Data Analysis: The Top Modern Decks, November 2021


Mythic-based decks remain on the rise, combining Omnath and MH2 Elementals. But two other archetypes, mainstays since Modern Horizons 2, are almost tied for first. Meanwhile, Crimson Vow has been released, and large paper events took place. So—what does the data say about the format over the past four weeks?

magical hacker

A new month brings a new monthly update on the Modern metagame! As usual, multiple events took place on Magic Online, including a Showcase Challenge instead of a Challenge and a Modern Premier, in addition to the regular Challenges. In those tournaments, we could see a few cards from the new set making an appearance. Last but not least, paper Magic is resuming, and various offline events are now taking place worldwide, including some that may have more players than Challenges.

Here are the events we are covering today:

List of MTGO Major Events Between 2021-10-25 and 2021-11-22
Modern Challenge 2021-10-30
Modern Challenge 2021-10-31
Modern Challenge 2021-11-06
Modern Challenge 2021-11-07
Modern Showcase Challenge 2021-11-13
Modern Challenge 2021-11-14
Modern Challenge 2021-11-20
Modern Challenge 2021-11-21
Modern Premier 2021-11-21
Modern Preliminary 2021-10-25
Modern Preliminary 2021-10-26
Modern Preliminary 2021-10-27
Modern Preliminary 2021-10-28
Modern Preliminary 2021-10-29
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-01
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-02
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-03
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-04
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-05
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-08
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-09
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-10
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-11
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-12
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-15
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-16
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-17
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-18
Modern Preliminary 2021-11-19

Some Quick Stats
Number of decks in the data: 388
Number of different players in the data: 259
Number of different cards in the data: 686
Number of exact archetypes in the data: 54
Number of rounds in the data (with Top 8): 2,638
Average number of Swiss rounds in the data: 6.47
Minimum number of Swiss rounds in the data: 4
Maximum number of Swiss rounds in the data: 9
Number of events in the data: 29

Archetype Presence

As usual, let us start with a look at the most represented archetypes among the top finishes (Challenges/Showcases/Premier/PTQ Top 32s and Preliminariy 3-1 and 4-0 results). They are weighted by the number of matches to make appearances in larger events more meaningful, which is relevant to determine the best decks later. As a consequence, a deck that reached the finals of a nine-round event, adding three matches in the playoffs, has a weight of 9+3=12, whereas a Preliminary list comes at a weight of 4. Interestingly, the ranking is pretty much the same when you only take the number of appearances without weighing them.

Proportion of archetypes out of 2,638 matches from October 25 to November 22 (threshold for Other: 60 matches)
Proportion of archetypes based on 2,638 matches (threshold for Other: 60 matches)

We can notice that Hammer Time remains the most represented deck after months of dominance. This is partly because it keeps evolving and trying out new plans to beat the hate. One of those variants is CrusherBotBG's, which is also the Hammer list with the most points this month. He presents it here.

In the meantime, Izzet Murktide sees quite the resurgence. After adding the weight of the number of matches, it is tied with Hammer, especially thanks to the "new" build Do0mSwitch developed, mostly replacing Thought Scour with Consider.

Following these two, we find three times control. (Though one could argue that some of them rather are midrange decks?) I assume you are all relatively familiar with the concept of Azorius Control in most formats, and we already covered many details about the archetype in the previous metagame update. If you are into free content, here is a sideboard guide for white-blue mages.

If you read my last article, you might also recognize WURG Blink, which we already mentioned as it was just starting to make a splash. Now it's definitely among the archetypes you need to respect. For those wanting to pick up the deck, there is a lot of content on the topic, but I only want to showcase the largest free primer.

As for WURG Control, it is somewhat of a hybrid between White-Blue Control and WURG Blink, albeit without the blink subtheme from the 80-card archetype and much more tap-out-oriented than Azorius. It's able to adopt Wrenn and Six, Expressive Iteration, and Omnath, Locus of Creation thanks to the splashes and harnesses Force of Negation thanks to those additional main-phase card advantage engines. Here is the list with the most points this month:

It is said that you can find pictures of a sideboard guide if you watch Gabriel Nassif's stream. Anyway, if you are familiar with control in Modern, it should not be much of an issue to handle this deck.

Meanwhile, Amulet Titan more than doubled its presence compared to last month. It is also toying with a new card from Crimson Vow, but more about that later.

Thoughtseize and Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer now look to be torn between Grixis Shadow and Jund Saga. Indeed, Grixis Shadow keeps some of the strengths of Jund Saga and gets access to blue for countermagic plus—maybe even more important at the moment—Dress Down. The card has countless applications. Just based on the synergies with the other spells in the deck, it can for instance allow you to keep a Kroxa, Titan of Death's Hunger in play when you cast it from your hand (at the cost of the discard trigger), turn your Death's Shadow into a 13/13 (making Temur Battle Rage less important than it once was), and provide a relevant spell to loop with Lurrus of the Dream-Den. You can even use it to interact with your opponent, killing Constructs of Urza's Saga, protecting your creatures from the dangerous Solitude, make Walking Ballista or Murktide Regent enter without counters …

Outside of that, the deck has a lot in common with the Grixis Monkey list you might remember from last article. Here is Shadow version with the most points this month:

Check out Michael Rapp's guide if you feel like becoming a pro with the shell.

Burn's presence dropped this month after months of rise. It seems like people finally started packing hate against it. The same could be said of the cascade decks plummeting this month. But contrary to Burn, people were already heavy on Chalice of the Void and other hate pieces ever since Shardless Agent joined the party. So I would rather interpret this as a meta shift, and it might be correlated to the rise of Izzet Murktide that has a lot of tools to prey on clunkier decks. Even though cascade decks do run cheap interaction, it might still be hard for them to resolve their namesake card against a wall of cheap countermagic and threats. Grixis Shadow should also pose the same issue.

Still, all hope is not lost for cascade! Indeed, Xenowan demonstrated this month that Glimpse of Tomorrow may be more than a meme, posting multiple finishes followed by other players afterward, reigniting the spark. Here is the archetype that is not on the tier list that I want to showcase in this article:

We can also note that two decks made it—back and newly, respectively—onto the tier list this month. First, there's BTL Scapeshift (yet another deck running Wrenn and Six, Teferi, Time Raveler, Omnath, Locus of Creation, Prismatic Ending, and Expressive Iteration; looks like a good month to be playing those cards). It is mostly a control deck employing Valakut, the Molten Pinnacle, Dryad of the Ilysian Grove, and Scapeshift (that you can find with Bring to Light) to close the game. When this plan is not available, you can also use your creatures and planeswalkers to win, including the back side of Valki, God of Lies // Tibalt, Cosmic Impostor, also brought to light. Here is the list with the most points this month:

The highest-placing example of this archetype only came in 30th (at a large event, admittedly)? Okay, maybe the other Omnath shells are more interesting. How about beating Omnath though …?

Here comes Belcher! Revived by sodek taking down events with it, the deck mainly aims at casting Goblin Charbelcher and revealing your entire deck to kill your opponent. How? By not playing any land in your deck of course! Or at least no lands that count as such while they are in your deck, thanks to the double-faced cards of Zendikar Rising like Turntimber Symbiosis // Turntimber, Serpentine Wood. You might remember the deck from older articles, at a time when Simian Spirit Guide was still legal. It went through a long winter, first because of the ban and then because its other combo enabler, Recross the Paths (allowing you to stack your deck and drawing just what you need thanks to Reforge the Soul, was bugged on MTGO. It is now fixed and back to destroy clunky decks, either through a Blood Moon on the second turn or a combo backed up by Pact of Negation and many other anti-control cards.

Speaking of sodek, often called Modern's combo master—if you want to learn the intricacies of the deck and the Recross the Paths piles or Pyromancer Ascension piles, make sure to have a look at sodek's and TSPJendrek's new Patreon, Modern Solutions.

At the end of the line, Yawgmoth is stable, Mill slightly improved, whereas Jeskai Control did the opposite. Between WURG Control and WURG Blink, it looks like there is not much space anymore in the format for dedicated Elementals, and the deck disappeared from the tiers.

Archetype Win Rates

95% confidence interval on the win rate of the most represented archetypes from October 25 to November 22
95% confidence interval on the win rates of the most represented archetypes (click to view at full resolution)

As expected, the decks with the highest and lowest win rates also are among the least represented, meaning that their confidence interval is much larger. On the other hand, it is interesting to note that the most represented decks almost all exhibit close and above average win rates, except for WURG Blink which is much lower. As usual, to prepare the tier list later (and because showing dozens of decks on a single graph is quite complicated) we only keep the decks with a presence above the average presence (which conveniently enough happens to be around 2% most of the time).

Do you think that so many win rates this much above 50% is abnormal? Don't worry, it was all planned. Or at least, it is to be expected. After all, as mentioned earlier, we only have data on the best-performing decks in Challenges/Preliminaries. So rather than the actual win rate, it is rather a metric of whether the deck tends to win tournaments or is at the lower end of the Top 32.

Displaying Win Rate and Presence Together

So we have the data for both the presence and win rate, let us visualize it. At first glance, it seems that both Hammer Time and Izzet Murktide should be above the rest and should be followed by the main control decks of the format.

Win rate by presence for the most represented archetypes
Win rate (y axis) by presence (x axis) for the most represented archetypes

Do not worry, I know that you like to see what happens outside of the tier decks. Here is the complete picture (with tiers based on presence alone, the only metric most other tier lists would use):

Win rate by presence for all archetypes (circle diameters based on number of different players)
Win rate by presence for all archetypes (circle diameters based on number of different players)

Wait, a deck with a 100% win rate? How is this possible? Same story as usual, it only showed up once in a Preliminary where it hit a 4-0 streak. Here is the list if you are into Zoo:

From Data to Tier List

Now that we have the data on both metrics for the most represented decks (above the average presence), we can use the same normalization formula as before on both of them and sum them to get a value we can use to rank the decks.

Sum of the normalized win rate and presence for the most represented archetypes
Sum of the normalized win rate and presence for the most represented archetypes

The tier list is then generated by setting the average of those values as the threshold for tier 1.5 and adding or subtracting standard deviations to change tiers.

tier list

Early Crimson Vow Impact

As I am writing this article, we barely had two weeks to play with Crimson Vow on Magic Online. In main decks, we could find the following cards:

VOW in Main Decks
  • 5 Amulet Titan
  • 5 WURG Blink
  • 1 Gruul Midrange & 1 Obosh Aggro
  • 1 Amulet Titan

Sideboards included the following:

VOW in Sideboards
  • 1 Izzet & 1 Jeskai Murktide
  • 2 Amulet Titan
  • 1 Gruul Midrange

For now, Cultivator Colossus seems to be the set's biggest addition to the format. Multiple players are trying it out in Amulet. Wandering Mind also seems to yield a powerful synergy with Ephemerate, both to find it and to provide a target. Out of the sideboard, Lantern of the Lost appears to be a new effective graveyard hate tool.

The Return of Large Paper Events

paper tiger

In the past few weeks, we saw multiple offline events gathering dozens and even hundreds of players worldwide. Let us take a look at the biggest. At the very end of the last month, Star City Games organized tournaments in Roanoke. We got the Top 8 decklists of their Mythic Championship Qualifier and their Invitational.

More recently, this past weekend saw two of the largest paper events in a long time: Channel Fireball's MTG Las Vegas with 1,436 players and LaBicheMTG's Paris Championship with 200 players. From Las Vegas we got the Top 8 decks and also a look at the lists of the rest of the Top 45. As I am writing this article, we don't have much more details about the event, but we can expect more to come.

However, we already have the entirety of the decklists of the Paris Championship, which I was able to help analyze. You can find the the metagame breakdown, decklists, and more on Twitter. Note that Julien Bihet, who reached the final of the Paris Championship, already won a 62-player event earlier this month with the same deck, a few hours away from Paris in Chateauroux. We also happen to know the complete metagame of that event.


That's it for this month! Next month we will review the most successful Magic Online players of the year in addition to the tier list development. In the meantime, here are decks you can try depending on your favorite macro archetype:

Aggro: Burn
Aggro-Combo: Hammer Time
Tempo: Izzet Murktide
Midrange: Grixis Shadow
Control: WURG Control
Combo Control: BTL Scapeshift
Combo (Graveyard): Living End
Combo (Big Mana): Amulet Titan
Combo (Creatures): Yawgmoth
Combo (Spells): Belcher

Are you still afraid of MH2 threats? Among the sixteen decks that made the tier list, only three them run Ragavan, Nimble Pilferer, same count for Urza's Saga. Actually, the Modern Horizons 2 additions that see play among the largest number of tier archetypes are the evoke Elementals (Solitude, Endurance, and Fury most of all) as well as Prismatic Ending, cards that are usually considered answers rather than threats.

See you next month for the last article of the series in 2021!

Opinions expressed in this article are those of the author and not necessarily Cardmarket.


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Shymoren(27.11.2021 12:35)

MH2 was to powerfull. Each meta deck contain cards from mh2

Aliquanto(27.11.2021 18:59)

Shymoren hey, at least Burn doesn't! Or sometimes Sanctifier over Firewalker in the sideboard...

Zwenner(25.11.2021 13:22)

Thank you for the Update.
It'll be interesting to see, how the Meta will develop from here with Hammer and Izzet Murktide currently running away from the Field.

Aliquanto(27.11.2021 19:03)

Zwenner Indeed, I am curious as well to see that. Hammer being on top is no surprise after months, however UR fell hard for a while, until Do0mSwitch rebuilt it. At least they are now known decks that people should be able to attack correctly.
Still, Hammer kept on evolving to adapt to the targeted hate people kept on adding those past months, so I don't know how long it will take to dethrone it.

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