EMN: Tribal cards

The list of tribal cards in Eldritch Moon and Shadows over Innistrad, and how many you can typically expect to see for each tribe in an eight-person draft, is available at http://www.mtggoldfish.com/articles/tribal-cards-in-eldritch-moon-draft.

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SOI: Cross-archetype enablers

http://www.mtggoldfish.com/articles/cross-archetype-enablers-in-shadows-over-innistrad looks at which cards in Shadows over Innistead enabled multiple archetypes or themes. For instance, Macabre Waltz:

  • enables Madness,
  • is a sorcery and a noncreature for cards that care about those attributes,
  • helps get 2 creatures for 1 card if you have cards that care about the number of creatures you control, and
  • works well in Delirium decks since they’re likely to have multiple creatures in their graveyard.

SOI: Things to track when drafting

http://www.mtggoldfish.com/articles/things-to-track-when-drafting-shadows-over-innistrad examines how many cards are in or care about each mechanic in Shadows over Innistrad, so you know what things to track while drafting. For instance, if you’re drafting white, you’ll want to keep track of how many cards you have with Delirium and how many Delirium enablers you have, how many creatures you have in your deck, how many of them are Spirits, and how many pieces of Equipment you have.

THS: Humans

Other than Minotaurs, the other main tribal interaction in Theros is with Humans: Cavalry Pegasus gives Humans flying if they attack alongside it, and Titan of Eternal Fire gives Humans the ability the ability to tap to do 1 damage to a creature or player. Much of the value of these cards depends on how many Humans you have in your deck, so it helps to know whether Theros has enough playable Humans to make these cards worth taking early.

This spreadsheet lists all 33 Humans in Theros. White has about a third of these and a disproportionate number of the commons, so about 40% of the Humans in a typical draft will be white (this is not a commentary on the racial makeup of the Magic community :)). 1 of the white commons is unplayable and 2 are filler, but white does also have an exceptional Human at common (Wingsteed Rider, although it does not benefit from Cavalry Pegasus since it already flies). White also has 2 exceptional Humans at uncommon (Favored Hoplite and Phalanx Leader) so it will have 4.8 exceptional Humans in a typical 8-person draft, 4 times as many as any of the other colors, and none of which can be played as a splash by non-white players. If you don’t have Titan of Eternal Fire, Wingsteed Rider is not any better than a non-Human since it does not benefit from Cavalry Pegasus, but white will still have 2 times as many exceptional Humans as the other colors in a typical draft. Finally, all the multicolor Humans are also white except for Prophet of Kruphix: 2 are R/W, 2 are W/U, and 1 is W/B. This means that a Humans deck will need to run white as a main color rather than just splashing Cavalry Pegasus as a finisher.

Red and green are next with 5 Humans each, including 2 at common. The commons in both colors are playable, but red has an edge because it has 2 uncommon Humans instead of 1, provides access to 2 multicolor Humans, and has Titan of Eternal Fire. Black has 4 Humans, only 1 of which is a common, and that one is unplayable unless you’re drafting the black devotion deck. On the far end of the spectrum, blue has only 3 Humans, 2 of which are rare, although it does also have 2 of the multicolor Humans.

Let’s also look at Humans that particularly benefit from having the evasion that Cavalry Pegasus grants:

  • Daxos of Meletis (W/U rare): generates card advantage if it deals combat damage to an opponent
  • Favored Hoplite (white uncommon), Soldier of the Pantheon (white rare), and Tormented Hero (black uncommon): can enable aggressive starts with Cavalry Pegasus allowing you to keep up the pressure
  • Fabled Hero (white rare), Staunch-Hearted Warrior (green common), and Akroan Hoplite (R/W uncommon): these creatures can do a lot of damage if they are unblocked
  • Arena Athlete (red uncommon): can prevent opposing flyers/spiders from blocking your creatures

Looking at all of this information in concert, it appears that R/W is the best color for a Humans deck as it has both cards that interact with Humans, the most number of playable Humans, and the most Humans that benefit from the evasion granted by Cavalry Pegasus.

M14: Follow-up on Door of Destinies

While I had drafted Door of Destinies previously, I’d never had enough creatures of any given creature type to justify playing with it — until yesterday. I was drafting a W/B enchantments deck and opened Door of Destinies in pack 2. Normally, I would have taken the Sengir Vampire from that pack, but this was a very casual draft and I was in the right colors for a Humans deck, so I decided to give it a try, even though I only had 3 Humans at that point. (Only do this at home, kids!)

I ended up with 10 Humans: 4 Auramancers (to go with 3 Quag Sicknesses; yes, it was every bit as sick as it sounds), 3 Corpse Haulers, 2 Masters of Diversion, and 1 Blightcaster. I left a Dawnstrike Paladin and a Soulmender in the sideboard since they aren’t playable on their own merits; I wouldn’t want to draw either of them if I didn’t also have Door of Destinies. I also didn’t have any cards that cared about lifegain, and my card quality was ridiculously high besides; I had Corrupt, Wring Flesh, and Accursed Spirit sitting in my sideboard!

I went 4-1 over the course of the evening, losing only to a monoblack deck with Nightmare (and a Grim Return to get it back), Dark Prophecy, Rachet Bomb, and Corrupt, and a Diabolic Tutor to fetch the most relevant one. The Door of Destinies contributed to 2 game wins, although I might have won one of both of those games anyway. I was rarely unhappy to draw it since it would at least give my next Human +1/+1, and it usually did more. There was often a temptation to try to optimize the casting order (Door of Destinies, then Blightcaster, then Quag Sickness, and then Auramancer) to maximize the utility of the cards involved, but you have to withstand that temptation if your opponent has attackers that you can’t already block effectively; sometimes you have to play Auramancer on turn 3 with no Quag Sickness in the graveyard and a Door of Destinies in your hand.

One interesting combo that I noticed was that with a Corpse Hauler in your graveyard and another in play, you can sacrifice the one in play to get the other one back, and then play that one to add a counter to Door of Destinies. You can rinse and repeat as many times as your mana will allow, so you should probably draft Corpse Haulers a little higher if you’re drafting a W/B Humans deck with Door of Destinies. (Corpse Hauler also allows you to reuse Auramancers, which can be very powerful if you also have a Quag Sickness.) Door of Destinies also would have worked well with the Liliana’s Reaver in my deck if I had named Zombies, but I was never willing to do that since the Door would be useless if they dealt with the Reaver.

I want to emphasize again that this was a very casual draft. While none of the Humans in my deck are high picks (other than Blightcaster), you won’t usually be able to snag the 3 Quag Sicknesses and 3 Pacifisms that made my Auramancers so good. In other words, your mileage might vary. However, I think it is possible to use Door of Destinies in a W/B Humans deck as long as you prioritize picking Humans that are playable on their own merits. Also, Door of Destinies is not usually a good target for Diabolic Tutor since if you cast Diabolic Tutor on turn 4 and Door of Destinies on turn 5, you’re spending a lot of time doing nothing. Unless your opponent isn’t playing anything, save the Tutor for later to fetch a bomb or a removal spell.

M14: Humans

Humans are interesting as a tribe in M14 for 2 reasons: Door of Destinies (dicussed in my last post) and Xathrid Necromancer. While both cards are rare, you want to know if they’re sufficiently powerful in the right deck that they’re worth drafting early as a speculative pick.

Gatherer shows that most of the Humans in M14 are in white and black. Blue and red each have only one Human at common and another at uncommon/rare, and there are no green or artifact Humans. (Before you laugh, Magic actually has 16 artifact Humans, all but one from the Shards of Alara block.)

Of white’s 8 Humans, 5 are common, 1 is uncommon, and 2 are rare. Of black’s 5 Humans, 2 are common, 1 is uncommon, and 2 are rare. This spreadsheet sorts them by mana cost and lists my prior evaluation of them (I’ve changed my evaluation of Capashen Knight from unplayable to filler). Unfortunately, we have yet to determine how good several of the cards are because we have yet to determine how good enchantments and lifegain effects in M14 are. I will get to that in my next few posts. Meanwhile, I’m going to assume that Soulmender and Dawnstrike Paladin are filler, that Auramancer is playable (it works especially well with Quag Sickness, also a common), and that Blightcaster is exceptional (most colors have several good common/uncommon enchantments).

We can see that the common white and black Humans are either playable or filler, with only Shadowborn Apostle being completely unplayable. While you wouldn’t be excited if those were the only creatures in your deck, you’d probably do quite well if you had a couple of the uncommon/rare Humans and some removal. So I believe Xathrid Necromancer is quite playable and worth spending an early pick on. However, I would probably take most white or black removal spells over it since those would be exceptional in any W/B deck and not just a W/B Humans deck. Also, a sizeable amount of the removal in this set is in the form of enchantments, which makes any future Blightcasters, Auramancers, and Ajani’s Chosens you draft better.