With Grand Prix Vegas finally on the horizon, I thought it’d be nice to take a break from Standard for a week and take a look at Modern Masters 2015 Limited. While resembling MM1 in many ways, the Sealed format feels a little more cohesive and there’s less emphasis on making sure you get to play every single bomb you can. Of course there’s still enough mana fixing in most pools to let you do that if you wish.
First, a few notes on the set:
Sorceries and Instants that Deal 3 or Less
Instants and Sorceries that Deal More than 3
Removal that Doesn’t Care About Toughness
Note that the majority of unconditional common and uncommon removal in this format is aimed at creatures with 3 toughness and below. Meanwhile the cards that deal with bigger creatures are conditional (Bone Splinters, Deathmark, Celestial Purge), expensive (X-spells, Spread the Sickness), or can be removed (Oblivion Ring, Narcolepsy, Arrest). In other words, once you cross that toughness threshold there’s a very limited subset of cards that can deal with them outside of combat.
It should also be noted about two-thirds of the creatures in this format have 3 or less power and around 60% have 3 toughness or less. So there’s still a lot of stuff that dies to all this removal and the big stuff almost universally costs a lot. Pelakka Wurm wins the award for biggest non-Eldrazi nonrare in the set. Pelakka Wurm also comes with the bonus of digging you out of holes that very few other cards can—Sylvan Bounty is one of the only other maindeckable life gain spells in the format.
There’s also 39 artifacts in the set, of which about 24 are legitimately playable in a Sealed deck with some on the fence depending on your opinion of metalcraft and affinity in Sealed. Between that and the removal enchantments, there are plenty of targets for Disenchant effects like Sundering Vitae and Terashi’s Grasp.
Every Sealed deck will eventually come down to how close you can get to playing 5-Color Good Stuff. So far I’ve found that the majority of Sealed pools usually don’t want to take the dive, but I could be underestimating how good 5c is. It looks like there’s only so much benefit in jamming your 5-color cards compared to making sure you cast your bombs on time. Plus, I think BGx tokens is one of the best archetypes and some of your cards have rough mana costs.
First Impressions of the Archetypes
I’ve done three team drafts, including one with Paul “Paul Paul Paul” Cheon. My records and drafted archetypes were BR Bloodthirst (2-1), UR Bloodthirst (1-2), and 5c Good Stuff (2-2).
Among the three drafts, the decks with the best records overall were easily Affinity and base-UG 5c Good Stuff. Part of the appeal of Affinity is the fact that so many people are scared of drafting it and getting cut off. As a result, there was only one Affinity player in every draft. This will surely turn out differently in the many pods at Vegas, but the fear is definitely real and the majority of people I’ve played with simply don’t want to risk the trainwreck even when the payoff is big.
With Affinity you can get hyper-aggressive starts and play 4/4s and 5/5s on curve (much like bloodthirst) and few creatures in Modern Masters 2015 can stand up to an early onslaught. As shown above, the bulk of removal is aimed at killing 3-toughness creatures, which makes the bigger Affinity guys pretty tough to deal with. It also does a great job of preying on the slow-to-set-up good stuff decks and has enough evasion to really threaten tokens and bloodthirst decks that normally do a good job of gumming up the ground.
Bloodthirst has a lower ceiling but way higher floor. Other than the actual bloodthirst creatures and Fireslinger there really isn’t too much else required for the deck to function. The UR build I had featured a pair of Thrummingbirds which were Co-MVP with Gorehorn Minotaurs. The UR combo wasn’t talked about much from what I’ve seen, but Vapor Snag and Narcolepsy make up for red removal getting sniped. Meanwhile Thrummingbird and Cloud Elemental are fine bloodthirst enablers and surprisingly efficient equipment carriers. The BR bloodthrist deck was pretty stock, though getting Ashenmoor Gouger as a reliable late pick is pretty great.
3-5cc Good Stuff was the name of the game for 3-4 people every draft. The mana fixing is plentiful and you can’t possibly get cut because the plan is “take the good cards” and there are tons of those in every draft. This was the safest choice if you don’t want to force an archetype and easy to move into if you were waiting for something to be open pack one and got frustrated.
There were two cards in particular that impressed me in 5c, especially in the grindier decks: The first was Telling Time. Typically a card that’s too low impact for Limited play, having something you can play on turn two to either help fix mana, filter out uncastables, or dig for bombs in the late game is nice to have. Vengeful Rebirth is a more obvious impact card, but I can’t overstate how much work the card put in together with land cyclers. Being able to cycle a Fiery Fall to find basics early, and then cast a Rebirth to clear the two biggest threats on the table is a huge swing.
BW Spirits was one of the higher touted decks among my friends from their drafts. Mostly because Waxmane Baku and Thief of Hope are sweet cards while Nameless Inversion is one of the best removal spells in the format. One drawback about going this route is that your individual card strength is quite low. Everything else has a pretty sweet payoff for committing, but if a key creature gets picked off early, then it can cascade and destabilize your entire board position. Still the payoff is real if you can start nabbing Spirits late and soulshift on Nameless Inversion is as nice as you’d imagine.
The only color combination that’s truly bad is UB—the color combo just doesn’t do anything particularly well. All the cards you want for the deck can be sniped by players in those colors and there’s no alternative strategy which can net you sweet late-pick cards. Even if you get a reasonable set of opening picks, there’s no go-to strategy to guide your future picks like the other archetypes.
That’s all I have to pass on from the experience I’ve had with the format so far. This weekend is going to be the biggest in Magic history and I’ll be behind the scenes trying to make sure it all runs smoothly. For everyone who’s going, I’ll see you there and I hope everyone has a great time! For those at home, you can watch the action on Twitch. It should be a great weekend.
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