M14: Plummet vs. Windstorm

When drafting green decks, I’ve faced the choice of drafting either Plummet or Windstorm from the same pack, or having both in my draft pool but not knowing whether either is worthy of maindecking. Another choice I’ve faced is deciding which one to side in against an opponent who has one or more flyers in their deck. Let’s see if we can figure out the right choices in these scenarios.

If you’re running green as a main color, Deadly Recluse and Giant Spider are great ways to deal with flyers. They can also defend quite well against non-flyers, and sometimes even get to attack. Deadly Spider is easier to kill than Giant Spider, so our analysis will look at 3 different categories of flyers:

  • must-kill non-defender flyers (see the spreadsheet from my post on creature evaluations)
  • flyers with power >= 4 (or deathtouch) and toughness >= 3, since they can kill Giant Spider without dying in the process
  • all non-defender flyers

There are only 5 must-kill flyers in M14: 1 common, 1 uncommon, 1 rare, and 2 mythic. An average draft will have 0.57 of these flyers per player, all in white, blue, and black. Must-kill means that you can’t reliably block or gang block the creature with flyers/spiders to neutralize it, or that it has a static ability that makes it dangerous even if it’s not in combat, which is why Nightwing Shade, Air Servant, and Galerider Sliver fall into this category, along with the more obvious inclusion of Archangel of Thune and Windreader Sphinx.

There are 6 flyers with power >= 4 (or deathtouch) and toughness >= 3: 2 uncommons (only Serra Angel and Sengir Vampire, since we’ve already counted Air Servant above), 2 rares (Jace’s Mindseeker and Shivan Dragon), and 2 mythics (Shadowborn Demon and Scourge of Valkas). An average draft will have 0.45 of these flyers per player, primarily in black. Note that although Shivan Dragon and Scourge of Valkas can attack for a lot of damage, I don’t consider them must-kill since firebreathing doesn’t pump toughness, so they can still be blocked and killed by multiple opposing flyers/spiders.

Adding these numbers tells us that the average draft will only have about 1 flyer per player that falls into either of these 2 categories, so you probably don’t want to run either Plummet or Windstorm in your maindeck. Obviously, there are exceptions to this. For instance, if you have Diabolic Tutor or Ring of Three Wishes in your deck, you could run a singleton Plummet or Windstorm as a silver bullet. If you have a U/G control deck with limited creature removal, you’re more likely to face a bomb flyer that you can’t handle, so Plummet or Windstorm might have a place in that deck, especially if you can regrow it using Archaeomancer. And if you have an otherwise really strong monogreen or G/R deck that lacks flying defense, you might run Plummet and/or Windstorm maindeck to shore up that weakness and as insurance against your opponent having a flying bomb.

Finally, let’s look at all non-defender flyers in M14. All of them are playable, except perhaps Dragon Hatchling. Let’s exclude those creatures and then look at the number of flyers we would expect a player in those colors to have in an 8-person draft, assuming there are 3 drafters in each color. (This analysis is more useful here than looking at the average number of these flyers per drafter.)

  • White: 3 common, 1 uncommon, 1 rare, 1 mythic -> 8.9 at the table, or 3.0 per white drafter
  • Blue: 4 commons, 2 uncommons, 2 rares, 1 mythic -> 12.9 at the table, or 4.3 per blue drafter
  • Black: 2 commons, 1 uncommon, 1 rare, 1 mythic -> 6.6 at the table, or 2.2 per black drafter
  • Red: 1 uncommon, 2 rares, 1 mythic -> 2.2 at the table, or 0.7 per black drafter

From this analysis, we can see that only U/X decks are likely to have more than 1 flyer on the table at a time, and so are the only ones against which you’d rather bring in Windstorm. There are only 2 rare and 2 mythic flyers with toughness >= 5 (I’m including Nightmare but not Nightwing Shade here), so Windstorm will usually be able to take down all your opponent’s flyers. (And sometime they’ll play a Galerider Sliver and you’ll knock out most of their side :)) Of course, if your deck also has flyers, you may still prefer Plummet, even when playing against a U/W or U/B deck.

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