21, Jun, 23

Mardu Colors Are Dominating Early Lord of the Rings Limited!

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Article at a Glance

Lord of the Rings may not have been available for drafting for long, but there are already clear patterns forming within the format. Specific color combinations are performing much better overall than others to start. Unsurprisingly, the best performing archetypes have a lot of the best performing commons and uncommons in their colors, but it’s interesting to see just how many of the best commons and uncommons are confined to certain colors. Here we go over these archetypes, commons and uncommons, and the bomb rares and mythic rares you most want to start your drafts with. Notably, many of our conclusions come from 17Lands.com, which helps track and compare draft win rates of different cards and archetypes. With that out of the way, let’s take a look at the draft world of Lord of the Rings.

A Mardu Takeover?

Theoden, King of Rohan

This set was designed to support each two-color pair. As such, each two-color pair has specific mechanics and play patterns associated with them. Interestingly though, the three best performing two-color archetypes all happened to be the three combinations within the Mardu colors. Orzhov, Rakdos, and Boros all have noticeably higher win rates than the other color combinations. Despite sharing colors, each archetype has a slightly different theme.

Orzhov focuses a lot on Creature tokens. Each two-color pair has two signpost uncommons in their colors, and both of them in Orzhov care about making and utilizing Creature tokens. Rakdos has a bit of overlap, but cares specifically about the Amass Orcs mechanic. Boros cares most about Humans entering the battlefield and is a relatively aggressive color pair.

As expected, with Mardu colors thriving, Simic colors are putting up very weak numbers in general. The worst performing two-color archetypes are Simic, Azorius, and Selesnya, which together make up the Bant colors. It makes a lot of sense that if black and red are overperforming, that green and blue would underperform. White, however, is in an interesting spot. It pairs nicely with black and red, but not green or blue. Further, both black and red when paired with either green or blue actually have decent win rates. What is so unique about white then? To understand, it’s important to look at the commons and uncommons with the highest win rates.

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Best Uncommons

Voracious Fell Beast

Black and red both absolutely dominate the best performing uncommons list. In fact, it’s not until the 23rd best uncommon that we see an uncommon that does not feature either black or red. The best uncommon for black is Voracious Fell Beast, which is not too surprising. A huge flier that makes the opponent sacrifice a Creature and even makes a Food token as a bonus is quite strong. The best red uncommon is Foray of Orcs which, like Voracious Fell Beast, acts both as a Creature and a removal spell. The best uncommon that is neither black nor red comes in at 23rd and is Reprieve. This is a white Instant that returns a spell to its owner’s hand and draws a card. It’s a good tempo play, but obviously comes nowhere close to the win rates of the top black and red uncommons.

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Where White Fits in

As mentioned though, white is a great support color for black and red, but not for green and blue. Part of this is because black and red are naturally strong colors. However, the reasoning goes deeper. White’s signpost uncommons that are specifically either black or red in addition to white actually had high win rates as well. For example, the fourth best uncommon is actually a gold card: Theoden, King of Rohan. The other Boros uncommon, Shadowfax, Lord of Horses, also has a decent win rate, as does the Orzhov uncommon Shadow Summoning. This says a lot about white. While it is a great support color for black and red, a big part of the reason why is due to these specific gold uncommons being quite strong, and much stronger in general than the other gold uncommons featuring white.

As for blue and green, the best uncommons again are gold cards that pair with either black or red. Gandalf’s Sanction is a strong card for the Izzet deck focused on instants and sorceries, and Old Man Willow is great for Golgari as a big beater that is also a sacrifice outlet. The Rakdos colors, black especially, showcase the best commons as well.

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Best Commons

Dunland Crebain

The top 20 commons with the highest winrates are all within Rakdos colors. While some of them, such as Claim the Precious, are obviously premium cards, others simply provide good archetype support without seeming overtly powerful. The best black common is Dunland Crebain which, for anyone who drafted Preening Champion in March of the Machine, shouldn’t come as too much of a surprise. The best red common, however, is Rally at the Hornburg, which is a type of card that appears in a lot of sets. It’s a classic two-mana way to make two small Creature tokens.

Compare this to Ral’s Reinforcements from March of the Machine. Rally is a better for sure, as it gives the Creature tokens haste, but is that line of text really strong enough to bump it from a reasonable playable common to a premium one? Well, the biggest reason the card is likely performing this well is that it’s a great enabler for cards like Theoden, King of Rohan. Boros having an aggressive, humans-matter theme really pushes this card up in value.

As for the other colors, white’s best common is Protector of Gondor, another nice card for Boros and Orzhov. Blue has Glorious Gale, which functions similar to Essence Scatter but with upside. Finally, green has Mirrormere Guardian, which feels like reasonable filler at best. It’s clear that blue and green are weaker colors, and the power level of their commons is certainly part of the equation.

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Best Rares

Anduril, Flame of the West

While the success of the archetypes are definitely driven by the commons and uncommons, there are a handful of rares and mythic rares that are above all the rest of the cards in the set. Two of the four rares and mythics that get picked the highest in draft on average are colorless bombs. Both Anduril, Flame of the West and Horn of Gondor are elite cards. Anduril in particular is extremely strong in almost any archetype, whereas Horn of Gondor is much better with additional Human support.

Black’s best rare or mythic is Witch-King of Amgar, which is a big flier with a nice effect that is difficult to kill. Green has Radagast the Brown, which helps provide a flow of card advantage. White’s best rare or mythic is Gandalf the White, which is an efficient threat with Flash that can make your other cards better. Red’s best is Spiteful Banditry. While not quite as game-breaking as the Meathook Massacre, it is similar and quite strong. Finally, blue has Rangers of Ithilien, which can help run away with the game if the opponent can’t remove it.

While these rares and mythics are certainly very strong, the real story here is how strong the commons and uncommons are, specifically in Mardu colors. These archetypes are well-supported and far above the rest of the pack. Additionally, decks with less black and red cards tend to perform much worse on average overall. This is true even though Rakdos, Boros, and Orzhov are drafted at high rates compared to the other colors, meaning these decks perform extremely well even with more people drafting them. Will this change over time, or will the format continue to be dominated by Mardu colors for a long time? Only time will tell.

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