Magic the Gathering Standard Analysis: Infancy of a Format

The release of Return to Ravnica heralded the birth of a new Magic the Gathering Standard environment. The new metagame took its first hesitant steps at StarCityGames Open Cincinnati (#SCGCIN) on October 6, 2012. This past weekend, SCG Open Providence (#SCGPROV) provided data and results from a second major tournament in this still fresh-from-the-pack environment. I have analyzed the top 16 decks and have some data and analysis to contribute to your deck brewing and tuning efforts.

Deck Archetypes

Before getting into the cards played, it is important to be aware of the deck types that were successful at SCG Providence. Here are the most successful archetypes in the top 16:

  • 4¬†Green-based Midrange (3 Jund, 1 GW)
  • 3 UW Control
  • 3 Zombies (2 BR, 1 BG)

The number of Midrange decks has increased (from two in the Cincinnati top 16), and two-color Zombies decks were the only ones to make it to the top in Providence. Control decks have dropped the red in favor of straight Azorius affiliation.

Creatures

The new Magic: the Gathering Standard environment is home to a whole host of fearsome creatures, and the top 16 decks made good use of them, averaging twenty-three creatures per deck.

Here are the most played Creatures in the top 16 of SCGPROV:

  • 28 [card]Thragtusk[/card] in eight decks, 27 main (3.9 per) and 1 side (1 per)
  • 13 [card]Centaur Healer[/card] in four decks, 1 main (1 per) and 12 side (3 per)
  • 12 [card]Gravecrawler[/card] in three decks, all main (4 per)
  • 12 [card]Geralf’s Messenger[/card] in three decks, all main (4 per)
  • 12 [card]Diregraf Ghoul[/card] in three decks, all main (4 per)
  • 12 [card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] in five decks, 1 main (1 per) and 11 side (2.2 per)
  • 12 [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card] in three decks, all main (4 per)
  • 12 [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] in three decks, all main (4 per)
  • 11 [card]Falkenrath Aristocrat[/card] in three decks, 8 main (4 per) and 3 side (3 per)
  • 11 [card]Geist of Saint Traft[/card] in three decks, 4 main (4 per) and 7 side (3.5 per)
  • 11 [card]Rakdos Cackler[/card] in three decks, all main (3.7 per)

[card]Thragtusk[/card] was once again the most played creature by a wide margin. Half of the top 16 decks played at least three copies, and the first, second, and third place finishers each played four copies.

[card]Centaur Healer[/card] was the second most played creature, coming out of the sideboards of GW Midrange, Reanimator, and Bant Control decks. This card comes in against Zombies and other aggro decks, and with a turn-one [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card], it can be played on turn two to provide three life and a blocker able to kill or trade for most early aggressive creatures.

[card]Deathrite Shaman[/card] is another card found in the sideboards of many top 16 decks. Two to three copies can be found in most Zombies, Jund, and Reanimator decks and come in versus Zombies, Reanimator, and control decks playing [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card] (ten copies in four decks).

The Answers

Creatures are running rampant in the new Standard environment. The top 16 decks played an average of twenty-four creatures between the main deck and sideboard. For a deck to be successful it must have a plan to fight creatures.

Here are the most played Removal spells in the top 16 of SCGPROV:

  • 26 [card]Pillar of Flame[/card] in eight decks, 25 main (3.6 per) and 1 side (1 per)
  • 16 [card]Detention Sphere[/card] in eight decks, 10 main (2.5 per) and 6 side (1.5 per)
  • 16 [card]Azorius Charm[/card] in four decks, all main (4 per)
  • 15 [card]Terminus[/card] in four decks, all main (3.75 per)
  • 14 [card]Dreadbore[/card] in five decks, 8 main (2.7 per) and 6 side (2 per)
  • 14 [card]Tragic Slip[/card] in five decks, 10 main (3.3 per) and 4 side (2 per)
  • 13 [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] in five decks, 4 main (1.3) and 9 side (1.8)
  • 13 [card]Sever the Bloodline[/card] in seven decks, 1 main (1 per) and 12 side (1.7)
  • 12 [card]Searing Spear[/card] in three decks, all main (4 per)
  • 9 [card]Oblivion Ring[/card] in seven decks, 4 main (1 per) and 5 side (1.25 per)
  • 9 [card]Brimstone Volley[/card] in three decks, all main (3 per)
  • 9 [card]Tamiyo, the Moon Sage[/card] in four decks, 8 main (2 per) and 1 side (1 per)

[card]Pillar of Flame[/card] continues to top the list, exiling zombies, [card]Blood Artist[/card]s, and more than a few [card]Avacyn’s Pilgrim[/card]s.

Four copies of [card]Azorius Charm[/card] were played in the mainboard of each of the control decks (three UW, one Bant) in the top 16. The ability to use the charm as a [card]Vapor Snag[/card], to draw a card, or to help stabilize through life gain makes it an easy inclusion.

[card]Abrupt Decay[/card] saw an increase in play between SCG Cincinnati and Providence, going from three copies to a total of eight. It is a strong answer to popular controlling enchantments [card]Detention Sphere[/card] and [card]Oblivion Ring[/card], as well as any early creatures.

Sometimes removing a creature from the battlefield is not good enough. With [card]Thragtusk[/card], for example, a big part of the damage is done when it enters and exits the battlefield.

Here are the most played proactive answers in the top 16 of SCG Providence:

  • 14 [card]Negate[/card] in six decks, 1 main (1 per) and 13 side (2.2 per)
  • 9 [card]Appetite for Brains[/card] in four decks, all main (2.3 per)
  • 9 [card]Dissipate[/card] in four decks, 5 main (2.5 per) and 4 side (2 per)
  • 6 [card]Duress[/card] in three decks, all side (2 per)
  • 6 [card]Syncopate[/card] in three decks, all main (2 per)

[card]Appetite for Brains[/card] is very well positioned right now and has high-value targets against many of the top decks in the format (number of copies played in SCG Providence top 16 are in parentheses):

  • Jund Midrange: [card]Thragtusk[/card] (28), [card]Huntmaster of the Fells[/card] (12), and [card]Olivia Voldaren[/card] (10)
  • GW Midrange: [card]Thragtusk[/card] (28)
  • Blue-based Control: Terminus (15), [card]Supreme Verdict[/card] (13), [card]Tamiyo, the Moon Sage[/card] (9), and [card]Jace, Architect of Thought[/card] (16)
  • Reanimator: [card]Thragtusk[/card] (28), [card]Unburial Rites[/card] (4), [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] (10), and [card]Restoration Angel[/card] (8)

Since [card]Appetite for Brains[/card] exiles the selected card, it is particularly effective against decks playing [card]Unburial Rites[/card] and also helps against Reanimator decks and those playing [card]Snapcaster Mage[/card].

Targeting the Metagame

[card]Sigarda, Host of Herons[/card], is well-positioned as a finisher and quality defender in the current metagame, yet only two were played in the top 16 of Providence(1 main and 1 side). Sigarda avoids most of the answers played: it can only be dealt with by sweepers (Terminus and [card]Supreme Verdict[/card]), countered ([card]Dissipate[/card] and [card]Syncopate[/card]), or forced out of your hand by [card]Appetite for Brains[/card].

The only creatures played that can defeat Sigarda in combat are [card]Angel of Serenity[/card] (10) and [card]Rakdos, Lord of Riots[/card] (3). An additional five creatures played would trade with Sigarda if blocked: [card]Thragtusk[/card] (28), [card]Vampire Nighthawk[/card] (5), [card]Deadbridge Goliath[/card] (4), [card]Thundermaw Hellkite[/card] (2), and [card]Armada Wurm[/card] (1). Of those, only three can actually block Sigarda.

Evolutions

The Standard environment will continue to evolve as we move toward SCG Open Indianapolis next week and beyond. I would like this column to evolve with it. In order to provide the most useful deck building analysis, I would like your feedback: do you want to see more or different data? More analysis of what the data means and how it should impact your deck building? Let me know in the comments or on Twitter.

Thanks for reading.

Nick Vigabool (@MrVigabool)