Magic: The Gathering is one of my favorite things. I started playing when I was 15 and since then have spent an unreasonable amount of hours and dollars playing Magic with friends and at tournaments. And while I love casting spells in any context, playing Magic: The Gathering Booster Draft (where you build a deck of cards on the spot) is definitely my favorite format.
As part of my first week at Omni, I took some time to acclimate myself to the Omni analytics product by connecting a small dataset of Magic: The Gathering draft analytics that I had sitting in a local Postgres database. In this article, I’ll explore some interesting findings regarding Magic’s latest set: Lord of the Rings: Tales of Middle-earth. On a personal note, this is a set that I’ve spent at least 50 hours drafting and playing, so I’m excited to pose some questions I’ve had against the data.
This data is sourced from 17Lands, which I highly recommend checking out if you want to explore a wide range of Magic: The Gathering statistics and up your Draft game. Note that I’ll be using card win rate interchangeably with games in hand win rate, which is “the win rate of games where an instance of this card was drawn into hand, either in the opening hand or later” as per 17Lands.
Analyzing Tales of Middle-earth
Green cards really are the worst color
Is green the worst color in the Lord of the Rings Draft?? The short answer is yes. A thousand times yes.
It’s common knowledge amongst the Draft community that green is severely underpowered compared to the other 4 card colors in this set, and the data fully supports this claim. Looking at just mono-colored cards, green cards have the lowest average win rate by far at 52.3%. By contrast, black cards have the greatest average success with a win rate of around 58.2%.
Diving deeper, the best black card according to win rate in Lord of the Rings Draft is Orcish Bowmasters at 71%. Looking at green, the best green card is Radagast the Brown, which sits at a win rate of 61%. Not a bad win rate, but the fact that there are at least 13 other cards that perform better than a marquee Mythic rare creature in Radagast shows how much of a disadvantage you’re at when drafting a green deck.
To further illustrate the point, check out the distribution of card colors among the top 50 best-performing mono-colored cards. Of these top 50 best performers, only 2 cards (Radagast the Brown and Delighted Halfling) are green.
Needless to say, if you’re trying to win your draft table, avoid drafting green at all costs.
White cards are better than I thought
Going into this, I hypothesized that black, red, and blue cards would be by far the best-performing colors in the Lord of the Rings Draft. But as you can see, white is actually the third best-performing color with an average win rate of 55.1% - just a smidge above blue’s win percentage. And considering that only 4 of the best 50 mono-colored cards are white based on the donut chart above, this didn’t make any sense.
However, when looking at multi-colored cards, the data points start to piece together. Of the top 10 best-performing multi-colored cards, 5 of them include white mana in their casting cost. The best of these cards is Arwen, Mortal Queen which sits at a whopping 67% win rate.
So while your average white common like Westfold Rider won’t win you a ton of games, the data shows that drafting a powerhouse rare like Faramir, Prince of Ithilien is worth playing white for.
Common rarity cards you shouldn't overlook
Looking at just common rarity cards, we can see a few cards that overperform when compared to their average draft position. Dreadful as a Storm is a flexible creature buff spell at instant speed that can help your smaller creatures block bigger threats, or even help you turn your unassuming creatures into potential game finishers. It has a respectable 58% win rate, but the card’s average drafted at position is 10.34.
A card like Troll of Kazad-dun also has a 58% win rate, but its average drafted at position is 5.64, nearly 5 positions ahead of Dreadful as Storm. I’ve definitely undervalued it in the past, but after seeing the win rate data, I’m very tempted to try and pick up a few copies with my later draft picks.
One card that seems particularly overvalued is Wose Pathfinder, sitting at a 56% win rate despite being one of the most sought-after commons. This matches up with my anecdotal evidence; while Wose Pathfinder can help accelerate you toward your deck’s expensive finishers, a 1/1 creature that dies to basically every form of removal in the format just isn’t great value.
All in all, there’s a lot to uncover in these draft datasets. Ultimately, while a lot of my anecdotal observations were confirmed, I’m definitely surprised by which cards and strategies were actually producing wins on average.
PS - If you didn’t just read this because you’re obsessed with Magic: The Gathering too (it’s okay if that’s the case!), we’d be happy to help you explore Omni 😊