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Pro Tour Ixalan: By the Numbers


Pro Tour Ixalan is in the books, which means it's time to break down the tournament by the numbers! Which decks and cards performed on Magic's biggest stage, and which decks and cards fell flat? That's what we'll be trying to figure out today! After discussing the performance of the most played decks, we'll have some quick hitters on other decks and some of the sweetest under-the-radar deck lists from Pro Tour Ixalan, before wrapping things up by breaking down the most played individual cards at the event! We've got a lot to cover, so let's get to it and talk about the most played decks at Pro Tour Ixalan!

The Big Five

At Pro Tour Ixalan, a total of five decks started day one with at least 20 players (equivalent to 4.4% of the field)—Temur Energy, Ramunap Red, Sultai Energy, RB Aggro, and Mardu Vehicles—so let's start our breakdown by discussing these decks. While we'll talk about some of the lesser played decks as well, it typically doesn't make sense to crunch the numbers too hard for decks with only a handful of players, since the sample size is too small for it to really be meaningful. 

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Before jumping into the decks, it's worth noting that while Temur Energy and Four-Color Energy are listed as different decks on Wizards' website, we'll be talking about them together because they are essentially the same. The only real difference between Temur Energy and Four-Color Energy is one deck plays a couple of The Scarab Gods and Vraska, Relic Seekers, while the other plays Essence Scatter and Confiscation Coup to stop and steal opposing copies of The Scarab God. Thinking of them as different decks when they are usually about four cards different from each other would be silly. It would be like trying to separate out the build of Temur Energy that played Skysovereign, Consul Flagship instead of Glorybringer from the rest of Temur Energy. When these tiny differences matter when it comes to gameplay, for the sake of analyzing results, it does more harm than good by driving down sample sizes and making the data less reliable. 

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 Ixalan. 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 mean the deck performed worse than expected.

Baseline
Deck Day One Players Day Two Players Conversation Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
Baseline 455 287 63.1% 118 25.9% 60 13.2% 20 4.4%

 
Deck Day One Players Day One Meta% Day Two Players Conversation Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
Temur / 4C Energy 196 43.2% 123 62.7% 50 25.5% 20 14.7% 10 6.1%

Temur / 4C Energy is the ultimate good news / bad news situation. Let's start with the bad news: Temur Energy made up 43.2% of the day-one metagame at Pro Tour Ixalan, which is off-the-charts high. If you look back at past decks, peak Collected Company in the month or two before rotation just barely touched 40%, and Aetherworks Marvel was in the low 40s when it was finally banned. So if you simply look at Temur Energy in terms of how many people are playing the deck, it's somewhere between incredibly dominant and ban-worthy. However, if you dig into the numbers, there is some good news.

Temur Energy has relatively average numbers at every data point. It was a touch below average at converting players from day one to day two and at giving players 18+ point finishes, while being a touch above at giving players high-end (21+ point) finishes. Overall, nothing good or bad jumps off the chart. Basically, Temur Energy performed almost exactly as expected at every point on the curve, culminating with putting three players into the Top 8. 

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This leaves us with a really interesting question moving forward: how much is too much? Temur Energy isn't a broken deck like Aetherworks Marvel or Copy Cat. It's not ending the game on Turn 4. It's just being played by an incredibly large number of players. Is Temur Energy fine for Standard because it's not broken? Is it worthy of ban consideration because it's so heavily played? Unfortunately, the numbers can't give us an answer in this situation. If Temur Energy were 43% of the field and dominant by the numbers, it would be easy to call it ban-worthy. On the other hand, if Temur Energy were 43% of the field but posted a horrible record by the numbers, it would be easy to feel like the problem would fix itself moving forward because the pros had figured out a way to beat the deck. Instead, we are left in this weird purgatory of an average-performing deck with an absurdly high metagame share, and I'm not sure what this means for Standard moving forward.

 
Deck Day One Players Day One Meta % Day Two Players Conversation Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
Ramunap Red 89 19.6% 63 70.8% 22 24.7% 11 12.3% 4 4.5%

Ramunap Red was the second most played deck on day one and posted results that were actually very similar to Temur Energy's. While it had a solid conversion rate (coming in about 8% above expectations), it actually posted average to slightly-below-average numbers at all of the day-two data points. While none of the numbers suggest Ramunap Red had a bad weekend at Pro Tour Ixalan, the fact that it followed up a strong day one with a lackluster day two is a bit concerning.

When you combine the performance of Temur Energy and Ramunap Red, Standard coming out of Pro Tour Ixalan will look a lot like Standard coming into the event. The two best decks heading into the event were by far the most played decks at the event, which means all of the pros had to build with beating these decks in mind. While being the focal point of the format was enough to keep both Temur Energy and Ramunap Red from posting great performances, it's hard to not consider them winners for their on-par performances, based mostly on their resilience. The fact that everyone knew these two decks were the ones to beat and both still performed up to expectations speaks to the strength of both decks. Expect to continue to see a ton of Temur Energy and Ramunap Red moving forward on Magic Online, at your local game store, or at the Grand Prix level.

 
Deck Day One Players Day One Meta % Day Two Players Conversation Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
Sultai Energy 23 5.1 17 73.9% 16 69.6% 10 43.5% 3 13%

While it's worth pointing out that there was a huge gap in play levels between our first two decks and our next three (which means we're dealing with smaller and less reliable sample sizes from here on out), Sultai Energy was the best of the five most played decks at Pro Tour Ixalan. While it might seem strange to consider a deck that's basically an updated version of the old GB Snek decks the "breakout" deck of the Pro Tour, there wasn't much hype about Sultai Energy heading into the event, and it managed to absolutely crush the field. 

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The most shocking number for Sultai Energy is 69.6% of its players getting 18 or more points in constructed. If you zoom back to our baseline chart, you'll see that the field-wide average was just a touch over 25%. In fact, Sultai Energy was better at giving its players 18 or more points in Standard than most decks were at converting players from day one to day two. Even more impressive is the 21+ point number: 43.5% of Sultai Energy players got at least seven wins in Standard, while only 13.2% of the field as a whole managed this many wins. As I mentioned before, the numbers are somewhat complicated by the small sample size problem, but they are also off the charts. As such, Sultai Energy is by far the biggest winner at Pro Tour Ixalan and should be in for a huge bump in play moving forward as people look for ways to keep up with Temur Energy and Ramunap Red.

 
Deck Day One Players Day One Meta % Day Two Players Conversation Rate 18+ Players 18+% 21+ Players 21+% 24+ Players 24+%
RB Aggro 20 4.4% 13 65% 3 15% 0 0% 0

0%

Heading into the Pro Tour, there was some talk that RB Aggro might unseat Ramunap Red as the premier aggro deck in Standard, thanks to the power of the black one-drops available in Standard. Things looked okay on day one, with RB Aggro converting a slightly-above-average 65% of its players, but then the wheels fell off on day two. Only three players on the deck managed to get at least 18 points in Standard, putting the deck at more than 10% worse than average, and then followed that up by not giving a single player seven or more wins in constructed, which is abysmal for a deck that was the fourth most played on day one. Take all of the good things we were saying about Sultai Energy a moment ago, and the opposite is true of RB Aggro. It was the worst of the big five decks at Pro Tour Ixalan by a mile, and when you combine its performance with the equally dismal performance of Mono-Black Aggro, it seems likely that people will give up on the black one-drop plan and stick with Ramunap Red as their aggro deck of choice moving forward. At risk of being hyperbolic, it's likely that RB Aggro is just straight-up dead based on this performance.

Notes on Other Decks

Maybe one of the most interesting aspects of Pro Tour Ixalan is just how few other decks were able to keep up with the big five. Of the 118 decks that got at least six wins in Standard (the minimum number required to get your deck list published on Wizards' website), only 25 were non-big five decks. While all of these decks suffer from small sample sizes, let's take a minute to talk about some of them.

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  • UB Control: UB Control started off as the sixth most played deck at Pro Tour Ixalan but posted the worst conversion rate in the field. While a handful of players managed to sneak out six wins with the deck, it was clearly one of the losers for the weekend and will likely take a back seat to UWx Approach in the control rankings moving forward. 
  • God-Pharaoh's Gift: Three Gift decks showed up at the Pro Tour: UW, Esper, and UB. If we combine all of these decks together, they had a total of 22 players, which would make the archetype about as popular as Mardu Vehicles or Sultai Energy. While God-Pharaoh's Gift did manage to get one player into the Top 8, the overall performance was pretty lacking, with just four Gift players getting at least six wins in constructed. This being said, one specific build of God-Pharaoh's Gift did perform well (giving two of its three players a winning record)—UB Gift—but we'll talk more about this deck in a minute.
  • Tokens: Tokens was pretty scattered at Pro Tour Ixalan, with five different builds showing up. Abzan and Esper were the most popular, and if we throw all the decks together, Tokens had 19 players. Four Tokens players managed winning records: three Abzan and one straight WB. While the sample size is super small, it seems that Abzan will likely remain the default build moving forward, and it actually had a fairly good weekend, with three of its seven players finishing with at least six wins in Standard.
  • Mono-White Vampires: Entering Pro Tour Ixalan with just five players, Mono-White Vampires was one of the few new decks to show up at the event, and it actually had a pretty good weekend. All of its players made day two, and 40% finished with at least six wins in Standard. While the small sample size makes it hard to make any definite statements about the deck, rumor has it that it can compete with both Ramunap Red and Temur Energy, which, combined with a solid performance by the numbers, means it's likely at least worth testing moving forward.
  • Pummeler: The only other archetype to have at least two players end up with 18 or more points was Electrostatic Pummeler. Just four players brought the deck to the tournament, and two ended up with winning records, one playing Temur Pummeler and one with Sultai Pummeler. While giving 50% of your players a winning record is great, it's hard to account for variance and the small sample size with just four players, but keep the energy combo deck in mind if you're looking for something very under-the-radar to try.

Five Coolest Under-the-Radar Lists

While Pro Tour Ixalan is one of the least spicy Pro Tours in recent memory, in part because it happened so late in the Standard season, a handful of sweet rogue builds had some success. Here's  my five favorite under-the-radar lists that managed at least six wins in the constructed part of the event.

Blue-White Cycling is going deep. We've seen Drake Haven decks before, but this one goes a step further with Abandoned Sarcophagus allowing us to play all of our cards from the graveyard after we cycle them to make a 2/2 Drake. They mentioned a few times on coverage that Abrade is on the downswing, so if there were every a good time to go all-in on Abandoned Sarcophagus, it might be now!

GW Aggro looks a bit janky, featuring a ton of creatures that don't typically show up in Standard, but apparently it works, considering Willy Edel said that his team posted a combined 60% win percentage with the deck. There's no real combo or synergy here; you just play a bunch of aggressive value creatures, many of which can come back from the graveyard with embalm or eternalize. It's also only $126 in paper, so if you're looking for a sweet new (almost) budget option, this might be the deck for you!

Out of all the God-Pharaoh's Gift decks to show up at Pro Tour Ixalan, the UB build performed the best, with two of its three players ending up with winning records. My favorite part of the deck is that it has a legitimate backup plan, basically being The Pirate God deck we played a while ago for Much Abrew but with a God-Pharaoh's Gift package worked in. If your opponent can disrupt God-Pharaoh's Gift itself, you can simply play The Scarab God, Hostage Taker, and other powerful UB threats like a weird UB Midrange deck, giving UB Gift a much better backup plan than most God-Pharaoh's Gift decks.

While Mono-Black Aggro didn't have a great tournament overall, one deck did manage to go 7-3 in constructed. The deck is pretty simple: all of the best black one- and two-drops, a bit of removal, and a game plan of attacking early and often. Plus, like GW Aggro, it's just outside of the budget range, so keep Mono-Black Aggro in mind if you want something aggressive and cheap to take to your next FNM.

Last but not least, we have the breakout deck of Pro Tour Ixalan: Mono-White Vampires! While I'm still not sure how the pile of somewhat synergistic cards wins games, apparently it does, and it might be one of the best options if you're looking for a rogue deck that can compete with Temur Energy and Ramunap Red, since it apparently has a decent matchup against both of the big decks in the format.

Most Played Cards

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Pro Tour Ixalan—Top 25 Cards
Card Total Copies Total Decks
Aether Hub 306 78
Botanical Sanctum 272 68
Attune with Aether 272 68
Rogue Refiner 267 68
Negate 246 84
Longtusk Cub 241 61
Harnessed Lightning 231 58
Servant of the Conduit 224 56
Whirler Virtuoso 220 57
Abrade 206 81
Glorybringer 174 64
Bristling Hydra 173 56
Chandra, Torch of Defiance 165 72
Rootbound Crag 155 53
Spirebluff Canal 155 53
Magma Spray 140 65
Fatal Push 133 35
Chandra's Defeat 110 63
Duress 109 36
The Scarab God 109 49
Hazoret the Fervent 107 28
Bomat Courier 104 27
Rampaging Ferocidon 102 28
Confiscation Coup 102 54
Lightning Strike 96 25

Not much to say about the most played cards at Pro Tour Ixalan—the top 20 basically form a Temur Energy deck, complete with sideboard, and then near the bottom of our list are a few Ramunap Red cards thrown in for good measure. For reference, the maximum possible number of copies a card could have would be 472 (a four-of in every deck), which means the top six cards on the list are the equivalent of four-ofs in more than half of the decks that posted a winning record at Pro Tour Ixalan.  

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Pro Tour Ixalan—25 Most Played Ixalan Cards
Card Total Copies Total Decks
Rootbound Crag 155 53
Duress 109 36
Rampaging Ferocidon 102 28
Lightning Strike 96 25
Vraska's Contempt 67 26
Deathgorge Scavenger 65 34
Vraska, Relic Seeker 54 28
Drowned Catacomb 46 16
Search for Azcanta 41 15
Hostage Taker 35 11
Spell Pierce 33 24
Glacial Fortress 28 7
River's Rebuke 27 19
Dragonskull Summit 24 10
Slice in Twain 23 14
Legion's Landing 21 6
Opt 21 7
Field of Ruin 19 10
Settle the Wreckage 18 7
Ixalan's Binding 15 7
Adanto Vanguard 12 3
Legion Conquistador 8 2
Deadeye Tracker 8 3
Treasure Map 8 3
Kitesail Freebooter 8 2

While the lands and a handful of lower-rarity utility cards from Ixalan showed up, for the most part, Ixalan itself was missing from its namesake Pro Tour. Apart from the general lack of play, probably the biggest takeaway is the rise of Rampaging Ferocidon, which is a great answer to token decks and quickly becoming a staple for Ramunap Red. Otherwise, Vraska, Relic Seeker is the chase mythic of the set (and actually the only Ixalan mythic to show up on our list), while Hostage Taker and Search for Azcanta are still seeing a bit of play, along with Deathgorge Scavenger and Vraska's Contempt. Hopefully, Rivals of Ixalan will bring some reinforcement and give some of the cards from Ixalan a chance to shine in Standard, because as of right now, things are looking pretty bleak for the set in terms of seeing competitive play. 

Conclusion

Anyway, that's all for today. What stands out to you in these numbers? Where are you on the Temur Energy problem? Is having one deck be more than 40% of the metagame okay, as long as that deck isn't unfair and winning on Turn 4? Which of the under-the-radar decks are you most excited to pick up? Any other observations that I missed? Let me know in the comments, and as always, you can reach me on Twitter @SaffronOlive or at SaffronOlive@MTGGoldfish.com.


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