Positive EV – M11 Limited Evaluations

Wednesday, September 1st – When M11 arrived, Core Set Limited received a colossal shakeup. Today, Manuel Bucher re-evaluates some of his early thoughts on triple-M11.

Drafting M11 is a lot different than drafting M10. Even though some of the cards in the set might be the same, there are a lot more cheap evasion creatures, and a handful of tempo spells, which make the format much more aggressive. While Fireball was much better than Doom Blade in M10, the pick is actually pretty close in M11. There are some cards I evaluated a lot differently at the outset of M11 draft than I do now.


I don’t like splashing as much in this format, largely for the reasons above. In M10 I was splashing a lot, and I always splashed cards like Doom Blade, Pacifism, or Fireball. Tempo matters a lot in M11, and having dead cards in hand, or not being able to cast a card because you have an off-color land, can easily cost you the game.

Ajani’s Pridemate and other Grizzly Bear creatures

In M10, you never wanted to cast a Grizzly Bear during any game, they are a lot better in this format. You need some Grizzly Bears, both to fight the tempo change from Aether Adept and to fight a turn 3 Scroll Thief even when you are on the draw.

Armored Ascension

While this card was really good in M10, it is much better in the new format. You are splashing far less than you did in M10, and White is usually the beatdown color in the format.


This card would see play from time to time in M10, but it gets a lot better once you start playing Grizzly Bears and other early drops. Combined with Blue tempo cards like Aether Adept and Scroll Thief, the card becomes ridiculously good.

Infantry Veteran

I still can’t believe that I didn’t like this card at first. Everyone knows how much I liked Akrasan Squire in full Alara block draft, and this card is very similar to the best one-drop in that format. In the early game, the Veteran is a touch worse than the Squire, but once you start attacking with more than one guy, the Veteran gets a lot better, and even then it has a lot of impact on the board. In addition, the best defense to fliers are Giant Spider and Azure Drake, and this guy helps your Assault Griffin attack through them.

Mighty Leap and Giant Growth

While I thought Giant Growth was pretty much unplayable in M10, I like both those combat tricks in the M11 format. Again, being aggressive is a lot more important, and both these spells push you through a 2/4 blocker or finish the game. The 2/4s are the best defensive cards in the format, and you should make sure that your aggro decks can deal with these, and more than simple temporary fixes like Unsummon.

Roc Egg

In my opinion, this card is almost unplayable. Your opponent won’t ever crack it unless he doesn’t care if you control a 3/3 Bird. The card is only good in defensive decks. Not only do I like attacking far more than blocking in this format (because of cards like Scroll Thief and Aether Adept), I also dislike having White as one of my main colors if I am blocking.

Alluring Siren

This is another card that was very mediocre in M10 drafts which gets better in M11. The main reason for this is that tempo actually matters in this format. This card once again shines in aggro decks. It deals with the 2/4 blockers for the price of a few damage a turn, or can get rid of pretty much every blocker.

Cancel and other Counterspells

This was once a card I liked a lot in M10, but I don’t like it much in M11. With splashing being less relevant, and Overrun being rare, there are fewer bombs cast in the games in general. These cards are only good once you are ahead on the board, and I’d rather play more cards than being reliant on being ahead.

Scroll Thief

I actually didn’t like the card too much when I saw it, but I love drafting the card now. It turns cards like Excommunicate or Aether Adept into card advantage, and it can win the game on its own if your opponent has a mediocre draw or a deck that doesn’t have a very good curve.


The card was good in M10, but it’s a bomb in M11. In decks that have a great curve, this card wins the game so often. From being an early pick in M10, this is easily a first pick in this format.


Even though tempo cards are very good in the Draft format, I still don’t like this card very much, and I see it more as a filler spell than anything else. It gets better once you have some Scroll Thieves, but without them I would rather search for permanent solutions for 2/4 creatures, or run cards that don’t have inherent card disadvantage such as Aether Adept or Excommunicate.

Water Servant

The card would be ridiculously strong if damage still went on the stack, but it’s still surprisingly good regardless. There are not a lot of creatures that can trade with this card one for one, and therefore your opponent has to have multiple blockers for this guy. With the help of combat tricks or instant removal, this card easily becomes unfair. And with Mighty Leap, the card can hit for a lot of damage by surprise.

Mind Rot

The card was pretty decent in M10, but I don’t think that card advantage matters as much as it did in the previous Core Set. It’s still a nice sideboard card to have if cards like Deathmark or Flashfreeze are not good in the matchup after boarding

Nether Horror

This is another card that would have been unplayable in M10, but is a lot better in this format. Tempo cards make this card better, as you can make it hit once or twice before having to trade with a mediocre guy.

Nightwing Shade

Looming Shade was mediocre in M10, and I am not that huge of a fan of Nantuko Shade either. But the Shade with evasion is really good in this format. There is almost no single guy that can block this flier for value, and it can get through for a few points before turning into an Abyss.

Reassembling Skeleton

The card is not very good on its own, but combined with Bloodthrone Vampire it is a combo that is very strong, both on defense and on offense.

Rotting Legion

The drawback on entering the battlefield actually matters a lot, because of Excommunicate or Aether Adept, but this guy is still a lot better than I expected. There are not a lot of non-Green guys that are as big as the Legion, and he is another way around blockers against which your other guys might have problems. It is not an early pick, but it is not an embarrassing card if you have to play it in your deck.

Prodigal Pyromancer

I am not as huge a fan of this card in this format. There are not as many targets for this guy to kill, as a lot of the creatures with abilities have more than one toughness. It’s still one of the best Red cards, simply because the color is not as deep as the other colors.


While I didn’t like this card at all in M10, and I used it more as a sideboard card than that I would as a maindeck option, it is actually really good in M11. In a format where Grizzly Bear can get played without shame, Pyroclasm is likely to be good.

Volcanic Strength

This card by itself makes splashing for Fireball or Lightning Bolt pretty unattractive. Red has so many guys that are usually not very good, but they are cards that have to be played if you are playing the color. Therefore, having a decent enchantment to boost them up can’t be that wrong.


There are multiple ways to draft Green decks. One such option is to draft Cultivate. It enables you to splash pretty much any bomb by itself, and it accelerates you at the same time. This is the card that’s the backbone of any of my decks with which I want to block. In Green decks with which you want to attack, I wouldn’t pick the card too highly.

Duskdale Wurm

This card would have been great in M10, but in this format it’s little more than “meh.”

Hornet Sting

The card seems unplayable at first, but it makes a decent filler in your deck. It helps kill a three-toughness guy once you’ve block with your 2/4, or it can kill a decent amount of fliers (or Alluring Siren). I wouldn’t want to play more than one, but I actually don’t mind having access to its effect.


Far better in a defensive deck than it is in an offensive deck. In the slow decks, you always have to make sure you don’t die in the late game to some random flier, and you can usually make up for having this as a dead card early on in the game. On the other hand, if you are attacking, you never want to draw a dead card.

Sacred Wolf

At first, I thought this card was unplayable, but it is actually pretty good. It gets unreal when combined with any power-boosting Aura, but it is also decent on its own. It can block Scroll Thief without anything too bad happening, and, like Scroll Thief, it becomes really good if your opponent has a mediocre draw or a mediocre curve.

Spined Wurm

Simply because of its mana cost, this is the best Wurm of the three that are available. While in M10, both of the more expensive options might have been better, this is the best Wurm simply because it comes down the earliest.

Crystal Ball

It’s no big news that this is simply one of the best cards in the format. Both in aggressive decks, to make sure that you keep on drawing pressure cards, and in defensive decks, to make sure that you draw your solution or bomb to win the game.

Sorcerer’s Strongbox

I would have loved this card in M10 draft, but if you don’t win the coin flip the first time in this format, you lose so much tempo that it can easily cost you the game. I would try to keep my hands away from the card in both aggressive and defensive decks, but I wouldn’t mind playing the card as a filler option.

Gargoyle Sentinel

This card is much better than I expected, in both evasive decks and defensive decks. In evasive decks, it makes sure that you don’t lose the race against the decks attacking with non-evasive guys, while in defensive decks it can block the non-evasive guys early in the game, and later on it can keep fliers from entering the attack.

I hope this helps you in the upcoming PTQs and GPs. I’m currently deep in preparation for Pro Tour: Amsterdam… wish me luck!

Thanks for reading!

Manuel Bucher