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.

Advertisements

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.

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.

BFZ: Allies

Battle for Zendikar has Allies in each color as well as several powerful multicolor Allies. Consequently, it seems like Allies decks should usually be 3-, 4-, or even 5-color green, especially since green also provides access to Tajuru Warcaller and Tajuru Beastmaster, which are powerful finishers. Let crunch some numbers to determine whether this is the case.

Let’s start by looking at all the Allies and Ally tribal cards in the set by color, rarity, and converted mana cost. (Cards in parentheses are not Allies but can create Allies or have an Ally tribal ability.) Especially strong cards are bolded, and those with tribal abilities are highlighted in yellow.

Some observations:

  • White has the most Allies, followed by black and red which have roughly equal numbers. Green has only 4 Allies, although Tajuru Warcaller and Tajuru Beastmaster are both quite strong. Finally, blue has only 2 Allies, neither of which have Ally tribal abilities. 8 of the 9 multicolor Allies are W/X: 3 are R/W, 2 are G/W, 2 are W/B, and 1 is W/U.
  • Next, let’s determine the average number of Allies available to the 2-color Allies decks that seem most probable.
    • W/B has access to an average of 25.9 Allies in an 8-person draft, 9.0 of which are especially strong (bolded).
    • R/W has access to an average of 25.6 Allies, 8.5 of which are especially strong.
    • B/R has access to an average of 19.5 Allies, 3.9 of which are especially strong. This color combination does not seem very promising.
  • A R/W/B (Mardu) Allies deck seems unlikely because:
    • several of the best Allies in these colors are early drops, which are more difficult to cast on curve in a 3-color deck,
    • a third of the black and the red Allies require 2 colored mana,
    • most of the black Allies have a lifegain subtheme, which interacts well with white but not with red, and
    • there are only 2 non-rare ways to fix your mana if you’re not playing green: Evolving Wilds, which is likely to be taken early, and Pilgrim’s Eye, which does not help you cast your 2- and 3-drops on curve and is not an ideal turn 3 play in an Allies deck.
  • 18 cards have Ally tribal abilities:
    • 8 are Allies with “When ~this~ or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, creatures you control gain X.” These abilities are not cumulative, i.e., the second trigger each turn does not confer any additional benefit.
    • 2 are Allies with “When ~this~ or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, creatures you control get +X/+X”.
    • 4 are Allies with “When ~this~ or another Ally enters the battlefield under your control, X”, where X is one of {tap a creature, drain 1 life from opponents, make a 1/1 token, or scry 4 for Allies}.
    • Angelic Captain and Veteran Warleader are Allies that get more powerful as you have more Allies.
    • March from the Tomb reanimates Allies in your graveyard with a total converted mana cost of up to 8.
    • Ally Encampment makes it easier to cast Allies of different colors and can be sacrificed to raise a dead Ally.
  • 13 of these 18 are especially strong (bolded): 2 commons (Kalastria Healer and Tajuru Beastmaster), 6 uncommons, and 5 rares. Let’s break these 13 cards down by color:
    • White: 2 uncommons + 2 rares = average of 2.6 in an 8-person draft
    • Black: 1 common = average of 2.4
    • Red: 1 uncommon = average of 0.9
    • R/W: 1 uncommon + 2 rares = average of 1.7
    • Green: 1 common + 1 uncommon = average of 3.3
    • G/W: 1 uncommon + 1 rare = average of 1.3

    Among 2-color combinations, G/W has access to an average of 7.2 strong Ally tribal abilities, followed by B/G with 5.7, R/W with 5.2, and W/B with 5.0.

White has the most Allies and the most Ally tribal abilities, so it is likely a necessary color for any Allies deck. I believe there are 3 primary Allies decks:

  • An aggressive R/W deck that relies on cheap Allies backed by removal and combat tricks to underrun its opponent. Key cards include Kor Bladewhirl, Firemantle Mage, and perhaps Chasm Guide. The deck has access to several finishers, including Retreat to Emeria, Kor Entanglers, Resolute Blademaster, and several 4- and 5-mana rares. It’s possible that Cliffside Lookout is playable in this deck since it is a 1-drop that can trigger Ally tribal abilities and act as a finisher if drawn late.
  • A W/B lifegain deck. The key cards are Kalastria Healer and Drana’s Emissary, followed by Stone Haven Medic, Retreat to Hagra, and possibly Vampiric Rites and Zulaport Cutthroat. This deck could potentially splash green for Tajuru Beastmaster, and perhaps even Retreat to Kazandu. I’ll explore this archetype in more detail in my next post.
  • A base G/W token deck that uses Unified Front, Grovetender Druids, and Retreat to Emeria to create tokens, green and white combat tricks to push through early damage, and Tajuru Warcaller, Tajuru Beastmaster, and Retreat to Emeria as finishers. It also uses green manafixing (Natural Connection, Blighted Woodland, Sylvan Scrying, Fertile Thicket, and Seek the Wilds, the last of which can be used to find key Allies or bomb creatures instead of land) to splash bombs and removal, and to maximize spells with converge (Unified Front, Tajuru Stalwart, Skyrider Elf, and Bring to Light).

A B/G control deck may also be possible since both colors have a strong Ally tribal effect at common. However, these colors don’t have specific synergies, so it probably makes more sense to instead draft a W/B Allies deck that splashes Tajuru Beastmaster, or a base G/W Allies deck that splashes black for bombs, removal, and maximizing converge.

ORI: Elves

(Quick note: I’m walking in the Greater Everett CROP Hunger Walk on Oct 4th to raise money to fight hunger. If you enjoy my posts, please consider donating $5 or $10 through my fundraising page. All donations will be used by Church World Service in the fight against hunger.)

There are a number of Elf tribal cards in Magic Origins: Dwynen’s Elite, Eyeblight Massacre, Gnarlroot Trapper, Shaman of the Pack, and Sylvan Messenger at uncommon, and Dwynen Gilt-Leaf Daen at rare. Gnarlroot Trapper and Sylvan Messenger require a critical mass of Elves, usually 10+, before they’re playable; the rest are playable without other Elves but get better as you have more. Does Magic Origins have enough playable Elves to make it likely that you’ll be able to draft that many playable Elves?

Let’s start by enumerating the playable Elves in the format at each rarity, along with their converted mana cost. (The only unplayable Elves in the format are Thornbow Archer and perhaps Sylvan Messenger.)

  • Common: Elvish Visionary (2cc), Leaf Gilder (2), Deadbridge Shaman (3), Eyeblight Assassin (3), Yeva’s Forcemage (3), Llanowar Empath (4)
  • Uncommon: Gnarlroot Trapper (1), Dwynen’s Elite (2), Shaman of the Pack (3), Sylvan Messenger (4)
  • Rare: Dwynen Gilt-Leaf Daen (4), Gilt-Leaf Winnower (5)
  • Mythic: Nissa Vastwood Seer (3)

This means that an average of 19 playable Elves are opened at an 8-person draft, of which 3.6 (the uncommons) are usually only valued by Elves decks. If there are no other players drafting Elves at the table and if we draft them highly enough, we can probably draft most of the uncommon Elves and about half of the rest, ending up with about 11.3 of the 19 Elves. This means that if you see a Gnarlroot Trapper or a Sylvan Messenger halfway through pack 1, there’s a reasonable chance that you can take it and draft enough Elves to make it good. (Note that even if your deck has 10 Elves, Sylvan Messenger is only going to net you 1 Elf on average, so it’s still worse than Llanowar Empath which gives you more control over your next draw steps.)

The 6 Elf tribal cards are all uncommons and rares, so there’re only about 5 of them in an 8-person draft. This means we will rarely want to focus on drafting Elves with the hope of picking up the tribal cards later in the draft. However, almost all the Elves are playable on their own merits, so if you’re in black and/or green, you’re likely to have some Elves, and you may be able to switch to an Elves deck if you see Elf tribal cards early enough in the draft.

Is it possible to have an Elf deck that’s not B/G? Of the 19 playable Elves in an average 8-person draft, 12 are green, 6 are black, and 1 is B/G. This means that B/X is unlikely, but G/X might be possible. If we assume that we get all the uncommon green Elves and half the rest, then we end up with an average of 7 Elves. That’s enough for some of the Elf tribal cards like Dwynen Gilt-Leaf Daen and Dwynen’s Elite, but not enough for Sylvan Messenger.

Finally, let’s take a look at the converted mana costs of the Elves in both colors. There are 0.9 at 1cc, 5.7 at 2cc, 8.3 at 3cc, 3.7 at 4cc, and 0.4 at 5cc. The high number of playable Elves at 3cc means that Gnarlroot Trapper is even better than I’d thought since it accelerates you to your 3-drops, and that Yeva’s Forcemage is a bit worse than it might otherwise be.

I have yet to draft a focused Elves deck. There have been 2 instances when I drafted a couple of Eyeblight Massacres in later packs, but only had about 6 Elves, which is the number you’d expect to end up with if you’re B/G but are not drafting Elves, and no one at the table is drafting Elves either. Given the numbers above, I expect I will attempt the archetype the next time I get passed Eyeblight Massacre, Gnarlroot Trapper, Shaman of the Pack, or Dwynen Gilt-Leaf Daen in pack 1.

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.