Welcome to my last article on Magic 2014 Limited, just in time for GP Oakland. Normally I break down Limited formats based on anecdotal knowledge and what characteristics define the format. With Constructed there’s a large amount of data floating around to cull decks and wins/losses from. This time around though I have a treat, one of my readers sent me some very interesting data on the format based on 30,000 replays (17,000 Draft, 13,000 Sealed) of M14 Limited. So before we begin I’d just like to thank Rolle for being kind enough to share this data with me and permitting me to share it in an article.
Here are some of the juicy bits:
Avg. Lands Played
Win % on Play
Win % on Draw
Some numbers that jump out immediately is the ‘slow’ turn rate of the games. While M14 is slow, this number may make it seems glacial compared to other formats with Gatecrash still fresh in people’s memories. Let’s take a look at a few other formats to see how it stacks up.
Average Final Turn
M14 - 9.6 turns
AVR - 9.2 turns
MMA - 9 turns
M13 - 9 turns
DGM - 8.9 turns
Cube - 8.3 turns
So while M14 is definitely the slowest of formats, many other formats aren’t actually all that fast on average. The difference between Modern Masters and DGM to M14 serve as great reminders that just a little bit of a speed difference can make a large impact on how people perceive the format. I definitely felt like M14 was slower due to the lack of aggressive cards, but I failed to realize that it wasn’t that much slower from other formats. Part of this impact could be because there are almost no true aggressive plans in M14 whereas these other formats all included at least one clear aggressive archetype among the rest.
The play/draw and mulligan percentages seem to back up the reasoning that card advantage is a bigger deal here than it has been. There’s a notable gap between win% on the play and draw when mulliganing, and supports the notion that falling behind on cards is a potential death sentence in this format. This is not a format where you want to have situational blanks in your deck if you can help it. Of course, we should keep in mind that this is referring to draft, and that Sealed may not suffer from the same disparities.
The land counter may seem like just a cute trivia stat, but it’s a good reminder that even in this slow of a format, a card that costs 7 or more mana is still something you can’t reliably count on unless you design the deck to take it into account.
As for other data, let me give you an example by posting the win percentages from all of the mythics in Magic 2014.
Rise of the Dark Realms? Devout Invocation? These are better than all the other cards, let alone Jace, Memory Adept? And now we see win these win percentages may have a bit of a flaw unless you account for how the program collects its data. See all the games where the 9-mana spell rots in your hand and you lose in the meantime don’t count against it in the data. Replay scraping is exactly that—you get access to all the public information, which leads to some interesting slots.
To quote Rolle, “There are some provisos with the card win% analysis. I can’t see (in a replay) what is in your hand or your deck, so the high win% is slanted towards high CC bombs that actually get played (it doesn't take into account how often Rise of the Dark Realms was sitting in your hand when you lost) but overall it's pretty accurate, particularly for low to mid CC commons and uncommons (as these are played in thousands of games and are rarely stuck in hand)."
Opportunity could reasonably be said to be the 6th best card in the set, beaten only by Garruk, Archangel, Bounty, Kalonian Hydra, and Jace.
Simple Divination will "win" you the game 56.1% of the time after it is cast.
So assuming you think the nine-mana spells may be a tad overrated and that Devout Invocation has a higher chance of being correct (448 total plays vs. 134 for Rise) then we get a pretty clear view of the other mythics. We see that Jace is likely the best card to have in M14, but not by the margin people normally assume mythic bombs are at. Most of the other mythics probably place close to where you’d imagine if asked to rank them based on what you know about M14 by now.
What surprised me about the list was how closely all of the mythics ranked together, there’s a much smaller percentage difference from the Jace players to the Chandra’s and even the creature mythics which are a lot easier to deal with by comparison didn’t really get dinged. Moving onto the rares.
Colossal Whale? Another blue card with a colossal win percentage? Shocking. In all seriousness, while I think Whale is quite good, keep in mind the whole seven mana caveat that attaches to high-end spells. Dismiss into Dream is right below it and while the total tally of 191 gives away the built-in bias (only going to see play in decks that support it and is expensive), Whale could easily be a less obvious version of this though the number of plays puts it closer to being real.
While the top slots are mostly self explanatory, they cover a nice spectrum mana and color-wise. The biggest surprise on the list for me is that the top slots are all black, blue and green with no red ones in sight until we drop below 60%. Nightmare is another card that surprises me, in practice I’ve been less than impressed with it, but perhaps it’s ranking reflects people putting it in better shells than I had.
Megantic Sliver being that high up surprised me at first, but then I really thought about it. A 6/6 is good enough in this format and this has the bonus of turning other Slivers into huge threats. If combined with Striking Sliver or one of the better combat Slivers your creatures are practically impossible to beat in combat and are going to be very tough to race.
Notably all the white rares start further down the list as there are no bomb white rares, merely very efficient creatures and a Wrath effect. Seraph of the Sword is excellent and I like the art she has, but she just doesn’t make a big enough impact to swing games like other rares. You look at other white rares and are going to be hard pressed to find a better one in the lot except maybe Bonescythe Sliver. Depressing, let’s move on.
Opportunity. I’m taking this Opportunity to remind you that drawing four cards is a winning play. Not too much in the way of surprises here, Shiv’s Embrace wins a lot more games than people are willing to admit and the rest aren’t exactly surprises. Howl of the Night Pack is something that I expected to be high, but after seeing the total column for it, I’m a bit more concerned about how much the data collection favors it. Speaking on a personal level, while I really like the card, it’s had issues killing people without making at least four or more wolves and for seven mana you really hope the card ends the game soon.
What do you think is the common with the highest winning percentage given what you know about the data and how the mythics panned out?
Ah, the mighty Seismic Stomp with a 67.3% win rate.You probably should have seen this coming considering it’s a falter effect so its rarely cast unless you’re about to win. It was only seen in 343 games where most commons saw at least 5000+ plays and the most played are up in the 8-9k range. Sometimes pointing out some of the odd ducks is quite easy.
And with terrible Seismic Stomp removed our final blue card to round out the list is...
With that, you now know the depths of which the blue domination has reach-... Wait, Mark of the Vampire is a black card. What happened? Well first it depends if you think Mark of the Vampire has an unfair bias as an aura. Auras don’t typically come up in games where you’ve fallen behind or if they won’t have significant impact on the board. Meanwhile a card like Child of Night or Deadly Recluse will be cast more often barring color screw. Still it has 6822 plays which to me is enough that we’d see a more warped sample size if it wasn’t seeing a ton of play.
Really it’s likely because Mark is just a very potent point and click card. You play it on a big creature or evasion creature and ask the opponent to deal with it. If they can’t, they just lose in a couple of turns. There’s not a whole lot of dancing around it or trying to race, you either get to wreck the aura player with removal, kill them the turn Mark came down or probably just lose to it.
The top 10 commons without Seismic Stomp are:
When you look through the list of top commons, you see there’s a solid mixture of commons amongst the colors. Right now the only color lacking in high class playables is white, which some have dubbed a quality black hole. Mostly me. Because it is. White is just very pooptastic. Here are the top 40 commons by win rate and you can see for yourself.
It takes real effort to be on the wrong side of the 50% win rate with commons and you'll notice many of the white ones are on that side. White is just very poor in this format and lacking in both two-for-one potential and a focused gameplan. While cards like Master of Diversion and Charging Griffin favor attacking, other commons like Pillarfield Ox and Siege Mastodon are much more defense-oriented. Meanwhile cards like Sentinel Sliver are quite reasonable, but don't have enough removal for a constant aggressive push through blockers.
If we look back at the uncommons we notice a severe lack of removal and solid creatures outside of Banisher Priest and Serra Angel. Meanwhile Steelform Sliver is a mediocre creature on offense and defense, Congregate and Angelic Accord are gimmicks, Brave the Elements is very narrow in scope for this format without a really aggressive white deck and finally Wall of Swords and Blessing speak for themselves in terms of boredom and lack of power.
White not only lacks powerful cards it just lacks an identity to build around, making it unsuitable for main play or as a support color. When you look at the color win percentages for draft, WR Aggro and WB end up as the only archetypes with white to break a 50% win rate.
Finally here are the color archetype win percentages for Draft.
Top two decks don’t include blue and instead are black based, in fact the top three decks all include black as a color.
Two color blue decks have all fared well except the traditional UW Skies deck, primarily because white is stone garbage. Mono blue did poorly, the same with the rest of the mono-colored strategies. Certainly doesn’t mean a mono-colored deck can never succeed, but people get too invested in trying to make fetch happen. I think that now that people know what to look for in mono U that the better players had a week of getting rewarded heartily for sticking with it, but the cat is out of the bag for late pick steals and blue being ‘best’ in general.
RG looks to be massively overdrafted and yet hasn’t fallen below 50% yet.
If Twitter is any indication, many pros dislike auras immensely while they continue to be some of the most powerful cards in the set on average. Mark of the Vampire and Shiv’s Embrace are two in particular with high win percentages and are denoted by some as being just above filler.
Black is about on par with blue commons-wise with the difference that everyone loves blue and black doesn’t really get talked about. Not only that but it has access to two of the better removal spells at common and more at uncommon which gives it extra protection against bomb creatures. Red can’t do much about a Shivan Dragon, but black and blue don’t really care between bounce and actual removal.
Green is overdrafted and still doing reasonably well when paired with good support colors. Big bulky creatures and mana sinks are something green still provides. The main thing green tends to lack is a good curve without Elvish Mystic around. The three slot in green is not all that great and the two slot are still mostly bears and Deadly Recluse.
Speaking of bears, all the 2/2 and 2/1 creatures in the format suffer from being completely outclassed against blue and I feel like they’ve helped blue be the dominant color. Cards like Scroll Thief, Seacoast Drake and Nephalia Seakite all eat or bounce common creatures like Child of Night and Goblin Shortcutter. It also doesn’t feel good to eat a Time Ebb and then have the opponent bash right into you with a Scroll Thief.
See you in Oakland, I’ll be working side events and birding when I have the chance.