DTK: Observations on megamorphs

Here are my observations on the creatures with megamorph in Dragons of Tarkir:

  • The set has 30 creatures with megamorph: 11 commons, 12 uncommons, 5 rares, and 2 mythics. Dragons of Tarkir has the same rarity distribution as Khans of Tarkir, so a DTK/DTK/FRF draft will have an average of 1.6 copies of a given common, 0.6 copies of a given uncommon, 0.26 copies of a given rare, and 0.13 copies of a given mythic. This means that an 8-person draft will have an average of 26.4 creatures with megamorph, or about 3 per player.
  • Blue and green have 8 megamorphs each, white and red have 5 each, and black has 4. Unlike in Khans of Tarkir, there are no colorless or multicolor megamorphs.
    • Blue and green each have 3 megamorphs at common, 3 at uncommon, 1 at rare, and 1 at mythic, so they have an average of 7 creatures each in a typical 8-person draft.
    • White and red have 2 megamorphs at common, 2 at uncommon, and 1 at rare, so they have an average of 4.66 creatures each.
    • Black has 1 megamorph at common, 2 at uncommon, and 1 at rare, so it has an average of 3 creatures.
  • As in Khans of Tarkir, if your opponent has less than 5 mana, their face-down creature cannot beat a 2/2 unless they have a combat trick. However, if they have multiple face-down creatures, one of them could be a Guardian Shield-Bearer, which could let their other face-down creature beat a 2/2 in combat. (They could also have an on-board effect like Salt Road Ambushers that helps them win the combat.)
  • 8 of the 13 creatures with a megamorph cost of 4 or less are 3/2’s when turned face up. There are also 3 2/2’s, a 4/2, and a 6/2. (Marang River Skeleton can regenerate, but it takes 4 mana to unmorph and 1 mana to regenerate, so it still takes 5 mana to beat a 2/2 if Marang River Skeleton is face down.)
  • 8 of the 17 creatures with a megamorph cost of 5 or more are 4/4’s when turned face up. Tnere is also a 2/2 (it’s a double striker, so it still beats a 2/2 in combat), a 3/4, a 4/3, 2 4/5’s, a 5/7, a 6/6, and 2 7/6’s (one of which is a defender).
  • Each color has a rare megamorph that can potentally provide card advantage for less than 5 mana: Hidden Dragonslayer, Stratus Dancer, Silumgar Assassin, Ire Shaman, and Den Protector. In addition, green has Ainok Survivalist at uncommon.
  • Once you get to 5 mana, there are another 3 megamorphs that can potentally provide card advantage: Monastery Loremaster, Silumgar Spell-Eater (uncommon), and Shorecrasher Elemental (mythic). Attacking into Monastery Loremaster with a creature that’s 2/4 or smaller can lead to getting 3-for-1’d, so it may make sense to play around this common if your opponent has an instant, sorcery, enchantment, artifact, or planeswalker in their graveyard. Silumgar Spell-Eater only results in a 3-for-1 if you cast a spell during combat. Shorecrasher Elemental can’t usually result in a 3-for-1 in single combat; while it can flicker to save itself from removal, that also takes it out of combat. Also, it’s a mythic and so you’re unlikely to face it often.

DTK: List of megamorph creatures

This is a list of all the megamorph creatures in Dragons of Tarkir. The first table has the creature names while the second one has abbreviated descriptions; any portion of the description after a semicolon refers to effects that trigger when the creature is turned face up. Note that the latter table may not accurately represent all attributes of the creature and often leaves out certain details. For instance, it never has information about the creature’s mana cost or enters-the-battlefield effects since we’re assuming the creature is already in play face down. Also, I sometimes make mistakes while filling out these tables; please let me know if you spot any issues.

Both tables categorize the creatures by converted mana cost, color, and rarity. Unless specified otherwise, each creature has one colored mana in its morph cost with the rest being generic mana, so a morph creature listed under white/5cc has a morph cost of 4W unless listed otherwise. I also specify morph costs if the creature has X in its morph cost, has a multicolored morph cost, or costs more than the column it is specified in.

Here’s how to interpret the second table:

  • Abbreviations used: A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), bounce (return to owner’s hand), bury (destroy & it cannot be regenerated), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), ETB (enters the battlefield), flicker (exile, then return to the battlefield), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), GY (graveyard), I (instant), L (land), loot X (draw X cards, then discard X cards), lose X (lose X life), mill (put cards from a library into a graveyard), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), raise (return card from your graveyard to your hand), reanimate (return card from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), your X (X you control).
  • Effects (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Effects can target any legal permanent or player unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the spell does X damage to any creature or player.
  • Descriptions sometimes mention other spells to avoid lengthy descriptions, e.g., Silumgar Spell-Eater’s unmorph effect is described as “Mana Leak” to avoid having to write “counter target spell unless its controller pays 3.”

FRF: Reusing enters-the-battlefield effects

Fate Reforged brings 4 creatures that allow you to profitably reuse enters-the-battlefield (ETB) effects:

  • Temur Sabertooth is a near bomb, being a 4/3 for 4 mana and making most of your creatures unkillable if you have 1G open.
  • Flamerush Rider is exceptional, especially in an aggressive deck.
  • Jeskai Barricade is situational, since it doesn’t fit in any of the aggressive white decks, but may have a home in a controlling Abzan or 5-color deck.
  • Ambush Krotiq is usually unplayable, both because it costs 6 mana and because returning a creature to your hand is not optional.

In addition to these, there are also several blue bounce spells that let you reuse ETB abilities. While they usually target your opponent’s creatures, some of them can be profitably aimed at your own creatures, for instance, Rite of Undoing, Sage-Eye Avengers, and Supplant Form.

My evaluation of these 4 cards could be affected if the format has an usually low or high number of ETB effects. In addition to ETB effects, I am also interested in abilities that trigger when a creature is turned face up, creatures that you might want to recast later in a game (e.g., Clever Impersonator and Hooded Hydra), and a small number of other cards that cause you to want to return creatures to your hand (e.g., Lightning Shrieker and Outpost Siege), or to its owner’s hand in the case of Act of Treason. Let’s look at what’s available, to get an idea of what colors/clan we should prefer once we have 1 or more of these creatures. (Cards in italics are only really worth reusing with Temur Sabertooth since a single reuse doesn’t provide much gain.)

  • White: Arashin Cleric, Mardu Hordechief, Sandsteppe Outcast, Elite Scaleguard (uncommon), Lotus-Eye Mystics (uncommon), Mardu Woe-Reaper (uncommon), Watcher of the Roost (uncommon), Timely Hordemate (uncommon), Daghatar the Adamant (rare), Master of Pearls (rare), Mastery of the Unseen (rare), Wingmate Roc (mythic)
  • Blue: Aven Surveyor, Mistfire Weaver (uncommon), Kheru Spellsnatcher (rare), Thousand Winds (rare), Clever Impersonator (rare)
  • Black: Mardu Skullhunter, Merciless Executioner (uncommon), Orc Sureshot (uncommon), Ruthless Ripper (uncommon), Sibsig Muckdraggers (uncommon)
  • Red: Act of Treason, Lightning Shrieker, Horde Ambusher (uncommon), Mardu Heart-Piercer (uncommon), Jeering Instigator (rare), Outpost Siege (rare)
  • Green: Frontier Siege (rare), Sandsteppe Mastodon (rare), Temur War Shaman (rare), Trail of Mystery (rare), Hooded Hydra (mythic)
  • Multicolor: Efreet Weaponmaster, Ponyback Brigade, Armament Corps (uncommon), Bear’s Companion (uncommon), Icefeather Aven (uncommon), Secret Plans (uncommon), Sultai Soothsayer (uncommon), Warden of the Eye (uncommon), Siege Rhino (rare), Temur Ascendancy (rare), Sidisi Brood Tyrant (mythic)

In addition, Temur Sabertooth and Jeskai Barricade allow you to return a creature to your hand at instant speed, so you can also use them to save a creature from removal or a disadvantageous block (especially if you attacked to trigger an ability). Let’s take a look at the cards in this format that you might attack with to trigger an ability. (I won’t list the multicolor dragons here since they can rarely be blocked advantageously.)

  • Artifact: Heart-Piercer Bow (uncommon)
  • White: Wardscale Dragon (uncommon)
  • Blue: Sage-Eye Avengers (rare)
  • Black: Mardu Shadowspear (uncommon), Mardu Strike Leader (rare)
  • Red: Goblin Heelcutter, Mardu Blazebringer (uncommon), Vaultbreaker (uncommon), Alesha Who Smiles at Death (rare)
  • Multicolor: Mardu Roughrider (uncommon), Ankle Shanker (rare), Avalanche Tusker (rare), Anafenza the Foremost (mythic), Mardu Ascendancy, Narset Enlightened Master (mythic)

These 2 lists have a lot of rares/mythics, as well as a lot of cards in italics. We’re unlikely to take 1 of the 4 cards above in the hopes of opening or being passed a specific rare, and we already know to draft Temur Sabertooth if we can play him, so let’s strip out those 2 categories. That leaves us with the following cards:

  • Artifact: Heart-Piercer Bow (uncommon) = 0.6 copies in an average 8-person draft
  • White: Sandsteppe Outcast, Elite Scaleguard (uncommon), Lotus-Eye Mystics (uncommon), Timely Hordemate (uncommon), Wardscale Dragon (uncommon) = 3.1 copies
  • Blue: Aven Surveyor, Mistfire Weaver (uncommon) = 1.9 copies
  • Black: Mardu Skullhunter, Merciless Executioner (uncommon), Orc Sureshot (uncommon), Sibsig Muckdraggers (uncommon) = 2.8 copies
  • Red: Act of Treason, Goblin Heelcutter, Lightning Shrieker, Mardu Blazebringer (uncommon), Mardu Heart-Piercer (uncommon), Vaultbreaker (uncommon) = 5.8 copies
  • Multicolor: Efreet Weaponmaster, Ponyback Brigade, Armament Corps (uncommon), Bear’s Companion (uncommon), Icefeather Aven (uncommon), Secret Plans (uncommon), Sultai Soothsayer (uncommon), Warden of the Eye (uncommon) = Abzan has 0.6 copies, Jeskai has 2.2, Mardu has 1.6, Sultai and Temur have 1.8 each (I’m counting the 2 U/G uncommons in both Sultai and Temur)

Red has by far the most cards that combo with the 4 creatures, although a number of them are not ETB effects but finishers like Act of Treason and Lightning Shrieker. Those don’t pair well with the already expensive Ambush Krotiq, and while they might pair better with Jeskai Barricade in a R/W, Jeskai, or Mardu deck, those decks are too aggressive to want to play a 0/4 creature. On the other hand, while green has both Temur Sabertooth and Ambush Krotiq, it has no good ETB effects to pair with them at common/uncommon. This probably means that Ambush Krotiq is just as unplayable as we initially anticipated. There’s no clear color combination that maximizes Temur Sabertooth, but you probably shouldn’t be trying to build your deck around 1, or even 2, copies of the card. I think the main outcome of this exercise is that we now have a fairly comprehensive list of all the cards in the format that combo with Temur Sabertooth and Flamerush Rider.

Finally, let’s take a brief look at the artifacts, enchantments, and planeswalkers you might want to return to your hand, since Rite of Undoing lets you return any nonland permanent. The playable ones are Singing Bell Strike, Cloudform (uncommon), Lightform (uncommon), Rageform (uncommon), Sage’s Reverie (uncommon), Suspension Field (uncommon), Abzan Ascendancy (rare), and planeswalkers (mythics) after using their -N abilities.

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.

KTK: List of morph creatures

This is a list of all the morph creatures in the format. The first table has the creature names while the second one has abbreviated descriptions; any portion of the description after a semicolon refers to effects that trigger when the creature is turned face up. Note that the latter table may not accurately represent all attributes of the creature and often leaves out certain details. For instance, it never has information about enters-the-battlefield effects since those are not relevant since face down creature are already in play. Also, I sometimes make mistakes while filling out these tables; please let me know if you spot any issues.

Both tables categorize the creatures by converted mana cost, color, and rarity. Unless specified otherwise, each creature has one colored mana in its morph cost with the rest being generic mana, so a morph creature listed under white/5cc has a morph cost of 4W unless listed otherwise. I also specify morph costs if the creature has X in its morph cost, has a multicolored morph cost, or costs more than the column it is specified in.

Here’s how to interpret the second table:

  • Abbreviations used: A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), bounce (return permanent to owner’s hand), bury (destroy permanent & it cannot be regenerated), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), ETB (enters the battlefield), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), GY (graveyard), I (instant), L (land), loot X (draw X cards, then discard X cards), lose X (lose X life), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), raise (return card from your graveyard to your hand), reanimate (return card from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), your X (X you control).
  • Effect (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Effects can target any legal permanent or player unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the spell does X damage to any creature or player.
  • Spell descriptions sometimes mention other spells as a way to describe their effects, e.g., Jeering Instigator’s unmorph effect is described as “Act of Treason if your turn” to avoid having to write the full description.

M15: Convoke

Magic 2015 has 22 cards with convoke: 7 in green, 6 in white, 4 in black, 2 in red, 1 in blue, and 2 artifacts. Their quality varies considerably from exceptional (Devouring Light) to unplayable (Meditation Puzzle). There are also a few that remain to be evaluated: Seraph of the Masses, Feral Incarnation, and Overwhelm (which I’d initially evaluated, incorrectly, as a bomb). The quality of these cards depends largely on the number and quality of token producers in the set.

Magic 2015 has 17 cards that produce tokens. While the quality of these cards appears to be quite high at first glance (2 bombs, 7 exceptional, 4 good, 3 TBD, and only 1 unplayable), the expensive ones are less likely to be helpful in powering out expensive convoke spells early. Let’s just look at the ones that cost 4 mana or less:

  • 2cc: Raise the Alarm (excellent), Waste Not (unplayable since Black Cat and Mind Rot are the only non-rare ways to make your opponent discard cards), Spirit Bonds (rare), Necromancer’s Stockpile (generating a token requires discarding a creature, so you don’t actually have more creatures in play, at least in the short term)
  • 3cc: Coral Barrier (good), Hornet Nest (rare, and tokens are only produced when the creature dies), Chasm Skulker (rare, and tokens are only produced when the creature dies), Goblin Rabblemaster (rare)
  • 4cc: Brood Keeper (high setup cost), First Response (high setup cost)

Surprisingly, there are only 2 non-rare cards that produce tokens, cost 4cc or less, and don’t have a high setup cost: Raise the Alarm and Coral Barrier. The first card on the list confirms an intuition I’ve had for some time now: Raise the Alarm is the key enabler forĀ convoke decks, not just because it enables some of the god draws, but because it’s one of the only cheap ways to get multiple creatures on the table. However, having Coral Barrier be the only other card on the list challenges my preconceived notion that, since 59% of the convoke cards are in green or white, the convoke deck should be G/W.

Reviewing the list of convoke spells, it seems that all the exceptional spells are white or artifact anyway, so perhaps W/U can utilize convoke most effectively, perhaps in the form of a skies deck that uses Raise the Alarm and Coral Barrier to hold down the fort. Military Intelligence is likely to be quite good in a deck with fliers and tokens, and Seraph of the Masses is likely to be an excellent finisher.

Note that this does not mean that Siege Wurm is not good, just that you cannot expect to reliably play it on turn 4, even in a G/W deck. It also means that Overwhelm and Feral Incarnation are likely unplayable given the speed of the format.

M15: Tribal effects

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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