We’ve had the Modern Masters 2015 spoilers for a bit, but I don’t judge a set until I’ve drafted it. Well, now I have.
A few local Madisonites created draft sets from handmade packs. It feels like drafting the real thing, with a few odd proxies and colored slips of paper to denote rarity and allow the cards to be easily re-sorted for future drafts. The pods were competitive—about half the players were members of Team UltraPRO and the other half were solid picks to qualify for a given PT.
Putting together enough cards for handmade packs is a lot of work, and probably not viable for everyone, but it was incredibly useful testing for GP Vegas and I’m excited to share my notes with you folks before the real set release.
MM15 is an absolute blast to draft, with very few “duds” and plenty of sweet synergies. It helps that Rise of the Eldrazi was one of my favorite draft formats of all time.
In most formats this would be 5-color green, but between Wayfarer’s Bauble and Sphere of the Suns in the common slot and all the Karoo lands it is possible to draft a 4-5 color deck without green as your base color. You still can, and there are good green cards, but the only real fixer is Rampant Growth, which as not as exciting as Kodama’s Reach was in the first Modern Masters.
This card will always be good, and getting them late is a great signal that 5-color is open. There’s a chance someone out there wants a 3/3 flyer, but if they’re disappearing, odds are it’s because there’s another domain drafter.
By itself, Manta creates a great top end that should dominate the air, but you’re going to need some bombier finishers if you expect to win the draft.
Another high priority pick. I’m still not sure if I pick it over Manta. For now, I think I prefer the flier early on since it’s more castable if I don’t end up base red.
This guy is deceptive. On the one hand, it’s an efficient body. On the other hand, he doesn’t work that well with Karoo lands. With Tribal Flames, you’re getting a set, known damage when you cast it. With this guy, his power and toughness might fluctuate over several turns, and if he gets burned out because you had to shrink it with a Karoo land you’re going to feel awful.
Overall, 5-color feels trickier to draft than it was in the last Modern Masters, and I think that’s a good thing. Your deck needs a good curve, enough removal, and finishers, and there’s a real danger to flooding out if you misbuild. In most formats, if you aren’t using a pick on fixing you can just take the best card in the pack, but that doesn’t work here because often the best card is an archetype-specific card like Dispatch or Gorehorn Minotaurs that needs a certain amount of synergy.
I imagine 5-color works better in Sealed since it lets you play all your bombs.
Eldrazi Spawn generators was my favorite archetype from triple-Rise of the Eldrazi because it was so versatile yet gave you a sort of focus from the get-go. Prioritize the token producers, find some way to turn the tokens into a win condition, and snap up whatever juicy removal and bombs you come across.
While RGB were the spawn colors in ROE, MM15 only has it in black and green. Here are the token generators you’re looking to pick up:
With Dread Drone being the worst (but still quite good).
After the generators, you need some way of turning the tokens into damage. In triple-ROE, you could use Broodwarden or Raid Bombardment or simply sacrifice the tokens to ramp into Eldrazi (which is a thing here too).
There are a few other ways of turning the tokens into value, like Bone Splinters or Thrive or Mortarpod, and there are other ways of making tokens, but this should give you an idea of what the core looks like.
Here’s an example that 3-0’d:
This is post-board, with the main deck containing a pair of Viashino Slaughtermasters instead of the Apostle’s Blessing and the Wrap in Flames, though the Wrap should have been in the main deck. The Slaughtermasters aren’t particularly good, but I thought I needed them to curve into the Scions.
Commune with Nature overperformed, finding me a 2-drop on turn one, putting together multiple Scions of the Wild, and seeing the bomb rares more often than normal. Heck, with Spitebellows it can actually hit removal too.
In general, this format has some neat synergies between the various cards that care about +1/+1 counters. In one game, Aquastrand Spider’s activated ability let a Gorehorn Minotaur hold off multiple fliers.
Affinity for Mirrodin Flashbacks
Artifacts Matter is a fine deck. My favorite part about it is that it doesn’t look that bad at its worst and it isn’t unbeatable at its best. Yes Rusted Relic is a great reason to commit, and 4-mana 5/5s are sweet, but it’s not like the other archetypes are out-muscled by it like they would be in other formats.
UW Artifacts, by Matt Severa
Severa 3-0’d with this, but said it could have easily 2-1’d or 1-2’d. He also pointed out that I convinced him to run the two Myrsmith over another flyer and a Tezzeret the Seeker, which he boarded in every round. I believe his specific words were something like:
“If my teammate didn’t have his head up his *** I wouldn’t have these awful Myrsmiths and I’d be winning this game.”
Of course, this way he got to play more exciting game 3s, so he really should be more grateful.
He liked Tezzeret because it could give his larger guys vigilance, threaten an ultimate, or tutor up Plating. I thought it was a bit clunky in comparison to the rest of the deck, and the ultimate seemed lackluster since a lot of his artifacts are already large dudes. I remember Myrsmith being a house, generating a small army while helping turn on metalcraft, but it’s possible that he’s artifact-rich enough that he doesn’t need the effect.
Stephen Neal (of recent GP Atlantic City fame) drafted a different take on this archetype and 2-1’d with it. His list was a bit slower and had fewer artifact guys but more giant flyers.
The key interaction here involves cards that naturally have +1/+1 counters due to graft and all the cards with proliferate acting as pump spells. Here’s an example that 2-1’d:
UG Graft’n Stuff, by Dzi
This archetype is a lot like affinity in that at its worst you have a bunch of dudes (which is fine), and at its best you create something truly powerful (though not overpowered) through synergy. It’s another sign that the format is synergy-based as opposed to bomb-driven despite there being plenty of bombs.
In most decks, Thrive feels underpowered no matter how many creatures you’re pumping, but here it overperforms thanks to all the +1/+1 synergies.
Believe it or not Thrummingbird is the best card in this deck. Two mana for a 1/1 flyer that Gavony Townships your team when it connects? Yeah that’s pretty good. If you can’t get Thrummingbird specifically, there are enough other proliferate cards to make the deck work, and I could see a BUG build being strong.
As with the RG Spawn list, Commune with Nature adds redundancy and helps you see the bombs more often. While it has a chance of bricking in low-threat archetypes, it’s starting to look like an auto-include in most green decks.
Louis Kaplan drafted this to 2-1, losing to screw, and there are enough enablers that it looks like it could be replicable. The core of the deck involves double strikers and pump spells, which few other decks want to prioritize. Equipment, removal, and other solid attackers can fill out the curve.
(I’d merely consider the Coronet with only two War Paints, would be happy to play it with three.)
Creature Types Matter
We had a Spirit deck and an Elementals deck do well. Justin Cohen’s Elementals featured almost every creature being on-plan, and his Smokebraiders were consistently excellent. (3-0)
Severa’s Spirit Deck featured the bombiest of the bombs in Ghost Council of Orzhova, but he also had a ton of soulshift synergies. Winning is easy when all of your creatures bring back Nameless Inversion! (2-1)
And that’s all for now. If you’re looking to test the Sealed format, a few people have been using Sealed generators to build pools before putting the decks together on Magic Online, which I haven’t done yet but am looking forward to.