Well, it was bound to happen at some point: the most popular decks in Legacy are not the best. In a format where the cost of cards has been front and center for a long time and entry decks (Merfolk, Goblins, Zoo) have made a habit of being decent metagame choices, the format seems to have finally passed these decks by. Merfolk and Goblins had a bad two months despite being the most popular decks in the field. While they still posted a few Top 8 and Top 16 performances, when you crunch the numbers, the decks are just not performing well enough to justify sleeving them up, especially against the top decks in the format.
Before we get to the numbers, let me take a second to talk about Survival of the Fittest; it will be banned. Aaron Stevenson put it very succinctly in Charlotte: “Survival of the Fittest … allows low-cost tutoring. … That kind of tutoring historically has led to bannings.” The numbers back him up as three different Survival decks posted 60% or higher win percentages over the past two months, and overall Survival decks put up a ridiculous 64.45% against the rest of the field. The question in Legacy is not “What is the best deck?” It is “Which Survival of the Fittest build is the best?” There have been arguments made that Vengevine is actually the problem, but Wizard’s history is to ban the enabler, not the piece that’s making it broken right now.
Let’s get to the stats (
link to spreadsheet
- Non-Survival decks that are above water (50%+): G/W/B Rock, Counter-Top, Ad Nauseam, Reanimator, Team America, Eva Green, Canadian Threshold.
- Possible contenders from that group (record against Survival Decks): Canadian Threshold (4-6-1), Eva Green (0-3), and G/W/B Rock (19-30-2). Still not looking good.
- The fight for strongest build of Survival seems to be between Ooze Survival and G/W Survival; I’d also put U/G Survival in the fight since it’s the most popular and probably has the weakest player base.
- The most popular sideboard hate for Survival decks doesn’t target Survival of the Fittest. Extirpate for Vengevine or Tormod’s Crypt / Relic of Progenitus seems to be the most popular way to disrupt the decks and can also shut down the Necrotic Ooze combo.
- The decks that seem to be underplayed right now are Canadian Threshold and Eva Green, but until Survival is gone, there doesn’t seem to be much point in pushing them.
- One archetype that didn’t put five decks in the field, but still posts fairly strong results, is New Horizons – 16-10-2, 60.71% (1-4-0 vs. Survival).
Three events gives us enough data to take a look at the .500+ data to get a look at what decks are doing against the top of the field. These numbers use only results from players who won more than 50% of their matches.
- Non-Survival decks that are above water (50%+): G/W/B Rock, Ad Nauseam, Counter-Top, Canadian Threshold, Charbelcher, Reanimator.
- The win percentage of Survival Decks against the field went up. Let that sink in for a moment. One of the saving graces of Jund was that its numbers got less intimidating when there were strong players with legitimate decks on both sides of the table. Survival feasts on the cream of the crop just as easily, if not more so, than on the chaff.
- If you and two friends started the day playing G/W Survival, chances are that two of you would post .500+ records and at least one of you would be in the Top 16. That’s insane.
- Reanimator at 64.29%? What is this, July? Oh, only one match against Survival.
- If you needed any more proof that Merfolk was the wrong choice – 22.22% when you reach the top tables.
- Survival decks increased their presence by 10% between the field and the successful decks.
Survival Decks – 13.52% of the Field – Won 64.45% of Matches
Nicholas Spagnolo, 1st – Charlotte
Gerry Thompson, 2nd – Boston
Jessie Butler, 1st – Nashville
The question of best archetype has been answered; it’s just a question of which Survival deck to play. When your worst matchup among the top six other decks is 58%, it’s simply a matter of fine-tuning. Have fun with another month of silliness!
Merfolk – 14.07% of the Field – Won 45.86% of Matches
Noel McKinney, 29th – Nashville
Alex Bertoncini, 13th – Charlotte
Tony Patton, 21st – Nashville
One might think that Merfolk’s problem was only Survival decks, but it runs much deeper than that. The only deck that Merfolk truly preyed upon that’s still around in force from the Mystic Tutor era is Counter-Top. With Reanimator gone and many of the other decks that Merfolk used to terrorize replaced with Goblins and Rock, Merfolk is becoming a misplaced deck in the format. Perhaps banning Survival would shift the format back to Merfolk being a good choice, but for now it remains an entry deck to the format without a legitimate shot in this field. If it continues to show up in these numbers, you’ll find a few around the top tables through sheer chance, but these numbers are abysmal.
Goblins – 8.33% of the Field – Won 46.58% of Matches
Trey McGinn, 3rd – Charlotte
It’s rare that the two most popular decks in a format are such poor choices for the environment. Goblins’ only positive matchups around the top of the field are Merfolk, which has no business being popular, and Zoo, which has been relegated to a second-tier strategy. 40% win percentages against Survival Decks, G/W/B Rock, and Ad Nauseam won’t cut it, and you can’t lose three of four to Counter-Top decks and survive in Legacy.
G/W/B Rock – 6.30% of the Field – Won 56.97% of Matches
Ryan Pawlick, 4th – Charlotte
Now we come to the first of these decks that could be a contender. In most cases a 56.97% win percentage would put G/W/B Rock as one of the top performers but not with Survival around. There’s a lot of raw power in the Rock strategy, and it shows in strong performances against the other popular decks, but the deck’s downfall came with Survival. I do feel inclined to point out that just under 40% win percentage isn’t that bad against Survival decks, but just like with Jund, the argument still comes back around to “If you can’t beat ’em, join ’em.”
Counter-Top – 5.56% of the Field – Won 51.49% of Matches
Rodney Hannigan, 3rd – Boston
With Counter-Top, the main question you have to ask yourself is whether it’s acceptable to play rock-paper-scissors all day long. With two matchups over 70% and two under 40%, you have a pretty good chance of sitting down to a lopsided match. I just wouldn’t be comfortable with how frequently you’d be on the wrong side of the numbers, especially since Survival decks are one of the matchups that you don’t want to see.
U/G Survival – 5.37% of the Field – Won 62.57% of Matches
James Ryniewicz, 1st – Boston
After winning two of the three events, (and second at the other event!) it’s hard not to simply crown U/G Survival as
deck. Throw in that if you’re looking for the Survival deck that beats other Survival decks, U/G seems to be the one. It gives back a little to other archetypes, showing some vulnerability to Goblins and G/W/B Rock, but a 73.08% win percentage against other Survival decks is probably worth the dip to 55% in those matchups. If you’re sleeving up 75 cards in Richmond on Sunday, this is the deck to bring to the table.
Under the Radar
It seems that the only other New Horizons devotee out there is David Price. He’s brought the deck to the past three SCG Legacy Opens and produced strong results. The deck revolves around a trio of creatures powered up by graveyards – Tarmogoyf, Terravore, and Knight of the Reliquary – for quick threats and backs them up with blue disruption and a dash of white elimination to clear the way.
David’s 13-7-0 record over the three events is very promising, but a 0-4 record against Survival decks suggests that this may be a deck to keep in your back pocket for after the expected banning.
Sorry that this article was so long in coming. We may be exploring some other formats for Too Much Information going forward to try to get the information into your hands faster. If you’re going to be at the StarCityGames.com Open Weekend in Richmond, VA, featuring the StarCityGames.com Invitational, stop by and say ‘hi!’ The Player’s Club kicks off, and the 2011 Season opens with four Opens over an exciting weekend.
If you’re skipping the Invitational to test for Worlds, look for me over there, too. I’ll be in Chiba with all of the stats from the Open and the Invitational; ask and I might give you a sneak preview!