A couple days ago, I started writing about M15 Limited. Then, yesterday, to my dismay, I saw that Frank Karsten also wrote an article about the topic. Fortunately (or unfortunately), I think we disagree on enough points that you can read this and it will bring you a new perspective rather than just repeating what he says.
M15 Limited is a very simple format, as one would expect from a core set. There are some synergies, of course, but power is the king and there are very few cards that are deceptively powerful. For the most part, if a card is good, it will be very obvious that it is good.
I believe there are three keys to understanding M15 Limited: The first is the role of 1-toughness creatures in the format. M15 has a lot of 1-toughness creatures and lots of ways to punish you for playing them. Red has Forge Devil and Chandra, black has Festergloom and Black Cat, white has Raise the Alarm and Triplicate Spirits, blue has Coral Barrier, green has Satyr Wayfinder. It’s overall a very hostile environment for 1-toughness guys that do not give you any sort of advantage otherwise, and you must adapt your evaluations to reflect this reality; cards like Child of Night, Welkin Tern, and Oreskos Swiftclaw are significantly worse than they were in previous formats, and cards like Black Cat and Forge Devil significantly better.
The second important part is understanding how bomb-heavy the format is. There are a multitude of cards with flat power levels and then a small subset of (mostly) rares and mythics for which the power skyrockets. It’s very possible to be ahead for an entire game and then find yourself unable to win because your opponent cast a single Soul of some sort, because those cards will often beat any number of commons and uncommons you throw at them if they aren’t removed. The gap between the best cards and the average card is very wide, and as such it’s important that you can deal with bombs, particularly in Sealed. In Team Sealed, I know I would not be comfortable playing a deck that couldn’t beat a bomb rare, because people are way more likely to have one. In practical terms, this means cards that deal with bombs—like Flesh to Dust and Pillar of Light—are better than they look at first glance.
The third important part is understanding Triplicate Spirits. Most of the power in the set is quite obvious—you look at Soul of Theros and you know it’s busted—but Triplicate Spirits was the card that shocked me the most. Sure, we all expected it to be good, but the combination of there being so many 1-toughness creatures for it to trade with, plus the fact that flying is at a premium in this format, plus the fact that you have ways to use tokens (Paragon, Charge, other convoke spells) means it’s actually fantastic. Triplicate Spirits is the best common we’ve seen in recent memory, and it’s so far above other commons that it really doesn’t seem fair to lump it with them. For reference, here is a comprehensive list of cards in the set I pick above Triplicate Spirits pack 1 pick 1:
That’s it! I take Triplicate Spirits over any uncommon except for Cone of Flame, and I take it over every blue card in the set. And I’m not even sure on some of those—it’s possible that it’s a better first pick than Indulgent Tormentor, for example.
Now let’s move into colors!
I think white is the best color in M15 and it’s not particularly close. It has a solid game plan, cards that interact well with each other, powerful cards at all rarities, and it’s very deep. It has many cards that do similar things and can replace each other if you don’t find the ones you were looking for. In this set, white even has more removal than most other colors, which is definitely not common.
White’s theme in this set is tokens. The best white decks are the ones that can fully explore that with cards like Raise the Alarm, Triplicate Spirits, and the stuff to pump them. If you don’t get those cards, you can always just play a bunch of creatures and some removal and honestly that’s probably going to work too.
Rather than flat-out ranking the best cards, I’ve decided to assign a rating to each of them, so that you know how close I think the picks are. Use those to see how likely you should be to deviate from those picks in each color (for example, you could pick a two-drop that’s a “5” over a three-drop that’s a 5.5 if you lack two-drops) and, across colors, on a first-pick-first-pack basis. Don’t take them to heart too much, though, as I effectively just made them up, but they should be good for comparisons. Also, be aware that I am skewed a bit towards wanting to play white.
Here I believe I like Sanctified Charge more than most people, but I think it’s just instrumental to your game plan and I’m very happy with two or three in my white decks every time. Sanctified Charge is the card that makes bad decks good and good decks even better, so I think it’s the second-best white common. There are many other playable commons—Kinsbaile Skirmisher, Midnight Guard, Selfless Cathar, Oreskos Swiftclaw, Razorfoot Griffin, even Soulmender if you have a lot of pump spells and convoke. Heliod’s Pilgrim goes from horrible to excellent depending on what you have. The best targets are Spectra Ward, Stab Wound and Inferno Fist / Hammerhand.
The white uncommons are mostly very good and you’d be happy to have them in your deck. Dauntless River Marshal is very good in UW, but in my experience UW is not a great deck—you’d rather be RW, GW and BW in that order. The body is not horrendous on its own, though, so you can always play him and a couple of Islands or an Evolving Wilds and make him work.
I feel like blue is the worst color in the format. When I wrote about the prerelease, I mentioned how the color seemed split into cards that were strictly defensive and strictly offensive, and boy was I right. Blue is a bunch of cards that have completely opposite game plans, which makes the color half as deep as it seems to be because many of the cards you don’t even want—it’s basically the opposite of white, where every card contributes to the same strategy. That doesn’t mean blue is unplayable—there are some very good blue decks out there—but I do think it’s the worst color and I’d be very unhappy to first pick a blue common.
This reflects my honest opinion that I’ll first pick any of the white commons on the list over any blue common. Once you are already UW, Frost Lynx is definitely better than Sungrace Pegasus, but I don’t want to be blue and I want to be white.
The one saving grace for blue is that it can be part of UR artifacts, but I honestly don’t like that deck. It’s extremely hit or miss and if it doesn’t work perfectly then all your cards are very bad.
Blue’s uncommons are pretty mediocre. I think Frost Lynx is better than most of them and it’s not even a good card. Some people might have Jorubai Murk Lurker higher, but I don’t like committing to two colors and the card is very unplayable if you don’t have Swamps; it’s not even great if you have two plus an Evolving Wilds because 1/3 for 3 is horrible and you want multiple black mana so you can activate the ability multiple times. Once you’re already UB, then you can pick it significantly higher.
Black is an average color—it’s better than blue but worse than white or red. It offers some important removal and some dudes. It’s easy to have a good black deck but it’s also easy to have a mediocre one.
The top three commons are pretty good, and, though I’d always take my first two or three removal spells over Accursed Spirit, I can see taking Spirits later in the draft. Festergloom is also a very solid sideboard card that I will take over most other black cards if I already have a semblance of a deck. The most important lesson I learned with black in this draft is that Black Cat is better than Child of Night.
Black’s uncommons are very good. Nightfire Giant is better than even Stab Wound if you have access to red, but Stab Wound is a better first pick. It also goes very well with Heliod’s Pilgrim (which also gets Caustic Tar, giving you plenty of kill conditions if you have one of each).
Red is a very aggressive color—as it basically always is. Red offers many good removal spells and some very quality creatures, so it can complement any color reasonably well, as long as it’s in an aggressive deck. Super fast red decks (aka 4 Foundry Street Denizen decks) are very hit or miss. They can be the best deck you’ve ever seen or they can be utterly unplayable. I don’t like the idea of forcing them early on, but, if you are heavy red and you see cards like Denizen tabling, you can go for it. I think that after white, red is the best color.
I like many other red commons, such as Generator Servant, Goblin Roughrider, and even Thundering Giant. I think the line between Borderland Marauder, Inferno Fist and Krenko’s Enforcer is very small, and I could easily see taking one or the other depending on what my deck needed.
Red’s uncommons are excellent. Kird Chieftain is the best of the new Kird Apes, and I’d take him over almost anything if I am already RG or if I already have an Evolving Wilds; the body is OK by itself and it dominates the board completely with a single Forest.
Green is in a weird place; it has a lot of good commons, all of which are almost the exact same power level. Green decks’ power level is very constant—save the usual Hornet Queen or Soul of Zendikar, it’s not likely that one green deck will be insanely better than another. Green goes very well with any color.
I left seven cards here because they are way too close for me and honestly it’s going to depend on what I already have more than anything else, though this is the order I take them p1p1. The card that fluctuates the most here is Satyr Wayfinder, which is always going to be solid but could end up being very good if you have the right cards for it—such as some reanimation spells or Undergrowth Scavenger. It’s very good with convoke as well, and in some GW decks I think it’s actually better than Elvish Mystic—which is not actually that great in this format because of convoke as a whole.
The green uncommons are also not very exciting, and the commons are often going to be better picks. If you are GW then Sunblade Elf is insanely good, but it suffers from being a very bad splash. I’m not a fan of playing him with one Evolving Wilds and a Plains, for example, though it is doable if you have enough convoke to make use of the 1/1 body.
Here I’m assuming it’s pick 1 pack 1, where those cards gain real value by being colorless and therefore playable in any deck. Will-Forged Golem is still going to be pretty good in many decks, but Juggernaut is not nearly as good as it seems and, if I already had established colors, I’d pick him much lower.
Well, that’s it! I hope this was useful, particularly for those who are going to play GP Sydney, and see you next week!