Guessing at what will be good even before playing a single game of the format, apart from putting you ahead of everyone else, is always thrilling. Will I be right or completely off?
Our Limited-centered team involves the collaboration of multiple qualified players and requires multiple steps to have successful results. This includes ranking each card by category before the prerelease, again after a few drafts, and a third time just before the Pro Tour. Alex Majlaton came up with most of these ideas and logistics, made a website to collect data, and so far it’s been invaluable.
This specifically helps us get better at evaluating cards for the future, and showing at the prerelease and the first few drafts with an actual idea of how the format looks. As the Pro Tour gets closer, our evaluation changes depending on how the format actually plays out, and we can use our past rankings to know what we got wrong and what would be overrated even by players who didn’t put as much time in as we did.
At first glance, my initial rankings of colors before playing a single game looked like this:
White and black seem to have the highest concentration of good cards, with some exceptional options. This includes Grasp of Darkness, Immolating Glare, and one clean 4-mana common removal spell in each color.
Blue also has many cards I think are good, but none are extremely powerful—they all seem merely decent. Cyclone Sire, Roiling Waters, and Blinding Drone look like the best three cards, but are nothing like the 2-mana removal spells available in white and black. I also didn’t quite understand what the color is trying to do—it’s got a few aggressive, tempo cards, some durdley tappers, blockers, and ramp in Cultivator Drone.
Green looks more playable than it was back in Battle for Zendikar solo. There are two outstanding commons in Stalking Drone and Scion Summoner in a small set that we are drafting two packs of. Most people don’t seem to realize that a small set being opened in two packs makes for a lot more of the same cards in the draft. Nissa’s Judgment and Seed Guardian are great uncommons, so all in all green might actually be better than blue. I was going to need more play experience to figure that out.
Red was clearly the worst color—awfully one-dimensional, and besides the three removal spells and Maw of Kozilek, it’s just an aggressive color. Don’t get me wrong, it’s got some nice aggressive cards in Immobilizer Eldrazi and Zada’s Commando, but those are strictly good when you’re the beatdown. I initially ranked Devour in Flames as the best card of the color, but in reality it’s probably Boulder Salvo. I just didn’t realize it was so easy to surge it.
These four mythics all are clearly busted, yet, I found that the next 11 best rares/mythics aren’t too game-breaking and would make for a fun format free of domination by rares. It’s up in the air which 15 rares/mythics are the best, but when the debate is between Sylvan Advocate and Fall of the Titans, I feel better than I did back in Fate Reforged .
I played two prereleases. My first pool was unexciting—it was a Bant-oriented pool in which I could play any of those two color combinations, or splash a third. I ended up playing UG tempo in game 1 as it was the only deck with an actual game plan. I did sideboard into other decks, though.
I ended up 4-2. A lame record with a lame pool. I didn’t learn much here.
The second prerelease was highly fortunate for my wallet, and not so fortunate for my learning curve. I opened Nissa, Voice of Zendikar and Gideon, Ally of Zendikar. Oh, I also had Reality Smasher and Endbringer. Needless to say, I played green/white. My mana base was a little greedy between double-green, double-white, and colorless sources, but my mythics carried me to an easy 4-0 win.
I learned that Seer’s Lantern is a pretty good card in Sealed—an extra colorless source is always welcome, acceleration is nice, and the ability to scry through your deck when the board stalls is great. Red, as expected, only seemed to perform in an insanely aggressive deck—any deck below “very good” wouldn’t cut it. There were red decks that had 2 Reality Hemorrhage, 2 Boulder Salvo, 2 Maw of Kozilek, 1 Touch of the Void, and 1 Rolling Thunder—but come on, that’s 8 cards, it’s not a red deck!
As I’m writing this, I have six drafts under my belt. BW, BW, GW, BW, RG, and GB have won those drafts. I’m probably not wrong in saying that white is the best color, but this is a very small sample. Blue isn’t there at all. Is it because nobody knows what to do with it, or is it just terrible? I need more drafts to find out. I personally went 1-2, 1-2, 1-2, 3-0, 3-0, 3-0.
One lesson I learned was that the board stalls so much. There are so many creatures that have more toughness than power that it’s ridiculous. There are also a lot of removal spells and green reach creatures, so evasion in flying creatures just isn’t enough to break through. I’m thinking Coralhelm Guide might be better than in triple- Battle for Zendikar. Oh, also, Immobilizer Eldrazi is the smartest design of the set.
My initial color ranking hasn’t changed too much. I now think that green is better than blue, but they could swap again once I figure blue out. My evaluation of specific cards has changed big time.
I had Saddleback Lagac and just about every support card too low, it’s much easier to make them work than I anticipated.
Maw of Kozilek is way better than I originally thought.
Sky Scourer is strictly playable in an aggressive deck, which is something I knew looking at it, but in one draft, I took some in my GB colorless deck only to realize there are no aggressive green cards.
7 mana is a lot of mana, but Roiling Waters is still a good card since the board tends to clog.
Ondu War Cleric is an amazing 2-drop. Being able to just gain life once it gets brick walled is more useful than you would think.
3-drops are the magic number of the set. I learned that they are all very similar and because there are so many, it’s not worth it to take them highly.
Allied Reinforcements works so well with cohort and support. I wouldn’t be shocked if it ended up being in my top 10 best common/uncommons.
Check out another piece going up Friday where I discuss my Modern preparation for the Pro Tour!