A Year End Analysis of Slam Jams – Part 1

First off, I want to start this article by giving a huge thanks to Chris Pratt, for not only running the Slam Jam tournaments (which you can find out about by joining the Ashes Online facebook group), but for sharing the data that made this article possible.  He is a huge boon for the community in many ways, and we are lucky to have him.

After GenCon, there were some obnoxiously naive forum posts on cardgamedb about how Ashes was already a solved meta. The conclusion was pretty much entirely taken from the entire photo:

owls

Ofcourse, those in the know are aware that this board state was the result of a very specific matchup, and not a complete representation of what was good in the meta, nor even how these decks fully functioned.  The top 8 of GenCon had a huge variety in decks.  That includes the top 2 decks, despite both being Leo, one deck was a hard-prison/control deck with Blood Puppets, Dread Wraiths, etc. – the other was a midrange/burn deck with Hammer Knights, Molten Gold, etc. 

Despite that post, the meta was very much not solved – and remains not so.  Today, I’ve analyzed the decks from the first four Slam Jam TTS tournaments – all ran in the Vicky/Leo meta.  My hope is for us to get a glimpse of what the meta looks like right now, and some high-level insights into what is successful over time.  I also want to see if “sparrowhawk” is right – do you need “Nature 3-5 Charm 3-5 Illusion 0-4” dice spreads to succeed?  Lets find out!

overallhighres

This graph shows the overall popularity of dice spreads amongst all contestants.  It’s interesting to see illusion’s popularity rise over time, ceremonial’s spread dwindle, and charm being at a constant low (a little contrary to the “Solved Meta” picture).  This, however, only shows what’s popular – not what’s successful.

top4highres
This is the dice spread if we look *only* at the top 4.  Charm is about as represented as it is popularity wise.  It disappeared entirely in November, only to come back (marginally) stronger than ever.  What’s really fascinating, though, is illusions slow rise to dominance, largely at the expense of ceremonial.  Our sample sizes are still small, but I think it’s still very interesting to see.

In comparison to the first graph, I think you can also see that illusion is consistently more powerful than people think it is (based on what they chose to play), and ceremonial is slightly weaker.

What about Phoenixborn?

slamjampowerrankings

This graph attempts to assign points to top placers.  It’s important to note that the October slam jam only had 6 participants (all others had 11+) – so in it everyone earned points.  However, it shows some things that I believe.  First – Jessa is the most dominant Phoenixborn, and second – Victoria is next in line.  With the rising power of illusion dice that we see in the previous graphs, this is not too surprising (though, in truth, Victoria’s rise to power has as much to do with that rise as vice versa).

fixedadjustedrankings

This graph attempts a naive-adjustment of the power rankings based on representation.  Here, we simply divide the number of points earned by the number of total player’s we’ve seen playing the Phoenxborn.  I don’t think this graph is particularly useful (Coal is good, but he is not the best Phoenixborn, certainly not so clearly), but there are some things that I do believe.  First – Coal and Leo are better than the first graph show, they are just underplayed.  Second, Aradel looks far better than she actually is.  Despite many people playing her, she simply isn’t that successful.

This is all just a first look, and I hope to do more analysis (e.g. by which cards are popular, but getting that data is a little more time consuming) in the future.  Let me know if there’s anything in particular you’d like to see or know, or if there are any insights from this data that I did not get to.

You can find all of the tournament brackets (e.g. to see the size of tournaments) on Papa Pratt’s Challonge page.

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