Going beyond data and choosing the right deck for you

Mogged
23/03/2023 · 8 min read

How It All Started

A few days ago, on March 11-12, I participated in the Legacy European Championship in Naples.

In this article, I will discuss my expectations for the Standard Metagame going into the tournament, compare them to my deck choice, and analyze the actual outcomes. Finally, I will provide some takeaways to help inform your future deck choices.

Naples RC Preparation

Going into the Naples RC, this was my idea about what to expect in the metagame, as seen through the previous RCs and my personal experience:

Esper Legends probably being the best deck as shown in the previous RCs and from my testing

Monowhite would be found out to be a bad deck with bad matchups all across the board.

Atraxa will see some play because it wasn’t as clear up to that point that it loses to Grixis.

There was an aggro resurgence; the format was getting a bit faster compared to what we were used to in the previous months. A significant factor in this was the newly spawned GW toxic deck, which had a fair matchup against Grixis compared to other aggro decks.

Grixis would still be the deck to beat, but it will be hindered by tuned aggro choices, black midrange decks bringing Razorlash Transmogrant, and the recent emergence of Skrelv's hive.

Up to that point, the Japanese RC had the largest data sample, and it showed that Grixis was underperforming with a 42% win rate, which is very low.

I actually ignored that specific Grixis data point, thinking it wasn't a big enough sample to seal the deal, and that player error in long games with many decisions could significantly affect it.

Beliefs that led to my deck choice

GRIXIS AND ESPER LEGENDS ARE THE REAL CONTENDERS

No aggro deck is good enough to beat the top-tier Grixis players more than 50% of the time. Even if you survive Day 1, Day 2 is far too risky for such a choice.

I wouldn't choose a deck with a poor Grixis matchup. Atraxa was easily discarded, and although I had ideas about mono-white builds that could have a decent Grixis matchup, the risk of going into extra time with such a deck was extremely high. In these tournaments, a tie is often nearly as bad as a loss.

I was pretty sure that Esper Legends was the best deck since it had good matchups with the aggro decks and could be built to be close to 50-50 with the midrange decks. Additionally, Esper is the only deck that could produce free wins just by curving from 1 to 4. However, Esper lacked consistency, as its hands can range from free wins to mandatory keeps that might do nothing due to awkwardness (multiple legends, wrong mana, missing on curve, your opponent disrupting your key piece). This introduces a lot of randomness, which really worried me since the deck doesn't have much agency. I viewed the choice as gambling with better odds, and I hadn't mastered the deck as much as Grixis.

On the other hand, Grixis wasn't looking as great as it used to. Players finally figured out cards that were really effective against it and adapted to facing it, so almost every matchup was getting close to 50-50. However, it still had some things going for it.

WHY I PICKED GRIXIS MIDRANGE OVER ESPER LEGEND

1) It was really effective against rogue decks, and this would be a significant field with lots of randomness. It had no genuinely bad matchups, which meant it could secure some wins due to players' deck choice errors but wouldn't give up any wins to a single deck choice.

2) The deck was extremely consistent. Playing 16 rounds means there will be times when a single decision shapes your fate, and not every deck has that option as frequently as Grixis, due to its selection and its guarantee to cast something on turns 2 and 3, unlike Esper, for example.

I felt quite confident in this format and had extensive experience with the Grixis deck. Therefore, I decided to overload myself with as many decisions as possible, even if it meant having more chances to turn a loss into a win. This choice led me to not play Esper, which seemed like the smartest choice for the metagame at that point. Perhaps my personal bias influenced this decision, but it might have been the correct choice for my situation.

I adjusted my main deck to be effective against aggro by running three Cut Down, two Sheoldred, and one Brotherhood's End. The plan was to be favored against aggro, betting that I would be able to beat the mirror by leveraging my decision-making and a sideboard plan with three Razorlashes. Fortunately, I was able to win all my mirrors.

My Final Version

This was the list I played at Napoles:

Grixis Midrange. Builder: Charalampos Kikidis.MTG
Top16
(11 - 4)
73%
in Legacy European Championship Naples @Legacy European Tour [471 Players] 11-Mar-2023
Maindeck (60)
Creature [14]
4  Corpse Appraiser   $0.35
4  Bloodtithe Harvester   $0.39
4  Fable of the Mirror-Breaker   $21.99
2  Sheoldred, the Apocalypse   $79.99
Artifact [3]
3  Reckoner Bankbuster   $3.99
Instant [12]
2  Abrade   $0.35
3  Go for the Throat   $0.69
2  Make Disappear   $1.29
1  Spell Pierce   $0.35
1  Negate   $0.35
3  Cut Down   $0.79
Sorcery [5]
3  Invoke Despair   $1.29
1  Blue Sun's Twilight   $0.59
1  Brotherhood's End   $6.49
Land [26]
2  Shipwreck Marsh   $5.99
1  Underground River   $4.99
2  Sulfurous Springs   $4.49
2  Haunted Ridge   $15.99
4  Xander's Lounge   $10.99
1  Swamp   $0.01
1  Takenuma, Abandoned Mire   $9.49
1  Otawara, Soaring City   $17.99
3  Shivan Reef   $0.99
1  Stormcarved Coast   $19.99
4  Darkslick Shores   $3.99
4  Blackcleave Cliffs   $4.99
Sideboard [15]
1  Disdainful Stroke   $0.35
1  Negate   $0.35
1  Brotherhood's End   $6.49
2  Duress   $0.35
1  Cut Down   $0.79
1  Blue Sun's Twilight   $0.59
1  Unlicensed Hearse   $11.99
1  Flame-Blessed Bolt   $0.35
3  Razorlash Transmogrant   $0.69
1  Parasitic Grasp   $0.35
1  Whack   $0.35
1  Kaito Shizuki   $4.49
Buy this deck:

$251.38 Tix @cardhoarder   $6.28 / Week @cardhoarder   $390.55 @tcgplayer   $497.87 @cardkingdom  


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Tournament Aftermath

In the end, I achieved rank 15, which amounted to a Pro Tour invite and some monetary prizes, which I consider a success. However, there were so many decision points that I believe could have either led me to the top 8 or prevented me from making it to day 2. This is a testament to how much agency such a deck offers.

NAPLES WINRATES

Here's the data for the Naples RC, along with a brief explanation of how to interpret some of that data.

Grixis midrange : 51% winrate is very impressive considering the amount of players choosing to play this deck and the error rate hidden in it, this is an overperformance of the deck as the meta wasn’t too friendly for it and most decklists were built too greedily in order to beat the mirror rather than securing good matchups versus faster decks.

Mono-white  has a 46% win rate; however, that doesn't tell the entire story because ties are bringing down this number. This deck has 25 ties, the same as Grixis, which had three times the pilots. Fifty-minute rounds are simply not enough to support Standard right now, and some decks like mono-white won't be viable choices for paper tournaments because of that. The deck had almost the same amount of wins and losses, which is better than I expected it to perform.

Mono-red aggro : A 48% win rate is probably what you should expect from such a deck. It's never a good choice, but it's never a bad choice either. This has been the case for mono-red for a while now.

Monoblue : A 42% win rate might be an overperformance for this deck, as its wins are mostly obtained when opponents don't know how to navigate against open mana, which won't happen often at the RC.

Esper Legends : An astounding 60% win rate is likely inflated by its pilots being some big names like Gab Nassif. I was definitely expecting Esper to have the highest win rate, but 60% is just very impressive.

GW Toxic : A small sample with a positive 52% win rate; I was expecting more from that deck since it had a better game plan against Grixis than Mono-red, for example, and looked really promising coming into the tournament.

Other : Most of the other decks underperformed, likely due to a poor Grixis matchup. I would still expect their win rate to be slightly higher, and they appear to be the biggest losers of this tournament.

Procedures to take onto the next tournament

HOW TO CHOOSE THE RIGHT DECK

After analyzing the data, examining the results, and participating in the tournament, I believe there are significant takeaways. The method of selecting a deck for a tournament is becoming clearer to me:

  • Look at the deck options, try to find the best deck, see what worked for you.
  • Look at the data you have available, both personal and tournament ones.
  • Rate the field.
  • Rate yourself as a player in the format.

ABOUT RATING YOURSELF

I think players usually avoid comparing themselves to others, but when playing competitively, it is actually a valuable reference that can be used when choosing a deck and even sometimes when playing the game. This also factors into how quickly you can learn a deck when choosing between the seemingly best choice and your personal best choice, taking your comfort into account.

In my example, I chose Grixis over Esper even though I thought Esper was better against the meta. I valued my comfort and experience with Grixis.

An example from the last Pro Tour is that Reid Duke did the opposite. The implication is not only that he won because he was better than his competition, but he also chose to play the Creativity deck, which he had very little experience with, because he acknowledged he could manage this task. In an alternate universe, Reid Duke chooses to fall back to the comfortable Jund midrange and goes X-0 in limited and 0-X in Standard.

TRYING TO ADJUST: ASK YOURSELF THE RIGHT QUESTIONS

Now that you have the information you need, try to adjust.

Where do you think the majority of players are mistaken, and a deck is underplayed?

Which matchup has skewed data readings due to matches not being played optimally? Usually, decks that reach the late game and have many actions to choose from are far from being played optimally, while fast decks are played closer to optimally.

Compare the fields from which you had data to the projected field you are preparing for.

Consider choosing a deck based on your skill and experience in the format.

Are you experienced in the format?

If you believe you are better than the competition and have experience in the format, perhaps you should play Esper or Grixis.

Have you not played much Standard and experienced mediocre results, or simply felt uncomfortable?

Try playing GW Toxic or Mono-red (but never play Mono-blue).

There are obviously a ton of things to choose from in data, but I hope I provided some good examples of how to interpret them.

If you liked this article maybe you will also find interesting on of the following ones The 10 Most Impactful Phyrexia: All will be one MTG Cards in Standard, 4 Powerful and Fun Standard Decks without Black, 5 New Pioneer decks to try after the release of Dominaria United

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Mogged
MTGO Grinder
Mogged is one of the MTGO grinders behind many of the top winning decks across formats. He has the most Challenge top8s and wins in 2021, and is currently leading in Challenge wins in 2022. His articles show a deep understanding of the MTG theory and are great for those looking to improve their gameplay, better understanding the game, and learning how the metagame evolves over time.

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Published: 2023-03-23 00:00:00
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