M15: Tribal effects

Magic 2015 has 11 cards with tribal effects: Obelisk of Urd, Belligerent Sliver, Constricting Sliver, Diffusion Sliver, Leeching Sliver, Venom Sliver, Sliver Hivelord, Preeminent Captain (Soldiers), Necromancer’s Stockpile (Zombies), Crucible of Fire (Dragons), and Goblin Rabblemaster (Goblins).

The first time I drafted Obelisk of Urd, I had a R/G deck that didn’t have more than 4 of any creature type. I was short on playables so I ended up running it. As might be expected, it never gave more than 1 creature +2/+2 and was underwhelming. The next time I drafted Obelisk of Urd, I had a B/r deck with 11 Zombies and the card was a beating and a half whenever it hit play. It was clear from these experiences that the value of Obelisk of Urd depends heavily on the colors you’re drafting. It was also clear that if Obelisk of Urd gives 2+ creatures in play +2/+2, you’re likely to win the game. Let’s take a look at all the tribes in Magic 2015 to determine which color combinations work best with Obelisk of Urd. While determining that, we will also look at which color combinations work best for the other tribal cards in Magic 2015.

This spreadsheet contains a summary of all the creatures in Magic 2015 (including Raise the Alarm, Triplicate Spirit, and Feral Incarnation). That information is summarized by creature type and rarity, with unplayable and sideboard-only cards excluded. The total column shows the expected number of playable/TBD creatures of that creature type in a typical draft.

Looking at this, there are 8 tribes that are expected to have 8+ representatives in an average 8-person draft:

  • Humans are spread across all 5 colors, but W/U, R/W, and U/R have access to the most number of playable ones: 13.5, 12.6, and 11.1 respectively.
  • Elementals are spread across blue, red, and green. G/U has access to 12.2, U/R has access to 11.9, and R/G has access to 9.9.
  • Warriors are almost entirely in red, which has 8.8 in a typical draft.
  • Goblins are entirely in red, with 11.2 in a typical draft.
  • Soldiers are entirely in white, with 10.2 in a typical draft. Note that while Raise the Alarm doesn’t combo with Preeminent Captain, it combos really well with Obelisk of Urd, allowing you to cast it earlier and turn your 1/1’s into 3/3’s. (Similarly, while there are only an average of 6 Spirits in a typical draft, Obelisk of Urd can be absurd with Triplicate Spirits.)
  • Zombies are entirely in black, with 9.8 in a typical draft.
  • Walls are spread across all 5 colors, and no color combination has more than 6.
  • Cats are spread across white, blue, and black, and no color combination has more than 6.

Given these numbers, it seems that most color combinations can make good use of Obelisk of Urd if you draft it early and know what creature types to start drafting once you’ve drafted it. Red provides access to the most options.

  • White: Soldiers (W/X) or Humans (W/U or R/W)
  • Blue: Humans (W/U or U/R) or Elementals (G/U or U/R), so only U/B doesn’t work
  • Black: Zombies (B/X)
  • Red: Warriors (R/X), Goblins (R/X), Humans (R/W or U/R), or Elementals (U/R or R/G)
  • Green: Elementals (G/U or R/G), so only B/G and G/W don’t work

From this, it appears that Preeminent Captain, Necromancer’s Stockpile, and Goblin Rabblemaster have the potential to be good in their respective colors. On the other hand, there are only 2 Dragons in Magic 2015, both at rare, plus Brood Keeper, so Crucible of Fire is unplayable. Also, the set only has 5 playable/TBD Slivers (I don’t consider Sliver Hivelord playable in most decks), all at uncommon, so an 8-person draft will have an average of 4.5 Slivers. Constricting Sliver, Belligerent Sliver, and Venom Sliver are good on their own, but Diffusion Sliver and Leeching Sliver are unplayable.

M15: Converted mana cost distributions

The charts below show the converted mana costs (CMCs) of playable creatures and spells, respectively, by color. (Raise the Alarm, Triplicate Spirits, and Feral Incarnation are counted as creatures rather than spells.) Playable spells are those that I’ve previously evaluated as bombs, exceptional, or good; some of those evaluations have been updated after analysis in subsequent posts. The y-axis of the chart shows the expected number of playables of that color and CMC in an 8-person draft, and weights commons, uncommons, rares, and mythics by the expected number of copies of each in a draft. The charts don’t account for convoke, so white and green spells will appear more expensive than they are in practice.

CMC Distribution - Creatures CMC Distribution - Spells

There are 3 things I want to examine.

  • How many playable 1-2 mana green and blue creatures can we expect to see in a draft? We can combine this information with that from last week’s post to determine how good the various creature reuse spells are. An 8-person draft will, on average, have 3 1-mana (all green) and 7 2-mana creatures (4 green, 3 blue) that fit this bill. Assuming that there are 3 drafters at the table in each color, you can expect to get 1 playable 1-mana creature and 2 playable 2-mana creatures, which is not enough to consistently play Invasive Species on turn 3 or Roaring Primadox on turn 4. Both cards do offer opportunities in the long game by allowing you to recur Frost Lynx, Kapsho Kitefins, Living Totem, Satyr Wayfinder, Shaman of Spring, and Reclamation Sage, but Magic 2015 seems like a fairly fast format so far, and so Invasive Species and Roaring Primadox are probably best relegated to the sideboard and brought in against slower decks where you have to grind out card advantage. Peel from Reality and Quickling are still both excellent, since they can be used at instant speed to save your creatures from removal.
  • Is there a glut of good creatures at 3-mana? I have had a couple of drafts so far that have been heavy on 3-mana creatures, especially when playing black, but am not sure whether that is typical in this format. From the chart on the left, we can see that blue certainly has a plethora of good 3-mana creatures, but this is not true for the other colors. If you are drafting a U/X deck, you might want to pick 3-drops a little less highly. Conversely, black decks should prioritize 2-drops. Looking at (non-creature) spells, we see that red has a large number at 2 mana, as does blue to a lesser extent. Similarly, white has a fair number of spells at 3 mana.
  • Do any color pairs have mana curves that fit together particularly well? White and red both have a fair number of playable 2-drops and fewer 3-drops, while blue and black have fewer 2-drops and more 3-drops. W/R decks in Magic 2015 tend to be aggressive while U/B decks tend to be controlling, so it may seem that these colors don’t fit well together. However, a fast start from a red or white deck backed up by Frost Lynx has the potential to be quite devastating, so it might be worth considering W/U, W/B, U/R, and B/R decks.

M15: G/U creature reuse

Magic 2015 has a plethora of ways to return permanents, especially creatures, to your hand. Some of these, such as Into the Void, can be used on opponents’ creatures and so are always playable if you’re in the color. Others, such as Peel from Reality and Quickling, are instant speed and so are usually playable even if you don’t have particularly cheap creatures or creatures with enters-the-battlefield (ETB) triggers. However, cards such as Invasive Species and Roaring Primadox usually need to be in a deck with multiple ETB triggers in order to shine, so let’s take a look at what Magic 2015 has to offer in that department.

The list below has all the permanents in Magic 2015 that have ETB triggers, sorted by color and rarity. I’ve bolded the common/uncommon creatures that we really want to recur, or that provide a reasonable benefit when we recur other creatures. Italics mean that this permanent has an ETB effect that allows you to reuse creatures.

  • White:
    • commons: Heliod’s Pilgrim (x), Kinsbaile Skirmisher (/, ETB is irrelevant), Midnight Guard (~, ETB is irrelevant), Tireless Missionaries (x)
    • uncommons: Boonweaver Giant (x), Constricting Sliver (B, but it’s only useful to recur Slivers played before Constricting Sliver was played, and the set has very few good Slivers)
    • rares: Resolute Archangel (B), Spirit Bonds (+)
    • non-creatures: Divine Favor (common, x)
  • Blue:
    • commons: Coral Barrier (/, but ETB is rarely relevant), Frost Lynx (/)
    • uncommons: Kapsho Kitefins (+), Quickling (+)
  • Black:
    • commons: Necromancer’s Assistant (~, ETB is useful only in a very specific archetype), Rotfeaster Maggot (S)
    • uncommons: Gravedigger (/)
  • Red:
    • commons: Forge Devil (/), Foundry Street Denizen (~, ETB is irrelevant)
    • rares: Hoarding Dragon (B, ETB is irrelevant since you lose access to the exiled artifact if you bounce Hoarding Dragon), Siege Dragon (B, ETB is rarely relevant)
    • non-creatures: Hammerhand (common)
  • Green:
    • commons: Invasive Species (?), Living Totem (/), Satyr Wayfinder (/), Shaman of Spring (/), Undergrowth Scavenger (?, ETB is irrelevant except perhaps in a B/G self-mill deck)
    • uncommons: Reclamation Sage (+)
    • rares: Genesis Hydra (+), Hornet Queen (B), Kalonian Twingrove (+)
    • non-creatures: Verdant Haven (/, ETB is irrelevant)
  • Artifact/Land (all non-creatures):
    • commons: Radiant Fountain (S)
    • uncommons: Meteorite (~), Staffs of the X Magus (x)
    • rares: Obelisk of Urd (?, ETB is rarely relevant), Phyrexian Revoker (~, ETB is rarely relevant)

Looking over this list, it is clear that there are only a small number creatures that we want to replay or that cause us to want to replay other creatures. Most of these creatures are in blue and green, which are also the colors with the most ways to bounce your creatures. Blue has Peel from Reality at common, Quickling at uncommon, and Mercurial Pretender at rare. It also has other cards that let you bounce your own creatures or your opponents’ creatures: Void Snare at common, Into the Void at uncommon, and Jace the Living Guildpact at mythic. Green has Invasive Species at common and Roaring Primadox at uncommon. Of these cards, only Void Snare and Jace the Living Guildpact let you bounce non-creatures, so we do not have a reliable way to reuse ETB effects on those.

Consequently, a creature reuse deck will usually be G/U, and the colors do have enough bounce and ETB effects that the 2 groups of cards can build off each other. The colors also have cheap creatures with ETB effects, so Invasive Species and Roaring Primadox can be played relatively on curve. It is worth noting that Satyr Wayfinder is the only creature in these colors that would be played on turn 1-2 and still have a useful ETB effect, so you should make sure to pick up a few of them if you’re drafting this deck. They can also fix your colors to some extent, so they can give you the option to splash ETB creatures from other colors.

Welcome baby Inara

I didn’t have time to write a post this week, but I have a really good excuse:

She’s 7lb 10oz and 55cm long. Both mom and baby are in good health and are recovering well.