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Week One: Fate Reforged By the Numbers

The first week of a new Standard format is always an exciting time. Players are testing fresh cards, and in some cases whole new decks. All the theories, reviews, and arguments of spoiler season are suddenly thrown out the window, and we actually get to see the cards in action. As a result, we start to develop a sense of what is underrated and what is overrated, along with our hits and misses. This matters not only for players, but financiers as well. 

At the same time, week one results are not always predictive of the future. For instance, the weekend after Khans of Tarkir released there were two SCG opens, Indianapolis and New Jersey. The two most played KTK cards were the green fetchlands Wooded Foothills and Windswept Heath. The five most played non-land cards were Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker, Siege Rhino, Mantis Rider, Jeskai Charm, and Rattleclaw Mystic. In the months since, some things have stayed the same (Windswept Heath is still the most-played fetch and Siege Rhino is the most played creature) while other have changed (Mantis Rider has fallen off the face of the earth and Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker has been relegated to a one-of and sideboard play). 

So we need to take week one data with a grain of salt. At the same time, since the upcoming pro tour is Modern, analyzing SCG events (and to a lesser extent, the split-format Sunday Super Series) is pretty much the only way to get an understanding of the new cards and the evolving format. StarCityGames did all of us a favor and, instead of just publishing a top eight or 16, they published the Top 64 decklists of SCG Washington DC which means we have a ton of data to dig through. 

Another awesome piece of data from SCG Washington DC is the day two metagame breakdown. With this we can look behind the top 64 decks and get a sense of how some of the most played deck performed on Sunday. The way the open series works these days is that they look at the record of the player in 64th place at the end of day one and everyone with the same record as that player makes day two. In D.C. this equaled 116 players at X-3 and better. So keep this in mind as we are discussing individual decks and cards.

Abzan Aggro

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Deck Top 8 Top 32 Top 64 # in Day 2 T8% T32% T64% 65-116%
Abzan Aggro 2 3 4 13 15.4 23.1 30.8 69.2


I was all ready to write about how Abzan Aggro was one of the big winners from week one, seeing that it was the only deck that put two players in the top eight. Then I dug behind the number a bit and realized I was being biased, probably because one of the top eight builds was running four Warden of the First Tree, a card I've been behind from the beginning. Either that or Andy "I don't care if you have an active Ugin, the Spirit Dragon and Garruk, Apex Predator against my empty board, I ain't scooping" Boswell's intoxicating never say die attitude.

On a more serious note, Abzan Aggro was the second most played deck on day two with 13 copies. With this in mind, only having four decks in the top 64 has to be seen as a failure. This mean nine of the 51 decks that performed poorly on day two were Abzan Aggro. Ouch. This suggests that the deck feasted on a presumably wide-open day one meta, but when it had to deal with other good decks and good players, it wasn't up to the challenge. 

Fate Reforged Cards in Abzan Aggro (4 decks): Valorous Stance x6, Warden of the First Tree x4,  Tasigur, the Golden Fang x2. Sideboard: Tasigur, the Golden Fang x2, Merciless Executioner x1. 


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Deck Top 8 Top 32 Top 64 # in Day 2 T8% T32% T64% 65-116%
Sultai 2 3 6 8 25 37.5 75 25


Now, to be fair, the Sultai group includes five different builds. Out of the eight total Sultai decks, four were reanimator, and there other four were one-of control/ramp/devotion based builds. Considering it was two of these odd-balls that made the top eight, listing them individually would skew the numbers in favor of two of the best players in the room: Ali Aintrazi, who has been one of my favorite deck builders for a while not, and Gerard Fabiano, who has a strong argument for being the best players in the world over the past four months (and is the undisputed king of BUG decks in all formats). 

Unlike Abzan Aggro, Sultai of all flavors thrived in day two, with only two BUG decks missing the top 64, including one that was Mono-Green Devotion splashing UG for Villainous Wealth, which I almost didn't include under the Sultai stats, simply because it was Mono-Green Devotion splashing Villainous Wealth Actually, maybe I shouldn't have counted it at all, as a service to the community. While playing EDH-only cards in Standard might be fun, come on guys. It's Villainous-freaking-Wealth. Either way, week one suggests that Sultai is one of the strongest color combinations in the format, while calling into question whether the hold-over Whip of Erebos version is even the best build of the deck. When two similar one-of decks top eight the same event, it's time to take notice, and the future of BUG maybe be more controlling and Ugin-filled. 

Fate Reforged Cards in Sultai: Tasigur, the Golden Fang x9, Crux of Fate x5,  Ugin, the Spirit Dragon x4,  Frontier Siege x3,  Torrent Elemental x3  Sideboard: Monastery Siege x4, Tasigur, the Golden Fang x3,  Silumgar, the Drifting Death x2, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon x1, Torrent Elemental x1, Shamanic Revelation x1. 

R/W Aggro (non-Heroic)

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Deck Top 8 Top 32 Top 64 # in Day 2 T8% T32% T64% 65-116%
R/W Aggro 1 3 6 14 7.1 21.4 42.6 57.1


R/W Aggro was the most played deck on day two, with 14 different players being X-3 or better after day one. While not quite as bad as Abzan Aggro, R/W Aggro fared somewhere between poor and average on day two, with more players missing the top 64 than making it. It is worth noting that the the only R/W Aggro deck to top eight was also the only one in the top 64 running a full set of Monastery Mentors and Goblin Rabblemasters. While correlation is not causation, I would expect more players to head towards this configuration of R/W at future events. 

It's difficult to know how many of these card choices were influenced by availability issues, but several of the decks were running Soulfire Grand Master, so I assume if you can get Soulfire Grand Masters, you could probably get Monastery Mentors as well. If we throw out the one deck that was basically a pre-Fate Reforged build (it ran one Valorous Stance in the sideboard), here are the average number of the staple creatures of RW Aggro: 4 Goblin Rabblemaster, 3.6 Seeker of the Way, 2 Monastery Mentor, 1 Soulfire Grand Master

Fate Reforged Cards in R/W Aggro: Monastery Mentor x10, Valorous Stance x7, Outpost Siege x6, Wild Slash x6,  Soulfire Grand Master x5,  Collateral Damage x2. Sideboard: Valorous Stance x6, Mastery of the Unseen x4, Wild Slash x1, Soulfire Grand Master x1.

Jeskai Tokens

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Deck Top 8 Top 32 Top 64 # in Day 2 T8% T32% T64% 65-116%
Jeskai Tokens 0 2 9 13 0.0 15.4 69.2 30.8


Jeskai Tokens did a great job at putting players into the top 64, but a poor job of hitting the top 32 or higher. Tom Ross (unsurprisingly) posted the best finish, losing his win-and-in for top eight. At the same time, the deck was played by some fairly well known names of the SCG series, with Jarvis Yu and Dylan Donegan joining Tom Ross in the money. As such, I'm not completely sure if these players were winning because of the deck, or in spite of it. I mean, at this point I'll take Tom Ross in the dark to at least top 32 with any aggro deck. His particular build deserves to be highlighted, not only because all of the creatures in his deck are from Fate Reforged, but because it's pretty much a mash-up of the most broken UWR cards in Standard, regardless of how out of place they might look.

Fate Reforged Cards in Jeskai Tokens: Monastery Mentor x26, Wild Slash x21, Soulfire Grand Master x14, Valorous Stance x12, Humble Defector x2. Sideboard: Valorous Stance x11, Monastery Siege x3, Monastery Siege x1, Mastery of the Unseen x1. 

Mardu Midrange

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Deck Top 8 Top 32 Top 64 # in Day 2 T8% T32% T64% 65-116%
Mardu Midrange 0 1 6 9 0.0 11.1 66.6 33.3


The numbers on Mardu Midrange look a lot like Jeskai Tokens. No big finishes, very few top 32s, but a bunch of players in the money. I've been saying for a while now that I thought Jeskai would head towards Monastery Mentor while Mardu would stick with Goblin Rabblemaster and this is exactly what happened, at least for week one. Not a single Mardu deck played Monastery Mentor, while every single one was still heavily invested in the Goblin Rabblemaster.

The Mardu data is especially interesting for two reasons. First, Soulfire Grand Master was widely adapted as a three-or-four of in the strategy. While I've been a huge supporter of Soulfire Grand Master since it was spoiled, I didn't expect it to be so heavily played in Mardu in week one. Second, apart from Soulfire Grand Master, the deck is basically unchanged by Fate Reforged except for one dashing gem in Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury.

Fate Refogred Cards in Mardu Midrange: Soulfire Grand Master x10, Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury x2. Sideboard: Valorous Stance x2. 

Abzan Midrange

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Deck Top 8 Top 32 Top 64 # in Day 2 T8% T32% T64% 65-116%
Abzan Midrange 1 5 7 8 12.5 62.5 87.5 12.5


While Abzan Midrange only put one deck in the top eight, it was pretty clearly the best deck on day two. More than half of the players on the deck reached the top 32, and considering these players finished 7, 12, 15, 19, 20 , many of these players were probably playing win-and-ins in rounds 14 or 15. This means we were pretty close to having a top eight that was half Abzan Midrange, instead of the diversity we ended up with. The more things change, the more they stay the same, or so they say.

Fate Reforged in Abzan Midrange: Tasigur, the Golden Fang x6, Whisperwood Elemental x3, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon x3. Sideboard: Tasigur, the Golden Fang x2, Valorous Stance x1. 

Jeskai Aggro

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Deck Top 8 Top 32 Top 64 # in Day 2 T8% T32% T64% 65-116%
Jeskai Aggro 1 3 4 7 14.3 42.9 57.1 42.9


I almost lumped Jeskai Aggro in with Jeskai Token, but I think the decks are different enough to list individually (the token build are far less likely to be playing things like Dig Through Time and Treasure Cruise). Overall a reasonable performance, getting 42.9 percent into the top 32. I'm not sure it's correct to label this an aggro deck. To me, these builds are to Jeskai Token what Mardu Midrange is to Mardu Tokens, and while this really doesn't matter, if you don't bother looking up the list you should know it's casting a lot more four and five drops than you would expect with the aggro label. 

Fate Reforged Cards in Jeskai Aggro: Wild Slash x13, Valorous Stance x6, Soulfire Grand Master x5, Abzan Advantage x3, Shaman of the Great Hunt x2. Sideboard: Wild Slash x2, Collateral Damage x2, Abzan Advantage x1. 

GB Constellation

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Deck Top 8 Top 32 Top 64 # in Day 2 T8% T32% T64% 65-116%
GB Constellation 0 1 2 6 0.0 16.7 33.3 66.7


GB Constellation was the most hyped deck at SCGDC, but by the numbers, also the most disappointing. While the numbers are bad on their face, with two-thirds of the players making day two finishing out of the top 64, this ratio is especially disturbing when you consider pretty much all of the best players at the tournament were on the deck. When Brad Nelson, Reid Duke, Todd Anderson and friends can't win with a deck, it's a pretty safe deck that you and I can't either. This said, Frontier Siege still has some appeal, although the the price has already more than doubled in the last two days

Fate Reforged Cards in GB Constelation: Frontier Siege x6, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon x4

Heroic (UW and WR):

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Deck Top 8 Top 32 Top 64 # in Day 2 T8% T32% T64% 65-116%
UW Heroic / RW Heroic 1 3 4 6 16.7 50 66.7 33.3


Both colors of Heroic performed well by the numbers, with half of the six players on the archetype making the top 32. Apart from the general lack of impact from Fate Reforged, probably the biggest surprise for me was that none of the Heroic decks gave Monastery Mentor a sniff, even though it seemed like an auto-include in the deck. All four players built their decks for maximum speed, so maybe a three drop that doesn't impact the board immediately just isn't swift enough?

Fate Reforged Cards in Heroic: Temur Battle Rage x7, Valorous Stance x2, Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest x1 Sideboard: Valorous Stance x2, Citadel Siege x1.

The Rest:

The following graph shows decks that had four or less players make day two, but were represented in the top 64:

Miscellaneous Decks

  • U/B Control had four players make day two and all finished in the top 64. As expected, the number of Perilous Vaults was way down, to an average of 1.5 per deck, while the number of Crux of Fates in the 75 averaged 3.5. 
  • Jim Davis's U/W Control deck was running three Soulfire Grand Masters in the sideboard, presumably for non-midrange matchups. Against aggro he's a lifelink chump blocker. In the control mirror, you can pick up some free wins post-board with the Forbid lock if you opponent sides out their removal. 
  • The one Mono-Red Aggro deck in the top 64 was playing a Temple of Malice in the sideboard to facilitate a "get big" planeswalker plan in games two and three. 

Fate Reforged Cards from Other Decks: Crux of Fate x11, Wild Slash x11, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon x10, Frontier Siege x6, Shaman of the Great Hunt x6, Temur Sabertooth x4, Whisperwood Elemental x4, Silumgar, the Drifting Death x2, Yasova Dragoncalw x2, Tasigur, the Golden Fang x1,    

Sideboard: Whisperwood Elemental x6, Abzan Beastmaster x3, Soulfire Grand Master 3,  Crux of Fate x2, Wild Slash x2, Tasigur, the Golden Fang x1, Outpost Siege x1, Reality Shift x1, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon x1.

The Big List

Let's put all this scattered data together. A quick note: since we are dealing with a top 64, if a card was played as a four-of in every deck there would be 256 copies, this is a baseline. So without further adu, here are the Fate Reforged cards that made an impact on week one.


Card Name Copies in Top 64
Wild Slash 51
Monastery Mentor 36
Soulfire Grand Master 34
Valorous Stance 33
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon 19
Tasigur, the Golden Fang 18
Crux of Fate 16
Frontier Siege 15
Shaman of the Great Hunt 8
Whisperwood Elemental 7
Temur Battle Rage 7
Outpost Siege 6
Warden of the First Tree 4
Temur Sabertooth 4
Torrent Elemental 3
Abzan Advantage 3
Collateral Damage 2
Humble Defector 2
Kolaghan, the Storm's Fury 2
Silumgar, the Drifting Death 2
Yasova Dragonclaw 2
Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest 1


Card Name Copies in Top 64
Valorous Stance 22
Tasigur, the Golden Fang 9
Whisperwood Elemental 6
Mastery of the Unseen 5
Monastery Siege 5
Wild Slash 5
Soulfire Grand Master 4
Abzan Beastmaster 3
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon 3
Silumgar, the Drifting Death 2
Torrent Elemental 2
Collateral Damage 2
Crux of Fate 2
Mercilous Exicutioner 1
Shamanic Revelation 1
Abzan Advantage 1
Citadel Siege 1
Outpost Siege 1
Reality Shift 1


Anyway, that's all for today. What do you make of these numbers? What cards do you expect to be Siege Rhinos and still be making hay in the format a when Dragons of Tarkir is released the end of March? Which ones do you see as Sarkhan, the Dragonspeakers who look good on week one, but fade away as the format evolves? Let's me know in the comments, or on twitter @SaffronOlive. 

I'll be back soon to discuss the new Modern and Legacy lists in our post banning world. Spoiler: Worldgorger Dragon didn't win. Neither did Golgari Grave-Troll. If you haven't moved your copies by now, do so today, and it may already be to late. 

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