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.

M14: Beasts

Let’s look at another possible tribal deck in M14, namely Beasts. I drafted that deck recently after getting passed a few Advocates of the Beast, but only ended up with 3 Beasts to go with my 5 Advocates (I did pass a 4th Beast for a Chandra’s Outrage since I only had one other removal spell). Are there enough Beasts in M14 that I should have tried to draft that deck? Let’s crunch some numbers.

Gatherer lists 5 cards in M14 that are Beasts or produce them: Garruk’s Horde, Kalonian Tusker, Marauding Maulhorn, Primeval Bounty, and Rumbling Baloth.

  • Garruk’s Horde and Primeval Bounty are rare, so you can’t really expect to get either of them, plus they hit the table sufficiently late in the game that if you don’t already have another Beast before them, your Advocate is just a 2/3 for 3 mana until turn 7.
  • Kalonian Tusker is the best complement to Advocate of the Beast because it gets a counter at the end of turn 3 if you play it on turn 2 followed by Advocate on turn 3. Unfortunately, it’s an uncommon and is likely to be drafted highly by any green player, so you shouldn’t expect to see too many of them.
  • Marauding Maulhorn and Rumbling Baloth are commons, but both cost 4, which means you have to wait an extra turn to get a counter. They are also both quite playable in non-Beast decks, especially Rumbling Baloth, so you should not expect to pick them up late.

With 2 commons, 1 uncommon, and 2 rares, an average 8-person M14 draft will have about 7 Beasts, some of which we expect will be drafted by non-Beast players. So, G/R Beasts is a feasible deck but can only support one player at a table. Moreover, you should draft it only if you are being passed Beasts rather than because you’re being passed Advocates, as I did. Advocates are good in a Beasts deck, but they’ll come around late because non-Beast decks have better commons at 3 mana, such as Rootwalla and Verdant Haven.

Admittedly, I’d already drafted 2 Doors of Destinies, so I was looking to draft a tribal deck. I wanted to draft Slivers, but didn’t see any good Slivers until late in pack 2, although with 2 Doors I could have tried to force Slivers and hoped to reap the rewards in pack 2. In my next post, I’ll examine whether there are any other good tribes in M14 besides Slivers and Beasts that would have allowed me to play the Doors instead of having to leave them in my sideboard.

M14: Slivers

Okay, now that we have the preliminaries out of the way, let’s see if we can use that information to figure out whether Slivers is a good deck to draft in M14. Here’s a list of all the Slivers in the set along with their rarity, mana cost, and my prior evaluation of them:

  • White: Sentinel Sliver (C, 2, good), Hive Stirrings (C, 3, filler), Steelform Sliver (U, 3, good), Bonescythe Sliver (R, 4, bomb)
  • Blue: Galerider Sliver (R, 1, exceptional)
  • Black: Syphon Sliver (R, 3, good)
  • Red: Striking Sliver (C, 1, good), Blur Sliver (C, 3, good), Battle Sliver (U, 5, exceptional), Thorncaster Sliver (R, 5, bomb)
  • Green: Predatory Sliver (C, 2, exceptional), Groundshaker Sliver (C, 7, unplayable), Manaweft Sliver (U, 2, exceptional), Megantic Sliver (R, 6, bomb)
  • Artifact: Sliver Construct (C, 3, filler)

White, red, and green have the most and best Slivers. There is relatively little manafixing in M14 — only Verdant Haven at common, and Darksteel Ingot, Manaweft Sliver, and Shimmering Grotto at uncommon — so we probably want to stick to a 2-color Sliver deck (possibly with a third splash color) unless we get multiple Manaweft Slivers, which is unlikely since it’s an uncommon and is playable in non-Sliver decks. How do we decide whether to aim for W/R, W/G, or R/G?

We can start by looking at the quality of the Slivers in each color. In my opinion, green has the best Slivers across all rarities, followed by red, and then white. By this measure, G/R is the best color pair for Slivers, followed by G/W and then R/W.

Another thing to keep in mind is the mana costs of the Slivers in each color. Green and red may have the best Slivers, but if they all fall at the same spot in the mana curve, we may be better off drafting a different color pair. This spreadsheet shows the number and quality of Slivers at each mana cost and rarity for the 3 color pairs being considered (Sliver Construct is listed for each of them). From this, it seems like G/R has the best distribution of Slivers across the mana curve, while R/W has a bit of a glut at 3.

A third thing to consider is whether any of the common/uncommon Slivers in a color pair have particular synergy. The main synergy that stands out to me is that power-enhancing Slivers — Predatory Sliver (G) and Battle Sliver (R) — work well with Striking Sliver (R), Steelform Sliver (W), and Hive Stirrings (W). While W/R has the most creatures in the list above, Battle Sliver is an uncommon, and first strike, +0/+1, and 2 1/1 Slivers are all less exciting if you don’t have a way to increase their power. This suggests that most Sliver decks should run green if possible so they have access to power enhancement at common.

Finally, let’s look at is which Slivers are most likely to be drafted by non-Sliver players. In my estimate, Predatory Sliver, Manaweft Sliver, and Bonescythe Sliver are most likely to be poached by non-Sliver players. (I had 2 Predatory Slivers and 1 Battle Sliver in a G/R Beast deck recently, and they were great — my deck really needed 2-drops, and there was more than one game where I had 2 3/3 Predatory Slivers attacking on turn 4.) This is unfortunate for green Sliver players, and may lead to Sliver decks having to go R/W in some cases.

Two more things to consider. First, Slivers are likely to be very popular at casual drafts, especially early in the format where other archetypes are less known, so it may be worth staying away for a bit unless you find yourself being passed Predatory Slivers. Also, I haven’t considered other non-Sliver cards in green, red, and white that may work particularly well with Slivers, such as Hunt the Weak if you have some power/toughness enhancing Slivers. Look for such cards and keep them in mind when figuring out what color pair you want to be in when drafting Slivers.

EDIT: I forgot one other piece of analysis I sometimes do. M14 has 101 commons, 60 uncommons, 53 rares, and 15 mythics. Of the playable Slivers, there are 6 commons, 3 uncommons, and 5 rares. That means than an average 8-person draft will have about 20 playable Slivers, which is probably enough to support 1-2 Sliver decks per table.