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Ahead of the Curve: Processors and Exile Effects in OGW Draft

Murk Strider used to be one of my favorite cards in Battle for Zendikar draft, but I often find myself passing it in Oath of the Gatewatch draft because I didn't have enough exile effects to support it. While ingest / process is no longer an archetype, I'd like to figure out how many Processors are available in an average eight-person draft, so we can determine whether it makes sense to prioritize exile effects in the first two packs.

Battle for Zendikar drafts had an average of 11.6 one-time and 4.2 reusable Processors. We now draft a third as many packs of Battle for Zendikar, so we can only expect to see an average of 3.9 one-time and 1.4 reusable Processors, for a total of 5.3 Processors, of which 4.7 are in Blue and Black. That's a small number so you don't want to plan your draft around them, but it may also be worth planning ahead since I find these cards usually go quite late. It's worth noting that we only expect to see 0.8 copies of any Battle for Zendikar common in an Oath of the Gatewatch draft, so you shouldn't expect to see multiple copies of Murk Strider.

The one Battle for Zendikar pack also offers an average of 3.1 one-time and 3.0 reusable exile effects in Blue and Black. These numbers exclude Scour from Existence, which is too expensive to enable Processors in a timely manner, and include Sludge Crawler, which I previously underestimated. The one-time effects are playable in most decks, while most of the creatures with Ingest are good only if you also have Processors. If everyone drafts a two-color deck and there are two drafters in Green, we expect there to be about 3.5 drafters each in Blue and Black. If we assume that we split the one-time cards evenly with other drafters in those colors and that we get all the creatures with Ingest, we wind up with 3.9 exile effects. If we take exile effects more highly and draft half the one-time cards, we have 4.6 exile effects, and if we draft two-thirds of the one-time cards, we have 5.1 exile effects.

Next, let's look at what Oath of the Gatewatch brings to the table. The set has no Processors or cards that benefit from your opponent having cards in exile, but it does have a number of effects that let you exile cards.

  One-Time Exile Effects Recurring Exile Effects
Warping Wail (Uncommon), Thought-Knot Seer (Rare)  
White Isolation Zone (Common)  
Blue Void Shatter (Uncommon) Thought Harvester (Uncommon), Dimensional Infiltrator (Rare)
Black Oblivion Strike (Common), Witness the End (Common), Flaying Tendrils (Uncommon) Kalitas, Traitor of Ghet (Mythic), (Dread Defiler costs too much to be a reliable source of exiled cards for most Processors)
Red (Consuming Sinkhole is not a reliable source of exiled cards)  
Green (World Breaker costs too much to be a reliable source of exiled cards for most Processors)  
Multicolor   Mindmelter (Uncommon), (the condition for activating Ayli, Eternal Pilgrim's exile ability is unlikely to be met in most games; when it is, you should usually be able to win the games without help from a Processor)

As with the Processors, most of the effects are in Blue and Black, so let's just focus on those colors. Given the expected numbers of cards at each rarity, we can expect to see 0.8 one-time and 1.1 recurring exile effects in Blue, and 5.4 one-time and 0.1 recurring exile effects in Black. Combining one-time and recurring exile effects, we have 1.9 exile effects in Blue and 5.5 in Black. Together we have a total of 7.4 exile effects in the Oath of the Gatewatch packs. If we split these cards evenly with the 3.5 other Blue and Black drafters, we can expect to get only 2.1 exile effects from our first two packs — not enough to let us draft good Processors early in the Battle for Zendikar pack. We might be able to increase this number slightly by drafting Witness the End, Flaying Tendrils, and Void Shatter more highly, but that still doesn't give us very many exile effects.

If we get 2.1 exile effects from the Oath of the Gatewatch packs and 5.1 exile effects from the Battle for Zendikar pack, that only gives us 7.2 exile effects. I'd want at least nine exile effects in an Ingest / process deck, but we probably don't need as many in the current format since there are fewer Processors. However, there are two other reasons that such cards are less appealing in Oath of the Gatewatch draft:

  • Most of the Blue and Black exile effects in Oath of the Gatewatch cost four mana, which means you can't play Murk Strider and Mind Raker on curve and still be able to use their triggered abilities.
  • Culling Drone is worse than in Battle for Zendikar draft, due to the plethora of playable 2/3's in the format.


You're not likely to get more than a couple of exile effects from your Oath of the Gatewatch packs. If you're in Blue / Black, it's worth being aware of how many such effects you have going into the Battle for Zendikar pack. Even if you don't have many exile effects yet, you can still draft Processors and hope to pick up some exile effects in the Zendikar pack, since there are 2.5 times as many exile effects in this pack than there are in the two Oath of the Gatewatch packs. However, doing so is risky, especially since the exile effects may be in the same pack as the Processors. Unlike in Battle for Zendikar draft, you probably want to draft the Processors and one-time exile effects first, since they're likely to be drafted earlier, while there's little demand for creatures with Ingest and many of them are likely to wheel.

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