Talking Turkey About “Land Grant” Limited

With Mirrodin almost ready to be released on Magic Online, I’ve received a number of emails regarding the makeup of a successful draft deck in the new format. How many Lands? Spells? Creatures? Equipment? As with most things in Magic, the number of Spells and Equipment tends to vary from deck to deck. Two important constants that I’ve found though are the amount Creatures and Land you want to have. Usually I’d never want to run less than twelve creatures, and fourteen or more is gravy.

Now let’s talk about Land. For those of you who have been unable to get a good amount of experience in the format as of yet, you need to know that the standard rule has just been thrown out the window…

Gobble Gobble.

What’s the big deal with Turkey anyway?

Personally, I hate the stuff.

It’s certainly the driest meat around and it takes forever to chew. I’d rather have a nice piece of Chicken or Ham any day of the week.

So yeah, about Magic. I’d originally planned to cover the Top 8 Rochester draft of the Pittsburgh PTQ from last weekend. Unfortunately, plans change, and I ended up getting too involved in a few three-on-three drafts and couldn’t get anyone else to write down all of the picks for me.

Oh well.

I did want to pose a question to all of you though: Would you be interested in seeing in-depth coverage of a Mirrodin Rochester draft before PT Amsterdam?

You have to realize that it’ll be awfully long since I’ll go into quit a bit of detail, and analyze every pick of the draft instead of just my own picks like in the Booster draft walkthroughs we’ve all become accustomed to. Anyway, let me know through email or the forums if you’d be interested in seeing a Rochester walkthrough.

The focus of this week’s article, however, is in fact Turkey.

Okay I lied. We’ll actually be going over what I consider to be the key points of Mirrodin Limited. What I’ve found is that Mirrodin shakes up a lot of the basic principles of Limited Magic that have been taken for granted in the past.

Land Grant Limited

The standard amount of land for any forty-card deck has always been seventeen. Sure, there have been environments that required an additional land (like Onslaught with its cycling lands), but for the most part, seventeen lands has been a given in the realm of Limited.

With Mirrodin almost ready to be released on Magic Online, I’ve received a number of emails regarding the makeup of a successful draft deck in the new format. How many Lands? Spells? Creatures? Equipment?

As with most things in Magic, the number of Spells and Equipment tends to vary from deck to deck. Two important constants that I’ve found though are the amount Creatures and Land you want to have. Usually I’d never want to run less than twelve creatures, and fourteen or more is gravy.

Now let’s talk about Land. For those of you who have been unable to get a good amount of experience in the format as of yet, you need to know that the standard rule has just been thrown out the window. The new standard for land count in Mirrodin is actually sixteen. I’ve gone as far as to run fourteen land one time, but I also had a very low curve and five mana-Myr. If you play seventeen land in a deck that isn’t overly top heavy, you’re very likely to lose because of manaflood. Honestly, at first, it didn’t make any sense to me, as sixteen land is pretty skimpy when you think about it. Usually you’ll end up with two-to-four Myr, Talismans, or Viridian Joiners though, and those are just better than the extra land because of the creature light nature of the environment.

This isn’t what struck me as interesting though. A few times I’ve actually only managed to only pick up one or no mana creatures, still ran sixteen lands, and still did fine. The format is slow enough that if you stumble a little on mana in the beginning, you will still have plenty of time to recover in most cases. This is a great aspect in my eyes, as if you missed a land drop in OLS, you basically lost.

The moral here? You don’t need a card like Land Grant to allow you to play a lower amount of land. In this case, the format warrants and encourages that you run sixteen. It’s much better to stall a little on mana early and have plenty of gas in the tank than it is to be flooded and have little to do.


One of the keystone elements of a draft format is the prevalence of archetypes based on the card pool. In the past, certain archetypes would be absolutely dominant (U/W comes to mind in more than one format), while others would be completely unplayable (G/W). Certain cards would be good against the popular matchups and so on (Mirror Wall in the U/B on G/R matchup of OTJ).

I guess the designers of Mirrodin decided they wanted to shake things up a little in this area and what we’ve ended up with is a format where any color combination is playable. It doesn’t really stop there though, as the definition of an archetype in the Mirrodin setting is much different than in formats in the past. A lot of decks cannot really be classified as being in an archetype, simply because of the high number of artifact cards in the set.

Let’s take a look at some examples of how this affects actual draft decisions:

The most basic place to start is with artifact cards that are better in a given color because of the nature of the other cards in that color. And no, smarty-pants, I’m not talking about artifacts with colored mana in their activation costs. A good example here is Slagwurm Armor. It’s very clear that this is a black card because of how good it is on the Nim creatures.

We can take this to the next level with a card that is universally powerful. While Bonesplitter is great no matter what colors you are playing, I’d argue that it’s more of a Blue or White card than anything else. Obviously it’s still going to be ridiculous on Spikeshot Goblin, Fangren Hunter, or Nim Shrieker, but the fact is that the card is just better in the other two colors. The simple explanation is found in the nature of Blue and White. White has an affinity for Equipment with good targets like Skyhunter Cub and Leonin Den-Guard, while Blue has excellent evasion in the form of Neurok Spy and Somber Hoverguard.

What I’m getting at here is that while an artifact can be played in any deck, most of them have leanings toward a particular color, even if they don’t have colored mana in their activation costs.

Take, for example, a pick that comes up somewhat often.

Bonesplitter vs. any of Spikeshot Goblin, Shatter, or Electrostatic Bolt

What’s interesting is that all of the above cards can be the correct pick depending on the situation in the draft.

Now I realize I’m putting my foot in my mouth when I say this, but first-pick, first-pack I’m always going to take Bonesplitter over any of these top Red commons. (Disclaimer: I know I said in my Spikeshot article that Spikey was the pick, but since then I’ve done a lot more drafting and determined that it is only the right pick if you’re already in Red.)

The reasoning behind this is simply that taking the Bonesplitter allows me to play either Blue or White, while also taking a card that is always going to be effective, and always going to make my maindeck without also disrupting my manabase.

So let’s go over some other scenarios to see where you’d take each card.

While Spikeshot is basically always going to be better than the other two Red commons, I would take Bonesplitter over it in the above scenario or in one where I already had a lot of White Equipment creatures or a good number of Spies and Hoverguards. At that point, it’s more open to the rest of the contents of your deck.

In most cases, Electrostatic Bolt is just better than Shatter. As always, however, there is an important exception.

If you’re B/R and you crack Bolt, Shatter, Bonesplitter, the correct pick is Shatter. (as Joey Bags also said in his article last week) This is because of the nature of the BR archetype (recursion and tons of removal), and that you will definitely have plenty of ways to kill creatures, but not too many to stop artifacts.

The Bonesplitter vs. Bolt pick is difficult if you’re already in Blue or White and really depends on what else you’ve got in your pile. I hate repeating that. Everything in Magic is so conditional.

So, what does all of this have to do with archetypes?

Since every color combination is playable, I think you have to classify archetypes in a different way this time around.

The way I see it, there is a Green archetype, a White archetype, U/R, B/R, G/W, and W/R.

From what I’ve seen, these combinations tend to lead to the best decks – though others are certainly fine, and most decks end up splashing a third color anyway. I’ll detail the basic idea behind each archetype below.


Lots of big creatures, as well as Protection from Artifact ones. Viridian Joiner is excellent here as he accelerates you to a turn four Fangren Hunter or Tel-Jihad Archer. Wurmskin Forger is also excellent in the deck, especially when he pumps up an Tel-Jilad Archer or Tel-Jilad Chosen. One dilemma I’ve had here is whether to take Deconstruct or Tel-Jilad Archer. I’ve drafted Green quite a bit, and to be honest, the Archer is one of my favorite cards in the format. It’s incredibly difficult to get anything past it, as its stats and abilities are exactly what the doctor ordered. Obviously Deconstruct is great, but I’ve found that most of the games I win with Green involve at least one Archer.

Hopefully Turian and KK will take this up as their Dilemma for that color.

On second thought, nevermind, it’s more likely that the Dilemma will be Fangren Hunter versus Battlegrowth. We all know which side KK is on.


This is basically any deck that isn’t G/W or W/R and features a hefty portion of white cards and plains. Good examples here are W/u and W/B. Speaking of W/B, I haven’t seen too many people playing it, and it is likely the worst color combination in the format, as there is very little synergy.

Slagwurm Armor on a Leonin Den-Guard just doesn’t do it for me, sorry.

Anyway, this deck usually features Cubs and Skyhunter Patrols and focuses on an Equipment/Evasion-fueled beatdown.


My personal favorite, this is probably the best archetype in the format. This deck will quite often have roots in Affinity with hits like Myr Enforcer, Somber Hoverguard, and the occasional Broodstar. What I really like about it though is that you’ve got Spies and Hoverguards and plenty of Red removal to back it up. You also come loaded with the Spy, Vulshok Berserker curve. This deck usually takes on an aggro-control stance, almost like U/G in OTJ Limited. One card I think is still being overrated in this deck is Thoughtcast. Honestly, in all my drafting, I may have cast the card twice. I’m not really a fan simply because I like my spells to get more mileage since I’m using up a slot for them and those slots are very tight as it is.


May I please direct you to Joe Gagliardi article from last week, if you haven’t already read it? Joe basically covered everything, and aside from U/B, I think this is the only deck you can play Black in. Black is pretty awful in this format, though this deck does an excellent job of packing its usual arsenal of removal along with a good dose of recursion. If you get Skeleton Shard, the deck is absolutely nuts and you can make a day of it recurring Goblin Replicas, Clockwork Condors, and even Myr Mindservants.

Wait, what?

Oh yeah, Myr Mindservant isn’t playable. My bad.


This could possibly be the breakout format for this color combo. Always maligned in the past, G/W continues to make a mockery of itself just through the cards alone.

Think about it, how well can Tel-Jihad Archers and Skyhunter Cub possibly be together?

I really can’t explain it myself, as you want lots of Equipment for your White creatures, but your Green ones refuse to don the armor. Somehow the deck wins though, and my only guess is that big creatures combined with Arrest and Blinding Beam is pretty good.


Finally, the poster child of Mirrodin Limited. Unfortunately, both of these colors are overdrafted, so if you do manage to put together a deck, odds are it isn’t anything spectacular. The deck does work well together though, putting together Equipment, Spikeshot, removal, and evasion to good effect.

Don’t go forcing it though, you’ll be sorry.

Those are what I consider to be the big archetypes right now, though as I said, any color combination is playable.

Oops, I forgot some..

A few weeks back I did an article on the over and underrated cards of Mirrodin. Well, I’ll just let the title do the talking as far as what I’m going to talk about in this section.

Synod SanctumI’m kinda embarrassed that I forgot this little gem seeing as I play it quite often. I think they’ve made cards like this before, one of them called Cold Storage, but I can’t remember if it’s exactly the same thing. Anyway, the name of the game here is to save your permanents from removal while also abusing comes into play effects.

The number one criticism is”My opponent will just destroy it after I have guys in there.” Umm…so how is that a bad thing? It’s not like you would’ve had the permanents that are in the Sanctum anyway. They would’ve just died instead of having a chance to re-enter play. Basically, in this worst case example, your opponent just wasted a Shatter on your one-mana artifact. That seems perfectly fine if you ask me.

When you have something like Viridian Shaman, Looming Hoverguard, or Wurmskin Forger, the Sanctum also functions as a second use for any of their abilities.

Basically, they either waste a kill spell on it or you gain quite a bit of card advantage. Oh, and you will get it very late (well maybe not anymore).

Sun DropletYeah, I hate to say it, but the card is actually fine. Not only does it negate any two-point evasion creature, it also slows down the game a whole lot in general. I’ve seen games go on for two hours when this card was involved, and if nothing else, it’s just absurd in multiples. Don’t forget to take a point from your Talisman to gain life when you have two of these out.

Stalking StonesIt’s quite obvious that this is a good card. The point I want to get across is that people still don’t pick it highly enough. This thing should be a 4-5th pick at the very latest, and more often go about third. It always makes the deck, and also adds another creature that you don’t even have to waste a slot on, since it also counts as a land. He usually acts as a 3/3 Haste whenever you get to seven mana and can activate and still attack.

Slith PredatorSomehow, I’ve managed to lose to this card on more than one occasion. The only thing it really has going for it is that it only costs two mana and isn’t completely terrible like the Slith Strider. It’s still pretty bad though, considering the abundance of Myr that can block it on turn three. Sometimes all it takes is one pump spell though and this guy just starts to grow out of range. Once he gets to be 3/3 or larger it’s pretty hard to stop him since he will trample over for a point and grow again and chumping doesn’t even work. Granted, he’s not that great, I’ve just found it annoying to lose to and it’s happened more than once.

That’s all I’ve got for this week.

I’d like to wish everyone a Happy Turkey Day, but try not to eat too much Turkey, it can’t possibly be good for you.

Nick Eisel

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