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Pro Tour Dominaria: By the Numbers


Pro Tour Dominaria is in the books. After three full days of battling in Dominaria Standard and Draft, we learned that Goblin Chainwhirler specifically (and red aggro decks in general) are really, really good. This is clear just by looking at the seven copies of red aggro in the Top 8 of the event. But what happens if we dig behind the numbers? Are there any sweet decks lurking just below the surface, or is the only story of the event the domination of red? Which Dominaria cards made their presence felt on Magic's biggest stage? What spice was there that just missed the Top 8? Let's break it down! If you haven't seen the decklists yet, be sure to check out the Pro Tour Dominaria tournament page.

Baseline Numbers

To judge the performance of specific decks, we need a baseline for the format. The following table shows how the entire field performed at Pro Tour Dominaria. These baseline numbers allow us to see how individual decks performed at various data points. If a deck posts numbers above the baseline, it did better than average, while numbers below the baseline means the deck performed worse than expected.

Baseline
Deck Day 1 Players Day 2 Players Conversion Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
Baseline 461 291 63.1% 141 30.5% 66 14.3% 20 5%

The Red Menace

The way Wizards broke down the red decks at Pro Tour Dominaria is a bit strange. As far as I can tell, RB Midrange means the deck does not have Bomat Courier, and many had no one-toughness creatures at all, in an effort to avoid getting blown out by Goblin Chainwhirler. Meanwhile, RB Aggro does play Bomat Courier (and perhaps more one-drops or other one-toughness creatures like Earthshaker Khenra), and Mono-Red Aggro, as its name suggests, is essentially the same as RB Aggro but without the small black splash. The confusing part is that we've had some lists headed as Mono-Red Aggro with black cards, and Reid Duke and Owen Turtenwald played the same list, but one was called RB Aggro while the other was RB Midrange. All this is to say that breaking down the numbers on the red decks at Pro Tour Dominaria is a bit of an inexact science because of the inconsistent labeling. 

 

 
Deck Day 1 Players Day 1 Meta % Day 2 Players Conversion Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
RB Aggro 65 14.1% 41 63.1% 24 36.9% 15 23% 7 10.7%

 

 
Deck Day One Players Day One Meta % Day Two Players Conversion Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
RB Midrange 57 12.4% 43 75.4% 21 36.8% 9 15.7% 5 8.7%

 
Deck Day 1 Players Day 1 Meta % Day 2 Players Conversion Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
Mono-Red Aggro 48 12.4% 48 79.2% 22 45.8% 12 25% 5 10.4%

It's hard to say a whole lot about the performance of various red aggro decks at Pro Tour Dominaria other than that they were somewhere between great and dominant. Across three somewhat different builds, the worst performance by any metric was RB Aggro's Day 1 to Day 2 conversion rate, which was exactly average. Otherwise, every build of Mono-Red and Red–Black Aggro / Midrange performed far above expectation by just about any possible metric. 

So, which deck had the best performance? It really depends on how you read the data. In some sense, RB Aggro was the clear winner, simply because it made up more than half of the Top 8, which means it will be the focus of the entire community for all of Sunday. And because Top 8 results carry way more weight than other metrics, it will likely be the build most FNM players pick up. On the other hand, RB Aggro actually had the worst Day 1 of any of the builds, and apart from putting so many players in the Top 8, its other numbers aren't meaningfully better than Mono-Red Aggro. Speaking of Mono-Red Aggro, apart from not getting as much camera time in the Top 8, it was actually better than RB Aggro at every data point, including high-end (8 wins or Top 8) finishes, so people who look beneath the Top 8 might actually find that it's the better of the red aggro builds. Finally, RB Midrange is likely the loser of the bunch, but even as a loser, it was a great deck at Pro Tour Dominaria, posting above expectations at every point on the curve. It just wasn't as much above expectations as the other builds.

The end result is that red-based aggro was absolutely dominant at Pro Tour Dominaria. All the flavors performed significantly above average, which is especially scary, since extremely popular decks tend to regress toward expectations thanks to the larger sample size and varied skill level of its players. Being the most played deck and also the best deck is a fairly rare occurrence—and one that doesn't bode well, if the goal is a diverse Standard format over the next couple of months heading toward Core 2019.

Other Heavily Played Decks

 
Deck Day 1 Players Day 1 Meta % Day 2 Players Conversion Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
Steel Leaf Stompy 40 8.7% 23 57.5% 10 25% 5 12.5% 2 5%

Steel Leaf Stompy, after being the fourth most played deck on Wizards' Day 1 metagame breakdown, ended up being fairly mediocre. While the deck wasn't horrific, it was consistently average to a bit below average at every data point, starting with one of the worst conversion rates from Day 1 to Day 2 among the 10 most played decks. The good news for the deck is that nearly 10% of the Pro Tour Dominaria field showed up with it, which is a pretty big vote of confidence all by itself. As such, even with the middling numbers and the lack of a Top 8 berth, it was a fairly good weekend for the archetype. It seems that the combination of Llanowar Elves, Steel Leaf Champion, and Ghalta, Primal Hunger is pretty good right now, and considering that most of the best pieces in the deck (outside of some random Vehicles) survive rotation, Steel Leaf Stompy is certainly a deck to keep an eye on for this fall after Kaladesh and Amonkhet blocks leave the Standard format.

 
Deck Day 1 Players Day 1 Meta % Day 2 Players Conversion Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
GB Constrictor 34 7.4% 23 67.6% 7 20.5% 2 5.8% 0 0%

Green-Black Constrictor had a weird weekend. It started off with an above-average performance on Day 1 but then apparently fizzled on Day 2, posting below-average marks at every data point and not managing to give a single player a high-end (eight wins or more) finish. While it's hard to say exactly what went wrong, it seems likely that Winding Constrictor was better suited to fighting the somewhat more open Day 1 metagame than to fight through the endless R/x aggro decks at the top tables on Day 2. 

It's also worth mentioning that, even though the deck only had a handful of players, Sultai Constrictor had a great Day 1 performance, putting 80% of its players into Day 2. However, not a single one of those players managed to hit the six-win mark to get their list published, which again suggests that Winding Constrictor in general struggled on Day 2 (or perhaps benefited from very strong limited performances from its players). The end result is that, after looking like a potential player on Day 1, looking at the final results from Pro Tour Dominaria, it seems like GB Constrictor will likely languish in the second tier of the format moving forward. 

Deck Day 1 Players Day 1 Meta % Day 2 Players Conversion Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
WB Benalia 29 6.3% 14 48.3% 7 24.1% 3 10.3% 1 3.4%

WB Benalia (or WB Vehicles, as it was called before the Pro Tour) had a pretty disappointing Pro Tour. After the first couple of weeks of Standard, this was one of the hottest decks in the format, but as Pro Tour Dominaria suggests, it has been almost completely passed over by the RB versions of the deck. WB Benalia was the single worst deck on Day 1 of Pro Tour Dominaria and unsurprisingly followed up this poor performance by posting lacking numbers across our Day 2 data points. After being one of the key cards in the early week of Dominaria Standard, History of Benalia seems to be on the downswing, at least for the time being. 

 
Deck Day 1 Players Day 1 Meta % Day 2 Players Conversion Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
UW Teferi 22 4.8% 13 59.1% 7 31.6% 1 4.5% 1 4.5%

Speaking of disappointments, heading into Pro Tour Dominaria, there was an expectation that UW Control decks featuring Teferi, Hero of Dominaria might dominate the format, and while Teferi himself looked good on camera a few times, UW Control generally fell flat at the Pro Tour. UW Teferi—the UW Control build with only Teferi as a finisher—posted below-average marks on Day 1 and followed this up by posting even worse numbers on Day 2, where it presumably had to fight against red aggro nearly every round. Traditionally, aggro decks with Vehicles and a strong sideboard for control are nightmare matchups for UW Control, so this probably isn't a huge surprise. While Teferi, Hero of Dominaria will still be a major part of Standard moving forward, any thoughts that he is broken and bannable seem a bit silly after his Pro Tour performance. 

 
Deck Day 1 Players Day 1 Meta % Day 2 Players Conversion Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
Esper Control 20 4.3% 15 75% 8 4% 4 20% 2 10%

Wrapping up our most heavily played decks is Esper Control, probably better known as the good control deck at Pro Tour Dominaria. While straight UW Control struggled, splashing black for more removal and The Scarab God seemed to be the best way to build around Teferi, Hero of Dominaria at the moment. Esper Control posted strong numbers at every point, from a great 75% conversion rate on Day 1 to giving 10% of its players at least eight wins (or a Top 8 berth) in constructed. While the deck didn't look great on camera against RB Aggro during the Top 8, it seems like it must have at least some chance of beating the deck based on the rest of the numbers. If you are looking for a control deck to play over the next few weeks, based on the Pro Tour Dominaria numbers, Esper is a good starting point.

Sweetest Under-the-Radar Decks

While Pro Tour Dominaria wasn't one of the spiciest or most innovative Pro Tours we've had in recent memory, if we dig deep down through the published lists, there are a few interesting decks to be found. Here are the sweetest decks that managed at least six wins at Pro Tour Dominaria.

While we've seen plenty of God-Pharaoh's Gift decks in the past, having Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar as a finisher is a pretty sweet plan. The way Multani is worded, it's not only a 4/4 when it comes back into play from God-Pharaoh's Gift, but it still gets +1/+1 for all the lands you have on the battlefield and graveyard, and in a deck based on milling itself, this often ends up making Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar 10 or even 20 power!

Speaking of expensive Dominaria mythics, we have a Muldrotha, the Gravetide appearance! While Sultai Midrange isn't all that crazy—basically a midrange, creature-heavy, value-filled deck—having a couple of Muldrotha, the Gravetide to finish off the game makes the deck super interesting. If you are looking to value your way through Standard with the help of your graveyard, keep this one in mind moving forward!

GB Ramp isn't a brand new deck—it has been flowing in the second or third tier of the format for a while now—but it does look super fun. Carnage Tyrant helps the deck fight against control, and there are endless planeswalkers to close out the game and even some incidental lifegain in Gift of Paradise and Vraska's Contempt to stabilize against aggro. If you like going big and slamming planeswalker after planeswalker, this is probably the Pro Tour Dominaria deck for you!

LSV talked about how ChannelFireball wanted to build the best Karn deck possible and ended up with their (less than successful) UG Karn build. Well, one player seemed to embrace the power of Karn and Servo tokens and found a reasonable amount of success with BW Tokens! While flooding the board with x/1s might seem like a risky choice in a field heavy on Goblin Chainwhirler, Benalish Marshal helps to make Goblin Chainwhirler less problematic, and the ability to flood the board with artifacts makes the 2 ability on Karn, Scion of Urza especially devastating in the deck. If you like going wide and making huge Constructs, keep WB Tokens in mind!

While we saw a fairly good performance (at least on Day 1) from GB Constrictor, we had another +1/+1 counter deck put up a strong showing at Pro Tour Dominaria in UG Counters. The deck is basically an all-in Hadana's Climb deck, looking to get a creature with three counters as quickly as possible and then smash the opponent to death in just an attack or two with one massive flying threat. The end result is basically a hybrid of a midrange-ish aggro deck and a combo build. If you've been looking for a non-Winding Constrictor way to abuse +1/+1 counters in Standard, this is a great place to start!

Most Played Cards Overall

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Card Total Copies Total Decks
Goblin Chainwhirler 268 67
Abrade 260 68
Duress 257 82
Scrapheap Scrounger 235 60
Dragonskull Summit 200 50
Bomat Courier 199 50
Glorybringer 193 67
Chandra, Torch of Defiance 191 66
Aether Hub 187 71
Canyon Slough 187 50
Rekindling Phoenix 174 60
Soul-Scar Mage 170 54
Heart of Kiran 153 51
Walking Ballista 151 57
Fatal Push 148 43
Hazoret the Fervent 139 45
Vraska's Contempt 132 43
Chandra's Defeat 129 66
Karn, Scion of Urza 128 47
Unlicensed Disintegration 126 45
Negate 124 45
Doomfall 115 64
Kari Zev, Skyship Raider 109 48
Magma Spray 106 49
Llanowar Elves 104 26
  • Unsurprisingly, our most played card list reads like a who's who of red aggro in our current Standard format. In fact, every single one of the top 20 cards is part of the RB aggro deck. 
  • The numbers on Goblin Chainwhirler are pretty scary. The Dominaria rare started off Day 1 in about 35% of decks. In our sample of decks that managed at least six match wins in constructed, it was in 47.5% of decks, and as a four-of every single time. It was also a four-of in seven of the eight decks that managed to Top 8 (87.5%). 
  • Otherwise, there isn't much to say. The fact that red decks were so dominant and so heavily played really skews the most played numbers, so let's look at the most played cards from Dominaria instead.

Most Played Dominaria Cards

$ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00 $ 0.00

Card Total Copies Total Decks
Goblin Chainwhirler 268 67
Karn, Scion of Urza 128 47
Llanowar Elves 104 26
Teferi, Hero of Dominaria 89 27
History of Benalia 85 23
Cast Down 79 32
Knight of Malice 73 21
Isolated Chapel 67 21
Fight with Fire 63 23
Syncopate 61 25
Woodland Cemetery 56 14
Seal Away 56 17
Lyra Dawnbringer 42 22
Steel Leaf Champion 40 10
Adventurous Impulse 33 12
Blink of an Eye 33 16
Hinterland Harbor 28 9
Knight of Grace 25 9
The Eldest Reborn 25 21
Memorial to Genius 20 13
Territorial Allosaurus 12 4
Invoke the Divine 11 8
Siege-Gang Commander 9 5
Josu Vess, Lich Knight 5 2
Meandering River 5 3
  • Discounting the dominance of Goblin Chainwhirler, the most played Dominaria cards at Pro Tour Dominaria look mostly as expected, with Karn, Scion of Urza, Llanowar Elves, Teferi, Hero of Dominaria, and History of Benalia rounding out the top five. These cards were the most played Dominaria cards heading into the event, so seeing them atop our list isn't really surprising. 
  • Seeing The Eldest Reborn show up in 21 decks (15%) is pretty interesting. While the Saga is typically a one-of in the sideboard, it might be in for more play moving forward.
  • Speaking of sideboards, Fight with Fire and Knight of Malice are also hot sideboard tech. Knight of Malice is a great blocker against all of the red aggro decks, while Fight with Fire gives red aggro a clean answer to Lyra Dawnbringer, which is a great way for control decks to fight against various aggro builds.
  • Steel Leaf Champion pretty much just shows up in Steel Leaf Stompy. While the deck didn't have a horrible weekend, it will probably be much better after rotation this fall.
  • Cast Down seeing more play than Seal Away is surprising at first glance, but it's more about how many red-black decks are in our sample than the objective power level of the cards themselves.

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What was your impression of Pro Tour Dominaria? Where does the Standard format head moving forward? Is Goblin Chainwhirler a problem, or can the metagame somehow adjust to the card's power? Let me know in the comments! As always, leave your thoughts, ideas, opinions, and suggestions, and you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.

 


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