Ravnica Allegiance Limited by the Numbers

So you think you know everything about the themes that govern Ravnica Allegiance Limited? You know all about adapt, addendum, afterlife, ferocious, riot, and spectacle? Well, did you notice that I snuck a sixth keyword into the line-up here? Wizards did the same with Magic‘s latest set, albeit absent the actual word.

In this article, I specifically don’t want to focus on the five guilds’ named mechanics, although they will play a role. Instead, I want to deal with what matters, so to say. For example, having a +1/+1 counter matters and having power 4 or greater matters too.

Titanic BrawlClear the Stage

Adapt and riot can help with both, but it’s not a one-to-one connection. Some adapters and rioters never reach power 4 by their own efforts, and there are ways to get a +1/+1 counter onto a creature that don’t involve either of the two keywords.

And this is just the tip of the iceberg. It can be relevant for a creature to be a token, or not to be a token, or to be an Advisor. One might be on the lookout for activated creature abilities or for abilities that trigger upon a creature’s death. It can benefit a player to have a larger-than-usual number of instants and sorceries, and even Dovin’s Acuity doesn’t line up perfectly with addendum: not all spells with addendum trigger it, but lots of spells without do, although then again, not all instants can achieve this either.

Most of these themes are very minor and only show up on a few cards. Sometimes there’s just a single card that cares about a certain condition. Nevertheless, it’s worthwhile to be aware of the frequency at which cards meet such a condition. When you have drafted some payoff effect, you may want to know how likely or how easy it will be to pick up enablers in your colors. More importantly, you may want to know this when you’re faced with the decision whether to draft said card at all or to choose something else instead. In turn, you also better know how much additional payoff to expect, because in Booster Draft everything is interconnected.

Let’s begin with a painfully simple example to illustrate the process.

Cards Named Goblin Gathering

There is a single common in the set that cares about Goblin Gathering in the graveyard, and this common is Goblin Gathering itself. What more is there to say?

Well, I could tell you that an average Draft with eight players will have about 2.38 copies of Goblin Gathering. But this number isn’t very helpful. When you’ve drafted three copies within your first fifteen picks, you don’t care to be told how lucky you’ve been already. You’re more interested in how much more lucky you’ll be able to get going forward. The answer is that each new booster comes with a chance of about 9.9% to contain another Goblin Gathering.

Each common shows up at a rate of 0.099 per pack (rounded, the full decimal goes on to repeat two zeros followed by two nines ad infinitum). Individual uncommons are 0.0375 per pack, rares are 0.0165, and mythic rares 0.0083. This means that the average booster contains 0.0375 copies of every uncommon in the set—until you crack the pack there are three Schrödinger’s uncommons drawn from a pool of 80 uncommons total—and that the odds to pull a specific uncommon from a single pack are 3.75%.

Note that I have decided to disregard the existence of premium foil cards, for three reasons: First of all their effect is minimal, since foils themselves tend to follow the overall rarity distribution. Secondly, I wasn’t able to find reliable information on the chance to open a foil Guildgate. A distant third reason is that foils don’t exist on Arena.

All About Counters

In total, the average booster contains 0.174 mono-green cards that improve if they find a +1/+1 counter on your creatures or that improve such creatures: Titanic Brawl, Trollbred Guardian, and Biogenic Upgrade. Mono-blue adds 0.0375 copies of Skatewing Spy per pack and mono-red offers the same number of Rumbling Ruin. If you have access to green and blue mana, you get Combine Guildmage, Galloping Lizrog, Simic Ascendancy, and Zegana, Utopian Speaker on top, which makes for a combined 0.108 copies per pack. Red-green only adds 0.0375 Bolrac-Clan Crusher.

In addition, there are 0.0165 copies each of Incubation Druid and Benthic Biomancer, as well as 0.375 Sharktocrab and 0.099 Scuttlegator that could benefit from alternative or additional ways to receive +1/+1 counters. Green options that put a +1/+1 counter on another creature amount to 0.1365 cards per pack, blue has 0.0375, white has 0.0165, green-blue has 0.054, and red-green has 0.0458.

Counting all cards that can put a +1/+1 counter onto the battlefield, either on themselves or on another creature, leads to the following sums:

  • White: 0.0165 cards per pack
  • Blue: 0.327 cards per pack (including Scuttlegator)
  • Black: 0.1073 cards per pack
  • Red: 0.2438 cards per pack
  • Green: 0.6489 cards per pack (including Scuttlegator)
  • Green-blue: 0.2153 cards per pack (excluding Scuttlegator)
  • Red-green: 0.2071 cards per pack

The grand total across all colors comes to a whopping 1.77 cards per pack that enable +1/+1 counter synergies, and 1.64 in green-blue-red alone. With a combined 0.357 payoff cards per pack in these same colors, this is the biggest macro theme in the set.

Fantastic Four

Caring about the presence of a creature with power 4 or greater has a long tradition in Magic. In Khans of Tarkir, it was called ferocious and cards such as Flamewake Phoenix and Stubborn Denial serve as an enduring reminder that it was the Temur mechanic then. It has since appeared without a proper name on a number of cards, most notably Rhonas the Indomitable, and the earliest card that granted a bonus based on this condition dates back to the turn of the century in Kavu Lair.

In Ravnica Allegiance, favoring high power is now the domain of Jund. Black and red each feature one decent uncommon that improves noticeably with a power 4+ creature in play: Clear the Stage and Flames of the Raze-Boar. One uncommon translates to 0.0375 cards per pack, although Undercity’s Embrace brings black’s technical total grudgingly to 0.1365. Green, meanwhile, fields 0.099 copies of Territorial Boar, which demands that creatures already have power 4 upon entering the battlefield.

Let’s look at the creatures that can be 4/X or stronger, on their own and indefinitely, either by virtue of their printed power or by enlisting the help of adapt or riot:

You might think that these stats rarely matter because the payoff cards are so few. And you’re right—it is rare for them to be relevant, or rather it is (pun incoming …) uncommon. But matter they do—speaking from personal experience. For example, I once drafted Orzhov and picked Clear the Stage when knowledge of these numbers would have led me to take something else.

Another time, I drafted Rakdos and found myself with both Clear the Stage and Flames of the Raze-Boar, as well as Rakdos Firewheeler and Rafter Demon after pack one. If only future-me could have warned past-me not to take this (literal) power level among creatures for granted. I really should have prioritized Rubblebelt Recluse, Spikewheel Acrobat, and Undercity Scavenger more than I did. Alas, what was supposed to be a source of card advantage ended up trading one-for-one most of the time.

Rakdos in particular wants to look past the plain numbers too. Although included above, neither Rumbling Ruin nor Debtors’ Transport are welcome guests at a Carnarium party. (Although the art on Macabre Mockery clearly shows that the Thrull can be the subject of a performance.) That’s another reason why I now treat Flames of the Raze-Boar a little more like a red-green card. I also had better results splashing Clear the Stage into Gruul than when I ran it in actual black decks.

Tough Guys

Ravnica Allegiance is full of singleton build-around cards. The chance to open High Alert in a booster comes in at no more than 3.75%, but when the alarm does go off, the opponent often ends up in deep trouble. A white-blue card can find itself in a deck with black or green cards, but probably not alongside red cards. So let’s look at how many creatures from this share of the color pie exhibit a larger toughness than power.

  • White: 0.6241 cards per pack
  • Blue: 0.5168 cards per pack
  • Black: 0.372 cards per pack
  • Green: 0.4126 cards per pack (including Rubble Slinger)
  • White-blue: 0.1155 cards per pack
  • Green-blue: 0.1073 cards per pack
  • White-black: 0.054 cards per pack

…and how many creatures get less powerful under High Alert:

It should come as no surprise that the matching color pair offers the strongest selection, both in number and quality. Resolute Watchdog, Concordia Pegasus, Gateway Sneak, Spirit of the Spires, Humongulus, Senate Courier, and Azorius Knight-Arbiter all get quite absurd when they’re alert. The relevant news here is just how much worse the card is with black than with green. The average Simic creature is way more likely to benefit from High Alert even than the average creature in Esper.

A-cute Observation

Being from Kaladesh originally, I guess it makes sense for Dovin Baan not to be fully aware of how things work in the city of guilds. Dovin’s Acuity is famous around town, but Sentinel’s Mark totally escapes his attention. Once again, I was interested to see which non-red cards allow Dovin’s Acuity to generate an advantage. One will probably never be able to cast Quench, Essence Capture, Thought Collapse, and Absorb during one’s main phase, and I also excluded pure combat tricks:

The numbers only hint at it, but Dovin’s Acuity is much better in Esper than in straight Azorius decks. This is because spells such as Grotesque Demise and Final Payment make for comparatively nice main phase plays. If you follow the storyline (or read the flavor texts of Senate Courier, Sphinx’s Insight, and Dovin’s Acuity itself) then you know that there are dark forces at work here, and the card mirrors this for yet another flavor victory.

Air Force +1

The odds to find Spirit of the Spires or Windstorm Drake in a booster are, once again, 3.75% each. How many flying creatures or creators of such are available overall?

  • White: 0.5333 cards per pack (including Senate Griffin)
  • Blue: 0.5251 cards per pack (including Skatewing Spy, Senate Griffin)
  • Black: 0.3188 cards per pack
  • Red: 0.0083 cards per pack
  • White-black: 0.2603 cards per pack
  • White-blue: 0.129 cards per pack
  • Green-blue: 0.1073 cards per pack
  • Black-red: 0.0083 cards per pack
  • Green & red-green: none

The insight here is twofold. For one, it is notable just how many flyers Azorius can access: a total of 1.1499 cards per pack. The other is that Orzhov isn’t that far behind with 1.1124. The first fact should place Windstorm Drake high in the pick order for any white-blue drafter. The other makes it a worthwhile splash consideration for a white and black deck.

Further Notes

Only 0.273 cards per pack can mill the opponent. Only 0.099 Persistent Petitioners and 0.0375 Screaming Shield can do so repeatedly. 0.1155 cards per pack have Advisor as their job description. I’d advise not to pursue any of these themes.

Simic is the preferred home for Pteramander anyway because of +1/+1 counter synergies and because Open the Gates can replace lands. Somewhat surprisingly but conveniently, green and blue also have more instants and sorceries than white and blue: 1.7688 compared to 1.5123 cards per pack (excluding Emergency Powers).

Biomancer’s Familiar can find 0.5131 adapters per pack, but let’s not forget that other activated abilities with mana costs exist, most of them in green, blue, and red. Their contribution outside of adapt amounts to an additional 0.5416 cards per pack.

Teysa Karlov, in contrast, has to make do with 0.4636 afterlifers per pack, but gets to work with a combined total of 0.3714 additional token producers and death triggers per pack across the Mardu colors, or 0.3099 such cards per pack in Esper. Cavalcade of Calamity finds 1.7569 cards per pack that are 1-power attackers or can create an equivalent token. Fans of Nikya of the Old Ways, meanwhile, will be happy to learn that Gruul alone provides 2.7612 creature cards per pack.

Each guild triggers Tome of the Guildpact with the exact same number of cards, 1.4073 per pack (including all appropriate hybrid and split cards as well as Sphinx of the Guildpact). But Glass of the Guildpact is an interesting case because the prevalence of multicolored creatures varies quite a bit between the five guilds. In green, where you’d expect to find the most plentiful fauna, it’s actually worse than elsewhere, largely but not only because of afterlife. Here are the full numbers for multicolored creatures and producers of same:

  • Orzhov: 1.0509 cards per pack
  • Azorius: 0.8477 cards per pack
  • Rakdos: 0.7823 cards per pack
  • Gruul: 0.7404 cards per pack
  • Simic: 0.6706 cards per pack

Finally, each color has 0.0375 cards per pack that benefit from Guildgates, except black and green. Black has zero, while green has 0.1365 cards per pack if we’re willing to count the 0.099 copies of Open the Gates. On top if it all there are 0.0375 copies of Gate Colossus per pack available to everyone.

Did I forget anything? Let me—and the world—know in the comments!

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