Solving the Limited Puzzle - First Impressions of Modern Masters 2015 Draft [Adam Yetter]
I'm very excited about Modern Masters 2015. I've read all the set reviews, generated dozens of virtual sealed pools, and even found an iPad app (also available for Android devices) that simulates a draft experience. I've only been able to draft the set a handful of times in person. And if you get the chance to draft it, you definately should. It's a ton of fun.
I love playing Modern. It's my favorite constructed format. But I'm primarily a Limited player. I'd guess that 80% of the Magic I've ever played has been either Sealed Deck or Draft. So a draft format made up of cards that are Modern legal is basically my wet dream. I didn't play Magic back when many of the cards in MM2015 were originally printed, so I'm headed into this new format with a fresh pair of eyes.
Here are a few general things to keep in mind while drafting Modern Masters 2015. First, the removal is quite good in this set; much better than any recently printed set. Sunlance, Burst Lightning, Bone Splinters, Arrest, and Narcolepsy are all commons. Green is the only color without a common removal spell (other than Plummet). The combination of undersized creatures and powerful, efficient removal is going to define this format, in my opinion. Be aware that there are several cheap ways of dealing with creatures that have a toughness of 3 (Lightning Bolt, Nameless Inversion, and Sunlance) but not very many that can deal with an x/4.
Because much of the good removal is at instant speed, I don't expect creature combat to get very complicated (a la triple Theros a.k.a. "Who's got the trick?" Everyone had the trick.) So generally speaking when you set up a board state planning on double blocking a 3/3 with three 2/2's, you should be ok. That's not to say it's not going to be correct to play around Brute Force or Mighty Leap when you can. But I just don't think that the decks that are 2-0 and looking to win their pods will be playing any of these effects. And if they do, I'd assume it's going to be just one or two.
Secondly, there are a ton of playable colorless cards in this set. Cathodion is a 3/3 for 3 at common. For that reason and the ones I highlighted earlier, having a fourth toughness is great. Other notable colorless cards that many decks want are Blinding Souleater, Sickleslicer, and Sphere of the Suns. Don't mistake seeing several artifacts over a few picks as a signal that UW Affinity is open. There are just a ton of colorless cards in this set.
I think that there's much less demand on the drafter to adhere to the synergy of specific archetypes than there was in the original Modern Masters. I'm not the first person to write about this, but I don't think that the implications of this are apparent to everyone yet. It's going to be extremely important to know which of the two-color archetypes are extremely synergy-based and which ones aren't. For example, the RW double strike deck can be powerful if it has a critical mass of Boros Swiftblades, Hearthfire Hobgoblins, and Darksteel Axes. However, without these key cards, the deck just doesn't do very much and can be dramatically outclassed. It needs to operate like an aggro deck, but it needs to draw the right mix of creatures and pump effects to get the job done. I think this archetype is very linear and if you're not the only drafter in your pod, you may have a very rough time. UW Affinity is going to be very similar I think. The deck that pays you off the most for drafting a linear, synergistic strategy is BW Spirits. Cards that wheel to you because no one else wants them are actually B+'s in your deck.
On the other hand, a deck like GB sacrifice is not nearly so linear. It's possible to go extremely deep and draft around Necrogenesis and the like, but it's also possible to play good black removal like Spread the Sickness and Nameless Inversion along with big green creatures and call it a day. I don't think GB is very linear at all and if you don't draft or draw the key commons or uncommons, your deck will still operate like a deck.
Knowing which archetypes demand your devotion to that strategy and which ones can be played just by picking good cards in two colors and putting those cards into a deck is going to be extremely important when navigating your Modern Masters 2015 drafts.
We just don't see cards like Dismember, Lightning Bolt, Electrolyze, and Sunlance in recent sets, as I said earlier. The order in which you play your dudes is going to matter a lot more than you're used to, and the way you prioritize what removal you have to deal with your opponents' threats will be equally important. Putting an Oblivion Ring on a 4/3 flyer and then several turns later dying to a Pelakka Wurm after you draw your Sunlance is going to feel bad. Don't blame the Wurm though; you heard it here first.
All things considered, I think this draft format is going to be all about having something absurdly powerful that your deck can do in the mid to late game (no, I'm not talking about Emrakul). I'm talking about something like casting Thrive for X=3 and targeting the three golems you made from your Precursor Golem. I expect to see average games ending around turn 8-9 (slower than Dragons of Tarkir, but not as slow as M14).
Those are my thoughts on this format, at least until I get a few (dozen) drafts under my belt. I'll report back after GP Vegas.
Play well and enjoy the game,