Mirrodin Besieged (MBS) has been out for a few weeks now and it’s understandable that many people are still confused about to how to optimally draft the new set. In order to be able to draft MBS successfully, it’s important to properly evaluate its contents and see how the new cards interact with each other as well as with the cards in Scars of Mirrodin (SOM). There are a variety of existing archetypes from triple-SOM as well as new ones that the stronger cards in MBS make viable, all of which will be illuminated.
My previous article outlined the way that Mirrodin Besieged would change the triple-SOM format in addition to listing the common/uncommon removal and how the set’s rares/mythics compared to them. When you begin a MBS-SOM-SOM draft, if you’re not fortunate enough to open a good rare, mythic, or uncommon, it’s likely that you’ll start with one of the following commons (which also happen to be the best, and in order even!):
Once you’ve established what color you’re going to start in, there are a variety of archetypes that you can settle into based on preferences and what’s being passed:
White decks in triple-SOM were divided into two sub-categories:
1. Metalcraft-based and reliant on mana Myr to accelerate into various four-mana threats (Chrome Steed, Ghalma’s Warden, Rusted Relic, etc.).
2. Equipment-based with Sunspear Shikari, Glint Hawk, and Kemba’s Skyguard.
Most decks would fall into the first category because the common equipment essential for the second provided very little and were weak on their own. The lack of good aggro two-drops, abundance of Myr, and existence of Turn to Slag made ramping into metalcraft creatures a more reliable plan than using equipment to make huge creatures. Another problem was that the best two-drop creature (Glint Hawk Idol) didn’t function well with a non-artifact curve involving creatures like Kemba’s Skyguard and equipment that were normally good in other formats.
The addition of Leonin Skyhunter makes white-based aggro a much more reliable plan than before because it stands well on its own (unlike Sunspear Shikari and Glint Hawk Idol) and gives white a better starting point for its curve. Leonin Skyhunter functions much better with Kemba’s Skyguard than the aforementioned two-drops because it can attack while curving out without having to worry about needing equipment/casting artifacts.
Copper Carapace is also another strong addition to the aggro archetype because it’s a common that provides a significant power/toughness boost for a relatively moderate cost. The main problem with the equipment from SOM is that they don’t make cheap creatures big enough. Sylvok Lifestaff, Accorder’s Shield, and Strider Harness provide far less than what is needed for small creatures to stand up to the mid-sized creatures that will bog down games.
Training Drone is a fringe support card for decks with a lot of equipment to take advantage of. The build-your-own-Chrome-Steed is generally a fine inclusion with at least four equipment cards. The Drone isn’t as good as Leonin Skyhunter and Copper Carapace because it’s from the first pack AND carries a huge dependent clause which means it will be usually be drafted before knowing how good it will be. The advantage of Training Drone compared to Chrome Steed and the other expensive metalcraft cards is that it’s reliant on equipment (an abundant source) instead of mana Myr.
The absence of one SOM pack means that drafters aren’t as likely to be punished by Turn to Slag when drafting equipment-based decks. As a result the value of cards like Sunspear Shikari increase and also fill the void created from having one less pack of mana myr.
Most white-based decks need at least ten Plains and will range upwards to mono-white. It’s important to be able to have double-white on turn two consistently which means the majority of colored spells are going to white. Other cards that usually are included in the deck are Loxodon Partisan (because it pumps fliers and can attack/block alone relatively well which doesn’t punish you for slamming it into the red zone), Leonin Relic Warder (using it to remove an opposing card can backfire if you’re not careful. It can also be used to good effect in conjunction with your own Tumble Magnet/Necrogen Censer/Contagion Clasp/etc.), and Accorder Paladin (this usually needs removal or equipment to prevent it from dying because it won’t survive combat. Keeping it alive isn’t a requirement though if you can trade with an equally-sized creature while attacking with a few other creatures to get some value).
The spells from the secondary color generally need to be single-color, evasive, generate tempo, and/or be removal. Blisterstick Shaman is a good example because it can be played at almost any point of the game and provides a good effect while advancing your board. Gust-Skimmer is a good creature because it’s cheap and can be made evasive without losing too much tempo to do so. Necrogen Scudder is similar to Kemba’s Skyguard because it gets passed much more than it should simply because it’s not an artifact and doesn’t have infect; it’s perfect for this deck.
The archetype took a hit because it lost a pack of Myr; however it’s still possible to successfully draft a good deck. There are a number of good artifacts that can be used to replace mana Myr that function similarly.
Ichor Wellspring is the new and improved Origin Spellbomb because it acts as a free-roll towards metalcraft while also having added synergy with all of the cards that sacrifice artifacts (since it draws a card in the process). Non-white decks previously had problems with running out of cards because so many of the artifact cards are low-impact and don’t stay on the battlefield long enough to achieve/maintain metalcraft; Spellbombs get cycled and so on. Ichor Wellspring helps solve the problem and advances the board towards metalcraft while cycling into real spells that can take advantage of the game-state.
Myr Sire is good in defensive decks because it threatens to trade with an opposing creature while maintaining metalcraft, although most decks aren’t going to be on the defensive unless they’re on the draw against the mirror or infect. Decks also tend to run a lot of equipment cards (compared to other archetypes) which is something that Myr Sire can take advantage of (because it gets to trade with a larger creature twice).
Rusted Slasher is the new go-to metalcraft threat. Even though the Slasher doesn’t have anything to do with metalcraft itself outside of being an artifact, it does fit into the four-mana slot of every deck because it’s a resilient four-power creature (in terms of color and aggressiveness) that will take advantage of having a lot of artifacts.
Flayer Husk is another card that provides value while advancing metalcraft. The equipment acts like Myr Sire because it will potentially trade with a creature and have functionality afterwards. It’s better in an aggressive deck because others aren’t as likely to have as much extra mana re-equipping to their creatures, and even though it’s less likely that an aggro deck is going to be attacked as soon as other types, Flayer Husk can still be used effectively to create a moderate amount of separation in the damage race.
Most colors have a few cards to also include:
White has Master’s Call and Loxodon Partisan. The myr tokens from Master’s Call usually won’t be very useful unless you also have equipment or other ways to pump the tokens, but they do make it so much easier to get metalcraft. Loxodon Partisan is another piece to the puzzle in that it provides a way to enhance the smaller creatures that are common in most decks.
Blue has Vivisection and Spire Serpent. Vivisection is somewhat like a super spellbomb because it refuels your hand at the cost of getting rid of a Myr or some other creature that has outlasted its usefulness. Spire Serpent is a good creature for control because it is a sturdy non-artifact creature that won’t die easily in combat while only being five mana. The serpent is a great win condition as well, again because a 5/7 is so hard to kill.
Red has Concussive Bolt, Kuldotha Ringleader, and Rally the Forces, all of which are more at home in an aggro-swarm build more than anything else. Concussive Bolt is a good miser’s card and running more than one generally won’t be great because it’s only useful when you’re winning. Kuldotha Ringleader is similar to Loxodon Partisan and great for making a deck’s smaller creatures actually useful in combat. Rally the Forces is another miser’s card and quite similar to Kuldotha Ringleader, although most decks won’t play the card because its applications are narrow and it has significant diminishing returns after it’s been played once.
Green gains very few metalcraft-specific cards. Mirran Mettle can be fine, but pump spells are generally worse than equipment because they don’t work towards metalcraft and are single-use only (though the surprise value can be substantial). Most decks won’t be freen and the ones that are will be on the defensive side while using cards like Fangren Marauder and Viridian Emissary.
The cycle of artifact creatures with colored activated abilities (Bladed Sentinel, Dross Ripper, Gust-Skimmer, Spin Engine, and Tangle Hulk) are all quite playable and will see a lot of time on the battlefield. Bladed Sentinel and Dross Ripper aren’t as good as the other three because they’re less resilient/efficient but will still get played to some extent.
Infect slows down considerably with the addition of MBS because the two-mana creatures are significantly weaker. The set’s new two-mana creature (Flensermite) doesn’t come close to comparing to Plague Stinger, Ichorclaw Myr, or Blight Mamba. The new creatures are sturdier and more expensive as a result. Blightwidow and Scourge Servant are much harder to kill (with removal) than most of the earlier infect creatures. Infect creatures also spread across to white which opens up the possibility of drafting a color combination other than black/green, although there’s very little support in the last two packs.
Spread the Sickness is the new and improved Turn to Slag for a few reasons, mostly because it can kill virtually everything. If a game has progressed into the later turns, it’s likely that there will be a number of creatures with -1/-1 counters on them that will be killed off. The proliferate effect from Spread the Sickness is almost equivalent to drawing a card because it should be able to kill another creature and give the opponent a poison counter.
Blightwidow is the replacement for Cystbearer because it’s resilient to most of the removal that kills the other infect creatures, and large enough to win in combat against opposing creatures. The only downside to Blightwidow is that it costs four mana, a slot that’s already bursting at the seams in most decks.
There are a few new cards that help fight wars of attrition: Morbid Plunder and Rot Wolf. Previously the only source of card advantage came from Corpse Cur, which made it difficult to grind out the opponent if you weren’t able to get any. With the addition of the two new cards it’s much easier to stay ahead of most opponents (especially considering that the two cards are from a small expansion and will appear with a higher frequency).
There are also a few new utility spells to make combat much more difficult: Virulent Wound, Unnatural Predation, and Pistus Strike. Virulent Wound is a significant upgrade from Fume Spitter because it can be played as an instant and actually works towards the goal of the deck (by giving the opponent a poison counter). Unnatural Predation makes chump-blocking a much more risky situation especially when used in conjunction with high-power creatures like Ichorclaw Myr and Scourge Servant. The combination of Untamed Might and Unnatural Predation is another game-ending pair of cards. Pistus Strike is the last utility card and the narrowest of the three. It’s best in sealed where there are a lot of flying bombs, but in draft it’s likely to be nothing more than a sideboard card in most cases.
It’s important to note the combinations in which two-mana infect cards are paired together in SOM. Often the following card combinations will appear: Blight Mamba/Plague Stinger, Plague Stinger/Ichorclaw Myr, Ichorclaw Myr/Grasp of Darkness, etc. Those combinations support multiple adjacent infect drafters when factoring in white. White is going to rely more heavily on the artifact creatures like Ichorclaw Myr, Phyrexian Digester, and Corpse Cur in addition to Tine Shrike and Priests of Norn. It’s very important to pick up which color other than white (between black and green) is open in MBS and make the proper adjustments to ensure you end up with a strong white/X combination.
The red/green archetype was quite successful in triple-SOM because it circumvented a lot of the artifact removal in other decks by running a minimal number of important targets along with a high amount of large creatures (Alpha Tyrranax). While the archetype is strong against opposing mid-range and metalcraft decks, it struggles against infect because of the deck’s high curve and really leans on cheap removal (Galvanic Blast/Embersmith) to win. There are a number of good cards that MBS brings with it to make the archetype an excellent choice.
Blightwidow doesn’t directly fit into the archetype’s strategy, although it does provide a critical piece of support. Dinosaurs has the problem of being vulnerable to fliers, infect creatures, and early beats which it partially solves by running cards like Wall of Tanglecord to slow down opposing decks. Blightwidow isn’t as cheap as Wall of Tanglecord, but it’s much more efficient at stopping the two more dangerous threats (flyers and infect creatures).
Ogre Resister is on the smaller side of fatties that the archetype will play, but the upside of the 4/3 is that it’s only four mana, a slot that is usually vacant of solid creatures. Most decks have a curve that includes various artifact creatures at two/three mana and fatties starting at five. Ogre Resister fills the deck’s curve out and enables smoother draws which lets the deck stabilize at a higher life total.
Viridian Emissary is good in defensive decks like the Dinosaur archetype because it de-incentivizes the opponent from attacking by threatening to trade with a creature while ramping you in the process.
Fangren Marauder is one of the best commons in the set because it is so good against non-infect decks. The life-gaining ability on the Marauder creates game-states that are impossible for opposing decks to race against. Most metalcraft decks won’t be able to beat a Marauder without using removal on it. Even as a vanilla 5/5, it’s still an effective beater just like Alpha Tyrranax.
In addition to Blightwidow and Viridian Emissary, the archetype also gains a lot with the addition of Blisterstick Shaman because it also solves a lot of the problems that the deck has with flyers/small beaters. Being able to kill a Gold Myr and then trade with an Auriok Replica in combat is a significant effect for a three-mana common creature.
This archetype isn’t well defined with the exception that it’s not directly dependent on metalcraft and relies on just playing a lot of good cards (Sky-Eel School). Most of the time this archetype plays out like a control deck because the card quality is above average due to a high number of expensive spells. Besides the list of top commons in the set (listed at the beginning), there are a number of other good value cards that will usually find their way into these decks that haven’t already been discussed.
Serum Raker is a good creature for a blue-based deck because it has a moderately large body and an evasive ability; it’s the type of creature that slower decks will use to win games.
Phyrexian Rager doesn’t directly fit into any one deck yet will find its way into many because it gives a lot of value; it replaces itself while doing something else. Phyrexian Rager is an excellent example of the type of card that mid-range decks play. The problem with the lower-cost creatures available is that they don’t provide significant value (Moriok Reaver for example) and become dead draws as the game progresses.
Hexplate Golem is quite expensive just like Razorfield Thresher but the two differ significantly beyond that comparison, and those differences make the Golem a much more playable. The most significant difference between the two creatures is their toughness. Hexplate Golem is much harder to kill and will survive most combat situations, which is what is required of a seven-mana spell. Even though the Golem is an artifact creature and therefore vulnerable to nearly every removal spell available, most opponents will have exhausted their supply of removal by the time the Golem enters the battlefield. The major downside to the Golem is that it is terrible against faster decks like infect and White-based aggro, but it is fine everywhere else.
Mirrodin Besieged brings a lot of new high-power cards along with it to the drafting format. There are a ton of bomb rares/mythics along with a smattering of absurdly powerful uncommons. Past all of the power there are a number of common archetypes that will pop up in every draft, and knowing what the important cards to each of them are will lead you to a more successful draft. All five discussed archetypes are quite competitive in MBS-SOM-SOM draft, and whether you start in infect and end up in dinosaurs, it’s important knowing what all of your options are.