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Using Expected Numbers to Prepare for Magicfest Seattle

Modern Horizons contains 254 cards: 101 Commons, 80 Uncommons, 53 Rares, 15 Mythics, and five snow-covered basic lands that only appear in the land slot. This is the same as Amonkhet other than the number of different basic lands, so the number of cards available at each rarity is the same as in that set. The full distributions can be found here. The numbers I care about for this article are those for sealed and draft:

  • Sealed: Individual sealed uses six packs, so a sealed pool will, on average, contain 0.6 copies of a given Common, 0.23 copies of a given Uncommon, 0.1 copies of a given Rare, and 0.05 copies of a given Mythic.
  • Draft: An eight-person draft uses a total of 24 packs and will, on average, contain 2.4 copies of a given Common, 0.9 copies of a given Uncommon, 0.4 copies of a given Rare, and 0.2 copies of a given Mythic.

I'm mostly interested in figuring out whether it makes sense to maindeck certain situational cards during the sealed portion of the Grand Prix (sorry, Magicfest). Let's crunch some numbers.

Maindecking Lava Dart

I haven't considered Lava Dart playable in this format because it only kills one-toughness creatures unless you sacrifice a Mountain. And while there are a number of cards that incentivize getting lands into your graveyard, you don't usually want to do so early on (except perhaps in the Red/Green archetype, which cares about lands in your graveyard), which is usually when most two-toughness creatures are still relevant. Umezawa's Charm offers a bit more flexibility, but I've similarly not found myself wanting to draft or play it much. Cards with reusable effects like Vengeful Devil and perhaps Sadistic Obsession still seem quite good though.

A Gatherer search shows that 30 0f the 127 creatures in the set have a toughness of one, which is a much higher percentage (~24%) that I would have expected. Here are the ones I'd be most keen on getting off the board if my opponent is playing one of the archetypes that can most effectively abuse the card:

Applying the expected numbers for each rarity, this works out to an average of about five cards per sealed deck that I would be happy to spend a Lava Dart on. It seems especially effective against White/Black Changelings and Blue/Black Ninjas, and to a slightly lesser extent against Black/Red Goblins/sacrifice and White/Blue blink. I'm still not sure I'd want to run it maindeck, but I expect to sideboard it in against those archetypes, even if I didn't see many good targets in game one since many of their most explosive games start with a Faerie Seer or Changeling Outcast on turn one.

Maindecking Artifact/Enchantment Removal

Modern Horizons has 18 artifacts: four Commons, nine Uncommons, two Rares, and five Mythics. Eight of them are for mana acceleration/fixing, and while destroying them might sometimes mana/color-screw an opponent, I would not maindeck artifact removal just to get rid of them. Of the remaining ten, the ones that I'd want to be able to destroy are Amorphous Axe (Common), Birthing Boughs (Uncommon), Lesser Masticore (Uncommon), and the two Swords (both Mythics). This means a sealed deck will have an average of 1.2 cards that might warrant maindeck artifact removal, which I consider insufficient to warrant artifact-only removal. The one exception I want to call out is Collector Ouphe, which is always a 2/2 for two mana, is a target for Savage Swipe, and (unlike most similar cards) shuts down activated mana abilities in addition to non-mana abilities.

Next, let's look at enchantments. Modern Horizons has 22 enchantments: six Commons, six Uncommons, nine Rares, and one Mythic. Based on my experience at the prerelease, I think removal Auras like Reprobation and Winter's Rest are not particularly good in this environment. (On Thin Ice is good, because it exiles the creature and so can't be removed by blink/bounce effects or Ninjutsu.) Of the rest, here are the ones I'd be happy to have an enchantment removal spell for:

This means a sealed deck will have an average of 2.1 cards that might warrant maindeck enchantment removal, which I also consider insufficient to warrant enchantment-only removal.

Combining the two numbers, a sealed deck will have an average of 3.3 cards that would justify running Dismantling Blow, Nature's Chant, or Force of Vigor maindeck. That's still too low for me, since those cards are only good if your opponent draws a relevant artifact or enchantment and you draw your artifact/enchantment removal, so I don't expect to run these spells maindeck

Maindecking Shatter Assumptions

As noted for artifact removal, there are an average of 1.2 cards per sealed pool that might warrant maindeck artifact removal, and the only nonland colorless card that is not an artifact is a Mythic (Morophon, the Boundless), so the first mode of Shatter Assumptions is essentially irrelevant for sealed.

The second mode is more interesting. Modern Horizons has 24 multicolor cards, but only one at Common (Nature's Chant). There are ten Uncommons, ten Rares, and three Mythics. The set contains one Uncommon and one Rare for each color pair, and they are all strong and likely to pull you towards that color pair, so I expect that most good sealed decks will contain at least a couple of strong multicolor cards. On the other hand, your opponent has to have drawn those cards and have not already played them in order for Shatter Assumptions to hit anything at all, a feat that seems less likely when you consider that five of the twenty multicolor Uncommons and Rares cost two mana, and another seven cost three mana. For these reasons, I expect to not run Shatter Assumptions maindeck, and I don't expect to side it in either unless I've seen several multicolor cards.

Maindecking Gilded Light

The are only four cards that target players or opponents in a relevant way and that can be dealt with by Gilded Light:

I wouldn't run Gilded Light to avoid being hit by either of the Commons, so there's no reason to run Gilded Light unless you don't have enough playables and just need a card that cycles.


Lava Dart can be run maindeck since it will usually have good targets in four of the ten archetypes in Modern Horizons. On the other hand, artifact/enchantment removal, Shatter Assumptions, and Gilded Light can be left in the sideboard.

Kaya's Guile provides graveyard hate but also has other modes that are more generally useful, so it's playable if you're in those colors, even if your opponent doesn't have any good targets for that particular mode. Similarly, Thornado is always playable because it can always be cycled. And in Green/Blue, it can be used in conjunction with Aven Windcaller, Phantasmal Form, or even Smoke Shroud to destroy almost any creature.

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