30, Apr, 24

MTG Lead Designer Puts Emphasis on Improving Green's Position in Limited

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Article at a Glance

Outlaws of Thunder Junction has been out on MTG Arena for almost two weeks now, and we’re starting to get a sense for what the Limited format’s all about. Outlaws of Thunder Junction draft is in a rather unique spot when compared to other sets over the last year. This is for one main reason: green is in an elite spot overall.

Back when Lord of the Rings came out, there was a real concern regarding green’s place in the Limited environment. Players were going as far as to avoid green cards entirely, even passing up on traditionally strong green rares. Green seemed to be getting a bit better over time and was a reasonable color choice in Murders at Karlov Manor draft. Still, it was far from being the top color in any of these Limited formats.

Outlaws of Thunder Junction has completely turned this narrative on its head. Obviously, the format is still young, but green’s initial dominance is something to behold. According to head designer Mark Rosewater in response to a recent Blogatog post, the design team recognizes the struggles green has had in Limited for quite some time.

Supposedly, there has been an emphasis on creating “bite” spells over “fight” spells within green’s removal suite in hopes of making green stronger overall. How much has this impacted green’s position in Thunder Junction Limited? Are there other ways to help balance green cards in premier sets moving forward? Let’s dig deeper and try to answer these burning questions.

The Bite Spell Debate

Clear Shot

When Mark Rosewater pointed out that the design team is trying to find ways to make green stronger in Limited, he did so in response to a post talking about the “pushed” nature of modern-day removal spells in green. The argument the poster provides is that, given how efficient and powerful green Creatures have become over time, bite spells like Clear Shot and Throw from the Saddle become reliable removal spells for even the biggest of Creatures. This is especially true for bite spells that provide a power boost at the same time which, as we will see, have become quite common in recent sets.

Part of the weakness of fight spells like Prey Upon has always been that, because your Creature is dealt damage by the opponent’s Creature in the exchange, a combat trick can blow you out. Similarly, your 3/3 cannot effectively remove your opponent’s 3/3 without ultimately dying in the process. Bite spells that simply let your Creatures deal damage to an opponent’s are therefore much less risky.

As such, the poster claims that green’s removal has come closer and closer to playing out like Murder does in black, further distorting MTG’s color pie. In theory, this argument makes a lot of sense. According to 17Lands.com which tracks user draft data on MTG Arena, Throw from the Saddle had the highest win rate when maindecked of any common in Thunder Junction Limited. If green tends to get the beefiest Creatures, why should they also get the strongest removal spells?

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More Weaknesses Than You Might Realize

Murder

Well, when you consider all the ways even bite spells can go wrong, it makes sense why these spells have been getting pushed more and more. This Blogatog post garnered a lot of discussion, and one point that many players brought up is that bite spells like Throw from the Saddle play significantly better when ahead than behind. If you control the biggest Creature on the board, Throw from the Saddle helps you push your advantage further.

The problem is that when you don’t control a big Creature or your opponent has an enormous bomb, bite spells won’t help you claw your way back into the game. On top of that, if your Creature that you target with Throw from the Saddle gets removed in response, you get completely blown out.

With bite spells being situational and vulnerable to removal, it makes sense why they have been getting stronger over time. Graceful Takedown from Wilds of Eldraine gives the opportunity for multiple of your Creatures to each deal damage to an opposing target. This means that even if one of your Creatures gets removed in response, your bite can still be effective. Meanwhile, Clear Shot gives a power boost and can be cast at Instant speed, making it more flexible.

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Green in Thunder Junction is Different

Snakeskin Veil

What’s interesting, though, is that despite the rise in elite green removal spells, Outlaws of Thunder Junction has proven to be a complete outlier. Graceful Takedown in Wilds of Eldraine addressed some of the weaknesses associated with bite spells. Yet, the card did not even crack the top eight green uncommons in the set based on win rate when maindecked.

Murders at Karlov Manor boasted both Bite Down on Crime in the common slot and Hard-Hitting Question as an uncommon. Bite Down on Crime proved to be strong, but nowhere near the level of Throw from the Saddle. At the end of the day, there are multiple reasons why Throw from the Saddle is overperforming in Thunder Junction draft.

First and foremost, Throw from the Saddle pairs exceptionally well with two other top six commons in the set based on win rate when maindecked. Both Take Up the Shield and Snakeskin Veil act as efficient combat tricks in arguably the best two-color combination in Thunder Junction Limited.

They also simultaneously provide protection for your Creature that you target with Throw from the Saddle. Add on the fact that Selesnya is an aggressive color combination with a ton of Mounts, and the permanent buff that Throw from the Saddle can give is a great bonus.

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Strengthening Green in Other Ways

Llanowar Elves

It should be noted, green gets a lot more in Thunder Junction than just a solid common removal spell in its favor. Green benefits a lot from the cycle of deserts and uncommons like Outcaster Greenblade that can find them. Outcaster Greenblade is the top common based on win rate when maindecked in the whole set, largely for its ability to let green decks splash any of the off-color bombs they open.

With this in mind, there are a lot of ways available to try to strengthen green in future sets. Providing ways to splash other colors is certainly one, though letting players utilize more bomb rares isn’t exactly the best way to go about things.

Some players suggested that the presence of cheap ramp elements like Llanowar Elves and Rampant Growth can help give green an edge, too. Wizards of the Coast has been quite cautious when it comes to putting mana dorks into Standard, so the lack of these cards in premier sets is understandable.

Still, cards like Llanowar Elves can help you get ahead on board in Limited, which in turn makes your bite spells better. It’ll be interesting to see how the design team continues to try to help green in Limited without breaking the color pie or negatively affecting other formats. Thunder Junction showcases just how strong green can be in draft. Only time will tell if the coming sets follow suit.

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