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The Metagame #1

Hello and welcome to The Metagame!  This article series is intended to break down the results of Daily Events to see what the metagame looks like, which decks are performing well, and to a small extent, give advice on safe financial investments.  I'm not a financial guru by any stretch of the imagination, so I do advise you take any financial information I give with a grain of salt.  However, before we go any further, I'd like to quickly introduce myself.

My name is Marcos Rodriguez and I've been playing since Innistrad, my first prerelease was the Dark Ascension prerelease and my first ever draft started with a Huntmaster of the Fells.   I've been writing for another website for about 1.5 years with the entire past year focusing on Draft/Sealed.  Currently I'm playing Abzan Midrange in Standard and preparing for my first Grand Prix ever in GP San Antonio.

While today will be mostly a talk about Standard, future articles will also include Modern and Legacy breakdowns in addition to Standard.


"The Boogeyman"

I believe any discussion about Standard has to start with Abzan Midrange.  It's a contender for best deck in the format, and it feels a lot like Jund from Modern and/or Shards of Alara Standard.  It has good cards along the curve, powerful plays, efficient removal, and it has solid game against every deck.  You can take the strategy and sit down against a random opponent and feel you have a shot to win the game.  It's also really customizable and lets you play around with the creature/planeswalker base and still have a strong deck.  There are lists with Rakshasa Deathdealer and Heir of the Wilds that ignore planeswalkers for the most part, and there are lists with Elspeth, Sun's Champion, Liliana Vess, Ajani, Mentor of Heroes, Sorin, Solemn Visitor, and Nissa, Worldwaker in the 75.  The deck is good, it's here to stay and you have to be prepared for it.

Just how popular is this deck?  And how diverse is this metagame?  Even though Abzan won the PT, there is still a lot of innovation taking place as people in real life try to find other strategies in this format.  Today we'll be looking at results from 5 Daily Events starting from 10/18-/10/22.  This comes out to ~200 decklists that should give us a good sample size to start out with.  I'll break down each individual DE then combine all the decklists so we can see the bigger picture.  The questions we'll be asking are:

  1. Is Abzan the best deck?
  2. What other decks are out there?
  3. Is the metagame diverse?
  4. What can we expect to see in a 4 round DE?

The Data


Analysis and Discussion

Before we begin discussing the data, there are a few things I need to address.  First of all, how did I get "Other"?  What exactly is "Other"?  During my research, I found 15+ archetypes that were represented in the DE's, but putting that many slots in a pie chart would be too difficult to read.  I also had to determine what made a certain archetype part of the metagame.  Do I base it on how often it showed up over the course of 5 events (would 1 showing per DE be enough?)  Do I base it on the number of 4-0s it has as oppossed to 3-1s?  I decided to make a deck part of the metagame of that particular DE if it showed up at least 5% of the time.  So in 40 lists per event, 3 entries would be enough to make it part of the metagame for that particular event.  5% was also the minimum to make it part of the overall metagame.  Why 5%?  I wanted to set the bar low enough that "Tier 1.5" decks would be included but still be high enough that a "Tier 2" deck would have to do more work to make it in.  I'm open to changing the minimum percentage, but for now we'll assume that 5% is good enough.  So what happens if a deck is not at least 5%?  I would put it in the "Other" category.  If a deck was part of the "Other" section in 1 event then showed up at 5% in the other 4, then that would be give us more information we could use.  Mostly the "Other" category simulates the "rogue" decks that would show up in any Standard tournament.  Not everybody plays Tier 1 strategies and there needs to be some way of compliling that information.

Let's look at the data now!

  1. Is Abzan the best deck?  It is the most popular color combination, but it is split into 2 camps: Abzan Aggro and Abzan Midrange.  Both show up at the same frequency, so it might not be fair to group them into 1 single title, but there are quite a few aggro decks that can side into a more midrangey shell so I'm more tempted to combine them than seperate them.  You can think of "Abzan" as 32% of the field with half of it being midrange and the other being aggro.
  2. What other decks are out there?  Jeskai Aggro, Mono Red, and Dimir Control are the next 3 decks in line after you get past Abzan.  I will note that I split GB (Golgari) Devotion and Green Devotion into 2 seperate archetypes with Green Devotion not meeting the 5% mark.  If you want to see Green Devotion in general, it's close to 10% of the metagame.  Even though Jeskai is the 2nd most popular deck, there is a huge drop off between Jeskai and Abzan.  My guess is that Jeskai is good, but it has a bad matchup with Abzan due to the amount of lifegain/removal the deck has.  It can be low to the ground and trade with Seeker of the Way and Goblin Rabblemaster then go over the top with Siege Rhino and Sorin, Solemn Visitor.  
  3. Is the metagame diverse?  I would say yes, but I could see arguments for the other side.  Abzan and Jeskai currently make up 50% of the metagame and that seems like an incredibly high number for just 2 decks.  If the numbers has played out a little bit better there could have been 3 more archetypes that cross 5%: Mardu Midranage (ala Brad Nelson), Boros Aggro (Jeskai Aggro w/o blue), and RG (Gruul) Monsters.  That would give us 9 decks as opposed to just 6 before we go into the "Other" category.  People are still trying other decks, there were copies of UW (Azorius) and Esper Control in the "Other" category that seem to have some potentional, but either aren't as popular as UB (Dimir) or not as strong.
  4. What can we expect to see in a 4 round DE?  I'd expect 1-2 Abzan decks, 1 Jeskai deck, 1 Mono Red/UB Control and 1 "Other".  The only guarantee I could make is that you're going to face Abzan and Jeskai and you should have sideboard slots dedicated to those matchups.


Abzan, whether it be aggro or midrange, is currently the most popular deck in the format.  That means that the deck is a safe investment right now if you want to play Standard competitively on Magic Online or in real life.  I don't see Abzan losing any staying power in Fate Reforged; the deck is a good stuff deck and will just play different good stuff if it needs to.  If I were to make any investment in a card or deck, I'd buy Abzan if I wanted to play Standard and I would buy Wingmate Roc now while KTK is drafted heavily.  The Roc is really good and I don't see it not seeing play once Theros rotates out, so I would suggest that purchase if you wanted to buy cheap now.

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns, please leave them in the comments section below.  I'd like to know what changes I should make to the way I present my information and what information you want to see moving forward.  I will talk about new decks as they pop up or cards I think you should be buying/playing in particular decks as I break down more future information.

Thank you for reading!

@MarcosPMA on Twitter, MarcosPMA on MTGO.

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