The raw data is now available from 17Lands.com, and that means it’s time to get my hands dirty! Ari Lax asked me to look into the difference of cards between winning decks and not-winning decks. It leads to some pretty interesting findings.
This metric is meant to identify the difference between decks that are winning versus those that are not. This means it is conditioned on the fact that people are playing cards frequently, which means that rares and unplayable cards will end up excluded from the tables. This is a great quality because it yields actionable information. If I tell you playing Plummet makes your green decks worse, well, you probably already knew that. What you might not have known, as this data suggests, is you should stop putting Path to the Festival in your Simic decks. Path isn’t the worst-performing card in Simic. It’s the card that’s played the most by decks that don’t get six or more wins that is also played the least in decks that do get six or more wins. This is a very important distinction.
It’s not surprising to see blue cards come to the top, but it’s great to see that it isn’t just Organ Hoarder, the clear best common. Organ Hoarder is so good that the best performing blue decks will simply have more than the worst-performing blue decks. However, Revenge of the Drowned comes ahead of it in Izzet, and Shipwreck Sifter comes ahead in Azorius. And, notably, the green is extremely dark for those cards.
This does not mean that Shipwreck Sifter is better than Organ Hoarder in Azorius. It means that, on average, the number of additional Shipwreck Sifters in winning Azorius decks, when comparing with losing Azorius decks, is larger than the number of additional Organ Hoarders. This makes a lot of sense because Shipwreck Sifter wheels and Organ Hoarder doesn’t. But it gives a nice glimpse into the best Azorius decks being high-synergy rather than just piles of good cards (although it’s arguably both, which is why it’s one of the best decks). And you can make the same extrapolation here with Consider coming above Moonrager’s Slash in Izzet.
If you’ve read my content, you know I’ve been screaming from the rooftops not to put Ardent Elementalist in Izzet decks. But is it really the worst card in the entire set for the archetype? Of course not. Pack’s Betrayal is nearly unplayable in Izzet. I would much rather have Elementalist than that card. So why is Ardent Elementalist coming in as the worst card in Izzet via this metric, and Pack’s Betrayal isn’t even in the bottom ten? Well, lots of people are putting Ardent Elementalist in their decks, and those decks aren’t winning. So the expected number of copies of a Elementalist between the winning decks and losing has a large delta, which isn’t the case for the unplayables like Pack’s Betrayal.
Lastly, one of the more interesting observations from this table, is that two of the lowest-scoring Golgari cards are Grizzly Ghoul and Diregraf Rebirth, the two gold uncommons for the archetype. This does not mean the cards are bad. My assumption is that worse players consider these gold uncommons signals and/or pulls into the Golgari archetype. The best players will end up in Golgari for other reasons, and hence most high-performing Golgari decks don’t contain these cards while most low-performing Golgari decks do contain these cards.
Inspecting and analyzing this data is interesting, but I’m sure not as interesting as walking through a draft. The following draft is not actually mine, but Alex Nikolic’s (you may know him as Chord_O_Calls on Twitch/Twitter). Thanks to Alex for sharing this one. It’s pretty fascinating!
Pack 1, Pick 3
The Picks So Far:
At the beginning of this format, I had Contortionist Troupe significantly above Shadowbeast Sighting. Now that’s no longer the case. I like Troupe, but the value is in having coven for multiple turns, and the opponent can prioritize minimizing the impact of that mechanic. Shadowbeast Sighting has overperformed, yet isn’t a card I’m happy to first-pick. I’ll note that it seems to be the green common with the biggest delta in terms of winning, so it’s possible most people should take the card higher. That being said, I think Search Party Captain is around the same power level as Shadowbeast Sighting, and I’d rather bias towards my white mythic than my green common.
I think so. I like Thermo-Alchemist a lot in any red deck, and I like Ecstatic Awakener a lot in any black deck. They’re fantastic Magic cards. If the Shadowbeast Sighting in my pool was a good black card, I would probably take Awakener. If it was a good red card, I would probably take Thermo-Alchemist. But it’s not, and so I’m going to take Search Party Captain here. Notably, Search Party Captain ends up in the list of the top commons for every single white archetype.
Pack 1, Pick 5
The Picks So Far:
At this point, I could still be any archetype. The best card in this pack is Revenge of the Drowned followed by Defenestrate, but there are no cards in my pool pushing me towards either of those colors directly. Azorius is one of the best decks in the format, so I wouldn’t fault anybody for taking Revenge of the Drowned here. But I do think if you would take Defenestrate, maybe take a step back and re-evaluate. It’s a good removal spell, but it’s a full tier worse than Revenge, and it pairs best in blue anyway, which would make Revenge almost always the better pick.
With Search Party Captain and Sigardian Savior, I’m pretty sure Gavony Trapper is the right way to go about this pick. I think if Savior was a normal white common, I would end up on Revenge. But it pulls me stronger into white than a normal white common, and it puts pressure on me to draft a high density of cheap creatures. Gavony Trapper can be a pain for an opponent and function as a lightning rod for removal. In those games, getting Trapper back with Savior is backbreaking.
Pack 1, Pick 8
The last two picks were red cards, and the packs didn’t even provide good white cards as an option. Is it time to consider pivoting away from Sigardian Savior?
The Picks So Far:
This pack honestly doesn’t have much to provide. There is still a chance I end up white, with Boros as the most likely outcome. And if I don’t end up white, it is most likely I end up red. Does that mean I should take Brimstone Vandal? My best red decks don’t even play that card. Given that, it’s better to hedge towards a specific avenue. If I am likely to splash, Crossroads Candleguide could help, but I don’t like that card even in my splashing decks. If the card was Jack-o’-Lantern, it would be a real consideration out of this pack. However, I would rather take a hedge towards the best color: blue.
Shipwreck Sifters is by far the best one to take for an Azorius hedge, but white appears dry. If I end up Izzet, Shipwreck Sifters won’t be playable, and Dissipate will be. However, Dissipate isn’t even that good in Izzet, but it’s playable there and in Azorius, so it’s the thing to do to stay open. If Dissipate was Flip the Switch, I would be more inclined to take it as a good card for Azorius, and a great card for Izzet. But it’s not. Given that, I think the correct thing to do is take the Sifters, as it has the potential to be one of the best cards in my deck, which is backed up by the data described at the beginning of this article.
This draft was a pretty wild ride, and Alex ended up going 7-2 with a pretty strong Boros deck. You can view the full draft log here, and take a look at the deck below!