KTK/FRF: Act of Treason and sacrifice effects

I still don’t have a good handle on how good Act of Treason is in this format. I don’t mind running one copy as a finisher in aggressive R/X decks, but I often prefer Barrage of Boulders; in a recent draft deck, I played 3 copies of the latter and left both copies of Act of Treason in my sideboard (I had 8 creatures that could trigger ferocious). I have played Act of Treason in other decks, although it has been a little inconsistent for me, ranging from underwhelming to amazing, depending on the board state.

Act of Treason does get better if you can sacrifice the borrowed creature or if the format has a lot of creatures with relevant combat triggers. This format does have multiple ways to borrow creatures (there’s also Jeering Instigator, Mob Rule, and Yasova Dragonclaw at rare), so it’s worth examining how many effects are available in both categories.

Here’s a list of all the sacrifice effects in the format, along with their costs and rarities. One-time effects allow you to sacrifice a single creature for the specified cost, while recurring effects allow you to sacrifice a creature for the specified cost if you already have the permanent in play.

Recurring One-time
Artifact 4: Ugin’s Construct (uncommon)
Black 1B, {T}: Qarsi High Priest (uncommon)
2B: Kheru Bloodsucker (uncommon)
2B: Merciless Executioner (uncommon)
Red R: Collateral Damage
Green 1G: Kheru Dreadmaw
Multicolor 0: Butcher of the Horde (rare)

There are only 2 sacrifice effects at common, both of which are unplayable in most decks. The uncommons are much better, although the one-time effects require 6+ mana if you want to play them on the same turn as Act of Treason, and many aggressive decks may not want to run a Qarsi High Priest since it’s a 0/2. To this list, I will also add Rite of Undoing, since it allows you to bounce 2 of your opponent’s creatures if you use it on a stolen creature. That gives us a rare and 5 uncommons, an average of 2.4 cards in a 8-person draft. Even if you are willing to play Collateral Damage, this only goes up to 3.8 cards, and Collateral Damage and 4 of the 5 uncommons are in Fate Reforged, so you can’t wait until you have a couple of copies of Act of Treason before you draft them. Given this, you probably shouldn’t draft Act of Treason with the expectation that you’ll be able to draft sacrifice effects to go with it.

The other reason to run Act of Treason is because you can profit from stealing a creature with a combat trigger. I enumerated the list of such creatures in my last post. To that list, I will also add Dromoka the Eternal, Kolaghan the Storm’s Fury, Ojutai Soul of Winter, Silumgar the Drifting Death, and Yasova Dragonclaw. That’s a total of 20 creatures, but most of them are rares, and the expected number of such creatures in an 8-person draft is only about 7. So that is not a reason to draft Act of Treason either.

So you should draft Act of Treason on its own merits, and not in the hopes that you will either be able to steal a creature with a useful combat trigger, or that you will later be able to draft a way to sacrifice the creature.

KTK/FRF: Mnemonics for tricks

I’d posted a spreadsheet of the combined instant-speed removal/tricks in Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged a few weeks ago. However, I found it less useful than I’d expected. Even though it gets rid of the chaff and several categories of effects that are less relevant to limited, there are still 72 effects left (although some spells appear in the list more than once if they have multiple effects). Not only is that a lot to memorize, it’s nearly impossible to recall all the possibilities in the middle of a game, especially if you’re playing under time constraints.

However, while I was studying the list in preparation for GP San Jose, I noticed there were several patterns that, taken together, cover almost all the different effects. The cards will sometimes appear in more than one place in this list if they have more than 1 effect or the effect falls into more than 1 category; if the same mode of a modal spell appears more than once, each instance will be in italics. I will list rarities in parentheses after the number of spells in the category to get a sense of how common each of these effects is, with C meaning common, U meaning uncommon, R meaning rare, and M meaning mythic, so CCU means that there are 2 commons and 1 uncommon that provide this type of effect. These are listed in order of increasing rarity, and are not in the same order as the spell summaries that follows. All descriptions are very approximate. Let’s break down the tricks by categories:

  • 12 pump (7 commons, 5 uncommons): Assuming X is the converted mana cost of the spell,
    • 3 (CUU), all green, give +X/+X to 1 creature: +2/+2 & trample (1G), +3/+3 & trample (2G), +6/+6 (5G – delve)
    • 3 (CCU) give X/2 (rounded up) +1/+1 counters to 1 creature: 1 counter & protection (1W), 2 counters distributed across 1-2 creatures (WBG), 2 counters & untap (3G)
    • 2 (CU), all white, give X-1 +1/+1 counters to the creature with the lowest toughness: bolster 1 & opponent sacs an enchantment (1W), bolster 2 & gain 4 life (2W)
    • 3 (CCU), all with red in their casting cost, give all your creatures +M/+N, where M+N = X-1: +1/+1 & lifelink (URW), +2/+0 to attacking (2R), +2/+1 & untap (2RW)
    • 1 (C) gives +1/+0 & draw a card (W )
  • 9 flash creatures (mostly uncommons, with only one common):
    • 4 have a combined power (and usually also a combined toughness) 1 less than the converted mana cost (CUUM): 2 1/1 Warriors with first strike until EOT (RWB), manifest 2 (3UG), 4/4 (4R), 6/7 with prowess (5UU)
    • 5 remaining (UUURM): 0/4 wall that may bounce your creature (1W), exile your own creature and manifest the top card (1U), 3 1/1 Warriors (4W), 6/6 (2GUR), bounce creature and copy it (4UU)
  • 5 untap effects (CCCUR), most of which have G or RW in their casting cost: untap & draw a card (1U), untap & reach + deathtouch (1G), 2 +1/+1 counters & untap (3G), untap all & +2/+1 (2RW), untap & flying + double strike (3URW)
  • 3 fog (UUU): Fog, only opponents’ creatures if ferocious (1G), redirect all damage from you and your permanents to a creature (5W), -4/-0 to opponents’ creatures & draw a card (4U)
  • 2 falter (UR): creatures with power <= 3 can't block, untap & flying + double strike

A number of other effects require a particular color:

  • White:
    • 3 save a creature for 1W (CUU): +1/+1 counter & protection, indestructible, 0/4 wall that may bounce your creature
    • 2 kill attackers/blockers for 2W (CC): destroy attacker, 5 damage to attacker/blocker
    • 3 power/toughness-based removal (CUU): power >= 3 (WBG), power >= 4 (3W), toughness >= 4 (1W)
  • Blue:
    • 6 bounce/Repel (CCUUUR): bounce creature (1U), Repel attacker/blocker (2U), Repel creature (URW), bounce your nonland and opponent’s nonland (4U – delve), bounce 1-2 creatures (4UU), bounce creature and copy it (4UU)
    • 3 freeze (CCR): freeze & draw a card (2U), freeze 1-2 (4UU – delve), tap X, or freeze X if ferocious (XU)
  • Black: 7 removal (CCCUUUR): 2 damage & gain 2 life (2B), kill creature with 4 toughness (4 damage for RWB, -4/-4 for 4B), kill creature (kill permanent for 2WB, 4B – delve, colored for 4B, monocolored for BGU)
  • Red: 7 removal (CCCUUUU): 2 damage (R, also tap another creature for 1UR, also draw a card for 3UR), 3 damage (R + sacrifice creature), 3-5 damage (3R), 4 damage (RWB), 6 damage (4R)
  • Green:
    • 2 fight (CU): toughness-based fight (1BG), +1/+1 & fight (GUR)
    • 3 flyer removal (CUU): untap & reach + deathtouch (1G), kill flyer (3G), X damage to all flyers (XG)

That leaves only 10 tricks that aren’t covered above (or with an effect that isn’t the focus of one of the categories above):

  • 2 white (CU): tap creature & draw a card (1W), damage to creature equal to damage that would be dealt to you and your permanents (5W)
  • 1 blue (U): exile creature & manifest card (1U)
  • 3 red (CUU): double strike, and trample if ferocious (1R), +2/+0 and first strike, at instant speed if ferocious (2R), add R to your mana pool for each attacker you control & attackers get Firebreathing (2R)
  • 4 multicolor (CURR): damage equal to # of creatures you control & gain that much life (1WB), destroy blocker & trample (RW), redirect damage from source to its controller (RW), 2 damage to each opponent and they sacrifice a creature with the highest power among creatures they control (RWB)

KTK/FRF: GP San Jose recap

Last week, I posted our pool from GP San Jose, the decks we built, and how I would build them today. We had a ridiculous pool, with Duneblast, Elite Scaleguard, Sage-Eye Avengers, 2 Sagu Maulers, Silumgar the Drifting Death, and several other powerful cards, but dropped at 5-2-1 and finished in 94th place. I’m unsure whether we misbuilt because my teammates wanted to follow a fairly ad hoc method for building our decks, or due to tournament time pressure. (While I’d built a few team sealed pools with local players under timed conditions and with deck registration, neither of my teammates had.)

Teaming with friends that live near a GP makes certain things easier: there’s less worry that they will cancel because they can’t find cheap flights, and you may also not have to pay for a hotel room. However, it makes it far more difficult to practice together and agree upon an approach to building a pool. In addition, not having to pay airfare could result in them treating the event as just another local tournament, so they may approach the event less seriously than you do. I would still rather play with friends and do poorly than play with good players and do well, and made the conscious decision to team with Chris again, even though he was having a wisdom tooth surgery a week before the tournament. But I was still disappointed with the outcome since I believe we could have been among the 7.2% of teams that made day 2 with the pool we opened.

Here are our results for each round, what each opponent was playing, and what the game results were. (I was playing U/G/r/b ramp in seat A, Alan was playing B/G/w control in seat B, and Chris was playing R/W aggro in seat C.)

  1. Elliott Ballard Ballard (211th place after the swiss): 2-0 vs Jeskai, 1-0 vs Mardu, 2-1 vs Sultai
  2. Modarressi Diamond Twerdahl (377th place): 2-0 vs Mardu, 2-0 vs Abzan, 2-1 vs Temur
  3. Martin Martin Martin (363rd place): 2-0 vs Temur, 2-0 vs Sultai, 2-0 vs Mardu
  4. Cipriano Nabi Pannell (29th place): 2-1 vs Abzan, 2-1 vs Mardu, 0-2 vs Temur
  5. Sperling Williams Rietzl (2nd place): 2-0 vs Temur, 0-2 vs Sultai, 0-2 vs Mardu
  6. Dentith Hardin Mulligan (172nd place): 2-1 vs U/B, 2-1 vs R/W, 0-2 vs Abzan
  7. Ma Cerone Post (96th place): 1-1-1 vs Jeskai (game 1 took 28 minutes and ended with me running out of cards in my library), 1-2 vs Abzan, 2-1 vs Sultai
  8. Rubin Boccio Bragg III (5th place): 1-2 vs Jeskai, 1-2 vs Sultai, 2-1 vs Mardu

Some observations gleaned from this very small sample size:

  • All but one of the teams we faced had each player playing a 3-color deck, although the third color was frequently a splash.
  • The decks we faced most often were Mardu (6 times) and Sultai (5 times). We faced Jeskai the least (3 times), all in seat A, and both my losses were to that deck.
  • None of the teams we played had a color that was either unplayed or played by all 3 players. (I wasn’t keeping track of which colors were main colors and which ones were splashes, so it is possible that some teams may have had 1 or even more colors that were not main colors in any deck.)
  • Black was the most popular color among our opponents, occurring in 16 decks. White and red appeared in 14 decks, and blue and green appeared in 13. (Again, this does not distinguish main colors from splash colors, and black may have been more in more decks because multiple decks were splashing black removal while fewer decks were running it as a main color.)
  • There was no pattern to which deck the middle players were playing. Alan (our player B) faced 2 Abzan, 2 Mardu, 3 Sultai, and 1 R/W deck. (We’d talked about putting the deck that could beat aggro in the middle based on some of my observations, but ended up with Abzan control in our middle seat because that’s what Alan decided to play.)

KTK/FRF: GP San Jose team sealed pool

Team Merchant-Comer-Luhrs had a decent run at GP San Jose. We won our first 4 matches before losing to Sperling-Williams-Reitzl (the eventual runners up). Our other loss was in round 8 to Rubin-Boccio-Bragg (#5 after the swiss), and that plus our draw in the previous round knocked us out of contention for day 2. 5-2-1 drop was disappointing after the preparation we’d put in, although we still placed 94th out of 656 teams.

I’ll talk more about the tournament itself in a subsequent post, but first I’m curious how others would have built our sealed pool. (The pool is also posted on TappedOut if you find that easier to work with.) I’ll post our build in the comments later in the week.

Bloodfell Caves
Dismal Backwater
Frontier Bivouac
2 Jungle Hollow
Nomad Outpost
Rugged Highlands
Scoured Barrens
3 Swiftwater Cliffs
2 Thornwood Falls
Wooded Foothills

Abzan Banner
Lens of Clarity
Mardu Banner
Temur Banner

Abzan Falconer
2 Ainok Bond-Kin
Alabaster Kirin
Firehoof Cavalry
2 Kill Shot
Mardu Hateblade
Sage-Eye Harrier
Smite the Monstrous
War Behemoth
Watcher of the Roost
3 Abzan Advantage
Abzan Runemark
Abzan Skycaptain
Arashin Cleric
Aven Skirmisher
2 Dragon Bell Monk
Elite Scaleguard
2 Great-Horn Krushok
Jeskai Barricade
Mardu Woe-Reaper

Crippling Chill
2 Embodiment of Spring
2 Glacial Stalker
Jeskai Elder
Jeskai Windscout
Mistfire Weaver
Mystic of the Hidden Way
Scion of Glaciers
Weave Fate
Whirlwind Adept
2 Aven Surveyor
Enhanced Awareness
2 Lotus Path Djinn
Monastery Siege
Neutralizing Blast
2 Rakshasa’s Disdain
Reality Shift
Rite of Undoing
Sage-Eye Avengers
Will of the Naga
Write into Being

2 Debilitating Injury
2 Mardu Skullhunter
Mer-Ek Nightblade
2 Molting Snakeskin
Raiders’ Spoils
2 Rite of the Serpent
Ruthless Ripper
Shambling Attendants
Sidisi’s Pet
Alesha’s Vanguard
Dark Deal
2 Diplomacy of the Wastes
Douse in Gloom
Gurmag Angler
2 Hooded Assassin
Mardu Strike Leader
Reach of Shadows
Sibsig Muckdraggers
Sultai Emissary
Sultai Runemark
3 Typhoid Rats

Ainok Tracker
Barrage of Boulders
Bloodfire Mentor
Bring Low
Crater’s Claws
Leaping Master
Summit Prowler
3 Swift Kick
Trumpet Blast
2 Bathe in Dragonfire
Collateral Damage
Defiant Ogre
Goblin Heelcutter
Gore Swine
Humble Defector
2 Lightning Shrieker
Mardu Runemark
2 Smoldering Efreet

Archers’ Parapet
Awaken the Bear
Hooting Mandrills
Meandering Towershell
Pine Walker
Sagu Archer
2 Scout the Borders
Smoke Teller
Abzan Kin-Guard
2 Ainok Guide
Ambush Krotiq
2 Archers of Qarsi
Destructor Dragon
Feral Krushok
Formless Nurturing
Frontier Mastodon
Frontier Siege
2 Map the Wastes
Return to the Earth
Shamanic Revelation
Sudden Reclamation
Temur Sabertooth
Whisperer of the Wilds

Abzan Guide
Armament Corps
Bear’s Companion
Death Frenzy
Efreet Weaponmaster
Kin-Tree Invocation
Master the Way
Ponyback Brigade
2 Sagu Mauler
Trap Essence
Cunning Strike
3 Ethereal Ambush
Silumgar, the Drifting Death

KTK/FRF: Team sealed pool #4

My fourth team sealed pool is below, this time with 6 packs of Fate Reforged, the format that will be used at GP San Jose. (It’s also posted on TappedOut if you find that easier to work with.) How would you have built this pool? Post your builds in the comments and I’ll post my build there tomorrow.

(Note that within each color, the Khans of Tarkir cards are listed first followed by the Fate Reforged cards, so the full list isn’t alphabetically sorted.)

2 Bloodfell Caves
Dismal Backwater
Flooded Strand
Opulent Palace
Polluted Delta
2 Swiftwater Cliffs
Thornwood Falls
3 Tranquil Cove
2 Wind-Scarred Crag

Altar of the Brood
2 Cranial Archive
Jeskai Banner
Sultai Banner
2 Temur Banner
2 Pilgrim of the Fires

Ainok Bond-Kin
Alabaster Kirin
2 Erase
Firehoof Cavalry
2 Kill Shot
Mardu Hordechief
Rush of Battle
Sage-Eye Harrier
War Behemoth
Abzan Advantage
Abzan Skycaptain
Arashin Cleric
2 Aven Skirmisher
Dragon Bell Monk
Great-Horn Krushok
Jeskai Barricade
Lotus-Eye Mystics
Pressure Point
Sandsteppe Outcast
Soul Summons
Wandering Champion

2 Force Away
Jeskai Elder
Mistfire Weaver
Riverwheel Aerialists
2 Scaldkin
Set Adrift
2 Taigam’s Scheming
Weave Fate
Wetland Sambar
Whirlwind Adept
Aven Surveyor
2 Cloudform
2 Enhanced Awareness
Jeskai Runemark
Jeskai Sage
3 Lotus Path Djinn
Rakshasa’s Disdain
2 Rite of Undoing
Sage-Eye Avengers
Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest
Supplant Form
Will of the Naga
Write into Being

Bitter Revelation
Disowned Ancestor
2 Krumar Bond-Kin
Raiders’ Spoils
2 Rite of the Serpent
Sidisi’s Pet
Unyielding Krumar
Alesha’s Vanguard
Douse in Gloom
Grave Strength
2 Gurmag Angler
Hooded Assassin
Palace Siege
Reach of Shadows
2 Sultai Emissary
Sultai Runemark
2 Typhoid Rats

Act of Treason
2 Arrow Storm
Barrage of Boulders
Bring Low
Hordeling Outburst
Mardu Heart-Piercer
Swift Kick
Tormenting Voice
Trumpet Blast
Alesha, Who Smiles at Death
2 Collateral Damage
Defiant Ogre
2 Goblin Heelcutter
Gore Swine
Humble Defector
Lightning Shrieker
Mardu Runemark
Mardu Scout
Smoldering Efreet
Temur Battle Rage

3 Dragonscale Boon
Heir of the Wilds
Hooting Mandrills
2 Sagu Archer
Scout the Borders
Smoke Teller
Temur Charger
Trail of Mystery
Tusked Colossodon
Ainok Guide
2 Ambush Krotiq
Archers of Qarsi
2 Destructor Dragon
Formless Nurturing
Frontier Mastodon
Hunt the Weak
2 Map the Wastes
Return to the Earth
Temur Sabertooth
Whisperer of the Wilds

Armament Corps
2 Death Frenzy
2 Duneblast
Efreet Weaponmaster
Jeskai Ascendancy
Jeskai Charm
Mardu Roughrider
Ponyback Brigade
Cunning Strike
2 Ethereal Ambush
Grim Contest
Harsh Sustenance

KTK: Updated evaluations

I’d posted my initial evaluation of the cards in Khans of Tarkir when the set first came out. As I played with the set, my opinion of several cards changed. This spreadsheet lists both my original and my current valuations. Valuations that have changed are highlighted, with darker highlighting indicating a bigger shift in my valuation of that card. The valuation levels are unchanged: B for bomb, + for exceptional, / for good, ~ for conditional/filler, S for sideboard, x for unplayable, and ? for TBD.

Too many of my evaluations have changed for me to explain each one individually, but here are the general themes:

  • Much of the removal has fallen in my estimation, the main exceptions being Savage Punch, Burn Away, and Master the Way. Conversely, I value Feat of Resistance much higher.
  • My opinion of most non-morph creatures that cost 5+ mana has dropped.
  • My opinion of Trail of Mystery and Secret Plans has gone up because the morphs deck turned out to be quite good.
  • Delve enablers and most delve cards have fallen in my opinion, with the main exceptions being Treasure Cruise and Dead Drop.
  • My opinion of Seek the Horizon and the Banners has fallen from filler to unplayable. There’s enough manafixing in the set that these are unnecessary if you pick the tri-lands and gain lands sufficiently highly.
  • Certain rares/mythics that were difficult to evaluate in a vacuum have fallen a lot in my opinion: Jeskai Ascendancy, Kheru Lich Lord, and Mindswipe. However, a handful has gone in the other direction: Sagu Mauler (it’s even better than I realized), Sidisi Brood Tyrant (it bears some resemblance to Grave Titan and is an excellent delve enabler), and Sorin Solemn Visitor (partly because the lifelink continues on your opponent’s turn).

KTK/FRF: Memorizing the instant-speed tricks

Memorizing all the instant-speed tricks in a set is not easy, especially for a multicolor set. Adding a second set to the mix makes it more complex, especially when you’re trying to figure out what to play around during a tournament. Let’s see if we can make the list a little more manageable.

We know from prior analysis that cards at any given rarity from Khans of Tarkir and Fate Reforged appear in roughly similar numbers in both sealed and draft because the new set has fewer cards, so let’s combine the list of tricks from both sets. Next, let’s ignore cards/modes that don’t usually affect creatures (other than by triggering prowess):

  • card draw: Dig Through Time, Enhanced Awareness, Weave Fate, Abzan Charm (2nd mode), Sultai Charm (3rd mode), part of the effect of Force Away
  • counterspells: Cancel, Disdainful Stroke, Mindswipe, Neutralizing Blast, Rakshasa’s Disdain, Stubborn Denial, Trap Essence, Temur Charm (2nd mode)
  • discard: Mardu Charm (3rd mode)
  • enchantment/artifact removal (even though it can be relevant to combat in this format): Erase, Naturalize, Shatter, Sultai Charm (2nd mode), Return to the Earth (1st/2nd modes), part of the effect of Abzan Advantage
  • lifegain: Feed the Clan, part of the effect of Honor’s Reward
  • damage to opponents: Jeskai Charm (2nd mode), part of the effect of Cunning Strike and Crackling Doom
  • regrowth effects: Sudden Reclamation

And finally, let’s get rid of the cards that are so weak that you will rarely play them: Empty the Pits (primarily due to BBBB in the casting cost), Friendly Fire, Rally the Ancestors, Swift Kick, Take Up Arms, and Will of the Naga. Unfortunately, that still leaves 60 cards to remember.

This spreadsheet contains those 60 cards divided into 2 tables: combat tricks and removal spells. Removal spells that can only be used during combat are listed in the first table, while removal spells that have a separate effect that affects combat are listed in both tables (e.g., Supplant Form bounces a creature and also leaves a creature behind). Both tables are organized by color and converted mana cost, with multicolor cards listed in a separate column next to the first color listed in their mana cost (e.g., a spell costing URW will be listed in the column next to blue). Delve cards are now listed at the cheapest mana cost they could be cast for (this is different from the original tables). Uncommons, rares, and mythics are written in successively lighter fonts so the focus is on the tricks that we’re most likely to run into. Yellow highlight is used for spells that can leave a creature in play, and orange highlight is used for spells that affect more than one of your creatures.

This is still a lot of data, but hopefully these tables make it easier to remember key tricks you need to play around. Some quick observations from looking at these tables:

  • Most instant-speed removal spells in the format do 2 damage. The main exceptions are Collateral Damage (3 dmg), Bring Low (3-5 dmg), Throttle (-4/-4), Mardu Charm (4 dmg), Burn Away (6 dmg), and Harsh Sustenance (#C dmg).
  • Much of white’s instant-speed removal cares about a creature’s power or toughness: Abzan Charm, Smite the Monstrous, and Valorous Stance (there’s also Suspension Field, which is an enchantment). These are worth keeping in mind when playing pump spells against an opponent who has white mana open.
  • There are a number of combat tricks in the environment that affect multiple creatures, including 2 at common (Trumpet Blast and War Flare).
  • Half the pump spells in the format boost power by 2: Trumpet Blast, War Flare, Ruthless Instincts, Dragon Grip, Dragonscale Boon, Honor’s Reward, and sometimes Abzan Charm (there’s also Rush of Battle, which is a sorcery). 5 others boost power by 1: Defiant Strike (+1/+0), Feat of Resistance (+1/+1), Abzan Advantage (+1/+1), Jeskai Charm (+1/+1), and sometimes Abzan Charm. The only ones that affect the creature’s power by a different number are Awaken the Bear (+3/+3) and Become Immense (+6/+6).
  • There are 4 spells that give the creature trample: Awaken the Bear, Temur Battle Rage, Ride Down (uncommon), and Ruthless Instincts (uncommon).
  • There are only 2 instant-speed bolster spells, and the common one only gives 1 +1/+1 counter, so you don’t have to go too far out of your way to avoid blocking the creature with the lowest toughness.
  • Black doesn’t have any relevant combat tricks, and doesn’t even contribute to any other than Abzan and Mardu Charm.

KTK/FRF: Expected numbers of copies of a card

EDIT: I didn’t realize when I posted this that the gain lands were going to take the basic land slot. I’ve updated the post to reflect the new numbers.

Fate Reforged has 165 cards (not counting the gain lands, which take the basic land slot): 60 commons, 60 uncommons, 35 rares, and 10 mythics.

Let’s consider the expected number of copies of any given common, uncommon, rare, or mythic from both sets in the block for a few different formats.

8-person draft (8 pack of Fate Reforged and 16 packs of Khans of Tarkir at the table)

Fate Reforged Khans of Tarkir
Commons 1.33 1.58
Uncommons 0.40 0.60
Rares 0.20 0.26
Mythics 0.10 0.13

Individual sealed (3 packs of Fate Reforged and 3 packs of Khans of Tarkir per person)

Fate Reforged Khans of Tarkir
Commons 0.50 0.30
Uncommons 0.15 0.11
Rares 0.08 0.05
Mythics 0.04 0.03

Team sealed (6 packs of Fate Reforged and 6 packs of Khans of Tarkir per team)

Fate Reforged Khans of Tarkir
Commons 1.00 0.59
Uncommons 0.30 0.23
Rares 0.15 0.10
Mythics 0.08 0.05

Some observations:

  • An 8-person draft will only have 0.6 copies of any given Khans of Tarkir uncommon, so you shouldn’t draft towards an archetype that relies heavily on one until after you’ve actually drafted a copy. In fact, there are only 1.6 copies of any given Khans of Tarkir common, so you probably shouldn’t expect to see any specific one of those either, unless it tends to not be valued by other players.
  • Drafts will have 1.2 – 1.5 times as many copies of a specific Khans of Tarkir card as of a specific Fate Reforged card at the same rarity, not 2 times as many copies as one might expect from the pack distribution.
  • The expected numbers are roughly reversed for sealed, with 1.3 – 1.7 times as many copies of a specific Fate Reforged card as of a specific Khans of Tarkir card at the same rarity, despite an even pack distribution, so the small set should have a big impact on these formats.
  • Sealed now has half as many copies of Khans of Tarkir cards. This means that the team sealed deck patterns previously observed are likely to change since there will be fewer copies of Savage Punch, Secret Plans, and the Warrior tribal cards, which enable the R/G, Sultai morphs, and B/W/x Warriors decks respectively. (The Sultai morphs deck does get Mastery of the Unseen, Temur War Shaman, and Whisperwood Elemental, but those are all rare or mythic. And while Fate Reforged has 2 Warrior tribal cards, neither of them has a particularly strong interaction with Warriors.)
  • An 8-person KTK/KTK/KTK draft had an average of 24 gain lands, or 1 per pack opened. Since Fate Reforged also has 1 gain land per pack, the average number of gain lands in a draft won’t change. We will lose 1.5 tri-lands and 0.7 fetch lands per draft, but that is not likely to have a huge impact on the format.

KTK: Team sealed deck patterns

I have built 3 team sealed pools so far, and have seen some definite patterns. Each pool I’ve looked at so far contains the following 3 decks:

  • A R/G, R/G/u, or U/R deck. R/G maximizes Savage Punch, one of the best removal spells in the format. (While ferocious is a Temur ability, blue doesn’t seem to have much to contribute to the deck.) However, a team sealed pool will only have an average of 1.2 copies of the card, and you will sometimes have a pool with no copies of the card. If that happens, a U/R (or Jeskai) deck may be necessary.
  • A W/B deck that sometimes splashes red or green. takes advantage of the Warrior tribal cards (Chief of the Edge/Scale, Raiders’ Spoils, and Rush of Battle). If it has good 2-drops, it can be an aggressive 2-color deck, while more controlling builds can splash red or green.
  • A Sultai morphs deck that sometimes splashes white. This deck maximizes Secret Plans, Trail of Mystery, Ghostfire Blade, and/or Pine Walker for card advantage and tempo. Blue and green also have the most morphs in Khans of Tarkir, so those are usually the base colors (especially since you want to be able to play Secret Plans on turn 2), and black is usually splashed for the Sultai cards and black morphs. The deck sometimes also splashes white for bombs like Duneblast that don’t fit in one of the other decks. This format only has a small number of powerful enchantments and artifacts, and there is no incidental removal for those cards, so people tend to leave them in their sideboard, which helps this deck.

I looked at the decks from the team sealed portions of GP Nashville and the World Magic Cup to see whether those line up with my experience. While the sole undefeated deck from day 1 of GP Nashville has the same 3 archetypes, I don’t see this pattern among most teams. Instead, there are plenty of R/W and Jeskai decks. I will scour the coverage for those events and share any patterns I find in my next post.

KTK: Deckbuilding process for team sealed

As mentioned previously, I’ve been experimenting with the deckbuilding process for team sealed. Here’s the process we currently use, along with some other things we tried along the way.

With some previous pools, I’d asked each teammate to sort 2 of the colors into must play, solid, filler, and chaff. Unfortunately, my teammates had widely varying standards of what belonged in each category even when we all agreed on roughly how good an individual card was. Instead, I found that it was more effective to do the categorization as a team. My preferred method is to have one person (whoever has the most experience with the format) do the categorization and have the other teammates chime in if they disagree strongly. (It’s not worth voicing minor disagreements since there isn’t enough time and since the main goal of doing this as a team is to have consistent categorizations across the colors.)

After that, we look at the must play cards, the solid multicolor cards, and the lands to determine which decks we want to play, keeping in mind that allied-color lands can only be used by one of the wedges, and that most pools appear to have a R/G deck, a B/W deck, and a Sultai morphs deck. Once we figure out which decks we want to build, each player takes the cards that would usually be used by their deck. In the typical configuration, the R/G player takes all the red cards, Alpine Grizzlies, and Savage Punches. The B/W player takes all the white cards, the aggressive black cards, and any warrior tribal cards, and usually also takes any Mardu or Abzan bombs. The Sultai morphs deck takes all the blue cards, most morphs in its colors, and all copies of Secret Plans, Trail of Mystery, and Ghostfire Blade, and sometimes also takes Abzan bombs if the pool has the manafixing to enable that.

Once we know which decks we’re building, each person picks the deck they’re most comfortable playing*, and builds that deck independently, negotiating with teammates for cards in shared colors. Usually it is obvious which deck should get a card, but there is sometimes some debate over which deck should get Debilitating Injury or Throttle. Once the decks are built, we divvy up the sideboard cards. Again, it is usually obvious which deck should get a given card, but we do try to split up countermagic and Dutiful Returns so that each deck has some outs to board sweepers, and we also try to share enchantment removal so that decks can side it in against Secret Plans, Trail of Mystery, and the various Ascendancies.

If there’s enough time left, we do quick sanity checks of each others decks, in case someone missed a card that they should be playing or that should be in their sideboard. We also check that the land ratios seem correct.

Once the decks are finalized, we register our decks, since deck registration is actually a relevant skill in team sealed; it also allows me to reconstruct our pool/decks later for analysis/discussion. We use the individual sealed deck checklists since I haven’t been able to find the team sealed deck checklists online (please let me know if you have a link to them). Then each person takes a photo of both their deck and their deck registration sheet, in case they forget their original deck configuration after sideboarding during a match.

* Seats A and C are interchangeable, but I tried to figure out which deck is most likely to get played in seat B so we could plan our decks accordingly. My expectation is that teams will put their strongest player in that seat so they can provide advice to both their teammates easily. This seemed to hold true at the World Magic Cup where team captains were usually in seat B. However, what deck is the strongest player most likely to play? Strong player often prefer control decks, but that would leave player B with less time to provide advice to his/her teammates. So would they play an aggressive deck instead, or would they perhaps take whichever deck was considered the weakest since they might have the best chance of pulling out a win with it? I don’t know, but I’d love to hear if anyone else has an opinion on this or has actually looked at the numbers.