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Dr. LoR’s Meta Report: Magic Misadventures Week 1

Hey folks, Dr. LoR here with the first meta report for the Magical Misadventures expansion.

The expansion brought 4 new champions and a total of 43 cards, along with emergency nerfs to Poppy and Young Witch. Since Ahri and Kennen are Ionian champs, we saw a major resurgence in the popularity of Ionia, particularly various Kennen decks.

Magical Misadventures also brought the controversial Yordle Explorer and Yordle Captain, which have revitalized the “Yordle Swarm” decks, that were initially quite popular at the start of Beyond the Bandlewood.

Where does all that leave our meta?

Sources and Methodology
  • The 59k matches of Platinum+ data and 54k matches of Gold data are from December 8th to 12th, courtesy of Mobalytics Premium.
  • Mobalytics archetypes are defined as a champions + regions combo. This means, for example, that Bandle Tree Noxus is spread across multiple archetypes. I therefore combine some archetypes that are largely the same across different champion combinations. This mainly affects Yordle Rally (Poppy Demacia w/ Teemo/Fizz/Lulu/Ziggs), Kennen Ahri Wayfinder (with Shurima, SI, Targon, etc splashes), Bandle Tree Noxus (Poppy Noxus with Fizz/Teemo/Kennen/Lulu/Ziggs), Rally Elusives (Zed/Lulu/Poppy), Yordle Burn (Ziggs/Poppy/Teemo/Darius), Glorious Shellfolk (Fizz/Vi/Poppy), Poke City (TF/Gangplank/MF), and Targon’s Peak (Asol + Zoe/Braum/Tryndamere) archetypes. I have NOT combined various Rumble/Draven/Sion/Jinx decks because they show a lot more variance.
  • Mobalytics ranks data are imperfect and come from optical recognition for Mobalytics deck tracker users. This is especially true at the start of each season, when ranks reset. There are many Ranked games that are therefore uncategorized (~45%).
  • I use Bayesian smoothing toward a win rate of 51.5% (which is the average win rate number in this sample of data). It is a technique that allows avoiding statistical flukes for archetypes with less data. If you want to learn more about the concept, check out this explainer.
  • I use Herfindahl-Hirschman Index (HHI) to calculate meta diversity. The smaller HHI is – the more diverse is the meta. For example, most of recent meta reports have been in the 250-350 range, but in Azir Irelia it showed number as high as 500. Read this if you would like to know more about the method.
  • I provide 95% Bayesian credible intervals when talking about WRs. The interval is represented by two percentage numbers, and we can be 95% sure that the ‘true’ win rate for the deck in question lands somewhere in-between these percentages. Margin of error is a single percentage number – we can be 95% sure that the true win rate of the decks is within +/- of their margins of error.

Most Popular Archetypes

Here are the play rates for the 20 most popular decks in week 1 of Patch 2.21, sorted by rank. Each of these decks has at least a 1% play rate in Plat+. All of these decks together account for approximately 55% of the meta.

  • Kennen Ezreal (later referred as EZ Kenny) is easily the best ‘Day 1 deck’ we had since Azir Irelia. Its popularity is therefore unsurprising. This single deck accounts for 1 in 8 games played in Plat+. Its strength and novel play patterns mean that pros and amateurs are having a good time figuring out the deck, and it has already brought many players to early Masters (including BBG as a second Master player in Americas).
  • Yordle Rally is a basket of decks featuring Poppy Demacia, sometimes with some Teemo/Fizz/Lulu/Ziggs (I’ll optimize this deck at some point soon, including what champs are best…follow me on Twitter to find out). Poppy was nerfed, but players are right to say that the deck gained as much if not more in Yordle Explorer, which is ubiquitous, as well as Yordle Captain, which most builds include some copies of. It’s an easy deck to pilot and happens to be one of the strongest decks against EZ Kenny.
  • Pantheon Taric which sometimes subs in one copy of Zoe or Jarvan, is one of the more obvious builds of Pantheon. Wounded Whiteflame is very strong and a big part of the reason this deck does so well into the Yordle decks. There’s also less-played a Zoe Pantheon Demacia deck that trades off some raw strength for increased versatility. Riven Pantheon rounds out the commonly played Pantheon decks, although he has been paired with Akshan, Braum, and Shyvana fairly frequently as well.
  • Plunder managed to dodge nerfs despite its prevalence and strength in the previous meta. It’s not quite so overpowered in the current meta but is still a popular choice. Its previous worst matchup, Rally Elusives (Zed/Poppy/Lulu) was double-nerfed and has mostly disappeared from the ladder, but it has gained two slightly unfavored matchups in EZ Kenny and Yordle Rally.
  • Speaking of Rally Elusives, it’s definitely feeling the pain of the Young Witch nerf and meta shifts. Its worse matchup is now EZ Kenny and it’s unfavored into Yordle Rally as well. It also lost its advantage into Plunder, which means that the nerfs worked. Yes, it can still have some insane ‘I win’ draws, but it’s easier to interact with now. The deck has all but disappeared.
  • Yordle Burn swapped some burn for Yordle Explorer, but is otherwise largely the same deck. Still powerful and capable of finishing games fast – even longer ones sometimes, thanks to its card generation. It’s another strong option into the Pantheon decks but is only even or slightly unfavored into other popular decks.
  • Poke City was an early season favorite thanks to its strong matchup into EZ Kenny and the Ahri decks around, but this time, its popularity is held back by terrible matchups into Burn and Pantheon decks.
  • Fizz Ahri was a popular day one deck, leveraging Elusives to beat the many experimental decks. It’s fallen off hard since then though due to inherent weaknesses to other meta decks besides Pantheon.
  • Bandle Tree Noxus gained Kennen and Grumbleslug. It’s not clear that these changes have improved the deck. In fact, the old Fizz Poppy versions have been performing much better. FYI, some players have tried jamming Yordle Explorer in this deck and it seems to not be working out…
  • Kennen Ahri is a natural pairing, and you can find a few different versions on ladder. These are mostly Kinkou Wayfinder decks that are quite similar to EZ Kenny but using Ahri to help with winning the game. They “splash” a second region with usually just a one card, whether it’s Gifts From Beyond, The Box, or The Absolver. There’s also a more heavily Bandle City version with more of Kennen’s support package.
  • Rumble has been the toughest nut to crack of the new champs, pairing with any of the other three discard themed champs and being in some combination of Bandle City/Noxus/P&Z. The ones where Rumble just slots in for some or all of the Dravens in the classic P&Z Sion deck seem the most successful, but none have cracked 50% WR.
  • Lurk and Darkness continue to be fan favorites despite few good matchups. Similarly, Turbo Thralls is the single best deck into EZ Kenny and is good against Poke City, but is otherwise lacks strong matchups. Zoe Lee is also still around and has added Wounded Whiteflame to help with its gameplan. A giant Overwhelm Dragon can finish games pretty fast when you can’t find Lee.
  • Meta diversity is worse than previous metas, with an HHI of 341 in Plat+ (vs 257 at same point in Patch 2.19), but still easily the best diversity score in CCGs. Diversity is much worse in Diamond and Masters (HHI 586 combined), almost as bad as during the days of Azir Irelia.

Most Successful Archetypes

Below, you can see the win rates for the 20 highest play rate decks, again grouped by rank. I also included 95% credible intervals (for the explanation of the concept, see Sources and Methodology section), which you can see as thin vertical lines on top of each bar.

  • I’ve hinted at the best decks in the previous section, but let’s just formalize it. Yordles (both Rally and Burn) are strong and they have a high skill floor. Many pros would consider EZ Kenny to be the real meta king, but its skill cap is way higher and skill floor a bit lower. Plunder rounds out Tier 1 as the strongest deck that wasn’t nerfed at all.
  • A trio of Bandle City decks form the top of Tier 2. Poke City is a good counter to EZ Kenny but is weak to Yordle Rally and Pantheon decks. Bandle Tree, especially the older versions with Fizz, are slightly favored into EZ Kenny as well, but bad against Pantheon decks. Teemo Swain has many slightly favored matchups and is only slightly unfavored into EZ Kenny, but is weak to Plunder and Burn.
  • Pantheon decks still need refinement, but they are notably strong against the Yordle Rally decks while weak to EZ Kenny. These really form the matchup triangle that will define the meta, at least for now.
  • Turbo Thralls has gained a new good matchup in EZ Kenny in addition to being somewhat favored into Plunder and strong against Poke City, but it is terrible against Yordle Rally and Pantheon decks.
  • Lurk has a decent matchup against Poppy Rally decks since its units scale even bigger and it’s even into Pantheon. However, it’s weak to EZ Kenny and Plunder.
  • Zoe Lee has an atrocious matchup into EZ Kenny but is very strong versus Plunder and Pantheon decks and close to even versus Yordle decks.
  • Draven Sion is still decent, although terrible against EZ Kenny. Rumble-based Discard decks are uniformly bad so far, but I still hope a creative deckbuilder can crack the code… Rumble Sion’s WR is so low it’s literally off the graph and I’m not changing the Y-axis lower bound in order to emphasize just how bad it is. I suspect the eventual best Rumble deck will feature P&Z instead of BC in order to have more discard fodder.
  • Darkness is just as bad against Yordle Rally as you might expect. This is the lowest its WR has dropped in recent months.
  • Rally Elusives have a big problem with pings right now – a lot of the popular decks play them in abundance. Combined with a horrendous EZ Kenny matchups and this deck is finally dead in Plat+. Weirdly enough, it’s still doing remarkably well in Gold.
  • Balance Watch: EZ Kenny and Yordle Rally aren’t quite in the territory of needing nerfs based on WR but their popularity AND high WR are hard to ignore. I can definitely see one or more cards getting some adjustments in January’s patch. Given Riot’s “winter break,” I doubt we’ll see things happen any sooner than that.

Below is a spreadsheet of the top 45 decks in Plat+, sorted by win rate. The table is split into super-columns by rank. Under each super-column, you’ll find a sample size (match), the play rate (PR), win rate (WR), and the win rate adjusted using the Bayesian smoothing technique (bWR). The last column – Plat+ΔPR – shows the change in play rate for the archetype since the previous patch.

In addition, the data includes a margin of error (for example, we can be 95% sure that in Plat +, Yordle Burn has a ‘true’ win rate that lands somewhere between 53.5% and 58.0%). More data available leads to a smaller margin of error.


Underplayed and Overplayed Archetypes

In the chart below I’ve plotted win rates versus play rates of 20 decks to demonstrate which archetypes can be seen as the most impactful in the current meta, and which decks can be labeled as ‘overplayed’ or ‘underplayed’.

In the graph, you can see dots and vertical error bars (‘whiskers’) for each archetype. These ‘whiskers’ represent the 95% credible intervals for win rates (the true win rate is 95% likely to be in this range). The X-axis (play rate) is placed on a logarithmic scale to prevent too much lumping on the left.

I also included the 10 additional decks as red dots without ‘whiskers’. There are 400-1200 matches with these decks, so I’m less confident about their winrates, and the error bars for them would be huge and distracting.

  • Meta Kings: EZ Kenny and Yordle Rally are both great decks with few bad matchups and the high playrates they deserve. Yordle Burn is as effective, but is much less played. Plunder rounds out the high WR decks with high PR.
  • Underplayed: Dragons, Poke City, and Swain BC should probably all be played more given how good they are in the Plat+ meta. In addition, I included 9 potential hidden gems (red dots) that are all performing at T1 or T2 win rates but with very low playrate. I expect at least some of these decks to become more popular over the season, but it’s currently too early to tell if these are decks that are doing well because of strong pilots playing comfort decks or because they actually are good in this meta.
  • Overplayed: Pantheon decks. Pantheon decks feel great when they get going, but so I don’t blame players for sticking to them. Riven versions actually perform a little better. I wouldn’t be surprised if the best Pantheon deck hasn’t been found, yet. People are just playing the obvious ones.
  • Overplayed: Kennen Ahri. The Bandle City version seems pretty bad. For the Wayfinder versions, the version that splashes for 2-3 The Absolver is performing best at a 52% WR (so somewhat underplayed), but the other splashes don’t seem to be working out as well.

Conclusion

Magical Misadventures release, alongside with a couple nerfs, has finally changed the meta a bit.

It’s created a new monster in EZ Kenny and a new-ish monster in Yordle Rally, while FINALLY killing Rally Elusives (yes, Young Witch at 1/1 is really that much weaker, much like it was before).

I’m still waiting for decks featuring Ahri, Pantheon, and Rumble to get more refined, especially Rumble, who needs a LOT more work. It’s an exciting time to play, and for everyone below Diamond, a fun time to experiment as well!

My next full meta report will cover week 2 of the meta. Follow me on Twitter for mini-meta updates and deck optimizations in the meantime!

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