The First Two Weeks of Dominaria United

But let’s be real – this is all about the Initiative.

Dominaria United and Initiative came to Magic Online at almost the exact same time and since then there have been four Challenges, with the Initiative taking down two of them. Given that these cards are still somewhat scarce on MTGO I do not want to read too much into the initial data. At the same time, I want to do a better job exploring what story the data I collect is telling. To that end, I am adding another metric.

In his recent run on the mothership Frank Karsten has shared how he derives a “match weighted” metagame – total match wins less total match losses. While Karsten is able to do this for every deck in an event I am limited to the Top 32 lists. For those wondering why I only use the officially reported results, it is because it is the only way I can get completely accurate decklist information. So this metric gets entered into the chart under the title of “K-Wins“. This number takes into account elimination round success in a way Win+ does not. It also allows me to compare actual volume to the volume as it relates to Win+ and as it relates to K-Wins, giving us an idea of where a deck’s so called “True Volume” should reside.

With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the first four weeks:

Right out of the gate it becomes clear that the new metagame is different from the one that existed prior to Initiative. While Grixis Affinity is still a top tier deck (6 Top 8s, 1 win, True Volume at 15.45%), everything surrounding it is different.

Initiative is clearly a big player, to the point where the deck is being run in line with Storm combo. Dimir Initiative takes the Faeries shell but eschews Ninja of the Deep Hours for a game based around the powerful four drop options. It also has added Dark Ritual to try and play to the board earlier. Dimir Initiative has 5 Top 8s and a win, and thanks to some very strong showings has a True Volume of 12.59%, out performing its actual metagame presence by 2.43%. Turbo Initiative takes this a step further and goes all in on resolving one of its namesake cards as early as possible. The deck burst on to the scene this past weekend so it only has a single Top 8 and win to its credit, but it is definitely a deck to watch.

CawGate has emerged as a real contender thus far this season. It has 4 Top 8s in 8 total Top 32 appearances, and a win. It runs the right mix of countermagic and hard to block creatures that it can take the Initiative, while also preventing it from going back with Prismatic Strands. It’s True Volume of 9.46% is over three percentage points higher than it’s actual volume, which indicates that it has been underplayed to this point.

This deck, which I’m calling Kuldotha Red, is a mashup of various red decks. It takes elements of Burn and Blitz, while layering on the Kuldotha Rebirth value engine. Going wide gives it another dimension of attack against the Initiative and thus far it shows: 6 Top 8s in 11 Top 32 finishes and a True Volume of 11.57%.

Okay, but what does this all mean? Grixis Affinity and Initiative are likely the best decks thus far, but there is a strong case to be made that both have vulnerabilities. CawGate seems very well suited, at least to fight the damage from Affinity and push through Initiative. Beyond that it does appear the other Guardian of the Guildpact strategies could find a niche in the meta, if they can survive long enough to resolve their key threat.

Alternatively you could go way under with cards like Gingerbrute, Tormented Soul, and Glaze Fiend all seeing play in part due to their ability to get through unhindered. Changeling Outcast and Slither Blade also place in this space and might just be good enough to fight for the one drop slot. But until then, watch out for Initiative because that mechanic is very real.

I want to take a moment to thank all my Patrons – both old and new. I am going to do my level best to keep providing you with the kind of content that brought you here in the first place. If you are interested in supporting my work, rewards for my Patreon start at just $1 and every little bit helps.

Published by Alex Ullman

Alex Ullman has been playing Magic since 1994 (he thinks). Since 2005, he's spent most of his time playing and exploring Pauper. One of his proudest accomplishments was being on the winnings side of the 2009 Community Cup. He makes his home in Brooklyn, New York, where he was born and raised.

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