Team Unified Modern For WMC – Part 2: The Metagame

Team Unified Modern will be played at the World Magic Cup in Rotterdam (November 18-20) as well as 2 Grand Prix events in 2017. In this format, each team has to submit 3 Modern decks in which, other than basic lands, no 2 decks may contain the same card.

Yesterday, I restricted myself to 14 top-tier Modern decks (Affinity, Dredge, Jund, Bant Eldrazi, Naya Burn, Death’s Shadow Zoo, R/G Valakut, Infect, Abzan, Jeskai Control, Tron, Merfolk, Ad Nauseam, and Elves) and analyzed the overlap between them. Today, I will use yesterday’s overview as an input to determine all configurations with little-to-no overlap in essential cards. I will also offer my thoughts on the metagame implications. Let’s get started!

Methodology and Definitions

To identify feasible combinations, I restricted myself to the essential cards. Specifically, I only considered overlap in cards from the categories “Overlap in Key Cards,” “Overlap in Shock Duals,” and “Overlap in Fetchlands” (if the fetchland was a 3 of or 4 of in both decks) as described in yesterday’s article. I disregarded the overlap in all other cards, which I considered to be non essential.

Some card-specific notes:

Subsequently, I enumerated all 364 three-deck configurations that could be made from my pool of 14 decks. For each configuration, I added up the overlap of all essential cards between the three decks. If a configuration led to overlap in at most one essential card between at most two decks, then I took it to the next step. Otherwise, it was discarded.

In the next step, I determined a number to represent how reasonable it would be for a team to end up with a certain three-deck configuration. As an input for this, I took the average of the most recent metagame numbers for various archetypes (loosely defined) from the MTGGoldfish website, which yielded the following table:

Deck Individual-tournament metagame percentage
Dredge 7.6%
Affinity 7.4%
Naya Burn 7.3%
Infect 7.1%
Bant Eldrazi 6.6%
Jund 5.4%
R/G Valakut 4.3%
Abzan 3.5%
Tron 3.3%
Jeskai Control 3.1%
Merfolk 2.6%
Suicide Zoo 1.6%
Ad Nauseam 1.6%
Elves 1.6%

The numbers only add up to 63% because Modern is a pretty diverse format, and we cannot catch everything in our pool of 14 decks.

To determine how likely it would be for a team to end up with a certain 3-deck configuration, I imagined the following scenario. Out of the 4 members of a WMC team, there are 3 players who are proficient with certain Modern archetypes. The probability that a player is an expert with a certain archetype is described by the individual tournament metagame percentages from the above table. The fourth player does not have a lot of experience in Modern, and they will sit out as the coach. So for example, the probability that a team contains an Affinity aficionado, a dedicated Bant Eldrazi player, and a Jund master is 7.4% times 6.6% times 5.4% times 6, or 0.158%. (The multiplication by 6 is because there are 6 different ways to order 3 team members. Essentially, I’m using the multinomial distribution here.) Likewise, the probability that a team contains an Affinity aficionado, a dedicated Bant Eldrazi player, and a R/G Valakut master is 7.4% times 6.6% times 4.3% times 6, or 0.126%.

If there is no overlap between the 3 decks, as in the case of Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and Jund, then 0.158% represents the likelihood that a team will have this combination as their first choice. The number can be interpreted as the probability that these three archetypes match the expertise of the Modern veterans on the team. Alternatively, for a team with no prior Modern experience, it can act as an indicator of how popular the 3 decks were in recent individual Modern events.

If there is overlap between the 3 decks, as in the case of Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and R/G Valakut due to Windswept Heath, then assume that the team flips a coin. If it comes up heads, then the team looks elsewhere. If it comes up tails, then the team adjusts mana bases but sticks with their preferred deck choices. Hence, half of 0.126% (i.e., 0.063%) would be the likelihood that a team ends up with Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and R/G Valakut.

This way of assigning likelihood percentages to deck configurations doesn’t say what an Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and R/G Valakut team would do if they want to look elsewhere. It also doesn’t indicate what a team consisting of 1 Affinity player and 2 Bant Eldrazi players would choose. And it doesn’t take into account how overlap in a large number of non essential cards could influence decisions. So it doesn’t capture everything, but it’s a simple way of estimating how likely it is that a certain configuration is a team’s first choice. I find that to be a good metric.

Results

In yesterday’s article, I asked everyone around to share what they expected the “best” 3-deck configuration to be. Affinity, Bant Eldrazi, and a feasible Stomping Ground deck (Dredge, Jund, or Naya Burn) was an often seen answer in the comments, and it is indeed a good way to get 3 top tier decks with no overlap. But there were many other possibilities. In total, there were 197 different 3-deck combinations with overlap in at most 1 essential card between at most 2 decks. Sorted by their likelihood percentage, here is the full list:

Deck A Deck B Deck C Likelihood % and overlap indication
Affinity Dredge Bant Eldrazi 0.2227 (No overlap)}
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn 0.2139 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Bant Eldrazi 0.1582 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Infect 0.1198 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Dredge Abzan 0.1181 (No overlap)
Affinity Naya Burn Infect 0.1151 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Naya Burn Abzan 0.1134 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Tron 0.1114 (No overlap)
Affinity Naya Burn Tron 0.1070 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Tron 0.1068 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Infect Tron 0.1026 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Merfolk 0.0877 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Infect 0.0851 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Naya Burn Merfolk 0.0843 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Tron 0.0791 (No overlap)
Dredge Bant Eldrazi Merfolk 0.0782 (No overlap)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Merfolk 0.0762 (No overlap)
Jund Infect Tron 0.0759 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn Merfolk 0.0752 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge R/G Valakut 0.0726 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi R/G Valakut 0.0630 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Affinity R/G Valakut Tron 0.0630 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Merfolk 0.0623 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Abzan 0.0567 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Jund Bant Eldrazi Merfolk 0.0556 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Infect Abzan 0.0544 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Affinity Dredge Elves 0.0540 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Ad Nauseam 0.0540 (No overlap)
Dredge Abzan Tron 0.0527 (No overlap)
Affinity Dredge Jeskai Control 0.0523 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Affinity Infect Tron 0.0520 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Naya Burn Elves 0.0519 (No overlap)
Affinity Naya Burn Ad Nauseam 0.0519 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Elves 0.0518 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0518 (No overlap)
Affinity Abzan Tron 0.0513 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Abzan Tron 0.0506 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Jeskai Control 0.0502 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Naya Burn Infect Elves 0.0498 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0498 (No overlap)
Dredge Bant Eldrazi Tron 0.0497 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Affinity R/G Valakut Merfolk 0.0496 (No overlap)
Affinity Infect Jeskai Control 0.0489 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Tron 0.0484 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Dredge Bant Eldrazi Elves 0.0482 (No overlap)
Dredge Bant Eldrazi Ad Nauseam 0.0482 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn Tron 0.0477 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Elves 0.0469 (No overlap)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Ad Nauseam 0.0469 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn Elves 0.0463 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Naya Burn Ad Nauseam 0.0463 (No overlap)
Affinity Jeskai Control Tron 0.0454 (No overlap)
Infect Jeskai Control Tron 0.0436 (No overlap)
Dredge Infect Merfolk 0.0421 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Dredge Abzan Merfolk 0.0415 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Infect Merfolk 0.0405 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Affinity Abzan Merfolk 0.0404 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Abzan Merfolk 0.0399 (No overlap)
Dredge Tron Merfolk 0.0391 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Elves 0.0384 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Ad Nauseam 0.0384 (No overlap)
Affinity Tron Merfolk 0.0381 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Tron Merfolk 0.0376 (No overlap)
Affinity Jund Jeskai Control 0.0372 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Infect Elves 0.0368 (No overlap)
Jund Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0368 (No overlap)
Affinity Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0358 (No overlap)
Jund Infect Jeskai Control 0.0357 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Bant Eldrazi Tron 0.0353 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Jund Bant Eldrazi Elves 0.0342 (No overlap)
Jund Bant Eldrazi Ad Nauseam 0.0342 (No overlap)
Affinity R/G Valakut Abzan 0.0334 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Dredge R/G Valakut Tron 0.0324 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
Affinity R/G Valakut Elves 0.0305 (No overlap)
Affinity R/G Valakut Ad Nauseam 0.0305 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Infect Tron 0.0302 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Jund Infect Merfolk 0.0299 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Affinity R/G Valakut Jeskai Control 0.0296 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Tron Merfolk 0.0278 (No overlap)
Dredge R/G Valakut Merfolk 0.0255 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
Dredge Abzan Elves 0.0255 (No overlap)
Dredge Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0255 (No overlap)
Affinity Infect Elves 0.0252 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0252 (Overlap in Inkmoth Nexus)
Affinity Abzan Elves 0.0249 (No overlap)
Affinity Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0249 (No overlap)
Infect Abzan Tron 0.0246 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Naya Burn Abzan Elves 0.0245 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0245 (No overlap)
Affinity Abzan Jeskai Control 0.0241 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
Dredge Tron Elves 0.0241 (No overlap)
Dredge Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0241 (No overlap)
Affinity Bant Eldrazi Suicide Zoo 0.0235 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Affinity Tron Elves 0.0234 (No overlap)
Affinity Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0234 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Tron 0.0234 (No overlap)
Dredge Jeskai Control Tron 0.0233 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Naya Burn Tron Elves 0.0231 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0231 (No overlap)
Infect Tron Elves 0.0225 (No overlap)
Infect Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0225 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi R/G Valakut Merfolk 0.0222 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Tron Merfolk 0.0221 (No overlap)
Affinity Jeskai Control Elves 0.0220 (No overlap)
Affinity Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0220 (No overlap)
Infect Jeskai Control Elves 0.0211 (No overlap)
Infect Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0211 (No overlap)
Dredge Merfolk Elves 0.0190 (No overlap)
Dredge Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0190 (No overlap)
Affinity Merfolk Elves 0.0185 (No overlap)
Affinity Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0185 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Merfolk 0.0185 (No overlap)
Dredge Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0184 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Infect Tron Merfolk 0.0183 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Naya Burn Merfolk Elves 0.0182 (No overlap)
Naya Burn Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0182 (No overlap)
Abzan Tron Merfolk 0.0180 (No overlap)
Infect Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0172 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Jund Tron Elves 0.0171 (No overlap)
Jund Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0171 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Tron Merfolk 0.0170 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Jund Jeskai Control Tron 0.0166 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Bant Eldrazi Merfolk Elves 0.0165 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0165 (No overlap)
Jeskai Control Tron Merfolk 0.0160 (No overlap)
Dredge R/G Valakut Elves 0.0157 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
Dredge R/G Valakut Ad Nauseam 0.0157 (Overlap in Stomping Ground)
R/G Valakut Abzan Tron 0.0149 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Infect Elves 0.0147 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Infect Ad Nauseam 0.0147 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Bant Eldrazi R/G Valakut Elves 0.0136 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Bant Eldrazi R/G Valakut Ad Nauseam 0.0136 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Tron Elves 0.0136 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0136 (No overlap)
Jund Merfolk Elves 0.0135 (No overlap)
Jund Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0135 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Jeskai Control Tron 0.0132 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0131 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Infect Abzan Elves 0.0120 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Infect Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0120 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Abzan Merfolk 0.0118 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Dredge Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0117 (No overlap)
Affinity Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0114 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Elves 0.0114 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Ad Nauseam 0.0114 (No overlap)
Dredge Jeskai Control Elves 0.0113 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Dredge Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0113 (Overlap in Steam Vents)
Naya Burn Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0112 (No overlap)
Abzan Tron Elves 0.0111 (No overlap)
Abzan Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0111 (No overlap)
Affinity Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control 0.0110 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)
Infect Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0109 (No overlap)
Abzan Jeskai Control Tron 0.0108 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
R/G Valakut Merfolk Elves 0.0107 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0107 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Tron Elves 0.0105 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
Bant Eldrazi Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0105 (Overlap in Ancient Stirrings)
R/G Valakut Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0104 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Bant Eldrazi Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0101 (No overlap)
Jeskai Control Tron Elves 0.0098 (No overlap)
Jeskai Control Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0098 (No overlap)
Infect Merfolk Elves 0.0089 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Infect Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0089 (Overlap in Spell Pierce / Dismember)
Abzan Merfolk Elves 0.0087 (No overlap)
Abzan Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0087 (No overlap)
Abzan Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0085 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
Jund Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0083 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Suicide Zoo Merfolk 0.0083 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Tron Merfolk Elves 0.0082 (No overlap)
Tron Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0082 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Tron Merfolk 0.0082 (No overlap)
Jund Jeskai Control Elves 0.0081 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jund Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0081 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Jeskai Control Merfolk Elves 0.0077 (No overlap)
Jeskai Control Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0077 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Abzan Elves 0.0072 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Abzan Ad Nauseam 0.0072 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
R/G Valakut Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0066 (No overlap)
R/G Valakut Jeskai Control Elves 0.0064 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
R/G Valakut Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0064 (Overlap in Lightning Bolt)
Abzan Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0054 (No overlap)
Abzan Jeskai Control Elves 0.0052 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
Abzan Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0052 (Overlap in Path to Exile)
Tron Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0051 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Tron Elves 0.0051 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Tron Ad Nauseam 0.0051 (No overlap)
Bant Eldrazi Suicide Zoo Elves 0.0051 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Bant Eldrazi Suicide Zoo Ad Nauseam 0.0051 (Overlap in Windswept Heath)
Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control Tron 0.0049 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)
Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0048 (No overlap)
Merfolk Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0040 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Merfolk Elves 0.0040 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Merfolk Ad Nauseam 0.0040 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control Merfolk 0.0039 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)
Suicide Zoo Ad Nauseam Elves 0.0025 (No overlap)
Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control Elves 0.0024 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)
Suicide Zoo Jeskai Control Ad Nauseam 0.0024 (Overlap in Sacred Foundry)

This, in fact, is a lot of options. Let’s break it down.

Metagame Implications

For each deck, I determined the sum of the likelihood numbers of each configuration that it was part of. Subsequently, I divided this sum by the total amount of likelihood numbers assigned to all decks in order to predict a metagame fraction for each deck. In other words, if the probability that any team would choose a certain configuration is proportional to their likelihood numbers, then we get the following metagame fractions.

Deck Percentage in the metagame
Affinity 17.1%
Dredge 9.9%
Tron 9.8%
Bant Eldrazi 8.5%
Infect 8.5%
Naya Burn 7.8%
Merfolk 7.8%
Ad Nauseam 5.8%
Elves 5.8%
Jund 5.2%
Abzan 5.2%
Jeskai 3.9%
R/G Valakut 3.7%
Suicide Zoo 0.8%

Note that this adds up to 100%, it doesn’t account for the plethora of fringe Modern decks that I left out of my analysis.

As a result, this table overestimates the metagame fractions that you would see at an actual Team Unified Modern event.

Certain things start to become clear. First of all, decks that don’t rely on fetchlands and shock duals (Tron, Merfolk, Ad Nauseam, and Elves) will likely be more popular in Team Unified Modern than in individual Modern tournaments. I think that’s nice, Team Unified Modern may showcase a slightly different metagame and an opportunity for fringe decks to shine.

But the more important observation is that Affinity might be more popular than at individual Modern tournaments. Indeed, it doesn’t share many cards with other decks. The “Level 0” prediction in the above table, which as I mentioned is an overestimation, indicates that over one half of the teams (so 1 in 6 players) will run an Affinity deck. That’s really a lot.

Then again, everyone else will know about this, and people can go to “Level 1” by picking their decks and cards with a sea of Affinity in mind. For instance, you could pick a deck that has a good matchup against Affinity, like Infect. Affinity is a deck that loses to cards, not decks. Artifact hate is powerful and will pay off against the “Level 0” metagame. You can only have one deck with Stony Silence, but as I explained last week, there are enough artifact hate cards in all colors that it shouldn’t be difficult to put a 3 or 4 copies of a different artifact hate card in every sideboard. Affinity can definitely be beaten with enough sideboard hate, and if everyone is ready, then Affinity won’t be well-positioned. In my view, the upside of experience and familiarity with a deck outweighs the downside of potentially facing more hate cards.

At the WMC I would expect teams without an Affinity expert to shy away from the deck, for good reason. At the same time, if everyone is on Level 1, then there will be relatively few Affinity decks, and all the sideboard hate may be wasted. Teams could also go to Level 2: forego artifact hate cards completely, instead dedicating slots to different matchups in the expectation that almost no one will dare to show up with Affinity. But then it loops back to Level 0, you can beat Level 2 by simply slotting Affinity into your lineup.

It will be a bit of a guessing game when it comes to next-leveling the WMC, but I would imagine that most teams will be on Level 0 or Level 1. Ultimately, I wouldn’t go too deep. I recommend relying on what you and your team members know best, and a big factor behind your deck choice could be whether or not you have an Affinity aficionado on your team.

Concluding Thoughts on the Format

There are a lot of possibilities in Team Unified Modern. I showed a table with 197 different 3-deck combinations with little-to-no overlap! It would easily be possible for every single team at the World Magic Cup to show up with a different configuration. That diversity would be good for coverage. The underlying deck construction puzzle also adds something unique to the format.

But the overlap restriction has several downsides regarding gameplay and team choice for the Grand Prix. In Modern, many players have grown fond of one particular deck. That’s one thing I like about the format, you can pick up a deck and keep playing it for years, mastering it along the way. But, for example, if an Affinity player would team up with a Bant Eldrazi player, then the Affinity player would have a hard time helping them in their game against Infect simply because he have no clue about that matchup. As a result, one of the aspects that I find fun about team tournaments (helping each other during the games) is diminished because of how Modern rewards experience with a certain deck.

Moreover, if I would want to team up with my best buddy, then we’re in trouble if we’re both diehard Affinity players. One of us will have to choose another deck or join a different team, which feels bad. A final issue is that lists from Team Unified Modern may not be relevant for individual Modern: If a team wins a Unified Modern tournament with a regular Bant Eldrazi deck plus an Abzan deck without Noble Hierarch and Temple Garden, then the corresponding deck list won’t be useful for regular Abzan players.

Personally, I would be fine with Team Unified Modern with literally no overlap restriction. I acknowledge that it would probably lead to less diversity in coverage and would destroy one interesting aspect of the team event (the deck construction puzzle) but I would place a lot of value on the resulting benefits (in particular, being better able to help each other during the games). I would be curious to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

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