The promise of Double Masters 2022 (2X2) was that you could draft any of the wedges or shards in Magic without feeling like you trainwrecked harder than an Elijah Wood DJ Set. To the design team’s credit, this has been mostly true! I’ve not been miserable drafting the most expensive product I can remember, which seems like a low bar. It’s actually been a blast. All of this feels weird and I’m fortunate to have some tickets still in my Magic Online (MTGO) account.
Instead of breaking down the wedgards (or sharges?) like they literally do inside the box when you open it, I wanted to look today at the two-color pairs in this set. In finding what makes each of these color pairs tick, you’ll unlock the deeper secrets of what archetypes do and why they do it well.
What We’re Doing: Flickering creatures for value
Let’s kick things off with one of the most successful two-color archetypes and one of the only that I feel like can truly stand on its own: Azorius. This is a well-trodden path for the design team and they certainly don’t miss a step, giving us a bevy of targets from Aethersnipe to Wall of Omens as well as very real ways to temporarily exile them. Mistmeadow Witch has been nothing short of a beating thus far.
Top Common: Momentary Blink
Cheap, instant-speed effects that support what you’re up to will never be out of vogue with me, and Momentary Blink has led to more blowouts than spike strips in car chases so far. Whether you’re saving your best creature from removal or getting value out of a creature with an enters-the-battlefield effect, it doesn’t matter, because flashback lets you do it all again. Then, it sits in your graveyard, taunting your opponent. Rude and brutal. We love to see it.
Biggest Trap: Bad blink targets
Look at the brave Limited writer saying, “Bad things are bad!” I say it because they play it, folks. One opponent on preview weekend missed five times on Militia Bugler triggers during our match and looked more devastated each time. Between our blowing buddy and Sensor Splicer, I want to continue to stress that just because you can get value out of a card doesn’t mean you should. This set isn’t lacking for excellent targets, so if you find yourself needing to stretch, do it elsewhere.
What We’re Doing: Beating down, heroic-style
Again, another archetype that has thrived without much help. Boros is my early favorite for the deck that punishes anyone with too many Cryptic Spires and too much mana value in their opening hand. So many creatures here have haste, prowess, and an insatiable lust for blood. It feels like easy mode when it’s all coming together, even if you sacrifice some of the power in a Masters set for sheer force.
Top Common: Monastery Swiftspear
When in doubt, play a one-drop. Monastery Swiftspear at common is more than a boon to Pauper players, as having a beater that temporarily grows when you do anything other than cast more creatures feels great. Sure, Lava Coil is great in this deck, but you often find yourself winning combat through cheaper methods early on, such as Titan’s Strength, for instance. The one thing you don’t want to be short on is creatures.
Biggest Trap: Playing high mana values
Again, it’s no fun playing all two- and three-mana-value creatures when there are cards like Aurelia, the Warleader floating around. You just need to ask yourself how much fun you have winning. In reality, your mythic rare is probably Heroic Reinforcements rather than an Eldrazi. Keep your curve at four or less and reap the rewards.
What We’re Doing: Supporting other colors
Dimir, on face, is not great at much other than helping you fill your graveyard. That’s fine! We can’t all be John Legend, pulling off an EGOT with a supermodel wife. Dimir is doing its best Steve Buscemi, making sure that your Grixis or Sultai decks can function by giving you card advantage in the form of Deep Analysis or Forbidden Alchemy.
Top Common: Eyeblight’s Ending
There’s nothing cool about rooting for removal that kills all but 13 of the 186 creatures in the set. That’s just where we’re at. There are potentially better blowouts to be had with an Agony Warp or the backbreaking nature of a Mana Leak when your opponent has two lands untapped, but honestly, you can’t go wrong with any of these instants.
Biggest Trap: Blue cards
As I mentioned in my First Impressions article, blue isn’t cutting it at common and nothing has swayed my opinion ten drafts later.
What We’re Doing: Filling our graveyard for value
Unearth things, flash them back, or find other ways to eke advantage out of devastating your own library with Golgari: the midrangiest deck ever. I’m actually kidding about the midrange part, as Dreg Mangler and Glowspore Shaman give the combo an unexpected punch early in the game that is a welcome change of pace.
Top Common: Webweaver Changeling
If you’re not all-in on aggro Golgari, Webweaver Changeling has saved my butt more times than any card in the set so far. I’ve always gained five, which is a quarter of your starting life total and not insignificant by any stretch of the imagination. It comes with a legitimate booty on it and takes on all but the best of flyers. If you are playing fast, go with as many Dreg Manglers as you can slap in there.
Biggest Trap: Worrying about milling
We’re instinctually taught to care about our resources and library size is one. If you can’t draw, you lose, and we hate to lose. Here, I don’t think you need to worry about playing more than 40 cards, as I haven’t seen anyone fully deplete their library yet. Instead, they cast great things that cared about their graveyard or got extra cards out of it. Free things are good, so just think about your graveyard as an extra hand.
What We’re Doing: Searching for an identity
I’ve found Gruul to be nothing but a trap thus far, as it seems like all of the cards are truly in service of supporting other archetypes rather than having its own gameplan. Sure, beating down is always an option when you have cheap, large creatures and efficiently costed interaction, but this set demands more from folks.
Top Common: Lava Coil
There isn’t anything archetypically unique enough to warrant a spot over red removal if that tells you anything about the colors.
Biggest Trap: Not being Jund
With Naya feeling like the worst permutation of a base Boros deck and not having seen a single Temur deck out there, I encourage you to steer your ship towards a Jundian future. When the official archetype breakdown was simply “Jund,” I laughed, but they’re right. It’s the Shattergang Brothers’ world and the rest of us are just sacrificing in it.
What We’re Doing: Triggering prowess for massive damage
I love when our spell-slinging is rewarded with sweet combat and not some big, clunky turd of a creature that cares about how many spells we have previously slung. Boring. Give me unpredictable attacks that keep my opponent guessing and an aggressive lean everytime, thank you.
Top Common: Izzet Charm
Here, I’m prioritizing the flexibility of Izzet Charm because I’ve honestly found the creatures to be a little interchangeable. Basically, I ask, “Does this creature have ‘prowess’ in the text box?” If it does, I slam it in there. Charm picks off cheap blockers and deals with a number of annoying instants that gunk up the works for you during combat.
Biggest Trap: Playing control
Okay, so maybe there isn’t a lot of control out there, but Izzet wants your foot so far down on that gas pedal that you’re Flintstoning the ground. Bloodwater Entity is a card I’ve been mixed about, despite my love of prowess, because there’s the temptation to save it for a rainy day when you’ll want something better than a Thought Scour back. Play smarter than I have!
What We’re Doing: Aristocratsy things with death and dying
It truly feels like this is mostly Mardu-leaning when looking at the collection of commons that struggle to have a home, trying to pay you off for sacrificing creatures. The only drawback is that these effects feel very underpowered for a Masters set, and 2X2 can make it hard to keep up with tokens gaining incremental advantages.
Top Common: Eyeblight’s Ending
Whee, another common removal spell. Let us all dance in the streets. Call to the Feast is your runner-up, as this is a lot of bodies for good value. Just make sure you have something to do with them.
Biggest Trap: Going too wide
Going wide is great as long as you have the payoffs. Unfortunately, I find them lacking here and you hate getting blanked by one giant Spider. How excited can you be for Yahenni, Undying Partisan or Greater Gargadon?
What We’re Doing: Making the ultimate sacrifice
Despite a lack of creature-stealing effects, I’m having a lot of fun with Rakdos in 2X2. Here, you have a very straightforward archetype that doesn’t need a ton of explanation if you’ve drafted it in the last decade. You will cast creatures, often getting bonus tokens, and then sacrifice them to gain advantages. Rinse. Repeat.
Top Common: Fireblade Artist
We’re playing fast over here in Rakdos, so we love a hasty Fireblade Artist to help us get the job done. The job? Getting our opponent to six or so life before we can ping them out. I’m a big fan of two-mana value creatures that can give you reach at the end of the game, forcing opponents to use removal before gargling lava.
Biggest Trap: Not finding enough enablers
I really don’t care about amassing Bloodflow Connoisseurs as much as I need the Carrier Thralls and Seekers’ Squires that will fuel my better payoffs. In Jund, I’m not sure there are many three-drops I like more than Sprouting Thrinax because the payoffs are so good in this set, you run out of fuel fairly quickly. Don’t find yourself upside-down if you can avoid it.
What We’re Doing: Getting +1/+1 counters
We’re playing solitaire, adding creatures to the battlefield, until we cast a Bionic Upgrade or Scale Blessing to make our army too large to block efficiently. If our opponent is keeping up, we have a nice assortment of creatures with outlast to make our side fly, strike first, or trample over chump blockers.
Top Common: Qasali Pridemage
I continue to find new ways to be impressed by the Cube all-star Qasali Pridemage. In a format with almost no enchantment or artifact removal below rare, having a Disenchant on a stick makes you feel like Teddy Roosevelt. Exalted matters, too, when removal tends to be efficient and plentiful. When it doesn’t? You’re happier than a Russian circus to have a flexible bear. I’m sure there’s a valid argument for Chronicler of Heroes here, but I’ve found it quite clunky if you didn’t land an early Experiment One and are trying to curve out like the deck absolutely demands.
Biggest Trap: Auras
Every time I think I’m going to make Naya work, it winds up clunky. In this deck, you’re already dedicating resources to giving counters, so cards like Hyena Umbra and Knightly Valor are excess you can’t afford. This means heroic creatures are fine, if a bit underwhelming, as you are getting a couple of triggers a game if you’re lucky.
What We’re Doing: Ramping to a better future
Simic is another archetype that seems to exist in support rather than as a primal force of its own. I love the cards, hate the mission. Between our top common and Rampant Growth, I find this as a solid base for four- to five-color decks that want to go for it all. As such, you don’t need to do a lot outside of securing your fixers and partying on.
Top Common: Coiling Oracle
Ramp or draw a card is an awfully good deal at common, and Coiling Oracle is one of the best downshifts in the set. There isn’t a number of Coracles I wouldn’t run, as it works with most archetypes, too. Sacrifice it, blink it, make it do the worm: there’s nothing this card can’t do. Well, attack. It’s not great at attacking.
Biggest Trap: Annoyed Altisaur
You always need something to ramp to. Just ask Alaska. Fortunately, 2X2 gives us a litany of expensive haymakers to cast, but Annoyed Altisaur has felt particularly bad. Cascade is a fickle mechanic, and perhaps it’s just my own bad hits talking, but it takes strong deck construction to get the most out of the displeased Dino. Otherwise, you’re casting too many counterspells to nowhere.
While I’ve yet to stick to two colors in a 2X2 draft, I’m also a greedy monster who would play five colors without a lick of fixing. Then again, you are widely encouraged to go outside of the color pairs I laid out, so I hope these help you on your path to figuring out where you want to be. I’ll see you in the queues!