6, Jul, 23

MTG Lord of the Rings Limited Has Massive Balancing Problems!

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Article at a Glance

Early looks at data for Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Limited has revealed a disturbing correlation. Unfortunately, players have had a number of unbalanced Limited formats in recent history. Gruul’s Dominance in Phyrexia: All Will Be One, for example, created an incredibly unbalanced format that was, otherwise, overtly aggressive.

While I personally enjoy Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth Limited quite extensively, the data does suggest that one archetype is far better than the rest. Past that point, one color is infinitely worse than the others, at least according to what we’ve seen here.

Rakdos is King

Collating a bunch of results from 17Lands.com, widely considered to be one of the best Limited resources in the entire MTG community, Twitter user MTG Data Science has released something rather startling. It was no secret to many that Rakdos is the best thing to be doing in Lord of the Rings Limited. This data, however, suggests that it may be a bit too good.

This data reveals that Rakdos is, by far, the best two-colored combination to draft in Lord of the Rings Limited. You’re about twice as likely (or more) to trophy with this archetype in MTG Arena drafts than any other two-colored combination. For reference, ‘trophying’ refers to the act of achieving the maximum number of wins in an event.

Comparing this data to previous sets suggests that Lord of the Rings is even less balanced than Phyrexia: All Will Be One was. Basically, the distance between color pairings in the above chart showcases just how much better Rakdos is than the rest of the archetypes. This distance is greater for Lord of the Rings than it was for ONE, which was widely considered to be a poorly balanced format by the community:

“As measured by the distribution of trophies across color pairs, it’s an incredibly imbalanced format; even more than #ONE.”


Best Cards in Rakdos

Since Rakdos, according to this Trophy data, is so much more powerful in comparison to other archetypes, players drafting Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth may want to keep an eye on cards that could indicate that this archetype is open. According to 17Lands.com, these are the best common and uncommon cards that players should be looking at when trying to determine if Rakdos is open.

Do note that we will be looking at the highest win rate of cards when main-decked on the site, so consider any data bias that may come with this snapshot in those regards.

Even though Eomer of the Riddermark may be a color intended for the Boros Humans archetype, according to 17Lands, it has the highest win rate when main-decked for all the uncommons in the Rakdos archetype. Able to create immediate pressure while producing a blocker on most boards, Eomir is a fantastic way to close the game quickly with little risk.

Fear, Fire, Foes! comes in at second place for uncommons in RB. There are a lot of one-toughness creatures in Lord of the Rings Limited. This card, as a result, ends up being a two-for-one or better in a lot of scenarios. Both of these cards offer above a 62% win rate when drafted in the Rakdos colors. Unfortunately, both of these cards are also very powerful in other archetypes, so finding copies of them can be quite difficult.

Best Commons

Moving to the common level further proves why Fear! Fire! Foes! has such a high win rate. Rally at the Hornburg, once again, despite being intended for the Boros archetype, is the best common card in terms of main-decked win rate in Rakdos decks. Coming in at 61.3% win rate when maindecked, this card is a fantastic aggressive turn two play, but also performs well in later turns thanks to the ability to give other Humans Haste.

Dunland Crebain’s power level has been no secret to the majority of the community. Thanks to the dominance of Preening Champion in March of the Machine Limited, it’s easy to identify that a card that offers multiple bodies, one of which has very relevant evasion, is quite powerful. This card is only .1% behind Rally, but is generally picked much earlier than the previous card when constructed Rakdos decks.

Besides being some of the most important cards to watch for when trying to draft Rakdos, these cards, especially when appearing past pick six in a pack, are simply a good indication that either Red or Black is somewhat open at your table. Any decks that are running these colors will seriously want to consider these format frontrunners.

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One Color is Definitely the Worst of Them All

In addition to Rakdos being backbreakingly powerful, according to the above data based on the rate of Trophying on MTG Arena by color combo, green is a much weaker color than the other options. All four of the green dual-colored archetypes recorded are among the worst color combos to trophy with. Azorius is also quite poor.

That said, this doesn’t necessarily mean green is useless. In fact, we won $1000 in the last Arena Open drafting a green archetype in the final draft. This doesn’t necessarily mean that green is way better than expected but, if you end up in Lord of the Rings’ worst color, there is a powerful archetype you can try for.

Don’t Let the Data Dissuade You!

As noted by MTG Data Science, who quoted MTG personalities LSV and Marshall Sutcliffe, just because a Limited format is unbalanced doesn’t necessarily mean it isn’t fun. A massive color imbalance doesn’t necessarily mean that a format isn’t complex or is unhealthy. It just means that period of adjustment may be in order.

If all the drafters at your table are aware of Rakdos’ latent power level, chances are those cards are going to get picked very quickly, and no one will really end up with a powerful Rakdos list. This opens up other archetypes which, while weaker in a void, may be very competitive if everyone drains all of the Rakdos resources early.

Otherwise, Lord of the Rings’ Limited gameplay, for the most part, rewards winning small edges and is very interactive. The format still rewards strong decision-making, even if you are playing against the Rakdos menace.

If anything, the information to take from this data is, if Rakdos appears to be open at your table, you should absolutely jump on it. Getting a powerful Rakdos list likely puts you far ahead of what everyone else is doing, and should you give a good chance of taking down your Draft.

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