BFZ: Archetype wheel

The diagram below is a visual representation of the mainstream archetypes in BFZ/BFZ/BFZ draft, i.e., archetypes which can reliably be drafted in a typical 8-person draft without relying on “build around me” uncommons. A line between 2 colors means there is an archetype in that color pair or an archetype in which those 2 colors are the primary colors. The line is labeled with the archetype name.

Battle for Zendikar Archetype Wheel

Some observations:

  • Per previous analysis, there aren’t enough cards to reliably support B/G and G/U decks in a typical 8-person draft. Consequently, white and red are part of 4 different archetypes, blue and black are part of 3 different archetypes, and green is part of only 2 viable archetypes. Starting your draft with white or red cards offers the most flexibility since you can pick any other color as your second color, depending on what’s open. On the other hand, if you start with green, you have to hope that either white or red is also open.
  • Green is widely considered the worst color in Battle for Zendikar. Combined with the lack of flexibility it offers, it doesn’t make sense to take green picks early, and the bar should be pretty high to choose it as your first color. In a recent draft, I took Vile Aggregate over Woodland Wanderer first pick, and Clutch of Currents over Oran-Rief Hydra second pick, and had no regrets (I went 4-1 with that deck). However, if I were already in red or white and saw those cards third or fourth pick, I’d be willing to move into green at that point.
  • W/U skies and U/R devoid are often considered the strongest archetypes in the format, so there’re reasons to start with blue instead of white or red. The other reason to favor blue initially is that it has the 2 best commons in the set (Eldrazi Skyspawner and Clutch of Currents), as well as one of the best uncommons (Coastal Discovery).
  • Of the 8 archetypes, 3 are Ally-based and 3 revolve around colorless creatures. This means that, until you know your second color, you should pick Allies and colorless creatures over similarly powered creatures that are not. (There are no colorless Allies.) Even if you end up in one of the 2 archetypes that don’t rely on those (W/U fliers or R/G landfall), it can still prove advantageous, e.g., using Coralhelm Guide to trigger Kor Bladewhirl’s rally effect.
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BNG: Impact on Theros/Theros/Theros archetypes and potential new archetypes

Let’s take a look at which archetypes from Theros/Theros/Theros draft benefit from the introduction Born of the Gods.

Aggro decks (usually W/X):

  • W/U heroic: Elite Skirmisher, Meletis Astronomer, Loyal Pegasus, Deepwater Hypnotist + creatures with bestow (Nyxborn Triton) + Auras (Stratus Walk, Ephara’s Enlightenment) + tricks (Acolyte’s Reward, Retraction Helix) + Falter effects (Glimpse the Sun God, Sudden Storm, both of which can also be used to trigger heroic)
  • R/W aggro (usually Humans): Akroan Phalanx, Akroan Skyguard, Archetype of Courage, Elite Skirmisher, Loyal Pegasus, Archetype of Aggression + tricks (Acolyte’s Reward, Rise to the Challenge) + removal (Bolt of Keranos, Fall of the Hammer, Lightning Volley, Pinnacle of Rage, Searing Blood) + finishers (Glimpse the Sun God, Akroan Conscriptor, Pharagax Giant)
  • B/R Minotaurs: Minotaur lords (Ragemonger) + Minotaurs ([Felhide Spiritbinder], [Oracle of Bones], Kragma Butcher, Felhide Brawler, Warchanter of Mogis) + removal (Asphyxiate, Bile Blight, Bolt of Keranos, Fall of the Hammer, Lightning Volley, Pinnacle of Rage, Searing Blood) + tricks (Necrobite, Rise to the Challenge) + Nyxborn Eidolon, Grisly Transformation (works especially well with Kragma Butcher), Spiteful Returned, Thunderous Might
  • G/U skies: creatures wth evasion (Archetype of Imagination, Chorus of the Tides, Flitterstep Eidolon) + enhancers (Nyxborn Wolf, Stratus Walk, Raised by Wolves) + tricks (Aspect of Hydra, Mortal’s Resolve) + finishers (Sudden Storm, [Hunter’s Prowess], Mischief and Mayhem, Noble Quarry). Note that many of these the tricks and finishers allow you to attack into Nessian Asp. Also, beware of Scouring Sands and Skyreaping.

Control decks (usually B/X):

  • Monoblack: Marshmist Titan, Sanguimancy + defense (Archetype of Finality, Black Oak of Odunos, Gorgon’s Head, Siren Song Lyre) + removal (Asphyxiate, Bile Blight, Drown in Sorrow) + Forlorn Pseudamma
  • W/B control: monoblack cards + removal (Dawn to Dusk, Excoriate, Revoke Existence)
  • U/B control: monoblack cards + removal (Eternity Snare which is often a 3-for-1 if used on a bestowed creature, Sudden Storm, Vortex Elemental, [Whelming Wave], Weight of the Underworld) + card advantage (Divination, Siren of the Silent Song) + win conditions (Archetype of Imagination, Kraken of the Straits, Sphinx’s Disciple)
  • B/G devotion control: monoblack cards + Pheres-Band Raiders, Snake of the Golden Grove
  • B/G graveyard: Graverobber Spider
  • 5-color green: bombs across multiple colors (including [Chromanticore]) + mana fixing ([Courser of Kruphix], Karametra’s Favor, Peregrination, Satyr Wayfinder, Astral Cornucopia, Springleaf Drum)
  • U/R spells/scry: Stormcaller of Keranos, potentially [Whims of the Fates] (since this deck has fewer permanents than most)

Looking over this list, it looks like a lot of the existing archetypes will get weaker. The W/X aggro decks are losing 1 pack of Hoplites, Phalanx Leader, Wingsteed Rider, Gods Willing, and the tricks that trigger 2 heroic creatures. B/R Minotaurs loses a pack of the Minotaur lords and instead gains Ragemonger which is much less impressive. G/U skies gains a lot of good cards but also has to face Scouring Sands and Skyreaping. Monoblack and the various B/X control decks lose a pack of Gray Merchant of Asphodel which is huge; losing Disciple of Phenax, Baleful Eidolon, Keepsake Gorgon, and Pharika’s Cure also hurts, although to a lesser extent. 5-color green loses a lot of the mana fixing from Theros. And U/R spells has a pack less of all the spells-matter cards (Flamespeaker Adept, Meletis Charlatan, Spellheart Chimera, and Prescient Chimera)

The introduction of Born of the Gods is also likely to enable new archetypes. Here are some archetypes that may have potential:

  • G/W heroic: Setessan Oathsworn, Reap What Is Sown
  • W/B lifegain: centered around Sunbond and lifelinkers, Odunos River Trawler, Sanguimancy
  • U/B mill: [Mindreaver], Evanescent Intellect, Forsaken Drifters
  • U/X enchantment reuse: Floodtide Serpent + cantrip Auras
  • G/U untap/inspired: Crypsis and Kiora’s Follower both allow you to untap creatures with tap abilities

THS: Archetype wheel

Theros Archetype Wheel

If we take all the archetypes discussed in my post summarizing archetypes in Theros draft and plot them on a color wheel, this is what we get. A line between 2 colors indicates that there is an archetype that spans those 2 colors (monocolor and 5-color decks are indicated by an arrow from the color to itself), and is labeled with the archetype name. A thick line indicates that the archetype is more likely to come together in a draft because it relies on fewer key cards, requires fewer uncommons/rares, or shares cards with fewer other archetypes; these are the archetypes that were bolded in that post and can usually support 2 drafters at an 8-man draft. Archetypes that rely on specific rares, require multiple copies of a common/uncommon in order to function, or that share cards with multiple other archetypes are riskier to attempt and are indicated with thinner lines; these archetypes can usually support 1 drafter per table. Archetypes that I haven’t drafted yet are indicated with a dashed line; these usually won’t have any drafters since they need multiple uncommons/rares in order to function. If you want to read more about a particular archetype, that post has a list of the key cards for each archetype and links to more detailed descriptions.

The purpose of the archetype wheel is to help us see visually which colors support the most number of archetypes and, therefore, offer the most flexibility. This can help when choosing between 2 cards of similar power levels in the early stages of a draft. For instance, black supports the most number of color combinations and can be paired with any of the other colors, or be played on its own if you get enough black cards. However, most of the B/X decks are similar and rely on the same core of black cards, so you have to compete more with players for those key cards. Green allows the least number of color combinations and so offers the least flexibility; this is one of the reasons it is the least popular color in Theros. Note that white can support more drafters than it might seem because W/U and W/R can often support 2 drafters each. This means that you should consider taking a white or black card over a blue or red card of equal quality early in a draft, and that you should avoid taking a green card unless it’s a bomb.

This is roughly in line with my color preferences in Theros draft. Getting passed a Favored Hoplite or Phalanx Leader will almost certainly put me in W/X, getting passed a Gray Merchant of Asphodel or Keepsake Gorgon will usually put me in B/X, and I will likely try to play or splash a Sea God’s Revenge. Early in a draft, I will also usually take Coordinated Assault, Fanatic of Mogis, Kragma Warcaller, and Battlewise Hoplite over everything except in-color bombs and removal but I won’t work as hard to end up with a deck that can play them. On the other hand, very few cards can cause me to play green in this format since I’ve had consistently poor performance with G/X decks, even when I am one of the only green drafters at the table. (Or perhaps I just haven’t figured out how to draft green in this format — a friend recently said he’d won several drafts with monogreen and G/W heroic decks with a curve ending at 3.)

Weaving all this information together, we can conclude that a typical draft will likely have:

This means that a typical draft will have 6 aggro decks and only 2 control decks. There will usually be 4-5 white decks, 3-4 blue decks, 3 black decks, 3 red decks, and 1-2 green decks. White and red only appear in 1 control deck each, W/B control and U/R spells respectively, and the latter is unlikely to come together in most drafts, so you don’t usually want to use early picks to take control cards in those colors. There’s also only 1 black aggro deck (B/R Minotaurs), so you don’t usually want to use early picks to take aggressive cards in those colors.

THS: Summary of archetypes

Here’s a summary of the M14 archetypes I’m aware of, along with some of the key cards for each archetype. (If I’ve missed any archetypes, feel free to post them in the comments.) Archetypes in bold require fewer uncommons/rares or have more substitutes, and are therefore more likely to come together in a draft. These archetypes may also be able to support more than one drafter at an 8-person draft. “+” is used to separate different categories of cards required for the archetype. Italics denote cards that are secondary for this archetype and should usually only be drafted once you have a number of the non-italicized cards listed. [] indicates that a card is rare or mythic.

Aggro decks (usually W/X):

  • W/U heroic: Favored Hoplite, Phalanx Leader, Wingsteed Rider, Battlewise Hoplite, Vaporkin + creatures with bestow + Auras (Ordeals, cantrip Auras, Aqueous Form) + tricks (Gods Willing, Dauntless Onslaught, Triton Tactics) + Divine Verdict/bounce
  • R/W aggro (usually Humans): Favored Hoplite, Phalanx Leader, Wingsteed Rider, Akroan Hoplite, Priest of Iroas + Human Lords (Cavalry Pegasus, [Titan of Eternal Fire]) + creatures with bestow + Auras (Ordeals, cantrip Auras) + tricks (Coordinated Assault, Gods Willing, Dauntless Onslaught, Titan’s Strength) + removal (Divine Verdict, red burn) + finishers (Fanatic of Mogis, Portent of Betrayal)
  • B/R Minotaurs: Minotaur Lords (Kragma Warcaller, [Rageblood Shaman]) + Minotaurs (Fanatic of Mogis, Deathbellow Raider, Minotaur Skullcleaver, Borderland Minotaur) + removal (red burn) + tricks (Coordinated Assault, Boon of Erebos, Titan’s Strength)
  • G/U skies: creatures with evasion (Vaporkin, Nimbus Naiad, Agent of Horizons, Horizon Chimera) + Warriors’ Lesson + defense (Omenspeaker, Sedge Scorpion) + bounce/Dissolve

Control decks (usually B/X):

  • Monoblack: Gray Merchant of Asphodel, Keepsake Gorgon, Disciple of Phenax, Insatiable Harpy + early defense (Baleful Eidolon, Returned Phalanx) + removal (Pharika’s Cure, Sip of Hemlock) + Read the Bones
  • W/B control: monoblack cards + win conditions ([Triad of Fates], Sentry of the Underworld, Evangel of Heliod, Scholar of Athreos) + removal (Last Breath, Divine Verdict)
  • U/B control: monoblack cards + Shipwreck Singer (ideally with Triton Tactics) + bounce/Dissolve + Opaline Unicorn + defense (Omenspeaker, Coastline Chimera) + win conditions (Horizon Scholar, Prescient Chimera)
  • B/G devotion control: monoblack cards + Nemesis of Mortals, Nessian Asp, Pharika’s Mender + defense (Sedge Scorpion, Leafcrown Dryad, Nylea’s Disciple) + mana acceleration (Voyaging Satyr, Burnished Hart, Opaline Unicorn) + Time to Feed
  • B/G graveyard (untested): Nemesis of Mortals, Pharika’s Mender, [Nighthowler], [Whip of Erebos] + Commune with the Gods, Returned Centaur + defense (Sedge Scorpion, Leafcrown Dryad, Nylea’s Disciple)
  • 5-color green (untested): bombs across multiple colors + mana fixing (Burnished Hart, Prized Unicorn, Nylea’s Presence, Traveler’s Amulet, Shimmering Grotto) + defense (Sedge Scorpion, Leafcrown Dryad, Nylea’s Disciple)
  • U/R spells (untested): spells-matter cards (Flamespeaker Adept, [Meletis Charlatan], Spellheart Chimera, Prescient Chimera, Mnemonic Wall) + card advantage ([Steam Augury], Triton Fortune Hunter, Thassa’s Emissary) + bounce/removal/Dissolve + defense (Omenspeaker, Crackling Triton, Wavecrash Triton) + Titan’s Strength

M14: Archetype wheel

Magic 2014 Archetype Wheel

If we take all the archetypes discussed in my last post and plot them on a color wheel, this is what we get. A line between 2 colors indicates that there is an archetype that spans those 2 colors (we’ll ignore the occasional 3- and 5-color decks in M14), and is labeled with the archetype name. A thick line indicates that the archetype that is more likely to come together in a draft because it relies on fewer key cards or requires fewer uncommons/rares; these are the archetypes that were bolded in my last post. Archetypes that rely on specific rares or multiple copies of a common/uncommon in order to function are riskier to attempt and are indicated with thinner lines. If you want to read more about a particular archetype, my last post has a list of the key cards for each archetype and links to more detailed descriptions.

The purpose of the archetype wheel is to help us see visually which colors support the most number of archetypes and, therefore, offer the most flexibility. This can help when choosing between 2 cards of similar power levels in the early stages of a draft. For instance, white and red support the most number of archetypes, so you might take a card in one of those colors slightly higher pack 1, pick 1. White is especially flexible in that it has a likely archetype with each other color. The downside of this is that you’re more likely to be competing with other players for good white cards.

On the other hand, black only pairs well with white, and so offers less flexibility, but you’re also likely to face less competition for good black cards. Also, a good W/B enchantments deck is one of the strongest decks in the format. This does not mean that W/B is the only possible color pair for black, just that it is the only one that offers strong synergies; I have seen good U/B and B/G decks drafted when cards in those colors were flowing.

Note that W/B, U/R, R/G, and R/W each support 2 archetypes, although U/R is the only one that supports 2 archetypes that are likely to come together. While the 2 U/R archetypes are quite different, they both want red burn spells and blue removal/pseudo-removal (Claustrophobia, Time Ebb, Disperse, and Frost Breath), as well as certain uncommons like Young Pyromancer, so it is likely that a table can only support 1 of each. Also, while Slivers can be G/R, G/W, or R/W, an 8-person draft can usually support only 2 Sliver decks.

Let’s look at one more piece of information. This spreadsheet summarizes card quality by color. It shows that white will have the most number of bombs in an average 8-person draft, but also the most number of unplayable cards by far. Black will have the most number of bombs + exceptional cards, and black and green will have the most number of bomb + exceptional + playable cards in a draft. This means that it is more difficult to put together a white deck, since white has fewer playables spread across more archetypes, while it will often be easier to get enough playable black cards since it has more playables spread across fewer archetypes.

Weaving all this information together, we can conclude that a typical draft will likely have:

  • 1 W/U skies deck
  • 2 W/B enchantments decks (which tend to be heavier black), one of which might also have a lifegain subtheme
  • 1 U/R tempo deck
  • 1 U/R control deck
  • 2 Slivers deck: 1 R/G and 1 R/W or G/W
  • Given that there are 4 white decks, 3 blue decks, 2 black decks, 3.5 red decks, and 1.5 green decks, and that black and green also have the most number of playables in the typical draft, the last deck is likely to be B/G or 5-color green

This is the last M14 post I have planned for now, since I’ve run most of the analysis that I’d wanted to. If I missed your favorite archetype, if you’d like me to look at another card more closely, or if you’d like to write a guest post, please email me at sameer underscore (_) merchant at yahoo or leave a comment below.

M14: Summary of archetypes

Here’s a summary of the M14 archetypes we’ve covered, in the order they were discussed. Archetypes in bold require fewer uncommons/rares or have more substitutes, and are therefore more likely to come together in a draft. These archetypes may also be able to support more than one drafter at an 8-person draft. “+” is used to separate different categories of cards required for the archetype. Italics denote cards that are secondary for this archetype and should usually be drafted once you have a number of the non-italicized cards listed. [] indicates that a card is rare or mythic.

  • G/R, G/W, R/W, G/R/W, or 5-color green Slivers: Manaweft Sliver, Predatory Sliver, Battle Sliver, [rare Slivers], Steelform Sliver, [Door of Destinies] + mana fixing if playing 5-color green (Verdant Haven, Shimmering Grotto)
  • G/R Beasts: Beasts (Kalonian Tusker, Rumbling Baloth, Marauding Maulhorn) + Beasts tribal effects (Advocate of the Beast, [Door of Destinies])
  • B/W(/g) lifegain deck: Lifegain-matters cards (Angelic Accord, Sanguine Bond, Voracious Wurm) + lifegain (Mark of the Vampire, Child of Night, Corrupt, Congregate, Bubbling Cauldron, Trading Post, Elixir of Immortality, Brindle Boar)
  • B/W enchantments: Enchantments-matter cards (Blightcaster, [Ajani’s Chosen], Auramancer — if you have Quag Sickness) + enchantments (Quag Sickness, Pacifism, Mark of the Vampire)
  • B/R sacrifice: Act of Treason, Tenacious Dead, [Chandra’s Phoenix], [Dark Prophecy] + sacrifice outlets (Barrage of Expendables, Blood Bairn, Gnawing Zombie, Altar’s Reap, Bubbling Cauldron, Trading Post) + token generators (Young Pyromancer, Molten Birth)
  • U/G mill: [Jace Memory Adept], [Traumatize], [Jace’s Mindseeker], Millstone, Tome Scour + Archaeomancer + stall (Time Ebb, Frost Breath, countermagic + Deadly Spider, Seacoast Drake, Wall of Frost)
  • U/R control: Academy Raider, Archaeomancer + stall (burn, countermagic, Time Ebb, Disperse, Frost Breath) + card advantage (card draw, [Strionic Resonator]) + win conditions
  • U/R tempo: Trained Condor, Goblin Shortcutter + cheap creatures + burn + tempo (Time Ebb, Frost Breath, Disperse) + finishers (Seismic Stomp, Lava Axe). Watch out for Shrivel.
  • W/U skies: Wall of Frost, Seacoast Drake, Angelic Wall + white/blue evasion creatures (especially Warden of Evos Isle, [Seraph of the Sword], [Windreader Sphinx]) + removal (Claustrophobia, Pacifism, Sensory Deprivation, Time Ebb, Disperse, Frost Breath) + creature enhancement (Accorder’s Shield, Fireshieker, Divine Favor)
  • G/B(/x) or 5-color green Gladecover Scout: Gladecover Scout + enhancing Auras (Trollhide, Mark of the Vampire, Dark Favor, Lightning Talons, Illusionary Armor, Divine Favor) + mana fixing if playing 5-color green (Verdant Haven, Shimmering Grotto). Watch out for Celestial Flare.
  • R/W tokens: Young Pyromancer, Molten Birth, Hive Stirrings + Barrage of Expendables, Bubbling Cauldron + Fortify, [Ogre Battledriver], [Path to Bravery]. Watch out for Shrivel.