Visualizing Standard Success At SCG Dallas

Dylan Hand finished in the Top 64 at SCG Dallas and learned a valuable lesson in the post-event analysis! Today he shares his charts, his findings, and one big tip for success in Ravnica Allegiance Standard!

The second Standard Open of the Ravnica Allegiance Standard season is in the books. The SCG Tour stops in Indianapolis and Dallas have been the only premier level non-digital events, so it has been an absolute treat watching the format evolve from week to week and see some of the insane strategies that have started to rise to the top of the Standard metagame. As for myself, I stuck with what I’ve been playing with the most during this Standard format and played a Nexus of Fate deck. I took Nexus of Gates to a Top 64 finish in the main event:

This deck has gone through several iterations and tunings since Bryan Gottlieb first took to Twitter to showcase this absurd amalgamation of cards, and my list from the Open is the result of the hard work SCG Tour regular and close friend Drake Sasser. Drake has been terrorizing recent Standard events with it, making the Top 4 of the SCG Baltimore Standard Classic last weekend and almost making the elimination rounds of the main event with the deck in Dallas. His list for reference:

I’ll be diving into the numbers regarding the Day 2 metagame a little bit later in this article, but it’s worth noting right now that this flavor of Nexus of Fate deck was the most popular at four copies. While certainly less consistent and a little bit slower out of the gates – pun decidedly intended – this version of Nexus of Fate deck is significantly less reliant on Wilderness Reclamation to go all the way, and the “Gates matter” cards make the deck much more difficult to disrupt or win quickly against with creatures due to the prevalence of the incredibly strong Gates Ablaze.

What took down the event, however, was the called shot by most content creators around the web last week leading up to the event.

I Hate To Say I Told You So…

The most hyped deck heading into the weekend was Mono-Blue Aggro. The GAM Podcast dedicated their most recent episode to the deck, and it was the talk of the town on Magic Twitter this past week. On paper, it just made sense. The deck boasted very solid and even favorable matchups against some of the most popular decks in the format, and some of the decks that preyed on it, like Mono-Red Aggro, are completely devoid from the winner’s metagame at this time.

Robert Wagner-Krankel and Tannon Grace both took the advice of the many and piloted the deck to a Top 8 finish this weekend, with Wagner-Krankel walking away with the trophy in convincing fashion over Esper Control in the finals:

Wagner played the mirror, Simic Nexus, and Esper Control in order on his march through the elimination rounds, of which the latter two matchups are quite favorable if navigated properly.

Mono-Blue is a very challenging deck to play and requires a proper pacing of threats and disruption to close the game out before stronger decks can overpower them. Mono-Blue is the best tempo deck Standard has seen in quite some time and fills a very niche role in a metagame full of slower decks susceptible to a well-timed Spell Pierce or two.

Mono-Blue winning the tournament says a lot about the health of the format, as being able to preemptively pinpoint a deck like Mono-Blue as the deck to play for exactly this weekend adds a satisfying additional layer of complexity when it comes to preparing for tournaments. Now that Mono-Blue has a target on its head, it will be interesting to see where the format goes next. Mono-Blue suffers greatly against other more aggressive decks like Azorius Aggro, so it will be interesting to see if the format pivots in that direction.

The finals of SCG Dallas was very indicative of what the Day 2 field looked like, as Esper Control was tied for the most amount of copies in Day 2 of the event with Mono-Blue at ten copies apiece. Esper Control has proven itself as arguably the most powerful consistent contender in this Standard format and stands out at this time as the best week-to-week deck to play if deck switching isn’t your thing:

Day 2 Metagame by the Numbers

There were exactly 64 decks that made Day 2 of the event in Dallas this past weekend. Rather than say a bunch of words about it, let’s look at this visualization:

For 100% clarity’s sake:

  • The numbers within each slice represent the total copies present in each archetype.
  • Nexus of Fate decks were lumped together here. This included:

    • Nexus of Gates at four copies
    • Bant Nexus at two copies
    • Four-Color Nexus at one copy
    • Simic Nexus at two copies
  • “Other” is comprised of decks with only one list in Day 2 and/or not a major player in the format currently.

Speaking of major players, there were zero copies of Mono-Red Aggro in Day 2 of this event. Esper Control and Sultai Midrange both have positive matchups against that deck and have teamed up to effectively eliminate that deck’s presence from the metagame. The absence of red decks is important for the long-term viability of decks like Mono-Blue Aggro.

Now that we’ve got the Top 64 picture, let’s see what rose to the top over the course of Day 2. Here’s the Top 32 breakdown:

The most remarkable data point here is that of Esper Control’s ten pilots in Day 2, a mere 20% made it into the Top 32. Mono-Blue Aggro, on the other hand, posted a remarkably impressive 70% Top 32 conversion rate, separating it from Esper Control as the winningest deck of the weekend by a significant margin. Sultai Midrange put five of nine (55%) into Top 32, which is a solid showing by a deck that, if anything else, is incredibly consistent thanks to the explore package, and flexible in that it can adjust to the week to week metagame. Similarly, Azorius Aggro posted a 62.5% conversion rate into the Top 32 with five of eight pilots making it through. It was also the only other deck besides Mono-Blue Aggro to make the elimination rounds with two pilots.

I could run the data under a microscope even further, but with such a finite amount of decklists, it becomes difficult to extrapolate super meaningful insights for groups like the Top 16, since things like tiebreakers on records come into play, something that’s not a factor in deck performance. In the future, I may try something like seeing the total wins each archetype was able to rack up over the course of a given tournament.

If there’s one thing you take away from this tournament, know that we are not living in a Rakdos Midrange or Temur Energy metagame where there’s one defined best deck. This is the healthiest Standard format in many, many years, and there’s a slew of different strategies that all attack each other in a rock-paper-scissors-esque cycle, and the name of the game in Standard is switching from week to week. For example, Nexus of Fate decks were out in full force in Dallas after a practically nonexistent performance in Indianapolis a few weeks ago.

For Dallas, players were told to play Mono-Blue and were vastly rewarded for doing so. Keep an eye out in future weeks on what the buzz for next weekend might be, and look to play that deck for the weekend if you can.

I hope my visualizations and analysis like this prove useful in helping break down what happened this weekend. I’m always looking for suggestions on how to better convey this information to the community, so if you have ideas, please share them in the comments below.