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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Jun 05 2018 12:00pm
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Battle of the Planes is back, and it actually isn’t too different from last time. One plane has been swapped out (since “Dominaria” would either be a random pile of sets or just Dominaria sealed) and the specific pack distributions have been tweaked, but otherwise it’s mostly the same as when it was run last year. As such, I’m going to be referring to the article I wrote on last year’s event a lot (as well as articles I’ve previously written on these sets), but we also should check the results of last year.
 
Battle of the Planes 2017 Statistics:
Lee Sharpe put up a nice post at the end of the previous runs of Battle of the Planes with some statistics on pick rates and win rates for the various planes, and despite the complete lack of testing for this one-week format they were pretty balanced. Of course, the main exception is Dominaria with a sub-40% win rate (and steadily-declining pick rate once its awfulness was realized), which likely came from it being one of the most complex pools (with Morph and all the craziness of Time Spiral), as well as it’s overall lower card quality (it was the only pool where both blocks were pre-New World Order and pre-smaller sets with less junk in them). Otherwise Innistrad was the clear winner in terms of win rate, with Zendikar also batting above 50% (despite a low pick rate, at least partially due to needing to scroll down to select it) and Mirrodin and Ravnica slightly below the curve. Ravnica is as I predicted (likely due to the lack of consistency and lack of fixing), though I’m surprised that Mirrodin was almost right in the middle. On the plus side, Innistrad and Zendikar have two main things in common: they have duplicates of some of their sets (and more large set packs in general) in their pool and all of their sets are post-New World Order/smaller set size, which generally focuses their power and themes. Overall, these are interesting statistics and can help guide your selection to maximize your win percentage.
 
Plane Choices:
Innistrad: 2x Innistrad (Basics, In-Depth), Dark Ascension, Avacyn Restored, Shadows over Innistrad, Eldritch Moon
While only one pack in Innistrad’s pool was changed (a Shadows over Innistrad pack became an Avacyn Restored pack), it’s a pretty clear nerf to the leading plane last year. Other than sharing some of the same tribes, Avacyn Restored’s themes don’t synergize well with the rest of Innistrad block, and the power level is relatively low. I don’t think it’s that much of a nerf as Avacyn Restored still has good cards like the Miracles and good Soulbond cards (though part of the reason Soulbond was good was the awful removal) and the tribal synergies still exist, especially since a Shadows over Innistrad pack was removed rather than an Innistrad pack (the set with more synergy). If you liked Innistrad before, you can still pick it here.
 
Lorwyn: 2x Lorwyn (Basics, In-Depth), Morningtide, 2x Shadowmoor, Eventide
Here’s the new kid of this run of Battle of the Planes, and thus the one I’ll spend the most time on. Unfortunately this reminds me a lot of last year’s Dominaria pool, as all six sets are pre-smaller set size and the two blocks don’t have much in common, despite being printed on the same plane in the same year.
 
You would think Lorwyn’s mechanics would be decent since both sets have the same tribes for the most part, but the problem is that Shadowmoor shifted a color in each tribe to a different one. Here’s a chart of the shifts:
Tribe Old Colors New Colors Change
Merfolk UW Ub Neutral
Faeries BU Ub Neutral
Goblins BR Rg Negative
Kithkin Wg Wu Positive
Elves GB Gw Positive
Giants RW Rg Neutral
Treefolk Gbw G Positive
Elementals R/5-color RB/various Positive
The new pairings are all allied pairs (aligning with Shadowmoor) with a major color that aligns with one of the colors of the Lorwyn tribe, and this leaves some tribes in a better space than others. Some of them are helped by the focus on mono-color (Kithkin, Elementals) while others just want members for their tribal effects (Elves, Treefolk). Most of the other tribes are neutral, with the exception of Goblins who not only swaps black (its major Lorwyn color) for green but has most of its powerful cards focus on having lots of red cards.
 
As for Shadowmoor, the mono-color focus helps get enough playables in your pool (though you have to compensate for the specialized Lorwyn cards that don’t fit your tribe and all the bad cards overall), and there’s actually more overlap than you would think. You aren’t going to get much for the cards that want two-color spells (the Duos and Mimics), but something like Conspire just wants creatures, which Lorwyn clearly has. The +1/+1 counter theme helps counteract the -1/-1 counter theme to an extent, especially the creatures that untap from -1/-1 counters or Persist creatures. Unfortunately none of them are soldiers for (Cenn’s Tactician), but Immaculate Magistrate helps Devoted Druid and Safehold Elite, and something like Incremental Growth or even Daily Regimen helps universally (well, maybe not that last one). The untap symbol also is pretty generic, though the Merfolk tap theme (and Mothdust Changeling) can have you trigger it more often. Moving to Eventide, Chroma gets help from Inner-Flame Acolyte and some cheap Kithkin like Knight of Meadowgrain, while Retrace doesn’t get any specific support.
 
Overall this plane is better than I expected, but it has to overcome the inherent weaknesses of older sets. It certainly has to be an improvement over Dominaria and it seems more consistent than Ravnica, but I still like the other three choices over it.
 
Mirrodin: Mirrodin, Darksteel, Fifth Dawn, Scars of Mirrodin, Mirrodin Besieged, New Phyrexia
I’m surprised that this hit almost exactly 50/50 despite its inherent advantages of great synergy (minus Infect) and a larger practical pool of playables due to all the colorless cards. Were the anti-synergies of Sunburst and Infect a detriment? Were there not enough artifacts in Scars block to enable the broken Affinity cards? Did people adapt and start playing more artifact hate? Then again, I’m sure WotC is glad they didn’t have to act in either direction here since it would be difficult to fix it, since it is six different sets and thus doesn’t have flexibility to change the pack distribution like for Innistrad and Zendikar.
 
Ravnica: Ravnica, Guildpact, Dissension, Return to Ravnica, Gatecrash, Dragon’s Maze
How do you help out Ravnica’s sealed pool? The fundamental problems of having six different sets with a lack of fixing still hurt it, as does the original Ravnica having more unplayables. Maybe next year’s Guilds of Ravnica block-yet-not-a-block will help and make it an entirely post-New World Order pool with five large sets, as weird as it would be to not have the original Ravnica in the pool. Then again, maybe Ravnica needs nine sets in its pool to compensate for the inherent problems of a gold block with no true focus.
 
Zendikar: 2x Zendikar, Worldwake, Rise of the Eldrazi, Battle for Zendikar, Oath of the Gatewatch
Another plane hitting above the curve gets nerfed (swapping a Rise for the Eldrazi pack for a Zendikar pack), but I’m wondering how much of a nerf it actually was. Yes, Rise of the Eldrazi is very strong outside of its habitat (the expensive cards are bombs and the cheap cards aren’t worthless), but there are two aspects that benefit from this change. First of all, Rise of the Eldrazi is mostly isolated from the rest of the Zendikar blocks in terms of themes (even the Eldrazi aren’t much on theme since the new Eldrazi focus on colorlessness, thus the Nest Invader-type cards don’t help much), while Zendikar has Landfall and Allies in addition to generic things like Traps. Second, the pool becomes much more aggressive with two packs of Zendikar (and one less of Rise of the Eldrazi), though I don’t think that’s great in sealed. Overall it’s a nerf, but slighter than you would think.
 
Conclusion:
Overall this round of Battle of the Planes seems interesting, and I hope it’s more balanced than last year. There isn’t much other news to cover at this point, since this week’s big announcement was just a management change and we still don’t know what Battlebond cards are going into the Treasure Chests and/or when they’ll be added. As for me, I’m entering a busy time with SIFTD going into E3, so I’ll hopefully be able to take a break here, returning for the Core Set 2019 Limited Review. Until then.
 
Vincent

@VincentSIFTD on Twitter