Mathematical models are enormously useful when applied to Magic cards, and last week we took our first look at that power with an analysis of vanilla creatures. After iterating on our model three times, we arrived at the following graph as a representation of a “par” vanilla creature.
You can read the graph by picking a power on the P-axis and a toughness on the T-axis, then seeing where the plane intersects the vertical axis at that point- that’s your mana cost. For example, our model puts the appropriate cost for a 1/7 at a hair under four mana, which you can observe by looking at the far back corner.
Vanillas are great and all, but hey- they are only vanillas. Today, we’re going to see if we can adapt our model for French vanillas- creatures with no abilities except for an evergreen keyword ability. To do so, we’re going to look at each evergreen keyword from the current list.
With one exception, most evergreen keywords are upside mechanics. That means that the average power level across the board is going to be higher than it would be for vanillas, so you’ll see the surfaces on these graphs are higher than they were for the vanilla graph. Got it? Great.
I’m glad deathtouch is the first keyword alphabetically. As you’ll see, it really does a great job of showing how cool and insightful this type of analysis can be. Anyway, let’s jump right in.
Imagine a vanilla 4/1 and a vanilla 1/4, both with the same mana cost. In a vacuum, which is more powerful? You’re probably going to go with the 4/1. While it dies much more easily than the 4/1, it kills bigger things and punches through for more damage. Now slap deathtouch onto both creatures. Suddenly, the 1/4 starts to look a lot more attractive. The reality is that a 4/1 deathtouch is no better at killing things than a 1/4 deathtouch- it’s just better at dying.
In all seriousness, the lesson here is that toughness is much, much, much better than power on Deathtouchers. Mana cost also comes into play- cheap Deathtouchers are especially valuable as mana efficient ways to deter attacks. Also, big deathtouchers are likely to kill whatever they fight in combat anyway- I can guarantee you that the Deathtouch on Typhoid Rats matters much more than the Deathtouch on Grave Titan.
Defender is the only current evergreen that’s a downside mechanic, so its graph is going to be deflated relative to the vanilla graph.
Defenders are good at blocking and not much else. As a result, they’re going to be better if they’ve got high toughness and low power. Luckily, most of them do.
First Strike/Double Strike
What’s the best thing about First Strike creatures? If you’ve ever gotten steamrolled by a Soulsurge Elemental or a Sabertooth Outrider, you already know the answer. They’re nearly impossible to trade with in combat, especially when they have high power. After all, toughness doesn’t really matter if your opponent’s creatures never get to deal damage, does it?
For Double Strike, this effect is doubly true:
I can’t think of many ways that the Flash graph would differ from the vanilla graph. The only thing is that Flash is often used to ambush attackers, so there’s probably a small bump in value around midrangey creatures with biggish butts.
Flying is a pretty polarized mechanic; it’s all about being evasive, unless it’s about stopping your opponent from being evasive. As such, fliers tend to be a bit better than vanillas when their stats are lopsided one way or another. Power-leaning fliers are especially good.
Why do we haste? We haste because we attack. More attack, more damage, more win. More power, more damage each attack. Power good. Toughness meh.
Outside of bumping up the cost across the board, Hexproof just doesn’t impact the power-toughness-mana cost relationship in many meaningful ways. However, you are a bit more likely to want to save your big creatures from removal than your small creatures, so the benefits of Hexproof rise slightly the higher you go up the food chain.
We’re halfway through the list! Next week, we’ll be rounding up the rest of the evergreen keywords, and we’ll finish up this topic by imagining how we could apply this method to all creatures. Until then, I’d love to hear your thoughts on my analyses so far!