Recently, I hosted a 48-man competitive EDH tournament, organized entirely online. The tournament lasted almost three months in total, with each week being one round. The tournament was designed so that we could test what is and what isn’t good after the January mulligan change. Today, I’m going to analyze the results of the tournament and interpret them, and I’m also going to talk about some lessons I learned about tournament structure in general.
The tournament structure was as follows. First, we played three rounds. At the end of this, there was one player who was 3-0 and six players who were 2-1. After that, the players who were 1-2 played two rounds against each other to determine who would get into top twelve. When all was said and done, our top twelve looked like this:
We have a Grand Arbiter stax in first, at 3-0. The 2-1s had three copies of Yisan, Sidisi, Undead Vizier dedicated Ad Nauseam, Karador reanimator, and Animar combo. Underneath that, there was a Ruric Thar, two BUG storm decks - one with Sidisi, Brood Tyrant at the helm, and one with Tasigur, Jeleva storm, and a pretty typical Azami. At this point, the decklists were released - but you were able to change decks if you wanted to. (You could also stick to the same deck but play different cards.)
The only big surprise here is Ruric Thar, a deck that sees virtually no competitive play. It went 2-3, the worst possible record you could have and still top 12 - but it top 12’d. The list combines some of the more prison-style cards Gruul has to offer like Blood Moon, Ground Seal, and Impending Disaster with a solid ramp suite and some very dangerous cards on the upper end of its curve like Ugin and lots of land-destruction spells. Its commander represents a terrifying hatebear that shuts down spellslinger decks - try resolving an Ad Nauseam when each ritual it takes to get there chips away at that life total, dramatically reducing the number of cards you can draw. Ruric also represents a win-condition - if you can resolve your commander and follow it up with a Wildfire, things can get pretty hairy.
Once players were done changing decks, our top 12 looked a little different. Seven players opted to change or update their decks. Grand Arbiter Augustin IV and one of our Yisan decks turned into Teferi, Temporal Archmage (deck and deck respectively). Another Yisan opted to switch to Jeleva storm (deck). Azami turned into Edric, Spymaster of Trest (deck). Ruric got updated; Animar got updated, and Sidisi, Brood Tyrant got updated. Other than that, our finalists kept the same decks.
After a quick round of three-player pods, we arrived at the final table - Ruric, Sidisi, Brood Tyrant, Karador, and Jeleva made it. Unlike the previous rounds, the final round was won by whoever reached two wins first. Jeleva storm won the final table, but not before Karador and Ruric both got in a win.
So - what conclusions can we draw from the results? I think the first, most obvious one, is that storm decks were hurt a bit by the mulligan change, but not as much as previously anticipated. In January, I predicted that storm would be hurt by the change, midrange decks would get better, and stax would stay about the same. Obviously, storm hasn’t been hurt that bad since it won the finals - but I still think it’s a bit less well-off than it was before. Breaking the format roughly into three archetypes - Spellslinger/fast combo, Midrange, and Stax - I would say that previous to the mulligan change, spellslinger decks were the gold standard of competitive EDH, stax was pretty good too because it beat storm, and midrange wasn’t in a great spot (though was by no means unplayable). In the winning 12 decks (pre-change), we see four storm decks, one stax deck, and seven decks that can very roughly be called midrange. There wasn’t a single fast combo deck like Prossh. I feel the one stax deck can be discounted, as there were only two that entered the tournament to begin with (which may account for the success of a storm deck). Spellslinger and fast combo used to be king, but the loss in consistency seemed to take a bit of a toll. I’m surprised at the amount of midrange, especially since midrange is naturally good against stax and there was so little stax.
Conclusion two - Yisan is real good. The deck benefitted massively from the January mulligan change - since their entire gameplan is in the command zone, the only thing you need for a hand to be good is one manadork and two lands, so you can activate your commander on turn three. I think Yisan might just be the best deck in the current meta, partly because of this, and partly because it has very good matchups against other top-tier decks. Against Prossh and Sharuum, Yisan’s toolboxing ability lets you find an artifact-or-enchantment-removal creature at every converted mana cost. You don’t even need to play all of them - just the uncertainty of which ones are in the deck is a huge threat. Against graveyard decks, Scavenging Ooze and Loaming Shaman are powerful tools. As mentioned above, Yisan’s worst matchup, Storm, was hurt by the change.
The last conclusion I think is important is that Ruric Thar, the Unbowed is underrated. Making it to the final tables with a homebrew is a pretty impressive task, and to me says that the deck might have legs. Its current iteration is likely to evolve, and the deck might change radically. I can definitely see a version of it using Radha, Heir to Keld as its commander being successful. This may just be a fluke, but I think Ruric Thar, the Unbowed is going to get a bit more attention after performing so well.
All in all, this has been a thoroughly enjoyable and rewarding tournament. Thanks to everybody for playing and making this an enjoyable experience. I want to congratulate /u/haplicity from reddit for his win. I also want to mention that /r/CompetitiveEDH will be starting a league - if these kinds of games sound interesting to you, definitely check it out here.