Limited Pointing II

Posted in NEWS on February 8, 2002

Over two thousand of you took up my challenge to try your hand at pointing the black commons in Torment. (Click here to read last week’s article -- this one won’t make much sense without it.) The results were pretty cool, so let’s dive right in.

Faceless Butcher 3.3 3.3
Crippling Fatigue 3.0 2.4
Soul Scourge 2.9 2.6
Waste Away 2.6 2.3
Cabal Torturer 2.5 2.3
Organ Grinder 2.4 2.5
Gravegouger 2.1 1.8
Mesmeric Fiend 1.9 2.3
Shade's Form 1.8 2.5
Unhinge 1.5 1.5
Putrid Imp 1.5 1.5
Cabal Surgeon 1.3 1.5
Rancid Earth 1.3 1.8
Carrion Rats 1.0 1.9
Psychotic Haze 0.8 1.4
Restless Dreams 0.7 2.1
Cabal Ritual 0.0 1.9
Average 1.8 2.1

Both the development team and the public agreed on which common is the best: Faceless Butcher. The really cool part is that the team and the public gave the card an identical rating: 3.3. Despite its double-black mana cost, having just a single Butcher is enough to make you really want to play black.

The team thinks Crippling Fatigue is the second best black common at 3.0, but the public cast its vote for Soul Scourge at a mere 2.6. The ability to kill two creatures for just one card and five mana is a real pull into black for us and more than makes up for the loss of three life. We like the Scourge too -- he came in third (at 2.9) when we pointed the set last May, but the Fatigue seems better.

It’s kind of interesting that the public ratings were a lot more flat than the team’s marks. We had three different cards scoring 2.9 or higher while the public only had one. I thought maybe my cautions last week to be careful not to point too high might have suppressed your scores, but your average was actually quite a bit higher than ours. The worst card in the entire set still got a rating of 1.4 -- indicating that you guys don’t think there is any black common in the set that will get cut from your deck much more than half the time. The development team, on the other hand, thinks there are four different commons that we really don’t want to play unless we have to.

Cabal Ritual earned a 0.0 from the team. No one of the five of us (Henry Stern, Bill McQuillan, Mike Donais, Brian Schneider, and me) want to run it in either sealed deck or draft. Historically, Dark Ritual was much better in Constructed decks than it was in Limited and I think the same is true for this Ritual. It’s rare that you can win a Limited game with a quick burst of speed in the early game -- too rare to be worth losing card advantage, in our opinion. (Remind me next year to tell you want we’ve been doing in the FFL with the Ritual in decks that can get to threshold by the end of their second turn though!) I don’t actually think Cabal Ritual is a good Constructed card either, but I look forward to you guys trying to prove me wrong. We knew a lot of you would be quite happy to get your hands on it, so that’s why we printed it.

The public ratings have several cards clustered very close together in the mid-2’s. Soul Scourge, Organ Grinder, Shade's Form, and Crippling Fatigue showed up as the 2nd- through 5th-best commons -- their point totals mark them as cards you will pretty much always play if you’re playing black, but you have to have at least several of these before you’ll commit to running swamps. The team agreed almost exactly with Organ Grinder, but we didn’t rate Shade’s Form nearly that high. It’s a cool trick and it’s flexible in that it’s sometimes good on your stuff and sometimes good to put on theirs (so you can steal their creature, like with False Demise), but we think it’s a bit too situational to score that high, and we think we’ll cut it a decent amount of the time.

Rounding out the top 5 on the team’s list were Waste Away and Cabal Torturer. We think creature removal is the real sauce in black in Limited and these scores reflect that. After that the two lists are pretty similar for a few picks, including Unhinge and Putrid Imp which wound up with identical 1.5 ratings on both lists.

We already talked about the bottom cards and I think the public is overrating a few of them. It’s not that I think the team’s ratings are perfect, but something always gets cut when you build a Limited deck. You can’t play all the cards so whichever are the weakest ones are going to get cut from decks more often that they get played, even if they would have been good enough to play in a set with fewer good black cards. That means a few cards have to score below 1.0, just from a mathematical point of view.

The overall average of 1.8 is a bit high for what a development team would normally look for. We like each color to come in around 1.6-1.7. However, since Torment is the black set we made a conscious decision to let the black cards be just a little bit better than the other colors. We didn’t need to make them much better since you’re also going to get a lot more of them, but a little bit better (say 1.8 overall) seemed proper to us.

So there you have it – your first try at pointing a set for Limited. Pretty good for a first try, I’d say.

Randy may be reached at