Bonding with Innistrad
Innistrad, if you haven’t heard about it yet from under your rock on Mars, is the next Magic set slated for release. I’ll be down near DC and Charm City at this weekend’s Prerelease events, transforming some cards and carrying on like the overbearing excitable git that I am.
What’s stunning about Innistrad is how powerful, yet thoughtful, many of the new commons seem to be. Let’s look at just one of the new cards today: Bonds of Faith.
Bonds of Faith, at a glance, looks like a trap. It’s Pacifism for non-Humans, but a modest boost to Humans specifically. Obviously, this card is “strictly worse” than Pacifism, right?
Let’s get one thing clear: anytime anyone invokes the phrase “strictly better” or “strictly worse” you need to be very careful to examine what they’re saying. Pacifism and Bonds of Faith aren’t the same card, as defined by unique English names, but they also aren’t the same card, as defined by actual gameplay.
Bonds of Faith may or may not be a “good card” in Innistrad Limited. I don’t know yet, and we’re here to look at Pauper Cubes. For my Cube, the questions Bonds of Faith asks are:
- How often will it function as Pacifism?
- How does that compare to other removal spells?
- Is the Human buff valuable?
Fortunately for you, I have answers to these questions.
How often is Bonds of Faith a Pacifism?
Answering this question is relatively easy thanks to a much simpler question: how many Human creatures are there in the cube? The rest is elementary. (Note, however, that this required me to add the subtypes for every creature into the cube spreadsheet. This was an hour or so of Gatherer drudgery, and I recommend doing that to check the current Oracle rules text for cards as many subtypes have changed over the years.)
Total Creatures: 203
Percentage of Humans: ~15%
This means that roughly 85% of creatures get hit with Pacifism. If you want to tweak the percentages slightly you can account for creatures you can’t target (those with shroud or hexproof, Guardian of the Guildpact, etc.), but the point is clear: Bonds of Faith is, generally, Pacifism. But what does it mean to be “generally” a removal spell?
How does Bonds of Faith compare to other removal spells?
Every removal spell doesn’t remove every creature. Understanding what spells kill more, or less, creatures is just data analysis like above, and I could pull all sorts of interesting data on different removal spells. In fact, I’m considering calculating a “lethality” percentage that gives a percentage rank of how much a given spell kills.
That fun ditty (starting development of the cube equivalent of sabermetrics) is for another time. What I want to show today is that Bonds of Faith is not a trap, and to do that let’s compare it to the archetypical removal spell: Terror.
There are many different takes on Terror, so what bears out here is applicable to several more spells than just the namesake. Let’s ask the same type of question of Terror that we did for Bonds of Faith: for how many is Terror a creature killer?
Total Creatures: 203
Black Creatures: 36
Nonblack Artifact Creatures: 18
Percentage of Black and/or Artifact Creatures: ~26.5%
This means that just under 75% of creatures in my cube die to Terror. This also means that, on average, Bonds of Faith will be better at removing a creature than Terror and friends.
You read the correctly. Numbers, given proper context and calculations, don’t lie.
Is Bond of Faith’s buff for Humans useful?
Yes. This is a removal spell, as shown above, that is a binary, conditional creature buff. How useful it is it something much more elusive, an examination best left for fanciful situations involving best- and worst-case scenarios.
Meanwhile, I’ll just be putting a tweaked Pacifism on your dude. Thanks!