Hello everyone. If you’re new to Trading Posts, welcome! My name is Jeremy Lundin. I’m a technology guy, father, and Magic player specializing in Standard and Limited. I’m currently preparing for the Rivals of Ixalan Sealed RPTQs occurring in April.
For some time, I’ve been thinking about using 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?
Is Rivals of Ixalan going to be more of the same - poor build-around support, little removal, and train wreck drafts - or will it turn the Ixalan Limited format on its head like Hour of Devastation did to Amonkhet?
I’ll attempt to provide an educated guess to answer some of those questions here, but remember that educated guesses are still guesses. Sometimes statistics can lie to us, particularly when dealing with complex systems like a booster draft.
I’m using a somewhat simplified system 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
One With the Wind you’re most likely to open in Ixalan:
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 Merfolk you will open in your prerelease pool and what their average power and toughness is likely to be.
Let’s do that next.
Here’s a basic look at the creatures in Ixalan, by tribe.
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”. The last two columns are the average number of that creature type that should appear in a 6-pack sealed pool or a 24-pack draft pod.
This table should confirm some suspicions about the profile of each tribe. Dinosaurs are large, expensive, and plentiful. Merfolk and Vampires are rarer, but smaller, lighter and more evasive. Pirates fit somewhere in the middle.
Here’s the same table for Rivals of Ixalan Limited.
This data supports a few specific conclusions:
Tribal support has increased...slightly. On average, you can expect to open 1 more Dinosaur and 1 more Vampire per sealed pool, 1 more Merfolk in every 2 sealed pools, and about the same number of Pirates.
Creatures are cheaper and smaller. Every tribe sees a reduction in CMC, Power, and Toughness, even with
Ghalta, Primal Hunger in the format.
Evasiveness increases for some tribes. Merfolk see a slight gain in evasiveness, while Vampires are considerably more evasive than they were in Ixalan Limited.
The table above includes all removal spells, both conditional (
Slash of Talons) and unconditional (
Impale), as well as creatures such as
Storm Fleet Pyromancer and
Ravenous Chupacabra which have a reasonable expectation to act as removal when they come into play.
Removal is more plentiful. The most dramatic increases are in white and black, where removal spells occur in packs over 30% more often than in Ixalan.
Removal is a little less expensive. Well, except in black, where it’s much less expensive -- nearly a turn and a half faster.
Ascend is quite common. It’s a slow mechanic that encourages playing toward inevitably. However, it’s not at all clear that you can build a deck around this mechanic without same payoffs from the rare slot.
Tendershoot Dryad is clearly powerful whether or not you have the city’s blessing, but it’s still a 2/2. Many of the common and uncommon Ascend cards barely seem like playable cards, let alone payoffs.
The rest of the mechanics have an aggressive slant. Raid may be less of an issue, but there are more Enrage creatures and more +1/+1 counters. Despite
Sailor of Means making an encore performance, Pirates will be digging up somewhat less Treasure, which represents the majority of the mana fixing in the format.
This table only includes auras that bestow a power/toughness bonus. I’ll leave you to your own conclusions on the impact of
Dead Man's Chest.
Auras are still aggressive. Expect to see more auras, which will come down approximately half a turn earlier than in Ixalan limited. They bestow a slightly lower P/T bonus, but offer more evasion and other incentives to attack.
Combat tricks are a little less potent. They’re nearly as prevalent as they were in Ixalan, but most offer another ability (gain 2 life or draw a card) instead of a large power bonus. I do recommend playing around
Buccaneer's Bravado against Pirates, though.
The Last Word (Today)
My prediction is that players hoping for a slower, grindy format like Hour of Devastation will be disappointed. While the format does appear more dynamic than Ixalan, with more removal and the potential to build toward the late game with Ascend, in general it still seems quite fast. I doubt you’ll be earning the City’s Blessing all that often if you don't put some 2-drops in your deck.
Happy Prerelease Weekend! May the
Strength of the Pack be with you.