THS: Creatures

This is a list of all creatures in Theros broken down along the following axes:

  • Flyers vs. non-flyers (defenders are listed separately, regardless of whether or not they fly).
  • Must-kill vs. other. I use “must-kill” to mean that the creature needs to be dispatched if it is controlled by an opponent, otherwise you are unlikely to win a long game. This helps determine the value of removal in the format, especially removal that kills/exiles creatures or turns off activated abilities. Powerful creatures that must attack in order to be problematic are usually not categorized as must-kill since they can potentially be blocked, e.g., Horizon Scholar. Creatures with other kinds of evasion (e.g., intimidate, unblockable) are usually listed as must-kill if they have power >= 2. This is necessarily a subjective evaluation — for instance, I categorized Advocate of the Beast as must-kill, but not Warden of Evos Isle and Banisher Priest.
  • Power/toughness.
  • Color/rarity.

The columns to the right provide summaries of the info for all must-kill, all non must-kill, all flyers, and all non-flyers, as well as the totals. The rows at the bottom provide summaries of the info across all colors.

This list includes all creatures, including those that are unlikely to see play (such as a vanilla 1/1 for 1 mana), since the playability of a creature is determined in large part by the power/toughness of other creatures in the format, and by the quantity and quality of removal in the set.

Some initial thoughts:

  • The vast majority of creatures, including must-kill creatures, have toughness <= 4.
  • About half of all creatures, and 63% of must-kill creatures, have toughness <= 2.
  • Must-kill creatures have lower toughness than other creatures.

THS: Commentary on removal

Theros appears to have a normal amount of creature removal, but very little of it is unconditional; most of it cares either about a creature’s toughness or its power. This means that unconditional removal like Sip of Hemlock is likely to be more valuable than it would normally be, even at 6 mana.

While Theros does have cheap creature removal, there’s also a lot of common removal spells that cost 5 or more, so you should probably prioritize the cheaper removal early in the draft as you don’t want to end up with too many of the expensive ones. The cheaper removal spells kill creatures with toughness 1-3, while the more expensive removal spells handle creatures with toughness up to 4 or 5.

Blue pseudo-removal spells like Voyage’s End and Griptide are likely to be more valuable due to the high number of Auras in the set. (There are 15 creature Auras in Theros, if you count Chained to the Rocks, and another 15 enchantment creatures with bestow that be played as either a creature or a creature Aura. Of these, only Chained to the Rocks, Viper’s Kiss, and Ordeal of Purphoros are removal Auras, while the rest are enhancing Auras.)

There is very little reusable removal, so Spear of Heliod, Agent of the Fates, Labyrinth Champion, and Titan of Eternal Fire are likely to be even better than they would normally be.

Be aware that 4 colors have access to mass removal in Theros, although it is all either at rare (Curse of the Swine in blue and Anger of the Gods in red) or at mythic (Elspeth Sun’s Champion in white and Hythonia the Cruel in black).

Theros also has a lot of enchantments (41 vs. 28 in Magic 2014 and 29 in Return to Ravnica), so let’s also look at the enchantment removal available in the set. At common, we have Ray of Dissolution (costing 2W), Fade into Antiquity (2G), and Priest of Iroa (R+3W). At uncommon, we have Artisan’s Sorrow (3G) and Destructive Revelry (RG). And at rare, we have Polis Crusher, although that does cost 2RG to cast, 4RG to make monstrous, and still requires you to do combat damage to your opponent. 1 of the commons and 2 of the uncommons are instants.

Ignoring the rare, a typical 8-person draft will have about 9.5 enchantment removal spells. All the enchantment removal spells require access to either green or white mana, so U/B players won’t have access to any enchantment removal, but players from each of the other 4 color pairs in Theros (R/G, G/U, W/B, and R/W) will. Assuming that there are 1.6 players in each color pair, there will be 6.4 players with access to green or white mana, and each of them will have access to 1.5 enchantment removal spells on average. In practice, the R/G and R/W players will have access to more enchantment removal than the others since they can make use of Destructive Revelry and Priest of Iroa respectively. It is also worth noting that Theros does not have mass removal for enchantments, or even a spell that can destroy multiple enchantments.

There are also a fair number of artifact removal spells in Theros (3 at common and 2 at uncommon), even though there are only 18 artifacts, few of which are scary to face. 3 of them also destroy enchantments, and the remaining 2 are in red (Demolish and Wild Celebrants).

THS: List of removal spells

This is a list of all the removal in Theros, divided into permanent creature removal, temporary creature removal (such as bounce, tap, and falter effects), non-creature removal, and off-battlefield removal (hand, stack, graveyard). The column labeled T (to the right of the permanent creature removal column) indicates how tough a creature the removal can handle; if there is no number in that column, the removal is independent of the creature’s toughness. Conditional removal is indicated after the spell name in most cases.

This list uses most of the same abbreviations used by the list of instant-speed tricks. Italics indicates that one or more permanents have to remain in play for the effect to continue. Bold indicates reusable removal. Yellow highlight indicates that multiple permanents are affected. Red highlight indicates mass removal that you should be careful to not overextend into.

THS: List of instant-speed tricks

This is a list of all the instant-speed tricks in the format. The first table has the spell names while the second one has abbreviated spell descriptions in case you don’t remember what the spell does. Note that the latter table may not accurately represent all uses of the spell. Also, I sometimes make mistakes while filling out these tables; please let me know if you spot any issues.

Both tables categorize the tricks by converted mana cost, color, and rarity. Unless specified otherwise, each colored spell has one colored mana in its mana cost with the rest being generic mana, so a 3-mana white spell with no explicit cost has a mana cost of 2W. I also specify mana costs if the spell has X in its mana cost, is multicolored, or costs more than the column it is specified in. Spells in bold can leave a creature in play, e.g., flash creatures, spells that create token creatures, or spells that allow you to cast creatures at instant speed.

Here’s how to interpret the second table:

  • Abbreviations used: A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), bounce (return permanent to owner’s hand), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), I (instant), L (land), lose X (lose X life), opp (opponent), P (player), prot (protection), reanimate (return permanent from the graveyard to the battlefield), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), your X (X you control).
  • Spells that confer an effect (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Spells can target any legal permanent or player unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the spell does X damage to any creature or player.
  • Spell descriptions sometimes mention other spells as a way to describe their effects, e.g., Steam Augury is described as a flipped Fact or Fiction to avoid having to write the full description.

THS: Compact FAQ

And this is a compact version of the Theros FAQ (11 pages vs. 28 pages for the original).

THS: Compact spoiler

This is an 8-page version of the full Theros spoiler. The card image gallery at DailyMTG is 43 pages and the printable spoiler at MTGSalvation is 67 pages so I’m hoping this saves trees, and it’s certainly easier to carry around in your pocket.

M14: Archetype wheel

Magic 2014 Archetype Wheel

If we take all the archetypes discussed in my last post and plot them on a color wheel, this is what we get. A line between 2 colors indicates that there is an archetype that spans those 2 colors (we’ll ignore the occasional 3- and 5-color decks in M14), and is labeled with the archetype name. A thick line indicates that the archetype that is more likely to come together in a draft because it relies on fewer key cards or requires fewer uncommons/rares; these are the archetypes that were bolded in my last post. Archetypes that rely on specific rares or multiple copies of a common/uncommon in order to function are riskier to attempt and are indicated with thinner lines. If you want to read more about a particular archetype, my last post has a list of the key cards for each archetype and links to more detailed descriptions.

The purpose of the archetype wheel is to help us see visually which colors support the most number of archetypes and, therefore, offer the most flexibility. This can help when choosing between 2 cards of similar power levels in the early stages of a draft. For instance, white and red support the most number of archetypes, so you might take a card in one of those colors slightly higher pack 1, pick 1. White is especially flexible in that it has a likely archetype with each other color. The downside of this is that you’re more likely to be competing with other players for good white cards.

On the other hand, black only pairs well with white, and so offers less flexibility, but you’re also likely to face less competition for good black cards. Also, a good W/B enchantments deck is one of the strongest decks in the format. This does not mean that W/B is the only possible color pair for black, just that it is the only one that offers strong synergies; I have seen good U/B and B/G decks drafted when cards in those colors were flowing.

Note that W/B, U/R, R/G, and R/W each support 2 archetypes, although U/R is the only one that supports 2 archetypes that are likely to come together. While the 2 U/R archetypes are quite different, they both want red burn spells and blue removal/pseudo-removal (Claustrophobia, Time Ebb, Disperse, and Frost Breath), as well as certain uncommons like Young Pyromancer, so it is likely that a table can only support 1 of each. Also, while Slivers can be G/R, G/W, or R/W, an 8-person draft can usually support only 2 Sliver decks.

Let’s look at one more piece of information. This spreadsheet summarizes card quality by color. It shows that white will have the most number of bombs in an average 8-person draft, but also the most number of unplayable cards by far. Black will have the most number of bombs + exceptional cards, and black and green will have the most number of bomb + exceptional + playable cards in a draft. This means that it is more difficult to put together a white deck, since white has fewer playables spread across more archetypes, while it will often be easier to get enough playable black cards since it has more playables spread across fewer archetypes.

Weaving all this information together, we can conclude that a typical draft will likely have:

  • 1 W/U skies deck
  • 2 W/B enchantments decks (which tend to be heavier black), one of which might also have a lifegain subtheme
  • 1 U/R tempo deck
  • 1 U/R control deck
  • 2 Slivers deck: 1 R/G and 1 R/W or G/W
  • Given that there are 4 white decks, 3 blue decks, 2 black decks, 3.5 red decks, and 1.5 green decks, and that black and green also have the most number of playables in the typical draft, the last deck is likely to be B/G or 5-color green

This is the last M14 post I have planned for now, since I’ve run most of the analysis that I’d wanted to. If I missed your favorite archetype, if you’d like me to look at another card more closely, or if you’d like to write a guest post, please email me at sameer underscore (_) merchant at yahoo or leave a comment below.