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Ahead of the Curve: Playing Around the Instant-Speed Tricks in OGW


I usually break tricks down into five categories:

  • Instant-speed creatures: Flash creatures, token generators, and spells that let you play creatures at instant speed.
  • Creature removal: This includes bounce, tapping, and other temporary removal.
  • Pump / protection: Pump spells primarily affect combat by giving a creature +M/+N, while protection spells are primarily used to save a creature from removal or an unfavorable combat by giving it hexproof, protection from a color, or damage prevention. However, +M/+N can save creatures from removal, and protection can help creatures survive combat, so I combine these categories.
  • Sideboard cards: This includes color hosers, artifact and enchantment removal, and conditional removal (e.g., Plummet). You don't usually need to play around them in game one.
  • Other: Everything else, including counterspells, card draw, and life gain. While they can sometimes be relevant, I don't tend to play around these cards in Limited.

If you're playing draft, sealed, or three-person team sealed, cards from Battle for Zendikar show up at roughly the same frequency as Oath of the Gatewatch cards at the next higher rarity, i.e., Battle for Zendikar Commons show up at the same frequency as Oath of the Gatewatch Uncommons. The tricks you need to play around most often are Oath of the Gatewatch Commons, only ten of which are relevant in most Limited scenarios.

Next, let's expand our scope to consider tricks at all rarities. The table shows the count of tricks in Oath of the Gatewatch and Battle for Zendikar in each of these categories by color. If a card belongs to multiple categories, it is counted in the leftmost column, e.g. Tears of Valakut is treated as a sideboard card, even though it is also a removal spell. Exceptions: Adverse Conditions and Warping Wail are listed as removal since that ability is more important than making a 1/1 token. Also, spells with Awaken are listed twice, once in the column they belong in when cast for their usual mana cost, and again after a "+" sign in the Instant-Speed Creatures column.

  Total Sideboard Instant-Speed Creatures Creature Removal/Bounce Pump/Protection Other Spells in "Other" Category
Colorless 4 0 0 4 0 0  
White 13+1 0 0+1 6 7 0  
Blue 17+1 0 1+1 3 2 11 Gift of Tusks + 8 counterspells (Abstruse Interference, Dispel, Negate, Spell Shrivel, Horribly Awry, Void Shatter, Overwhelming Denial, Scatter to the Winds) + 2 card draw (Anticipate, Comparative Analysis)
Black 8 1 0 4 1 2
Altar's Reap + Corpse Churn
Red 12 2 0 6 2 2 Consuming Sinkhole + Expedite
Green 11 2 1 2 4 2 Natural Connection + Pulse of Murasa
Multicolor 3 0 2 1 0 0  
TOTAL
68+2
5 4+1 26 16 17  

There are 70 tricks between the two sets. Ignoring the five sideboard cards and 17 "other" cards, that leaves us with 48 cards that we may want to play around. Half of those are creature removal, a third are pump or protection spells, and the remainder are instant-speed creatures.

Instant-Speed Removal

White and Red have the most instant-speed removal, with six each. Colorless and Black have four each, although the two colorless tricks from Oath of the Gatewatch require a colorless mana (the ones from Battle for Zendikar only need generic mana). Blue and Green have two each, and there is one multicolor removal spell (Brutal Explusion).

 

There are seven instant-speed removal spells in the format that can remove multiple creatures:

Instant-Speed Pump / Protection

White has seven pump / protection spells, Green has four, Blue and Red have two each, and Black has one.

  • White's has two pump spells that give +2/+2 and confer a benefit to one creature, two that give +M/+N to multiple creatures (where M + N = 3), and two that prevent damage from opposing creature(s). In addition, there's Make a Stand, which gives your creatures +1/+0 and makes them indestructible.
  • Blue has Roilmage's Trick and Unity of Purpose, both of which affect multiple creatures.
  • Black has the excellent Unnatural Endurance, which gives a creature +2/+0 and regenerates it.
  • Red has Brute Strength and Sure Strike, both of which increase the creature's power by three and provide additional benefits.
  • Green can either give +1/+2 for one mana, +2/+2 for two mana, or two +1/+1 counters for two mana. Unlike in many sets, Green does not have the best pump spells.

Instant-Speed Creatures

There are six instant-speed creatures in the format, not including spells that make 1/1 Eldrazi Scion tokens:

There are another four spells that make 1/1 Eldrazi Scion tokens at instant speed:

This means that an eight-person draft has an average of 2.1 instant-speed creatures, and another 4.2 spells that make 1/1 Eldrazi Scion tokens. Consequently, you don't usually need to play around instant-speed creatures unless you're concerned about 1/1 blockers (or additional 1/1 attackers the following turn).

Conclusions

Most of the instant-speed removal in the Oath of the Gatewatch Limited only deals with two-toughness creatures or only affects attacking creatures. On the other hand, multiple colors have good one-mana pump spells at common, so aggressive decks in this format need to rely more on pump spells than on removal. There are relatively few instant-speed creatures in the format. You don't usually need to play around them unless a 1/1 token would affect your attack.

 


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