BFZ: Expected numbers of copies of a card

Battle for Zendikar has 101 commons, 80 uncommons, 53 rares, and 15 mythics. This means that an 8-person BFZ/BFZ/BFZ draft will have an average of 2.4 copies of a given common, 0.9 copies of a given uncommon, 0.4 copies of a given rare, and 0.2 copies of a given mythic.

BFZ: List of instant-speed tricks

This is a list of all the instant-speed tricks in Battle for Zendikar. 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 and often leaves out certain details. 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 listed 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: ~ (this card), A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), borrow (untap & gain control until end of turn; the permanent gains haste), bounce (return to owner’s hand), bury (destroy & it cannot be regenerated), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), ETB (enters the battlefield), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), GY (graveyard), I (instant), L (land), loot X (draw X cards, then discard X cards), lose X (lose X life), mill (put cards from a library into a graveyard), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), raise (return card from your graveyard to your hand), reanimate (return card from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), 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., Natural Connection is described as “Rampant Growth” since it has the same effect as that card but at instant speed.

BFZ: Compact FAQ

This is a compact version of the Battle for Zendikar FAQ (13 pages vs. 31 pages for the original).

BFZ: Compact spoiler

This is a 9-page version of the full Battle for Zendikar spoiler. The card image gallery at DailyMTG is 76 pages, so I’m hoping this saves a couple of trees, while also being easier to carry in your pocket for reference. This spoiler is also text instead of images, so it’s easier to search for card types or keywords before the set is available on Gatherer.

ORI: Elves

(Quick note: I’m walking in the Greater Everett CROP Hunger Walk on Oct 4th to raise money to fight hunger. If you enjoy my posts, please consider donating $5 or $10 through my fundraising page. All donations will be used by Church World Service in the fight against hunger.)

There are a number of Elf tribal cards in Magic Origins: Dwynen’s Elite, Eyeblight Massacre, Gnarlroot Trapper, Shaman of the Pack, and Sylvan Messenger at uncommon, and Dwynen Gilt-Leaf Daen at rare. Gnarlroot Trapper and Sylvan Messenger require a critical mass of Elves, usually 10+, before they’re playable; the rest are playable without other Elves but get better as you have more. Does Magic Origins have enough playable Elves to make it likely that you’ll be able to draft that many playable Elves?

Let’s start by enumerating the playable Elves in the format at each rarity, along with their converted mana cost. (The only unplayable Elves in the format are Thornbow Archer and perhaps Sylvan Messenger.)

  • Common: Elvish Visionary (2cc), Leaf Gilder (2), Deadbridge Shaman (3), Eyeblight Assassin (3), Yeva’s Forcemage (3), Llanowar Empath (4)
  • Uncommon: Gnarlroot Trapper (1), Dwynen’s Elite (2), Shaman of the Pack (3), Sylvan Messenger (4)
  • Rare: Dwynen Gilt-Leaf Daen (4), Gilt-Leaf Winnower (5)
  • Mythic: Nissa Vastwood Seer (3)

This means that an average of 19 playable Elves are opened at an 8-person draft, of which 3.6 (the uncommons) are usually only valued by Elves decks. If there are no other players drafting Elves at the table and if we draft them highly enough, we can probably draft most of the uncommon Elves and about half of the rest, ending up with about 11.3 of the 19 Elves. This means that if you see a Gnarlroot Trapper or a Sylvan Messenger halfway through pack 1, there’s a reasonable chance that you can take it and draft enough Elves to make it good. (Note that even if your deck has 10 Elves, Sylvan Messenger is only going to net you 1 Elf on average, so it’s still worse than Llanowar Empath which gives you more control over your next draw steps.)

The 6 Elf tribal cards are all uncommons and rares, so there’re only about 5 of them in an 8-person draft. This means we will rarely want to focus on drafting Elves with the hope of picking up the tribal cards later in the draft. However, almost all the Elves are playable on their own merits, so if you’re in black and/or green, you’re likely to have some Elves, and you may be able to switch to an Elves deck if you see Elf tribal cards early enough in the draft.

Is it possible to have an Elf deck that’s not B/G? Of the 19 playable Elves in an average 8-person draft, 12 are green, 6 are black, and 1 is B/G. This means that B/X is unlikely, but G/X might be possible. If we assume that we get all the uncommon green Elves and half the rest, then we end up with an average of 7 Elves. That’s enough for some of the Elf tribal cards like Dwynen Gilt-Leaf Daen and Dwynen’s Elite, but not enough for Sylvan Messenger.

Finally, let’s take a look at the converted mana costs of the Elves in both colors. There are 0.9 at 1cc, 5.7 at 2cc, 8.3 at 3cc, 3.7 at 4cc, and 0.4 at 5cc. The high number of playable Elves at 3cc means that Gnarlroot Trapper is even better than I’d thought since it accelerates you to your 3-drops, and that Yeva’s Forcemage is a bit worse than it might otherwise be.

I have yet to draft a focused Elves deck. There have been 2 instances when I drafted a couple of Eyeblight Massacres in later packs, but only had about 6 Elves, which is the number you’d expect to end up with if you’re B/G but are not drafting Elves, and no one at the table is drafting Elves either. Given the numbers above, I expect I will attempt the archetype the next time I get passed Eyeblight Massacre, Gnarlroot Trapper, Shaman of the Pack, or Dwynen Gilt-Leaf Daen in pack 1.

ORI: The sacrifice deck

Magic Origins has a number of cards in red and black that allow you to sacrifice a creature, and several other cards that are better if you have access to a sacrifice outlet. Does it have enough cards in both categories to allow for a sacrifice deck? Let’s enumerate the cards in both categories.

  • Cards that allow you to sacrifice a creature:
    • Black: Nantuko Husk, Consecrated by Blood (uncommon), Fleshbag Marauder (uncommon), Tormented Thoughts (uncommon) = average of 5.1 copies in an 8-person draft
    • Red: Fiery Conclusion (uncommon) = 0.9 copies (there’s also Pia and Kiran Nalaar, but that only allows you to sacrifice artifacts)
    • Green: Evolutionary Leap (rare) = 0.4 copies
    • Red/Black: Blazing Hellhound (uncommon) = 0.9 copies
  • Cards that allow you to borrow/steal a creature:
    • Blue: Willbreaker (rare) = 0.4 copies
    • Red: Act of Treason, Enthralling Victor (uncommon) = 3.3 copies
  • Cards that can create multiple creatures:
    • Colorless: Foundry of the Consuls (uncommon), Hangarback Walker (rare) = 1.3 copies
    • White: Murder Investigation (uncommon), Gideon’s Phalanx (rare), Sigil of the Empty Throne (rare) = 1.7 copies
    • Blue: Aspiring Aeronaut, Whirler Rogue (uncommon), Thopter Spy Network (rare) = 3.7 copies
    • Black: Undead Servant, Priest of the Blood Rite (rare), Liliana Heretical Healer (mythic) = 3.0 copies
    • Red: Dragon Fodder, Ghirapur Gearcrafter, Thopter Engineer (uncommon), Flameshadow Conjuring (rare), Pia and Kiran Nalaar (rare) = 6.5 copies
    • Green: Dwynen’s Elite (uncommon), Zendikar’s Roil (uncommon), Nissa Sage Animist (mythic) = 2.0 copies
  • Cards with beneficial effects that trigger when a creature leaves the battlefield:
    • Colorless: excluding Hangarback Walker since it was listed previously, Runed Servitor since it benefits you and your opponent equally, and Guardian Automaton since it only gains you 3 life)
    • White: excluding Murder Investigation since it was listed previously
    • Black: Deadbridge Shaman, Shadows of the Past (uncommon) = 3.3 copies (excluding Liliana Heretical Healer since it was listed previously, and Infernal Scarring since sacrificing the enchanted creatures leaves you a card down)

In an 8-person draft, black has an average of 5.1 sacrifice outlets and 6.3 cards that have synergy with those cards (although 2.4 of those are Undead Servants, which only create more than 1 creature if you have multiple copies). Red is the other color with cards in both categories, and a R/B player has access to an average of 6.9 sacrifice outlets and 17.4 cards that have synergy with those cards.

Many of these cards will be drafted by other players. Let’s assume that there are 3 drafters in each color but no other drafters in this archetype, and let’s try to determine how many of these cards we’re likely to end up with:

  • Nantuko Husk and Fleshbag Marauder will be taken by other black players, but a little less highly. Let’s assume that we get half of the copies of these cards (1.6 copies).
  • Foundry of the Consuls and Hangarback Walker can be played by any player at the table. Foundry of the Consuls is only good in the artifacts and sacrifice archetypes, while Hangerback Walker is a high pick in any draft deck, so we’re likely to end up with 0.5 of these cards.
  • The red and black cards that create multiple creatures are valued by any deck playing that color, as are Enthralling Victor and Deadbridge Shaman. These 12.8 cards are shared by 3 players, so we can expect to get 4.3 of them.
  • We will probably get most or all copies of the remaining cards: Consecrated by Blood, Tormented Thoughts, Fiery Conclusion, and Blazing Hellhound for sacrifice outlets (3.6 copies), and Act of Treason and Shadows of the Past for the remaining categories (3.3 copies).

Combining these number, we find that we’re likely to end up with about 5 sacrifice outlets and about 8 cards that work with them. That’s enough that if we start our draft with a few of the top cards from either of these categories (Fleshbag Marauder, Enthralling Victor, Priest of the Blood Rite, or multiple Undead Servants), then we can reasonably attempt to draft this archetype.

ORI: G/W renown vs. R/W renown

The renown archetype in Magic Origins is usually thought of as G/W, but I’ve often felt that R/W is a better color pair for renown because red has more ways to get the renown creatures through, e.g., Subterranean Scout, Enthralling Victor, and Seismic Elemental. The only renown deck I’ve drafted so far was monowhite so I don’t have experience with either G/W or R/W renown, but let’s see if the numbers agree with my intuition.

The table below lists the white, red, and green cards in the set that either have renown (highlighted) or that can help renown creatures deal combat damage to your opponent, along with their cost and quality.

All 3 colors have similar numbers of renown creatures: 2-3 commons, 2 uncommons, and 1-2 rares. If we exclude unplayable (x), filler (~), sideboard (S), and TBD (?) cards, we get the following numbers:

  • White: 8 commons + 6 uncommons + 2 rares + 1 mythic = average of 25.6 cards in an 8-person draft, 7.4 of which are renown creatures
  • Red: 4 commons + 3 uncommons + 3 rares = average of 13.5 cards, 1.3 of which are renown creatures
  • Green: 5 commons + 3 uncommons + 1 rare = average of 15.1 cads, 7.0 of which are renown creatures

Based on these numbers, it appears my intuition was incorrect. G/W is a better color combination than R/W for a renown deck (and R/G is not feasible at all) for multiple reasons:

  • Green has far more playable renown creatures than red. This is especially important because there are only about 16 good renown creatures in a typical 8-person draft. Many of these are playable in other archetypes, and you may also be competing with another renown drafter, so this is the scarcest resource for the deck.
  • Green has the only 2-drop with renown other than Topan Freeblade. (It is an uncommon, however, so there are an average of only 0.9 copies of it in an 8-person draft, and it is not likely to be passed by other green drafters.)
  • Green has fewer support cards than red, but that is not the limiting factor in a renown deck since each color has more support cards than it has renown creatures. Also, white has as many support cards as red and green combined, so you should rarely lack support cards.

Red’s main advantage is that its support cards allow your creatures to get through instead of just winning combat, but that’s irrelevant if you don’t have enough good renown creatures. And if you don’t, some of the red support cards are considerably less impressive, while green’s solid creatures and combat tricks are more likely to leave you with a playable deck.