A little over a week ago Modern Masters 2017 came out on Magic Online and I’ve been trying to hop into a Draft whenever I have the free time. I love the process of analyzing old cards in new contexts, exploring familiar cards in a different light.
My initial experiences with Modern Masters 2017 were excellent. I really enjoy the grindy, value-driven Limited games that most Masters sets provide. We get to play with either all powerful cards or very linear strategies, which is a nice change of pace from how current sets are designed, where the power level of cards so drastically fluctuates by rarity.
I grew up playing Limited formats like Mercadian Masques, where the threats are generally much worse, which led to long games with a bunch of decisions. This is my kind of Magic and Modern Masters 2017 hasn’t disappointed. I was a huge fan of Eternal Masters for the same reason.
I have realized since my initial infatuation that the set has one glaring issue: the archetypes are totally unbalanced. Some archetypes are much higher powered than others. I am only about 15-20 Drafts deep in the set, but I think it’s a large enough sample (45-60 matches).
Let me start with the archetypes I like drafting, and get a little bit into how I draft them with a couple of example decks. (Apologies for no sideboards pictured.)
“Multicolor” control can be anywhere from 2 to 5 colors, though I generally end up 4 colors. The philosophy behind this archetype is that you load your deck up with removal, grindy value cards, and powerful uncommons and rares while spending all of your other picks on mana fixing.
One feature of these decks that remains the same is that it is Dimir based. Dinrova Horror, Grisly Spectacle, Mist Raven, and Agony Warp are the best commons for this archetype, and basically the only commons I’d consider taking over appropriate mana fixing.
Your early creatures are made up of Augur of Bolas and Sea Gate Oracle mostly. Throw in Coiling Oracle if you have enough green. You generally have a low creature count in this deck, while filling out your deck with card draw, removal, and counterspells.
Generally, I don’t play creatures that don’t provide additional value. A card like Tandem Lookout isn’t a creature I’m looking to play because it doesn’t block very well, only provides value when I’m attacking, and it’s undersized. Ogre Jailbreaker ends up in my deck occasionally because it’s good at blocking, but not a card I want.
I like to pick up a copy of Mystical Teachings for this deck as it provides utility while doubling as card advantage, and usually over the course of a long game creates more than two cards of value for one card because it can find card draw spells or 2-for-1s like Agony Warp.
Forbidden Alchemy is filler, and I actually like a single copy in my deck, but wouldn’t play more because in control mirrors you usually end up with more answers than threats on both sides, so decking can become a real concern. I would almost always board out Forbidden Alchemy in these matchups for that reason, and even card draw can be an issue, though Opportunity and Compulsive Research can both be used to deck the opponent. Occasionally you end up as a Reanimator deck, in which case playing multiple Forbidden Alchemy is not an issue.
Good win conditions are tough to pick up. You hope to get a couple of Dinrova Horror and Mist Ravens to do the job, and supplement those with a good rare or uncommon win condition. Since the control deck can be light on threats, I’ve used Grixis Slavedriver in place of powerful rares as a win condition. Grixis Slavedriver gives you up to 3 creatures out of a single card, which is excellent in the mirror matches, and a card I’d usually bring in for the grindy control matches.
Later in pack 1, I generally pick up every land I can at the end of the pack. I’d even take Boros Guildgate over a mediocre playable when I’m Dimir only, because you can end up wanting to splash multiple colors and passing on an early Pilfered Plans usually isn’t a big deal. In later packs I focus more on what colors my deck will end up being, but have the luxury of taking almost any powerful card, because I spent early picks on lands I may not play instead of filler I may not play.
Multicolor control is the premier Draft archetype and it’s the archetype I basically always try to draft. I will generally even pass first-pick premium rares from other archetypes that don’t fit into this archetype, such as Advent of the Wurm or Hellrider.
Since there is a lot of nuance to drafting this set, knowing when to take a land or a spell can be a bit tricky. I’m including an example of a 5c Control deck I drafted and with which I was only defeated in one match, but that match was won by my internet service provider, not my opponent.
Click to enlarge.
The blink deck utilizes enters-the-battlefield-effect creatures with Momentary Blink and Ghostly Flicker, generating a ton of value and tempo from bounce creatures like Mist Raven and Dinrova Horror, and token creating creatures like Urbis Protector and the cycle of Splicer creatures.
You’re looking to tempo out the opponent with your bounce creatures, and then finish the job off later with the blink effects.
The blink deck is base U/W, but can branch off into other colors as well. I mostly find myself in Esper because of how powerful Dinrova Horror is, and how much better it is to blink than everything else. Sin Collector and Entomber Exarch are also high-value creatures to blink in black, and the removal in black is best, so if you’re going to branch into another color, black is the best way to go.
In this deck, I don’t like to spend early picks on Ghostly Flicker or Momentary Blinks because they generally come around, and you don’t need too many. Mist Raven and Dinrova Horror are the best commons for this deck and the hardest to get, so take those highly. In fact, I usually only end up in this archetype when I start with a bunch of enters-the-battlefield creatures, and it makes sense to take Momentary Blink or Ghostly Flicker with my later picks. If I opened something like Deadeye Navigator, I’d be looking to move specifically into this archetype, and Deadeye Navigator is on my short list for best rare in the set.
With the blink deck, I’m typically only 3 colors, so I don’t like to invest as many early picks on lands, and will usually take quality cards over the lands, hoping to get lands later.
Here is an example of a solid Esper Blink deck with which I 3-0’d a League:
R/B Sacrifice is a deck that utilizes all of the sacrifice outlets in the format with token creatures, Threaten effects, and Falkenrath Noble.
With R/B Sacrifice you want to curve out with creatures and pressure the opponent using removal and Traitorous Instinct to interact with their creatures, and finish them off with Falkenrath Noble, Scorched Rusalka, and Gnawing Zombie. R/B Sacrifice is effectively an aggro deck that ends up burning the opponent out by sacrificing creatures to Scorched Ruskala, Gnawing Zombie, and getting double the effect with Falkenrath Noble in play.
Vampire Aristocrat is your premier common sacrifice outlet. I’d usually take Vampire Aristocrat over removal like Auger Spree if I know I’m going into this archetype because it’s so important. You have redundant sacrifice outlets in Scorched Rusalka and Gnawing Zombie as well, but adding a mana cost to the ability makes it much worse. In a pinch, you can splash green for Golgari Rotwurm, and potentially even Golgari Germination if you aren’t a token-heavy deck.
Dragon Fodder and Dregscape Zombie are 2-drops that are great with your sacrifice outlets, and Spike Jester is a solid aggressive creature for the archetype. Kathari Bomber is a 3-drop that creates tokens, and an excellent card in this archetype. Keep in mind you can sacrifice Kathari Bomber with the triggered ability on the stack, and still get the 2 Goblins.
The payoffs for sacrificing creatures are Falkenrath Noble and Traitorous Instincts at common, but you can also splash Soul Ransom, which is great alongside sacrifice outlets as it effectively turns into Control Magic. I’d definitely take Falkenrath Noble highly if I knew I was going to end up in this archetype, but the fact that it’s not great in other archetypes makes me not want to take it very highly pack 1.
R/B obviously has great removal, but this deck gets added efficiency out of Bone Splinters, a typically underwhelming card that pairs great with all of the token effects, Traitorous Instincts, and unearth creatures.
I typically don’t draft this deck as I think it’s weaker than the other archetypes I listed, but this is the only aggressive deck I don’t mind drafting. I’d be drawn to this deck if I opened a Hellrider or Falkenrath Aristocrat.
Here is an example of a B/R Sacrifice deck I 2-1’d with.
General Thoughts on the Format
• Green is Bad
I don’t like any of the green archetypes at all, and generally only splash green when I get cards like Simic Sky Swallower, Thragtusk, Urban Evolution, Arachnus Spinner, Putrefy, and Mystic Genesis. I’m sure there are others too, but these are the cards I seem to splash in green the most.
G/W Tokens decks have one really big problem, and that is all of the common bounce creatures like Mist Raven and Dinrova Horror. Tokens match up poorly against these cards, and adding instant-speed blink effects to the mix just makes it a nightmare. I tend to avoid drafting any green-based archetypes, and when I do have a fair amount of green cards in my deck it’s just cards like Sylvan Ranger and Coiling Oracle filling out my Dimir deck.
• Always Be Dimir
Every Draft I do, I try my hardest to start out in Dimir. It’s the deepest combination of colors, and is the most versatile color combination. Removal and card draw are a huge strength of this color combination, but also….
• Dinrova Horror is the Best Common
Dinrova Horror at common is the best common by a lot. It’s not only the best common, it’d be pretty close to the best uncommon too. Dinrova Horror isn’t only great because it’s a bounce creature, but it also happens to be one of the biggest creatures in the format. The fact that it can outsize almost everything when it comes into play makes it so you rarely even have to trade it off when you’re behind—it can thwart whole attacks on its own.
• Mystic Genesis is Underrated
I seem to wheel Mystic Genesis in every Draft. I am perfectly content splashing this card. While Mystic Genesis was mediocre in Gatecrash Limited, it’s an entirely new format where control is king, and Mystic Genesis does an excellent Torrential Gearhulk impression. The ability to Mystical Teachings for a Mystic Genesis is handy in a control deck light on win conditions.
• Signets are Overrated
Don’t get me wrong. I love Signets. I take Signets over the multicolored lands of course, but you shouldn’t be taking Signets early over powerful spells. Sending someone a Dinrova Horror while taking a Dimir Signet is likely to send them into Dimir, while sending a Signet isn’t pushing someone into a color combination. I want Signets in my deck, just make sure you’re not taking them over the more powerful cards unless your deck is already chock-full of powerful cards and we just need to make sure we can cast them.
I know there’s no competitive Modern Masters 2017 tournaments on the schedule, but it’s a true delight to draft. Whenever I need a break from the constant grind of preparing for my next major event but want to keep my mind focused on Magic, I tend to play Flashback Drafts, Cube, or, if I’m lucky, a Masters format. I’ve had a ton of fun drafting Modern Masters 2017, and a lot of success amassing packs and tickets while doing so.
Hopefully you can too.