Feature Article – Extended PTQ Analysis 2

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Tuesday, February 26th – A few weeks ago, Paul Jordan brought us a statistical explosion. Working with an entire PTQ’s worth of pairings and archetype data, he thrashed out the runners and riders in the developing metagame. Today, he brings us Stat Attack 2, with data compiled from two recent tournaments. As before, Paul wrings every ounce of pertinent data from the information. Warning: This is not for the faint of heart…

Extended season is coming to an end. For some this may be a relief, but for most it is a source of anxiety. Only a few tournament remaining and yet somehow I’m still left without an invitation to rub elbows with celebrities in Hollywood. What’s a girl to do? Which deck will take me out West where the sun always shines? We’re going to try to answer that for you today.

A little over a month ago I gained access to all of the data from a Neutral Ground PTQ and ran an analysis on it. The findings were quite revealing, depicting Rock decks as the clear favorite, posting huge attendance numbers in addition to impressive results. As you’ll see shortly, both of those numbers saw a pretty heavy decline.

I went to the PTQ held in Edison, NJ on 2/23, looking to navigate a deck of Flores’s choice through the Swiss and back onto the ‘Tour. He gave me a Mono-Red burn deck. I went 2-2. After a draft and some dinner** I returned to the site to retrieve the decklists for all 154 participants. As luck would have it, Mike Errante was able to also provide me with the information from the previous week’s PTQ in the city of brotherly love. Now I was armed with 300+ decklists, and once I got his email I had close to 900 matches to breakdown. Bonus double PTQ package.

The first piece of information to look at is the distribution of deck choice. In early January in the Northeast, Rock decks accounted for 28% of the field. In Philly they were 21% and in Edison they were 24%, taking up 23% of the overall attendance between both PTQ’s. While there was a 5% drop in popularity for the Rock, it still dominated in terms of numbers, pacing the next most popular deck (Counter-Top decks) by more than double.

deck_cat deck_type Data 2/16/2008 2/23/2008 Grand Total
Rock Doran Decks 15 25 40
Percent to Total 10.64% 16.03% 13.47%
death cloud rock Decks 9 6 15
Percent to Total 6.38% 3.85% 5.05%
Generic Rock Decks   4 4
Percent to Total 0.00% 2.56% 1.35%
Flow-Rock Decks 2 2 4
Percent to Total 1.42% 1.28% 1.35%
Confidant Rock Decks 2   2
Percent to Total 1.42% 0.00% 0.67%
Macey Rock Decks   1 1
Percent to Total 0.00% 0.64% 0.34%
Gifts-Rock Decks 1   1
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.00% 0.34%
Rock Decks 29 38 67
Rock Percent to Total 20.57% 24.36% 22.56%
Counter-top Next Level Blue Decks 16 10 26
Percent to Total 11.35% 6.41% 8.75%
Chase Rare Decks 1 6 7
Percent to Total 0.71% 3.85% 2.36%
Counter-top Decks 17 16 33
Counter-top Percent to Total 12.06% 10.26% 11.11%
Goblins Goblin Rogue Decks 5 10 15
Percent to Total 3.55% 6.41% 5.05%
goblin bidding Decks 2 4 6
Percent to Total 1.42% 2.56% 2.02%
Goblins Decks 4   4
Percent to Total 2.84% 0.00% 1.35%
Goblins Decks 11 14 25
Goblins Percent to Total 7.80% 8.97% 8.42%
homebrew misc Decks 1 3 4
Percent to Total 0.71% 1.92% 1.35%
highlander elves Decks 1 3 4
Percent to Total 0.71% 1.92% 1.35%
Unknown Decks 2 1 3
Percent to Total 1.42% 0.64% 1.01%
Mono Black Control Decks 3   3
Percent to Total 2.13% 0.00% 1.01%
Warriors Decks 1   1
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.00% 0.34%
Domain Flow Decks 1   1
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.00% 0.34%
Highlander URG Decks   1 1
Percent to Total 0.00% 0.64% 0.34%
intruder alarm merfolk Decks 1   1
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.00% 0.34%
Merfolk Opposition Decks   1 1
Percent to Total 0.00% 0.64% 0.34%
5C control Decks 1   1
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.00% 0.34%
Gifts-Colossus Decks 1   1
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.00% 0.34%
snow green Decks 1   1
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.00% 0.34%
draft deck treefolk Decks   1 1
Percent to Total 0.00% 0.64% 0.34%
homebrew Decks 13 10 23
homebrew Percent to Total 9.22% 6.41% 7.74%
Zoo Gaea’s Might Get There Decks 5 2 7
Percent to Total 3.55% 1.28% 2.36%
Vindicate Zoo Decks 2 4 6
Percent to Total 1.42% 2.56% 2.02%
RGb Zoo Decks 1 4 5
Percent to Total 0.71% 2.56% 1.68%
Helix Zoo Decks 1 1 2
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.64% 0.67%
Zoo Decks 9 11 20
Zoo Percent to Total 6.38% 7.05% 6.73%
Affinity Affinity-Shrapnel Decks 7 4 11
Percent to Total 4.96% 2.56% 3.70%
Affinity-Atog Decks 1 1 2
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.64% 0.67%
Affinity-Goyf/Blast Decks   2 2
Percent to Total 0.00% 1.28% 0.67%
Affinity-Frenzy Decks   2 2
Percent to Total 0.00% 1.28% 0.67%
Affinity-Bob Decks 1   1
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.00% 0.34%
Affinity-Goyf Decks 1   1
Percent to Total 0.71% 0.00% 0.34%
Affinity Decks 10 9 19
Affinity Percent to Total 7.09% 5.77% 6.40%
Loam Loam Decks 6 8 14
Percent to Total 4.26% 5.13% 4.71%
Slide Decks 3 1 4
Percent to Total 2.13% 0.64% 1.35%
Loam Decks 9 9 18
Loam Percent to Total 6.38% 5.77% 6.06%
Ideal Ideal Decks 8 10 18
Percent to Total 5.67% 6.41% 6.06%
Ideal Decks 8 10 18
Ideal Percent to Total 5.67% 6.41% 6.06%
Dredge Dredge Decks 8 8 16
Percent to Total 5.67% 5.13% 5.39%
Dredge Decks 8 8 16
Dredge Percent to Total 5.67% 5.13% 5.39%
Burn Mono-Red Burn Decks 5 10 15
Percent to Total 3.55% 6.41% 5.05%
Burn Decks 5 10 15
Burn Percent to Total 3.55% 6.41% 5.05%
Mind’s Desire Mind’s Desire Decks 2 5 7
Percent to Total 1.42% 3.21% 2.36%
Mind’s Desire Decks 2 5 7
Mind’s Desire Percent to Total 1.42% 3.21% 2.36%
GW Midrange GW Midrange Gaddock Decks 5 1 6
Percent to Total 3.55% 0.64% 2.02%
GW Midrange Colossus Decks   1 1
Percent to Total 0.00% 0.64% 0.34%
GW Midrange Decks 5 2 7
GW Midrange Percent to Total 3.55% 1.28% 2.36%

Tiny Writing Alert!

The drop in Rock participation, while interesting as a category by itself, is even more interesting when you look at which Rock decks were being played. Doran lost 5.5% of the field, or 29% of its followers, but still posted the highest single-deck-type usage. Other Rock decks (Gifts, Generic, Confidant without Doran) all basically disappeared and were replaced by Death Cloud decks.

Looking at the other deck types, Counter-Top had a modest 1% increase in attendance, while Goblins went from 5% to 8.45%, an almost 70% increase! Dredge more than doubled from a meager 2.2% to 5.4%. Aggro decks Affinity and Zoo both dropped off, 11% to 6% for Affinity and 10.5% to 6.8% for Zoo. Burn decks took up much of the void left by Affinity and Zoo, accounting for 5% of the field. The other major move came from Ideal, moving up from 1% to 6%.

We now have an accurate picture of the field we should expect to face. Rock, Counter-Top, Goblins, Zoo, Affinity, Loam, Ideal, Dredge, and Burn each account for 5% or more of the field so are worthy of preparation against. That’s 9 decks. In the first PTQ there were only 5 decks that were 5% or more of the field. Things are getting harder as a clear-cut favorite has not shown itself and the field is diversifying. Rather than showing the top win % decks overall, I’m going to first show decks that had the top win % against these 9 categories. Those are the matches that we’re really interested in, after all.

player_deck_cat Win %
Fires 80.00%
UR Crusher 69.23%
Tallowisp 66.67%
Balancing Tings 60.00%
Tron 57.14%
Loam 55.00%
Elves 54.55%v

Ideal 54.22%
Counter-top 53.13%
Rock 51.72%
Eggs 50.00%
RG Burn 50.00%
Dredge 50.00%
Mind’s Desire 48.28%
Zoo 47.13%
Burn 45.95%
Affinity 44.71%
Goblins 44.09%
GW Midrange 43.75%
All-In Red 43.75%
Mono Blue Control 40.00%
Tog 40.00%
Storm 33.33%
homebrew 32.56%
Madness 25.00%
Threshold 25.00%
Scepter-Chant 20.00%
Battle of Wits 16.67%
Breach-Hulk 0.00%

Whoa, what the heck are those decks?! Those are the ones that performed best against our expected field of 9 decks. Flores would love this. The top 5 decks all are not part of our top 9. It’s a rogue deck designer’s dream. Adrian Sullivan may actually have fallen down.

The Fires deck up there was piloted by none other than Dr. Mike Pustilnik, in Philly. UR Crusher utilizes the synergy of Greater Gargadon and Countryside Crusher backed with burn and tempo cards like Remand, Fire/Ice etc. Tallowisp aims to search up multiple Cloaks or bullet auras with Spectral Lynx (now a spirit), Phantom Centaur, and other spirit friends. Tings and Tron are both old names making a comeback. Of our top 9 expected, Loam did the best against the others (of course, excluding mirror matches). Where is mighty mighty Rock? All the way down at number 10, barely above .500 against the 9 most-expected decks.

I do have to concede that those top 5 do not have a huge pool of matches to analyze (5, 14, 6, 5, 8 respectively) but it is certainly something worth looking at. Loam though, is a different story. Loam boasts a 55% against the 9 expected decks, over a huge pool of 88 matches. That, my friends, is very significant. Let’s look a little deeper.

opp_deck_cat Win % Matches
Goblins 87.50% 10
Rock 63.33% 33
Burn 60.00% 10
Affinity 55.56% 9
Counter-top 40.00% 12
Zoo 28.57% 7
Ideal 25.00% 4
Dredge 0.00% 3

Loam’s weaknesses appear to be Zoo, Ideal, Dredge and Counter-Top. Dredge & Ideal specifically have a very low sample size, so it is difficult to read into them. But if you’re expecting more Rock and Goblins, you should invest in some Devastating Dreams. If you’re worried about how it fares against the outlier decks, don’t be. Loam has is at a healthy 65% against the remainder of the field. The numbers are pointing us in the direction of Loam. It gets a little shakier though when we start thinking further into the tournament. We’re assuming a field with a mix of these 9 decks. So advancing further in the tournament requires defeating said decks. The further you go, the more you can expect to face decks that are good in this field. In this field of 9, outside of Loam (our deck) the top performers are Ideal, Counter-Top, Rock, Dredge, and Zoo. In other words, the 4 decks we are worst against represent 80% of the top 5 decks against our enemies, so we can expect to see more of these decks later in the rounds. This would seem to make Loam a great candidate to make Top 8 and then fail to win.

The next logical deck to look at is Ideal. Ideal posts a 54% record against our expected field. The problem children for Ideal though are Rock, Zoo, Counter-Top, and Dredge. While the numbers aren’t overwhelming, it sure looks a lot better than facing a field where late in the day 4 of your top 5 predicted pairings are unfavorable.

opp_deck_cat Win % Matches
Burn 90.00% 10
Loam 75.00% 4
Affinity 75.00% 12
Goblins 62.50% 8
Rock 40.74% 28
Zoo 37.50% 9
Counter-top 37.50% 8
Dredge 33.33% 6

You still have 4 unfavorables out there, but this time 2 of them aren’t expected to make it quite as far in the day (Rock and Zoo).

While these numbers certainly point us in a direction, there are still so many variables to take into account. These categorizations are obviously very high-level and don’t take into account full deck variations that may exist within a deck type. Especially here, where we are looking at 2 different weeks of data that include a full extra week’s worth of super secret technology. What we can say for sure though is that the field is becoming more and more diverse and a significant number of strategies are viable. So many so that if you find a strategy yet left unexplored you are poised to find the next great rogue deck to become mainstream. The field is ready for it, so get out your playtesting shoes and find something. Hopefully this exercise will lessen the amount of “big deck testing” you have to do within the top 9 so that you can focus on testing your deck against them.

There is an associated spreadsheet that I’m sure Craig would be happy to send along to those who would want it. Right around here he should be telling you how to go about getting it. [Yup… download it here – Craig.]


** I went to dinner with Flores, Ravitz and Osyp. Osyp is so desperate to do well at Philly that he was begging Flores to be added to the top8magic strategy list. Flores finally succumbed after the final convincing argument from Osyp – “You have so many ideas it is difficult to find the good one from the 2 dozen bad ones. I can do that for you.” [paraphrased]. Also, Osyp said that, if he required it, Osyp would tie Finkel’s shoes for him.