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It seems as though I can only talk about one deck. My roommates from
CMU suggested that I talk about the newRe ve illa rk decks to come out of
Hollywood, Richard Feldman graciously avoidedRe ve illa rk in his summary,
and GerryT asked me if I was going to write \u201cMyRe ve illa rk: Part 37.\u201d. While
I wouldn\u2019t dare to let any of these people down, my article today is going to
crunch some Hollywood numbers and cover a couple of thoughts I have
about big tournaments before I get down to talking about the Reveillark
The thing that I really look forward to from the Wizards event coverage is
the data. I enjoy the match coverage, sure, but I mostly like to see the
decklists, the metagame breakdowns, and all manner of things I can use as
information to inform my future decisions. Luckily for me, then, Wizards
recorded exactly how many people were playing which decks on all days of
competition, and so we can see how the tournament unfolded across the
weekend. We can see how any individual deck did as things progressed.
Take Faeries. Going in to the Pro Tour, most people considered Faeries to beth e deck in Standard. Back-to-back Faerie mirror finals in the Star City Open weekend basically cemented this fact. Still, only 101 out of the 371 players in the Pro Tour selected Faeries as their weapon of choice. By the beginning of Day 2, there were only 29 Faerie pilots left. And by the start of the Top 8, there was only one.
The numbers behind those numbers are as follows. On Day 1, Faeries
made up a little over 27% of the room. While about 35% of the room
progressed to Day 2, just under 29% of the Faerie decks made the cut. On
the second day, Faeries represented approximately 21% of the field. Of the
Day 2 players, only 6% made the cut to the Top 8, but only 3.5% of the
Faerie decks continued on. At every point where people were being
eliminated, the Faerie deck was performing below average.
Now let\u2019s look at Reveillark. On Day 1, there were only eighteen people
running Reveillark. On Day 2, eight of them remained, and two of them
made the cut to the Top 8. In terms of percentages, the concentration of
Reveillark players in the room rose from 4.9% to 6%, and then from there to
25%. When 35% of the Day 1 players advanced, 44% of the Reveillark
players did. When 6% of the Day 2 players advanced, 25% of the Reveillark
players did. It would seem, then, that Reveillark was performing well above
Of course, before the Pro Tour, there probably weren\u2019t that many people
who would agree that Reveillark was \u201cbetter\u201d than Faeries. Even as much
as I love Reveillark, I had conceded that Faeries was the better deck. And
yet, the numbers from the Pro Tour claim that Reveillark is much better than
Faeries. How can this be?
I think that the answer comes in three parts. First, the bigger the
tournament, the less relevant your matchup against any one deck is.
Second, the bigger the tournament, the less well-represented the \u201cbest\u201d
deck will be. Third, the bigger the tournament, the more losses you can
absorb while still making it all the way to the end. There may well be other
reasons for results like the ones we saw this weekend, but I think that these
are the most important.
The first of the three reasons is something that\u2019s been bubbling in my head
for a while now. It has been lamented by many that modern metagames
seem to be so wide-open that you can\u2019t just find a deck that beats the top
contenders and run with it, because you may well show up to a tournament
and play against many decks you\u2019ve never given more than the slightest
thought. The bigger the tournament, the more likely you are to see this
phenomenon in action.
I\u2019m not sure I know exactly why it is that big tournaments tend to be more
diverse, but it\u2019s something that I\u2019ve experienced a lot. Last year at
Regionals, I played eight different decks across nine rounds of play, and I
didn\u2019t see the best deck until the last round. At the first Star City 5k I
attended, I played against nine different decks across ten rounds of play. At
the second 5k, I played against eight different decks over nine rounds.
Among the last few PTQs I attended, there was only one where I played
against the same deck more than twice in the tournament. Example after
example, and I just can\u2019t think of a big tournament I\u2019ve been to recently
where I only ran into three decks all day long.
Let me make a case for Reveillark using this idea. There were tons of decks
in Hollywood, from Faeries to Mana Ramp to Kithkin. It may be that the
average match between a Reveillark deck and a Faerie deck will end in the
Faerie\u2019s favor, but the average match between Mana Ramp or Kithkin and
Reveillark will tend to end up in Reveillark\u2019s favor. As we add more and
more decks to the metagame, Reveillark\u2019s matchup against Faeries doesn\u2019t
get any better, but Reveillark\u2019s matchup against the field may very well. For
this event in particular, I believe a lot of people didn\u2019t worry that they had
such bad matchups against Reveillark because \u201cFaeries will keep it in
check.\u201d Take a look at all of the Deck Techs that Wizards put up; everyone
says they lose to Reveillark.
to worry about, then doesn\u2019t it make sense to pick the deck that can take
down sixteen of the twenty, even if one of the decks you lose to is the
most-represented deck? It does, so long as the most-represented deck
doesn\u2019t happen to make up something like forty percent of the room.
That, of course, brings me to my second point. It may simply be an
extension of what I just talked about, but it always seems that the best deck
isn\u2019t actually as big as everyone thinks it will be when you\u2019re playing more
than just three rounds. Sign in to a MTGO 8-man, and someone in the
queue is going to have to knock the Faerie player(s) out of everyone\u2019s way.
Show up to an FNM, and you might be looking at five rounds of Faerie
matchups. Even the second day of Star City\u2019s Open weekend showcased a
seven-round tournament with massive proportions of Faerie decks. But
when you start to break one hundred entrants, you\u2019ll find that more and
more people want to play the deck that beats the best deck, and not the
one that actuallyis the best deck. And if you beat those guys, then you\u2019re
sitting pretty. In addition to finding that many entrants want to beat the top
dog, you\u2019ll just get many more who want to do their own thing, and enough
of them together represent a sizeable portion of the field.
Of course, you are going to run into Faeries at some point. They do take up
a quarter of the room, after all, so it\u2019s bound to happen sooner or later. It
happened to me in both 5k tournaments, though I only lost one of those
matches. It happened to the two Reveillark players who made the Top 8 this
weekend, and (we think) they didn\u2019t walk out of those fights winners. Still,
they might have dropped three matches to Faeries, but they could afford
those losses because they simply weren\u2019t losing to the other guys. When
you\u2019re looking for a consistently high finish in a large tournament, you can
afford to give up four losses and still do extremely well.
With all the theory of why Reveillark seemed to be able to thrive in
Hollywood out of the way, I thought I\u2019d get a little more real and take a look
at what Choo and Mihara actually played against this weekend.
In addition to the metagame breakdown that Wizards provided, we have the
decklist of, supposedly, everyone who made Day 2. This, coupled with the
pairings and results pages meant that I was able to see, for the most part,
what the two Top 8 Reveillark players played against, and what they lost to.
At this point, you would obviously expect the report to be that each player
took a handful of losses to Faeries and managed to beat up on the rest of
the field, but that\u2019s not actually the case.
Yong Han Choo managed to go 6-2 on Day One and 6-1-1 on Day Two. For
him, the expected happened; his three losses were to Faerie decks.
However, he was actually paired against Faeries four times, and managed
to take down one of those matches, locking up his spot for Day 3. Other
than Faeries, he played against, and beat, Red Deck Wins, Elves, Doran,
Quick \u2018n\u2019 Toast, Mana Ramp, and so on. Nothing out of the ordinary yet.
Makihito Mihara, though, might surprise you. We know what twelve of his
opponents were playing, and we know that two of those twelve were playing
Faeries. However, the two losses I was able to track down were to Elves
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