SOI: Madness and discard outlets

An analysis of cards with madness and the discard outlets that enable them in Shadows over Innistrad is available at

OGW: Allies examines how Allies archetypes have changed with the addition of Oath of the Gatewatch, and looks at whether Malakir Soothsayer might be less playable than it seems.

BFZ: Converted mana costs of colorless cards

A U/B exile/process deck I recently drafted had more 5-drops than I would have liked, so I’d like to determine whether there’s a glut of good 5-drops for that deck. Almost all my cards in that deck were colorless, so we’ll just look at colorless cards for the purpose of this analysis. Since there are also 2 other archetypes that rely on colorless cards (U/R devoid and B/R aggro), we will also examine those.

The 3 tables below list the most important cards for each of these 3 archetype by converted mana cost and rarity, with bold indicating that a card is particularly strong in the archetype. I’m more concerned about the first few turns of the game, so the lists do not include splash cards and finishers. I’m hoping this analysis will help me decide which converted mana costs I need to focus on for each of these 3 archetypes in order to end up with a good creature curve.

Some observations:

  • U/B exile/process does not have an unusually high number of colorless 5-drops, it was my deck that was unusual (it had 2 Oracle of Dust and an Ulamog’s Reclaimer, plus a Windrider Patrol).
  • In addition to Mist Intruder and Culling Drone, U/B exile/process decks also have access to 2 uncommon 2-mana non-creature spells that can exile cards (Horribly Awry and Transgress the Mind). Similarly, it has access to Complete Disregard, Grave Birthing, and Spell Shrivel (all commons) at 3 mana. Unlike ingest creatures, these only exile a single card, but they can nevertheless get your first processor online.
  • All 3 archetypes have 4+ playable 3-drops at common, so you should prioritize 2-drops when drafting. This is especially true for U/R, which has another 4 playable 3-drops at uncommon, especially since a number of its common and uncommon 3-drops are particularly strong.
  • All 3 archetypes also have a number of strong mythics and rares that cost 6+ mana that you will rarely pass. However, U/B has a number of strong uncommons at that mana cost, so you probably shouldn’t prioritize those cards unless you really need a win condition.
  • Sludge Crawler is the only playable colorless 1-drop (Salvage Drone is unplayable, and Endless One will rarely be played as a 1/1). It fits in both the B/X archetypes that want colorless creatures, but I don’t have enough experience with it yet to determine how playable it is.

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.

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.

THS: Follow-up on Minotaurs

I managed to pull off a Minotaurs deck in a recent draft. I was already in red and was passed a Kragma Warcaller pack 1, pick 4 (the other good card in that pack was Wingsteed Rider). I committed myself to a Minotaurs deck shortly thereafter and was rewarded with another Kragma Warcaller in pack 3. My deck also had 6 other Minotaurs: 3 Fellhide Minotaur, 2 Minotaur Skullcleaver, and 1 Borderland Minotaur.

The supporting cast included some aggressive early drops (Tormented Hero, Firedrinker Satyr, Akroan Crusader, Arena Athlete, Blood-Toll Harpy), some removal (2 Lightning Strike, 2 Ordeal of Purphoros, 2 Lash of the Whip), and some finishers (Portent of Betrayal, Ember Swallower, Cavern Lampad). The pair of Kragma Warcallers were the lynchpins of the deck and even led to a U/G opponent scooping immediately when the second one hit the table (he had no way to deal with them permanently).

The main thing the deck lacked was 2-drops. In particular, I would have loved to pick up a couple of Deathbellow Raiders, but I never saw one. Also, Fanatic of Mogis would have been a great finisher for this deck, but I managed to go undefeated even without it.

THS: Minotaurs

Theros is unusual in having 2 lords for a single tribe: Rageblood Shaman and Kragma Warcaller. How good are they in triple Theros drafts? Let’s figure it out.

Theros has 7 Minotaurs, including the 2 lords. There are 4 commons, 2 uncommons, and 1 rare, so the average 8-person draft will have 12.3 Minotaurs, including 1.6 Minotaur lords. The Minotaurs are listed below, along with my prior evaluation of them:

  • Common: Deathbellow Raider (2cc, good), Minotaur Skullcleaver (3cc, filler/conditional), Fellhide Minotaur (3cc, filler/conditional), Borderland Minotaur (4cc, good)
  • Uncommon: Fanatic of Mogis (4cc, exceptional), Kragma Warcaller (5cc, TBD)
  • Rare: Rageblood Shaman (3cc, TBD)

The Minotaurs are spread reasonably well across the mana curve, which is good. All are in either red or black. While the black Minotaur is not particularly strong, Kragma Warcaller is, and Deathbellow Raider requires black mana for regeneration, so a Minotaur deck is likely to be R/B or R/b (red splashing black).

Many of the Minotaurs are playable on their own merits, even without a lord: Borderland Minotaur, Fanatic of Mogis, and Kragma Warcaller. Deathbellow Raider and Minotaur Skullcleaver are also playable in a sufficiently aggressive red deck. Other than Fanatic of Mogis, however, none of these cards are likely to be taken highly by non-Minotaur players. So it is likely that a player drafting Minotaurs can expect to pick up about 8 Minotaurs over the course of the draft if no one else is drafting the same deck. (I say 8 instead of 12 because some Minotaurs will get drafted by other players, because you will have to pass Minotaurs for removal, and because Fellhide Minotaur isn’t worth playing unless you have multiple Minotaur lords.)

What does this mean for the playability of the Minotaur lords? Kragma Warcaller is good on its own merits as a 4/3 haste creature for 5 manas, so it’s worth drafting highly if you’re in those colors, even if you don’t have many Minotaurs. Rageblood Shaman is more conditional, but is very playable in a deck with about 8 Minotaurs, so it is a reasonable early pick that you can try to craft a deck around.

M14: Strionic Resonator and the U/R control deck

Let’s try to evaluate Strionic Resonator today and determine whether it’s worth drafting early. This spreadsheet has a list of all cards in M14 with a triggered ability (see this post for the card quality key). It includes updated card quality evaluations as well as an assessment of the quality of the triggered ability, which can differ from the card quality (e.g., Sengir Vampire and Angelic Accord). These trigger quality assessments are very similar to the card quality assessments:

  • + means you would happily pay 2 mana to copy the trigger.
  • / means you would pay 2 mana to copy the trigger.
  • ~ means the ability is difficult to trigger or less useful to copy.
  • E(xpensive) means that you are unlikely to have 2 mana to spare when the trigger goes off, or that you’re already winning the game if the trigger goes off.
  • R(are) means that you’ll rarely want to copy the triggered ability or that it won’t trigger very often.
  • x means that there is never a reason to copy this trigger, barring very unusual game states.

The spreadsheet also indicates which archetype(s) each of these cards fits best in. If the archtype is in parentheses, it means that the card is playable even outside the archetype. If no archetype is listed, the card is usually played on its own merits rather than because it interacts particularly well with other cards.

Pivoting by color (to the right of the main table in the spreadsheet) shows us that red has the most triggered abilities we’d want to copy (11 in an average draft), followed by white and blue (8 each). Since most players draft 2 colors in M14, each color will have 3 drafters. If they split these cards between them, it means you can expect to get about 6.3 triggers you want to copy if you’re in R/W or U/R, and about 5.3 triggers you want to copy if you’re in W/U. However, Goblin Shortcutter and Archaeomancer don’t usually go in the same deck, so let’s also look at the cards by archetype instead.

Pivoting by archetype (also to the right of the main table in the spreadsheet) shows us that B/R sacrifice and U/R control have the most number of cards with triggers we’d want to copy (8 each in an average draft). If you’re the only drafter at the table, you will probably have enough triggered abilities that you’d want to copy.

The B/R sacrifice deck has Festering Newt, Pitchburn Devil, and Dragon’s Egg (uncommon), whose abilities trigger when they die, either in battle or when sacrificed to Altar’s Reap, Blood Bairn, Barrage of Expendables, Gnawing Zombie, or Vampire Warlord. It also has Young Pyromancer, whose trigger produces more cannon fodder for your sacrifice outlets. However, Pitchburn Devil’s trigger is the only one (at common or uncommon) that you’d really want to copy, so I’m not sure how well Strionic Resonator would work in this deck.

I haven’t drafted U/R control yet, but it seems like it should be a viable archetype. Red has Shock, Chandra’s Outrage, Flames of the Firebrand (uncommon), and Volcanic Geyser (uncommon) for removal. Blue has Essence Scatter, Negate, Cancel, and Spell Blast (uncommon) for countermagic, Time Ebb, Disperse, and Frost Breath for stall, and Divination and Opportunity (uncommon) for card advantage. Combined with Academy Raider and Archaeomancer, it could be a fairly potent counterburn deck that wins with a large flyer or by recurring Volcanic Geyser. In such a deck, Strionic Resonator could help ensure that that you don’t run out of cards before your opponent does.

So Strionic Resonator is probably conditionally playable. I wouldn’t recommend taking it early in the hope that U/R control is open. However, if you’re already drafting that deck, it might be worth taking it and then drafting cards with useful triggers slightly higher. (It’s also useful if you don’t remember how many triggered abilities you have in your deck when you’re passed a Strionic Resonator; if you’re drafting U/R control, you’re more likely to have enough triggers to play it.) This card does have a tendency to get passed late, so if I’m already in either blue or red the next time I see it, I might draft it to try it out (as I did with Door of Destinies recently) and post a follow-up.

Btw, here are the card quality evaluations I’ve updated since I originally posted the evaluation spreadsheet, in case you’re interested:

  • Ajani’s Chosen (TBD -> exceptional): A 3/3 for 4 mana is already a reasonable body, and W/B enchantments is a strong archtype.
  • Angelic Accord (TBD -> conditional): It’s difficult to draft a good lifegain deck, but I still believe it’s possible.
  • Auramancer (TBD -> playable): Ajani’s Chosen works well with all enchantments, but Auramancer mostly works well with Quag Sickness.
  • Blightcaster (TBD -> exceptional): Like Ajani’s Chosen, but with 1 less point of power and a stronger trigger.
  • Sanguine Bond (TBD -> conditonal): See Angelic Accord above.
  • Xathrid Necromancer (TBD -> exceptional): It’s a 2/2 for 3 mana that at least nets a 2/2 when it dies, and can be nuts in the right deck.
  • Door of Destinies (TBD -> conditional): It’s playable in a Slivers deck or a W/B Humans deck.
  • Advocate of the Beast (TBD -> conditional): It’s good if you already have Beasts.
  • Dismiss into Dream (TBD -> unplayable)
  • Domestication (TBD -> playable)
  • Archaeomancer is still TBD.

M14: Barrage of Expendables and the B/R sacrifice deck

The final enchantment left to evaluate is Barrage of Expendables. Its value will depend on 6 factors:

  • How many must-kill creatures and flyers have 1 toughness.
  • How many spells steal opponents’ creatures.
  • How many cards can an opponent play that would cause you to want to sacrifice a creature.
  • How many creatures provide a benefit when sacrificed.
  • How many creatures don’t mind being sacrificed.
  • Its effect relative to other sacrifice outlets.

Referring back to the spreadsheet of creatures in M14, we see that of the must-kill creatures, 2 of the 8 commons, 2 of the 6 uncommons, 4 of the 15 rares, and neither of the 2 mythics have 1 toughness. This means that 27% of the must-kill creatures in an average draft will have 1 toughness. Similarly, of the flyers in M14, 3 of the 10 commons, none of the 5 uncommons, 1 of the 7 rares, and none of the 3 mythics have 1 toughness, so 23% of the flyers in a typical draft will have 1 toughness. In addition, Barrage of Expendables can work with Shock and other removal spells to take down larger creatures. You can also sacrifice 2+ creatures to kill an opposing creature, but that’s unlikely to be a common occurrence.

Sacrifice effects combo especially well with effects that steal creatures temporarily and M14 has Act of Treason which is also red. In fact, unless you’re playing R/B, the only sacrifice effects a red deck has access to are Barrage of Expendables, Bubbling Cauldron, and Trading Post (a rare), and neither of the artifacts offer an impressive benefit for the sacrifice. If you have a couple of Act of Treasons, Barrage of Expendables could be worth picking up, especially if you don’t have other sacrifice effects yet. M14 also has Domestication, which steals the creature permanently. However, as we determined previously, there are a number of ways for the owner of the creature to pump its power and get the creature back, and Barrage of Expendables can help protect against that too.

M14 also has a few effects that may cause you to want to sacrifice a creature in response to an opponent’s spell. While M14 doesn’t have anything like Pillory of the Sleepless, you may want to sacrifice a creature that your opponent is trying to steal with Act of Treason or Domestication. In addition, you may on rare occasion want to sacrifice a creature in response to Congregate if your opponent is at a low life total and there aren’t many other creatures on the board.

Next, let’s look at creatures that you might want to sacrifice anyway because they provide a benefit when they die:

  • Blue: Messenger Drake (common), although you’d usually rather have a 3/3 flyer than do 1 damage to a creature
  • Black: Festering Newt (common), Dark Prophecy (rare), Xathrid Necromancer (rare)
  • Red: Pitchburn Devils (common), Dragon Egg (uncommon)
  • Green: Vastwood Hydra (rare)

Then, there are creatures that you don’t mind sacrificing, such as Tenacious Dead and Chandra’s Phoenix, or the tokens produced by Molten Birth (which produces an average of 4 tokens) and Sporemound. You might also want to sacrifice creatures if you have Planar Cleansing, Rise of the Dark Realms, Scavenging Ooze, or Haunted Plate Mail, although these are all rare/mythic so that board state won’t arise too often. Of these, Barrage of Expendables works especially well with Tenacious Dead since you can repeatedly do 1 damage to a creature or player for 1BR.

Given the analysis above, it seems like Barrage of Expendables would work best in a B/R deck since that has access to Act of Treason as well a handful of common and uncommon creatures that you’d want to sacrifice. Black does provide access to several other sacrifice effects (Altar’s Reap and Blood Bairn at common, and Gnawing Zombie and Vampire Warlord at uncommon), but Barrage of Expendables would be one of the better sacrifice effects in such a deck.