Last week I’ve showed the data that I’ve gathered about the Pauper leagues’ metagame [check out Part 1]. In the present article, instead, I’m going to analyze some interesting aspects of that data and compare it to the challenge data.
Here’s a recap of what we’ve seen last time:
A. ban = Astrolabe ban; S&M ban = Sanctuary and Map ban; CMR = Commander Legends; FFF ban = Fall from Favor ban; MH2 = Modern Horizons 2.
Section 3: Patterns
Looking at how each deck goes up and down during the two years, you’ll notice how some share similar behaviors. I’ve isolated four (plus one) patterns, which I’m going to show in five separate charts. I believe that they can teach us something about how the format moves and reacts to changes (like the ban that has been announced for this week!).
The interpretation of these charts involves many factors and can put you in front of chicken-and-egg problems. I’ll do my best to produce reasonable interpretations, but feel free to share yours too!
Important note: these charts show data points connected by artificial lines, not continuous flows.
This chart shows the decks that grew popular during the Fall from Favor era. Here, we can distinguish three couples of decks.
- Volatile tempo decks (Izzet Faeries and Mono Blue Delver)
- Go-tall decks (Bogles and Heroic)
- Ramp cascade decks (Walls and Green Ponza)
Why are Izzet Faeries and Mono Blue Delver more volatile than their Dimir counterparts? First of all, they have more extreme matchups (i.e. they tend to have excellent matchups and horrible matchups instead of relatively even matchups). Additionally, Dimir decks have always had access to their secondary card advantage engine (Thorn of the Black Rose). Izzet and Mono Blue, instead, have been more reliant on cards that had to get banned (Mystic Sanctuary and Fall from Favor).
Bogles and Heroic prey on Izzet Faeries and follow its path. On the other hand, I believe that the cascade decks behavior isn’t directly related to the other decks in the chart. Boarding Party and Annoyed Altisaur simply happened to be printed in the same set as Fall from Favor.
The decks that tanked during the Fall from Favor era can also be divided into three groups:
- Midrange decks
- Flicker Tron
Interestingly, but not shockingly, midrange decks behave more or less all in the same way. The surprising part is how they tend to do the opposite of the volatile tempo decks, instead of preying on them. The reason becomes clearer when you recall that ramp cascade decks happened to share the tempo decks’ ups and downs, as midrange isn’t a good archetype against Walls and Ponza. Up until now, I’ve considered it natural for two decks that have a polarized matchup to share the same pattern. In this case, I believe that cascade decks weren’t specifically targeting midrange decks. Their rise caused the midrange demise as collateral damage, so it makes sense for these two archetypes to go in opposite directions.
Stompy had two major downfalls, the first motivated by the fear of Fiery Cannonade and the second by its inability to beat Storm and Affinity. Similarly to midrange, Stompy would be good against the volatile tempo decks, but it can’t fully take advantage of this because of other decks that follow the A pattern, namely the go-tall decks.
Like the midrange decks, Tron doesn’t have a good matchup against Walls and Ponza, and this ultimately determined its downswing. It also makes sense for Tron to follow the same pattern as midrange and aggro decks since it can be seen as a predator towards them.
These are the decks that benefited the most out of Modern Horizons 2.
Excluding MH2, Affinity followed the B pattern, and Dimir Delver behaved similarly to Mono Blue Delver, but in a less emphatic way.
These three decks consistently declined since Commander Legends. What they have in common is that their strategy focuses on getting to the late game, where they can leverage their inevitability.
This kind of deck lacks an efficient beatdown plan, therefore they have a hard time stealing the monarchy, which can easily compromise their plans for the late game. I believe that the injection of many new monarch cards with Commander Legends is the general cause for the decline of late-game-oriented decks, even though they might have been influenced individually by additional factors.
These three decks are outliers. They may move in a way that’s similar to that of other decks, but they don’t truly belong to any of the previous patterns. Being a somewhat regular presence in the leagues seems to be what best characterizes them.
Section 4: Leagues vs Challenges
Thanks to the work of pproteus, who created for me some special filters in the challenge project sheet, I’ve been able to put league and challenge data side by side.
Challenges have higher stakes than leagues and the data reflect it by showing how, in each era, challenges registered higher meta shares for the decks that were considered the top decks.
Note: the challenge project sheet doesn’t display decks with less than 1% of meta share. Thus, when you see a deck with 0%, its real meta share could be any number between 0% and 1%.
If you’d like to see the exact numbers for all my data, check out this sheet: https://docs.google.com/spreadsheets/d/1B9b5pDgoLHtIwlqdWTF2Qkg2zxyxphQdb_FMosXdMqE/edit?usp=sharing
It’s ugly, as it was only meant as a workspace for me, but if you’re interested in the numbers, they are there. For example, you can see the whole composition of the “Other” categories or the exact numbers in the Leagues vs Challenges charts.
If you’re a maniac and you’d like to see the raw data (i.e. the data as it was sent by the collectors), feel free to contact me via private messages and I will share it with you.