The 17lands website provides an abundance of sweet Limited data. One thing that is always interesting to look at is how highly cards are being picked by 17Lands drafters (“Average Taken At”) versus the win rate of games where a certain card was drawn (“Drawn in Game Win Rate”). By comparing these two metrics on a plot, we can get a sense for which cards are overrated and which cards are underrated, at least in the first two weeks of Dominaria United Premier Draft.
Cards that are above the linear regression line have a higher win rate than you would expect for how highly they are taken. Cards that are below the linear regression line perform worse than you would expect based on their average pick number. The further they are removed from the line, the more underrated or overrated they are.
My initial plan for this article was to rank cards by their distance to the regression line in this plot, but this resulted in Shield-Wall Sentinel as a weird outlier. It’s amazing in defender decks with Wingmantle Chaplain, but mostly unplayable elsewhere. So, it’s only getting played in decks that are great, while a large number of picked Shield-Wall Sentinels don’t even make it into main decks. This can be seen in Shield-Wall Sentinel’s “Games Played” statistic, which is less than half the value of other top commons, even though it’s colorless.
In an attempt to account for this, I instead chose to rank cards by their total wins created over a replacement pick. To define this, let OWR denote a card’s observed game-in-hand win rate, let PWR denote a card’s predicted win rate according to the linear regression model, and let GP denote a card’s total games played in the 17lands data set. Then, total wins created over a replacement pick is given by (OWR – PWR) * GP. By sorting cards based on this data-driven metric, I obtained the 10 most overrated and 10 most underrated commons. Let’s count them down.
The most underrated commons
Destroy Evil is the tenth-most underrated common in Dominaria United. It’s taken in the middle of the pack, around pick seven on average, and many drafters subsequently leave it in their sideboard. However, it’s associated with an excellent 59.7 percent win rate, so you should take it earlier and put it in your main deck more often. Many decks are based around one of the common cost reduction creatures, all of which have four or more toughness, so your opponents almost always have a valuable target.
Shore Up is the first of many blue instants and sorceries you’ll see in this list. Blue has several cards that care about instants and sorceries in this Limited format, so the best blue decks are filled with instants and sorceries to enable a low-cost Tolarian Terror. Moreover, in a deck filled with card draw spells, the few creatures you run are generally worth protecting, and you’ll draw them more often. As a result, Shore Up gets even better in context.
Gaea’s Might gets taken very late, around pick 10 on average, and it’s frequently left in sideboards. This is fair, as you need the right combination of aggression and domain to make good use of it. In the right deck however, it can do a lot of work. I have particularly enjoyed the synergy with Twinferno and/or Molten Monstrosity, but it’s also a mana-efficient way to win combat or counter Lightning Strike.
Urborg Repossession, the seventh-most underrated common, is simply one of the best Raise Dead effects we’ve had in a long time. Stapling life gain onto a spell that doesn’t impact the board immediately is always nice, and the card advantage is often decisive in the long game.
Impulse is the sixth-most underrated card according to my metric, and Essence Scatter is the fifth-most. I combined them in one entry because it feels so good when you can keep up mana for both. If the opponent casts something worth countering, then you counter it. If they don’t, then you can still spend your mana on a spell that feeds or finds Tolarian Terror. Essence Scatter is the better of the two instants, and it’s taken earlier as a result, but both are still not taken highly enough.
Take Up the Shield is one of the best tricks I’ve seen in a long time. It allows you to win combat, leaves behind a +1/+1 counter, gains life to win a race and even counters removal if need be. Its Game In Hand win rate is even higher than that of Argivian Cavalier or Citizen’s Arrest, which are (correctly) taken around pick four or five, but Take Up the Shield is usually taken only around pick seven or eight. It deserves to go far earlier.
Phyrexian Espionage is similar to Impulse: it’s taken very late, but it’s an important piece of the puzzle for blue decks. As a card draw spell that finds you more copies of instants and sorceries, or even finds more land types for domain, it supports all of your synergies. Although it’s best in blue-black, Divination without the kicker is still playable in the context of blue’s theme in Dominaria United.
Tolarian Geyser is the second-most underrated common. Out of all cards in this category, it’s being taken the earliest, around pick 5.8, but its Game In Hand win rate is the best out of all colored commons in the set. This means that it’s still going far too late. Tolarian Geyser supports your Tolarian Terrors, generates a mana advantage by bouncing a four or higher mana value creature and allows you to win a damage race. Don’t sleep on this one, and don’t think you need the white kicker to make use of it.
I tried, okay? As I mentioned at the beginning of this article, I crafted a different metric in recognition of the relatively low likelihood that Shield-Wall Sentinel ends up in your deck. But even after taking that into account, its Game In Hand win rate was so much higher than the predicted value for a card taken at pick 9.5 that it’s still number one.
The main piece of advice I’ll give is that even if you haven’t drafted Wingmantle Chaplain yet, you should draft Shield-Wall Sentinel relatively highly in the first pack as a speculative pick. If you then open or get passed Wingmantle Chaplain early in pack number two, this will come with a huge payoff.
The most overrated commons
Now that you’ve seen the cards that the average drafter appears to be undervaluing, let’s zoom in to the ones that are taken a bit too early.
As it turns out, six of them are lands, so let’s start with that. They’re being taken around pick six and seven on average and are still good at improving the color consistency of your main colors. For example, Sacred Peaks in a base white-red deck is excellent.
But if you’re picking these lands just to boost domain or to pay off-color kicker costs (say, Sacred Peaks in a base green-white deck) then they are not that much better than a basic land. They’re still useful, but they should not be as high of a priority during the draft.
The fourth-most overrated common spell is Citizen’s Arrest. While there’s nothing wrong with it – indeed, its “Improvement When Drawn” statistic is positive – it can get blown out by Destroy Evil, its double-white cost is a major downside in a multicolor format and it doesn’t count as an instant or sorcery for white-blue decks. Accordingly, it should be taken less highly than its current average of pick 4.1.
Scout the Wilderness is only taken around pick 8.9, but it still isn’t a good card. Both the three-mana version and the five-mana version are inefficient, and it’s felt rather underwhelming in my games thus far. Three mana to ramp is too much, five mana for two 1/1s is too slow and the resulting sacrifice in card quality is not outweighed by the flexibility. Even white-green decks may prefer to leave this in their sideboard.
Deathbloom Gardener is slightly better than Scout the Wilderness, but not enough better to warrant being taken at pick 7.5 on average. Since it doesn’t add to your domain, it’s merely a fragile curve-filler for decks that have a lot of off-color kicker costs or gold cards, and it should go later than it has been going in the drafts.
The most overrated common in Dominaria United, according to my metric, is the card I pegged as the top common going into the set: Lightning Strike. Now, this doesn’t mean that the card is bad. On the contrary, it’s one of the top commons based on its win rate. It’s just being taken a bit too early. The average is pick 3.0, whereas pick four or five would be a more suitable average.
First-pick first-pack, I now take a large number of uncommons over Lightning Strike, including Nishoba Brawler, The Weatherseed Treaty, Phyrexian Missionary, Micromancer, Knight of Dawn’s Light, Prayer of Binding, Fires of Victory and Knight of Dusk’s Shadow. While Lightning Strike is good, it’s not at the “mythic common” level of Inspiring Overseer, and there’s no need to take it that highly.