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By: oraymw, Matthew Watkins
Jan 23 2013 9:41am
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Welcome to Ars Arcanum, the MTGO stats-based column. Gatecrash spoilers are up, and so it is time for an in depth statistical breakdown of the set. In this article, I’ll crunch the numbers for creatures in the set, and try to get an idea of the overall feel of the set. We’ll look at the speed of the format in order to get a sense of what avenues are viable, and we’ll also dive deep into the guilds. I’ll talk about how the guilds stack up overall, and I’ll discuss what you should do when you go to the Gatecrash prerelease.

First, though, I need to address a question that I’ve gotten from several people. Namely, “why hasn’t there been an Ars Arcanum for two months?” There are a lot of reasons, but I’ll start with the big one. The Magic Online team changed the way that replays work. Before, you could access replays for finished matches in any event. However, now you can only access replays for events that have finished. The problem with this is that 8-man queues only stay up for a limited amount of time, and then they disappear. It is difficult to watch all the games in a queue before the event closes. Often, this means that I will end up with the results from partial matches, or I won’t have results from all of the matches. Matters get even worse in the new client. Once you open a replay from an 8-man event, when you try to close that replay, it will close the event. This means trying to hunt down the event by its event number before it disappears. While this doesn’t make it impossible for me to gather a statistically relevant sample from 8-man queues, what it does do is double the amount of time it takes me to gather that data. The other major problem is that I’ve had a lot going on in my personal life, including finishing my student teaching, applying for jobs, getting sick, having sick kids, and celebrating the holidays. Normally none of this would have prevented me from getting out regular articles, but since it takes twice as much time for me to put together data from an 8-man queue, I just couldn’t find the time to create an article with the kind of quality that I demand from myself. With that said, I have plans for how to manage Ars Arcanum in the future, so I’m planning on returning to regular content. I figured that a Gatecrash Prerelease Primer would be the perfect time to jump back into the fray.

Just like usual, I want to take a moment to discuss my methods. The most important part for this article is a concept that I call rarity weight. Essentially, rarity weight tells us the likelihood of a card to appear in a given draft according to its rarity. Gatecrash has 101 Commons, 80 Uncommons, 53 Rares, and 15 Mythic Rares. There are ten common slots in a given booster pack, which means that any common has a little less than a 10% chance of showing up in any booster. Each of the 8 players in the pack opens 3 packs, which means that any given common will be opened 2.376238 times in a given draft, on average. There are 80 uncommons, which is more than usual, and ends up giving us a .9 per draft rarity weight for uncommons. The rarity weights for rares and mythic rares are .396226 and .2 respectively. Using these numbers, we can get an idea of what the format will look like for an average draft, which helps us understand how individual cards will fit into the mix.

Another important point is that I focus these statistical analyses on the creatures in the environment, because creatures tend to be central to the way a format ends up playing out. Mana curve tends to center on creatures, and creatures are also the primary win condition of limited decks. 

Lastly, I want to talk about Evolve. This mechanic throws a bigger wrench into my analyses than any other mechanic that I’ve looked at. The basic problem is that it makes every Evolve creature have power and toughness that can vary wildly from game to game. For those of you who trust my data on account of having read through my articles for a while, feel free to skip the explanation of the mathy stuff and head right to the article. For everyone else, I’ll give a description of how I calculated the likely powers and toughnesses of Evolve creatures. Later on, I’ll also have a table to give players an idea of what those creatures will look like. If you would like a more detailed explanation, feel free to send me a message on Twitter. I should note a caveat; it is impossible to predict this with perfect accuracy, because there are just too many variables. The size of these creatures depends on when you draw them, what mana you have available at the time, what creatures you draw alongside them, what creatures you drafted, and what creatures actually showed up in the draft. It also depends on the order in which you play the creatures. Because of this, it is necessary to take some arbitrary decisions in calculating the data. As parameters, I chose to only look at the size of these creatures over the course of the first ten turns of the game, and I did this for two reasons. First, each time you evolve your creatures, the next evolution is dramatically more difficult to accomplish. The ten turn window provided the best sketch what to expect from these creatures. Secondly, most games of Magic only last for about ten turns. For the games that do go longer, if your creatures didn’t have enough impact in the first ten turns, then you’ll probably still lose. The next important parameter that I set was that the deck would have 15 creatures. If you have more creatures, it will be more likely that your creatures evolve, and vice versa. Also, I decided that in order to understand these creatures, I would say that they had been played at the first available moment after they have been drawn. In other words, if you have a Cloudfin Raptor on turn 1, then you will play it. If you draw it on turn six, you’ll still play it. This doesn’t mimic actual gameplay precisely, but it was important to set this parameter in order to understand how the different pieces will often interact. To sum up, everything to do with Evolve is the best guess that I could come up with by using a lot of math to calculate probabilities. However, I’m confident that numbers for these creatures are within an acceptable range to give us an idea of how the creatures will play.

Now, let’s take a look at the numbers.

Converted Mana Cost

Converted Mana Cost of Creatures in Gatecrash, as Compared with Return to Ravnica

Converted Mana Cost of Creatures in Gatecrash, as Compared with M13, M12, M11, and RTR

We’ll start off by looking at the average converted mana costs of the creatures in Gatecrash. At first glance, it is hard to pull out the important details. We see that Gatecrash, like Return to Ravnica, peaks at the 3cmc slot. We also see that it hits about 40 2 drops. We also see that Gatecrash tends to lag a little bit behind the core sets in the upper mana costs. We see enough two mana cards that we know that we’ll be able to find a reasonable amount of cards for the early game. We also know that since the 3 mana slot is so full, that we are going to have very full turns from turn 3 to turn 6. In fact, the most strange thing about looking at all of these sets together is to see how close Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash are in the converted mana costs. There is much more that is similar about these two sets than there is different. From this, we can take an important conclusion; the speed in Gatecrash will be roughly similar to the speed in Return to Ravnica. We can expect Gatecrash to have a similar turn curve, with close to 60% of the games ending between turns seven and ten. We can expect that we’ll be able to play our seven drops a little more than 50% of the time, and eight drops around 35% of our games.

It’s probably good news for most players that they won’t have to adjust their play style drastically for Gatecrash. However, there are some key differences between Return to Ravnica and Gatecrash, and I suspect that those differences will actually have a significant difference on the strength of the guilds in the format. Also, there are enough differences that you will need to tweak your style a little bit in order to play optimally. The first difference is that Gatecrash has a few more one drops than Return to Ravnica. Secondly, we see more five drops in Gatecrash. Thirdly, there are fewer spells at six, seven, and eight. All of this means that there are more tools for interacting in the early game. On the one hand, this means that it is a little bit easier to find the pieces for an aggressive Boros or Gruul deck. On the other hand, it means that the control deck will be more likely to find the cards that allow them to fight back against those aggressive decks. Another major difference is in the strength of the different guilds. In Return to Ravnica, the best two guilds were Selesnya and Rakdos, and both of them were able to put significant pressure on their opponents in the early parts of the game, which kept the speed of the format lower. Later on, we’ll discuss the strength of the guilds in Gatecrash, but suffice to say that there is a little bit of a shift between the two sets.

Overall, it looks like Gatecrash will be slightly faster than Return to Ravnica, especially early on in the format. Gatecrash features two heavily aggressive guilds with Gruul and Boros, as well as another fairly aggressive guild in Simic. I suspect that aggro decks will be a little more commonplace than in Return to Ravnica. However, this does not mean that aggressive decks will be the best option. As I’ve pointed out over and over in my articles, sets are defined more by what is missing from an environment than by what is plentiful. Yes, there are plenty of tools to interact in the early game, but that might point to an opportunity to take a more controlling approach to winning.

Power and Toughness

Power and Toughness of Creatures in Gatecrash Draft

In this chart, we start to see Gatecrash starting to diverge from Return to Ravnica. In RTR, we saw a high number of two and three power creatures against a high number of three and four toughness creatures. Because of this, the only playable aggressive creatures tended to be things with three power, and ideally three toughness. Otherwise, the creatures just couldn’t really attack. Splatterthug and Dead Reveler were excellent in this environment, since they could attack into a 3/3 without worries. Auras became especially important for breaking through the four toughness barrier. Furthermore, there weren’t very many efficient removal spells, so you had to try to break through the four toughness creatures by using Auras.

With Gatecrash, we see a much more typical spread of Power and Toughness. Two power is pretty close to two toughness. Three power is even close to three toughness. We do see a little bit more toughness than power once we get up to four, but nothing like what we saw in Return to Ravnica. The most important conclusion to draw from this is that people will be attacking more often in Gatecrash. The aggressor will be better able to attack, since they will often trade with something on their opponent’s side, instead of just bouncing off like in Return to Ravnica. Bears will be good again, since there will be more creatures with which they can trade. A card like Rakdos Shredfreak would be right at home in Gatecrash. This is compounded by the fact that there are two guilds in Gatecrash that reward players for attacking. This also means that creatures are going to trade more often. In Return to Ravnica, the board would often fill up rather quickly, with three, four, or five creatures on the table in turns seven to ten. Sometimes even more. In Gatecrash, we’ll see people trading off their creature. Against Boros and Gruul decks, you’ll have to block early on in order to keep your opponent off of Battalion, or to force them to use Bloodrush. All of this leads to much more empty boards.

Power Comparison of Creatures in Gatecrash vs. Return to Ravnica

Toughness Comparison of Creatures in Gatecrash vs. Return to Ravnica

In the first chart, we see a comparison of the power of creatures in these two sets. They are virtually identical, except that Gatecrash gets to have a few more creatures with three and four power. However, in the second chart, we see how RTR had a significantly higher number of high toughness creatures. Again, this means lots of early trading, a more aggressive environment, and fewer games that turn into long attrition battles. I should repeat that this does not mean that aggressive decks will be the best decks in the format; it means that aggressive decks will be the most plentiful in the format.

One of the interesting things we saw in the middle of the Return to Ravnica season was that people started to build ultra-aggressive Boros decks, featuring a high number of red and white one drops. They would use those to get off to a quick start and punish players for not playing enough two drops, or for playing Gates and Rupture Spires. The players who championed these decks thought that RTR was a fast format. What they were failing to notice was that the reason their deck was successful was because there were so many people play slower decks. The control and attrition decks had to focus their defenses on beating the three power creatures in Rakdos and Selesnya, and they needed to be able to win against the powerful late game potential of Selesnya, Golgari, and Izzet. This left a hole in the early game, and a very dedicated aggressive deck could take advantage of that hole. However, if everyone was picking bears higher and always playing them, that Boros deck would have died out quickly. I’ll point out again, the best strategies in a format are often defined not by what is plentiful, but by what is lacking.

Gatecrash Creature Statistic Averages

Converted Mana Cost

3.233326

Power

2.531024

Toughness

2.64041

PT Differential

-0.10939

 

Our last important piece of data is to look at the averages for the format. We have the average Converted Mana Cost, Average Power, Average Toughness, and the Differential of Average Power and Toughness. The average CMC is in the middle of the spectrum for mana; it is about at the same place as M12. Power is a little bit lower on average than Return to Ravnica, but still pretty close, while toughness is 0.14 lower. But the most important number in this chart is the PT Differential; in this case, we see a relatively small negative differential. The close that number gets to zero, the more aggressive a format tends to be. M12, for example, had a differential of -0.02. Avacyn Restored had 0.123. While Gatecrash probably will not be as fast as either of those sets, I do expect there to be a heavier focus on aggressive decks in the format than we saw in either Return to Ravnica or Magic 2012.

Guilds

Again, like Return to Ravnica, the most important thing we will see in Gatecrash will be the interactions of the five guilds. Throughout the last season of drafting, we saw that we were heavily tracked into playing particular archetypes, and it was pretty difficult to branch off and do something else. The guilds didn’t feature a lot of synergy, so you weren’t rewarded for trying to go into multiple colors. While the format was more focused on midrange decks, there was always the threat of punishing and aggressive Rakdos decks that forced players not to experiment with a variety of color combinations. In this section, we’ll talk about the different guilds. We’ll discuss which ones will be the best in draft, and which ones will be best in sealed. We’ll also talk about how the guilds will interact with cards from other guilds in their colors.

 

Orzhov

Orzhov Creature Stats

CMC

3.178721

Power

2.136077

Toughness

2.515878

P/T Differential

-0.3798

 

We start off with the guild of business and extortion, the Orzhov. This guild craves power and seeks to take advantage of the passions of the people of Ravnica and channel them into avenues that are profitable for the Orzhov. At first, it might seem like Orzhov might seem like a bad fit for Return to Ravnica. This is a set that promises to be fairly fast, and Orzhov is naturally inclined to take a longer view of things. However, Orzhov does have a few important qualities that it brings to the table. Let us imagine the kind of deck that would be best able to take advantage of the kind of format this is looking to be. We’d want a deck that can play out early defensive creatures that can block the large numbers of two and three power creatures that will be in the format. Right away, we see Basilica Guards and Corpse Blockade, as well as some efficient two drops like Syndic of Tithes, Daring Skyjek, or even Gutter Skulk. We would want removal spells that can take down early offensive creatures, and we get things like Smite, Death’s Approach, Devour Flesh, or Grisly Spectacle. Of course, we would expect to lose some life early on in the game, so we would want a way to gradually raise our life total in the late game in order to put ourselves out of reach of our opponent. Since we won’t be able to commit to bold attacks until we are in a safe position, we would want some way to whittle down our opponent’s life total until we are suddenly able to begin our own offensive.

Essentially, it seems like Orzhov was tailor made to be the best deck in the format. It has all the tools to take advantage of the trends that seem to dominate the set. It has instant speed removal that can punish people that are trying to use Bloodrush to power through your 1/4s. It will probably take a few weeks for people to learn that they can’t play Bloodrush into a single White mana, but until then, you’ll be able to use Smite to punish them over and over. On top of that, White and Black also get effective pinpoint removal to pick apart a Boros Battalion. Taking out exactly the right creature will mean that those decks won’t be able to effectively build a team of three creatures that can attack profitable into your team. Those removal spells are also effective at taking down an Encoded creature for extra value, or for killing an Evolve creature that is loaded down with +1/+1 counters.

Orzhov is also well positioned to take advantage of its neighboring guilds. It wants cheap and efficient creatures from Boros in order to block and trade early on. On top of that, it has a number of cheap evasive creatures, which can be the other two attackers in a Battalion. A board of Daring Skyjek, Basilica Guards, Kingpin’s Pet, and Balustrade Spy is much better able to take advantage of Battalion than a Boros deck. These two colors also have plenty of evasion creatures, which makes them a great color to pair with cards from Dimir. I wouldn’t be surprised if I play a WB deck that splashes for Hands of Binding. Midnight Binding could also be terrifying if I trade off small creatures early and need to restock my board. On top of all that, Orzhov can use all of those extra Cipher spells to trigger Extort over and over again.

For all of these reasons, Orzhov is my pick for the best guild in the format. I should note that I don’t think that Orzhov will be as strong a leader as Selesnya was in Return to Ravnica. There are certainly holes in the plan, and the other guilds have plenty of strengths as well. However, it feels like the Orzhov guild is tailor made to take advantage of the format.

Dimir

 

Dimir Creature Stats

CMC

3.184666

Power

2.155824

Toughness

2.722431

P/T Differential

-0.56661

 

The Dimir are the shadows that stalk the city of Ravnica in the night. They deal in secrets and work behind the scenes to bring about their plans. Right away, we see some similarities between the two guilds. Both try to establish a defensive position early on in the game. Both try to win by creating gradual advantages while attacking from safety. It stands to reason that Dimir should also be well positioned to take advantage of the environment.

However, Dimir has several problems. The biggest problem is that Dimir is working from too many different angles. The biggest symptom of this problem is that we have the evasion/Cipher strategy, but we also have a number of mill cards scattered throughout the set. Orzhov was able to attack well along a single axis, because it had both evasion creatures and extort. Dimir has to decide whether it wants to attack its opponent’s library, or whether it wants to win through evasion. However, that is not the only symptom of the problem. Dimir is trying to win through evasion, but it also wants to have a certain density of Cipher spells in order to turn those creatures in to card advantage machines. Because of this, we have the damage and tempo route to victory that is competing with the card advantage route to victory. The third symptom of this problem is that Dimir needs to work out a very specific type of deck in order to win. There needs to be the right balance of defensive creatures, evasive creatures, cipher spells, and mill cards. Compare this with Orzhov, who can pick something like Basilica Guards, which provides defense, progresses your win condition, and provides a gradual life advantage that can help you win attrition wars. Orzhov can accomplish all of these things in one card, while Dimir will have to balance between several cards. The biggest problem for Dimir, however, is that it doesn’t have enough early game creatures that can trade with Boros and Gruul threats. Orzhov gets a few two mana creatures that can trade with most of the threats in the format, but Dimir gets a Frilled Oculus that it can’t activate, and Gutter Skulk.

That isn’t to say that Dimir won’t be good. There are still a few key synergies with the neighboring guilds. Dimir would sure like to get their hands on the Simic’s Cloudfin Raptors, and start Ciphering their opponent to death. Basilica Screecher is especially good in Dimir, since it is a cheap and evasive threat that wears Cipher well, and it also lets you Extort over and over again.  I suspect that Dimir will be strong, but I also think that it will take a little while for players to figure out the optimal combination of cards to defend against the format. Where those things come naturally to Orzhov, the Dimir deck is going to need a little bit more work.

Boros

 

Boros Creature Stats

CMC

3.148197

Power

2.711533

Toughness

2.392444

P/T Differential

0.319089

 

The Boros legion upholds an elite and honorable military tradition. Theirs is the law and the fury to protect it.  As the color of military might, Boros has the highest P/T Differential in the set. The gameplan for a Boros deck is to play as many creatures as possible and then win with a few well-placed attacks. It isn’t hard to look at cards like Daring Skyjek, Warmind Infantry, or Wojek Halberdiers and imagine a quick and aggressive deck that can beat an opponent before they have a chance to get off the ground. These cards seem quite strong, and they certainly are. However, the roots of Boros are not as strong as the face that they work so hard to show.

It isn’t until we take a close look at the graph above that we start to notice Boros’s weakness. The curve for power is actually very good, especially considering how inexpensive the creatures in the guild are. There are a lot of 2 and 3 power creatures in Boros for a low mana investment, but these creatures are all fragile. More than 2/3rds of Boros creatures have 1 or 2 toughness. These aren’t the kind of creatures that can attack into any board; they need a lot of support, or they are going to trade with the opponent’s creatures at best. As soon as they see a 1/4, the Boros forces are frozen. The biggest problem with the fragility of Boros’s creatures is that many of them depend on having Battalion before they become good. Otherwise, they are merely fair. This is bad when so many of your creatures are fragile, because it means it is hard for you to keep creatures on the board. If you manage to land some cheap Battalion creatures early on, and if your opponent doesn’t mount a serious defense, then Boros is going to overwhelm them quite quickly. But as soon as you start trading your creatures, as soon as you start blocking, or as soon as your opponent kills off a key creature with a well-timed removal spell, the Boros deck will lose all of its momentum and fall flat.  It is this inherent flaw in Boros that keeps it from being in the top guilds for the format; it wants to have out a lot of creatures, but its creatures are so fragile that it is hard to keep them on the board.

The good thing about Boros is its synergy with its neighbors. It isn’t hard to tell how Bloodrush would be helpful in a Boros deck; a pump spell means that you are going to be able to attack with three creatures in situations where you normally couldn’t. The synergy with Orzhov is actually even better. Boros wants to be able to get in a lot of early damage, and then it needs some way to deal the last few points of damage, and stay alive while doing so. Extort gives Boros the reach it needs in order to close out a game after an early offensive rush.

Gruul

 

Gruul Creature Stats

CMC

3.41575

Power

2.910828

Toughness

2.848326

P/T Differential

0.062502

 

The Gruul embrace the savage parts of their nature. To them, civilization is an evil that makes people weak and unable to protect their freedom. They are a guild of fury and strength, and this is reflected in the sheer size of Gruul creatures. They have the highest average power in the set, by a fairly large margin, and they are barely behind Simic in highest toughness. At first glance, Gruul appears very strong for limited; the creatures are big, and it gets so many pump spells that it will be virtually impossible to block a Gruul creature without losing your own. The WotC forums and twitter seem to be filled with people that assume that Gruul will be the strongest guild in the set, and it isn’t hard to see why they think this. However, they are wrong.

My prediction is that Gruul will actually be the worst guild in the set. There are two major problems with Gruul. First, they are costed too fairly. Just take a look at the common Gruul creatures and imagine them without Bloodrush. We see a 5/1 for 4, a 2/1 for 2, a 2/4 for 4, a 3/2 for 3, and a 5/4 for 5. Without Bloodrush, each of these creatures would be the kind of thing you pick up late in the pack, after the wheel, in order to make sure that you have enough playables. These are the Crosstown Couriers, the Pillarfield Oxen, the Stonefare Crocodiles, and the Golgari Longlegs. Now, I realize that these creatures are costed a little bit higher in order to have Bloodrush, but it is important to remember that as creatures they are very mediocre. The second problem is with Bloodrush itself. Bloodrush is a very narrow ability that requires you to throw away a card in order to get a pump spell. Imagine that you have a 2/1 on the field, and you have Slaughterhorn (the 3/2 with Bloodrush) as well as Scab-Clan Charger (the 2/4) in your hand. Meanwhile, I have a 1/4. At this point, you have to decide whether or not to attack. If you attack with the 2/1, you’ll have to use one of these creatures to pump him up. In that case, you’ll trade my 1/4 for either your 3/2 or 2/4, and you are still stuck with a 2/1 on the battlefield. That is not a great position. Essentially, you’ve trade your board position for the next few turns in order to get rid of one of my creatures now. Now, imagine that you don’t attack. You are then going to play a 3/2 for 3. On the next turn, you have to decide whether or not to attack again. Now, you’ve got two creatures that can’t get through a 1/4 without help. Again, you’ll be forced to trade a creature in hand in order to get through. Meanwhile, if I play any creatures, you are even farther in the hole. Furthermore, if I kill a creature in response to Bloodrush, then you are probably just going to lose. Compare this to Boros, who gets a 3/2 with upside for 2 mana in Wojek Halberdiers, and you’ll start to get an idea of how Gruul is just behind the curve. The problem with Gruul is that it is easy for an opponent to beat by just playing creatures and blocking. Then, the Gruul deck will be forced to trade late game staying power for a minor immediate benefit, while the other decks keep building up advantage through Extort, Cipher, or Evolve.

We can see the evidence of this problem on the charts above. Gruul has the highest average CMC for creatures by a wide margin. When we look at the graph, we see that Gruul has about as many four and five mana creatures as it does three mana creatures, and the numbers for all three are relatively close to the number of two CMC creatures. What Gruul really wants is to play some cheap and efficient creatures, and then make sure that those creatures can connect every single turn by using Bloodrush, but the problem is that those efficient creatures don’t exist in Gruul. Disciple of the Old ways is probably Gruul’s best common creature, and that isn’t even terribly efficient. In the end, Gruul is just the color of overpriced creatures, and that is certainly not going to be good enough to compete in a world where decks every deck is built to take advantage of synergy in order to build momentum.

The best use of Gruul cards is as utility cards for the other guilds. Simic won’t mind having a Slaughterhorn to turn it’s Cloudfin Raptors into 3/4s, and Boros will be glad to use a Viashino Shanktail to in order to power through a Battalion attack, and still have the creatures survive until the next turn, and be able to attack again. Gruul creatures seem good because they have high stats in the bottom right corner, and people tend to be afraid of Bloodrush, but they have the fatal flaws of being too slow and being easy to outmaneuver.

Simic

 

Simic Creature Stats

CMC

3.178474

Power

2.594587

Toughness

2.876209

P/T Differential

-0.28162

 

Simic is the guild of magical evolution. The Simic Combine uses Magic to care for and improve on nature. It is the color of crocodile frogs, fish crabs, and human oozes. I should also note that Simic is my favorite guild. I’ve been a UG mage for a long time. Coiling Oracle is one of my most favorite cards, and I tend to start out drafting UG in every format ever. Because of this, you can know that I speak the truth when I say that Simic will only be the second best guild in the format. I suspect that I will probably just play UG in all of my first twenty drafts, but I also know that this will be at the expense of not drafting Orzhov.

I should also note that Simic was the most difficult guild to evaluate. How do you figure out the average power and toughness of creature in Simic when everything starts out small and then gets bigger depending on a variety of other factors? How do you figure out how big Cloudfin Raptor will be on average? At the beginning of the article, I mentioned my methods for determining the size of these creatures. I did have to make certain assumptions, and I cannot be 100% sure that those numbers are exactly correct. However, I am certain that they are within an acceptable range in order to judge their relative strength. In order to help you evaluate Simic, I’ve created a handy chart that shows my results for the average power and toughness for each of these creatures individually. It is important to remember that there are three major factors governing how these creatures evolve. The first is that they are much more likely to evolve more often if you cast them as early as possible. Cloudfin Raptor will be a 3/4 more than 80% of the games that you cast it on turn one, but it will only become a 2/3 in about 40% of the games in which you play it on turn seven, and the cases where you draw the card later in the game drag down its average. Because of this, Simic Manipulator is much less likely to evolve than Cloudfin Raptor, even though they have the same base power and toughness. The second key factor is the size of creatures in your deck. In order to make my calculation, I had to use the average stats of creatures from within blue and green. However, if you draft a lot of big creatures, then your evolve guys will get bigger a little bit faster. Thirdly, all of these creatures get better if you have more creatures in your deck. For my numbers, I assumed that a deck had 15 creatures, but a deck with 18 creatures is going to see their creatures evolve much more quickly. Without further ado, here is a chart of the Simic evolve creatures, and their likely average power and toughness by turn 10 of a game of Gatecrash.

Creature

Power

Toughness

Clinging Anemones

1.700594

4.700594

Cloudfin Raptor

2.107934

3.107934

Adaptive Snapjaw

6.394146

2.394146

Crocanura

1.972881

3.972881

Shambleshark

3.354577

2.354577

Simic Fluxmage

2.151592

3.151592

Experiment One

2.712275

2.712275

Elusive Krasis

1.603538

5.603538

Simic Manipulator

1.842436

2.842436

Gyre Sage

2.270976

3.270976

Fathom Sage

2.686538

2.686538

 

There are a few important things we can learn from this. First, except for Adaptive Snapjaw, all evolve creatures are very likely to evolve at least one. Second, if a creature is played early on in the game, they will usually evolve at least twice. Third, Simic creatures tend to be bad if you draw them in the late game. I should also note that this chart makes Cloudfin Raptor look very good, since a 2/3 flyer for U is kind of just amazing, even if it takes a couple of turns to power up.

This also teaches us a few important factors for evaluation Simic. For one, the Simic deck is going to have small creatures for the first few turns. This means that Simic will be particularly vulnerable to aggressive Boros draws. It will be hard for Simic to mount enough defenses in the first four turns of the game, and they will likely lose a lot of life. This means that the Simic needs two things; creatures that can block early on and cards that can gain back tempo in the mid to late game. The next important thing to remember about Simic is that they are going to win on the back of a small number of very large creatures. The evolve creatures that came out early on will be very big in the late game, while everything they draw afterward will be pretty small. This means that Simic is particularly vulnerable to removal. If you are putting all of your hopes on a 4/5 Cloudfin Raptor, you are going to feel really bad if it gets hit by Grisly Spectacle. The last thing to remember is that the Simic deck is not an early game deck since your creatures start off small. Neither is it a late game deck, since the creatures you draw then will be small, and each draw after turn 10 is going to give your opponent too many options to deal with your handful of big creatures. However, Simic is a particularly good midgame deck. During turns 7 through 10, it is going to start to have the biggest creatures on the field. At that point, the Simic deck will turn from defense to offense, and it will often close out the game in just a few turns. These are all the key reasons why I think that Simic will be the second best guild in the format. It is a little bit weak to aggressive decks, so I suspect that Simic won’t be as good early on, since aggressive decks will be more prevalent. However, Simic has a strong strategy against both Orzhov and Dimir, which means that it will probably be one of the most important decks in the format as the season progresses.

Simic also gets a lot of help from its neighboring guilds. From blue, it gets access to Cipher. Hands of Binding on Cloudfin Raptor will probably be one of the best things you can do in the format. Even Last Thoughts seems pretty good if it is on an evasive creature and drawing you more creatures with which to evolve what you have on the board. Simic is also well positioned to take advantage of Bloodrush. Both Slaughterhorn and Scab-Clan Charger will be useful in evolving Simic creatures, and they let you get in some attacks that you wouldn’t be able to make otherwise.

Recommendations

Before I end this article, I wanted to post one more chart to compare the statistics from all of the guilds. I’ve already discussed these numbers in detail, but I wanted to make sure that this data could be put up side by side so that people can study the numbers and form some of their own conclusions.

Average Statistics of Creatures in Gatecrash, Arranged by Guild

And to wrap things up, here are my recommendations for Gatecrash:

1.       Gatecrash is going to start off as a fast format. The creatures are naturally built to be able to attack and trade often. You need to be able to interact in the early game. Also, it will be hard to keep creatures on the board early on.

2.       Orzhov is well placed to be the best guild in the format. It has all the tools it needs to compete with all of the other guilds, and it doesn’t have any glaring weaknesses.

3.       Many people will be fooled into thinking that Gruul is strong because of the high numbers in the bottom right corner of the card, but you should keep in mind that Gruul’s creatures have serious problems with their casting costs.

4.       Each of the guilds in Gatecrash has a lot of synergy with the guilds that neighbor it. One of the key things you need to do is pay attention to how you can take advantage of the tools that are given you by the other guilds.

As always, you can follow me on twitter @oraymw for updates about articles, or for random MTG talk. Furthermore, you can check out my Tumblr account at http://oraymw.tumblr.com/ where I post links to my articles as they go up, and where I’ll be writing occasional editorials about Magic. I’m excited to be able to draft Gatecrash, and I hope that you all enjoy your prerelease.

Thanks so much for checking out Ars Arcanum, and we’ll be back again later with another in depth look at the MTGO Cube.

Ars Arcanum Archive



 

3 Comments

If someone can only read a by Doctor Anime at Wed, 01/23/2013 - 13:21
Doctor Anime's picture
5

If someone can only read a single Gatecrash-related article before the first sealed/draft events start firing, it should be this one. Fantastic article.

Since this article has gone by oraymw at Wed, 01/23/2013 - 13:48
oraymw's picture

Since this article has gone up, I've had a few people ask me about how their chosen guild is going to perform in the prerelease.

Here's the thing, there isn't actually a "wrong" guild for the Prerelease. Sure, you will probably get the highest percentage chance of winning if you go Orzhov, but that doesn't mean you won't have a chance with any of the other guilds. WotC has done a pretty good job of balancing the builds for the prerelease itself, especially with the inclusion of the prerelease rares. For example, if you are Gruul, then you have a good shot at getting Ground Assault and Pit Fight, which are sure to be stellar removal cards. The important thing is to understand the routes that your deck in particular has to win.

Also, the prerelease is kind of just this gimmicky experience where you should just be trying to have as much fun as possible. I'm definitely going with Simic, and I think that it is a particularly strong choice for the prerelease, since you are more likely to get evolve creatures alongside evolve enablers. But, I decided to make the choice not based on my desire to win, but on my desire to play a bunch of freaky UG creatures.

So... enjoy your prerelease everyone!

I'm going with Orzhov because by KaraZorEl at Wed, 01/23/2013 - 22:20
KaraZorEl's picture

I'm going with Orzhov because white/black has ALL the creature removal. Although...I don't wanna draw an Alms Beast. :P