Superior Numbers - The Medallions

Fantastic Medallions and Where to Run Them

Welcome to Superior Numbers, where I try to do numerical analysis on cards and deckbuilding trends using a little bit of math.

I run the appropriate members of the Medallion cycle in all my mono-colored decks. After all, if most of your spells are one color, reducing those spells by one colorless mana is the functional equivalent of a mana rock, and in the case of the Medallions, it's a mana rock you can use more than once per turn. They're very effective.

I don't run them in two-color decks, however. Why? Well, because I didn't run them in two-color decks. The reason I don't run them is the reason I don't run them, if that makes sense. I just defaulted to assuming they were best in a mono-color deck, and haven't ever challenged that assumption.

So let's challenge that assumption.

I deserve a medallion, look how I'm styling

First off, let's talk about the elephant in the room: the Medallions are expensive. As of this article, the cheapest is around $12 for Emerald Medallion, and the prices goes up from there, topping out with the most affordable printing of Jet Medallion still at over $40. That's gross, and it's certainly a factor in why folks don't run them or even consider running them in a lot of decks. This isn't an article series about budget cards, though. I just want to analyze the efficacy of the cards, regardless of price.

Now, determining just how good they are isn't a thing that's easy to do universally. It's pretty easy to do specifically though, and really that's what matters most, since you care about whether or not they would work in your own deck. The simplest way to do this is to look at my own decks. After all, I care a whole lot more about how my decks perform!

So to start this off, let's get a frame of reference for how many spells in each of my mono-colored decks benefit from having the appropriately-colored Medallion in the list. Now, bear in mind that the numbe of spells that benefit from Jet Medallion isn't the percentage of cards in deck since these decks all have between 35-40 lands. Tivash for example has 35 lands, so if there are 40 black spells with a colorless pip in the cost that means Medallion reduces the cost of 62% of the spells I'd potentially be casting.

I'm a little surprised at these numbers. Had I made a guess before looking at the results, I would have thought the Medallions would work for probably 65% or more of the spells even in the worst case scenario, with a ceiling closer to 85%. I suppose in hindsight the slightly lower numbers make sense given how often mono-colored decks rely on colorless and artifact sources to fill in holes in the color pie. Regardless, we now have a barometer of how well these work in my mono-color decks.

So the worst-performing Medallion here would be Pearl Medallion, which reduces the cost of just 52% of the spells in my mono-white deck. I'll note that at no point have I ever felt that card didn't work in that deck, despite providing a cost reduction on just half of the things I cast. That said, that also doesn't mean something else wouldn't work better in that slot. For example, a colorless mana rock, like Liquimetal Torque, would work on 60 spells, or 92% of the things I cast. But regardless of whether or not an alternative would work better, the white Medallion has never felt ineffective. Presumably that's because for every instance where it didn't work on, say, a Land Tax or Mind Stone, there were enough times where it reduced the cost of Archaeomancer's Map, Darksteel Mutation and Gideon Blackblade all on the same turn. As such, absent any better metric, that seems like as logical as any of a mark to use regarding whether or not a Medallion is worth running.

We don't talk about it, your medallion's blindin' your mind too

I currently have a deck for each color pair, so let's break them all down:

Again, I'm a little surprised at some of these numbers. An Emerald Medallion would do more work in my Gruul deck (reducing the cost of 75% of the spells) than the appropriate Medallion does in my best-performing mono-colored deck, Anax, Hardened in the Forge (which clocks in at 74%). That's shocking, though I'll note Anax is a bit of an aberration, as no other single color is in any other deck in such a lopsided amount. Still, that's not the only time one of the Medallions in a two-color deck would match the efficacy of one of the Medallions in my mono-color deck; both my Azorius and Selesnya decks would clock their appropriate Medallions (blue and green) at an efficacy rate (50% and 53%, respectively) that is near or above the efficacy of the Medallion in my mono-white list.

Miami ridin', rose gold medallion

Thus, the question becomes: if reducing the cost for 52% of my spells feels good enough to run a Medallion in mono-white, how much lower can we go? Does the 50% from my Azorius deck cut it? Does the 45% from Izzet? I think the first thing I want to look at is how well those Medallions would perform compared to the alternative, i.e., a mana rock that costs two mana and produces colorless mana. I went with colorless as I'm assuming even with a Medallion you're probably already running the two-drop rocks that make two different colors of mana and that don't enter tapped. We may as well also look at the two decks that have more hits than my worst single-color list.

  • Azorius deck running Sapphire Medallion
    • 50% of blue spells reduced by Medallion
    • 84% of total spells castable with a colorless rock
  • Gruul deck running Emerald Medallion
    • 75% of green spells reduced by Medallion
    • 84% of total spells castable with a colorless rock
  • Izzet deck running Ruby Medallion
    • 45% of red spells reduced by Medallion
    • 80% of total spells castable with a colorless rock
  • Selesnya deck running Emerald Medallion
    • 53% of green spells reduced by Medallion
    • 86% of total spells castable with a colorless rock

What's interesting here is that in all the cases above, a colorless mana rock would be less effective than it is in my mono-white deck, where it would work on 92% of spells cast. So not only does a Medallion work on more spells in both my Gruul deck and Selesnya deck than one does in my mono-white build, but the alternative - a colorless mana rock instead of a Medallion - would also be a less effective option for those decks.

Iced-out medallion 'bout the size of a dinner plate

I haven't really answered the question about how low we can go percentage-wise where a Medallion still works in a deck. There are a whole lot of intangible factors at work here, after all. A deck with low curve probably benefits more from a Medallion than one with a high curve. You're way more likely to get repeated use from a Medallion if you're holding a grip with cards that cost 1R, 1R, 2R, 2R than you are if you're staring at a grip of cards with mana values of 3R, 3R, 4R, and 5R. Some decks also want to cast multiple spells per turn more than others. Storm decks, for example, are more likely to take advantage of the reduction. Jori En, Ruin Diver, who looks to cast multiple spells per turn, is also more likely to use the mana savings when compared to a commander like Ephara, God of the Polis, who's looking to spread them out over multiple turns.

Still, I think it's pretty safe to say that if a Medallion performs well enough for me using the numbers from my mono-white list, then it should work in any two-color deck with better numbers, and it's at least worth testing in any deck approaching those stats.

And I got my medallion 'roun' my neck

I'm lucky I get paid to write articles, cuz I'm going to need to buy a few Medallions in the near future to try out in two-color decks. They don't work everywhere, but they work in more places than I had blindly assumed they would.

Hopefully all of this is at least a little helpful for you to decide if you wish to try them in your lists as well. I'd love to hear any past experiences anyone has had, or may have in testing them out moving forward. Please sound off below in the comments.

Thanks for reading, and, as always, may your numbers be superior.

Dana is one of the hosts of the EDHRECast and the CMDR Central podcast. He lives in Eau Claire, WI with his wife and son. He has been playing Magic so long he once traded away an Underground Sea for a Nightmare, and was so pleased with the deal he declined a trade-back the following week. He also smells like cotton candy and sunsets.