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Pro Tour Paris Metagame Breakdown

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The letter T!he idea is simple—splice a Grand Prix onto a Pro Tour weekend. The execution quickly spirals away from simplicity for everyone involved—ask the judges, organizers, dealers and players (see: Rietzl, Paul). The logistics alone would scare off most folks from even making an attempt at such an ambitious weekend. Thankfully, those putting together Magic Weekend Paris were not deterred and the result was a spectacular success of a weekend. With nearly 300 sanctioned events for over 2,700 players in there was certainly a cavalcade of result slips indicating success or failure. I'd love to be able to sift through all of those results but a full time job and MBA classes at night are somewhat greedy for my time. Failing that though, we can take a walk through the results of the PT and the 2,466 matches that were played. That should give us enough to talk about, no?

Going into the tournament, chatter I was hearing centered on White-Blue Control (or Caw-Go), Valakut, Kuldotha, White Weenie, Blue-Black Control and probably some other decks. We know this was mostly correct, as Rashad Miller took the time to sieve through all 482 deck registration sheets and get his MS Excel on here. For reference, so you don't have to keep clicking back and forth, here's the metagame that was PT Paris 2011:

Deck Number %
Valakut 105 21.78%
Blue-Black Control 100 20.75%
Caw-Go 67 13.90%
Kuldotha Red 36 7.47%
Vampires 34 7.05%
Boros 28 5.81%
Quest 18 3.73%
Blue-Red-Green 15 3.11%
White-Blue Control 15 3.11%
Green-White Aggro 11 2.28%
Tempered Steel 9 1.87%
Mono-Red 8 1.66%
Blue-Black-Green 6 1.24%
Eldrazi Ramp 6 1.24%
Infect 4 0.83%
Mono-Green Ramp 4 0.83%
Elves 3 0.62%
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control 3 0.62%
Mass Polymorph 2 0.41%
White Weenie 2 0.41%
Allies 1 0.21%
Bant Aggro 1 0.21%
Grixis Control 1 0.21%
Mono-Black 1 0.21%
Naya 1 0.21%
Red-Green Aggro 1 0.21

Chatter is what it is for a reason and for the most part the metagame's top representatives were accurately predicted. The proportions may not have been exact but the basics were there. Valakut was the 800-pound gorilla in the room, with most people expecting it. As we'll see, a target on your back can mean bad things for performance. Here's how those decks did overall.

Deck Win % Matches
Allies 70.00% 10
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control 65.22% 23
Caw-Go 60.86% 396
Bant Aggro 60.00% 5
Blue-Red-Green 57.73% 97
White Weenie 57.14% 14
Quest 56.56% 122
Boros 55.93% 177
Green-White Aggro 54.24% 59
Infect 51.43% 35
Naya 50.00% 4
Grixis control 50.00% 4
Vampires 49.51% 204
White-Blue Control 49.41% 85
Tempered Steel 48.39% 62
Valakut Ramp 47.66% 535
Mono-Red 46.67% 45
Blue-Black-Green 46.15% 26
Blue-Black Control 45.22% 513
Mass Polymorph 42.86% 14
Kuldotha Red 42.06% 214
Red-Green Aggro 40.00% 5
Blue-Black-Green 40.00% 5
Mono-Green Ramp 39.13% 23
Eldrazi Ramp 35.71% 28
Elves 7.14% 14
Unknown 0.00% 1
Green-White Ramp 0.00% 5
Mono-Black 0.00% 5

Aaron Cooney's Allies deck (he was the only pilot) came out with a 7-3 record in Standard, netting him the nominal "best deck" title. Of course, 10 matches aren't quite enough to just hand over the title (if you want to see his list, it is in the top decks here). Likewise, Chapin's Tezzeret put on an impressive show and had a lot of people talking. I'm going to need 23 matches (in the hands of such skilled pilots as Chapin, Michael Jacob and Guillaume Matignon) to give out the gold star. My unofficial pick for best deck at PT Paris is the one that won over 60% of its almost 400 matches. Caw-go, Brian Kibler's current love, came back after a disappointing Worlds performance to silence its doubters. The Equipment package pushed the deck over the top (where Hawks like to go).

Caw-Go Win % Matches
Elves 100.00% 2
Green-White Aggro 80.00% 5
Eldrazi Ramp 71.43% 7
Vampires 70.97% 31
Blue-Black Control 69.32% 88
Kuldotha Red 68.97% 29
Mono-Red 63.64% 11
Valakut Ramp 57.94% 107
Boros 57.69% 26
Blue-Black-Green 55.56% 9
White-Blue Control 55.00% 20
Tempered Steel 54.55% 11
White Weenie 50.00% 4
Allies 50.00% 2
Infect 50.00% 2
Mono-Green Ramp 50.00% 2
Red-Green Aggro 50.00% 2
Quest 45.45% 22
Blue-Black-Green 41.67% 12
Naya 0.00% 2
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control 0.00% 2
Grand Total 60.86% 39

Good gravy, that's a lot of 50+! At Worlds, White-Blue decks (admittedly not all were Caw-Go) had a paltry 45% record against Blue-Black decks. A couple of months later there's almost a 25% swing. Looking at this, I honestly can't find a single thing to complain about. When all of your sub-.500 records combined account for less than 8% of the metagame you're looking pretty good. When the worst you've done against a Top 4 deck (excluding, of course, your 50% mirror match) is 58%, I mean, yeah, you're doing OK. Ben Stark, I'm sure, would agree. The only thing I would caution against is that I'm sure Tezzeret is going to gain popularity. Both Caw-go losses to Tezzeret came at the hands of Chapin. They were against brand name Magicians in Owen Turtenwald and Shouta Yasooka. Two matches hardly means a thing, but the deck seems well positioned to make a splash against the PT winner.

Valakut Win % Matches
Red-Green Aggro 100.00% 1
Green-White Ramp 100.00% 1
Elves 100.00% 6
Blue-Black-Green 100.00% 2
Mono-Black 100.00% 2
Blue-Black-Green 100.00% 2
Eldrazi Ramp 80.00% 5
Mass Polymorph 75.00% 4
Mono-Red 66.67% 12
Kuldotha Red 66.04% 53
White-Blue Control 62.50% 16
Mono-Green Ramp 60.00% 5
Green-White Aggro 52.94% 17
Blue-Black Control 50.00% 140
Allies 50.00% 2
Caw-Go 42.06% 107
Vampires 41.46% 41
Quest 36.00% 25
Tempered Steel 33.33% 9
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control 33.33% 3
Boros 32.56% 43
Infect 30.00% 10
Blue-Red-Green 22.22% 27
White Weenie 0.00% 1
Grixis control 0.00% 1
Grand Total 47.66% 53

The only deck in the tournament that I know of that could, in theory at least, win a game via damage without playing a single spell or attacking is Valakut. A lot of people must enjoy that, since Valakut was the best represented. And a lot of people were disappointed. The only Top 5 deck it did well against was Kuldotha Red. Even the more fringe decks came prepared for the Molten Pinnacle. Sometimes having a target pinned to your back is not a good thing. Looking back to Worlds though, this wasn't entirely unpredictable. Valakut was a third of the field there and won just shy of 50% of the matches. Less people shuffled up the mana-ramping songs this time around but people were still very much prepared to handle it.

UB Control Win % Matches
Naya 100.00% 2
Green-White Ramp 100.00% 1
Red-Green Aggro 100.00% 1
Elves 100.00% 1
Mono-Black 100.00% 2
White Weenie 66.67% 3
Grixis Control 66.67% 3
Tempered Steel 62.50% 16
Quest 62.50% 24
Mono-Red 54.55% 11
Kuldotha Red 52.83% 53
Valakut Ramp 50.00% 140
Mass Polymorph 50.00% 6
Boros 43.75% 32
Vampires 43.64% 55
Blue-White Control 42.86% 14
Blue-Black-Green 42.86% 7
Blue-Red-Green 41.18% 17
Infect 33.33% 9
Eldrazi Ramp 33.33% 6
Caw-Go 30.68% 88
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control 20.00% 5
Green-White Aggro 18.18% 11
Bant Aggro 0.00% 2
Mono-Green Ramp 0.00% 3
Blue-Red-Green 0.00% 1
Grand Total 45.22% 51

Blue-Black Control, less than 15% of the field at Worlds, was about 6% more of the field at Paris. With more people at the helm, the results suffered. Blue-Black Control moved from 5% over 50% to 5% under, decidedly the wrong directly. In addition to getting worse against White-Blue Control, Blue-Black also got worse against Valakut. In Chiba Blue-Black was able to beat Valakut 55% of the time, but just broke even in Paris. Strategies were certainly altered from one tournament to another, and of course a new set was available. I expect that Blue-Black Control will drop in popularity as people who would normally play this deck up migrate to Tezzeret.

Kuldotha Red Win % Matches
Unknown 100.00% 1
Mass Polymorph 100.00% 1
Green-White Aggro 100.00% 3
Mono-Green Ramp 100.00% 2
Blue-Red-Green 77.78% 9
Boros 58.33% 12
White-Blue Control 50.00% 4
Infect 50.00% 4
Blue-Black Control 47.17% 53
Tempered Steel 42.86% 7
Vampires 41.18% 17
Valakut Ramp 33.96% 53
Caw-Go 31.03% 29
Quest 25.00% 12
Mono-Red 0.00% 1
White Weenie 0.00% 1
Allies 0.00% 2
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control 0.00% 1
Red-Green Aggro 0.00% 1
Blue-Black-Green 0.00% 1
Grand Total 42.06% 21

At about 7.5% of the field, Kuldotha Red is one of those decks that you have to be prepared for, but maybe not one that you have more than a couple of sideboard cards for. Judging by its performance at Paris, you won't have to be any more prepared than you currently are. It's possible that twelve matches against Boros are predictive and it becomes more popular thanks to Mr. Reitzl and as a result Kuldotha Red is the Boros-slayer. It's possible. But I don't think even that would be enough to move Kuldotha Red to the top tier.

Vampires Win % Matches
White Weenie 100.00% 1
Infect 100.00% 1
Elves 100.00% 1
Mono-Red 66.67% 3
Kuldotha Red 58.82% 17
Valakut Ramp 58.54% 41
Blue-Black Control 56.36% 55
White-Blue Control 50.00% 4
Eldrazi Ramp 50.00% 2
Boros 47.62% 21
Quest 40.00% 10
Green-White Aggro 33.33% 6
Tempered Steel 33.33% 3
Blue-Red-Green 33.33% 6
Caw-Go 29.03% 31
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control 0.00% 1
Blue-Black-Green 0.00% 1
Grand Total 49.51% 20

Vampires is one of the few decks to stay the same between Chiba and Paris. 8% of the field in Chiba, 7% in Paris. 49.69% win rate in Chiba, 49.51% in Paris. That's pretty impressive, really. Not really meaningful, but impressive. This is a deck that has enough of a following and stable enough performance that you should continue to be prepared. I'm not saying this is the deck to play or anything like that. The results aren't sexy, but they are effective enough to cause a problem or two on the road to winning a tournament.

Boros Win % Matches
Green-White Ramp 100.00% 2
Elves 100.00% 1
Tempered Steel 100.00% 2
Blue-Black-Green 100.00% 1
Infect 100.00% 3
Blue-Black-Red Tezzeret Control 75.00% 4
Valakut Ramp 67.44% 43
Blue-Red-Green 60.00% 5
White-Blue Control 60.00% 10
Blue-Black Control 56.25% 32
Vampires 52.38% 21
Mass Polymorph 50.00% 2
Caw-Go 42.31% 26
Kuldotha Red 41.67% 12
Quest 33.33% 6
Mono-Green Ramp 33.33% 3
Mono-Red 0.00% 3
Allies 0.00% 1
Grand Total 55.93% 17

A small following will likely increase with two berths in the top 8. Boros saw a modest 1.5% increase in popularity from Worlds and 2.4% increase in win rate. So it was already doing fine. Not great, but fine. And it improved. I'm a little surprised there weren't more people running this deck, actually. It should, in theory, be the default aggro deck. Historically people have liked aggro decks. If Caw-go does indeed become more popular, this may not be the right call after all. Listening to coverage of the PT it sounded like people thought Paul Reitzl was the favorite in the finals. Looking at the numbers it seemed pretty obvious he was not. Then again, Paul had been undefeated against Caw-Go (3-0-1) until that point, so what do I know?

I really enjoy when there are back-to-back tournaments for the same format. As we've seen, things do not usually remain constant. An archetype will look entirely different from one tournament to the next and this can lead to wild swings that we may not anticipate. This was no exception. All told, I can't wait for PT Nagoya in June when we get to see how Block Constructed is panning out.

I've also included a spreadsheet of the full deck-on-deck results, which I'm sure my editor will link to somewhere around here.

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