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Dr. LoR’s Meta Report: Magic Misadventures Post-Hotfix

Hey folks, Dr. LoR here.

Last week, Santa Braum gifted us with an emergency balance patch that destroyed Yordles and EZ Kennen, while toning down Gangplank’s main decks (Plunder and Poke City ).

That’s affected the entirety of Tier 1 presence – and good riddance, since in the first wee of Magic Misadventures we had our lowest meta diversity in months, especially at Diamond and Masters.

So, let’s see how exactly have the nerfs allowed the meta to open up and breathe anew?

  • The 106k matches of Platinum+ data and 116k matches of Gold data are from December 14th to 19th, 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 Bandle Tree (Poppy/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), Yordle Rally (Poppy Demacia w/ Teemo/Fizz/Lulu/Ziggs), 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. I also have not combined Ahri Kennen because the non-Ionian splash affects the deck’s gameplan considerably.
  • 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, sorted by rank. Each of these decks has at least a 1% play rate in Plat+. All of these decks together account for approximately 49% of the meta.

  • Pantheon Taric (sometimes w/ 1x Zoe, Jarvan IV, or Aurelion Sol) has taken off in a big way. The solo Pantheon Demacia deck is arguably the same archetype, and combined, they account for 9% of the Plat+ meta. Other Pantheon decks (most notably Riven Pantheon) have lost popularity as players have gravitated to other builds.
  • Plunder had two slightly unfavored matchups heavily nerfed and was only lightly nerfed itself, so it’s no surprise that it remains popular… Yawn.
  • Bandle Tree is seeing plenty of play with lots of different champion combos and is the only deck that still runs Poppy (since none of its units were over 2 attack anyway).
  • Zoe Lee was expected to be one of the strongest decks post patch. With Wounded Whiteflame, the deck felt more resilient to bad draws. I think its relatively unimpressive WR suggests that people are still adjusting to the new builds.
  • Lurk just never goes away. Dragons were gaining popularity again so this was a good counter, but it does surprisingly poorly into Pantheon decks in the same region combo. Indeed, Turbo Thralls is its only very favored matchup in the meta.
  • Nami TF BC (pioneered by Drisoth) is a new deck that is gaining steam very quickly. A quick glance at the Masters ladder will find many top players running the deck. With multiple paths to victory and card generation galore, it’s a hard deck to pilot, but plenty powerful to make up for it. Expect to see more of this deck soon.
  • Darkness’s best matchup happens to be Nami TF BC, but that’s likely not the main reason why people are playing it. Fans of the deck are ride or die.
  • Dragons gained Wounded Whiteflame and became more popular for a bit, but I suspect this may be shortlived as Pantheon seems to be taking the same region combo to new heights.
  • Turbo Thralls is strong into Nami TF, Bandle Tree, and Plunder, which happen to be some of the most popular decks right now. BUT, it’s terrible against Ahri and Pantheon decks, which means queuing the deck is very much matchup roulette.
  • Kennen Ahri has come a long way since last week, despite getting two cards nerfed. Since they play Dancing Droplet, the Kinkou Wayfinder nerf didn’t really matter but the God-Willow Seedling nerf did. Many players have hit Rank 1 with various versions of the deck, including Go Hard (WhatAmI) and Golden Aegis (Gamebreak0r) builds. The Shurima and Go Hard versions are the most popular, but Go Hard seems to be much harder to play.
  • Pirates hasn’t made the top 20 in ages due to a poor matchup against Yordle Burn, but it’s back to being the meanest burn deck in the meta, with a gameplan to which quite a few decks are soft.
  • Ahri Lulu P&Z is a new entry, leveraging Flame Chompers’ synergy with both champions. This is definitely a deck to watch (as well as Fizz Lulu P&Z, which I’ll touch upon below).
  • Kennen Ezreal (or EZ Kennen) was brutally shivved mere hours after my last meta report, but it’s somehow still hanging around – as the worst deck among the more played decks in the meta. Those two nerfs really hurt, but also, many good players took the excuse to move on to try other decks rather than being ‘forced’ to play an incredibly broken combo deck. Better than Yordle Rally though, which is in 45th place…
  • Yordle Burn was also double-nerfed, but it could afford to drop Yordle Explorer since it barely improved the archetype over the original versions. Poppy is also still quite playable in the deck, but most people have moved on to Teemo Ziggs. Note that Ziggs Poppy actually performs better Plat+ right now.
  • Ezreal Caitlyn is making a minor comeback after being kicked out by Draven Sion a few seasons ago. Its strong removal suite happens to match up well against some of the meta.
  • Meta diversity bounced back from a recent worst HHI of 341 to a record best 169 in Plat. Even in Diamond and Masters, it’s barely higher! That emergency patch really hit the spot!

Most Successful Archetypes

Below, you can see the win rates for the 20 highest play rate decks, 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.

  • The top decks are completely different from last week, in a surprising change of pace. Ahri Lulu P&Z is not highly played but is highly effective. Kennen Ahri decks in general are great, but The Absolver versions stand out right now for having the best plan for closing out the game (although other versions aren’t slouches either). Pantheon Demacia (sans Taric) has its share of very strong fans and for good reason. Pirates rounds out Tier 1 in its triumphant return.
  • Tier 2 is as wide as we’ve ever seen it, with numerous old and new decks. This is what we wanted out of the balance change, so those 5 changes went a long way toward making the ladder a much more diverse and enjoyable place. Indeed, see the hidden gems in the next section for an even longer list of high-performing decks.
  • Balance Watch: A few decks reach 55% WR but I don’t think any are worrisome yet and the meta will likely adapt to tamp down their WRs a bit. Given that we’ll have another big patch in January, nothing to worry about for now.

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 report.

In addition, the data includes a margin of error (for example, we can be 95% sure that in Plat +, Kennen Ahri Absolver has a ‘true’ win rate that lands somewhere between 53.0% and 57.2%). 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 ‘kings’ 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 ‘hidden gems’ – 10 additional decks represented as red dots without ‘whiskers’. These decks how lower playrates, so I’m less confident about their winrates, and the error bars for them would be huge and distracting.

  • Meta Kings: Pantheon Demacia, Kennen Ahri Wayfinder versions.
    Both decks went from overplayed last week to getting way more optimized and better suiting the meta. Once more players catch onto the solo-Pantheon version and away from Taric, it may become even more dominant. Ahri Kennen requires us to look across a few archetypes, but it’s pretty clear that the overall shell is very powerful despite nerfs to Wayfinder and God-Willow Seedling. Good players who liked the EZ Kennen playstyle found a new deck to migrate to.
  • Underplayed: Kennen Ahri, Ahri Lulu P&Z, Pirates, Akshan Sivir.
    Kennen Ahri decks have many different region splashes, but even combined, they’re only 5% of the meta. With Yordle Burn tamped down, the older aggro decks are rearing their heads again. Pirates has always been good and it’s finally seeing more play, whereas Spiders comes and goes but it’s pretty strong in the current meta. should probably all be played more given how good they are in the Plat+ meta. Akshan Sivir is pretty much always good too. Ahri Lulu P&Z Among the potential hidden gems (red dots), I should also note that Fizz Lulu P&Z is currently the single strongest deck by Bayesian WR, although only with ~400 matches so maybe it just has strong pilots. It was used to win EU Fight Night last week…
  • Overplayed: Zoe Lee, Dragons, Turbo Thralls, and Teemo Caitlyn.
    Zoe Lee just doesn’t match up well in this meta and despite Wounded Whiteflame, is just outclassed by many of the top decks. Dragons saw a blip with NicMakesPlays hitting #2 NA with it, but it seems to be falling off again as Pantheon gets optimized. Turbo Thralls and Teemo Caitlyn are consistently popular with a few players but their WRs rarely justify it. EZ Kennen is a sad remnant of its former self, and I felt the need to show just how sad it is at the bottom of the graph…

Conclusion

The major nerfs have finally changed the meta. The top decks are finally different and the list of viable decks is longer than ever.

I, for one, and am very excited to try all the new decks and am worried I won’t have time to learn many of them before our next major balance patch in early January.

I’m taking next week off, and my next full meta report will be in January. Follow me on Twitter for mini-updates and deck optimizations in the meantime! Happy holidays everyone!

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