Magic’s most recent core set has been out for a while now and has even been released online. As a result, most people feel comfortable with the main Limited archetypes by now. Some of these are classic archetypes, like blue/white fliers; while others are more set-specific, but these archetypes are usually clear and present in every draft.
But, the format is far from completely explored. There have not been many events featuring the format at a high level, but more specifically, I don’t think most people have had time to learn or master the fringe archetypes of the format.
Generally, the main archetypes become well established before the fringe archetypes are examined, and for good reason. If something is fringe, there is a good chance that environmental factors alone can keep it from being a reasonable strategy. If you are uncertain of the environment, you cannot determine what is and is not viable in the fringe. But, if you have well-established boundaries for the format, knowing which fringe archetypes are worth investing in becomes the focus. I believe we are about to enter that phase, if we haven’t already. So, what better way to kick off this whole shebang then to just discuss some of them?
I will admit, with only about ten M13 drafts under my belt, I may miss a worthy card or two, but self-exploration is a valuable tool to have anyway. So I encourage you to do some digging of your own and figure out what you think you can make work.
40 Is the New 20
When a new player learns how to play Magic, their instructor will almost always tell them that there are two ways to win a game of Magic: To bring your opponent’s life total to 0, or to bring your opponent’s library to 0. It would make sense, then, that when a new set comes out, one of the first Limited strategies to check out is mill.
M13 is no stranger to that treatment either. It helps the cause that they decided to print Mind Sculpt at common. Now, although Mind Sculpt is quite powerful, the backup is almost nonexistent. There is Vedalken Entrancer, which offers sustained mill, but is pretty expensive and has a target on his head in a deck with few creatures. That said, it is a card, and Mind Sculpt is powerful enough to build around.
The key to getting Mind Sculpt to work in your favor is Archeomancer. Drafting a deck with 3 Mind Sculpts and 2 Archaeomancers in it is likely to be a solid win condition in a control deck. Of course, you will want more if you are trying to turbo out someone. The rares and mythics are almost not worth talking about here as both [card jace, memory adept]Jace[/card], and Sands of Delirium are so powerful that they need no support.
Overall, the deck can be solid as a concentrated theme, but you need to be sure that no one else is drafting the strategy—even one missed Mind Sculpt can cost you. If you want to try a small mill package as a win condition in control, that is realistic, although I would suggest having at least one big win condition backup plan as well.
Don’t Stop, Won’t Stop, Archaeomancer
Archaeomancer is one of those cards that leads to open-ended gimmick decks, and a solid early pick if you are in that kind of mood. He adds so much utility and consistency to a gimmick deck, and his abilities are very useful. Consider him with Roaring Primadox or Talrand, the Sky Summoner for example. Creative and versatile cards like this are always solid pickups for fringe strategies, so keep that in mind.
Just Hanging Out, Being Green
Tribal synergies are another place that players look for a place to find a viable archetype. While core sets are not known for heavily dedicated tribal themes, they often have a handful of lords and a small following in their tribe. Goblins seem to have gotten potentially the biggest payoff for their archetype, with multiple lord-style effects.
While there are only 6 Goblins in the set, 4 of them are common. There is also Krenko’s Command, which is awesome for the archetype. I said archetype, but neither Arms Dealer nor Krenko himself really require an all-in strategy on the tribe, so you can easily get away with just a few Goblins if you want. Luckily, all of the Goblins are playable—Goblin Arsonist and Mogg Flunkies are the most suspect, but reasonable in an aggressive deck. This means that when you do acquire Arms Dealer or Krenko, you don’t have to feel bad about following them up with more Goblins.
One archetype that demands attention is the Timberpack Wolf deck. This one isn’t too difficult to figure out, as you jam as many of the Grizzly Bear into your deck as possible, hoping to live the dream of giant scary Wolves. If you end up with eight of these, that is about the ideal. Keep in mind that any number of these are playable, as they are fine even at base stats. That said, I think players too easily fall for this trap.
While these do scale, they do not do so reliably or consistently, making them a bit scary to move in on. If you are taking these over Sentinel Spiders or removal, and your plan is not aggressive, you have probably tricked yourself into drafting poorly. Yes these make for a good story, but let them come naturally.
One Card To Rule Them All…
Naturally, in just about every set, there are single cards that can demand entire archetypes be built around them, even without proper support for a mechanic. For example, Goblins is a very planned archetype, inserted into the format to provide diversity. But a card like Door to Nothingness creates its own archetype, without any proper support or balancing needed for the rest of the format. If you want to build a Door deck, you start picking up Farseeks and card draw spells, forming a makeshift 5-color deck. That deck exists through the efforts of the drafter himself.
Most of the time, the cards that demand this style of drafting and deck building are rare or mythic, so the situations come up less frequently. We will talk about some of those, but an uncommon build-around card is much cooler. Roaring Primadox is exactly that type of card.
After you draft your second Roaring Primadox, you can actually build around it with a huge variety of cards. Any creature with an enters or leaves the battlefield trigger jumps up in value a ton. You are not restricted in your color combination or archetype at all though. The Primadox is the engine, and there are countless types of fuel for you to choose from. This makes the Primadox a great early pick, similar to Archaeomancer, but with even more direction behind him.
Rhox Faithmender is the perfect rare to fit into this category. In this case, I think the deck he rules over is pretty bad, but it is fun and doable. Stuffy Doll or [card talrand, the sky summoner]Talrand[/card]—they all make for sweet decks, but because of their infrequency, it is hard to master any specific archetype with them, so you kind of just have to play it by ear. One I like, though, is Touch of the Eternal.
I pull Touch of the Eternal out of the batch due to the uniqueness of the card. It might not lead to fun game states, but it does lead to interesting ones. If you have a Touch of the Eternal, it is possible to build a turbofog deck that just wants ramp into mana and find your namesake enchantment. It might seem like a lot of work, but in this archetype, you have so much open space due to only needing a single win condition. A single Mind Sculpt can win you games, and you will always draw it before dying. Of course, you don’t have to build a prison deck when you get Touch of the Eternal, you should probably expect that from others. A well-timed Duress or Disenchant effect can win you these games, so pay attention.
More Fringe But Still Kickin’
Of course, if you have played M13, there are quite a few strategies that we didn’t even touch on, simply because I really do not consider them fringe—but they are viable and powerful. Exalted is the poster child for what I am talking about here. The deck is pretty loud, with a ton of powerful cards. Basically, I would be surprised if someone was not drafting exalted, typically WB or UB. On the opposite side of the spectrum, there are archetypes I didn’t mention due to just how fringe they are.
I asked the Twitterverse which fringe archetypes were their favorite so that I could include them, and there were some strange and crazy answers even considering that we were focusing on fringe draft strategies. I don’t want to leave anyone out, so here are some of the fringe of the fringe:
Pretty straightforward idea here. Basically with a Talrand in play and 2 Revives, you get to go “infinite” making 2/2 fliers for as much mana as you have access to each turn. This seems difficult to assemble and very rare though, so keep it in mind, but don’t commit to it or anything.
I assume this answer was more of a troll than anything, but Battle is definitely a card you need to discuss when talking about build-arounds. In Limited though, you do not get enough cards to make this work. There is a dream, but no chance to realize it.
The main reason this did not make the list is that I do not really see it as fringe. It is arguable that this is even an archetype, as the deck is just a normal deck with a lot of Huntbeast synergies such as a Ring or two. That said, it is something you will see in M13 Limited, so figure out how you plan on dealing with big hexproof creatures ahead of time!
While we are moving into stage two of this Limited format, that does not mean innovation will stop after this. New archetypes are constantly evolving and created as a format moves through its cycle. This distinct difference is that right now we see that large wave of fringe decks beginning to see play. This probably means that if you are only interested in winning, you should just be drafting RG Beats or UB Control and beating all of these fringe decks as they try to find an identity. A fun time for Limited none the less, and hopefully we will have plenty of videos showing off some of these sweet decks. Thanks for reading!