Last updated on January 27, 2021

Tyvar Kell - Illustration by Chris Rallis

Tyvar Kell | Illustration by Chris Rallis

Here we are on the brink of Kaldheim’s release, and it’s been four months since we’ve had a new draft format. I don’t know about you, but I am starved. What better way is there to whet your appetite than to talk about real* data from the upcoming format?

It’s time to find out what tens of thousands of people think, in fact.

This article will be a similar vein to Draftsim’s older draft data analysis articles, like the ones we wrote a while back for Guilds of Ravnica and Core Set 2019.

You might not know, but each set I do what might be the very first set review on the planet, releasing Draftsim’s set tier list alongside the draft simulator as soon as we have the full spoiler. I also continue to update that tier list as the format evolves.

But what we’re discussing today is different. It’s basically what you rated all the cards, not me!

As a someone going into a brand new draft format, I think you’ll find this information incredibly valuable.

You can use this list to get an idea of how much other people value the cards in the set so you can read signals early on in the format. And it may tip you off whether you drastically misevaluated any cards. It certainly did for me.

*As real as you’re going to get before the set is even out.

The Data

So what are we looking at today? I extracted and analyzed every single pick that was made by you on Draftsim since I released Kaldheim last Tuesday.

This data is taken from over 50,000 Kaldheim drafts on Draftsim from January 19 to January 24. Normally, I’d have waited a little longer to get more data, but I wanted to make sure you had this information in your hands before the release on MTG Arena and MTGO.

A Kaldheim draft on Draftsim

Thanks as always to all of you for drafting the heck out of Kaldheim on the draft simulator

This is more than enough data to get some very meaningful analysis.

Below, you’ll get a pick order list that is the “unvarnished opinion” of all Draftsim users in aggregate. I won’t weight or add my own editorial scores to any of the rankings.

The picks are organized in terms of average pick number across all drafts by humans.

OK, with all that out of the way, let’s dive in!

The Pick Order

All the usual caveats about pick orders apply — they’re almost useless after pack 1, pick 1, but they can help you understand more about the relative power level of cards in the set.

Bombs and Slam First Picks (Picks 1-1.3)

Not too many surprises here. These are the overpowered rares and mythics — huge bombs, premium payoffs, super efficient creatures/removal, rare legends, gods and planeswalkers.

It’s worth nothing here that being within the pick range of 1-1.3, all the cards above are pretty much unconditionally first picked on average. So any gradation between them is probably not significant, except for the very beginning and end of the list.

If I had to cherry pick the most suspect cards here, I think I’d go with Realmwalker, Toski, Bearer of Secrets, Cosmos Elixir, In Search of Greatness, and Maskwood Nexus.

I think those are all pretty good cards, but probably not unconditionally first pick worthy. In general, they’re nice build-arounds that will provide you a good amount of value. But I certainly don’t think I’d classify them as “bombs.”

Nice First Picks (Picks 1.4-1.7)

Next up, we’ve got the appearance of our first couple uncommons, as well as the “still-amazing-but-require-slightly-more-work” sagas.

The rares here require slightly more out of your deck from a build-around perspective. They’re not necessarily the “slam and it will always be good in these colors” category.

Reasonable First Picks (Picks 1.8-2.9)

This section has the strong common removal spells, premium uncommons, and more build-around-y rares.

Maybe there’s something I don’t get about Pyre of Heroes, but this does not seem like a high pick to me. I think it could be a fun build around, but you really need to know what type of deck you have (ETB effects, diversity of mana costs) before you start building Birthing Pod.

The World Tree is another one that sticks out to me in this category. I mean, yes it’s really cool, but if you get up to 11 lands without dying, I think you could have won with just about anything.

Strong Cards (Picks 3-4.9)

Below are the strong build-around uncommons, mid-tier common removal spells, and the rares that require quite an investment to build around. Of note, every single one of the uncommon tribal equipment cards that has a kicker ETB effect that makes a creature is in this section.

Also, some of what you might call the common “pivot” cards (that can go multiple archetypes) are here, such as Elderfang Disciple and Sculptor of Winter.

I think some of our legends are pretty underappreciated, though. Kardur, Svella, and Narfi should probably be a tier above this.

Archetype Bread and Butter (Picks 5-7.9)

The commons here are ones that you’d probably load up on in a given archetype, but would prefer to “use sparingly” outside of it. The snow lands make their first appearance, as do many support and medium-quality payoff uncommons.

We also see most of the “controversial” sagas (see my explanation later) — which may just mean that they’re worse, who knows.

Archetype Role Players (Picks 8-9.9)

These are mostly cards that you wouldn’t want very many of, even if you were in their respective archetypes. Most of the cards in this list are quite replaceable, but…

… I think I would be taking the dual-colored spell effect sac lands and the pathways higher than replacement level. The vast majority of the time when you draft, you end up with extra playables, so getting to use one of your land slots as a spell is invaluable. It’s possible these lands are a little underappreciated currently.

However, if you’re drafting snow, you’re going to need to be utilizing your extra picks taking snow lands, so that is one situation where you probably won’t have time to be taking spell lands.

Situational / Sideboard Cards (Picks 10+)

These guys you’re really hoping not to put in your deck. That said, even lowly Annul appears to have plenty of targets in Kaldheim. Nevertheless, cards in this tier aren’t the crux of any archetype and you should usually have much better options.

The snow duals really stick out here and probably should be higher. In a normal limited set, dual lands without an ability are valuable, even in a straight up two-colored deck.

Maybe this says something about the incentives for splashing in this set?

I’m not sure people are thinking right now about taking about off-color snow duals to get their snow land count up. There are enough payoffs there that you may want to do that in some decks.

Kaldheim Specifics

How High Do I Need to Take the Snow Lands?

If you haven’t drafted a set with the snow mechanic before, it might not be obvious that you have to spend real picks on snow lands in the pack. It adds a fun dynamic to the draft environment where you’re always asking yourself, “Does this snow land add more to my deck than this replacement level card that might not even make the main?”

The highest picked snow land was Snow-Covered Forest, coming in around pick 6.5 on average.

Not too far behind, at around pick 7.5, were Snow-Covered Island and Snow-Covered Swamp.

This makes sense to me — snow is focused in the Sultai colors, so you’d expect these three lands to be the highest. Pick 6-7 means you are taking them over replacement level and archetype role player cards.

Bringing up the rear, we have Snow-Covered Mountain and Snow-Covered Plains at around pick 10.5 on average. Honestly, I feel like this is a little bit low, and they should at least be taken higher than conditional sideboard cards.

One of the best red commons, Frost Bite, incentivizes you to take snow lands. And even if you’re combining white with Green/Blue/Black, it’s likely you might end up with a reason to put four snow lands in your deck.

Can I interest you in an Icebind Pillar, perhaps?

What About Sagas and Legends?

Harald, King of Skemfar

Not too surprising, but these are high picks and are a sign that your colors are open. Every single one of these is a signpost in one way or another that points to the major themes of the color. And most of them have a sufficiently high power level to justify a high pick too.

The rares are good enough that you’ll need to first or second pick them. And you’ll usually have to take the uncommons around pick 3-4.

Top Commons

I’ve sorted out the top three commons in each color so you can get a feel for where the power in the set is.

By and large, we’ve got a list of the most efficient creatures in each color, plus the removal spells.

White

Blue

I was surprised that most of the white and blue commons were farther down on the list, with only one entry each on the top 10.

Black

There was a massive gap (3 picks) between Feed the Serpent and Elderfang Disciple.

Red

There was a drop off from 2.9 to 5.4 between Frost Bite and Squash. This makes sense — Frost Bite is efficiently costed and Squash is not — unless you do the giant thing.

Green

Colorless

Since there are a lot fewer colorless commons, the average pick number for these was a bit lower than their peers above. So they’re not necessarily of equal power level to the colored cards.

Top Uncommons

Most of these cards you’ll be quite happy to first pick. They offer you a lot of flexibility in terms of what direction you can take your draft, or the themes in their associated color are loud enough that you can be pretty confident that you won’t be left with an underpowered card by the end of the draft.

White

Blue

Icebind Pillar was head and shoulders above the other two. I guess everyone knows how good Icy Manipulator is!

Black

Red

Green

Colorless

Same commentary here as the commons – the average pick number on these top three is a bit lower because there are fewer colorless cards at this rarity. Honestly I’m surprised to see the Plow here. It’s a lot of work to crew six, only to have your big piece of farm equipment trade for a 3-drop…

Multicolor

Most Controversial Cards

One awesome statistic we invented for Guilds of Ravnica was “card controversy.” You can think of these cards as having the highest variance between where they were picked in packs between different players.

Everybody first picks the bomb, but what about the cards that are picked first by some people and last by others?

Very frequently, these cards tend to be hard to evaluate rares. Here’s the list of the top 10 most controversial:

  1. Tibalt’s Trickery
  2. Niko Defies Destiny
  3. Forging the Tyrite Sword
  4. Waking the Trolls
  5. Ascent of the Worthy
  6. The Tricker-God’s Heist
  7. The Three Seasons
  8. Darkbore Pathway // Slitherbore Pathway
  9. Kardur’s Vicious Return
  10. Hengegate Pathway // Mistgate Pathway

Weird Rares & Strange Sagas

The Raven's Warning art

The fact that there would be disagreement on when to take these cards makes a lot of sense to me. Tibalt’s Trickery sounds cool and has a lot of text, which I could see leading to some… confusion about how good it is.

As for the sagas, these also have a lot of text and some pretty strange effects. I don’t think it’s a surprise that the ones that were more controversial are the ones that are less obviously overpowered than the rest.

I guess we’ll have to play the format a bit to see if these are better than they look or if they’re a tier below the more obviously powerful sagas.

Pathways

I’m less sure about why there was a lot of variance with the pathways. The other two pathways also clocked in just outside the top 10, so they all qualified as “controversial.” My only guess is that people disagree right now about how highly you need to be taking fixing.

So What Next?

Thanks for sticking with me here. I am so excited for the new set to come out so we can finally get drafting!

We have a very big announcement coming up this week related to machine learning and AI in Magic, and I am downright giddy at the prospect of revealing it to the world. I’ll give you one little hint — it’s going to be about Arena Tutor.

Speaking of, please go download and install Arena Tutor! Using our free apps helps us produce amazing data analysis articles just like this one. As a bonus, if you use Arena Tutor you’ll get both our draft AI recommendations and <our super-secret new feature> right there while you’re drafting in MTGA.

Be sure to also follow Draftsim on social media so you get updates as soon as possible.

screenshot of arena tutor by draftsim

Thanks, and I’ll see you next time!

4 Comments

  • Avatar
    Jason Boillot January 27, 2021 9:38 pm

    I’m curious about the kraken being a slam. At 12 mana and very limited ability to get snow in limited, it seems to be a hard pass for me. Please explain what I’m missing?

    • Avatar
      Dan Troha January 28, 2021 9:18 am

      Yep don’t think you’re missing too much, it should probably be at least a tier lower. I do think if you are in the “hard snow” deck, it will still be very nice finisher, so it’s probably a little better than you’re saying. But I also think people were picking it really high and then seeing how many snow lands they could snap up after that.

  • Avatar
    Keith February 3, 2021 1:31 pm

    Yo, you should include the live text names of the cards so that you can search the page.

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