Modern Masters 2015
comes out later this month and looks to both be a good resource to access Modern staples as well as being as sweet of a Limited environment as the first Modern Masters. Three different Grand Prix will be held simultaneously in Utrecht, Chiba, and Las Vegas on May 30-31, and from the looks of
things, it is shaping out to the biggest day of competitive Magic ever.
You’ll probably be seeing a fair number of articles about Modern Masters 2015 in the weeks leading up to the Grand Prix. There will be a lot of
Limited to be played, and people are starting to form initial impressions on the set. I won’t be listing all of the Draft archetypes ( Sam Black did a great job of that yesterday) or draft pick orders,
but rather the mechanics and a few key cards that I believe will play out much differently from when they were previously printed.
Spirit and Arcane
There’s a smattering of Spirit creatures brought together from numerous sets to revisit the Kamigawa block mechanic in a new light. Creatures like Waxmane
Baku really incentivize picking up as many Spirit or Arcane spells as possible, so it’s wise to pay attention to the card types of each card in MM2 when
constructing a deck. The most notable thing is how the Changelings and the Changeling spells work to trigger you cards without having to spend a bunch of
design space specifically for this mechanic. Getting back Nameless Inversion with Soulshift for example will be a sweet synergy to look for when
deckbuilding. Long-Forgotten Gohei returns as a card that I’m excited to open and build around, as it works double-duty for your Changeling cards.
While the Changelings and Changeling spells from the Lorwyn block once helped out any of the tribes like Elves or Kithkin, now they’re here supporting the
Spirit and Arcane theme of Kamigawa block. Everything from Spirits to Elementals to Blinkmoth will come up.
Note that although Changelings are also Eldrazi, you won’t be able to cast them off of Eldrazi Temple or with a reduced cost from Eye of Ugin, as both of
the Eldrazi lands specifically say “colorless Eldrazi Spells.”
In Scars of Mirrodin we mostly saw proliferate giving additional -1/-1 counters or speeding up the charges on your artifacts. In MM2 we will see a
dual use proliferating -1/-1 counters on your opponent’s creatures and the +1/+1 counters on your creatures. With proliferate positioned to be a very
powerful mechanic in the set, we shouldn’t be surprised to see Tezzeret the Seeker going ultimate very quickly, especially since blue and black will
generally be the colors you want him in.
Remember with Grim Affliction that you can target a creature that has one or more +1/+1 counters on it and still get to proliferate the -1/-1 counter that
the spell placed onto it. This is because +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters essentially negate each other from existence (like matter and antimatter) as a
state-based effect that’s checked after the resolution of the spell. Since you’re proliferating in mid-resolution, both counters are existing on the
creature at the same time for a brief moment.
The “Karoo” return from Ravnica block to set the basis for mana fixing. If MM2 is anything like Ravnica, then these will be high picks and an
auto-include into your decks even if only one of the colors of the land makes useful mana for you. Towards the end of my experience with Ravnica,
I found myself drafting these lands higher and higher, even first-picking Golgari Rot-Farm quite a few times. The question came up as to how many of these
lands were “too many,” where the roundabout consensus was around eight. Cards like Dimir Guildmage and Selesnya Guildmage are decent when you only use them
for one of their abilities, but when you have even a single “free” colored source to power the other half, they reach a whole ‘nother level of goodness.
Evolving Wilds, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Expedition Map, Sphere of the Suns, Alloy Myr. All coloress common or uncommon ways to fix your mana or to splash
another. The multicolored cards in the set are very powerful and will tempt people to play an additional color for a bomb like Savage Twister. With all ten
bounce lands being an uncommon cycle as well, I can imagine even the most train-wrecked of Draft decks being able to cast their spells. A nice side effect
is that rarely will you have a wasted first pick unless you move on an extremely color-intensive card like Nobilis of War (which I consider very much a
trap first pick card). Sunburst also shows up as a way to reward players with access to incidental extra colors, turning an unexciting 3/3 Skyreach Manta
into a very respectable 4/4 or 5/5 threat without much effort or strain on your manabase.
I wanted to talk about this card specifically because this set is full of various token creatures and other assorted cards to bounce either cheaply or for
1/1 Ant from Ant Queen
1/1 Spirit from Spectral Procession
1/1 Soldier from Raise the Alarm
1/1 Thrull from Endrek Sahr, Master Breeder
0/1 Eldrazi Spawn
The Kiki-Jiki mirror token
1/1 Faerie from Bitterblossom
1/ Snake, 2/2 Wolf, and 3/3 Elephant from Bestial Menace
0/0 Germ from Living Weapon Equipment
3/3 Golem from Precursor Golem
1/1 (really 3/3) Worm from Creakwood Liege
I don’t know how they’re gonna fit all of these tokens into packs!
Many of the above cards are rare, and Eldrazi Spawn aren’t really what you want to be targeting (since the owner can sacrifice it in response and “counter”
Repeal). However, the cards that create Saprolings alone are enough that you should be casting Repeal to kill a creature for only one blue mana in a large
enough percentage of your Limited games to merit ranking Repeal as one of the better commons in the set.
The evoke creatures like Mulldrifter like to be replayed. You can even play them for their evoke cost and Repeal them before the sacrifice trigger
resolves. You can move graft counters around, then bounce the original grafter once it’s small, or reset a persist creature or something that’s been
withered or otherwise covered in nasty -1/-1 counters.
This is listed as a reminder that this card should always be played in your Limited decks and that it’ll be the most taken uncommon in the set. It’s
versatile and powerful enough to take over most of the rares and all of the commons as well. Mutagenic Growth is in the same camp of playability in any
deck, but it’s not nearly as powerful. The others, Apostle’s Blessing, Gut Shot, and Tezzeret’s Gambit, will mainly go in decks of their respective colors,
although I can see any of them going into hyper-aggressive decks like the R/B Bloodthirst deck.
By playing Infect in Modern and Legacy so much, I’ve put Vines of Vastwood to many uses, from countering Splinter Twin to stopping the equip from Umezawa’s
Jitte. Now that it’s a common again in a Limited environment, I thought I’d note some of the possible things you can do with the card that you might come
Countering Brute Force, the flying from Helium Squirter, and the equip of cards like Kitesail are just a few. If someone casts Cryptic Command with the
modes of bounce a permanent and draw a card, you can counter the entire spell by making your creature untargetable. What Vines of Vastwood doesn’t do is
stop graft from putting a +1/+1 counter on something since graft doesn’t target. It also doesn’t entirely stop spells with multiple targets, like
Electrolyze, Comet Storm, or if Cryptic Command has multiple targets for modes.
These won’t be as good as they were in Rise of the Eldrazi. There’s less ramp and less Eldrazi Spawn-makers going around, and many of the cards of
the set accommodate aggressive decks. With that said, when the Eldrazi deck comes together, it’s probably going to be great. No one else at the table will
want Eldrazi Temple (or Eye of Ugin if you’re lucky) and even an Eldrazi like Artisan of Kozilek or Ulamog’s Crusher are huge and put in good work. Sadly,
the huge monsters Emrakul, the Aeons Torn, Ulamog, the Infinite Gyre, and Kozilek, Butcher of Truth are fairly high-dollar mythic rares that will get
scooped up for the price tag, making them hard to get when you don’t open them when otherwise they’re the kind of cards that would easily make the full lap
around a draft table.
We’re just passing an era where Become Immense and Temur Battle Rage were a legitimate Draft strategy, and I see MM2 being a set that really works well for
the double-strikers. To complement all of the tokens running around, the set is loaded with spells and effects that pump creatures, boosting the
effectiveness of your double-strikers to become powerhouses. There isn’t too much unconditional instant-speed removal to punish someone going for the kill
into open mana, either.
While there aren’t as many Eldrazi Spawn as in Rise of the Eldrazi, there are way more creatures dying from various nonsense than in Shards of Alara. There’s a plethora of token-generating cards and sacrifice outlets to ensure that creatures will be dying all over the place. If
the format doesn’t shape up to be too fast, I can see either one of these creatures being real bombs in Limited, even more so than previously.
Modern Bonus Question:
Given the info of how Grim Affliction works with when +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters are on the same creatures, here’s a Modern situation that may come up:
You control a Kitchen Finks that has persisted and has a -1/-1 counter on it. You cast Dromoka’s Command to put a +1/+1 counter on Kitchen Finks and fight
your opponent’s 3/3 Beast token. What happens after the dust settles?