Eternal Masters is only available on Magic Online for another couple weeks, so I wanted to get out a guide on how to draft the format as soon as possible. There are many sub-archetypes within the color pairs that I hope you’ll explore, but since I’m looking at the format as a whole, I’ll focus on the main archetype of each color and discuss key cards, strengths, and weaknesses. I’ll also rank each archetype, because who doesn’t love rankings? Let’s get started!
10. GW – Auras
Oh, how the mighty have fallen! GW was the best archetype in Vintage Masters only to fall all the way down to dead last this time around. The funny thing is that the deck looks extremely similar, sans Battle Screech. This just goes to show how important context is. Elephant Guide and Armadillo Cloak are pretty potent cards, but they do carry a lot of risk, and that becomes evident with this set.
A multitude of commons hose this whole archetype, namely Coalition Honor Guard, Man-o’-War, Roots, Gaseous Form, and Pacifism. It is nice that if you get enough of the enchantress payoffs you can manage to get hit by a 2-for-1 every once in a while, but the deck just needs too much to go right. On top of that, all the white removal gets scooped up by better white archetypes around the table, since neither green nor white is inherently bad in EMA, but that plan just isn’t that well suited for the format.
You really want access to Coalition Honor Guard in GW. It’s a fantastic card all around, but it is also a way to beat opposing Honor Guards. Because of the wording on it, if you and your opponent each have an Honor Guard, you can still pump up your own which gives you a place to dump all the Auras that would otherwise rot in your hand or simply buff an opposing Honor Guard. It also protects the cards you care about and a 2/4 is quite large in the format. Pick it highly!
Strengths: Powerful linear strategy with enchantress payoffs.
Weaknesses: Gets punished by commons in various colors.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Draft Coalition Honor Guard.
9. UB – Reanimator
I’m using Sphinx of the Steel Wind as a placeholder for the various big rares that you can reanimate. My main problem with this archetype is that without those cards you’ll have a ton of ways to get cards into the graveyard (Merfolk Looter, Fact or Fiction, Dream Twist, etc.), but not many payoffs to make that worth doing. This is probably for the best, because if you’ve ever faced down a turn-2 Griselbrand in Cube, you’ll agree it’s probably something that should stay out of normal Limited formats.
But UB can be incredible when the whole plan does come together, though the only solid common for the deck is Twisted Abomination since it’s a worthy Animate Dead target that can take over a game early. Because of this, you’ll need UB to be open in your draft seat and be a bit lucky to get the right mix of powerful enablers and payoffs. When that does come together, I can see taking down the whole draft pod with ease.
Strengths: Unbeatable openings with fast Animate Deads and broken rare bombs.
Weaknesses: Requires specific cards opened in the draft and many higher rarity cards.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Only get in the archetype later in pack 1 if possible or you can string together good rares and uncommons early so you have a playable draft deck.
8. UG – Good Stuff
UG is pegged as a threshold deck, but I don’t really buy it. There aren’t that many ways to fill up your graveyard, and if you’re going way out of your way to do that, why not just play Reanimator? Commune with the Gods does some good work on that end, but I think it’s much better suited to the 4-5 color Honden control decks. Instead, UG operates by having efficient creatures along the curve with some key tempo plays to help you get and stay ahead. You also have access to ramp and card draw, which is a particularly potent combination, and you can win games based solely off the strength of those cards.
What the deck lacks compared to most of the decks in the format is a synergistic angle of attack, which means if you and your opponent each get to do your thing, then you won’t be able to match them. Thus, it’s important to find ways to prevent your opponent from doing their thing, but UG doesn’t exactly have the best removal.
Still, bounce combined with Counterspells is often good enough, and the green creatures are quite large. The fact that you don’t have to worry much about synergy is also a strength at times, since there are plenty of good cards in the format like Sentinel Spider, Emperor Crocodile, and Wonder that don’t always have a home since they don’t provide enough of a payoff to a synergy deck, yet are perfect candidates for the UG good stuff strategy.
Strengths: Strong individual cards capable of solid tempo plays coupled with a ramp and card draw strategy.
Weaknesses: Weak synergies that will be overcome by superior synergies of other archetypes.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Focus on maintaining a strong curve and play to your own strengths. Don’t try and get too cute with UG and durdling with threshold creatures.
7. WB – Removal/Swarm Strategy
This is also somewhat of a good stuff strategy, though it can have focused angles of attack. White and black have access to some of the best removal in the format and can combine to repeatedly destroy anything that moves. Zealous Persecution also sums up that removal focus combined with small white and black creatures that can get on board quickly and plink in for damage while your removal takes care of anything important.
The deck relies on its cards coming in the right order, since if you’re removal flooded early you’ll be staring at Pacifisms and your opponent’s 2/2s, and be ready to bang your head against a wall when all you really want to do is draw your Ballynock Cohort. Because of this, you want to make sure you still draft with a normal Limited game plan in mind.
Make sure you have enough creatures to pressure your opponent, since otherwise your removal will make the game go much longer but you’ll end up dying to the one threat you can’t kill. That’s why any cards that can help progress your game plan and provide card advantage are at a premium. Normally I think of Squadron Hawk as a UW card, but it is also fantastic here for these reasons, and combines well with Zealous Persecution. Persecution really is a reason to be in the deck since there are a ton of X/1s in the format and it can help deal a ton of damage at the same time or let you trade up for more card advantage, WB’s ultimate grindy plan.
Strengths: Can kill anything and has strong individual cards.
Weaknesses: Not particularly synergistic and long games open the deck up to flood.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Prioritize card advantage and make sure you have enough creatures to actually kill your opponent.
Join me soon when I rank the remaining archetypes!