THS: Casting costs and 5cc spells

Over the course of many drafts, I’ve noticed that Theros has a lot of good creatures that cost 5 mana. In a recent draft, I had 2 Gray Merchant, a Keepsake Gorgon, and 4 Prescient Chimera (I was only able to play 2 of the latter). And in my G/U Sealed deck from the PTQ, I had 5 5cc creatures — Prophet of Kruphix, Anthousa Setessan Hero, Nessian Asp, Centaur Battlemaster, and Prescient Chimera — 2 of which were bombs. I’d like to determine whether the format actually has a glut of good creatures at 5cc. If it is, I can deprioritize 5cc creatures while drafting and/or value Opaline Unicorn more highly.

This spreadsheet looks at bomb, exceptional, and playable creatures by color, rarity, and CMC, and then computes the number of creatures in each color/CMC combination in an average draft. The numbers do not indicate a glut at 5cc except in black, and only if you include all black spells (the All tab) instead of just looking at black creatures (the Creatures tab). Apparently, my hypothesis does not hold for the other 4 colors and, therefore, for most color pairs. And black decks rarely want Opaline Unicorn because it doesn’t add to the black devotion count for Gray Merchant.

Let’s look at this from a slightly different angle by enumerating the playable 5cc spells in the format:

  • White: Celestial Archon (rare)
  • Blue: Prescient Chimera (common), Prognostic Sphinx (rare)
  • Black: Gray Merchant of Asphodel (common), Lash of the Whip (common), Keepsake Gorgon (uncommon)
  • Red: Rage of Purphoros (common), Stoneshock Giant (uncommon), Stormbreath Dragon (mythic)
  • Green: Nessian Asp (common), Centaur Battlemaster (uncommon), Anthousa Setessan Hero (rare), Arbor Colossus (rare)
  • Multicolor: Kragma Warcaller (B/R uncommon), Pharika’s Mender (B/G uncommon), Sentry of the Underworld (W/B uncommon), Prophet of Kruphix (G/U rare), Underworld Cerberus (B/R mythic)

Note that all but 2 of the spells listed are creatures. Black is the only color with 2 playable 5cc spells at common. However, red and green also have excellent 5cc spells at common and uncommon, so you should probably not go out of your way to pick up 5cc spells early in the draft if you’re in one of those colors, and you might want to actively avoid all but the best 5cc spells if you’re B/R, B/G, or R/G. B/G players should be especially wary since Gray Merchant and Nessian Asp are 2 of the most powerful commons in the format and you won’t want to leave any copies of either of them in your sideboard, regardless of what the spreadsheet says.

Some other observations from the spreadsheet:

  • White: Most of the good creatures are 2cc and 3cc. This makes Divine Verdict more playable in Theros than in other formats.
  • Blue: There are plenty of good creatures at 3cc and 4cc, so you should prioritize the good 2cc commons (Omenspeaker and Vaporkin).
  • Black: Baleful Eidolon is the only 2-drop that’s always playable (although Returned Phalanx is good in a control deck and Fleshmad Steed is good in an aggro deck), so it should be valued highly. Otherwise, black creatures seem to be spread fairly evenly across the mana curve, except for a bit of a glut at 5cc.
  • Red: There are plenty of good creatures at 3cc and 4cc, so you should prioritize the good 2-drops (Deathbellow Raider and Arena Athlete).
  • Green: The creatures are well distributed across the spectrum so there’s less need to prioritize creatures at a particular casting cost than for other colors.
  • U/R: Blue and red both have a lot of good creatures at 3cc and 4cc, so creatures at those casting costs should be especially deprioritized in U/R, or the color combination should be avoided if there isn’t a good reason to go into it. (U/R also has the weakest multicolor cards in Theros.)
  • B/G: This is a especially slow color combination so Sedge Scorpion and Baleful Eidolon should be valued even more highly than usual in B/G.
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