So Many Insane Plays – Chapin Was Right: A Legacy Result Overview

StarCityGames.com Open Series: Indianapolis on March 13-14
Monday, March 8th – A year ago, Patrick Chapin made what was then perceived as a curious deck choice for Legacy. The recent results from Madrid and the StarCityGames.com Open have proved him to be correct. Stephen Menendian examines these recent high-profile Legacy tournament results, and draws some conclusions about the format going forward.

February 27th-28th 2010 is the greatest weekend in the history of Legacy, and possibly Magic. Record-busting attendance in Madrid was met with record-breaking tournament attendance in Richmond, VA, where SCG held a Grand Prix sized double header.

We are seeing an explosion of attendance in tournament Magic. I believe there are many factors going into this. First of all, Legacy is a very popular format. It’s interesting to me that Legacy, the last two times, has set tournament attendance records.

At the same time, I think there has been a cultural change in how Wizards and TOs approach tournaments. TOs are, more than ever, designing tournament experiences for players, and not treating players like disposable diapers. Watching the video from Madrid, there was a real sense that the folks who ran that event ran it with the utmost respect for their customers. In spite of the unbelievable logistical nightmare of trying to manage the largest Magic tournament of all time, they were quite cognizant of player needs and the desire to keep the tournament running smoothly and keep players comfortable.

As for the SCG Opens, well… SCG is the best in the business. I hope that Richmond is the watershed moment for the Open Series, where nearly 240 players competed in Legacy, breaking the SCG Boston number by 25%! What’s really striking is the significant difference in the results of the SCG Open and the Grand Prix. Despite having enormous player bases, the results are very different in a few critical respects.
Today I want to talk about two topics. First, I want to respond to some of the commentary generated by my article last week on the Reserved List. In the second half of the article, I want to take a look at Legacy. In the appendix, I’ve typed up the rest of the Top 32 decklists from SCG Richmond Legacy Open.

Reprints and the Reserved List

I had two purposes in mind when writing my article last week. First, I sought to show that the Reserved List no longer serves the purposes for which it was designed, at least not to the extent its defenders imagine.

The second purpose, and the most important, is that the Reserved List has the potential to seriously harm Eternal Formats like Legacy by impeding their growth at a critical moment.

The issue is not Tarmogoyf or The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale; it’s dual lands.

I’m not sure I drove this point home enough:

Dual lands are the building blocks of Legacy. They are as important as basic lands. If you want to play a deck with more than one color, you need dual lands. The fetchland + dual land interaction is by far the most important interaction in the entire format.

The issue is that these cards, which are essential to every multi-color deck, are $50-80 apiece and rising. Buying a set of dual lands is basically equivalent to buying Power at this point.

Imagine if basic Forest cost $50. That’s the magnitude of the problem.

You can play a deck in Legacy without Tarmogoyf or Lion’s Eye Diamond or Force of Will. Over 50% of the decks don’t have Tarmogoyf. But without dual lands, you are shut out from over 80% of the decks in the format. That’s a far more serious problem.

A lot of folks reading the article thought I was saying that Wizards should reprint dual lands or other cards. My argument wasn’t that Wizards should reprint anything, at this time. Rather, my point was that Wizards should abolish the Reserved List. Abolishing the Reserved List and reprinting certain cards are not the same thing.

The Reserved List impedes them from doing reprints of dual lands and other Eternal staples, should, in their view, the need arise. That doesn’t mean that they will need reprints, but that Wizards should have all options available to it, and that waiting until that day to abolish the reserved list will make doing so more difficult. I am merely suggesting that Wizards take steps to allow itself to take the best course of action if that eventuality arises.

One of the frequent questions that arose in reply to my article is this: if Wizards were to reprint cards on the Reserved List, how should they do it? I don’t have an answer to that question, but I suggest one possible option here.

I tried to imagine: if I were Wizards, how would I address this issue? Here’s what I came up with, a ‘fake announcement,’ from Wizards of the Coast:

The people who made Magic had no idea how popular the game would be. Early expansions sold out instantly, and demand far outstripped production. There weren’t enough early cards to satisfy players or collectors. This company reprinted a number of early cards in Chronicles and Fourth Edition to give folks access to some of these difficult-to-find cards. They tried to a balance the desire to maintain collectability by only reprinting some cards. However, after the printing of Chronicles and Fourth Edition, it became clear that players were deeply concerned about the value of the cards they had been collecting, and the way in which reprints – at that time – devalued their collectibles.

In 1996, the good folks who made Magic cared about the young game and its long-term health. They created the Reserved List as a way of keeping players and collectors in the game. It was a promise not to reprint cards. Due to a number of concerns, we’ve modified the Reserved List several times. We stopped adding cards to the reserved list in the late 1990s. We removed all of the uncommons and rares from the list. In all that time, we’ve kept the word made by folks who no longer work for this company.

Over time, it became clear that the Reserved List didn’t actually serve the purposes for which it was created. We discovered that there were other natural constraints on reprints besides the Reserved List. Our experience in designing sets taught us the need to maintain a balanced, fun, and interactive Standard format. Reprints of certain overpowered out of print cards like Mana Drain for Standard were out of the question. As we famously said, R&D would have to be hit by a bus before we’d reprint Mana Drain, despite the fact that we could. Mana Drain isn’t on the Reserved List. The fact that we could print cards didn’t mean that we would or would even want to.

Although Magic is and will always be a collectible card game, it became clear that with the exception of cards printed from exceptionally low print-runs, playability in formats like Standard are the chief driver of card values. The promise to not reprint cards did little to prevent older, unused cards from falling in price. In fact, just the opposite. Reprints of older cards often caused older card prices to increase, as players sought out original copies of those cards. Older cards that see little play, precisely because they are of no use to modern players, have often fallen quite sharply in value.

At the same time we began to understand that earlier editions of cards that have been reprinted kept their value, regardless of the number of reprints. It’s not just functionality in relevant formats that creates value, but usefulness combined with certain edition. Numerous reprints on cards like Wrath of God and Birds of Paradise have done little to devalue the earliest printings of these cards. And more recent printings on other cards like Psionic Blast demonstrated the same thing.

And despite 12 years of new printings, no new cards have been added to the Reserved List, and yet players are unafraid to purchase new cards and collect new sets. The Reserved List has not been necessary to keep players in the game, and maintain confidence that cards will retain value.

But we kept the Reserved List around to hold a promise made by a young company with an uncertain future.

More recently, we’ve discovered that players and collectors alike enjoy peripheral Magic products like duel decks, deck series, and special premium sets like From the Vault. These special products are great for getting new players involved the game and targeted to various customer niches. Our Slivers Deck Series suffered greatly from not featuring Sliver Queen. We realized that, more and more, the Reserved List was an impediment to common sense reprints that would neither devalue earlier printings nor harm the game.

The promise behind the Reserved List has always been the same: do what is best for the long-term health of the game. We promised not to reprint certain cards to give Magic customers confidence that their cards would not devalue. And, despite having not made that promise for over a decade on any new cards, it has not diminished the collectability of sets printed since Urza’s Block. Magic has not suffered for not having new cards added to the Reserved List. In fact, it’s continued to grow. The fact that certain cards can be reprinted has not prevented them from acquiring tremendous value.

For these reasons, we are hereby abolishing the Reserved List, effective immediately. Our goal remains the same as the goal of the people who created the Reserved List: do what is best for the long-term health of the game. Magic is at a place where The Reserved List no longer accomplishes that purpose. In fact, it does exactly the opposite. We recognize that Legacy is one of our most popular formats. Legacy draws upon almost every card ever printed, and yet it generated our largest tournament attendance ever. While we have no immediate intention to reprint certain Legacy cards, we do recognize that reprints of certain Legacy staples might be necessary at some point. If it is, we will consider doing whatever is best for the game of Magic.

A big dose of common sense is called for. Just because we can reprint certain cards doesn’t mean we will, as the fact that we haven’t printed Mana Drain thus far demonstrates. And just because we reprint cards, doesn’t mean it will cause older versions to lose value or become less collectible. We will always balance concerns that motivated the Reserved List against other needs.

Collectors and players alike should have faith that the abolition of the Reserved List does not mean that we will radically harm your collection. We are simply freeing this company to do whatever it is that is ultimately in the best interest of Magic’s long-term future. 17 years of Magic has taught us many things. We are far from perfect, but we are better at designing cards, sets, and formats than ever before. We have more experience and skill. We’ve learned to develop unique products to make our many customers happy. But the most important lesson in that time is that this game will continue to evolve and grow in unexpected ways.

The folks who created the Reserved List did what they felt was in the best interest of the long-term health of the game. Our purpose is the same. We currently have no plans to reprint cards on the Reserved list other than in ways that the Reserved List premium exception permitted. At the same time, we are humble in our recognition that we do not know what the future may hold. Our brand and our product is stronger than ever. We have no intention of jeopardizing that. We want you to play Magic for decades to come. That means creating the best collectible card game product we possibly can for repeated enjoyment. That certainly doesn’t mean reprinting Ancestral Recall for Standard.

We considered many possible amendments to the Reserved List, but we feel that the Reserved List is fundamentally flawed. Continuing to keep any part of it unnecessarily hampers the options of this company in the future. While we could wait until that day when the Reserved List truly harms our product and our brand, we feel that abolishing the Reserved List now is the most fair way of dealing with it rather than wait until that distant day.

We value our promise to you, and although we are doing away with the Reserved List, our more important promise is and will always be the promise to make the best product we can and manage that product for the long-term health of the game. Do not mistake our motives here today: we are not abolishing the Reserved List because Magic is dying or as a ploy to make FTV: Power. On the contrary, our actions here are informed and motivated by a commitment to the long-term health of this game. Magic is growing far beyond what its creators could have imagined, let alone what we imagined two or three years ago. We have a responsibility to the untold millions of players who will someday enjoy this game as much as we owe a duty to you. We strongly believe that abolishing the Reserved List serves them and you best.

We know that some of you may be unhappy with this decision. We understand your concern that future reprints may jeopardize the value of your cards, which some of you view as investments. To keep that end of our bargain, we will offer a one-time exchange program for cards that are currently on the Reserved List. Using the average market value of cards currently on the Reserved List over the last six months prior to this announcement, we will provide an exchange or rebate program. You can send your cards to a special address, and we will exchange any card on the Reserved List at market value, and send you a check for the cards, or we will send you retail product equal to the value of the cards you mailed to us, your preference. This program will be available to anyone who wishes to take part until August 31, 2010.

If I were Wizards, that’s how I’d message and handle the abolition of the Reserved List. Let me just point out a few key things:

• This announcement frames the issue as a matter of what is best for the long-term health of the game. In fact, it’s clear that this is why the Reserved List was created. But, it’s increasingly evident that the Reserved list — whether they reprint certain cards or not — no longer serves this goal. From that point of view, abolishing the Reserved list serves the same goal that its creation did. I’d make that clear if I were Wizards.
• This announcement makes it clear that abolishing the Reserved List is not the same thing as deciding to reprint cards on it. That’s a critical distinction. The point is not that Wizards wants to reprint certain cards, but that it should have that option available to it.
• Finally, I offer a mechanism, a redemption program, that would allow Wizards to reprint without harming the value of player’s collections.

It’s this last item that I expect to generate the most controversy, so let me make a few more points in regards to it.

First of all, I wouldn’t expect very many people to take part of this program. A program announcement like that is more for PR than the expectation that people would actually send in their Reserved List collection.

Notice its features. It’s a pretty limited program. Only cards from the Reserved List are eligible. And it’s pretty clear from the announcement that Wizards would have no immediate plans to reprint anything other than as premium foils, as they already are. There are only 21 cards on the Reserved List that are worth more than $50, and less than 50 cards worth more than $20. Unless your collection is truly enormous, it’s probably not worth it for you to send in cards that are worth less than $20. And, even if you could, the value of those cards won’t immediately fall since this program would be in place for a number of months. People who own Power, like myself, in the vast, vast majority of cases would almost certainly not participate in this program. If we wanted to get rid of our Power, we could always just sell it. And, from this announcement, it’s clear that Wizards isn’t going to be reprinting Power in the foreseeable future.

But even if people were to overwhelm Wizards with redemption requests, there are ways to limit the program further. For example, Wizards could limit redemption to cards valued, using the metrics above, at more than some amount, say $5 or $10. That would dramatically limit the number of cards that can be redeemed.

Third, if Wizards were to decide to implement this program, they should hire someone like Ben Bleiweiss to manage it as an independent special program administrator, like the U.S. government did with the 9/11 program in hiring Ken Feinberg. The program administrator would be hired to be honest in their appraisal, and would be independent.

Fourth, cards acquired this way could be reinserted into packs, much like Zenidkar’s ‘hidden treasure.’

Too Much Information

Coincidentally, the Madrid Day 2 Breakdown had 237 players, the same number of players as the SCG Legacy Open. That should allow some direct comparisons. Below, I have a complete metagame breakdown from the SCG Legacy Open.

Courtesy of Jared Sylva and SCG, here is the SCG Richmond Legacy metagame breakdown, and final standings:

1 – Tariq Zahzam – Merfolk
2 – Calasso Fuentes – CounterTop-Progenitus
3 – Tucker Greer – Merfolk
4 – Daniel Signorini – Reanimator
5 – Ryan McKinney – Reanimator
6 – Alix Hatfield – Zoo
7 – David Zhang – Merfolk
8 – Jeremy Tibbets – CounterTop-Progenitus
9 – Lukas Parson – Belcher
10 – Jon Reece – Merfolk
11 – Oscar Flores – Merfolk
12 – Aaron Wayne – UW Tempo
13 – Nick Walters – Landstill
14 – Derek Trumps – Merfolk
15 – Matthew Mancinelli – Zoo
16 – Dominic Lodovichetti – Zoo
17 – James Allen – 43 Land
18 – Samuel Swisher – CounterTop UGW
19 – James Miller – Aggro Loam
20 – David Martin – Aggro Loam
21 – Paul Lynch – Merfolk
22 – James Buckingham – Zoo
23 – Joe Philips – Burn
24 – Jeff Abbott – Reanimator
25 – Matt East – Elves Combo
26 – Jesse Hatfield – Reanimator
27 – Rion Marmulstein – CounterTop-Progenitus
28 – Jon Daily – Sea Stompy
29 – Chris Coppola – Zoo
30 – Chris Lucas – UW Tempo
31 – Jay DeLazier – Dredge
32 – Jonathan Suarez – UW Tempo
33 – Andy Park – Reanimator
34 – Jeremy Gilliam – Zoo
35 – Jesse Krieger – CounterTop UGW
36 – Dan Rae – CounterTop-Progenitus
37 – Ryan Fitzsimmons – Merfolk
38 – Chase Bailey – Belcher
39 – Michael Rooks – Dream Halls
40 – Michael Scheffenacker – Zoo
41 – Michael Kern – 43 Land
42 – Christopher Lynch – ANT
43 – Brian Diefendorf – 43 Land
44 – Josh Andrews – Dredge
45 – Eddie Davenport – UGW Painter
46 – Matthew Bartlett – G/W Natural Order
47 – Skip Chandler – G/B Suicide
48 – Jeremy Hsu – Aggro Loam
49 – Daniel Schoenbach – Merfolk
50 – Matt Elgin – Enchantress
51 – Tom Smart – Goblins
52 – Philip Sagnay – PT Junk
53 – Dustin Stevenson – Dreadtill
54 – Nate Vogt – Canadian Threshold
55 – Scott Cottrell – Dredge
56 – Matthew Mullins – Zoo
57 – Jeffery Lunch – CounterTop UGb
58 – Damon Whitby – High Tide Combo
59 – Mike Ward – Belcher
60 – Dakota Rogers – Merfolk
61 – Josh Partingon – Zoo
62 – Michael Mills – Zoo
63 – Phillip Deneka – ANT
64 – John Morris – Canadian Threshold
65 – Christian Griffin – Belcher
66 – James Peyton – ANT
67 – Michael Keller – Canadian Threshold
68 – Williams Davis – Merfolk
69 – John Kozlowski – Enchantress
70 – Mark Fuller – Zoo
71 – Damion Guy – CounterTop-Progenitus
72 – Donovan Harvie – Burn
73 – Richard Johnson – Belcher
74 – Tom Swindell – Zoo
75 – David Heilker – Mono Green Natural Order
76 – Matt Mercer – CounterTop Bitterblossom Control
77 – Brooks Dorsey – UW Tempo
78 – Tim Furrow – Bitterblossom Control
79 – Joshua Sorrells – Bant
80 – Corey Szamier – Merfolk
81 – Chris HarttenBitterblossom Control
82 – Nick DiTizio – Ad Nauseam
83 – Jason Rowe – Zoo
84 – Zach Shaffner – Dream Halls
85 – Oliver Russ – Dreadtill
86 – Michael Bennett – Reanimator Hulk
87 – Kevin Andrews – B/G Suicide
88 – Marc Epstein – Merfolk
89 – Brad Holland – Suicide Black
90 – Kenney Mayer – Zoo
91 – Patrick Little – Dream Halls
92 – Stephen Church – Belcher
93 – Toby Williams – Dragon Stompy
94 – John Beavers – Suicide Black
95 – Daniel Samson – Zoo
96 – Steve Tuchek – Zoo
97 – Ryan Reynolds – Burn
98 – Evan Philbeck – Dream Halls
99 – Rory Thompson – Reanimator
100 – Alex Bertoncini – Merfolk
101 – Doug Azzano – Life Combo
102 – Jeff Darron – Burn
103 – Ken Adams – Reanimator
104 – Joel Sanders – Reanimator
105 – Stephen Sloan – CounterTop Painter UR
106 – Jason Lewis – Zoo
107 – Jon Aycock – Suicide Black
108 – Gregory Bowers – Belcher
109 – Kevin Heath – Merfolk
110 – Eric Gosse – B/G Suicide
111 – Joshua Spicer – Goblins
112 – James Shi – Merfolk
113 – Kurt Spiess – CounterTop Thopter UW
114 – Adrian Nestico – CounterTop-Progenitus
115 – Wes Johnson – Mono Black Control
116 – McCray Babson – Merfolk
117 – Mark Eddleman – Enchantress
118 – James Pogue – Survival
119 – Stephan Mercatoris – Aggro Loam
120 – Jeffery Kolowith – Dreadtill
121 – Mark Perdue – ANT
122 – Ben Gibala – Aggro Loam
123 – Jeremy Haring – Dredge
124 – Chris Wildes – Zoo
125 – John Ware – Belcher
126 – Brandon Clark – Merfolk
127 – Jack Elgin – Mono-White Control
128 – Tyler Edwards – CounterTop-Progenitus
129 – Michael Lopeman – Zoo
130 – Justin Warbington – Zoo
131 – Daniel Sale – Dragon Stompy
132 – Lewis Laskin – CounterTop UGb
133 – Victor Gonyo – Bitterblossom Control
134 – Justin Garcia – Goblins
135 – Phillip Abbot – Zoo
136 – Jeffery Kieper – Suicide Black
137 – Adam Justice – Imperial Painter
138 – James Hess – White Weenie
139 – Mitchell Wade – CounterTop 5c
140 – Kevin Kehoe – Zoo
141 – Matt Grohnke – 43 Land
142 – Cabel Byrne – Elves Combo
143 – Erik Johnson – Aggro Loam
144 – William Gibson – ANT
145 – Larry Wade – Survival
146 – Jeffrey Kowalczyk – Planeswalker/Landstill
147 – Darryl Donaldson – WGu Aggro
148 – Chris Marchland – Affinity
149 – Jonathan Bode – B/G Dark Depths
150 – Danny Woodruff – Merfolk
151 – Anwar Ahmad – Canadian Threshold
152 – Patrick Dansey – Dredge
153 – David Naputi – Reanimator
154 – Peter Sjostedt – Aggro Loam
155 – Christopher Backer – Goblins
156 – Ali Aintrazi – 43 Land
157 – Rolando Valdez – Burn
158 – Max Goldstein – 43 Land
159 – Joey Andrews – Natural Order/Staff Elves
160 – Lee Nixon – Zoo
161 – Andrew Polk – Goblins
162 – Mitch Forst – Landstill
163 – Christopher Massey – 43 Land
164 – Justin Navickas – CounterTop-Progenitus
165 – Tim Frank – 43 Land
166 – Roland Bigford – Zoo
167 – Brandon Hawes – Aggro Loam
168 – Matt Scott – ANT
169 – Ben Wong – B/G Dark Depths
170 – Charles Chatham – Mono White Stax
171 – Alexander Frederick – Zoo
172 – Ben Smith – PT Junk
173 – Justin Mills – CounterTop-Progenitus
174 – Nick Veccie – Belcher
175 – John Ugalde – Belcher
176 – David Gearhart – CounterTop UGr
177 – Alex Blough – Zoo
178 – Jonah Marsh – Burn
179 – David Garrett – WG Beats
180 – Jake Mattox – Burn
181 – Matt Luce – WB Aggro
182 – Jimmy Maddox – Zoo
183 – Daniel Samoles – Merfolk
184 – Christopher Barfield – Merfolk
185 – Charlie Cooke – Merfolk
186 – Robert Causey – Affinity
187 – David Price – UGW Aggro-Control
188 – Wes Murphy – Merfolk
189 – Jared Riddick – Bitterblossom Control
190 – Adam Cai – Mono Brown Stax
191 – Brandon Long – Reanimator
192 – Ron Xidea – Dreadtill
193 – Robert Gildea – Mono-Blue Stax
194 – Alan Bederka – Enchantress
195 – Jon Bartholomew – Dredge
196 – Tom Kupin – CounterTop Painter URb
197 – Philip Hart – Goblins
198 – Chris Yandell – Merfolk
199 – Voltaire Ronquillo – Burn
200 – Darrel DeConge – Ad Nauseam variant
201 – Ryan Hoffman – Belcher
202 – Greg Wilrich – 43 Land
203 – Nathan Graves – Mono White Stax
204 – Michael Shiver – Stronghold Gambit Combo
205 – Tom Walck – Dredge
206 – Richard Townley – Mono-White Stax
207 – Michael Cummings – Enchantress
208 – Hiedi Aycock – UG Madness
209 – Zach Barker – Reanimator
210 – Brian Elfering – Treasure Hunt/Loam
211 – Shaheen Soorani – Rector Combo
212 – Eric Debrosky – Mono Black Control
213 – Jonathan Hickerson – CounterTop UGb
214 – Joey Page – CounterTop UGW
215 – Dave Almansor – T2 Jund
216 – Daniel Brookes – Dredge
217 – Brian Daviduk – Suicide Black
218 – Darryn Felton – Enchantress
219 – Jason Lambeth – Dredge
220 – Tyler Mollenkopf – Dredge
221 – Michael Trent – Dream Halls
222 – Nichol Coggins – UGB Painter
223 – Daniel Nisthal – UW Tempo
224 – Matt Gargrulo – Enchantress
225 – Steven Watkins – Burn
226 – Justin Cavenaugh – Dredge
227 – Yashar Basseri – Burn
228 – Elizabeth Grossman – Mono White Control
229 – Nathan Romanoff – Merfolk
230 – Richard Adams – Reanimator
231 – Joseph Richardson – Merfolk
232 – Brian Means – 43 Land
233 – Aaron Hopkins – CounterTop UGr
234 – Brian deGuia – Suicide Black
235 – Eli Thao – Zoo
236 – Zach Wood – Burn

Whew, that’s a lot of players!
Here’s what that looks like by archetype

28 Zoo (11.86% of the field)
26 CounterTop (11%)
• 9 CounterTop-Progenitus
• 4 Dreadtill
24 Merfolk (10.16%)
13 Reanimator (5.5%)
11 Dredge (4.66%)
11 Belcher (4.66%)
11 Burn (4.66%)
10 “N” Land (4.24%)
10 Suicide Black Variants (4.24%)
8 Aggro Loam
8 Ad Nauseam
6 Goblins
6 Enchantress
5 UW Tempo
5 Stax
5 German Fae
5 Dream Halls
5 Painter (2 are CounterTop)
4 Canadian Threshold
3 Landstill
3 Elves
2 Dragon Stompy
2 Affinity
2 PT Junk
2 Mono Black Control
2 Mono White Control
2 Survival
1 UG Madness
1 T2 Jund
1 Rector Combo
1 Treasure Hunt
1 Life Combo
1 Sea Stompy
1 High Tide
1 Bant
1 Mono Green Natural order
1 White Weenie
1 WGU Aggro
1 Stronghold Gambit Combo
1 WG beats
1 WB Aggro
5 Other

As usual, the three most popular archetypes are Zoo, Countertop, and Merfolk. These constitute the three major pillars of the format.

What’s surprising, though, is that Reanimator was the fourth most popular archetype!

It came out of nowhere and leaped the other major decks, like Burn, Dredge, Aggro Loam, Suicide Black variants, and Land decks.

Two other breakout decks are UW Tempo and German Fae (Bitterblossom Control) with 5 representatives each. The UW Tempo deck has incorporated 2 Stoneforge Mystic from Worldwake.

The deck that has fallen the most is Canadian Threshold. That deck seems to be on its way out.

Now, I want to show you some graphs demonstrating how these decks performed by their placement in the final standings. These graphs are revealing for how good — or not good — some archetypes really are.

This is the distribution of Merfolk throughout the field. This is not a random distribution. Merfolk is a tremendous performer, and it shows.

Reanimator is also a strong performer, and had results similar to Merfolk, but on a smaller scale: the greatest portion of it clustered in the top sextile.

Dredge is the opposite of Reanimator and Merfolk: it clustered in the very bottom half of the field. It’s a terrible performer.

Same story with Burn, unfortunately. Your chances of finishing in the money are slim, at best.

Here’s another way of looking at this data:

Compare each archetype’s performance to the baseline distribution, which is just 8/236, 16/236, and so on. Reanimator put the greatest portion of its players into the Top 8, the Top 16, and the Top 32. Only Merfolk put a greater portion of its players into the Top 64.

Chapin was right.

The breakout archetype of the weekend was Reanimator. Last fall, Chapin wrote about how Reanimator was his deck of choice. I agreed that Reanimator looks like a powerful archetype, but the data on the archetype in all of the subsequent SCG Opens was discouraging. None of the Reanimator pilots at SCG LA or SCG Dallas performed even remotely well. They were crushed. And it wasn’t a tiny sample size either. There were more than a few Reanimator pilots at each tournament.

Sometimes you’ve gotta have faith. And sometimes it takes longer, perhaps, than it should for new technology, like Iona, to take hold. Iona is certainly the card that is powering Reanimator today. I should have taken Patrick’s advice and picked up Entombs at the time!

Likewise, in my review of the decklists, I was very surprised not to see more Zoo lists with Loam Lion. A bunch of Zoo decks splashed Black for Dark Confidant, with poor results. Loam Lion is better than Kird Ape. And, apparently, none of the Burn pilots ran Searing Blaze. That would have given them a nice boost.

In terms of future, it’s not clear that Reanimator can’t compete even if the field adjusts. The fact that Dredge is such a poor choice suggests to me that there is plenty of graveyard hate already out there. It’s just that Reanimator is strong enough to win through it. It’s not a glass cannon deck. Show and Tell appears to help as well.

How does the Richmond metagame compare to Madrid?

Take a look at the Madrid Day 2 metagame.

In many ways, it’s very similar to the SCG field. In fact, the number of Zoo is even greater! Zoo was by far the most populous day 2 archetype in Madrid, at 17% of the metagame.

Consider both Top 8 brackets for a moment:

Top 8 From Richmond:


Ryan (Reanimator) versus Calosso (CTP)

Alix (Zoo) versus Daniel (Reanimator)

William (Merfolk) versus David (Merfolk)

Jeremy (CounterTop Progenitus) versus Tariq (Merfolk)


Calosso (CTP) versus Daniel (Reanimator)

William (Merfolk) versus Tariq (Merfolk)


Calosso (CTP) versus Tariq (Merfolk)

Tariq Wins

GP Madrid:


Mueller (Reanimator) versus Sven Dijt (Zoo)

Bland (Zoo) versus Restoy (CounterTop Progenitus)

David Do (ANT) versus Delgado (Zoo)

Paraddo (CounterTop Progenitus) versus Saito (ANT)


Mueller (Reanimator) versus Bland (Zoo)

David Do (ANT) versus Saito (ANT)

Mueller (Reanimator) versus David Do (ANT)

Mueller Wins

The Top 8 from Richmond had: 3 Merfolk, 2 Reanimator, 2 CounterTop Progenitus, and 1 Zoo

The Top 8 from Madrid had: 3 Zoo, 2 ANT, 2 CounterTop Progenitus, and 1 Reanimator

The fundamental difference between the two Top 8s, between Madrid and Richmond, is the reverse presence of Zoo and Merfolk. In Richmond, there were 3 Merfolk and 1 Zoo. In Madrid, there were 3 Zoo and no Merfolk. That, I think, explains everything. In the Zoo heavy top 8, the Dark Ritual decks shined. ANTs and Reanimators advanced. In the Merfolk heavy Top 8, the Dark Ritual decks struggled. Merfolk was the second best performer in Richmond. It had, behind Reanimator, the greatest Top X penetration.

In fact, Zoo was 17% of the Day 2 field in Madrid. That almost certainly explains why ANT did so well and Merfolk didn’t even make Top 8. Zoo is a very difficult matchup for Merfolk. According to my matchup grids from the previous SCG Opens, Merfolk is 5-15 in wins and losses against Zoo. The more Zoo in the field, the less well Merfolk does. Although, it’s hard to state this as a rule, since so many Merfolk did well in Richmond despite the fact that Zoo was the most popular archetype!

The one anomaly is the fact that the ANT deck beat the CounterTop deck in the quarter finals of the Madrid Top 8. If you look at the various matchup grids I’ve crated here, here and here, looking at the last half dozen SCG Opens, ANT has an abysmal aggregate 3-17 matchup record against CounterTop decks. That’s counting every single match played between those two archetypes in the most recent SCG opens. Saito won a very hard matchup, which is no doubt testament to his skill. If Paraddo had won the quarter finals matchup, it would have been interesting to see if Mueller could have won.

There is also a regional metagame difference. ANT is heavily played in Europe, and much less so here in the states. Instead, more U.S. players play Belcher. ANT was 3.4% of the total SCG field, but 9.3% of the Day 2 field in Madrid, the second most popular archetype. That undoubtedly had an impact on the results.

What does all of this mean for the future? Well, if you are preparing for an SCG Open, you better have a plan for Merfolk. Merfolk is invested in the American metagame. The key to the metagame is the same one that I articulated two months ago: find a deck that can beat both Zoo and Merfolk, and you have a fundamental advantage over the greatest part of the field.

Reanimator will undoubtedly be a player, but the question is whether it will be like previous marginal archetypes that broke out, like Mono-White Stax, Enchantress, Aggro Loam and the like: will it disappear again? Or will it find a way to sustain itself and become a bona fide top archetype, a pillar of the metagame? Only time will tell.

I’ll tell you this, though: I’m far more inclined to run a copy of Karakas in my sideboard or maindeck now. You should be too.

In the appendix I’ve typed up the rest of the Top 32 decklists for your enjoyment and reference!

Until next time…



Top 16 deck>.

James Allen

1 Verdant Catacombs
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Windswept Heath
1 Wooded Foothills
3 Taiga
3 Tropical Island
4 Tranquil Thicket
4 Wasteland
4 Mishra’s Factory
4 Rishadan Port
4 Maze of Ith
1 Academy Ruins
1 Nantuko Monastery
1 The Tabernacle at Pendrell Vale
1 Glacial Chasm
1 Nomad Stadium
1 Barbarian Ring
4 Manabond
4 Exploration
3 Intuition
3 Gamble
1 Crucible of Worlds
1 Engineered Explosives
3 Mox Diamond

4 Chalice of the Void
1 Ray of Revelation
3 Krosan Grip
1 Ancient Grudge
1 Zuran Orb
4 Leyline of the Void
1 Engineered Explosives

Samuel Swisher

4 Tarmogoyf
3 Rhox War Monk
3 Trinket Mage
2 Engineered Explosives
3 Sensei’s Divining Top
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Brainstorm
4 Daze
4 Counterbalance
4 Force of Will
2 Elspeth, Knight Errant
2 Vedalken Shackles
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Flooded Strand
4 Tropical Island
4 Tundra
1 Academy Ruins
1 Forest
1 Plains
3 Island

2 Krosan Grip
3 Submerge
1 Pithing Needle
2 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Basilisk Collar
3 Blue Elemental Blast
2 Threads of Disloyalty

James Miller
Aggro Loam

4 Tarmogoyf
4 Countryside Crusher
4 Dark Confidant
1 Eternal Witness
1 Terravore
2 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Life From the Loam
3 Seismic Assault
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Mox Diamond
2 Engineered Explosives
4 Tranquil Thicket
4 Forgotten Cave
4 Wasteland
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Taiga
1 Badlands
1 Bayou
2 Mountain
1 Forest

1 Thorn of Amethyst
1 Devastating Dreams
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Zuran Orb
3 Krosan Grip
3 Firespout

David Martin
Aggro Loam

2 Engineered Explosives
1 Krosan Grip
1 Maelstrom Pulse
4 Dark Confidant
4 Chalice of the Void
4 Tarmogoyf
2 Terravore
4 Life From the Loam
4 Mox Diamond
4 Countryside Crusher
3 Seismic Assault
4 Wasteland
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Bloodstained Mire
1 Bayou
1 Badlands
1 Forest
2 Mountain
1 Volrath’s Stronghold
4 Tranquil Thicket
4 Forgotten Cave

2 Krosan Grip
3 Zuran Orb
4 Leyline of the Void
3 Firespout
3 Mindbreak Trap

Paul Lynch

3 Cursecatcher
4 Silvergil Adept
3 Sejiri Merfolk
4 Lord of Atlantis
4 Merrow Reejerey
2 Merfolk Sovereign
4 Aether Vial
3 Swords to Plowshares
4 Daze
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Standstill
4 Force of Will
3 Island
1 Plains
4 Flooded Strand
1 Misty Rainforest
1 Scalding Tarn
3 Tundra
2 Mutavault
4 Wasteland

2 Echoing Truth
3 Relic of Progenitus
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Hydroblast
2 Blue Elemental Blast
4 Meddling Mage
2 Llawan, Cephalid Empress

James Buckingham

2 Gaddock Teeg
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Kird Ape
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Qasali Pridemage
2 Knight of the Reliquary
4 Lightning Bolt
3 Lightning Helix
4 Path to Exile
2 Sylvan Library
3 Chain Lightning
3 Wooded Foothills
3 Arid Mesa
4 Windswept Heath
2 Taiga
2 Plateau
1 Savannah
1 Plains
1 Forest
1 Mountain
2 Horizon Canopy

1 Ravenous Trap
3 Tormod’s Crypt
2 Gaddock Teeg
3 Umezawa’s Jitte
2 Krosan Grip
2 Red Elemental Blast
3 Price of Progress

Joe Philips

4 Countryside Crusher
4 Keldon Marauders
3 Grim Lavamancer
4 Lava Spike
4 Incinerate
4 Price of Progress
4 Rift Bolt
4 Magma Jet
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Fireblast
2 Smash to Smithereens
3 Scalding Tarn
3 Arid Mesa
14 Mountain

3 Pyrostatic Pillar
3 Vexing Shusher
4 Pyroblast
4 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Smash to Smithereens

Jeff Abbott

4 Entomb
4 Exhume
4 Reanimate
4 Careful Study
4 Brainstorm
4 Ponder
4 Mystic Tutor
4 Force of Will
4 Daze
2 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Inkwell Leviathan
1 Blazing Archon
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
1 Akroma, Angel of Wrath
4 Underground Sea
2 Bayou
3 Polluted Delta
2 Misty Rainforest
2 Verdant Catacombs
1 Bloodstained Mire
1 Marsh Flats

4 Duress
4 Extirpate
3 Nature’s Claim
3 Pernicious Deed
1 Krosan Grip

Matthew East
Elves Combo

1 Anger
4 Elvish Archdruid
2 Elvish Champion
3 Elvish Spirit Guide
4 Fyndhorn Elves
3 Imperious Perfect
4 Llanowar Elves
1 Magus of the Moon
4 Priest of Titania
1 Progenitus
2 Qasali Pridemage
3 Quirion Ranger
1 Squee, Goblin Nabob
1 Wren’s Run Vanquisher
4 Natural Order
4 Survival of the Fittest
5 Forest
4 Windswept Heath
3 Verdant Catacombs
3 Tiaga
2 Savannah
1 Pendelhaven

2 Mindbreak Trap
1 Gaddock Teeg
2 Choke
3 Kitchen Finks
2 Krosan Grip
1 Faerie Macabre
2 Relic of Progenitus
1 Ravenous Trap
1 Tormod’s Crypt

Jesse Hatfield

1 Inkwell Leviathan
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
1 Sphinx of the Steel Wind
4 Brainstorm
3 Ponder
4 Mystical Tutor
4 Thoughtseize
4 Force of Will
4 Daze
4 Entomb
4 Reanimate
4 Exhume
4 Dark Ritual
1 Rushing River
4 Underground Sea
4 Polluted Delta
3 Misty Rainforest
3 Bloodstained Mire
2 Island
1 Swamp
4 Engineered Explosives
3 Tombstalker
2 Ravenous Trap
2 Bojuka Bog
1 Coffin Purge
1 Blazing Archon
1 Perish
1 Echoing Truth

Rion Marmulstein

1 Dryad Arbor
1 Progenitus
3 Qasali Pridemage
4 Rhox War Monk
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Noble Hierarch
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
3 Natural Order
3 Sensei’s Divining Top
3 Counterbalance
4 Swords To Plowshares
4 Daze
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Windswept Heath
3 Tropical Island
3 Tundra
2 Island
1 Forest
1 Plains

2 Llawan Cephalid Empress
2 Path to Exile
1 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Faerie Macabre
3 Gaddock Teeg
1 Krosan Grip
2 Trygon Predator
1 Relic of Progenitus

Jon Daily
Sea Stompy

4 Master of Etherium
4 Etherium Sculptor
4 Esperzoa
4 Lodestone Golem
2 Faerie Machinist
4 Trinket Mage
1 Umezawa’s Jitte
2 Sword of Fire and Ice
1 Sigil of Distinction
4 Force of Will
4 Chalice of the Void
3 Tangle Wire
3 Aether Vial
5 Island
4 Wasteland
3 City of Traitors
4 Ancient Tomb
4 Seat of Synod

4 Propaganda
3 Hibernate
3 Pithing Needle
4 Relic of Progenitus
1 Phyrexian Processor

Chris Coppola

4 Steppe Lynx
4 Wild Nacatl
4 Grim Lavamancer
4 Tarmogoyf
4 Qasali Pridemage
4 Lightning Bolt
4 Path to Exile
3 Chain Lightning
3 Sylvan Library
2 Fireblast
4 Wooded Foothills
3 Arid Mesa
3 Windswept Heath
3 Treetop Village
2 Horizon Canopy
3 Plateau
2 Taiga
1 Savannah
1 Mountain
1 Plains
1 Forest

4 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Krosan Grip
3 Choke
3 Jotun Grunt
2 Swords to Plowshares

Chris Lucas
UW Tempo

4 Weathered Wayfarer
4 Serra Avenger
4 Mother of Ruins
2 Jotun Grunt
4 Fathom Seer
2 Stoneforge Mystic
4 Swords to Plowshares
4 Force of Will
4 Daze
4 Brainstorm
3 Aether Vial
1 Spell Pierce
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
1 Sword of Light and Shadow
4 Flooded Strand
3 Marsh Flats
4 Tundra
4 Wasteland
2 Plains
1 Island

3 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
1 Pithing Needle
1 Jotun Grunt
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Spell Pierce
4 Ethersworn Canonist
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Thorn of Amethyst

Jay DeLazier

4 Bloodghast
4 Tireless Tribe
4 Putrid Imp
4 Stinkweed Imp
4 Golgari Grave-Troll
4 Narcomoeba
1 Flame-Kin Zealot
1 Iona, Shield of Emeria
4 Bridge From Below
4 Breakthrough
4 Cabal Therapy
4 Careful Study
3 Dread Return
3 City of Brass
4 Gemstone Mine
2 Undiscovered Paradise
4 Cephalid Coliseum
2 Dakmor Salvage

3 Tormod’s Crypt
3 Mindbreak Trap
3 Firestorm
2 Ancient Grudge
2 Chain of Vapor
1 Ancestor’s Chosen
1 Terastodon

Jonathan Suarez
UW Tempo

4 Mother of Ruins
4 Weathered Wayfarer
2 Jotun Grunt
2 Stoneforge Mystic
1 Knight of the White Orchid
4 Serra Avenger
4 Fathom Seer
3 Aether Vial
2 Umezawa’s Jitte
4 Swords to Plowshares
2 Spell Pierce
3 Daze
4 Brainstorm
4 Force of Will
4 Tundra
3 Wasteland
1 Island
2 Plains
3 Arid Mesa
4 Flooded Strand

1 Wheel of Sun and Moon
1 Tormod’s Crypt
1 Relic of Progenitus
1 Thorn of Amethyst
1 Ethersworn Canonist
2 Enlightened Tutor
3 Forge[/author]-Tender”]Burrenton [author name="Forge"]Forge[/author]-Tender
1 Jotun Grunt
1 Ghostly Prison
3 Aura of Silence

Deck of the Odd:

210th Place

Brian Elfering

Treasure Hunt

4 Bloodbraid Elf
2 Meloku The Clouded Mirror
4 Seismic Assault
4 Treasure Hunt
3 Life From the Loam
4 Scalding Tarn
4 Misty Rainforest
4 Faerie Conclave
4 Treetop Village
4 Raging Ravine
4 Mishra’s Factory
2 Mutavault
2 Steam Vents
2 Breeding Pool
3 Arid Mesa
5 Mountain
3 Forest
2 Island

4 Terravore
4 Countryside Crusher
4 Red Elemental Blast
3 Ricochet Trap