Raise Your Standards – Mining MTGO (Part 2)


Hello and welcome to another episode of Raise Your Standards.  Earlier this week Wizards of the Coast decided to change up the way they release MTGO deck data.  In today’s article, I’ll go over those changes and discuss the ramifications those changes will have.  Let’s get started.

Changes?  What changes?

Many months ago, Wizards of the Coast (WotC) changed the amount of data they would be releasing from Magic Online (MTGO).  They dropped the number of decklists that went 5-0 in an online league down from ten decklists per day to just five.  They also did this with the following caveat; all of the decklists they released would be at least ten cards different from every other list released on the same day.  This lead many people to believe that WotC was in some way cherry picking the decklists that they would release in order to further hide the data that a person could use to determine which deck was the best in the format.

So for many months we’ve had this system in place and while it wasn’t great, it did make it possible for innovative decks to be shown occasionally.  Don’t get me wrong, this system would repeatedly show very similar decks on subsequent days, which made it easier to figure out what the more predominantly played decks were.  That’s probably a big impetus for the change that WotC recently announced to this process.

In the article “Improving Our Approach to Magic Online Data” that was released on Monday, February 12th, Wizards of the Coast announced that they would no longer be posting decklists for each format on a daily basis.  Instead, they would be posting a larger batch of decklists for one format each day and indicated that Standard and Modern would receive postings twice a week.  The article stated “the new system we’re implementing will show every 5-0 deck that is significantly different from any other.”  Further in the article, they defined what they meant by significantly different.  “We’re changing what we mean by “distinct” decklists… We’re moving the definition of distinct to 20-card differentiation.”

Their stated goal for this change is “to use Magic Online decklist data to show you what is possible, not necessarily to show you what is most played. We do want to show you a ton of cool, successful decks that let you explore new strategies.”  I’ll admit that this change falls right in line with what I try to bring to you each and every week; my goal has always been to provide you decks that have proven themselves capable of going 5-0 in a tournament, but are also different from the most-played decks of the format.

Enough Explaining… Where’s the Cool Decklists?!?

So, now that I’ve explained the changes, it’s time to take a look at the first batch of decklists that WotC has released (As I write this, Thursday’s release hasn’t happened).  In that first release a grand total of 42 decks were released, and, with only a few exceptions, most of those lists were unique archetypes.  In my initial analysis of these lists, I saw multiple examples of decks that I would classify as B/W Vampire decks or B/R Aggro decks, but there were also decks like the one I have to show you this week that looks pretty unique.  Let’s take a look at Esper Tokens.


Esper Tokens – (by GODhamu)

CreaturesThe Scarab God


LandsAnointed Procession



This deck is looking to draw the game out past the first few turns, to a point that you’re able to cast an Anointed Procession.  That’s the card that allows all of your token makers to go into overdrive.  Don’t be afraid to cast Fumigate in order to delay your opponent even if you have a creature or two on the battlefield, because if you can draw the game out you’ll be able to embalm/eternalize them back from your graveyard.  And if you get The Scarab God into play, you’ll have another way to bring them back in addition to having a difficult-to-remove threat.

This deck also features a lot of ways to interact with your opponent’s cards.  Baffling End is a great way to remove an annoying creature they might have, and Ixalan’s Binding can be absolutely back-breaking if it’s used on a key card that your opponent needs to have.  I approve of its inclusion in this deck over Cast Out since you can play Ixalan’s Binding on an opponent’s Cast Out (which can then be super hard to remove if the only removal they have is Cast Out).

Also of note, the sideboard contains 2 copies of Jace, Cunning Castaway.  Having played against a token making deck that also ran Jace, Cunning Castaway I can say that it can be a deceptively good card.  While you don’t have a way to make your Illusion tokens bigger, the fact that you’re able to make multiple tokens at a time quite often enables a go-wide strategy.  Or, if you absolutely need to, you can always Fumigate your own tokens as a way to boost your life total.

Wrapping Up

That brings us to the end of this week’s article.  What do you think of the changes that have been made to the release of the MTGO data?  Also, even though this article series doesn’t cover Modern, I’d love to hear your thoughts on the recent unbannings of Jace, the Mind Sculptor and Bloodbraid Elf.  You can let me know by leaving a comment.  Or you can reply to me directly on Twitter (@mikelikesmtg), or email me directly at mikelikesmtg@gmail.com.  Also, don’t forget to like our Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/MTGDeckTechs/) to be sure to be notified when a new article is posted.

Be sure to join me back here next week for another installment of Raise Your Standards.  I’ll see you then!

Mike Likes


Mike Likes

Mike Likes

Mike started playing Magic back in 1994, but gave it up at the end of 1995. He came back to the game during the Lorwyn block and has been playing ever since. Around this time, he opened and ran his own comic & game store, while also raising his newborn daughter. After 8 years, he sold his business and moved to Wisconsin with his wife and daughter. With the debut of Kaladesh, his entire family became regular Magic players. He now has hopes of competing alongside his wife and daughter at a Grand Prix or similar event in the future. #MTGDad

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