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.

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