There has been quite a bit of change recently in the Vintage format. Wizards has been more active in managing the restricted list and printing powerful Eternal relevant cards like the Delve spells, Dack Fayden, and Monastery Mentor. After the restriction of Lodestone Golem, I wanted to take this opportunity to look at how the metagame evolved following the removal a key card. I felt that while players understandably will have different views on what the Vintage format should be like, we should also have as much information as possible available to us that we can use to construct informed opinions and arguments going forward. Ryan Eberhart (aka @diophan) and I have been collecting and disseminating data from MTGO Power 9 events, but we have also been collecting data on the Vintage Dailies and paper tournaments around the world. I would like to share with you now the data we have collected on the MTGO Daily Events since the Lodestone Golem restriction took effect on April 13th (paper results will be following shortly).
We have classified decks according to the following archetypes and broken them down further into sub-archetypes in an effort to more accurately convey the metagame.
- Gush - If Gush was a primary component of a deck's gameplan, it was put into this category. We then broke this down essentially by win condition: Delver, Mentor, Pyromancer, Combo (Doomsday and Gushbond), and Other (Thing in the Ice or Vault/Key/Tinker, mainly).
- Shops - The Shops archetype was obviously hit hard by the restriction of Lodestone Golem and went through quite a transitional period. Over the last three months, the archetype has reestablished itself by turning to Thought-Knot Seer as a replacement for Golem. The most successful build has been the Ravager TKS deck though other lists have incorporated TKS and put up results. A third category includes the non-TKS Shops lists but these have been a minority of lists and slanted towards April.
- Eldrazi - An archetype that emerged from the LSG restriction, the most popular variant of the archetype has been White Eldrazi which pairs the colorless creatures with White Hatebears like Thalia and Vryn Wingmare. A minority of decks have fully embraced the tribal element of Eldrazi, i.e. Jaco-Drazi.
- Dredge - Divided by sideboard strategies based on whether they intended to combat opposing hate head with Creature, Enchantment, and Artifact removal or Transform post SB. The former approach remains the most popular.
- Combo - Predominantly Dark Petition Storm but also a few Belcher decks and odd-balls (like Two-Card Monte and Rector Flash)
- Blue Control - The more controlling remnants of the Mana Drain pillar like Landstill in various colors and Blue Moon.
- Big Blue - Less controlling artifact-based combo decks like Control Slaver, Painter-Grindstone, Academy combo.
- Oath - If it contained maindeck Oaths, it found it's way here. Variants include Salvagers Oath, Control Oath (Fenton Oath with Griselbrand as the primary win condition), Combo Oath (i.e. Burning Oath), Oathstill, and other Oath (odd Oath).
- Null Rod - The various Fish decks that have historically belonged to the Null Rod Pillar. These types of decks are almost nonexistent on MTGO but include BUG Fish, Hatebears (White Trash and 5c Humans), Merfolk, and Other (in this case, a monored 8 Moons deck).
We kept track of 4-0 and 3-1 finishes and used these to create a category called Total Wins ( # of 4-0 finishes * 4 + # of 3-1 finishes * 3). This more heavily weighted the 4-0 finishes, from which we calculated the % of Total Wins for that archetype/subarchetype. Comparing the totals reflects performance - a positive Delta % Total means the deck disproportionately put up 4-0 finishes. However, the sample size is not really large enough to infer much from this.
There is a function in Google Sheets that allows you to count unique entries within a data set. We used this to calculate the number of unique players both overall and within archetypes/subarchetypes. Over time, you would expect the majority of MTGO Vintage players to put up a finish so this is a rough indicator of the total pool of MTGO players that participate in these events. It also helps to remove repeat performers like Rich Shay or Montolio as they can potentially skew results for certain archetypes. It should be noted that players can switch archetypes/subarchetypes so some players will be counted twice or more as you breakdown the data.
That out of the way, let's get to the results.
The true value of this data in my opinion is how the different archetypes and sub-archetypes have changed over time. Ryan and I broke down these results by week and displayed them on several graphs.
As we can see, the trend of a declining metagame prevalence for Gush has not continued (did anyone aside from @Smmenen think this would be the case?). Metagames tend to be cyclical by nature - people build their decks to combat specific decks and that focus shifts with time. Gush was the clear target that emerged from the Lodestone Golem restriction and decks adapted to combat Gush, with a surge in Sudden Shocks, Sulfur Elemental, Thorns, and Defense Grids. As the field diversified, the narrower hate-cards were supplanted by more broad removal (you don't want to be holding a Sudden Shock against a resolved Thought-Knot Seer) and Gush decks themselves diversified to dodge the hate with these decks turning to Tendrils, Pyromancer, and Thing in the Ice. At its heart though, Gush is a control deck with a powerful card advantage engine - it just needs to draw into the right cards for the field. A key development was the adaptation of Cabal Therapy and Baleful Strix by Grixis Pyromancer (and ultimately Esper Mentor) as a means of competing with Eldrazi, Cavern of Souls, and the broader field. This has lead to a resurgence in Gush, decline in Shops and Eldrazi, and ironically the metagame percentages have returned to roughly the same percentages as the start of April. It remains to be seen how the metagame will adapt but I hope this look at it has been interesting. Keep in mind, all statistical work is subject to variance and the samples sizes are low (though we have a comparable number of lists to Paper over the same time span). Questions? Comments? Suggestions? Have at them and I hope we can get a good discussion going.
Correction 1: We noticed an error in our calculations that affected the Sum of 3-1 Finishes (it did not count Eldrazi) and as a result, the percentages were high. We've had an issue with Google Sheets where the formulas we write do not appear to "fill" properly, randomly skipping certain cells...This could be an issue with us simultaneously trying to edit a sheet. This specific instance could have been human error (aka I screwed up), but we really don't know. In any case, the best thing to do is post a correction explaining the error and fixing the data. The first table has been updated and should be correct now. Other charts were unaffected as they did not use the "Sum of 3-1 Finishes" in the calculation.