GP Charlotte Metagame Review

GP Charlotte didn’t just meet expectations. It set a new bar for Modern tournaments. We saw Collected Company and Splinter Twin. We saw Cryptic Command and Kolaghan’s Command. We even saw Ad Nauseam (whoa), Nourishing Shoal (wait, what?), and Lantern of Insight (…wut), and all in the Top 16. GP Charlotte was one for the ages and the heralding event to a new chapter in Modern’s history. This tournament will shape the format for months to come.

Serum Visions Art - Copy

For the past few months, we’ve tracked the post-Pod/Treasure Cruise metagame. Charlotte is the culminating event of that trajectory, and what a metagame it has shaped up to be. This article is a roundup of the metagame changes and developments we saw at GP Charlotte and how the GP results will affect the format going ahead. It won’t be a GP-wide retrospective: you can expect that later in the week. But it will separate the important format movements from the flashes in the pan, analyzing the day 2 metagame, the T8/T16, and comparing those to the metagame results from before the GP.

Metagame Comparisons: Overall, GP Day 2, GP Top 8

siege rhinoWhen reviewing a GP, it’s important we don’t just focus on Top 8/Top 16 numbers, or even day 2 numbers. In almost every instance, these numbers alone do not either reflect the metagame going into the GP, or predict the metagame after. GP Charlotte’s day 2 metagame, and its top decks, will likely be no exception. The archetypical example of this was Abzan around the February Pro Tour. The PT metagame saw 25%+ of the field on Abzan. But after the PT ended, Abzan’s shares declined precipitously. To adjust for all the factors at play in metagame development, we need to compare the current GP numbers to the metagame stats from before the GP. We also need to extend this comparison into the Top 32, using deck prevalences there as another indicator of success. This method helps us assess whether an observed effect happened because of a particular event or was already happening before that event. It also helps us decide whether an effect was part of a longstanding trend or a one-time anomaly. Finally, it lets us compensate for a lack of day 1 statistics: we don’t know the day 1 to day 2 conversion rate, but the metagame-wide trends help us correct for that.

For pre-Charlotte data, I’m using the 4/1-5/1 metagame numbers and a slightly modified version of the 5/1-6/1 Metagame Update numbers. These stats include all events leading up to the GP, including SCG Columbus and a variety of events from the week leading up to Charlotte. As with all Nexus data, numbers are taken from the Top Decks page. For the GP day 2, I’m just using a modified listing from the Wizards page, reclassifying some decks to better align with our site’s data tracking (e.g. “Merfolk” being separate from “Blue-White Merfolk”). Finally, I’ll look at the top 32 decks of the event. There is a huge data pitfall here which we need to acknowledge up front. The 16th-32nd players all had 36 points, but so too did the 33rd-52nd players. We are missing those 16 decklists, however, despite their finishes being basically the same. So our dataset is skewed towards players with slightly higher breakers.

The table below shows all day 2 decks with 8+ appearances (i.e. all decks with above average appearances on day 2). It then gives you prevalence for those decks in four periods: 4/1-5/1, 5/1-6/10, the GP day 2, and the GP top 32. Finally, the last column gives the slope of the best-fit line through these datapoints (the slope coefficient, M, of the linear regression, for you stats folks). This measure “M” gives us a sense of how consistent the deck trends were over time.

Metagame Trends Over Time

Deck4/1-5/1
metagame %
5/1-6/11
metagame %
GP Day 2
metagame %
GP T32
metagame %
Slope
(M)
Grixis Twin1.3%3.4%11.9%6.3%2.35
Jund4.1%6.1%10.3%9.4%2.01
Burn9.1%8.2%9.9%9.4%.26
Affinity7%6.2%9.6%6.3%.13
Abzan8.9%8.8%6.1%3.1%-2.01
Infect4.6%3.6%5.5%0%-1.19
RG Tron3.1%4.1%5%6.3%1.05
UR Twin9.1%8%4.5%6.3%-1.19
Merfolk3.1%3.1%3.5%0%-.89
Abzan Company1.1%4.2%3.2%12.5%3.32
Grixis Delver4.9%5%3.2%3.1%-.72
Amulet Bloom2.8%3.7%2.6%3.1%-.02
Naya Zoo1.2%1.1%2.6%9.4%2.61

The table is auto-sorted on GP day 2 prevalence, but you can play around with the arrows at the top to sort it on other values. In interpreting M, remember that larger values indicate a consistent increase since April. Values around zero suggest minimal change, and values in the negatives suggest a downward trend.

Splinter TwinLooking over the table, we can loosely divide the decks into three categories. First are the decks with upward-trending slopes, ones that increased consistently in all periods of time: Abzan Company is an obvious winner here, with consistent upward movement since April.  Second, we see decks clustering around zero, which maintained their status quo both before and during the GP. This includes format staples like Burn and Affinity, as well as decks people metagamed against like Amulet Bloom. Finally, we see the declining decks, ones that were falling out of the top-tiers before the GP and only had their decline finalized during Charlotte. Abzan and Infect are big here, two decks that seriously underperformed at the GP and have been underperforming for months. That said, this table is clearly missing some nuance. Grixis Twin did not have the best T8 performance, even if it sent a lot of players to day 2 and even if it had a big metagame share going into the event. So why is it ranked near the top of the table when a deck like UR Twin did better? Or what about Burn, a deck everyone prepared for but still managed to succeed in the face of so much hatred?

The problem with the above table is that it doesn’t place enough weight on the GP results themselves, which we know are going to heavily effect metagame shares going ahead. This means we need to make some adjustments.

If there’s one thing we can count on in Modern it’s the hype factor. Decks that get in the T8 tend to be better received than decks in the T16, even though there is often little statistical difference between the two. They may legitimately be better, but even if they aren’t, the community tends to put heavy emphasis on T8/T16 finishes more than just day 2 metagame share. Here’s one way we can try and account for the “hype” factor. In this next table, decks in the T8 are weighted twice as heavily as decks in the 9th-16th, and decks from 17th-32nd are weighted half as much as the 9th-16th decks. I then take the average between this adjusted T32 score and the old day 2 prevalence to get a “hyped” day 2 share. This reflects player interpretation of the day 2 numbers, not the actual numbers themselves. If a deck does poorly in the T8 despite sending lots of players to day 2, it looks bad and people undervalue its day 2 performance. But if it overperforms, people take notice and overvalue the day 2 stats. The table below reflects these adjustments. Note the new slopes with the hype adjustments.

Metagame Trends Over Time: “Hype” Adjusted

Deck4/1-5/1
metagame %
5/1-6/11
metagame %
GP Day 2
hyped %
GP T32
hyped %
Hype
Slope (M)
Grixis Twin1.3%3.4%7.5%3.1%.95
Jund4.1%6.1%7.5%
4.7%.32
Burn9.1%8.2%10.4%10.9%.76
Affinity7%6.2%8.7%7.8%.49
Abzan8.9%8.8%3.8%1.6%-2.85
Infect4.6%3.6%2.7%0%-1.46
RG Tron3.1%4.1%4.8%4.7%.55
UR Twin9.1%8%8.5%12.5%1.07
Merfolk3.1%3.1%1.7%0%-1.06
Abzan Company1.1%4.2%9.4%15.6%4.87
Grixis Delver4.9%5%2.4%1.6%-1.25
Amulet Bloom2.8%3.7%2.1%1.6%-.52
Naya Zoo1.2%1.1%4.4%6.3%1.86

To some extent, “hype” is a bit misleading here. It’s not just that the decks are interpreted as doing better because players are irrational hype maniacs (which, to some extent, they are). Rather, a deck’s overperformance in the T8 can be a legitimate sign of strength, which draws players to those decks and gives context to their day 2 shares. By contrast, a deck that sent a lot of players to day 2 but then failed to send many to the T8/T16 would be questioned by the community.

Deceiver ExarchThis table gives us a slightly different metagame picture than the raw numbers did above. Here, the clear winners are Abzan Company, Naya Zoo, and UR Twin, all of which exceeded expectations and put up some huge finishes. You can expect these three decks to see a lot of play in the coming months, and you would be wise to prepare to beat them. Grixis Twin is also still a winner here, although the table is probably overstating its importance in the metagame going forward. Some Grixis players are likely to return to UR Twin, which will further decrease its metagame share. That said, there are certainly pilot and deckbuilding factors at play in the difference between the decks: it’s no surprise that the untested Grixis Twin list didn’t do as well as the time-proven UR Twin build. That list also probably had more inexperienced pilots on it, all of whom wanted to play the next best thing. Based on this, I don’t expect Grixis Twin to fall off the map completely. It will remain a 5%-6% deck in the format in the months to come, poised to make a big comeback if it gets a big finish. But UR Twin will still remain the Twin deck of choice at over 8%-9%.

Kolaghans CommandSome losers in the hype-adjusted table are Grixis Delver and Jund. These decks did not do as well as they could have done, despite lots of hype surrounding their strengths. That said, it’s critical to note that Abzan did absolutely horribly compared to both these decks. Abzan was already at the bottom just looking at the raw numbers, but the hype-adjusted table really shows how far the deck has fallen. This is a critical datapoint in understanding the underperformance of Jund. Based on the GP, players won’t look at Jund and see a bad deck. Rather, they’ll look at Abzan and see a worse deck, steering them towards Jund as the BGx deck of choice. So although Jund didn’t live up to the hype, Abzan failed much harder. This suggests Jund’s share will actually continue to rise in the coming months, or at least stay where it is as Abzan’s continues to fall. Expect Jund to be at around 7%-8% and Abzan to fall into the same range (or lower). The metagame just isn’t great for the BGW mages, and we now have multiple months and events to confirm that. As for Grixis Delver, there was always a good chance that its metagame share was artificially buoyed by MTGO hype. Now that Delver has been discredited at the GP, expect its share to fall into the 4%-5% range as Grixis Twin (and Grixis Control) become the Grixis options of choice.

There are a variety of other conclusions you can draw from the data. Infect continues to fail and will probably fall even further after Charlotte. RG Tron and Amulet Bloom were overhyped going in and players over-prepared for them at the event themselves, but are likely to remain viable based on their pre-trends and their consistency even in the face of hate. Merfolk may not have done that well at the GP, but that deck has always enjoyed a modest metagame share and will continue to even after Charlotte. In all these different cases, the key is to check the hype-adjusted scores against our general understanding of the decks. That’s how we can predict what will come next.

collected companyOne final point on this: expect a lot of Collected Company in the months to come. This was the big breakout success story of the GP, and players are going to take notice and go even crazier around this card than they already are. We will also see more players take this deck seriously, which will temper the deck’s rise as players build sideboards (and even maindecks) to crush creature-powered Company decks. Company decks are not going to hit some insane, Deathrite Shaman level of prevalence as the format evolves. But they will keep rising and we can expect to see at least 1-2 of them in the tier 1 decks. Elves and Abzan Company are poised to each be 7% or so of the metagame. The other tier 1 decks will also start to take shape around these decks, so expect more stuff like Tron and Amulet Bloom. I predicted a Company success in my GP Charlotte article last week, and I’m excited to see this deck do so well. Company was exactly what a variety of decks needed, and Modern is a more diverse format after its inclusion.

Processing Weird Decks and Outliers

Lantern of InsightBefore wrapping up, I want to say a brief word about “weird decks”. In my last article, I said to watch out for weird decks at the GP and boy, did Charlotte not disappoint. Who would have thought we would see not only the Ad Nauseam combo deck, which is at best tier 3, but also the Griselbrand/Nourishing Shoal combo (a new version of a tier 4 deck), and the Lantern of Insight/Ensnaring Bridge prison deck (basically a kitchen table deck before Charlotte). Elves is also a possible “weird deck” inclusion, but less so because it at least had MTGO performances going into the GP. When dealing with decks like these, it’s hard to know whether they are the real deal or if they are just temporary successes that no one else will replicate. Statistically speaking, I always lean towards the flash-in-the-pan interpretation. Fabiano’s Sultai Control never took off after SCG Baltimore, which suggests a much more niche control deck like Fateseal/Top Control couldn’t either. But then again, never underestimate hype or a player’s desire to try something new, which are two factors that could drive these “weird” decks to succeed. Also, these decks might legitimately be powerful independent of hype.

GriselbrandI’m going to discuss all these decks more in articles later this week, so for now I’ll just say this. Rogue decks can definitely succeed in Modern and it’s good to get ahead of those trends. But not all rogue decks turn out to be good, and if I had a dollar for every time a rogue player has told me their deck has somehow broken/solved the metagame, I could have bought Pascal’s Tarmogoyf. The key to separating the five-minute-spotlights from the real-deals is in assessing deck power and deck weakness. If a rogue deck has glaring weaknesses (e.g. folds to graveyard hate), then it’s probably worse than all the higher-tiered decks that also “fold” to graveyard hate, such as Living End. Similarly, if a rogue deck doesn’t play powerful cards, then it’s probably worse than the higher-tiered decks that are playing powerful cards, such as Amulet Bloom. So in assessing these decks, don’t look at them in a vacuum. Compare them to existing decks and see how they stack up.

Modern after GP Charlotte

We’ll have a lot of post-GP analysis in this coming week, so stay tuned for more reflections and content on Modern’s coolest event in years. With so many decks and metagame trends at stake, there’s just so much to discuss. Charlotte turned a page in Modern history, and I fully expect the format to be forever changed as we go forward. But as is often the case in Modern, our format will still have a number of the same old decks doing the same old thing, which is exactly where we want to be as a nonrotating format. It’s a good combination of innovation and consistency, all harmonizing together in a diverse format where anything is possible.

Sheridan is the former Editor in Chief of Modern Nexus and a current Staff Author. He comes from a background in social science data analysis, database administration, and academia. He has been playing Magic since 1998 and Modern since 2011.

13 thoughts on “GP Charlotte Metagame Review

  1. The idea that Amulet Bloom is dominating the format is long gone now. Sheridan I respect you, and I have an idea. You could make an article about that. Explaining what is really on about Amulet Bloom. For me, the primary reason is the many times told reason in that Bloom pilots are more experienced with their deck and maybe the format. MWP of Amulet Bloom is just a cover up. Alexander Hayne, Van Meter and some other players are known as very experience player and the first is maybe one of the most respected players on the scene.
    The article I am suggesting could explaining Twin’s popularity as well. I think Twin in all its varieties is the archetype with the best MWP in Day 2 of formats.
    I am suggesting this article because Bloom’s MWP of yours fired off many reactions in mtgsalvation and in other forums and cause people to suggest to WoTC to go on fixing the format about this deck. Well, people can understand now(no matter how much it got hated in Charlotte) that Bloom is not broken and NOTHING justifies a ban.
    I am happy with the meta right now personally.
    Always in a friendly tone of course.
    Regards, George.

    1. I’m discussing Amulet in my next article. We still have two GPs left in the month to really prove anything about the metagame, but preliminary results are promising for people who were worried about Amulet Bloom. The Bloom MWP is still very real, but we are increasingly seeing that this is in part a function of a) player inexperience against the deck and b) player unpreparedness against the deck. But this was always a real possibility that I considered in past articles, so it’s not too surprising to me. The most important takeaway here is that Modern is proving it has the tools to self-police and self-regulate beyond bans. This includes both improved player knowledge (knowing how to interact with Amulet) and better preparation (running Moon). If this continues through June, we will be in a really great spot for the metagame.

      1. This is also a reply to your comments below with TehLittleOne, but I am also very interested to see what happens with the stats for the remainder of the GPs. GP Charlotte should go down as not only a great GP with fringe decks and a healthy metagame, but also the GP in which players were prepared for land based combo decks. While I completely agree that Jund and grixis twin were hyped coming into Charlotte, there were deafening levels of hype about Tron and Amulet Combo. Practically every site ran articles regarding beating the land decks with the writer’s pet deck.

        Heck, modern Nexus ran a whole article on blood moon!

        The levels of hate that the land decks saw GP Charlotte weekend must be similar to what burn and affinity feels every weekend. It is easy to imagine the number of hate cards being cut slightly to fit in the latest tech against Abzan Company. Jund decks were maindecking fulminator mage – which is fairly outrageous. The amount of decks playing the full 4 fulminator mage in the board is fairly amazing.

        My call is that this weekend out of the spotlight will create a very reasonable metagame for Tron and Amulet moving forward. I think this weekend will be the blip in the upward trend of Amulet, because the metagame was so hateful this weekend which, with the prevalence of new decks to tech against, cannot remain so.

        That being said, my history of calls recently has not gone so well – turns out Merfolk couldnt sneak into the top 32.

      1. I have it labeled as something stupid on the spreadsheet (“Podless Pod”). I’m going to clean up the spreadsheet soon, which will include some cleanup on the names. The Top Decks tables have the correct names, however.

  2. So, with the stats on Amulet Bloom being where they are, does that mean Amulet is a fine deck to keep in the format? What do you think are the odds that it’s going to get banned now? On one hand, it’s somewhat violating a couple of rules, but on the other hand, it clearly has downsides and counter play.

    It wins before turn 4 a decent amount of the time, which is certainly a problem. However, Hive Mind kills aren’t that common. Also, early Primeval Titan games often don’t end until turn 4 or later, even if they are “over” in a sense much earlier, the way RG Tron games with Karn are “over” on turn 3.

    Secondly, the deck isn’t good for streaming purposes. You can’t do that well streaming it because it’s a confusing deck to watch and commentate. It’s also not very interactive at all, so it’s generally less enjoyable to watch. I think that was partially why Eggs got the ban hammer, but Eggs made us either scoop and not see the win, or take an hour doing some boring sequence.

    I don’t know if these are counteracted hard enough by the downsides to the deck. Of course, the deck is difficult to pilot, which makes people not want to play the deck in turn. On top of that, there are clear cut answers to it as we saw. A lot of Blood Moons and Ghost Quarters, and watching Hayne vs Chapin, it seems that control isn’t that great of a matchup.

    The one thing I still note is that top players still seem to be doing well with the deck. Hayne was deep on day 2, which is another strong showing for him on the deck. That’s certainly an important factor when deciding the ban, that good pilots can still produce good results.

    1. I’m going to discuss this a bit tomorrow, but Amulet is looking a lot safer now than it did a week ago. That said, we still need to get through two more GPs to have enough data to conclude anything definitively. For me, the most important thing is if Modern can self-police the deck. GP Charlotte suggests this is possible, both through better card/deck choices, and through just learning how the deck plays. But it’s also possible that Charlotte was the exception and Amulet is going to cause serious problems at the upcoming two GPs. We’ll have to wait and see. I will say that, as long as Charlotte sets the tone for the month, Amulet will be a much safer investment now than it was earlier.

      1. Yeah, Charlotte seems good for Amulet’s longevity. The one thing I forgot is how much people had to tune sideboards to beat Amulet/RG Tron. A lot of options that people normally wouldn’t play, like MB Fulminator Mage or sideboard Crucible+LD+Loam (which some BGx players were doing). It feels as if they overboarded for it. Not that it was wrong, but just something to note.

  3. Hi Sheridan! First, I’d just like to say that I’m a huge fan of the website and always love finding new information and articles here. It’s extremely high quality information and I really appreciate all of the work that you guys put into it.

    I am a UR Storm player and I was wondering how you thought that the deck works in the metagame now. I believe that the commentators said on Saturday that it, like Burn, works, but isn’t the best, at least at the GP. Do you agree with that, or do you think that it’s probably unlikely to do very well? There was a deck that came in 39th place, and it runs 3 Lightning Bolts maindeck.(http://magic.wizards.com/en/events/coverage/gpcha15/archetype-exemplars-top-decks-of-grand-prix-charlotte-2015-06-13#royce_walter__storm__th_place) Do you feel that that this helps make it work in the metagame, giving it the ability to stop Eidolon of the Great Revel, or not?

    Sorry if the questions are a little unrelated to the article, but I was interested after seeing the dekc at the GP.

    Thank you very much, and I loved the article today. Really looking forward to your upcoming article(s) about the rogue decks at the GP. I think it would be fantastic to here more about them, or maybe a list of possible rogue archetypes.

    Hope you enjoyed watching the GP as much as I did! : )

    —Jake

    1. There is pretty much zero Storm hate at the moment, so I can’t see a reason it can’t power through. Jund’s popularity (at the time) and possible decline could further open the way for the deck. Delver is another deck that would’ve been a problem but is taking a back seat to the Twin/Control Grixis lists.

      Although now that Goryo.dec is coming into play you might find more graveyard hate to incidentally shut down the Past in Flames game plan.

      1. There is a full 10% of the day two field running 4 maindeck hate cards for storm in eidolon. It is the same problem infect had against pod and now against abzan company, but worse because they run more of them and they lock you out harder.

    2. Hey Jake!

      As Dylan said below, Burn is a very real issue for Storm decks. It’s true that Burn is a less pronounced part of the metagame now than a few months ago, but it’s still very much present and very much a problem for Storm players. Maindecking Bolt is a great way to handle them in game 1, although you’ll still need to dodge the Jund and lingering Abzan players in the format.

      One hidden strength of Burn is its ability to get consistent turn 2 Moon in some key matchups. I will say that if you are using Bolt and Moon in your deck, you don’t want to be using Desperate Ravings. Switch that to Faithless Looting, so you have a better chance of going turn 1 dig into a turn 2 ritual/Moon or turn 2 Bolt on a recently dropped Eidolon.

      As I said in today’s article on the overall GP, if you have mastered the ins and outs of Storm, then the deck can probably succeed at large events (especially with metagame adaptations). People won’t expect it, so as long as you are prepared for them, you can take advantage of them not being prepared for you.

Leave a Reply