What in Damnation?!! A Guide to the Limited Draft Format of Modern Masters 2017

Now that we have that out of the way..... MODERN MASTERS 2017!

What a fantastic run of reprints.  But honestly, I'm even more excited for the limited format!  I don't know about you guys, but this limited format looks so flexible and customisable, and Wizards seem to have done an amazing job of constructing it.  They have listed the archetypes they designed towards, but there is so much more to it!

I'll run through wizards 'official' archetypes and then show you guys a little bit extra about the format afterwards.  Note that I will only be showcasing uncommon and common cards in this article, as those cards are the most relevant to draft and sealed.  Many of the rares and mythics in the set are placed in the set to synergise with certain archetypes, but the chances of you both opening those cards AND being in that archetype are relatively slim.


Archetype 1 - UW Blink:

UW Blink is a value-based midrange/control deck that aims to out value your opponent through gaining a series of incremental advantages.  It aims to abuse to synergy between 'blink' effects and 'enters the battlefield' effects to drown your opponent in card advantage.  I've separated the main card types in the deck into two separate catagories; Facilitators and Rewards.  Facilitators are the cards that enable you to regain value off of your creatures and Rewards are the effects that you are trying to reuse.


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With a great selection of facilitators at our disposal, this archetype is looking very strong already.  Having such a wide variety of effects makes it a little harder for our opponents to play around our tricks, while also giving us more flexibility in our deck construction.  The cards you are most commonly going to use are Deputy of Acquittals, Kor Skyfisher and Momentary Blink.  Deputy of Acquittals is in my opinion the strongest facilitator out of of the card pool including the uncommons.  This is because it able to be played at instant speed, meaning that it has more uses than all of the other cards.  Not only can it be used to re-buy effects for a later time, but it's a flash blocker and can be used to save your own creatures from removal.  Lastly it's the only creature-based facilitator that can be used at instant speed.  The creature based facilitators are the most important.  This is because in limited creatures are king.  While you can have really powerful spells in limited, the majority of archetypes are unable to win games without creatures, so having a creature with a built in spell-like effect gives you the best of two worlds.


Behold our reward pool.  We have a generous supply of strong commons at our disposal as well as some great uncommons which provide us with win conditions.  Kor Hookmaster and Mist Raven are our big tempo plays.  These cards are what give us a strong advantage in combat, especially in combination with instant speed flicker effects such as Momentary Blink and Ghostly Flicker.  Splicers are fantastic value targets.  They force 2-for-1 exchanges.  The immediate threat that they provide are 3/3 Golem creatures; however, as we are a deck that capitalises on reusing this effect our opponents are much more inclined to also attempt to kill the splicer.  Killing a 1/1 with no battlefield affecting abilities feels bad man.  Lastly we have some more fringe utility cards such as Lone Missionary and Sea Gate Oracle.  Card selection can be a very useful tool when you are looking for something specific.  Sea Gate Oracle is a great inclusion as a healthily sized blocker, but is particularly great when you have some single-copy cards in your deck that win you the game on the spot, such as Deadeye Navigator or Cyclonic Rift.

UW Midrange is a pretty safe archetype to move into when you aren't sure if you can commit to other archetypes.  There are many ways to abuse the effects and the quality of the common creatures in the colours provide enough strength by themselves that synergy is not 100% necessary.


Archetype 2 - UB Control:

This is the bread-and-butter control deck of the format.  Wizards have chosen to give us a nice draw-go style limited control deck this time.  The inclusion of many instant speed removal spells as well as nice instant speed card selection allows us to chew through our deck and find the answers we need to destroy our opponents board.


Control Decks need removal.  Lots of it.  Wizards have given us some decent options.  Agony Warp and Grisly Spectacle will be the bread-and-butter spells of choice.  Most creatures in this format have a toughness of 3 or less, which makes Agony Warp a very effective removal spell, and given that it is a 2 colour card, it's much more likely to be passed to you in a draft than Grisly Spectacle.  However you will need Grisly Spectacle for the bomb rares and uncommons of the format.  Wizards have also given us a strong Control Magic style spell in Soul Ransom.  All for 4 mana you get to control your opponents creature, and if they don't like that, you get to pay 4 mana to draw 2 cards and kill target creature.  This card is extremely strong and if you're gutsy, or just love playing blue, this is easily a first pickable card.


Card Advantage:

We're loaded with options for card selection and draw.  Mystical Teachings is the feature card for the pool.  It gives us huge flexibility and allows up to search our deck for the right answer for the right situation.  Forbidden Alchemy and Augur of Bolas are our early game selection, with Augur of Bolas providing a block and Forbidden Alchemy being an instant speed flashback spell.  Compulsive Research is decent, however in many games of limited it's unlikely that you'll be casting it on turn three as you're like to have to be answering something on the board.  However it's still a good replacement if you don't find the others.  Opportunity and Azure mage are our mana sinks.  These are our late-game draw engines which let us take over the game extremely quickly.  If you can survive long enough to use one of these cards, you're likely to be in a very good position.

Other Cards:

We also need ways to win the game.  Spire Monitor is the best common in the card pool for this deck.  It's an instant speed flier with perfectly fine stats.  It's by no means amazing, but it's exactly what our deck wants.  Moroii is a great undercosted body which can provide a great roadblock early and double up as a late game win condition.  Dinrova Horror and Grixis Slavedriver provide nice 4/4 bodies whilst also providing some ETB value.  Lastly, the most important aspect of a good control deck is to be able to cast your cards.  Many control cards have an expensive mana cost.  Dimir Signet is a great way for us to effectively make two land drops in one turn. This can be very important, especially in midrange and control matchups.  Allowing you to cast Mystical Teachings or Grisly Spectacle on the third turn can be pretty backbreaking.  Be wary when moving into UB Control.  Whilst it has all the tools necessary to succeed, many of them are shared with other archetypes.  If you are having trouble getting enough high quality cards to solidify your deck, try adding a third colour.  White is the most likely card to be effective as it adds cards such as Wall of Denial, Lingering Souls and Path to Exile, although Red is also an option to add Chandra's Outrage and Terminate.


Archetype 3 - BR Unearth:

Get aggro in Red and Black!  Unearth defies the laws of the graveyard by bringing back the dead and flinging them at your face.  The aim here is to capitalise on the synergy between aristocratic effects and unearth to gain pseudo-card advantage.  While this deck is considered an aggro deck, it can effectively play a more midrange game and then quickly switch gears mid game.

Unearth Cards:

Wizards have discovered through much trial and error that 'ping' effects are too strong for limited.  Which is why they rarely make them anymore.  So they gave us Vithian Stinger anyway so that we can destroy those filthy tokens players! Kathari Bomber is not unly a decently costed flier with Unearth, but also provides a great ability that helps to fuel the aristocratic side of this deck.

Sac Outlets:

The other part of the value engine that this deck provides is the ability to make combat really difficult for your opponent by presenting difficult blocks and attacks, particularly Scorched Rusalka and Vampire Aristocrat.  Gnawing Zombie is a well-costed defensive creature that makes removal spells and chump blocks better for you, while Bone Splinters shares great synergy with token generators and unearth creatures.  You don't want too many of these effects because otherwise you'll lack the other synergistic creatures that you need to make these creatures work, but with a good ratio of aristocrats to fodder, you can have a serious edge in combat.


To round out our value engine, we have cards to re-buy creatures that we've used from our graveyard.  A couple of these effects will go a long way to help grind out your opponents in longer games.

Other Cards:

Lastly we have some outlying cards which could easily be slotted into this strategy.  Out removal package includes Terminate and Auger Spree.  Auger Spree has the added bonus of being a sweet combat trick.  Some of these cards synergise well with our aristocrats, those being Falkenrath Noble, Mudbutton Torchrunner and Traitorous Instinct.  The creatures simply provide good value alongside them and Traitorous Instinct, which acts as a cool removal-style effect.  Carnage Gladiator is an awesome creature that could easily fit into the deck as an aggressive creature.  Delirium Skeins is a strange effect that has the potential to synergise with the unearth creatures in our deck, but these effects require too much setup, are terrible top decks and are also terrible when you're opponent has less than three cards in hand.

The unearth deck is a very synergistic strategy which has potential to grind out opponents well.  However the quality of the creatures that are utilising this strategy seem a little underwhelming.  Perhaps the synergistic nature will push the power far enough, but it's possible that you might need to add another colour to solidify your creature-base.


Archetype 4 - RG "Go Wide":

This has to be the most original idea ever.  Chuck lots of creatures on the board and attack!  Well classics are classics for a reason.  This strategy looks solid!

Token Generation:

Wizards have given us some great cards here.  Penumbra Spider and Dragon Fodder are some sweet commons and while auras are usually hard to justify, Fists of Ironwood is an exception as the main reason to play the card isn't the aura itself.  Vital Splicer is a great 2-for-1 and the endless tokens provided by Goblin Assault creates some enormous pressure.


Burning-Tree Emissary is now common! This is great for pauper! In other news we have some decent common creatures and some seriously awesome uncommons.  Burning-Tree Emissary and Hungry Spriggan are sweet aggressive creatures, as well as Battle-Rattle Shaman.  Thornscape Battlemage is the closest we'll get to Flametongue Kavu, but they're still great anyway, and Tattermunge Witch will make your opponent cry when they attempt to line up some decent blocks.

Combat Spells:

The big bonus to the Bloodrush creatures is that they maintain your creature count whilst also counting as pseudo non-creature spells, allowing you to increase the amount of combat tricks available in your deck without skimping on creature count.  All of the spells listed here are powerful enough to make the cut, but the ones that stick out most are Gaea's Anthem and Gruul War Chant.  Permanent anthem effects are extremely powerful and enchantments are notoriously difficult to get rid of in limited, so you shouldn't be too worried about them being destroyed.

The RG Aggro strategy looks really solid.  The potential here to splash black or white for extra flexibility is also incredibly strong.  Black adds great spells such as Sprouting Thrinax and all of the black removal, whilst white adds aggressive cards like the white Splicers and Wooly Thoctar.


Archetype 5 - GW Populate:

The last archetype we'll be talking about is the Standard Format classic GW Tokens strategy!  It plays some similar cards to the RG Aggro deck, but plays a much more conservative game.  The aim is to grind out by flooding the board with tokens and doing incremental chip damage while stopping your opponents from making profitable attacks.

Token Generation:

Call of the Conclave is a common now! Sorry, but I'm a big pauper player. Seriously though, we've never had a Watchwolf at common in the history of magic!  In combination with the Populate effect, Call of the Conclave will be a bonkers spell to add to your deck.  Additionally we have Attended Knight and Penumbra Spider in our common slots to create some great tokens.  We also have all of the splicers except blue which means we can get some serious golem action going on here, and that's just the start!


Populate originally seemed like an underwhelming mechanic to include in a masters set compared to the other mechanics that they could have picked from.  But once I saw the spoilers and the quality of the token generation they included in the set, I changed my mind.  For populate our best cards are Wayfaring Temple, Eyes in the Skies and Rootborn defenses.  Druid's Deliverance may be good enough but I'm not sure it's a maindeckable card.

Other Cards:

As I mentioned previously with the GR deck, anthem effects are incredible additions to the tokens strategy.  Tempo plays such as Kor Hookmaster and Flickerwisp are great, and Flickerwisp is great at rebuying the effects of our splicers and similar effects.  Wizards was also kind enough to once again give green mages better card advantage spells than the blue mages with Harmonize and Revive!

GW Tokens is going to be a super sweet archetype and has potential to be put to good use in all available three-colour combinations as well.  Blue gives access to the blue splicer as well as some great creatures such as Rhox War Monk, Coiling Oracle and Mystic Genesis.  Red is similar to the Naya Aggro build, but you'd be focusing more on tokens, and Black gives you access to the black removal, Golgari Rotwurm and Sin Collector.


Final thoughts:

Three colour decks are going to run rampant in this limited format.  While Wizards have quite clearly designed the archetypes to suit the two colour pairs, they have added the flexibility for those archetypes to be extended into extra colours, as well as facilitating the ability to play multicolour good-stuff decks.  To facilitate this, Wizards have granted us the boon of 11 common, 15 uncommon and 5 Rare ways to fix our mana.  This is especially great for those who decide to play in a sealed format rather than draft, as the likelihood of three-colour-good-stuff decks appearing in sealed is extremely high compared to draft.  But in draft, do make sure that in your first pack you note how much of the fixing is being taken early.  Some people, including myself, like to make sure that I am open in my colours are the start of a draft.  Prioritising mana fixing over other cards is a great way to do this as this enables you to be flexible in your second and third packs.  Don't get me wrong, if there are some seriously bomb rares and uncommons in your pack, you're likely going to want to take them, but often when you're drafting, you're picking some pretty lackluster cards even by pick five or six.  It's often correct to pick the fixing in these situations, especially when there is so much reward for extending to a third colour.

When extending to a third colour in draft, however, I do recommend maintaining a strategy in the third colour.  For example, if choosing to draft Blue-White-Green, it'd be well worth your while to continue focusing either on the tokens strategy or on the flicker strategy.  Simply having that synergy between the cards in your deck will increase the overall power and potential of your deck!

I hope this has given you guys some helpful insight into playing Modern Masters limited and I hope to see you guys hitting the tables this weekend!

Written by Rhody Nilon.