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Enemy Colors in Dragons of Tarkir

Dragons of Tarkir has been out for about a month now and the draft environment is the subject of much debate. Players want to know whether Blue/Black is really the "best archetype", they want to know what cards initially slipped under the radar, and at the heart of it all, they want to know how to win more games of Limited.

I'd like to help answer that question by posing a different question: Why aren't you drafting enemy-colored pairs?

The Math

According to Rolle's most recent collection of Limited draft archetype data found here, 57.4% of decks end up in an ally color pair while the enemy color decks make up less than a third of that at only 17.7%. Yet the average win rates of ally and enemy pairs weighted by play rate are 51.37% and 51.35% respectively, which are close enough to not be statistically significant in their difference.

This interesting find and other subtleties of the draft replay data was discussed on the podcast here. It's a great listen if you're interested in statistical analysis and numbers as it relates to playing Magic.

While some enemy color pairs fare better than others, the higher play rate of ally pairs despite the lack of increased win percentage over enemy pairs indicates that many people are overly attached to the ally color combinations. Today I'm going to show you what the less popular color pairs have to offer.

The Misconception

Dragons of Tarkir is an ally color set and was marketed as such. While it's true that each of the set's multicolored cards are ally colored, the rate with which they show up is relatively low. There are 5 uncommon, 10 rare, and 7 mythic multicolored ally cards in Dragons of Tarkir. This means that in a single DTK booster pack, you'll see 0.408 ally cards on average. In Fate Reforged, there are 5 common multicolored enemy and 5 rare multicolored ally cards. In a single FRF pack, you'll see 0.658 of the common enemy cards and 0.125 of the rare ally dragons on average.

Combining 16 opened packs of Dragons of Tarkir and 8 opened packs of Fate Reforged gives an average of 7.5 ally colored cards and 5.3 enemy cards total floating around in a single draft. The reward for being in an ally color combination is only marginally more than those for the enemy colors and this should not be sufficient reason for someone to prefer ally color archetypes.

The Model

Now that you know that enemy color pairs perform well according to the statistical data, and that there are almost as many multicolored cards available as for ally combinations, let's look at a quick and easy guide to the standard game plan of decks falling into one of these five enemy color archetypes.


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While the Warrior tribal synergy is less common than it was in triple-Khans, it does still exist. Even without Warrior considerations, White-Black has a good number of aggressive creatures and lots of great removal to back it up in Dragons of Tarkir. Combine that with Harsh Sustenance in Fate Reforged and you've got yourself an aggressive archetype that also has the reach necessary to punch through the last few points of damage.


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Blue-Red is a rather unfortunate archetype in that the aggressiveness of red in Dragons of Tarkir isn't very well matched by the slower aspects of blue in the set. Some good blue commons like Palace Familiar and Updraft Elemental are quite slow in an aggressive deck, so you have to find the parts of blue that do fit and prioritize them highly. While Cunning Strike is one of the less exciting cards to get rewarded with in the third pack, it is still an okay card that can help close out a game and remove pesky blockers. Dragon Fodder is great Exploit fodder if you pick up good blue cards that want that.


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This combination is an interesting one. While it can become aggressive when pairing the dash cards of black with the good 2-drops and 3-drops in green, it tends to lead into a midrange archetype. Playing some combination of efficient creatures and good removal until flipping up a Segmented Krotiq or Marsh Hulk is a viable plan in a deck like this one. The Grim Contests in Fate Reforged work well with Colossodon Yearling and Aerie Bowmasters and might even make you feel better about running a Wandering Tombshell


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With the highest win percentage of any of the enemy color combinations, Red-White is a great archetype to be on the lookout for. Both red and white have good options in removal and aggressively costed creatures at common and uncommon which makes for a devastating combination if you get the right cards. Picking up a War Flare in Fate Reforged is a great finishing touch on a deck that has already drafted good creatures and removal and just needs one more over-the-top push.


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Green-Blue has the lowest win rate and lowest play rate of any two-color archetypes in this draft format. Individually, each color's best cards are split between aggro and control so it can be hard to find the right parts of green to pair with blue. For example, if you're drafting Green-Blue and already have a Youthful Scholar and a Dirgur Nemesis, you should prioritize more defensive cards like Colossodon Yearling over Tread Upon. The important part of this archetype is to remember to have a game plan: if you're defensive, be defensive and have a couple of large threats capable of winning the game. If you're controlling, be controlling and don't value cards like Dromoka's Gift or Elusive Spellfist too highly.


To wrap up, I want to be clear: I'm not saying that you should force an enemy color combination arbitrarily during your next draft. I'm definitely not saying you should pass on the opportunity of a pack 1, pick 1 Dragonlord Silumgar. The moral of the story here is that enemy color decks can be just as powerful as ally color ones, and you should look to draft the colors that are open for your seat at the table, not the colors that fit into the cookie-cutter archetypes defined.

If you want to add your voice to the discussion, you can reach out in the comments below or talk to me on Twitter @JakeStilesMTG. Until next time, be sure to remember: draft what's open and not what's obvious.

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