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.

ORI: Follow-up on the enchantments deck

Shortly after concluding that an 8-person ORI/ORI/ORI draft cannot support an enchantments deck, I ended up drafting an Esper control deck with a minor enchantment subtheme.

Creatures (16):
– 2cc: 2 Screeching Skaab
– 3cc: 2 Scrapskin Drake, 2 Deadbridge Shaman, 2 Auramancer
– 4cc: 2 Separatist Voidmage, Tower Geist, Returned Centaur
– 5cc: Priest of the Blood Rite, Ringwarden Owl, Totem-Guide Hartebeest
– 6cc: Skaab Goliath

Non-creatures (6):
– 2cc: Swift Reckoning
– 3cc: Claustrophobia
– 4cc: Suppression Bonds, 2 Weight of the Underworld, Consecrated by Blood

Lands (18): 2 Evolving Wilds, 7 Islands, 6 Swamps, 3 Plains

Sideboard (18):
– Artifact: Alchemist’s Vial
– White: Healing Hands, 2 Yoked Ox
– Blue: Artificer’s Epiphany, Bone to Ash, Calculated Dismissal, Faerie Miscreant, Hydrolash, Nivix Barrier
– Black: Infinite Obliteration, Nightsnare, Rabid Bloodsucker
– Green: Dwynen Gilt-Leaf Daen, Llanowar Empath, Orchard Spirit, Might of the Masses, Sylvan Messenger

I first picked Priest of the Blood Rite over Whirler Rogue, followed by Swift Reckoning over Anchor to the AEther, and then Suppression Bonds over Separatist Voidmage. All of these were close calls that I expect others might disagree with. Unsurprisingly, the person to my left went blue after being passed 3 strong blue cards. When I saw a 4th pick Tower Geist, I decided I needed to be in blue, even though I realized that I’d probably already put the person to my left into blue. Unfortunately, he also went into black after opening Liliana, Heretical Healer in pack 2, so I didn’t get many good cards in either of my primary colors in that pack.

I ended up going 1-2 in matches with this deck (it was a casual draft where you can continue to play after you lose). Some of it was because I was in the same colors as the person to my left, some of it was due to the color issues associated with playing a 3-color deck, and some of it was because the deck couldn’t handle fast starts backed up by 1-2 removal spells, but some of it was also due to bad luck (multiple mulligans and multiple opponents with Gilt-Leaf Winnower). With better luck, this deck is probably capable of going 2-1.

Some lessons from the draft:

  • U/B/w is a good color combination for an enchantments deck. While W/B may seem like the natural color combination for this archetype, blue provides Claustrophobia and Separatist Voidmage, and most of the white cards in the deck (Totem-Guide Hartebeest, Suppression Bonds, Auramancer) work well even if they are in the splash color.
  • Totem-Guide Hartebeest is even better than I’d expected. Not only does it find you a removal spell, the 2/5 body is so relevant that I began to wonder if Catacomb Slug might be playable in this format. When I also had an Auramancer in hand, I would usually get Weight of the Underworld so I could kill multiple creatures.
  • Returned Centaur was also surprisingly good. It can block the numerous 2/2’s and 3/3’s in the format and can’t be killed by most of the removal in the format. And with 5 enchantments in the deck, there’s a 36% probabiility that this will put an enchantment in the graveyard for Auramancer to retrieve. (Obviously, the probability goes down if you draw a higher than average number of enchantments before playing it, and goes up if you draw a lower than average number.)
  • Screeching Skaab provides a much-needed 2-drop for the deck and has a 22% chance of putting an enchantment in the graveyard.
  • Consecrated by Blood was very weak in this deck and was sided out every match. I’d thought it might be a good finisher, but it doesn’t belong in a control deck.

MM2: Why W/B spirit control is bad: Lessons from day 2 of GP Las Vegas, draft 2

Yesterday, I discussed some of the problems with my first draft deck on day 2 of GP Vegas: the person to my left was also in W/B spirits after first picking a Long-Forgotten Gohei, and I drafted too many removal auras and then discovered they aren’t as good in Modern Masters 2015 Limited as they are in other formats. For reference, here is my decklist from that draft.

Creatures (13):
– 1cc: Vampire Lacerator
– 2cc: Dimir Guildmage, 2 Sickle Ripper, Raise the Alarm
– 3cc: 2 Thief of Hope, Restless Apparition, Waxmane Baku, 2 Blinding Souleater
– 4cc: –
– 5cc: Scuttling Death, Hikari Twilight Guardian

Non-creatures (9):
– 1cc: Dismember, Sunlance, Apostle’s Blessing
– 2cc: Otherworldly Journey
– 3cc: 2 Pillory of the Sleepless, 3 Arrest

Lands (18): 9 Swamps, 9 Plains

Sideboard (23):
– Artifact: Alloy Myr, Runed Servitor
– White: Conclave Phalanx, Fortify, Mighty Leap, Terashi’s Grasp
– Blue: 2 AEthersnipe, Air Servant, Faerie Mechanist, Narcolepsy, Somber Hoverguard. Steady Progress, Vigean Graftmage
– Black: Bone Splinters, 2 Death Denied, Duskhunter Bat, Instill Infection, Shrivel, 2 Waking Nightmare
– Multicolored: Agony Warp

This deck has a lot of removal but lacks synergy, so maybe it wasn’t surprising that I went 1-2 with it. But I figured I’d learned some useful lessons, and was hoping to redeem myself in the second draft. That draft started with Spread the Sickness, Nameless Inversion, Blinding Souleater over Arrest, and Thief of Hope over Waxmane Baku (since it can Soulshift the Nameless Inversion). I got passed another Waxmane Baku mid-pack, and realized spirits was wide open when the first one wheeled. This time, my W/B spirits deck had less removal, but had a ton of synergy. I had 6 (six!!) Waxmane Baku, almost thrice the 2.2 you’d expect to see in a 7-person pod. I also had 2 Thief of Hope, 2 Nameless Inversion, Dismember, and Sunlance. Here’s the decklist from that draft.

Creatures (17):
– 1cc: 2 Plagued Rusalka
– 2cc: Spellskite, Reassembling Skeleton, Sickle Ripper
– 3cc: 2 Thief of Hope, 6 Waxmane Baku
– 4cc: 2 Moonlit Strider
– 5cc+: Chimeric Mass, Scuttling Death

Non-creatures (6):
– 1cc: Dismember, Sunlance
– 2cc: 2 Nameless Inversion
– 3cc: Waking Nightmare
– 4cc: –
– 5cc: Spread the Sickness

Lands (17): 9 Swamps, 8 Plains

Sideboard (22):
– Artifact: 2 Blinding Souleater, Cathodion, 2 Runed Servitor
– Colorless: 2 Ulamog’s Crusher,
– White: Skyhunter Skirmisher, 2 Spectral Procession, Terashi’s Grasp
– Blue: Tezzeret’s Gambit, 2 Wings of Velis Vel
– Black: Instill Infection, 2 Sickle Ripper, Sign in Blood, 2 Vampire Lacerator
– Green: Thrive, Tukatongue Thallid

Sickle Ripper is a speedbump against aggro decks. Reassembling Skeleton does that to a lesser degree, but also combos with Plagued Rusalka. Waking Nightmare triggers spiritcraft abilities and is a proactive answer to bombs. Everything else is good enough to not even require explanation, yet I also ended up 1-2 with this deck. While the second loss was a concession to an opponent who’d been paired down, just before I would have won, the 1 official win was once again a bye. This was obviously quite disappointing, especially since I thought I had a pretty good deck. It was lacking Kami of Ancient Law and did have a lot of creatures at 3cc, but was otherwise a model W/B spirits deck.

My first opponent was playing W/U affinity and we split the first 2 games. In game 3, my 7-card hand had 3 Swamps and 4 white spells. It was a sketchy keep, but I figured I had a decent chance of drawing a Plains or a black card. Instead I only drew Swamps and white spells until my last turn, while my opponent played Glint Hawk Idol, Cathodion, another Glint Hawk Idol, and Rusted Relic on turns 2-5, a sequence of plays that my deck would not typically be able to withstand.

My second round was a bye (both my drafts were 7-person pods). My third round opponent was playing G/W/r ramp with 4 Ulamog’s Crushers, a strategy that Waxmane Baku is particularly strong against. I conceded the match just before I would have won, since my opponent had been paired down and had a better shot at prizes and Pro Points.

So, what did I do wrong? It’s possible that I should have built a more aggressive deck, with 2 Vampire Lacerators, 2 Runed Servitors, and the remaining 2 Sickle Rippers replacing Spellskite, Reassembling Skeleton, 2 Moonlit Strider, Scuttling Death, and a land. In that deck, Thief of Hope and Waxmane Baku would hopefully serve as the nail in the coffin after an aggressive start. But I am convinced that a controlling W/B spirits deck is not a good choice for a competitive event. It may be well positioned against W/R equipment and R/G domain/ramp, but it’s too slow against the format’s aggro decks (W/U affinity, B/R bloodthirst, and U/G graft/proliferate) because they pay 2 mana for 2/2’s, while spirits usually pays 3. W/B spirits also has trouble with flyers since it has only 3 flyers of its own, none of which are at common, and has no creatures with reach.

MM2: Why removal auras are bad: Lessons from day 2 of GP Las Vegas, draft 1

Unfortunately, I scrubbed out on day 2 of GP Las Vegas. I drafted W/B spirits both drafts and went 2-4, and both my wins were actually byes 😦 I could have won my last round but conceded because my opponent had been paired down and had a better shot at prizes.

The first draft started with Dismember over Nameless Inversion, Pillory of the Sleepless over Hikari Twilight Guardian, and Arrest over Waxmane Baku, then a Blinding Souleater, and then another Arrest. At the time, I thought this was shaping up to be a pretty good draft deck. By the end of the draft, I had a 3rd Arrest, a 2nd Pillory of the Sleepless, a 2nd Blinding Souleater, and a Sunlance, but only about 6 spirits, and I didn’t have cards that could replace the spirits. I thought the deck would do well because of the extensive removal suite, but there were 3 problems.

The first was that the person to my left was also in spirits. I knew someone else at the table was playing spirits when the Waxmane Baku and a mid-pack Devouring Greed didn’t wheel, but it was too late to switch colors that close to the end of pack 1, and I didn’t realize that it was the person immediately to my left. He’d opened a Long-Forgotten Gohei and taken that pack 1, pick 1! He didn’t take the Nameless Inversion second pick (and didn’t remember what he took over it), but the 4th pick Waxmane Baku and the Devouring Greed put him solidly in W/B spirits. He had some reasonable spirits and a couple of Ghostly Changelings to help trigger their abilities.

The second problem is that Arrest, Pillory of the Sleepless, and the other removal auras (Narcolepsy, and to a lesser extent, Oblivion Ring) are not actually that good in this format. Each color has a number of cheap, maindeckable ways to neutralize them or make alternate use of the creature: white has Apostle’s Blessing, Otherworldly Journey, Kami of Ancient Law, and Moonlit Strider, blue has a number of bounce spells plus AEthersnipe (although at least those require them to spend mana to recast the creature), black has Bone Splinters and Plagued Rusalka, and green has Vines of Vastwood. There’s also Terashi’s Grasp and Sundering Vitae in postboard games. Red is the only color that doesn’t have good answers to the removal auras.

Even more important, the removal auras aren’t actually good against most of the archetypes in this format. In my opinion, they’re only really good against B/R bloodthirst, R/G domain/ramp, and to a lesser extent, U/R elementals.

  • W/U affinity: Disabled artifact creatures still help with affinity/metalcraft. Also, equipment can turn a different creature into a bigger threat.
  • W/B spirits: Thief of Hope’s triggers continue to occur, and ki counters accumulate on Waxmane Baku until they find a Kami of Ancient Law or Moonlit Strider. It sometimes helps that the removal auras don’t put the creature into the graveyard, but the deck often has Plagued Rusalka and Bone Splinters.
  • W/R equipment: They just move their equipment to another creature.
  • W/G tokens: You don’t usually want to arrest a 1/1 token, so the removal auras are only good against their larger convoke creatures and Scion of the Wild. However, W/G has access to both the white and the green protection spells, so you might have a difficult time keeping the creature disabled.
  • U/B proliferate: Unsure, since I haven’t actually seen anyone play a U/B proliferate deck.
  • U/R elementals: Incandescent Soulstoke and AEthersnipe are problematic, but this is good against some of their other cards.
  • U/G graft: Disabled creatures can continue to graft their +1/+1 counters onto your other creatures.
  • B/R bloodthirst: Removal auras are good against this deck.
  • B/G sacrifice: This deck runs Bone Splinters, Plagued Rusalka, Drooling Groodion, and other cards that allow them to sacrifice the disabled creature profitably. It might be worth it if their plan is to use Eldrazi Spawn tokens to accelerate into Eldrazi.
  • R/G domain/ramp: Removal auras are good against this deck.

    • The third problem is that I played poorly. My first opponent appeared to be playing Jund, although I suspect there might have been some Plains and Islands in the deck because he had at least 2 Dragonsoul Knights and 2 Tribal Flames. I won game 1 and had control of game 2 until I misplayed. The first time he went to attack with his Dragonsoul Knight, I tapped it with my Blinding Souleater. On subsequent turns, he declined to attack with it, so I was tapping it on his end step. After a couple of turns of this, he announced an attack step and I just automatically tapped his Dragonsoul Knight without thinking about why he was declaring an attack when he hadn’t been doing so previously. It should have occurred to me that he might have drawn Vines of Vastwood, and in that case I would have been better off just blocking with the Souleater. The Vines of Vastwood took me from 10 to 4, and he drew 2 Tribal Flames to kill me over the next 2 turns. Another possible mistake in this game was that I had an Arrest in hand and maybe I should have played that on the Dragonsoul Knight so I could attack with the Blinding Souleater in addition to my 2/2, since the Souleater could probably neutralize the next creature they played.

      Then I misplayed twice more in game 3 to punt the match. My opponent had a fast start that got me to 4 life, but I was starting to wrest control back. On turn 7, I had 6 lands and Thief of Hope on the table, and Pillory of the Sleepless, Plains, and Swamp in my hand, but didn’t have an answer for his 3/3 Chimeric Mass. I normally advocate never holding back more than 1 land, but I decided to hold back and not play a land that turn, hoping he would think I had a trick. He played a 2/2 on his turn. On my turn I drew a Conclave Phalanx, played Pillory on the Knight and then tapped 4 lands and the Thief of Hope to play the Conclave Phalanx, going from 4 to 6 life. He cast Sundering Vitae on my end step and then played Goblin War Paint on his 2/2 and attacked. If I chumped with my Phalanx, I would not have had any good blocks the following turn, so I went to 2 life and he had a Tribal Flames to finish me off the next turn.

      My opponent had sided in 2 Sundering Vitaes against me, and cast both of them in both our postboard games, usually immediately after I cast a removal aura, so he did get a little lucky. But this was definitely a winnable matchup against a mediocre deck and an opponent who also misplayed a few times.

      Unfortunately, I then got paired against the other spirits deck. My removal auras were useless against him since he still got his spirit triggers and had Kami of Ancient Law and Bone Splinters (which is extra good with soulshift). I sided out all 5 of my removal auras for game 2, but lost to Long-Forgotten Gohei.

      I received a bye the next round and so ended the first draft at 1-2.

DTK/FRF: Dragons

Dragons of Tarkir has more Dragons than most sets. But does it have enough to merit drafting either Dragon Tempest or Dragonlord’s Servant? And do the tribal abilities on some of the Dragons in the set affect their value? Probably not, but let’s double check.

All the Dragons in Dragons of Tarkir and Fate Reforged are either monocolor or in an allied color pair.

  • Common: Fate Reforged has Lightning Shrieker, which is usually only played as a Lava Axe in very aggressive decks.
  • Uncommon: Dragons of Tarkir has a cycle of monocolored 3/3 Dragons for 5C (they can also be played face down and have a megamorph cost of 5CC), and a cycle of 4/4 allied color Dragons that costs 4CD. There’s the colorless Scion of Ugin, which rarely sees play but might be playable in a Dragons tribal deck. And Fate Reforged has a cycle of monocolored 4/4 Dragons for 4CC.
  • Rare: Dragons of Tarkir has a cycle of monocolored Dragons, and another cycle of allied color Dragons. Fate Reforged has a cycle of allied color legendary Dragons.
  • Mythic: Dragons of Tarkir has the allied color Elder Dragon cycle.

If we exclude the mostly unplayable Lightning Shrieker, all colors have access to the same number of Dragons as each other, and all allied color pairs have access to the same number of Dragons as each other. There are an average of 0.9 allied color Dragons in each allied color pair, 1.6 monocolored Dragons in each color, and 0.6 Scions of Ugin in an 8-person draft. Consequently, a monocolor deck has access to 2.2 Dragons, an enemy color deck has access to 3.8 Dragons, and an allied color deck has access to 4.7 Dragons. However, you’re unlikely to be passed a mythic or rare Dragon in the first pack of Dragons of Tarkir, and even the uncommon allied color Dragons won’t make it very far, so in practice you’re unlikely to see more than 2-3 Dragons in your colors if you draft an allied color deck.

That’s enough to make it worth playing Dragonlord’s Servant in a slower R/X deck (U/R control or R/G ramp), since it’s still a 1/3 for 2 mana and so can also help you survive until you can start casting Dragons. However, it’s difficult to justify playing Dragon Tempest if you only have 2-3 Dragons, so you probably shouldn’t bother drafting it, even on the wheel. And the Dragon tribal effects will rarely be relevant, so you don’t want to value those cards any higher than usual.

Are any of these cards more valuable in a 3+ color deck? A 3-color shard deck has access to an average of 7.2 Dragons, a 4-color deck has access to an average of 9.7 Dragons, and a 5-color deck has access to all 13 Dragons in a typical 8-person draft. Most decks wouldn’t want to run more than a few, but you’re drafting a 3+ color control deck that runs red, Dragonlord’s Servant should go up in your pick order. However, so much needs to go right for Dragon Tempest to be even somewhat decent that you’re still better off passing under most circumstances.

DTK/FRF: Warriors

Warriors was a viable archetype in KTK/KTK/KTK and FRF/KTK/KTK. Dragons of Tarkir has a few Warrior tribal cards, but are they good enough, and are they supported by enough good Warriors, that the archetype remains viable in DTK/DTK/FRF?

Let’s start by looking at the Warrior tribal cards in Dragons of Tarkir:

  • White: Herald of Dromoka (common), Arashin Foremost (rare)
  • Black: Blood-Chin Rager (uncommon), Blood-Chin Fanatic (rare)

Fate Reforged also has Mardu Woe-Reaper and Diplomacy of the Wastes, but neither provides strong incentive to play additional Warriors. This means that a DTK/DTK/FRF draft has 1.8 white and 0.9 black Warrior tribal cards that might cause you to draft a Warriors tribal deck, so such decks are likely to be rare in this format. When you do draft them, they are likely to still be W/B.

Next, let’s look at the expected number of Warriors by color in an 8-person draft, how many of them are playable, and which color pairs could potentially support the archetype (assuming your tribal cards are either only in white or only in black). Bold indicates the cards I think are playable on their own merits.

  • White has an average of 11.5 Warriors in an 8-person draft, 6.6 of which are playable on their own merits:
    • Common: Champion of Arashin, Dromoka Warrior, Herald of Dromoka, Lightwalker, Aven Skirmisher (filler without raid or Raiders’ Spoils), Sandsteppe Outcast
    • Uncommon: Aven Sunstriker, Dragon Hunter, Mardu Woe-Reaper (downgraded to filler because there are more 2-drops)
    • Rare: Arashin Foremost, Hidden Dragonslayer, Dragonscale General, Daghatar the Adamant
  • Blue has no Warriors in either Dragons of Tarkir or Fate Reforged.
  • Black has an average of 9.9 Warriors, 5.3 of which are playable on their own merits:
    • Common: Dutiful Attendant, Hand of Silumgar, Kolaghan Skirmisher, Alesha’s Vanguard, Sultai Emissary (less impressive in an aggressive deck)
    • Uncommon: Blood-Chin Rager, Battle Brawler, Mardu Shadowspear, Merciless Executioner
    • Rare: Blood-Chin Fanatic, Mardu Strike Leader
    • Mythic: Risen Executioner, Brutal Hordechief
  • Red has an average of 6.4 Warriors, 5 of which are playable on their own merits:
    • Common: Kolaghan Aspirant, Sabertooth Outrider, Defiant Ogre
    • Uncommon: Atarka Pummeler, Qal Sisma Behemoth
    • Rare: Zurgo Bellstriker, Alesha Who Smiles at Death, Flamerush Rider
  • Green has an average of 3.3 Warriors, 2.9 of which are playable on their own merits:
    • Common: Atarka Beastbreaker
    • Uncommon: Salt Road Ambushers, Abzan Kin-Guard
    • Rare: Den Protector, Surrak the Hunt Caller, Yasova Dragonclaw

White and black have the most number of Warriors but only about half of them are playable on their own merits. Surprisingly, red has about as many playable Warriors as black, so if all your Warrior tribal cards are in a single color and you are cut off from the other one, you could attempt to draft a R/W or B/R Warriors deck, which would also give you access to Volcanic Rush and/or War Flare. (You probably don’t want to try for a 3-color Warriors deck since DTK/DTK/FRF doesn’t have enough mana fixing to support that, and since aggressive decks don’t do well when they stumble on colors.)

It’s also worth noting that most of the playable Warriors are in Dragons of Tarkir and that even a W/B deck only has access to about 12 playable Warriors. If you want to ensure you have enough Warriors for a focused tribal deck, you might need to take playable Warriors somewhat higher in your first 2 packs, and use the last pack to round out your tricks and mana fixing.

DTK/FRF: The +1/+1 counters deck

In a recent draft, I took a Gleam of Authority first pick, followed by Scale Blessing, Epic Confrontation, Inspiring Call, Enduring Victory, and Enduring Scalelord. Unfortunately, I didn’t end up with many cheap sources of +1/+1 counters to maximize the value of my early picks. (Sandsteppe Outcast always made a flier, I never triggered the ferocious on Frontier Mastodon, and Shieldhide Dragon doesn’t give counters until you have 7 mana, so my main sources of counters were Gleam of Authority, Abzan Advantage, Scale Blessing, and Enduring Victory.) I still won both matches I played, but much of that was on the strength of a good curve and Gleam of Authority. Here’s the deck I played:

Creatures (14):
– 2cc: Lightwalker, Soul Summons, Dromoka Warrior, Atarka Beastbreaker
– 3cc: 2 Sandsteppe Outcast, 2 Shieldhide Dragon, Salt Road Quartermaster, Frontier Mastodon
– 4cc: Abzan Skycaptain, Champion of Arashin
– 5cc+: Enduring Scalelord, Wardscale Dragon

Non-creatures (9):
– 2cc: Gleam of Authority, Abzan Advantage, Center Soul, Epic Confrontation
– 3cc: Inspiring Call
– 4cc: Scale Blessing, Great Teacher’s Decree
– 5cc: 2 Enduring Victory

Land (17): Blossoming Sands, 9 Plains, 7 Forests

Here are the cards in the format that care about +1/+1 counters. I had 4 out of the 6 non-rare cards in this list.

  • White: Lightwalker, Scale Blessing (uncommon), Gleam of Authority (rare)
  • Green: Ainok Artillerist, Battlefront Krushok (uncommon), Inspiring Call (uncommon), Avatar of the Resolute (rare), Sunbringer’s Touch (rare)
  • Multicolor: Enduring Scalelord (uncommon)

Let’s take a look at the sources of +1/+1 counters in DTK/DTK/FRF, to see whether there are enough options available to justify taking Scale Blessing and Inspiring Call early next time. Bold indicates the cards I think fit particularly well in this archetype, usually because they’re playable on their own merits and/or provide counters before you get to 5 mana.

  • White:
    • Common: Aven Tactician, Enduring Victory, Misthoof Kirin, Sandcrafter Mage, Sandstorm Charger, Abzan Advantage, Abzan Skycaptain, Sandsteppe Outcast
    • Uncommon: Aven Sunstriker, Dromoka Captain, Echoes of the Kin Tree, Scale Blessing, Shieldhide Dragon, Elite Scaleguard, Honor’s Reward
    • Rare: Anafenza Kin-Tree Spirit, Gleam of Authority, Hidden Dragonslayer, Sunscorch Regent, Citadel Siege, Daghatar the Adamant, Dragonscale General
  • Blue:
    • Common: Dirgur Nemesis, Ojutai Interceptor, Aven Surveyor
    • Uncommon: Belltoll Dragon, Gudul Lurker, Monastery Loremaster, Silumgar Spell-Eater
    • Rare: Stratus Dancer
    • Mythic: Shorecrasher Elemental
  • Black:
    • Common: Marsh Hulk, Ancestral Vengeance, Hooded Assassin
    • Uncommon: Acid-Spewer Dragon, Marang River Skeleton, Fearsome Awakening, Grave Strength
    • Rare: Silumgar Assassin
  • Red:
    • Common: Atarka Efreet, Kolaghan Stormsinger, Defiant Ogre, Fierce Invocation
    • Uncommon: Stormcrag Elemental, Stormwing Dragon
    • Rare: Ire Shaman
    • Mythic: Shaman of the Great Hunt
  • Green:
    • Common: Aerie Bowmasters, Guardian Shield-Bearer, Pinion Feast, Sandsteppe Scavenger, Segmented Krotiq, Servant of the Scale, Ainok Guide, Formless Nurturing, Frontier Mastodon, Hunt the Weak, Map the Wastes
    • Uncommon: Ainok Survivalist, Dromoka’s Gift, Herdchaser Dragon, Salt Road Ambushers, Salt Road Quartermasters, Scaleguard Sentinels, Cached Defenses, Wildcall
    • Rare: Den Protector, Foe-Razer Regent, Sunbringer’s Touch, Sandsteppe Mastodon
    • Mythic: Deathmist Raptor, Warden of the First Tree
  • Multicolor:
    • Rare: Dromoka’s Command, Dromoka the Eternal

Here are the expected number of cards of each color from the list above in an 8-person draft, as well as the expected number of bolded cards.

E(bolded) E(all)
White 8.3 17.3
Blue 3.8 7.3
Black 3.5 6.5
Red 1.9 7.4
Green 7.7 21.7
G/W 0.5 0.5

G/W, which has all the +1/+1 counters matter cards, also has the most number of playable cards that provide +1/+1 counters. An 8-person draft will have an average of 16.5 such white, green, or G/W cards (and 39.5 if you’re willing to play filler or wait for your counters), which means you have a reasonable chance of assembling a deck with a critical mass of such cards if you stay on task. It’s much more difficult to get that in any other color pair; W/U has the second highest number of playables at 12.1, and also doesn’t have access to the 6 green or G/W cards that care about +1/+1 counters.

KTK: Warriors

W/B Warriors is a popular archetype in Khans of Tarkir draft, but I’ve had a difficult time making it come together on the couple of occasions I’ve tried. Often I’ll take an early Chief of the Scale and hope to pick up an additional Chief (Edge or Scale) and a Raiders’ Spoils, but instead will only see a couple of copies of Rush of Battle. I’ve also had the opposite happen, where I’ve passed an early Raiders’ Spoils when in black, only to get passed another copy later and then a Chief.

First, let’s refer back to the expected frequencies of cards in KTK. An 8-person draft will have an average of 2.4 copies of a given common and 0.9 copies of a given uncommon, so it’s not surprising that I often don’t see the tribal uncommons, especially since they’re all quite playable even outside the archetype. The Chiefs can be played in either Mardu or Abzan and are among the few good 2 drops in the format, and Raiders’ Spoils is decent even if you don’t have many Warriors, especially if you’re playing a token-heavy Mardu deck.

Next, let’s try to determine whether it worth trying to go into the archetype early. Khans of Tarkir has 29 Warriors and another 4 cards that produce Warrior tokens:

  • White: Mardu Hateblade, Mardu Hordechief, Sage-Eye Harrier, Seeker of the Way (uncommon), Take Up Arms (uncommon), Timely Hordemate (uncommon), Herald of Anafenza (rare)
  • Black: Disowned Ancestor, Krumar Bond-Kin, Mardu Skullhunter, Sultai Scavenger, Unyielding Krumar, Bellowing Saddlebrute (uncommon), Bloodsoaked Champion (rare)
  • Red: Mardu Blazebringer (uncommon), War-Name Aspirant (uncommon)
  • Green: Kin-Tree Warden, Woolly Loxodon, Heir of the Wilds (uncommon), Tuskguard Captain (uncommon)
  • Multicolor:
    • W/B: Chief of the Edge (uncommon), Chief of the Scale (uncommon)
    • B/G: Kin-Tree Invocation (uncommon)
    • Abzan: Abzan Guide
    • Mardu: Ponkback Brigade, Mardu Charm (uncommon), Mardu Roughrider (uncommon), Zurgo Helmsmasher (mythic)
    • Temur: Snowhorn Rider, Bear’s Companion (uncommon), Avalanche Tusker (rare), Savage Knuckleblade (rare), Surrak Dragonclaw (mythic)

I usually try to avoid playing marginal cards that are good only if I draw another card in my deck, so I will leave out Sage-Eye Harrier, Take Up Arms, Unyielding Krumar, Mardu Blazebringer, and Kin-Tree Warden from subsequent analysis. Also, Woolly Loxodon is too expensive to benefit from the Warrior tribal cards, and we’re unlikely to be able to use the Chiefs effectively in a Temur deck, so let’s ignore those cards as well.

Applying the expected frequencies, we find that there are an average of 30 Warriors in an 8-person draft: 11 in black, 7 in white, 2 in green, 1 in red, 4 in Mardu, 2 in Abzan, 2 in W/B, and 1 in B/G. This means that W/B has access to 20 playable Warriors, Abzan and Mardu deck have access to 25, and even B/G has access to 14.

However, many of these cards are likely to be of interest to other players in the draft also. If we assume that all players draft a wedge, then monocolored cards are shared by 5 drafters, wedge cards are shared by 1.5 drafters, and enemy-colored cards are shared by 3 drafters (since each enemy color pair appears in 2 wedges). That means we’re likely to end up with only 4 Warriors if we’re in W/B, 3 if we’re in B/G, 6.5 if we’re in Abzan, and 7.5 if we’re in Mardu. These numbers are important because they tell us that if we want to have enough Warriors to justify playing Raiders’ Spoils or Rush of Battle, we usually have to play either Abzan or Mardu, and also need to be willing to play some of the more marginal Warriors.

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.

M15: U/R artifacts

The playability of Aeronaut Tinkerer, Chief Engineer, Ensoul Artifact, Scrapyard Mongrel, and Shrapnel Blast all depend, at least in part, on the number and quality of artifacts in M15. The set has 29 artifacts, including Darksteel Citadel (which I’ve downgraded from good to conditional). Here’s a breakdown by rarity and quality (based on their own merits, not their interactions with other cards in M15).

Quality
Rarity Bomb Excep-
tional
Good Filler/
Conditional
Side-
board
Unplay-
able
TBD TOTAL
Common 2 1 1 4
Uncommon 4 2 1 7 1 15
Rare 2 1 3 1 7
Mythic 1 1 1 3
TOTAL 1 3 5 7 2 9 2 29

Let’s ignore the 9 unplayable and 2 sideboard cards. There are only 2 TBD cards, 1 each at uncommon and rare; they won’t have much impact on the results, so I will ignore them too. That leaves us:

  • Common: 2 filler/conditional cards
  • Uncommon: 4 good and 2 filler/conditional
  • Rare: 2 exceptional, 1 good, and 3 filler/conditional
  • Mythic: 1 bomb and 1 exceptional
    • In an 8-person draft, there will be an average of 0.2 bombs, 1 exceptional card, 4 good cards, and 7.8 filler/conditional cards, for a total of 13 cards. Any player can play an artifact card, so if they are shared evenly, we can only expect to end up with 1.6 on average. However, if we already have some cards that benefit from the presence of artifacts, we can draft artifacts a bit higher. In particular, the filler/conditional cards are likely to come around mid to late pick. Let’s assume that the bomb and exceptional cards are shared evenly among players, that we draft about twice the average share of good cards, and that we draft half the filler cards at the table (the other half might be lost to another player drafting a similar deck, or they might be a better pick in the pack). That would give us 5 artifacts, 4 of which would be filler. Consequently, we would expect to have 1 artifact in our opening hand and draw another one over the course of the game.

      Given that, here’s my evaluation of the cards listed above:

      • Aeronaut Tinkerer (/): It will usually have flying as long as your opponent does not destroy the artifact from your opening hand. Even if they do, you are left with a 2/3 that might regain flying later.
      • Chief Engineer (~): Since we only expect to see 2 artifacts over the course of the game, this will mostly function as a 1/3 blocker.
      • Ensoul Artifact (/): The dream is to play this on turn 2 on a 0/1cc artifact (ideally an Ornithopter) and attack for 5 on turn 2, or play it on a Darksteel Citadel and attack on turn 3 with a 5/5 indestructible creature. However, both those cards are uncommons so a draft will only have about 1 of each, on average. Even if you manage to draft them, there’s no guarantee you’ll start the game with them. Instead, they’re more likely to go on a random artifact and trade for 2 of your opponent’s creatures, resulting in no card advantage. Consequently, this is likely to be better as a late game play on a Darksteel Citadel, Ornithopter, or Gargoyle Sentinel. (Note that Ornithopter is not playable unless you have multiple cards that benefit from artifacts.)
      • Scrapyard Mongrel (/): A 4-mana 3/3 is filler, but this will often be a 5/3 trampler.
      • Shrapnel Blast (/): 5 damage is a lot, but if you have other blue/red cards that benefit from artifacts, then you won’t want to sacrifice your artifact unless you’re killing a particularly troublesome creature or your opponent.
        • Aeronaut Tinkerer and Scrapyard Mongrel are both commons, and ones that other blue and/or red players probably won’t value highly, so U/R artifacts is probably a reasonable archetype in M15 draft.