Welcome to my Pick 1, Pack 1 list for Throne of Eldraine! The goal of this article is to rank all cards in the set from high to low for the purpose of the first-pick, first-pack decision in draft. The ranking is also relevant as a rough guideline for the subsequent picks and for the rough power level of cards in Sealed Deck.
Draft Archetypes in Throne of Eldraine
Before getting to the list, let me provide some context by going over the draft archetypes in this new Limited format.
Each of the 10 color pairs has a signpost gold uncommon that is meant to show that color pair’s theme. In addition, each color pair has a hybrid four-mana uncommon. These cards can direct your draft in terms of synergies to focus on for a coherent deck.
White-Blue: Artifacts and enchantments. Shinechaser gets a boost when you control an artifact or an enchantment, and Arcanist’s Owl helps find them. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Trapped in the Tower, Charmed Sleep, Flutterfox, and Corridor Monitor.
White-Black: Go-wide Knights. Wintermoor Commander gets better the more Knights you control, and Resolute Rider is a Knight that dominates the late-game. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Smitten Swordmaster, Ardenvale Tactician, Lost Legion, and Ardenvale Paladin.
White-Red: Go-tall Knights. Inspiring Veteran boosts your Knights, and Fireborn Knight puts the extra stats to double use. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Youthful Knight, Rimrock Knight, Raging Redcap, and Lonesome Unicorn.
White-Green: Adventures. Wandermare becomes better the more Adventures you have in your deck, and Oakhame Ranger fits that theme. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Faerie Guidemother, Silverflame Squire, Garenbrig Squire, and Garenbrig Carver.
Blue-Black: Mill? Drown in the Loch only works when your opponent has enough cards in their graveyard, although I’m not quite sure how Covetous Urge ties into that. You may want to emphasize cards like Eye Collector, Merfolk Secretkeeper, Memory Theft, and Didn’t Say Please when drafting this archetype. I’m not sure a dedicated mill plan will work, but if it does, then it’s blue-black.
Blue-Red: Draw two. Improbable Alliance can create an army when you have enough card draw effects, and Loch Dragon could trigger it every turn. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Opt, Bloodhaze Wolverine, Thrill of Possibility, Mantle of Tides, and everything else that draws cards.
Blue-Green: Ramp. Maraleaf Pixie can cast spells ahead of curve, and Thunderous Snapper is hungry for expensive spells. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Rosethorn Acolyte, Tuinvale Treefolk, Steelgaze Griffin, and Run Away Together.
Black-Red: Knights. Steelclaw Lance is hyper-efficient at boosting Knights, and Elite Headhunter has the right creature type (even if it’s a weak card). Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Weaselback Redcap, Locthwain Paladin, Embereth Paladin, and Barrow Witches.
Black-Green: Food. Savvy Hunter creates more Food, and you can sacrifice Food to return Deathless Knight from your graveyard to your hand. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Curious Pair, Giant’s Skewer, Insatiable Appetite, and Tempting Witch. Also, Bake into a Pie and Fierce Witchstalker are top commons in their own right, and they’re even better in a Food deck.
Red-Green: Non-Humans. Grumgully, the Generous boosts non-Humans, and Rampart Smasher is too big to be Human. Commons that go up in value for this archetype are Wildwood Tracker, Barge In, Rosethorn Halberd, and Redcap Raiders.
In addition to all two-color combinations, this set also supports mono-color strategies. In the few drafts I’ve done so far, I’ve found that drafting mono-color decks is actually possible and may happen fairly frequently. Between adamant, an abundance of artifacts, and hybrid uncommons, it’s usually possible to gather 23 playables. And the resulting deck could be quite strong too. For example, a mono-red deck featuring four different hybrid uncommons, red and colorless adamant cards, Torbran, Thane of Red Fell, Sundering Stroke, and multiple Dwarven Mine can easily win a draft, especially since it’ll never be color-screwed.
Methodology and Data Sources
To construct an aggregate ranking, I took the weighted average of the following normalized grades. I used my own grades for a weight of 50%.
· My own initial grades. Like LSV, I gave a Limited grade between 0 and 5 to every card (found in the column “Frank” in the linked sheet). These ratings are informed by playing a few Sealed decks and drafts with the new set, and they mostly convey my first impressions. I may update them and this article in a few weeks. I used my own grades for a weight of 50%.
· LSV’s set reviews. In this classic article series, LSV provides a Limited grade between 0 and 5 for every card in the set. I’m aware that what he writes about the card is more relevant than the grade, but the grade still conveys some information. If a range was specified for a card, then I took the middle point as the rating. I used LSV’s grades for a weight of 15%.
· The Draftaholics Anonymous rankings, collected on Sunday September 29. Their scores for cards are derived from users who are presented with choices between two cards in a Pick 1 Pack 1 context. I scaled the ratings so that the card with the highest score became a 5.0 and the card with the lowest score became a 0.0. I used their rankings for a weight of 15%.
· The LR Community review rankings, also collected on Sunday September 29. These rankings are based on a project by cricketHunter where hundreds of users submit Limited grades for every card in the new set. I scaled the grades so that the card with highest grade became a 5.0. Thanks to cricketHunter for providing me with the raw data! I used their rankings for a weight of 15%.
· Draftsim.com. Draftsim is an online Draft simulator and practice tool where you can draft against computer opponents, and I received the average pick numbers of each card within a booster. This data is based on over 70,000 Throne of Eldraine drafts done by users since the set was live. I transformed the average pick numbers so that the card with the lowest average pick number within a booster got a grade of 5.0 and the card with the highest average pick number within a booster got a grade of 0.0. Thanks to Dan Troha for providing me with the data! I used their rankings for a weight of 5%.
After taking the weighted average of all these grades, I made some adjustments for multicolor cards and colorless cards to get closer to a proper first-pick, first-pack order. After all, first-picking a gold card reduces your flexibility because it only goes into one color combination, whereas an artifact card keeps your options open. I subtracted 0.1 points for any gold card and added 0.1 point for any artifact.
I did not make an adjustment for hybrid cards. In my view, a red-green hybrid card is still fairly flexible, as you could still go mono-red, mono-green, or red-green. Given that mono-color strategies are actually supported in this set, I view first-picking a hybrid card in roughly the same way as first-picking a single-colored card.
The result was a number for every card in Throne of Eldraine—an aggregate of the above five sources that captures people’s first impressions. These numbers and the raw data in spreadsheet form can also function as a searchable text list. After I got a number for every card, all I had to do was to press sort, and the aggregate pick order list arose.
Tier 1: Bomb Rares/Mythics
Cards from this tier got a final adjusted rating between 5.0 and 4.0. If you prefer letter grades, then I would peg most of them as A+, A, or A-.
These are the best cards in the set according to this aggregate list, and I would first-pick them over any common or uncommon.
The cards are in order. This doesn’t really matter for this group because you’re almost never choosing between two rares. But the order means that, in a first-pick-first-pack context, Realm-Cloaked Giant is the best card in the set and Stolen by the Fae is on par with the best uncommon.
Tier 2: Includes the Best Uncommons
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 4.0 and 3.7. That’s approximately B+.
Remember that this is all one continuous list, to be read left-to-right, top-to-bottom, and that the cutoff for my category grouping is completely arbitrary. The way to read it is that Epic Downfall should be first-picked over Syr Carah, the Bold, which should in turn be first-picked over Lovestruck Beast if they’re all in the same booster together. Torbran, Thane of Red Fell is on par with the best card from the next tier, at least in a first-pick-first-pack context.
Tier 3: Includes the Top 6 Commons
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 3.7 and 3.1. That’s approximately B or B-.
So according to this list, Bake into a Pie is the best common to first-pick, followed by Scorching Dragonfire, Fierce Witchstalker, Charmed Sleep, Reave Soul, and Trapped in the Tower, in that order. These are all perfectly acceptable cards to start your draft with, and they’ll keep your options open.
Tier 4: Great Playables
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between a 3.1 and 2.6. That’s approximately C+.
Tier 5: Good Playables
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 2.6 and 1.9. That’s approximately C or C-.
Tier 6: Mediocre Playables
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 1.9 and 1.6. That’s approximately D+.
Tier 7: Mediocre Filler
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 1.6 and 1.0. That’s approximately D.
Tier 8: Bad Filler and Unplayables
Cards from this tier got an aggregate grade between 1.0 and 0.0. That’s approximately D- or F.
What is the Best Color?
Taking the aggregate grades for granted, the expected total as-fan grade per booster for each color is given below. (The total as-fan grade per booster of a certain color is the sum of the grades of mono-colored cards of that color in a freshly opened pack. For example, a freshly opened booster with a white common graded 3 and a white uncommon graded 2 and no other white cards would have a total as-fan white grade of 5. The expectation takes the long-run average over all possible boosters, using how often certain cards will show up in packs based on their rarity.)
- Black – 5.34
- Blue – 4.95
- White – 4.92
- Red – 4.85
- Green – 4.72
This analysis suggests that black is the best color. This makes sense when it has the best uncommon and the best common.
Thanks for reading; I hope this aggregate list will spawn some debate. I will return soon with a mathematical analysis of adamant for Limited mana bases and with a Limited bucket list filled with sweet interactions. So far, I’ve been having a lot of fun with Throne of Eldraine.
Meanwhile, let me know in the comment section which cards you felt were overrated or underrated. And if you want a chance to open Throne of Eldraine boosters and play high-level Magic, then don’t miss the upcoming MagicFests in Montreal, Bangkok, Utrecht, or Phoenix. I’ll personally be in Montreal and Utrecht, and I hope to see you there!