In this series, I attempt to use a statistical approach to analyze upcoming limited formats. How fast or slow is it? Can I expect to be able to block, or should I prioritize 2-drops so that I can race? How plentiful is the removal? How good are auras and combat tricks?
A few months ago, when Rivals of Ixalan prerelease was looming, I wrote an article attempting to ascertain the speed of the limited format compared to its predecessor, Ixalan. I concluded that RIX limited probably wasn't much slower than XLN limited.
While there are aggressive decks in RIX limited - if you've ever faced someone with a
Captain's Hook in their deck, you know this - but they have been less prevalent than I predicted. So what went wrong?
The removal was better than expected.
The impact of having efficient removal spells at common like
Moment of Craving and
Luminous Bonds made life difficult for aggressive decks.
Defensive creatures were plentiful and excellent.
Sailor of Means at common, in both sets, probably should have been a dead giveaway that something was going on. Without enhancement, most creatures couldn't get through the common defensive creatures at their mana cost.
The bombs were absurd.
You can be as far ahead as you want, but then your opponent would play one of the many huge bombs in the format and you'd be done. This created an incentive to play for the long game, as long as you had one or more of these cards in your pool.
The City's Blessing wasn't difficult to get.
Between the tendency to end up in board stalls and the existence of several cards that created two permanents, getting the City's Blessing was often somewhere between trivial and incidental.
While I think the format is generally quite poor and I'm glad to see it end, it did teach us (me at least) some lessons with respect to the analysis of a limited format.
If you read my previous Limited article, this section won't be new for you. I’m using a somewhat simplified method of calculating rarity in this analysis - I’m completely ignoring foils when calculating the chances of drafting or opening a certain card. This would be a big mistake for something like an EV calculation, but it should be fine for our purposes. Foil cards in packs replace a common, and since the majority of foils are commons themselves, the impact is likely to be minimal.
For example, here’s the calculation for the number of copies of
Run Amok you’re most likely to open in Dominaria Limited:
These kinds of numbers are most useful in the aggregate. If I add up the multipliers of every card with a certain characteristic, and adjust for the number of packs in a given format, I can create a weighted average of other characteristics. For example, I can tell you the average number of white creatures you will open in your prerelease pool and what their average power and toughness is likely to be.
Other than the Total column, which is unique card names, all of the other columns above show a weighted average. The Evasive column counts any creature with Flying, Menace, Trample, or the Oracle text “can’t be blocked” or "as though it weren't blocked". The last two columns are the average number of creatures of that color that should appear in a 6-pack sealed pool or a 24-pack draft pod.
While black and red appear aggressively-slanted, the evasion numbers in those colors are quite low, and black creatures are quite expensive. Most of the evasion appears to be concentrated in blue, colorless and multicolored creatures.
Also notable is the fact that there are only two mono-green creatures with Trample -
Untamed Kavu and
Multani, Yavimaya's Avatar. It appears the days of
Colossal Dreadmaw are behind us, at least for now.
With that in mind, we're going to take a different approach to removal this time around. Let's take a look at a few removal spells:
The Percent column is the percent of (unenhanced) creatures that spell can actually remove, weighted by rarity.
The Score column is an efficiency rating, calculated by dividing the spell's Percentage by it's converted mana cost.
Swords to Plowshares would get a 0.99 in the above table; 99% of all creatures can be removed by it, and it costs only 1 mana. Another classic removal spell,
Lightning Bolt, turns out to be a pretty good card as well -
Wizard's Lightning scores an impressive 0.78 when you control a Wizard.
Given this metric, we can extend this to all of the removal at common and uncommon, then break it down by color. For spells with two modes, we'll use the average of the two scores.
White has the most efficient removal by a pretty wide margin, but over half the removal spells you'll see will be red or black. Overall, removal appears plentiful and fairly efficient here.
Cast Down is better than it looks. When you adjust for rarity, it kills 86% of the creatures in the format.
So what are you going to do here? Tell me I'm going to open 6 rares in my sealed pool?
Not exactly. It's difficult to think of an objective way to analyze this category of cards, though I may come up with one at some point.
While there are certainly bomb rares in this format, such as
Zahid, Djinn of the Lamp and
Darigaaz Reincarnated, I'm having trouble finding equivalents to the insane rares of the previous format. There's no enchantment that allows you to exile any 3 creatures...and then resurrect them under your control. There's no creature that wipes the board when you cast it, or even a 4/8 with flying, double strike, trample, and indestructible.
By the way, if you didn't play any Rivals of Ixalan, none of those cards were mythics.
Also, there are few cards at rare/mythic that appear completely unplayable (I'm looking at you,
Overall this format appears less bomb-intensive than Rivals. The power level is high, but that power appears to be spread more evenly.
Auras and Tricks
Auras and Tricks are somewhat prevalent in this format, but don't pack large power and toughness boosts. Auras that grant evasion or lifelink are often solid, but there are few creatures with Hexproof to put them on this time around.
Support for "historic-matters" cards is fairly good, with about 19 cards per sealed pool being one of the historic types. The most impactful payoffs seem to appear at higher rarities, however, so I wouldn't try to build a draft deck around this mechanic unless you spend an early pick on one.
Sagas are powerful but slow, taking 3 turns to realize their full effect. They will generally create an incentive to play for a longer game, but you won't see many, as about half of them are rares and mythics.
Based on all of this information, I'm expecting a skill-testing midrange format. Aggro and control decks will probably exist, but it seems likely that they'll come together less often than in either of the last two formats.
Happy Prerelease Weekend! It's a great time to
Unwind and have fun!