Introducing... The Season Summary Pages! (Or: What Have We Done With The Deck Database?)
Yesterday I introduced you to the amazing new StarCityGames.com deck database showing you all of the cool new features...
...or at least all the cool new features you could find by looking at a single deck.
Fortunately we've provided much higher-level overviews for you. After all when you're looking to break a PTQ in half you're rarely concerned with a single deck that one guy played.* No usually you're concerned with a deck archetype — sure Tooth and Nail is gonna be huge but what's the optimal way to build it? And more importantly how are other people likely to build it? (After all if you spend all of your time mirror-matching your teched-out version you might tweak it so much that it loses to the original build.)
And of course there's the metagame. What decks are you likely to face at a given event? How much time should you allot to testing against Ponza? Or Mono-Blue Control?
Fortunately we have all that ready for you. Do me a favor and click on this link. It opens in a separate window so go ahead. Take your time looking around. Click a few links.
I can wait.
Back? Oh good. Let me explain what you've just seen. Basically what we can now do is assign a given deck to a "Season." Now the word "Season" is a bit of a misnomer — it can be an actual season like this spring's series of Extended PTQs or it can be a single event like Pro Tour: Philadelphia.
But the end result is the same: We can look at all the decks assigned to this season and compare them against each other to give you a high-level overview of the metagame.
Let's take last weekend's Pro Tour: Philadelphia summary. If you look at the page you'll see that we've broken it down by deck type to show you how many of each deck showed up what percentage of the metagame each deck type occupied the average finish for each deck type and the total number of number-one finishes each deck type had. (The last item isn't not that important for a Pro Tour where there's only one top winner — but for a massive event like States? You'll be grateful it's there trust me.)
Furthermore there are two links you can click on to get further information on a given deck:
This gives you a breakdown of what cards were commonly played in each deck type. For example looking at the top half of the page will show you that all Gifts Ungiven Control decks played at least one copy of Gifts Ungiven Hana Kami Kodama's Reach Sakura-Tribe Elder Soulless Revival and Tendo Ice Bridge.
..and so on. You can pretty much view at a glance what players consider to be the "essential" cards in a deck right down to the oddball one-offs like the one deck that threw in Rootrunner and the four decks that played with the otherwise-omnipresent Umezawa's Jitte.
"But that's not enough Ferrett!" you cry. "Sure 100% of the decks played Hana Kami but I know darned well that most of them didn't play four copies! How am I supposed to know the optimal number of Hana Kami?"
Well you can scroll down the page to the Advanced Results which break it down by number and card name. It is here that you will learn that the number of Hana Kami is slightly in dispute; only 6.25% of all decks packed the full complement of four while 58.33% of all Gifts Ungiven Control decks packed but a single flower.
But which is better? Well if you look at the results the average finish for decks with 4 Hana Kami is 121.67 — out of 308 players mind you — whereas the average finish for decks with 1 Hana Kami is 161.11. So it's obviously better to go with four...
....except of course that the winner of the whole tournament packed only 1 Hana Kami as did the seventh-place winner as did the 13th place finisher. The best finish for the 4-copy Hana is 12th place.
So how many should you run? It is here that you learn a valuable lesson grasshopper: sometimes looking through a boatload of statistics only makes things more complicated. You're gonna have to decide for yourself whether top placements or average finish is more important.
"Screw that Ferrett!" you cry. "I want a chart! Give me a chart!" And lo just below the Advanced settings is a big honkin' chart. Go nuts.
But if you're looking for analysis I find the next section more helpful....
If there are five or more decks at a given Season the deck database can attempt to create an "average" deck. It does this in a several-step process.
1) It looks at the deck archetype and figures out the number of lands in the average deck type. For example a Gifts Ungiven Control deck as played at Philadelphia had an average of 24 lands.
2) It then runs a query that asks "Hey can you give me a list of all the lands that were played in this deck type at this tournament as well as the average number played in each deck? Oh and could you sort it for me by the number of decks that ran this card? Thanks."
In practical terms we can see that 100% of the Gifts Ungiven decks had Forests in them. The average Gifts Ungiven deck had 9.6458 Forests so we round that up to ten and add it to our "lands" pile.
Next we see that 100% of all Gifts Ungiven decks had Islands in them. The average number was 1.10 — so again we round that up to 2 and add it to the pile.* We repeat this process going down and finding less-popular cards that weren't played in all instances of this deck type until we hit 24 lands total.
Any excess lands get discarded. If the average deck runs 3 Tendo Ice Bridge and we only need one more land to hit our average only one Ice Bridge goes in.
3) We then repeat the process with the spells adding on to the deck until we hit sixty cards total. Gifts Ungiven has an unusually-high number of agreed-upon cards as we showed earlier but eventually we start finding cards from decks that aren't typical — for example even though only 27.08% of all decks played Hero's Demise it would go in if we still had slots to fill.
As with the lands any cards over sixty get trimmed. Hey we're not Jamie Wakefield.
4) We then repeat this process to create the sideboard. Since sideboards are usually much more volatile I wouldn't advise paying too much attention to this section — but I put it in anyway. Hey you never know.
Things this process does not do:
Check for Color: That'd be way too much work. Still it does mean that occasionally you'll get a blooper in there from a significant subsection of decks; for example though about 40% of all Gifts Ungiven decks packed Final Judgment which was enough to bump it into the maindeck. It's possible - though it didn't happen in this case - that there were enough Final Judgments to make the main deck but not enough to convince our deck database to add a couple of plains into the mana base.
Still it happens comparatively rarely (and usually indicates the need for a separate category — for example "Gifts Ungiven Control splashing White") so you don't have to worry about it that much.
Check For Sideboard Legality: If a card is very popular it might appear in both near the bottom of the maindeck and at the top of the sideboard giving you 5 Nezumi Graverobbers total. I told you not to pay attention to the sideboard.
These two errors may make it seem like the Average Deck isn't that good — but remember this is a relatively small sample with a large subtheme to it. If you'll look at the States 2004 season it gave some pretty decent average decks and it shouldn't be too hard to account for its quirks when building a gauntlet deck for an upcoming format.
And even if you don't use it to build decks it shows you in no uncertain terms what people believe to be the heart of the deck. I find this way more useful than the deck analysis m'self.
In addition to this you can also find the color breakdown of the event (it's at the bottom of the season summary page) and there is also a list of all cards played at this event ranked by the number of decks that card appeared in. Because the card list is a fairly intensive query it is cached meaning it's only updated every four hours. That means the price list is usually accurate but click through before you buy.
As usual if you have any suggestions to make this better let me know. Quick fixes can be done immediately whereas the big changes might take awhile (and some might be flat-out impossible) but I definitely want to get your feedback.
The Here Edits This Site Here Guy
* - Unless that guy won the Pro Tour with it of course. But you know what I mean.
** - The chart is a matter of much debate around the SCG team. Ted loves the chart; I find it all but unreadable and pretty much a waste of time. Still there are amateur statisticians who won't be happy until I give you a shot of Jeek-like goodness so there it is for your amusement.
I should also note that the chart differs in some ways from Jeek's but Ted said it was fine. If you dislike it talk to Ted and then tell me what you'd like to see changed there; since I find it unusable it's difficult for me to tell whether I got it right.
This footnote is now irrelevant thanks to a bug. So never mind. In case you're curious as I posted this I discovered that hey it was counting the number of cards left in the maindeck incorrectly thus allowing more cards in than it should have and so I was always rounding up. No need to do that.
But while we're at it I should note that the "Search for a card" function in the deck database will not look for Islands Swamps Forests Mountains or Plains since there are seven zillion of them. That's not a bug though the failure to provide an error message saying that is an oversight. I'll get around to it.