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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 - 1W - Enchantment - Aura - Enchant creature - Enchanted creatures get +2/+2 as long as it's Human. Otherwise, it can't attack or block.

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
Humans: 30
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.

Terror - 1B - Instant - Destroy target nonblack, nonartifact creature. It can't be regenerated.

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:
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!

  1. September 22, 2011 at 12:51 AM

    Some excellent points. One I think you probably should have mentioned is the percentage of the 30 Humans in the cube that are on White cards. Unless the person playing Bonds is splashing, he will also be snatching up other White cards and Humans. I don’t know the stats, but it feels to me like there are more Humans in White than in the other colors, maybe because there are lots of soldiers and knights. Anyway, if that sense of things is true, then Bonds gets another step better.

    If nothing else, the card is more “interesting” than Terror, which I always think of as “another Doom Blade.” Powerful and desirable, but not really nuanced or interesting.

    P.S. A quick search of common Humans in the Magic database turns up 228 in W, 90 in U, 66 in B, 72 in R, 48 in G. So if your cube follows the general trend, I would expect roughly 13 or 14 of the 30 to be in W.

    • September 22, 2011 at 6:44 AM

      I definitely dropped an analysis of Human by color, but my suspicions match yours. There is an opportunity to update this with the next post, and I probably should make that note clear. Thanks!

  2. September 22, 2011 at 5:03 AM

    I like the idea of lethality.

    I also like the look of this card. Options are a lovely thing in my book, and I love that this gives me them.

    • September 22, 2011 at 6:46 AM

      Having choices usually feels good. 🙂

      I need to dig a little deeper to really flesh out what a “lethality” score would mean, and how it would be derived. I hope this is something I can begin to tackle this year. Thanks!

  3. September 22, 2011 at 6:57 AM

    Some interesting analysis here.

    On a different note, do you think you could slip something into the next conversation you have with your contacts at Wizards of the Coast about putting more of these cool “powerful, yet thoughtful” cards in things like the core set? Preferably not in the same rotation as ridiculous undercosted universal cards like Doom Blade? See, I play a lot of 60-card highlander, and can’t convince anybody to play with thoughtful cards because of all the power creep that’s been going on. 😦

    • September 22, 2011 at 9:40 AM

      There isn’t much for me to say about it as that’s whole different internal teams. I’d provide feedback to Mark Rosewater and Tom LaPille directly through their article feedback; I’m just an outside writer!

  4. CJ
    September 22, 2011 at 9:35 AM

    It’s worth noting that, if you’re playing bonds, you’re playing white. I don’t know what fractions of the humans in Adam’s cube are white, but I believe they should be disproportionately represented in that color. That means your deck will suck humans out of the draft pool, leaving less in your opponent’s decks.

    • September 22, 2011 at 9:42 AM

      You’re teasing some of the details from my follow up post. There’s more creature subtype analysis coming!

  5. September 23, 2011 at 9:05 PM

    I just noticed that thing about “lethality.” That would be a cool column in the cube sheet for sure. I’m wondering how hard it would be to also do for creatures by comparing power and toughness. I’m guessing pretty tough, given all the =if statements you would have to write to account for basic evasion like flying and first strike.

  6. October 8, 2011 at 4:36 AM

    Even for removal it’s already quite a pain, I guess. It seems easy for stuff like Lightning Bolt, but I guess you would then want to substract creatures with regeneration and I don’t see any other way to do this than manually… And how do you calculate lethality on an edict?

    Another interesting thing would be the average cmc of creatures that a removal can kill. Would make Lightning Bolt even more better than Shock.

  7. October 10, 2011 at 9:28 AM

    My playgroup in Udine (Italy) just loves your cube and personally I find it very hard to wait for the Innistrad update…is it coming anytime soon?

    • October 10, 2011 at 9:52 AM

      Yes! The update goes up this week!

      • October 11, 2011 at 4:53 AM

        Fantastic! Can’t wait for it! Thanks a lot!

  1. September 29, 2011 at 8:53 AM
  2. October 17, 2011 at 1:46 AM

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