JOU: Memorizing the instant-speed tricks

Most of the analysis I do here is focused on draft. However, we have a Sealed deck PTQ in Bellevue this weekend, so I’m going to look at the list of tricks in Journey into Nyx and see if there’s an easy way to memorize more of them, as I’d done previously for Theros.

Let’s start by looking at the number of instant-speed tricks in each color:

  • White: 5 = 1 common + 2 uncommon + 2 rare, 2 with strive = 1 common + 1 uncommon
  • Blue: 8 = 4 common + 2 uncommon + 2 rare, 4 with strive = 1 common + 2 uncommon + 1 rare
  • Black: 6 = 2 common + 2 uncommon + 2 rare, 2 with strive = 1 common + 1 rare
  • Red: 5 = 3 common + 1 uncommon + 1 rare, 1 common with strive
  • Green: 6 = 1 common + 3 uncommon + 2 rare, 5 with strive = 1 common + 3 uncommon + 1 rare
  • Multicolor: 1 uncommon without strive

I find it useful to know the total number of tricks in each color as that allows me to verify whether I’ve considered all the possibilities in certain crucial game states. When practising my recall of the tricks, it also allows me to verify whether I was able to remember all the tricks in a color. If I didn’t, I refer to a printout I carry of the list of tricks. Doing this regularly helps me increase the speed with which I can recall the tricks available given the mana my opponent has open. If you ignore blue and multicolor, the totals are 5, 6, 5, and 6. Each color has 2 rare tricks, except red which has 1. Similarly, most colors have 2 uncommon tricks, but red has 1 and green has 3, and there is 1 multicolor (G/U) trick.

Several of the instant-speed tricks in this format have strive. Knowing how many of the total number have strive can also help with memorizing the list. Blue and green have the most number of instant-speed spells with strive, 4 and 5 respectively. White and black have 2 each, and red has just 1. Each color has a common spell with strive whose casting cost is C+N(2C), where C is a given colored mana symbol (W, U, B, R, or G). White, blue, and green also each have an uncommon spell with stive whose casting cost is 2C+N(1C).

The set also has a cycle of flash enchantments at rare: Dictate of Heliod, Dictate of Kruphix, Dictate of Erebos, Dictate of the Twin Gods, and Dictate of Karametra. Remembering these 2.5 cycles gives us 13 of the 31 tricks, leaving us with only 18 to remember.

Another thing I do to help my recall of the tricks is to break them down into 5 categories: creature removal (including bounce), non-creature removal, combat tricks, countermagic, and other (usually card draw). Removal that hits both creatures and non-creatures is classified as creature removal since creatures are the most common (and usually also the most important) permanents in limited formats. Combat tricks are spells that you should be aware of when entering combat, e.g., pump spells and other enhancers, spells that let you temporarily neutralize opposing creatures (tap, reduce power, Fog), and flash creatures. Here’s what available in each color:

  • White: 5 = 1 creature removal spell (Reprisal) + 1 non-creature removal spell (Deicide) + 3 combat tricks (Ajani’s Presence, Phalanx Formation, and Dictate of Heliod, sorted by converted mana cost and rarity)
  • Blue: 8 = 1 creature removal spells (Hubris) + 1 non-creature removal spell (Kiora’s Dismissal) + 4 combat tricks (Aerial Formation, Hour of Need, Polymorphous Rush, and Cloaked Siren) + 1 countermagic (Countermand) + 1 other (Dictate of Kruphix)
  • Black: 6 = 3 creature removal spells (Feast of Dreams, Nightmarish End, and Silence the Believers) + 3 combat tricks (Cruel Feeding, Ritual of the Returned, and Dictate of Erebos)
  • Red: 5 = 3 creature removal spells (Magma Spray, Starfall, and Riddle of Lightning) + 2 combat tricks (Rouse the Mob and Dictate of the Twin Gods)
  • Green: 6 = 1 creature removal spell (Setessan Tactics) + 1 non-creature removal spell (Consign to Dust) + 3 combat tricks (Nature’s Panoply, Solidarity of Heroes, and Colossal Heroics) + 1 other (Dictate of Karametra)
  • Multicolor: 1 combat trick (Fleetfeather Cockatrice)

Note that white, blue, and green each have 1 creature removal spell and 1 non-creature removal spell, with the rest being combat tricks or other (blue also has 1 counterspell). Black and red both have 3 removal spells each, with the rest being combat tricks.

Next, let’s look at the mana curves and rarities of the tricks:

  • White’s has 1 trick that costs 1 mana, 2 tricks that cost 2 mana, 1 trick that costs 3 mana, none that cost 4 mana, and 1 trick that costs 5 mana. I’ll abbreviate this as 1/2/1/0/1. Because of white’s distribution of tricks across rarities, white will have 2.5 JOU tricks in the average 8-person draft.
  • Blue has 2/1/3/2/0, with 6.5 tricks in the average 8-person draft (5.2 if you exclude the counterspells).
  • Black has 1/1/1/2/1, with 3.9 tricks in the average 8-person draft.
  • Red has 2/0/0/0/3, with 4.6 tricks in the average 8-person draft.
  • Green has 1/2/2/0/1, with 2.9 tricks in the average 8-person draft.
  • The only multicolor trick costs 5 mana, and there are 0.4 copies of it in the average 8-person draft.

From this we can tell that blue will have the most tricks in a typical 8-person draft, even if you exclude counterspells (which are not usually played maindeck in limited formats). After that, black and red have a similar number of tricks (about 4.25), and white and green have the fewest (about 2.75). Black and red have particularly memorable distributions. Black’s list looks like a diagonal line in the list of tricks because of the distribution (2 commons at 1cc and 2cc, 2 uncommons at 3cc and 4cc, and 2 rares at 4cc and 5cc). Red’s list looks like a set of uneven pronghorns, with 2 spells at 1cc and 3 at 5cc. White and green have almost identical distributions with respect to both mana curve and rarity, with the only difference being that green has an additional 3-mana trick at uncommon.

Also, note that there are 4 ways to get a creature into play at instant speed: Cloaked Siren (blue common), Hour of Need (blue uncommon), Ritual of the Returned (black uncommon), and Fleetfeather Cockatrice (G/U uncommon). Only one of these does not require blue mana.

I hope these strategies help you memorize the tricks in Journey into Nyx, and that this helps you do well at the tournament.

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