The Extended(T1.x) Metagame in January

Written by derflippi on February 02, 2010

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 metagame of magic-league is what I was able to analyze.
A major idea at getting better in Magic: The Gathering is to gain strategic mastery. Strategic mastery that I am talking about here means a general understanding of matchups, of deck principles, not operative or tactical maneuvers.
I don't claim myself to be a great player; I make "play mistakes" like incorrect blocks or attacks all the time, but I believe I have a good understanding of Magic strategy.

Extended(T1.x) is clearly the most played format at the moment. For this article, I collected the data of 4000 decks played on magic-league this month in January. When useful, I put the extracts of the table directly to this article. However, if you wish to look at the detailed table, you can download it here. This is especially useful in case you want to compose an article about your own thoughts on the metagame, or want to re-evaluate my following points.

First, it will be interesting to see the allotment of the decks played:

Metagame January

absolute relative Deckname
524 13,1 Scapeshift Combo
291 7,28 Mono Red
217 5,43 Thopter Foundry
216 5,4 UB Faeries
192 4,8 GB Death Cloud
162 4,05 Dark Depths
140 3,5 Demigod Stompy
140 3,5 Idiot Life
132 3,3 Hive Mind
126 3,15 Zoo Classic
115 2,88 Zoo Burnwillow
106 2,65 Dredge
102 2,55 Doran Rock
94 2,35 Sullivan Burn
92 2,3 Affinity
85 2,13 Elfball
79 1,98 Zoo Domain
77 1,93 Hypergenesis
74 1,85 Zoo Saito
70 1,75 Living End
69 1,73 Bant
60 1,5 UgX Level Blue
60 1,5 GW Haterator
54 1,35 Rgx LD
44 1,1 Smallpox
43 1,08 GB Rock
38 0,95 Uwb Teachings
38 0,95 KaioDeck

556 13,98


Scapeshift Combodecks are the most played deck. It is a constant.  With the exception of two days, Scapeshift always made the most played deck. Equally constant is Monored, with no exceptional showing in the numbers. Death Cloud is the only deck that beat Scapeshift in the metagame breakdown. In the middle of January however, people suddenly stop playing it at all and now, meeting a Death Cloud deck is rare. At the same time that the popularity of Death Cloud broke, a new Elfball deck grew into a deck played by many players.
The dominance of Scapeshift implies that decks beating Scapeshift have better chances of winning a tournament than decks losing to it. The Martyr of Sands deck "Idiot Life" gives Scapeshift a hard time, as they can usually get out of Scapeshift's damage range very easy. Another deck that's said to have a favorable matchup is Faeries, as it puts pressure while having permission cards for the namesake card of the deck. Some decks that were good in the past are still played here and there: Demigod Stompy, Some Level Blue and others..

But we'll not keep the analysis with just numbers showing how often a deck was played. To extract information out of the data, we'll need another important value: how often a deck won:

- -
Won Tournaments January
absolute Deckname
57 Scapeshift Combo
41 UB Faeries
38 Mono Red
22 Dark Depths
22 Idiot Life
22 Thopter Foundry
20 GB Death Cloud
15 Hive Mind
13 Zoo Burnwillow
13 Zoo Classic
13 Demigod Stompy
11 Affinity
11 Hypergenesis
11 Zoo Saito
10 Doran Rock
10 Dredge
9 Sullivan Burn
7 Bant
7 KaioDeck
7 Living End
7 Zoo Domain
6 Elfball
6 GW Haterator
4 Uwb Teachings
4 Zoo Landfall
4 Tron
4 Rgx LD

36 Other

If every deck wera as good as the other, the rankings of the decks would be the same for played and won tournaments. But some decks are of course, without looking at specific matchups better than others. For example, Monored (7,28%) was played more often than Faeries (5,4%), but Faeries won more tournaments! Elfball was played 85 times, won 6 times. At the same time, the Hypergenesis deck won 11 times, while being played less. It won almost double the amount than Elfball. This obviously means it's superior to Elfball.
Merging the first two tables produces a conversion rate for each deck. If the conversion rate of a deck is exactly 1, then it won every 8th 8-man tournament it played in. A metagame with 8 different decks that each have a conversion rate of 1 consists of equally good decks. A conversion rate of 0 means the deck has not won a tournament yet.

Here's the list of all relevant decks played on magic-league and their conversion rates. I consider a deck "relevant" here if it was played by 1,5% or more. That doesnt sound much, but it means 60 or more appearances within January

- -
Top20 played Decks, Conversion Rates
conversion rate Deckname
1,77 UB Faeries
1,46 Idiot Life
1,38 Zoo Saito
1,33 Hypergenesis
1,26 Dark Depths
1,21 Mono Red
1,11 Affinity
1,06 Hive Mind
1,05 Zoo Burnwillow
1,01 Scapeshift Combo
0,97 GB Death Cloud
0,96 Zoo Classic
0,94 Bant
0,94 Thopter Foundry
0,91 Doran Rock
0,89 Sullivan Burn
0,88 Dredge
0,86 Demigod Stompy
0,82 Zoo Domain
0,66 Elfball
0,47 UgX Level Blue

With the exception of Scapeshift and Monored, we can conclude a lot from this table. Although the conversion rate of monored is higher than the conversion rate of Scapeshift, we know both are "positive" decks. This means they have an overall matchup of more than 50%. The 1,01% of Scapeshift here has to be normed. The reason is Scapeshift got played by more than 12,5% (1/8th), my idea here is to apply the percentage on how more it was played to its conversion rate. It was played by 5% more than 12,5%, so i come to a normed rate of 1,06%. This isnt spectactular, and not necessary for the other decks, as those show up, less than once per tournament on average. I'm not sure if this is a reasonable "fix" for the problem and I already found a better solution for my next (February) analysis, so let's not get a headache over it.

UB Faeries by Emperok
Main Deck Sideboard
1 Ghost Quarter
5 Island
2 Misty Rainforest
4 Mutavault
4 River of Tears
2 Scalding Tarn
4 Secluded Glen
1 Swamp
1 Watery Grave
4 Vendilion Clique
4 Spellstutter Sprite
4 Mistbind Clique
4 Bitterblossom
3 Doom Blade
3 Cryptic Command
3 Umezawa's Jitte
4 Mana Leak
4 Ancestral Vision
3 Spell Snare
4 Extirpate
3 Thoughtseize
2 Glen Elendra Archmage
4 Kraken Hatchling
2 Threads of Disloyalty

Faeries are the best deck. There is no doubt about that. The strength of Faerie decks is to deny the opponent a few key cards while simultaneously putting pressure on him. When 40% of the metagame is Combo, being able to counter single key cards while not giving them time to find the next is important.


Win Played Archetype meta
164 1606 Combo 0,41
64 632 Control 0,16
80 639 AggroControl 0,16
116 1037 Aggro 0,26

Considering that Faeries face their worst matchup: fast aggrodecks fewer and fewer (Zoo tends to play fatties over tempocards), and the best matchups (against Combo) are dominant, we can easily explain the exceptional conversion rate of the Faerie deck.
As guessed earlier, the same goes for the Martyr of Sands deck, as it has a good matchup against Scapeshift and Zoo, which when combined are played about 30% of the time. Dark Depths and Hypergenesis are the best Combodecks at the moment. One however can't exactly compare the two, as Dark Depths saw much more play than Hypergenesis.
Many decks that survived since the last Extended (T1.x) season still exist on the metagame, but don't win as much. Examples are Elfball, Domain Zoo, Demigod Stompy or Dredge. They're dying out slowly. So the conversion rates just prove what I said at the beginning.

For the upcoming events, I believe that Faeries will become one of the Top2 played decks. The great matchups against 40% of the current metagame will make more players play Faeries again. It's clearly the strongest deck in the current Extended (T1.x) metagame, so it will rise even more in popularity. With more Faeries however, the Zoo decks will have better results again.
Depending on the speed of this process will define which deck will prove itself as best for February: Faeries, Zoo or a Combodeck. Unfortunately, January didn't have much new innovations for Extended (T1.x), but I'm looking forward to new ideas getting played more on magic-league. Ignoring the low number of how often some decks were played, some decks are very promisin:

KaioDeck by xkrude
Main Deck Sideboard
3 Ancient Ziggurat
4 Gemstone Mine
4 Pillar of the Paruns
4 Reflecting Pool
1 Forest
4 Horizon Canopy
1 Plains
3 Qasali Pridemage
1 Birds of Paradise
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Rhox War Monk
4 Doran, the Siege Tower
2 Birds of Paradise
4 Tidehollow Sculler
4 Lightning Angel
3 Electrolyze
4 Countersquall
3 Bant Charm
4 Lightning Helix
3 Gaddock Teeg
3 Meddling Mage
3 Relic of Progenitus
3 Summoning Trap
3 Path to Exile

UWb Teachings by dv8r
Main Deck Sideboard
1 Academy Ruins
1 Tolaria West
1 Ghost Quarter
2 Glacial Fortress
1 Godless Shrine
4 Hallowed Fountain
4 Marsh Flats
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Watery Grave
2 Scalding Tarn
2 Plains
6 Island
1 Vendilion Clique
2 Baneslayer Angel
4 Kitchen Finks
1 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
4 Mana Leak
3 Mystical Teachings
1 Negate
4 Path to Exile
1 Pulse of the Fields
1 Spell Burst
3 Spell Snare
1 Extirpate
3 Engineered Explosives
3 Cryptic Command
2 Vedalken Shackles
2 Circle of Protection: Red
1 Fracturing Gust
2 Cranial Extraction
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Ravenous Trap
3 Glen Elendra Archmage
2 Negate

Mono Blue Control by BarneyStinso
Main Deck Sideboard
21 Island
4 Mutavault
1 Academy Ruins
3 Glen Elendra Archmage
2 Teferi, Mage of Zhalfir
4 Vendilion Clique
1 Venser, Shaper Savant
4 Ancestral Vision
3 Cryptic Command
4 Mana Leak
4 Rune Snag
4 Spell Snare
2 Umezawa's Jitte
3 Vedalken Shackles
4 Relic of Progenitus
2 Threads of Disloyalty
3 Engineered Explosives
1 Commandeer
3 Spell Pierce
2 Echoing Truth

- -
conversion rate Deckname
1,71 KaioDeck
0,98 Uwb Teachings
3,72 MUC

I hope I could generate some contemplation about the metagame, and how deckchoice is one of the major factors in competitive Magic: the Gathering. Whether my thought on the upcoming development of the metagame turn out true or not, we'll see that in my next article, at the end of February.
I'm always happy to work with feedback I get on my articles. Send an email to with any suggestions or questions on my analysis.
At this point, I'd also like to thank DARKING for his continous effort on the metagame breakdowns for trials, and six for proofreading this article.

Until next time, play on, and become a better player.

Back to Magic: the Gathering Articles

by RiQuSP on 2010-02-02 12:19 CET

A faerie list with 3 spell snare can't be right (

by AMER on 2010-02-02 13:40 CET

no it is

by ZxcV on 2010-02-02 13:44 CET

dv8r list is good , the other lists are crap. but good article

by RiQuSP on 2010-02-02 14:02 CET

'by Sliced on 2010-02-02 14:40 CET

no it is'

It's too good and important not to play 4 total. So it isn't

by darkwizard42 on 2010-02-02 15:01 CET

excellent...we will now be playing tons and tons of Fae and UWB Teachings...

by Eldariel on 2010-02-02 16:45 CET

So...Zoo > Extended?

by Lynolf on 2010-02-02 17:44 CET

Is it just me or does CMA-Flippi really loves Faerie decks? Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmm...

by GFSS on 2010-02-02 17:57 CET

fae > shift ? lolol

by derflippi on 2010-02-02 20:18 CET

I dont love Faerie decks. I have never played Faeries! Yet, they're the strongest deck in the current metagame, so i let you know, and explain why it is.

by yokai on 2010-02-02 21:04 CET

"by GFSS on 2010-02-02 12:57 EST

fae > shift ? lolol"

scapeshift is the best deck IMO.
it has more top 8/4/2/1[anyway] then any other deck.
not only of so much decks scapeshift like , it's cuz is the best deck.

by watkins on 2010-02-03 00:34 CET

I would be interested in seeing results for decks such as all in red and mono red burn instead of lumping them all into "mono red". Good article though

by LilDan on 2010-02-03 08:31 CET

3 Spell Snares is suicide in a meta dominated by DD/Thopter

by derflippi on 2010-02-03 12:28 CET

All-in Red and Red Burn were separated in the tables already.

by JacobMatthew on 2010-02-04 03:24 CET

way to go six on proofreading i found like 3 typographical errors in the first two minutes of reading it failface

by six on 2010-02-05 01:45 CET

lol true :( I wasn't looking for typos as much as just general style/diction/grammatical errors! no excuses.

by JuStiCaR on 2010-02-10 21:24 CET


by Sebas_ on 2010-02-12 06:47 CET


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