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Archetype Breakdown for Pro Tour Dark Ascension

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Way back in 2005, Chris Galvin announced the Magic: The Gathering Hall of Fame . Hard to believe it was almost seven years ago. In Hawaii this weekend, 3 of the 29 that have been elected (and 1 probable future inductee) navigated their way to the final day of competition at Pro Tour Dark Ascension from a field of 446. I'm writing this prior to that drama playing itself out, so I don't have the benefit of knowing what the winning deck is. Perhaps that is better for our chore today, though. Today, we're going to go through and see how the Standard portion of the event played out. It will be nice not to go into the analysis with a bias towards the winning deck, especially since Constructed matches only represent about two-thirds of the matches played.

Bill Stark already did the dirty work of sorting through deck registration sheets to show us what the metagame looked like. Here's a quick recap:

Deck Type Number Percentage
Birthing Pod 14 3.13%
Black-Red Aggro 8 1.79%
Black-Red Control 2 0.45%
Black-Red Heartless Summoning Control 1 0.22%
Blue-Black Aggro 1 0.22%
Blue-Black Control 9 2.01%
Blue-White Control 1 0.22%
Control Lich 1 0.22%
Delver 91 20.36%
Desperate Control 5 1.12%
Esper 28 6.26%
Esper Red 1 0.22%
Grand Architect/Heartless Summoning 1 0.22%
Lich Combo 1 0.22%
Lich Control 3 0.67%
Mono Black Aggro 8 1.79%
Mono Green 18 4.03%
RDW 3 0.67%
Reanimator 9 2.01%
Red-Green Wolf Run Aggro 1 0.22%
Rock 3 0.67%
Tempered Steel 24 5.37%
Tezzerator 5 1.12%
Venser Control 1 0.22%
White Weenie 115 25.73%
White-Black Control 1 0.22%
White-Black-Red-Green Control 1 0.22%
White-Blue Delverless Spirits 1 0.22%
White-Blue-Green Aggro 1 0.22%
White-Green Aggro 1 0.22%
White-Green Midrange 2 0.45%
White-Green Overrun 4 0.89%
White-Red Control 2 0.45%
White-Red-Green Aggro 2 0.45%
White-Red-Green Venser 1 0.22%
Wolf Run 76 17.00%


And without further ado, here's how they performed:

Deck Type Win % Matches
Aggro BR 60.00% 10
Aggro BR 55.00% 20
Aggro Mono Black 59.26% 54
Aggro RG Wolf Run 60.00% 5
Aggro WB 60.00% 5
Aggro WGR 40.00% 10
Birthing Pod 60.38% 106
BR Aggro 51.72% 29
Control 43.07% 137
Delver 51.48% 641
Esper 51.11% 180
Heartless Summoning 60.00% 15
Lich 25.00% 28
Mono Green 45.63% 103
Overrun 40.00% 25
RDW 50.00% 20
Reanimator 54.10% 61
Rock 52.63% 19
Spirits 20.00% 5
Tempered Steel 37.14% 35
Tezzerator 48.48% 33
UB Aggro 55.56% 9
WGU Aggro 70.00% 10
White Weenie 48.32% 863
Wolf Run 51.47% 511


I consolidated the groups a little bit. There's a surprise (to me, at least) top deck with Birthing Pod variants coming ahead, the meager ten matches from WUG Aggro simply aren't enough to go by. We're going to look at White Weenie, Delver, Wolf Run, Esper, Tempered Steel and of course Birthing Pod decks as well as their variants. Please remember that this is merely a record of what happened at Pro Tour Dark Ascension. Play skill, specific card choices, and randomization all play a role in a deck's success. And these numbers have excluded mirror matches, which are by definition a 50-50 split.

White Weenie

Perhaps the oldest archetype, White Weenie has survived countless set rotations to still be viable and even dominant at times. It was a quarter of the field this weekend, in a couple of different forms.

Opponent's Deck Win % Matches
Aggro BR 66.67% 3
Aggro BR 50.00% 2
Aggro Mono Black 33.33% 15
Aggro RG Wolf Run 0.00% 2
Aggro WG 0.00% 1
Aggro WGR 100.00% 1
Birthing Pod 15.38% 26
BR Aggro 85.71% 7
Control 63.64% 44
Delver 53.03% 198
Esper 38.60% 57
Grand Total 47.56% 595
Heartless Summoning 25.00% 4
Lich 55.56% 9
Mono Green 52.94% 34
Overrun 37.50% 8
RDW 25.00% 4
Reanimator 55.56% 18
Rock 16.67% 6
Spirits 100.00% 1
Tempered Steel 40.00% 10
Tezzerator 50.00% 8
UB Aggro 0.00% 2
Wolf Run 44.78% 134
WUG Aggro 100.00% 1


Control, in its generic templating, didn't fare well against White Weenie. This represents the control decks of varying types that didn't quite have enough players to constitute their own grouping. White Weenie also carried a small edge against the also-popular Delver decks. Let's look a little closer there.

Deck UB Delver UR Delver UW Delver Grand Total
Green White Weenie        
Matches 0 2 26 28
Matches 0 0 3 3
Matches 0 0 36 36
Matches 3 2 97 102
Matches 0 0 3 3
Total Matches 3 5 190 198
Total Win % 100.00% 60.00% 52.11% 53.03%
White Weenie        
White Weenie Black        
White Weenie Blue        
White Weenie Green        
Win %   100.00% 69.23% 71.43%
Win %     66.67% 66.67%
Win %     55.56% 55.56%
Win % 100.00% 50.00% 48.45% 50.00%
Win %     0.00% 0.00%


Further inspection reveals that the more common White-Blue version of White Weenie was just below 50-50 against White-Blue Delver but White-Green was about 7% better in the same pairing. Overall, however, the blue variant of White Weenie was at 50.15% whereas White-Green was 46.46%.

Delver

Opponent's Deck Win % Matches
Aggro BR 57.14% 7
Aggro GW 0.00% 1
Aggro Monoblack 15.38% 13
Aggro RB 50.00% 2
Aggro RG Wolf Run 100.00% 1
Aggro RGW 0.00% 2
Birthing Pod 80.00% 20
Control 46.43% 28
Esper 58.70% 46
Grand Total 51.81% 525
Heartless Summoning 0.00% 3
Lich 100.00% 8
MonoGreen 64.71% 17
Overrun 60.00% 5
RB Aggro 66.67% 6
RDW 66.67% 6
Reanimator 54.55% 11
Rock 100.00% 2
Tempered Steel 60.71% 28
Tezzerator 30.00% 10
UB Aggro 100.00% 1
WGU Aggro 0.00% 1
White Weenie 46.29% 175
Wolf Run 51.52% 132


Delver decks didn't have a lot of matches against Pod, but 16-4 is a pretty strong showing and is the beginning of a convincing argument of a good matchup. Delver performed well in similarly low number of matches against Tempered Steel and really handled Esper. 51.5% isn't overwhelming but is still a solid performance against Wolf-Run. Really, the only problem is White Weenie.

If you're curious, here are the different variants:

Deck Win % Matches
Grand Total 51.81% 525
UB Delver 33.33% 9
UR Delver 33.33% 15
WU Delver 52.69% 501


Not a lot to go on, really nothing you could draw a conclusion from other than, "Gee, not a lot of people played Delver with Black or Red."

Wolf Run

Opponent's Deck Win % Matches
Aggro BR 25.00% 4
Aggro BR 0.00% 1
Aggro Mono Black 42.86% 7
Aggro WG 66.67% 3
Aggro WGR 50.00% 4
Birthing Pod 34.48% 29
BR Aggro 40.00% 5
Control 59.09% 22
Delver 48.48% 132
Esper 57.14% 21
Grand Total 51.72% 437
Heartless Summoning 75.00% 4
Lich 60.00% 5
Mono Green 50.00% 18
Overrun 87.50% 8
RDW 50.00% 4
Reanimator 14.29% 14
Rock 100.00% 3
Tempered Steel 65.38% 26
Tezzerator 60.00% 5
UB Aggro 66.67% 3
White Weenie 55.56% 117
WUG Aggro 50.00% 2


Tempered Steel, Control and Esper decks all came in with impressive returns but too few matches to say anything conclusively. White Weenie, however, was not happy about facing Wolf Run decks. Delver, as we've already mentioned, was slightly favored against the Titanic decks. These decks, like most others, had some different versions floating around. Red was by far the most common, but some players had Black (a la Conley Woods from a few weeks ago at GP Orlando), White, Blue or even a Rock variant out there from Brian Eason.

Deck Win % Matches
Grand Total 51.72% 437
Rock Wolf Run 60.00% 5
Wolf Run 52.81% 320
Wolf Run Black 51.72% 58
Wolf Run Blue 12.50% 8
Wolf Run White 50.00% 46


Traditional and black variants were about 1% apart with traditional coming out on top. White decks broke even on the weekend.

Esper

Opponent's Deck Win % Matches
Aggro BR 0.00% 2
Aggro Mono Black 66.67% 6
Aggro RG Wolf Run 0.00% 1
Aggro WGR 100.00% 1
Birthing Pod 16.67% 6
BR Aggro 66.67% 3
Control 50.00% 4
Delver 41.30% 46
Grand Total 51.23% 162
Lich 0.00% 1
Mono Green 62.50% 8
Reanimator 100.00% 1
Rock 100.00% 2
Tempered Steel 66.67% 9
Tezzerator 0.00% 1
UB Aggro 100.00% 1
White Weenie 61.22% 49
Wolf Run 42.86% 21


White Weenie decks fueled an above average performance for Esper decks. Without that pairing, Esper decks fell to 46.9% against the field. Wolf Run and Delver decks both were well above average against Delver, though Wolf Run didn't have a lot of matches.

Tempered Steel

Opponent's Deck Win % Matches
Aggro Mono Black 50.00% 2
Aggro WGR 100.00% 1
Birthing Pod 0.00% 5
Control 37.50% 8
Delver 39.29% 28
Esper 33.33% 9
Grand Total 41.13% 141
Heartless Summoning 50.00% 2
Lich 75.00% 4
Mono Green 50.00% 2
RDW 0.00% 1
Reanimator 20.00% 5
Spirits 100.00% 1
Tezzerator 100.00% 4
White Weenie 45.24% 42
Wolf Run 34.62% 26
WUG Aggro 0.00% 1


A mere three months ago, Team ChannelFireball took Worlds by surprise with a straight-forward, almost generic Tempered Steel deck and dominated. The deck, overall, went 70-44 (61%). The consensus was that the deck was relatively easy enough to prepare for, but nobody had prepared. It seems that the Pro Tour Players weren't about to make the same mistake twice. There wasn't a single good matchup for those small-but-sometimes-huge artifacts.

Birthing Pod

Opponent's Deck Win % Matches
Aggro Mono Black 50.00% 2
Aggro WGR 100.00% 1
Birthing Pod 0.00% 5
Control 37.50% 8
Delver 39.29% 28
Esper 33.33% 9
Grand Total 41.13% 141
Heartless Summoning 50.00% 2
Lich 75.00% 4
Mono Green 50.00% 2
RDW 0.00% 1
Reanimator 20.00% 5
Spirits 100.00% 1
Tezzerator 100.00% 4
White Weenie 45.24% 42
Wolf Run 34.62% 26
WUG Aggro 0.00% 1


Obviously we're talking about very few matches here. My initial thought was, wow, this is an all-or-nothing deck. Wolf Run and Delver appear right next to each other in the list, but there was a 45% gap between them. So, if these rates were to hold true over more matches we'd be looking at a deck that either went 2-1 or better against a deck or 1-4 or worse. Of course, this is the real world and over a larger sample that wouldn't hold true. But it sure looks fun. As for what we can actually say, well, not much. The most matches against a single archetype was 29 against Wolf Run. General rule for any reliability in statistics is to have a sample of at least 30, and that's really not even a lot. So Wolf Run has the beginnings of a god matchup. As does White Weenie (a very good matchup, actually). And Delver has the beginnings of a matchup about as bad as the White Weenie matchup is good. But, again, small sample sizes here. Best I can say is Birthing Pod looks like it could be situated in a very interesting way in the metagame and it sure looks fun to play. Check out the video Deck Tech with BDM and Gaudenis Vidugiris for more information.

That wraps up the analysis for this Pro Tour. I'm looking forward to watching some of the coverage of the Top 8. Then I might fire up Magic Online and try some of these decks out to see how good they are (or, perhaps more importantly, how fun they are).

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