Sieges are an interesting new wrench tossed into the usual combat machine. As an entirely new card type, they can be tricky to evaluate. With the help of some magic data, we can establish some rules to help us assess Battles in MOM and in the future.
Now that we’ve had a few weeks to cast all 36 invasions ourselves, the hardcore limited fans have a pretty strong sense of which ones are worth, uh, battling over, and which ones aren’t worth the fight. We can certainly expect to see more Battles in the future, and while they likely won’t all have the subtype Siege, we can still begin to summarize some ideas about what makes these cards strong.
Let’s begin by taking a look at the top 3 performing Sieges, by 17 Lands Game in Hand winrate for premiere draft (data is similar for traditional draft). As of writing, the top five performers are as follows:
Unsurprisingly, we find three mythic bombs in our data. These are clearly some of the best cards in the set. Wait a minute, is that an uncommon??
Invasion of Amonkhet is showing up in some standard reanimator decks, played alongside cards like
The Cruelty of Gix,
Atraxa, Grand Unifier, and
Etali, Primal Conqueror. It isn’t usually quite as good in limited (though I have used it to copy an Etali in sealed, and it was exactly as sweet as it sounds), but it’s a huge overperformer. The others fall into usual categories- an army in a can, two strong removal spells, and a board wipe.
Let’s look for patterns in these strong Sieges.
First of all, if you imagine that all 36 Battles only had their front side, these 5 cards seem reasonably-costed for their effects. This is not true for all of battles, especially the uncommons, where an extra value-tax of 1-3 mana seems to have been added to help balance the cards for limited.
Invasion of Fiora costs 1 more than I’d usually expect for a board wipe, but cards like
Blood on the Snow suggest that black’s color identity has a harder time wiping the board, but adds in some bonus value.
These Battles all have between 4-6 defense counters. These are all reasonably easy to flip, usually with 2-3 regular-sized creatures. They are also within range of some of the alternative ways to flip Battles, such as
Shatter the Source,
Cosmic Hunger, and
Invasion of New Phyrexia,
Invasion of Innistrad, and
Invasion of Tarkir all allow the player to enable a scenario where they can be flipped easily due to the raw efficiency of the front sides.
Invasion of Fiora can do something similar, though it requires a little bit more work. Unlike some of the lower-power Battles, the back sides of these top performers are mostly just free value after the efficient front sides. Teferi turns your knights into a huge threat, Marchesa makes you the monarch, the Eternal wins you the game, things like that.
From these observations, we can hypothesize the following: the best Sieges are ones with…
- Front sides that are at-or-above the usual rate for similar effects.
- Defense costs that are reasonable to flip with one or two creatures.
- Back sides that add value, either adding a strong body to the board that provides inevitability.
Let’s test our hypotheses by taking a quick look at some of the worst battles in the set. We would expect that each of them would miss on one or more of these criteria.
Invasion of Kaldheim is a strange effect. This type of draw varies based on the quality of your hand, and it might be that this effect is only really worth 2 or 3 mana. However, this is a set with
Meeting of Minds and
Artistic Refusal, which can be card draw for 2, 1, or 0 mana. Plus, if you leave lands in your hand to exile and draw more cards, you won’t have those lands to discard to the backside of the card. This one is out by rule 1).
Invasion of Theros involves paying 3 mana for an effect you cannot really utilize in limited. This effect can be strong when attached to creature cards for free like
Heliod’s Pilgrim, but it is not worth the full card here, and the backside will often be a vanilla 4/4. Out by rules 1) and 3). Next!
Invasion of Arcavios is a cool effect- players love cards like
Double Vision- but this one has 7 defense, and doesn’t even add to the board state upon entering. Not efficient, and not reasonable to flip.
Invasion of Kamigawa looks fine at first glance, with 4 defense and a solid flying body on the backside. However, 4 mana to cast a
Crippling Chill at instant speed without even drawing a card breaks rule 1) by a mile.
Invasion of Kylem. I have a soft spot for red-white limited uncommons, and I hate to see this card at the bottom of the pile, but this one fails pretty hard at all three rules. 4 mana for what is essentially a 2-creature pump spell at sorcery speed is below the rate of recent cards like
Join Forces. 5 defense is okay, but I would have liked to see this card give flying, trample, or some sort of evasion. The backside makes two tokens, which are embarrassing in the face of some of the strongest bounce effects in recent limited history. Sorry,
Invasion of Kylem. Maybe next time.
I’m excited to see what Battles come next! Maybe they will be Sieges and can be evaluated in this same way, or maybe not- either way, I love the amount of design space this new card type has opened, and I can only imagine what the designers will come up with next. To keep up with all the latest and greatest in limited Magic, check out the most recent episode of Draft Chaff.