Welcome back to Limited Power Rankings! The Oath of the Gatewatch spoiler is up, so it’s time to jump in and start rating the cards. This is the first time that Limited Power Rankings has encountered a second set; it’s very exciting to be looking at a new set and trying to get an idea of how the set is going to come together.
For those that are checking out Limited Power Rankings for the first time, the idea is to do weekly limited power rankings in order to get a sense of progression with the format. These are entirely my opinion, based only on my experiences and thoughts with a format. I don’t claim that there is one way to draft a format, nor would I claim that there is only one way to rank the cards. This is merely some perspective into the strategies that I am using in the format. I have a history of performing very well in limited so I like to think that my rankings will help you do that, but the idea is mainly about trying to foster discussion about the format.
Limited Power Rankings comes in five sections: 1. Colors, 2. Archetypes, 3. Rares, 4. Uncommons, and 5. Commons. In section one, I rank the colors in order of how much I like them at this point in the format, and I also use a ten-point number scale to give an idea of about how far apart those colors are. In section two, I rate the different archetype decks. In section three, I rate the rares, but I’ll also include any uncommons that I think crack the top 10 cards in the set. In section four, I rate the uncommons, but I might add a common if I think it is better than one of the top 10 uncommons. In section five, we’ll have just the commons, but I might include commentary on cards that are close but don’t make the list.
Since Oath of the Gatewatch is the second set, I have a sort of dilemma; I wasn’t sure if I should rank the cards along with the Battle for Zendikar cards, or if I should just do them separately. I decided that since rankings are much more useful in the early packs, and since this is really more about fostering discussion about the current format, that I’ll keep the power rankings focused on just the most recent set. With that said, I suspect that I’ll make a list at some point that ranks cards from both sets together, just for context and perspective.
Also of note, I have not yet played with these cards. I fully expect my ratings to change dramatically as I get more time in with each of the cards, so just remember that a big part of this is just me feeling out what I think about the format. I expect my opinion to change as I play more with the cards and as I engage in spirited discussion with other players.
Let me explain this one more time. For the colors, I’m going to give both a rating and a ranking. The Ranking is an ordinal list that just shows in which order I prefer the colors. The rating gives an idea of how much I like that color on a ten-point scale.
I think the consensus best color in Battle for Zendikar was blue, with black and red flip-flopping for second place depending on the week and the metagame. Green was the worst color and by a wide margin. Ranking the colors now is difficult. I do think that green is stronger in the new set, but is it enough stronger to move it solidly out of last place? We have two packs of Oath of the Gatewatch, with only one pack of BFZ, so there are definitely going to be radical changes, but that last pack is still going to be important to the draft.
I think that black is the strongest color in Oath of the Gatewatch by a wide enough margin to scoot ahead into first place. It gets one of the best commons, and it gets several creatures that are reasonable with no help but that get much better with a little bit of colorless mana. It also gets interaction in most of the themes for the set including both the Eldrazi decks and the cohort decks. Black was already quite strong in the last set, and I think that Battle for Zendikar probably interacts very favorably with black from oath of the Gatewatch.
Blue still seems quite good in Oath with some top commons and a lot of interaction with the set’s themes. However, it doesn’t quite get stunners like Eldrazi Skyspawner or Clutch of Currents, and it doesn’t seem to have the same kind of depth as in the last set.
Red seems to have gotten a bit worse in this set. While it does have Boulder Salvo at common, which is probably one of the stronger commons, it loses a lot of its synergy and it also doesn’t have access to cards like Touch of the Void, Outnumber, or Nettle Drone. It’s possible that Red should move down farther than I have it on this list; I think that it is the worst color in Oath of the Gatewatch, but not by a dramatic margin, and red also tends to be my least favorite color in general, so I’m hesitant to move it down to far, but I’ve got my eyes out to see if it drops down the list.
I really think that white’s power level didn’t really change much with Oath of the Gatewatch. The cards in the new set are mostly comparable to the old set. White does get a little bit more synergy and one of the best commons in the set with Isolation Zone, but it still doesn’t really have the kind of foundation to make a color really stick out. I’ve got white and red pretty close right now; it’s definitely possible that white will end up ahead of red by the end of the format, but when I first go into drafts, I’ll probably be taking it at about the point I’m taking it now.
Green. Sigh. Green is my favorite color in Magic, and it really hurt me to keep moving it farther and farther down in the last set. I think most people wondered what would happen to green in the new set. It turns out that it just didn’t get enough of an oomph from Oath of the Gatewatch. When I ranked out all the commons, green seemed to be one of the deepest colors in the new set, and it gets a lot of powerful uncommons and rares, but very few of the commons are the kind of standout cards that really make a color sing. I do think that green is substantially better in this set, enough that green had the biggest change in its rankings, but I’ve still got it as the worst color. The biggest question with green is whether the focus on colorless mana will make a bigger change in the color since it is the one with the most access to Eldrazi Scions. If that’s the case, then it is possible that green moves up farther in the list.
I’ll be perfectly honest here; I have no idea how the archetypes are going to shake out. I made my best attempt at sketching out the kinds of archetypes that I’m going to try to value early on in the format, but it’s impossible for me to really figure out this kind of stuff this early on. With blue and black as the best colors, it makes sense to put it as the top archetype, and I think that WU flyers gets a lot of tools in this new set, and since it was the least synergy based archetype, it’s probably a strong place to start off with the new set until things get sorted out.
Since UG is and has always been my favorite archetype in general, I know that I’ll be trying out UG early on in the format, even though I have it ranked pretty low on this list. If there is a UG deck to be found, or green decks of any kind really, I will find them early on, but until we have a better idea of how green will shake out, I’m not going to be moving those decks around too much.
In brief, don’t put too much stock in the archetype list. It’ll almost certainly be the list to change the most radically in the first week.
Again, I don’t have any experience with these cards, so I’m just basing this off of my gut reactions. I could be very wrong here. However, Chandra seems like an incredible limited card, in the line of things like Duneblast from previous sets. If you have any kind of board presence, Chandra will completely take over the game, and if you don’t, she’s a great way to get back into the game.
After that… I’m really unsure about the list, but it feels like Nissa is strong enough in the set to get the edge over these other cards. Endbringer would probably be higher, but I’m still unsure of exactly how easy it will be to just run colorless mana in your deck. It’s an amazing card though, so it’s possible that it moves up pretty quickly.
This was another very difficult list to make. The multicolor uncommons in this set are incredibly strong; even stronger than they were in the last set. Cards like Reflector Mage and Baloth Null just have incredible impact on the board. With that said, I’m nervous about how easy it will be to cast these cards. If you are running a WU deck, it seems like you’ll need to be splashing C to get the most strength, and it might make it hard to cast Reflector Mage when you need it. Obviously it’s so strong that you would never not run it in blue, but the question is if you need to take it a little bit lower early on since it’s just harder to be sure that you’ll end up in WU.
In any case, for now I’ve got tried and true Grasp of Darkness up at the top. It kills the vast majority of creatures in this set. (Something like 86% of the creatures in the set after accounting for rarity). It’s cheap and instant speed, and it’s an entirely safe pick for top uncommon at this point, though I would not be surprised at all to see it displaced after a few drafts in the format.
Here is the list that I’ve done the most thinking about. I’ve been moving things up and down the list, and I think that I’ve got a pretty solid idea about where to put things at this point.
The toughest decision is between Blinding Drone and Oblivion Strike. I think that Blinding Drone is better if you know that you are going to be able to cast it and use it regularly. We haven’t had tappers in a long time, so it’s easy to forget just how strong that ability is. Tappers like Blinding Drone are incredible because they effective act like removal by taking out your opponent’s best creature, but additionally, they scale up in power as the game continues on. Not only can they deal with your opponent’s best creature now, but they can often still deal with what will be your opponent’s best creature in ten turns. This scaling nature of tappers makes them much better in the hands of strong players. On top of this, it is still a 1/3 for 1U, which means that it dies to fewer removal spells than most tappers and can even do some amount of blocking. It also interacts favorably with all of the colorless themes from the last two sets. But its strength truly depends on how much access we’ll have to colorless mana. Right now, I’m bullish on all the C cards because there is so much of it in the set that you should be able to get as much as you need fairly easily; the real question is how much we can afford to run in our decks. If I could just be mono-blue plus colorless, I would absolutely have this as the best common, but if I can only splash the ability off of 2 or 3 sources, then it gets a bit worse, though it would still be among the best five commons.
If Blinding Drone doesn’t end up as the best common, then I’m 90% certain that Oblivion Strike will. Four mana to exile any creature without any restrictions is an incredibly good card. It’s not instant speed, or I would have it higher up the list, and probably up near the top of the uncommons list to be honest, but it still deals with anything, and it interacts with all the colorless themes on top of this. It even enables processors! I can’t imagine that this isn’t either the first or second best common in the set.
That’s all I’ve got to say right now. I’m also working on putting together some number analyses of the sets, and I’ve got all the data put together to look at both the creatures and the removal, but I still need some time to look at the data and try to figure out what it means contextually. Expect an article from me on PureMTGO sometime this week with those numbers.