Copy Cat left much to be desired. While it put the expected number of players into the 18+ bracket, it didn't manage many high-end finishes, performing below expected at both 21 and 24 points. This lackluster finish might be, at least in part, because unlike many of the top decks, there really wasn't a default build of Four-Color Copy Cat at Pro Tour Aether Revolt. A handful of players went with an Aetherworks Marvel plan, another group left out Aetherworks Marvel and instead used Eldritch Evolution to put the combo together, and still another group played a more value-focused midrange build without either Eldritch Evolution or Aetherworks Marvel. As such, there still may be untapped potential in this archetype. With decks like Mardu Vehicles and GB Constrictor / Delirium, it seems likely that these decks are already at their ceiling, but if players can figure out the correct build of Four-Color Copy Cat, it could rise up the rankings in coming weeks. 

Day One Players Day Two Players Conversion Rate 18+ Point Players 18+ % 21+ Point Players 21+ % 24+ Point Players 24+ %
15 8 53.3% 3 20% 2 13.3% 0 0%

The last three decks of the "big eight" are various flavors of control. First up is UR Control, which is essentially a UR Dynavolt Tower deck with a bunch of Torrential Gearhulks and spells to power up the Tower. While we are starting to get to the point where sample sizes are an issue (with only 15 day-one players, compared to almost 100 for Mardu Vehicles), the overall performance of UR Control was pretty lackluster, with a below-average conversion rate and poor performances at every point except for 21+ points, where it was above average. 

Day One Players Day Two Players Conversion Rate 18+ Point Players 18+ % 21+ Point Players 21+ % 24+ Point Players 24+ %
14 6 42.9% 1 7.1% 0 0 0 0

Grixis Control was perhaps the worst performing deck at Pro Tour Aether Revolt (although not the most disappointing—that would be Jeskai Copy Cat Control, because I'm not sure anyone expected Grixis Control to be good). In fact, out of the 14 day-one players, only a single one posted a record good enough to be published on the Mothership, and this one only just made it with the bare minimum of 18 points. While we don't know exactly what the other Grixis decks looked like, the one published list is essentially Grixis Dynavolt Tower, and in a super-aggressive metagame dominated by Mardu Vehicles, it makes sense that adding an extra color (black) to an already lackluster deck (UR Dynavolt Control) would be a recipe for disaster. The only real advantage to going black is more expensive removal like To the Slaughter and Unlicensed Disintegration, and these cards come at the cost of having a clunkier mana base. While neither of the Dynavolt decks performed well, if you are thinking of picking up the strategy, go straight UR until the Mardu Vehicles lists start to fade.

Day One Players Day Two Players Conversion Rate 18+ Point Players 18+ % 21+ Point Players 21+ % 24+ Point Players 24+ %
13 9 69.2% 3 23.1% 0 0 0 0

Last but not least, we have Jeskai Control (not containing the Copy Cat combo), and for this one, it's really a tale of two days. On day one, Jeskai Control looked like a winner, posting the best conversion rate of any control deck in the field. Then, on day two, everything fell apart and the deck posted horrible numbers. While three players did just well enough to get their list published, no one managed seven or eight wins, and the numbers across the board on day two were poor. This is especially troubling because the deck posted a good conversion rate, which should mean it has a leg up and would post good (or at least reasonable) finishes, but the omnipresence of Mardu Vehicles put an end to these hopes.

Before moving on to the rest of the decks, let's take a minute to talk control in general, since we just broke down three control decks in a row. Most obviously, control in general wasn't good at Pro Tour Aether Revolt. Most of the decks did poorly on day one, and even Jeskai (the one control deck with a good first day) had a horrible day two. At this point, I think it's pretty safe to say that control is close to unplayable. Mardu Vehicles is just a well-oiled machine built to beat control decks. Wraths don't work because of Vehicles, targeted removal isn't that great because of recursive threats like Scrapheap Scrounger, and the aggro decks even get card advantage / filtering in Veteran Motorist and Depala, Pilot Exemplar to help them keep up with Glimmer of Genius. As much as it pains me to say it as a lover of control, I wouldn't even consider playing a control deck in Standard for the next several weeks.

The Best of the Rest

  • We didn't see GW Tokens on camera once this weekend, and while it wasn't heavily played, it did put together a solid weekend, with one of the best conversion rates on day one and 36.4% of its players doing well enough to get their lists published on the Mothership. While the sample size is small, it may be worth considering moving forward. 
  • Another winner would be BR Aggro, which backed up a best overall day one performance by putting two of its nine players into the 24-point bracket. 
  • Grixis Improvise, which got a feature match during the very first round of the tournament, ended up being horrible. It only put two (of seven) players into day two—the worst percentage in the entire tournament—and didn't have a single player do well enough to get a list published. While it looks like a fun budget option for Aether Revolt Standard (at just a little over $100 in paper), the numbers suggest it isn't very good.
  • Despite making day two, our single Paradoxical Outcome player didn't end up doing well enough to get their list published. 

Three Under-the-Radar Decks

This is usually the part of the article where I post five of the spiciest lists from the event, but Pro Tour Aether Revolt is likely one of the least spicy Pro Tours of all time. While having the Top 8 be mostly known decks is one thing, at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, we didn't really see many new decks at all (with the most exciting being Grixis Improvise, which didn't end up having a great weekend). As such, I'm cutting the list down from five to three and expanding the definition of spicy from "wow, I've never seen this before" to "at least it didn't have Heart of Kiran or Winding Constrictor." 

It wasn't long ago that Temur Aetherworks was the enemy and one of the most hated decks in Standard, but since the banning of Emrakul, the Promised End, it hasn't really done much of anything. As such, one of the questions heading into the Pro Tour was if the pros could figure out a way to abuse Aetherworks Marvel, and if they could, what would replace Emrakul, the Promised End as the finisher of choice. Well, now we have an answer: the new build of Temur Aetherworks uses Ulamog, the Ceaseless Hunger and Kozilek, the Great Distortion as finishers and gets some added consistency from Whir of Invention tutoring up Aetherworks Marvel. All things told, six players started the tournament with the deck, and two ended up with six wins in constructed. 

If you're looking for an under-the-radar deck to fight against Mardu Vehicles, Sultai Delirium Control might be a good place to start. Only a single player brought the deck to Pro Tour Aether Revolt, and that player ended up going 8-2 in constructed. Unlike the other control decks that struggled, Sultai Delirium Control backs up its counters and removal with Ishkanah, Grafwidow to gum up the board, which seems like a great place to be if everyone is attacking with Heart of Kiran

Black-Red Zombies seems like it's always floating around at the second tier of the format, and while it only had a small presence at Pro Tour Aether Revolt, it did have a pretty good performance, putting three of its four players into day two, with one finishing with seven wins in constructed. There was a concern that the deck would be unplayable without Smuggler's Copter, and while the loss of the vehicle was a big hit, it seems like the deck can still be competitive, so if you are looking to take advantage of some graveyard and tribal synergies, this might be the deck for you!

Most Played Cards Overall

Top 25 Cards Overall
Card Total Copies Total Decks
Aether Hub 314 90
Fatal Push 295 88
Scrapheap Scrounger 249 64
Inspiring Vantage 217 58
Heart of Kiran 212 56
Gideon, Ally of Zendikar 204 54
Thraben Inspector 192 48
Unlicensed Disintegration 192 49
Toolcraft Exemplar 192 48
Concealed Courtyard 180 45
Spirebluff Canal 179 50
Walking Ballista 173 48
Spire of Industry 166 45
Blooming Marsh 164 41
Veteran Motorist 154 40
Winding Constrictor 152 38
Verdurous Gearhulk 135 41
Transgress the Mind 135 41
Hissing Quagmire 131 39
Shock 125 55
Rishkar, Peema Renegade 125 43
Harnessed Lightning 124 37
Tireless Tracker 118 42
Metallic Rebuke 109 33
Grasp of Darkness 104 32
Negate 100 35

This list is pretty much as expected, being almost exclusively cards from Mardu Vehicles and GB Constrictor / Delirium. Fatal Push had a breakout performance, showing up at an average of 3.35 copies in 74.6% of decks, which bodes well for the uncommon's ability to maintain at least some of its current value over the next month or two. Meanwhile, Scrapheap Scrounger appeared in over half of the top 118 decks and was almost always a four-of. Finally, perhaps the biggest revelation of the tournament: Heart of Kiran was a four-of in many decks (at an average of 3.78 copies), which is a bit surprising considering it's legendary, but as one player mentioned during an interview from the floor, if you have a copy, you are winning the game. Even if you have additional copies stuck in hand, it's worth having some slightly awkward draws—the vehicle is that powerful.

Top Cards—Aether Revolt

Top Cards—Aether Revolt
Card Total Copies Total Decks
Fatal Push 295 88
Heart of Kiran 212 56
Walking Ballista 173 48
Spire of Industry 166 45
Winding Constrictor 152 38
Shock 125 55
Rishkar, Peema Renegade 125 43
Metallic Rebuke 109 33
Negate 100 35
Aethersphere Harvester 83 43
Felidar Guardian 56 15
Glint-Sleeve Siphoner 55 14
Disallow 52 15
Lifecrafter's Bestiary 40 22
Greenbelt Rampager 38 10
Release the Gremlins 37 23
Rogue Refiner 28 7
Implement of Combustion 20 15
Natural Obsolescence 13 10
Baral's Expertise 10 6
Ajani Unyielding 10 6
Yahenni's Expertise 9 6
Heroic Intervention 9 8
Whir of Invention 8 2
Weldfast Engineer 8 2
Destructive Tampering 8 4
Kari Zev's Expertise 4 4
Inspiring Statuary 4 2
Renegade Map 4 1
Gifted Aetherborn 4 2
Aethergeode Miner 3 2
Leave in the Dust 3 2
Consulate Crackdown 2 2
Narnam Renegade 2 1
Shielded Aether Thief 1 1
Druid of the Cowl 1 1

The above list includes every Aether Revolt card to show up in the top 118 decks at Pro Tour Aether Revolt. Much like the overall winners, the top of the list is littered with cards from GB Constrictor / Delirium (like Walking Ballista and Winding Constrictor) and Mardu Vehicles (like Heart of Kiran and Shock). These numbers are pretty expected, so instead of rehashing the same decks we've been talking about all weekend, let's take a minute to look at the disappointments. Tezzeret the Schemer—the face card of Aether Revolt—didn't show up in a single deck. The same is true of Paradox Engine, and the "free" spell expertise cycle saw minimal play at best (mostly as one- or two-ofs in a handful of sideboards). 

To me, this is the story of Pro Tour Aether Revolt: while many of the new cards were extremely powerful, their power was almost exclusively harnessed by existing decks, while the new "build around me" cards fell flat. While it's possible that some of these cards break out in the future, the bar is pretty high because the most popular decks at Pro Tour Aether Revolt—Mardu Vehicles and GB Constrictor / Delirium—are extremely powerful. As such, simply finding a "good" Tezzeret the Schemer deck isn't enough; you need to find a "great" Tezzeret the Schemer deck to be able to compete with the other tier one decks, and I'm not sure a "great" Tezzeret deck exists at the moment. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What do you make of these numbers? What cards and deck surprised you at Pro Tour Aether Revolt? Is Mardu Vehicles beatable? Does the possibility of another banning in Standard still exist with the sub-par performance of the Copy Cat combo? What deck are you most looking forward to play? As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions in the comments, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive, and at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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