The Standard (T2) Metagame on Magic-League

Written by derflippi on November 29, 2009






Standard(T2) is the most popular format at the moment.

Therefore, I am sure to find players interested in the topic of this article.
Players always want to figure out a good way to win. One part of this is the deck choice, which usually depends on the metagame. The Standard(T2) metagame of magic-league is what I was able to analyze. I got the quantities from our Trials and Masters and made a table where you get an overview on the information I use. Below that table, I’ll explain my view on how and why the metagame is developing the way the numbers show..
Line one lists the days on which magic-league held major Standard(T2) tournaments. The decks winning a tournament are marked red in the column for that day.

Day (Nov) 28 27 23 22 20 18 16 13 10 8 6 3 2 Total %
Deckname 59 73 75 137 84 90 103 63 115 123 74 90 104 1190 100
Jund Blighting 13 12 11 24 11 18 16 8 15 21 18 25 21 213 18
Eldrazi Elves 4 4 5 6 5 9 16 17 16 11 1 3 4 101 8,5
GW Aggro 4 8 9 10 6 11 8 2 10 3 4 1 6 82 7
Boros Bushwacker 3 6 3 12 4 2 4 5 5 6 3 3 9 65 5,5
Vampires 4 4 2 6 2 3 4 5 8 7 3 7 10 65 5,5
Milldeck 3 2 8 16 12 4 3 1 5 2 1 3 0 60 5
Red Deck Wins 5 6 7 5 4 2 6 3 5 7 3 1 1 55 4,5
WW 1 2 2 6 5 7 4 2 6 5 3 5 2 50 4
UWR Control 3 5 3 5 1 3 8 2 3 3 1 7 5 49 4
Naya Aggro 5 4 5 11 2 1 1 1 2 7 3 2 2 46 4
Bant Aggro 3 1 2 6 5 2 5 3 2 2 3 4 4 42 3,5
5c Cascade 2 2 1 1 0 4 2 1 5 7 3 5 7 40 3,5
Crypt 1 1 2 4 6 2 2 1 4 5 4 1 3 36 3
Landfall Deck 2 2 0 5 5 0 4 0 1 6 1 3 4 33 3
Spread em 5 7 6 5 3 4 0 1 0 0 0 1 1 33 3
MWC 0 0 0 1 5 2 4 3 5 4 3 1 0 28 2
Cruel Control 0 0 1 1 1 3 2 2 2 4 3 4 4 27 2
Summoning Trap 1 2 0 2 0 1 2 1 1 3 4 3 5 25 2
Valakut Ramp 0 1 2 0 2 3 4 2 3 0 1 2 0 20 1,5
Owl 0 1 0 2 0 0 0 0 2 1 0 1 7 14 1
Goblins 0 1 1 1 1 3 3 1 1 0 0 1 0 13 1
BGW Rocks 0 0 1 0 1 0 1 0 2 2 1 1 1 10 1
Pyromancer Ascension 0 0 1 2 0 0 1 0 0 2 1 1 0 8 0,5
                               
Other Control 0 1 3 3 1 2 3 1 9 10 6 4 5 48 4
Other Aggro 0 1 0 3 2 4 0 1 3 5 4 1 3 27 2


Jund, by David Reitbauer, Nov 19
Main Deck Sideboard
3 Dragonskull Summit
2 Forest
3 Mountain
2 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Savage Lands
3 Swamp
4 Verdant Catacombs
4 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Broodmate Dragon
2 Master of the Wild Hunt
4 Putrid Leech
4 Sprouting Thrinax
3 Bituminous Blast
4 Blightning
1 Burst Lightning
2 Garruk Wildspeaker
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Terminate
3 Duress
4 Goblin Ruinblaster
3 Great Sable Stag
2 Jund Charm
1 Maelstrom Pulse
2 Thought Hemorrhage


As often with the most popular deck, the reason for its popularity lies in its results. The metagame on Magic-League is more diverse than it is on other places (such as Worlds 2009 http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/eventcoverage/worlds09/feature/stdmetagame ), so Jund is “only” played by every fifth player. In comparison: every third player at Worlds chose that deck. Yet, with (relatively) less players playing the deck, it won (5 out of 13 times) and always took large percentages of the Top8 decks. This means the number of major tournaments Jund won is not due to the numbers, it’s due to the decks solidness.


The 2nd most played deck is the Elves deck. First time it came on the radar was the November 06 trial. There was just one Elves player, but he got the trophy. At the next Standard(T2) trial, 2 days later, Elves, instead of 1%, already make 10% of the field. And they continue to win. This brings more and more players to play that deck, reaching a peak on November 13, where it is played double the times the Jund deck is. But its winning streak stops and then is not played by an outstanding number of players anymore.

Gr Elves, by oyzar, Nov 06
Main Deck Sideboard
7 Forest
4 Rootbound Crag
4 Kazandu Refuge
4 Mountain
4 Oran-Rief, the Vastwood
4 Bloodbraid Elf
4 Nissa's Chosen
4 Llanowar Elves
3 Elvish Visionary
4 Elvish Archdruid
4 Druid of the Anima
4 Nissa Revane
3 Garruk Wildspeaker
3 Sarkhan Vol
4 Chandra Nalaar
1 Sarkhan Vol
3 Lightning Bolt
3 Eldrazi Monument
4 Windstorm
4 Goblin Ruinblaster


As any deck, it has weaknesses. When opponents are prepared, it can be beaten.

The most important influence on the metagame is, I believe, simply which decks placed well in the previous trial. If those decks were Jund, more people play Jund. They know it’s a good choice when you don’t know what else to expect. However, when Jund did not win a trial, players choices were differently. They chose decks of which they think that beat the deck that won the previous major tournament. When Elves became started winning in mid November, more and more players adopted to that new “metagame”, as they could reasonably expect a lot of Elves decks, and fewer Jund decks. 

Several people developed Control decks with Mass removal which would beat the Elves. That explains the relatively high number of pure Control decks (MWC, UWR and other Control decks) once Elves started to win. Now with many Control decks in the metagame, Elves get more worse matchups so do not win tournaments anymore.

When players want to decide for a deck, they like to use new ideas. When Elves was new, more players played that deck, but a rising number of players tried decks that beat Elves, until one of these Control decks won a trial:

WUB Control, by Epoch, Nov 16
Main Deck Sideboard
2 Swamp
2 Plains
3 Marsh Flats
4 Arcane Sanctum
4 Glacial Fortress
4 Drowned Catacomb
5 Island
4 Baneslayer Angel
2 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
2 Vampire Nighthawk
3 Elspeth, Knight-Errant
4 Path to Exile
4 Esper Charm
3 Day of Judgment
3 Jace Beleren
4 Spreading Seas
3 Negate
4 Duress
1 Day of Judgment
1 Negate
4 Celestial Purge
3 Mind Shatter
3 Disfigure
3 Flashfreeze



When the metagame is slowly evolving, without new ideas on the radar, most players think 1 step ahead and chose a deck which, they think, beats  the “best” deck at the moment: whichever won the previous major tournament. When Elves was new, more players started to play Control decks. When the Control deck won, people were looking for a deck that beats Control. They picked decks with Dauntless Escort, or packed the Eldrazi Monuments in their maindecks to still beat Day of Judgement with their Aggro strategies. The result is, for example, a high number of GW Aggro or Bant decks in the Nov 18 Trial.

But then, there was an important event outside of magic-league: Worlds 2009 in Rome.

With orlds  running, the metagame got new impulses. Worlds provided players a professional source on what decks they can expect in a tournament: http://www.wizards.com/Magic/Magazine/Article.aspx?x=mtg/daily/eventcoverage/worlds09/topstandarddecks

Aside from many Jund decks, there are 2 new decks there. The Goblin Bushwhacker deck, played by magic-league’s gluedman (Mat Marr) finally hit the radar, and something completely new: a Milldeck, with maindeck Flashfreezes, played by The_Johan (Joel Calafell) also entered the metagame.

Milldeck, by Joel Calafell, Nov 19
Main Deck Sideboard
4 Glacial Fortress
10 Island
4 Kabira Crossroads
6 Plains
4 Angelsong
2 Archive Trap
3 Day of Judgment
4 Flashfreeze
4 Font of Mythos
4 Howling Mine
4 Jace Beleren
1 Path to Exile
4 Safe Passage
2 Sunspring Expedition
4 Time Warp
4 Baneslayer Angel
3 Negate
2 Pithing Needle
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Sunspring Expedition
1 Tezzeret the Seeker
2 Wall of Denial


You would expect the Bant deck and decks designed to defeat Bant, because that won the previous Trial. But the players now have more information than just one Top (Bant) list. They have the information of what the best players of the World play, and of course value that higher than what deck on a Trial. Many players picked up the new Milldeck and used it. They hope to have an advantage over the field by using the tech from Worlds.
Unfortunately for them, the metagames of Worlds and magic-league are still different. An equally if not higher number reacted on the new Milldeck with the already mentioned “1 step ahead”. Worlds Coverage still called the Crypt of Agadeem deck a Rogue deck, while it slowly grew some popularity on magic-league. People now ignore Bant and chose ultra aggressive decks as Boros Bushwhacker and Red Deck Wins. Those deck probably have  a good match up against Milldecks, so when everyone plays Milldecks, these Milldecks couldn’t win a trial. They didn’t try to beat Bant. Most players tried to beat the Milldeck. Red Deck Won, so the majority switch to a deck which might beat ultra aggressive strategies, or joined the winning strategy. The number of GW Aggro, which is supposed to beat Boros and RDW increase, while those of decks that lose to the winning deck decrease.

Meanwhile, Jund numbers dropped from 20% to a mere 11% but suddenly the deck wins again. People figure Boros, RDW but also GW Aggro are not solid enough, as they decks were never constantly winning and search for decks which can beat Jund.

Earlier this month, Elves proved as a fine choice against Jund. However, weaknesses of Elves are known so players know what they can lose against; they know that they can lose. That’s what explains the Elves quantities aren’t rising again.

They searched for new ideas and found a new deck idea, which quickly spread into the metagame.

Spread 'em, by Gerry Thompson, Nov 21
Main Deck Sideboard
4 Ajani Vengeant
4 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Sphinx of Jwar Isle
4 Sphinx of Lost Truths
4 Ardent Plea
4 Captured Sunlight
4 Convincing Mirage
4 Day of Judgment
4 Spreading Seas
4 Arid Mesa
1 Forest
4 Island
2 Jungle Shrine
4 Misty Rainforest
1 Mountain
3 Plains
1 Scalding Tarn
3 Seaside Citadel
3 Terramorphic Expanse
4 Baneslayer Angel
4 Deft Duelist
4 Rhox War Monk
3 Wall of Reverence


This deck is supposed to defeat Jund by making the Jund player unable to cast any spells. It didn’t win yet, but the relative quantitiy of players playing it is increasing continously.

And this is where the metagame is now. If Spread ‘Em starts winning, then players will probably move (back?) to mono-colored strategies like White Weenie, Elves or the Milldeck. But if a different wins instead, the metagame will go into a totally different direction.

We’ve seen that whichever direction a metagame turns to, which decks you can expect at a major tournament depends on two major factors: What decks placed good in the previous tournament of the same kind and what decks placed won in other major tournaments.

Decks grow at one day, but immediately cease to exist just the day afterwards. This makes it hard for good decks to be recognized as what they are. When only a few players play a deck, the chance is obviously smaller to win a follow-up tournament than when more players play it. Decks that had potential, but didn’t make it in 2 or 3 attempts are quickly given up.

This makes Jund keep winning tournaments at the moment, and the metagame around Jund circling over and over. With new ideas coming up again and again, but no idea getting developed far enough to make it “solid. That way, good ideas are given up too fast and Jund continues to win.

I hope I could show how the current metagame is evolving in an appropriate way and inform you on the current decks which one has to have in sight. If not, I believe you can still do something useful with the table from start, like making your own interpretion of the metagame changes.

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Comments:
by Sebas_ on 2009-11-29 03:36 CET

aa Husapi


by stephen_bonf on 2009-11-29 03:45 CET

Good article.


by Buranri on 2009-11-29 04:36 CET

Owl? wtf is that... I'd be interesting in seeing that list.


by Trivial on 2009-11-29 04:56 CET

Very nice article and analysis.


by Weedmonkey on 2009-11-29 06:57 CET

Agreed, good article. Magic-League does have somewhat of a reputation for innovation and being one step ahead of the real world. Although currently we are lacking...inspiration, it's good to see articles such as this that promote strategic analysis and thinking :)


by mchosa on 2009-11-29 06:59 CET

english plz lol


by fro on 2009-11-29 10:18 CET

Just a great read, really


by derflippi on 2009-11-29 11:08 CET

With Owl, I referred to decks abusing Howling Mine and Font of Mythos which then easily triggers Runeflare Trap.


by Lynolf on 2009-11-29 11:56 CET

See, this is another thing that helps improving magic-league. Great job, Flippi! Only wished masters coverage were back too...


by ryse on 2009-11-29 12:10 CET

great article ;)


by Ryk on 2009-11-29 17:07 CET

great article ;) [2]


by CrushU on 2009-11-30 01:19 CET

Question: Are BR Vampires included under 'Vampires'? I would assume so. :)


by derflippi on 2009-11-30 14:02 CET

Br Vampires are included under Vampires.
I also called GWb decks GW Aggro if they're splashing Maelstrom Pulse but use a clearly aggressive strategy
Same for Jund splashing Ajani.


by SJM on 2009-12-19 03:48 CET

Cool, man. Good break down of the ML meta.


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