Mirrodin Besieged (MBS) heralds a change to the rather stale triple Scars of Mirrodin (SOM) draft that you’ve had to endure for the last four months. Unfortunately the new set only replaces one of the SOM packs, although the new drafting structure of “new set first” really mixes up the format and brings a fresh feeling along with it. MBS contains one-hundred and fifty-five new cards (including ten basic lands) which means you’ll need to scramble to gather and digest all of the information required to bash little Timmy at your next release event. Fortunately there are great articles, even amazing ones (*cough* like this one *cough*), written by the most skilled magicians in the game who have compiled everything you’ll need into a slim thirty-five hundred word masterpiece to aid you in your Friday-night conquests.

With the release of MBS, the drafting format will change from drafting a block in oldest-to-newest order to the reverse. For example, MBS will be drafted in the order of MBS-SOM-SOM instead of SOM-SOM-MBS. Having the newest set drafted first increases the importance of understanding the underlying mechanics that are being introduced and how they interact with cards from the older set(s). Drafting the new set first also increases the importance and potential of cards from that set compared to if the oldest set were drafted first. For example, let’s say you are in a Time Spiral/Planar Chaos draft and are dealing with cards like Reality Acid, Tolarian Sentinel, and Dream Stalker. Reality Acid is very good with Tolarian Sentinel and Dream Stalker but has almost no value otherwise if you don’t have either of the two mentioned cards (while Tolarian Sentinel and Dream Stalker are fine alone); the value of Reality Acid is based entirely on whether or not you have one of two cards from the pack you’ve already drafted (which is very constricting). With the new drafting method Reality Acid has more potential because the cards that it’s good with are being drafted after you have the opportunity to take the Reality Acid; the value of Reality Acid isn’t locked in. Much like Time Spiral example, cards from MBS like Vedalken Infuser have more open-ended potential.

The most important fundamental of drafting is card evaluation, and when dealing with a new set, it’s hard to correctly gauge rares/mythics to commons and uncommons that are easier to evaluate (like removal). The power level of MBS is quite high, and as a result there are a lot of cards that should be taken over even the most efficient removal spells. Most of the awesome spells are rare and mythic, but there are also a few uncommons too. Before the rares/mythics can be evaluated, it’s important to know what the removal spells are.

Common Removal:

Divine Offering
Divine Offering
This is better than Shatter but still a situational removal spell that only hits one-third of the format’s cards. Shatter effects tend to be overvalued simply because they’re removal, but they don’t always overlap with creature removal which is more important.

Steel Sabotage
Steel Sabotage
This is worse than Shatter but provides blue with a way to cheaply deal with artifacts. It’s moderately useful because of its low cost.

Spread the Sickness
Spread the Sickness
This is the new Turn to Slag. It’s expensive but deals with every creature and provides additional value in infect decks; it’s one of the best commons.

Virulent Wound
Virulent Wound
This provides a minor effect for low cost, similar to Fume Spitter, although it’s better than the Spitter itself. infect decks will always run multiple copies of this.

Blisterstick Shaman
Blisterstick Shaman
This is a potential two-for-one that will cause a lot of problems in the developmental turns of the game. Roughly one fourth of the creatures in the format have one toughness while another fourth have two toughness which makes this a card that’s easy to take advantage of.

Burn the Impure
Burn the Impure
This is the best common removal because it’s so cheap, an instant, and can be used on any creature. The added bonus of helping against infect makes it much easier to race while dealing with problematic creatures like Cystbearer.

Crush
Crush
This is worse than Shatter by a large margin because it doesn’t hit creatures. Most decks won’t have many targets for this which lowers its value considerably. It’s still worth playing in the main every time, although it will often get sideboarded out if the targets are auxiliary in nature.

Pistus Strike
Pistus Strike
This is a definite upgrade from Wing Puncture but will end up being a sideboard card in most cases. There are forty cards that are effectively flying creatures in SOM and MBS, although not all of them are as menacing as Hoard Smelter Dragon (ex: Screeching Silcaw).

The best common removal spells are Burn the Impure, Spread the Sickness, Blisterstick Shaman, and Divine Offering (in that order). Blisterstick Shaman and Divine Offering are close to each other, but Divine Offering is much narrower in application.

Uncommon Removal:

Choking Fumes
Choking Fumes
Three mana is a lot to leave open each turn. It’s a lot like Dispense Justice; easy to play around and not good against good players.

Gore Vassal
Gore Vassal
The -1/-1 counter effect is relatively minor, but this has a lot of utility. It can save a big creature from opposing removal, and attack relatively well as a 2/1.

Leonin Relic-Warder
Leonin Relic-Warder
The small 2/2 body makes this difficult to utilize in combat while being vulnerable to removal later on in the game. The mana-cost is also quite intensive at WW which limits the decks that it can be fit into. However, there are tricks to use with this involving bouncing it while the exile ability is on the stack (ex: Quicksilver Geyser).

Corrupted Conscience
Control Magic has always been one of the most powerful tricks and this card isn’t far behind the best. Gaining infect won’t always combine well with your other creatures, but that’s not much of a problem unless your deck is aggro metalcraft. This is one of the best non-rares in the set.

Vedalken Anatomist
Vedalken Anatomist
Another solid card. Icy Manipulator effects have also been at the top of the list in terms of power-level. This new Puppeteer is a bit more mana intensive but has the added bonus of being able to kill of creatures while providing good board control.

Go for the Throat
Go for the Throat
This works on roughly two-thirds of the format’s creatures which makes it a bit better than Shatter, but not insane.

Into the Core
Into the Core
There is a wide range of effectiveness associated with this. It’s rather mediocre against infect and some other classic SOM-SOM-SOM archetypes (like red/green Dinosaurs whose important cards aren’t artifacts) while being amazing against metalcraft decks.

Kuldotha Flamefiend
Kuldotha Flamefiend
This provides a way to turn your worst artifact into a two/three-for-one while putting a 4/4 into play. It’s one of the best non-rares in the set.

Viridian Corrupter
Viridian Corrupter
This provides a good way to follow up the initial group of creatures with a removal effect while still maintaining pressure by advancing the board. It’s not Skinrender-good, but it’s one of the best spells available for infect decks.

Mortarpod
Mortarpod
This is mediocre except in infect decks because it relies on having a lot of creatures and uses up a moderate amount of mana when killing a creature with more than one toughness. Still, in decks that can produce many tokens (via Myrsmith, Myr Propagator, Trigon of Infestation, Myr Sire, Myr Turbine, etc.) this will add a moderate amount of utility. The upsides to this are that it’s reusable colorless removal and is a good way for infect decks to finish off the opponent (much like Contagion Clasp and Throne of Geth).

The best uncommon removal spells in order are:

 

There are thirty-five rares and ten mythics in MBS, and almost half of them are better than any of the commons and most of the uncommons. Initially it will be difficult to properly compare a good common to uncommon to mythic/rare mainly because you’re basing your judgment on your initial evaluation of the card and have no in-game experience to back up your conclusions with. There are twenty-one rares/mythics that stand out:

Hero of Bladehold
Hero of Bladehold
This is quite a bargain. Four toughness, attacks for at least seven, and only costs four mana. Most creatures have one/two toughness and will trade with the attacking soldier tokens which mean that the combined seven power isn’t wasted on running into Hill Giants.

Mirran Crusader
Mirran Crusader
This should dominate most early games because it has two power and double strike. The protection from green and black makes it almost immune to infect while being able to hold off the larger green creatures with ease while dodging much of the format’s removal.

Phyrexian Rebirth
Phyrexian Rebirth
This breaks the symmetry associated with most wrath effects by putting a Tyrranax-sized creature onto the battlefield on your side. Overall, it is a very powerful effect.

Victorys Herald
Victory’s Herald
This is rather expensive but should win every game against not-infect if you get to attack with it once.

Consecrated Sphinx
Consecrated Sphinx
Drawing extra cards is an easy way to win a game. When you have a card that lets you draw three cards to the opponent’s one per turn cycle while also being a dragon, losing becomes quite difficult.

Black Suns Zenith
Black Sun’s Zenith
This wrath is expensive to use while being symmetrical. However, it still provides a very powerful effect that can be taken advantage of by using a lot of high-toughness creatures while luring the opponent into overcommitting to the battlefield.

Massacre Wurm
Massacre Wurm
This is an expensive creature but it creates a powerful non-symmetrical effect. The opponent is unlikely to have more than a few creatures that survive the Massacre effect which can be taken advantage of further if you’re able to predict how combat will unfold. This is still awesome in an infect deck and simply absurd in one where the life loss is relevant.

Phyrexian Crusader
Phyrexian Crusader
Having protection from both red and white makes this very difficult to kill with removal. This is also very difficult to kill in combat because of the way infect and first strike work out. Like the Mirran Crusader, this will dominate almost every early game.

Phyrexian Vatmother
Phyrexian Vatmother
Unless you’re playing against the mirror where getting a poison counter is a concern or playing against a deck with a lot of token generation, this is going to be an unstoppable juggernaut. The low cost of four mana makes this quite a devastating play early on when the battlefield isn’t cluttered.

Sangromancer
Sangromancer
This is a definite upgrade to Sylvok Lifestaff and will dominate games involving a non-infect opponent. It’s not as useful in an infect deck because you won’t be able to take advantage of its body very well, but it still provides a good amount of support if you’re dealing with an aggressive opponent.

Hellkite Igniter
Hellkite Igniter
This is likely to end the game in two attacks. Seven mana is a lot but it’s still manageable. It’s not as interactive as Hoard-Smelter Dragon, but it attacks well nonetheless.

Red Suns Zenith
Red Sun’s Zenith
This is comparable to Turn to Slag and Spread the Sickness because it’s rather slow and a sorcery. However, being able to go to the dome when needed (along with reshuffling) makes this better than all the other removal spells except the top uncommons.

Slagstorm
Slagstorm
This is another symmetrical Wrath effect, but it’s easier to utilize because it’s relatively inexpensive and lets you set up boards with high-toughness creatures like Neurok Replica, Wall of Tanglecord, and Ghalma’s Warden to fully take advantage it.

Creeping Corrosion
Creeping Corrosion
This is much more restrictive than Into the Core because it needs to be paired with a deck that has a low-artifact count like infect or green/x Dinosaurs which puts a lot of restrictions on what you can and can’t draft.

Phyrexian Hydra
Phyrexian Hydra
The opponent won’t be able to take a hit from this monster which means that it will run over a few creatures and leave you with a 2/2 infect creature. It’s also not vulnerable to the burn that most other infect creatures in SOM die to (Arc Trail FTW). Lastly, a powerful Putrefax-effect can be generated with this and Unnatural Predation where the opponent is forced to take a ton of infect damage out of nowhere.

Thrun, the Last Troll
Thrun, the Last Troll
He isn’t as amazing against infect, but he’s nearly unstoppable everywhere else. The low cost, troll shroud, and regeneration make him very difficult to deal with. Most decks will need a five-toughness creature to hold him off while winning in the air; otherwise they’ll fold to the Troll.

Glissa, the Traitor
Glissa, the Traitor
She is nearly unstoppable in combat (Darksteel Sentinel) and quickly starts generating serious card advantage if any sort of pressure has been put on the opponent.

Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas
He is extremely good in any sort of metalcraft deck because he turns your useless Myr into 5/5 monsters in the late game while digging for artifacts if they’re absent from the battlefield. It will be rare to miss hitting an artifact when looking at the top five cards with this guy.

Bonehoard
This won’t be the card you’ll slam down on turn four, but later on around turn five or six it will be quite good. Lhurgoyfs tend to be bigger than anything else on the Battlefield and when this is equipped to a flyer or infect creature, the game is likely to be over quickly.

Sword of Feast or Famine
Sword of Feast or Famine
Swords have traditionally had powerful effects, and while this one isn’t as dominant as [card sword of fire and ice]Fire/Ice[/card] and [card sword of body and mind]Body/Mind[/card], it still provides a good bonus to power/toughness in addition to protection from two colors. The boost in power/toughness and essentially “protection from infect” make most creatures very difficult to deal with. The combat triggers (untap lands/discard) won’t have as much impact as the boost to stats, but will still be relevant.

Thopter Assembly
Thopter Assembly
This is another dragon that’s vulnerable to artifact removal but virtually clones itself once you untap with it. This will usually end the game in three turns.

Of the rares/mythics that were just described, over one-third don’t quite trump the potential of the top uncommons (Kuldotha Flamefiend, Corrupted Conscience, and Viridian Corrupter). The underwhelming cards include: Mirran Crusader, Black Sun’s Zenith, Sangromancer, Hellkite Igniter, Red Sun’s Zenith, Slagstorm, Creeping Corrosion, and Sword of Feast and Famine. Each of the mentioned cards have their problems such as being too symmetrical and/or expensive.

There are more details about the new set to focus on and understand:

1. What are the new mechanics in MBS?
2. Does anything change with the old mechanics from SOM?
3. What sub-themes are present in MBS?
4. What are the major differences between MBS and SOM?

1. What are the new mechanics? Battle cry and living weapon.
Battle cry increases the usefulness of cards that produce low-power creatures (ex: Kuldotha Rebirth, Myrsmith) by making the tokens themselves more effective in combat. Battle Cry is mainly found in red and white and benefits aggressive strategies common in triple-SOM drafts. Most aggro decks in SOM were white-based due to the cheap metalcraft cards like Auriok Sunchaser, Glint Hawk, Glint Hawk Idol, Sunspear Shikari, and Kemba’s Skyguard. It’s likely that white will remain the primary aggro color and be paired with blue or red to take advantage of lots of battle cry cards and/or battle cry with fliers.

Living weapon fixes the problem of having too many equipment cards and not enough creatures to equip them to. Another major problem associated with equipment is that there’s often a loss of tempo when you cast the equipment and also when the opponent somehow removes your equipped creature from the battlefield (whether it’s by killing it or returning it to your hand). living weapon eliminates the tempo lost when casting the equipment and makes the equipment quite playable.

2. Does anything change with the old mechanics? Metalcraft and infect.

Infect is branching out to other colors in MBS. Infect in SOM is restricted almost solely to green and black. Blue has some synergies with infect because of proliferate, but it almost never works out logistically because there are very few good commons. MBS introduces two white common creatures with infect in addition to numerous artifact creatures which allows for the expansion of infect decks beyond the borders of green and black. Drafting a white/X infect deck will still be difficult because there’s no support for the white portion in SOM, but the white picks in those two packs can be used for removal (Arrest/Revoke Existence). Another major improvement with the infect creatures in MBS is that they’re much larger, sturdier, and/or have a higher impact on the Battlefield due to activated/ETB abilities.

There are far fewer cards dealing with metalcraft in MBS than SOM; six compared to twenty-two. The ratio of non-artifacts to artifacts is still roughly two to one which means that the change in deck composition will shift towards decks having more equipment and random creatures that are good on their own and away from cards like Auriok Sunchaser and cards that are used to support them.

3. What sub-themes are there? Equipment, charge counters, and sacrificing artifacts/creatures.

The addition of living weapon increases the concentration of equipment cards and ways to utilize them. There are eleven new equipment cards in MBS in addition to the fifteen equipment cards in SOM. The most exciting card that plays to the strength of having a lot of equipment is Brass Squire which can equip cards for free and as an instant; there are so many possibilities with the card. Combat becomes very complicated with an active Brass Squire because you have to determine which blocks are going to be optimal in relation to all of the possible final location of each equipment card on the Battlefield. Cards like Training Drone, Sunspear Shikari, and Goblin Gaveleer also increase in value with the addition of the better equipment.

Many cards have abilities that involve sacrificing an artifact/creature for a specific effect. The abundance of sacrificing cards increases the value of cards that have an effect when they are put into the graveyard from the Battlefield. Cards like Ichor Wellspring, Oculus, Myr Sire, Myr Turbine, Mirrorworks, Spine of Ish Sah, Clone Shell, Spellbombs, Myr Reservoir, Necropede, and Perilous Myr will all increase in value. Cards like the Spine of Ish Sah, which may seem rather mediocre at first glance, will end up being quite playable.

Another group of cards deal with charge counters and are generally known for their synergy with proliferate. Tumble Magnet, Trigons, and a host of obscure rares provide effects given that they have some number of charge counters on them. SOM has very little good support for proliferate because most of the good cards are at least uncommon and/or highly desirable (Contagion Clasp). MBS introduces Vedalken Infuser, which is sturdy enough to run by itself as a 1/4 (one of the problems with Thrummingbird) while providing an efficient source of charge counters. Most of the cards with charge counters are still in SOM (MBS only has three compared to fifteen in SOM) which means that the Infuser will have a lot of potential.

4. What are the major differences between MBS and SOM?
There are no mana-producing Myr in MBS with the exception of Plague Myr (uncommon) which means that the acceleration of SOM’s mana Myr cycle is going to increase in value. The reduced number of mana Myr indicates that the average deck from the new format will be slower than an average triple-SOM deck which is also supported by the size of creatures in MBS compared to SOM. The ratio of low-toughness to high-toughness creatures is almost even in MBS compared to SOM where the one/two-toughness creatures greatly outnumber the creatures with at least three toughness. The battlefield is going to get cluttered more easily because of the reduced number of low-toughness creatures.

Infect loses its powerful two-mana creatures (Plague Stinger, Ichorclaw Myr, and Blight Mamba) while only gaining Flensermite (quite underwhelming). There are many new three-mana creatures and even high-toughness creatures like Blightwidow and Phyrexian Juggernaut. The loss of the two-drop slot isn’t as devastating as one might believe at first because the other archetypes lose some speed with the reduced number of Myr. The bottom line is that infect won’t have as many nut-draws involving Plague Stinger into Cystbearer into X.

Drafting with MBS is going to change a few things, namely slow the format down. The increase in quantity of medium-cost cards along with the reduced number of mana myr and two-mana infect creatures available will lead towards decks becoming less explosive and more reliant on a natural curve. Whether you chose to draft infect, battle cry aggro, mid-range, equipment, proliferate, or some other archetype, it’s likely that you’ll get more value from making good decisions because the games will be lasting longer. Just make sure to avoid getting wrecked in more than one game by the plethora of ridiculous new rares.

Happy Drafting.