Zendikar Rising Championship Meta Analysis Part 2: Historic

Yasharn, Implacable Earth

For more information on what the Zendikar Rising Championships are, how the players got there, and what’s at stake, check out Part 1 for Standard as well as the tournament coverage:

The Zendikar Rising Championship gave some really strong insight into how the most popular formats have developed in the hands of the top players. Unfortunately, Historic is in a fairly unhealthy position and likely requires some changes. The following analysis should provide some insight into what might need changes.

HISTORIC MATCHUP DATA

There were 7 preliminary rounds of the highest caliber Historic played in the tournament including the top 8. The below matchup tables excludes the top 8 matches, giving us a total of 787 matches to analyze.

Record (Win-Loss)

Azorius AurasAzorius ControlFour-Color MidrangeSultai MidrangeGoblinsJund SacrificeRakdos SacrificeTOTAL
Azorius Auras1-33-83-21-50-72-719-56
Azorius Control3-17-71-32-33-43-122-25
Four-Color Midrange8-37-76-915-1026-1312-8111-84
Sultai Midrange2-33-19-63-19-53-644-33
Goblins5-13-210-151-39-154-547-54
Jund Sacrifice7-04-313-265-915-913-1296-96
Rakdos Sacrifice7-21-38-126-35-412-1353-47

Win Rate (%)

Azorius AurasAzorius ControlFour-Color MidrangeSultai MidrangeGoblinsJund SacrificeRakdos SacrificeTOTAL
Azorius Auras25.00%27.27%60.00%16.67%0.00%22.22%33.93%
Azorius Control75.00%50.00%25.00%40.00%42.86%75.00%46.81%
Four-Color Midrange72.73%50.00%40.00%60.00%66.67%60.00%56.92%
Sultai Midrange40.00%75.00%60.00%75.00%64.29%33.33%57.14%
Goblins83.33%60.00%40.00%25.00%37.50%44.44%46.53%
Jund Sacrifice100.00%57.14%33.33%35.71%62.50%52.00%50.00%
Rakdos Sacrifice77.78%25.00%40.00%66.67%55.56%48.00%53.00%

Sultai Midrange (44-33, 57%)
Four-Color Midrange (111-84, 57%)

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Planeswalker (4)
4
Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Creature (6)
3
Hydroid Krasis
3
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
Sorcery (10)
2
Cry of the Carnarium
2
Extinction Event
2
Maelstrom Pulse
4
Thoughtseize
Instant (11)
2
Aether Gust
1
Disdainful Stroke
1
Essence Scatter
3
Fatal Push
4
Growth Spiral
Enchantment (1)
1
Shark Typhoon
Land (28)
4
Breeding Pool
2
Castle Locthwain
3
Drowned Catacomb
4
Fabled Passage
2
Fetid Pools
2
Forest
2
Island
4
Overgrown Tomb
1
Swamp
4
Zagoth Triome
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
1
Aether Gust
1
Cry of the Carnarium
1
Elder Gargaroth
1
Eliminate
1
Grafdigger's Cage
3
Narset, Parter of Veils
3
Negate
1
Scavenging Ooze
3
Shark Typhoon

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Planeswalker (4)
4
Nissa, Who Shakes the World
Creature (9)
3
Hydroid Krasis
4
Uro, Titan of Nature's Wrath
2
Yasharn, Implacable Earth
Sorcery (7)
3
Extinction Event
4
Thoughtseize
Instant (12)
2
Aether Gust
2
Eliminate
2
Essence Scatter
2
Fatal Push
4
Growth Spiral
Land (28)
4
Breeding Pool
2
Drowned Catacomb
4
Fabled Passage
2
Forest
1
Glacial Fortress
4
Indatha Triome
2
Island
1
Overgrown Tomb
1
Plains
1
Sunpetal Grove
1
Swamp
1
Watery Grave
4
Zagoth Triome
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
2
Aether Gust
1
Cry of the Carnarium
1
Disdainful Stroke
1
Doom Whisperer
1
Eliminate
2
Narset, Parter of Veils
2
Negate
3
Shark Typhoon
2
Yasharn, Implacable Earth

Sultai and Four-Color Midrange had an amazing weekend. The deck put 6 players into the Top 8 and both archetypes had absurd win percentages against the field, with Sultai going 44-33 (57%) and Four-Color going 111-84 (57%). The archetypes had a combined metagame share of 28.3%. This is troubling information to me. The deck was a known quantity and had a high metagame share, which is usually enough for people to attempt to target the deck. Despite this, the archetypes had a high Top 8 turnover rate and posted strong win percentages against the field anyway. I would argue something from this archetype needs to be banned as it has posted strong win rates and dangerously high metagame shares for far too long, which warrants a shake-up in my view. Either archetype is extremely potent, and a top choice for the ladder if you want to rank up.

Azorius Control (22-25, 46.8%)

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Instant (10)
4
Absorb
1
Aether Gust
4
Censor
1
Disdainful Stroke
Artifact (2)
2
Grafdigger's Cage
Enchantment (12)
3
Baffling End
4
Cast Out
1
Search for Azcanta
4
Shark Typhoon
Land (26)
3
Castle Ardenvale
2
Castle Vantress
4
Glacial Fortress
4
Hallowed Fountain
4
Irrigated Farmland
5
Island
4
Plains
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
1
Baffling End
1
Disdainful Stroke
3
Dovin's Veto
1
Essence Scatter
3
Mystical Dispute
2
Narset, Parter of Veils
1
Seal Away
1
Shatter the Sky
2
Timely Reinforcements

Azorius Control had a completely difference in performance this weekend, likely explained by the strength of the pilots. Bradley Barclay took the deck to an undefeated finish, winning the tournament with almost perfect play. However, his fellow UW Control pilots didn’t do so well. The deck went 22-25 (46.8%) in the preliminary rounds. The deck looked powerful when it got to execute its gameplan, but the sample size of data in this tournament isn’t enough to give strong information on any matchup. For example, the deck looked to be favored on coverage against Sultai variants, but posted an 8-10 record against the archetypes. Hold judgement on this archetype for now, but it’s definitely worth testing, especially as it won the tournament.

Goblins (47-54, 46.5%)

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Creature (31)
4
Conspicuous Snoop
4
Goblin Chieftain
4
Goblin Matron
3
Goblin Warchief
4
Krenko, Mob Boss
4
Muxus, Goblin Grandee
4
Skirk Prospector
4
Wily Goblin
Sorcery (3)
3
Shatterskull Smashing/Shatterskull, the Hammer Pass
Artifact (4)
2
Herald's Horn
2
Mind Stone
Land (22)
4
Castle Embereth
16
Mountain
2
Phyrexian Tower
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
4
Abrade
1
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
2
Gempalm Incinerator
1
Goblin Cratermaker
2
Goblin Ringleader
1
Goblin Trashmaster
2
Herald's Horn
2
Irencrag Feat

Goblins has a very similar story to UW Control this weekend, with Autumn Burchett taking the deck to 2nd place in the tournament while also going 47-54 (46.5%) in the preliminary rounds. Autumn Burchett proved that the deck is still very strong and definitely has legs to run well in this meta, especially with some main deck tweaks for a high Sultai meta. For example, Herald’s Horn was initially a sideboard card, but with the presence of Sultai, Autumn moved some copies to the main deck to improve her starting matches. Moving forward, I would expect Goblins players to transition to something similar to Burchett’s build because of the dominance and prevalence of Sultai/4C Midrange decks.

Jund Sacrifice (96-96, 50%)
Rakdos Sacrifice (53-47, 53%)

PVDDR Historic Jund

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Jegantha, the Wellspring
Creature (25)
4
Cauldron Familiar
4
Dreadhorde Butcher
4
Mayhem Devil
3
Midnight Reaper
4
Priest of Forgotten Gods
2
Scrapheap Scrounger
4
Woe Strider
Sorcery (4)
4
Claim the Firstborn
Instant (4)
4
Collected Company
Artifact (4)
4
Witch's Oven
Land (23)
4
Blood Crypt
2
Blooming Marsh
3
Cragcrown Pathway/Timbercrown Pathway
4
Dragonskull Summit
4
Overgrown Tomb
1
Phyrexian Tower
4
Stomping Ground
1
Swamp
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
2
Abrade
2
Chandra, Acolyte of Flame
1
Jegantha, the Wellspring
2
Korvold, Fae-Cursed King
4
Noxious Grasp
1
Reclamation Sage
3
Thoughtseize

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Chandra, Torch of Defiance
Creature (27)
4
Cauldron Familiar
2
Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger
4
Mayhem Devil
3
Midnight Reaper
4
Priest of Forgotten Gods
3
Scrapheap Scrounger
3
Stitcher's Supplier
4
Woe Strider
Sorcery (4)
4
Claim the Firstborn
Artifact (4)
4
Witch's Oven
Land (24)
4
Blood Crypt
2
Castle Locthwain
4
Dragonskull Summit
4
Fabled Passage
3
Mountain
1
Phyrexian Tower
6
Swamp
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
2
Abrade
1
Act of Treason
1
Chandra, Torch of Defiance
3
Leyline of the Void
3
Noxious Grasp
3
Thoughtseize
2
Witch's Vengeance

Sacrifice decks had a disappointing weekend as no player got into the Top 8 with the archetype. Although it posted a slightly positive win percentage of 149-143 (51%) combined, I think that’s not nearly good enough considering the archetype made up 30% of the metagame. Part of the reason the deck did so poorly is because 4C Control and Sultai decks are pretty favored against the archetype, with 4C decks having some Yasharn, Implacable Earth in the main deck to turn off the deck’s main engines. With the prevalence of main deck hate cards for the archetype, it’s no surprise that the deck didn’t perform well. The deck can do very powerful things, however, and if the meta is unprepared for Sacrifice, expect it to eat up tournaments.

Azorius Auras (19-37, 33.9%)

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Lurrus of the Dream-Den
Creature (18)
4
Alseid of Life's Bounty
4
Kor Spiritdancer
2
Ornithopter
4
Selfless Savior
4
Sram, Senior Edificer
Enchantment (20)
4
All That Glitters
4
Arcane Flight
2
Cartouche of Solidarity
4
Curious Obsession
3
Sentinel's Eyes
3
Staggering Insight
Land (22)
4
Glacial Fortress
4
Hallowed Fountain
2
Irrigated Farmland
4
Island
8
Plains
Cards 60
Sideboard (15)
2
Apostle of Purifying Light
4
Baffling End
1
Disdainful Stroke
1
Dive Down
1
Dovin's Veto
1
Gods Willing
4
Hushbringer
1
Lurrus of the Dream-Den

UW Auras was the worst performing deck of the weekend and I’m unsure why people are still playing this deck. It doesn’t have a good matchup against the Sultai variants or the Sacrifice variants which constitute roughly 60% of the meta, which is the exact opposite of where you want an archetype to be. The deck went 19-37 (33.9%) and didn’t post a positive win percentage against any of the top decks. The deck is more powerful than before in a vacuum with the addition of Sram, but in the context of a format with cheap removal, it is ultimately worse.

CONCLUSION

I find Historic to be in an unhealthy state right now. With the format so warped around 2 archetypes, one necessitating main deck hate and another having no bad matchups over the course of the weekend when put to the test at the highest level, there needs to be changes. I am not qualified to make any suggestions on which cards need to be banned or what cards need to be added in an Anthology to help the format recover, but 60% of the metagame being held by 2 main archetypes isn’t healthy. A format requiring main deck hate cards and one deck making up 6 of the Top 8 spots isn’t great either.

Hopefully WotC’s team can find a way to balance the format before another major event occurs. Despite Historic being a bit gridlocked at the top levels, there’s still a lot of play and innovation occurring on ladder so even if no changes happen soon, it’s still an enjoyable format overall.

Terence

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