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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Mar 15 2017 12:00pm
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My coverage of Modern Masters 2017 continues with my traditional limited review of the set. I'm going to treat this like my Innistrad review: going over the mechanics, focusing heavily on the archetypes, and then mentioning any of the cards I missed.
Bloodrush being in the set means that all red and green decks are much more likely to have pump spells, as Slaughterhorn and Rubblebelt Maaka are split cards of reasonable creatures with very good pump spells. Pyrewild Shaman also is worth mentioning, as it serves as both a recursive pump spell, as well as one of the few recursive creatures that can block.
Most of the reason for Conspire to be in the set is to enable Giantbaiting (which actually plays similarly to Vehicles, especially if you’re Conspiring it with 1/1 tokens), but don’t overlook Aethertow—it’s clearly telegraphed (four mana untapped along with two untapped creatures) but it either destroys two tokens or is a massive tempo hit.
Flashback is the Cycling of this set: a value mechanic sprinkled throughout the colors rather than a main theme. As such, I generally want to just treat the Flashback as a bonus rather than building around it (though the value from such cards as Pilfered Plans and Forbidden Alchemy is nice).
Thornscape Battlemage is a good card, and the only Kicker card in the set for some reason.
Miracle shouldn’t be a major limited mechanic, but Thunderous Wrath changes that. The important part of Miracle is that the Miracle cost is a bonus, and the spell itself is mostly costed fairly (especially since most of them are removal spells). Also, if you’re worried about the Miracle trigger giving away information in your hand (since you sometimes won’t want to cast the removal spell right away, even if it’s cheap), there’s an MTGO option to treat all of your draws like they are Miracles, but the cost of disrupting your routine might be more troublesome than the information you’re giving up.
Overload’s versatility isn’t really useful here on the non-rares, as both Dynacharge and Teleportal will almost always be Overloaded (they’re just Trumpet Blast and Overrun respectively).
While the good sources of Populate in Return to Ravnica were ones that produced a token themselves, here only Eyes in the Skies serves that role. Instead, the Populate cards here are mostly utility ones like Sundering Growth and Druid's Deliverance. Those are harder to use, since you aren’t as likely to want those effects unless you’re actively making tokens.
What is the point of this here? I get that someone likes combining it with blink here, but the only combat-relevant Soulbond cards are Wingcrafter and Hanweir Lancer.
The trap costs don’t actually mean much here, as Pitfall Trap is playable at three mana and Baloth Cage Trap will mostly be ambushing attackers (it does trigger on both Signets and Golems from the Splicers though, even if those combined have exactly one common).
This is another mechanic that’s mostly for value, but the concentration of Unearth in red and black makes it easier to build around.
White/Blue: Blink Value
The blink deck requires two pieces to form an actual archetype instead of just a bunch of good cards. The easier part is good payoffs, and MM17 clearly has that with good tempo plays (Mist Raven, Kor Hookmaster), card draw (Augur of Bolas, Sea Gate Oracle) and extra creatures (Attended Knight, the Splicers). The bigger problem is generally the enablers, as the commons are generally self-bounce cards like Deputy of Acquittals and Kor Skyfisher, and while they’re good, the tempo loss makes the deck difficult to play. Modern Masters 2017 solves that with Momentary Blink, as while the Cloudshift-type effects generally aren’t worth a card, Momentary Blink does so much (both with ETB value and/or countering removal spells) that it ties the deck together. Delving deeper into the deck, I think Mist Raven being UU helps a lot, as the five-color deck is less likely to take it. Mistmeadow Witch also is important for the great deck, as it is both a repeatable value enabler and a way to get blockers (particularly tokens) out of the way. Just be on the lookout for a finisher, which makes Urbis Protector and Wing Splicer important.
Blue/Black: Instant Control
I’m not an expert on control decks in limited, but it feels like this deck has the tools, especially with both Forbidden Alchemy and Mystical Teachings at common. Mystical Teachings in particular defines the deck, as there are so many instant tools in these colors, from the typical removal (Grisly Spectacle, Cower in Fear, Aethertow), to card draw (Opportunity, Recover, more Mystical Teachings), to counterspells (Rewind looks much better here than its core set appearances and Soul Manipulation warranted a rarity upshift), to threats (Spire Monitor). It’s not even like you can’t do anything until you start chaining Mystical Teachings, as the trio of Kraken Hatchling, Augur of Bolas, and Sea Gate Oracle all help you delay the game. I’m worried the aggressive decks either go big enough (RG’s pump spells) or wide enough (RB’s Unearth creatures or GW’s tokens) such that you need more roadblocks than just a couple of defensive creatures, but that’s healthy.
Black/Red: Unearth/Sacrifice Aggro
This deck seems decent as it combines aggressive creatures with many ways to grind out damage like Falkenrath Noble and Unearth. I’m biased since the “aggro with reach” deck is a natural favorite of mine (Blood Artist is one of my favorite cards), but I’ll try to be neutral. One important anti-synergy is that sacrificing an Unearthed creature won’t trigger Falkenrath Noble since it never dies, but it still serves as fodder for Gnawing Zombie. However, tokens will trigger it, and I think the tokens and sacrifice outlets is just as important as the Unearth creatures—don’t overlook Dragon Fodder and Kathari Bomber, and this feels like the home for Goblin Assault.
Red/Green: “Go Wide” Aggro
This is by far the easiest deck to understand: play good creatures, use some of them as pump spells, and win. There is a minor theme that requires multiple creatures, but that mostly exists with average creatures like Mogg Flunkies and reasonable pump spells like Strength in Numbers and Dynacharge (but you already have a bunch of pump spells from your Bloodrush creatures). I feel like this deck’s main strength is that it will run over any deck that’s trying to do cute things (which is most of the decks), but its ceiling feels relatively low. Even so, I think it’s the initial leader in the format, especially since the gold cards like Gruul War Chant are so dominating and just one of many ways to push damage through.
Green/White: Populate Value
Like the Blink deck, this deck needs two parts to be successful: the tokens to Populate and the Populate cards themselves. Your bread-and-butter tokens feel like they should be the 3/3’s, which mostly come from Splicers and Call of the Conclave (and the 2/4 from Penumbra Spider works similarly). However, it feels like there aren’t that many at lower rarities, and you might have to settle for 1/1 Birds or Saprolings. Slime Molding is another important card, though unlike the other token cards it requires Populate to be efficient (Hill Giant isn’t where you want to be in Masters sets). On the Populate side, I mentioned in the mechanics section that the Populate cards aren’t good on their own, and outside of Wayfaring Temple that’s mostly true. I think the two cards that need to be good for this deck to work are Sundering Growth (there don’t seem to be enough targets even with everyone playing Signets, and I think the key interaction will be using it on your own Fists of Ironwood) and Wake the Reflections (is getting a 3/3 for one mana after some setup good enough, or does it need to reliably get 4/4 Angels and 5/5 Wurms), and I’m skeptical at this point.
Bant: Splicers (Blink Tokens)
The concept of building a deck around creatures with enter the battlefield abilities makes sense, but it has some problems. The biggest problem is that there are only two commons with those abilities: Sensor Splicer (underpowered unless you’re abusing it) and Attended Knight (efficient but only makes a 1/1 to abuse). This is amplified since as a three-color deck you’ll need to spend more (early) picks on mana fixing and thus less likely to get the good single-color cards other decks want. I don’t know what else you could do though—Maul Splicer is too good to blink, but maybe Wing Splicer could have been common?
Esper: Creature Control
There aren’t many overlaps between the blink deck and the instant deck (though getting Momentary Blink with Mystical Teachings sounds as good as it was in Time Spiral), but there are a couple of important interactions. The obvious one is that this is the only deck that gets Sin Collector, which is a nice card to blink (as are Dinrova Horror and Entomber Exarch). The more interesting one is that if you blink an Unearth creature it not only comes back but comes back without the Unearth trigger hanging over it, which is a nice piece of value (especially with Grixis Slavedriver and Corpse Connoisseur).
Grixis: Graveyard (Grindy) Control
This deck is interesting as it’s the Unearth deck which actually can get Unearth creatures into the graveyard without casting them, so Forbidden Alchemy and Pilfered Plans are more important here. The problem is that all of those cards are wanted by the two color decks, and the UR cards you exclusively get don’t really fit that well—even Teleportal isn’t great when you’re supposed to be Unearthing the majority of your creatures. Getting Sedraxis Specter at uncommon is great, but even that isn’t fully Grixis like the other tri-color cards.
Jund: Sacrifice Value
Unlike most of the shard decks that just take the natural overlaps between the archetypes and puts them together, this focuses hard on one aspect, in this case the sacrifice theme. This comes down to the exclusive gold cards, as Golgari Rotwurm give you another great sacrifice outlet, Golgari Germination gives a lot of fodder, and Sprouting Thrinax gives you fodder while being efficient. In fact, I think this is one of the few decks that could work as a pure enemy pair, as red doesn’t add much beyond Scorched Rusalka, Dragon Fodder, Sprouting Thrinax and Skirsdag Cultist.
Naya: Token Aggro
What does white add to the RG aggro deck? Most of the white card are focused around getting value with the main exception being the three-drops Kor Hookmaster and Attended Knight. The RW cards are also good with the aggro plan, as both Skyknight Legionnaire and Thundersong Trumpeter are efficient. Of course, the biggest problem is that the aggro deck doesn’t want to be hindered by mana fixing, especially when your fixers are almost entirely Signets and taplands—if you’re casting Woolly Thoctar on Turn 3 you probably didn’t do anything on Turns 1 and 2.
5-Color Good Stuff:
As you might expect, whether or not the 5-Color deck works depends on how much mana-fixing you get. On average (ignoring print runs and the foil slot), each draft will have an average of 23.9 Guildgates, 1.2 Shimmering Grottos, 9 Signets, and 4.5 trilands, which means each player will get 4 to 5 pieces of fixing if it’s distributed evenly. Of course, each piece isn’t equal, as while a two-color deck is fine with Guildgates (especially the slower ones) and an on-color Signet, the greedy decks need multiple Signets and trilands, while the Guildgates might be too much (since all of their lands can’t enter tapped. However, the biggest problem is that green doesn’t provide that much mana fixing in the traditional Rampant Growth sense. Instead, it’s split up between Avacyn's Pilgrim (which only fixes one color that doesn’t have many cards you want to splash), Sylvan Ranger (which doesn’t ramp), and Explore (which doesn’t fix). The payoffs are certainly there if you want them, particularly in the enemy colors, but I’m worried that you’ll just be run over by the aggressive decks if your draws don’t involve accelerators (T1 tapland, T2 Signet, T3 four-drop seems reasonable).
Other Notable Cards:
It says something about the power level of Masters sets that something like Gideon's Lawkeeper, a nice tapper, is completely outclassed (though that’s partially because it doesn’t fit into white’s value-based archetypes). Even so, how the heck did Arachnus Spinner get downshifted to uncommon? Yes, the only other Spider is Penumbra Spider and Arachnus Web is worse in a format with lots of blink and pump spells, but even the baseline 5/7 for six that can tap (without using “T:”) to make a creature not able to attack or block this turn is nice. Another surprise downgrade is Gift of Orzhova to common, which does most of what Unflinching Courage does, but as an extra mono-color card for every deck but RG. Ogre Jailbreaker is another generically-powerful card (considering you are very likely to have a Gate), but again, a 4/4 for 4 isn’t good enough (unless you’re getting it on turn three). Finally, the removal is all very good, but the common removal either requires double-color (Grisly Spectacle, Chandra's Outrage) or is multicolor (Ground Assault, Auger Spree, Agony Warp), which pushes the mana harder overall.
Overall, Modern Masters 2017 looks like a very interesting format—the shard structure makes the format less on-rails than MM15 (both due to the amount of mana fixing and the way the decks overlap). Hopefully you’ll be able to draft the format, if not in person but online. Next time I’ll cover the changes in the Treasure Chests, and hopefully they’ll get the information out in a reasonable amount of time (ideally alongside the MM17 events announcement, as that would give me some grace time to actually write the analysis parts of the article).

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Well, the Treasure Chest by Cheater Hater at Wed, 03/15/2017 - 18:49
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Well, the Treasure Chest update is out, and there isn't much there. I can go deep into some of the math (and the MTGO economy in general), but I don't know if I'll hit my word count. Anyone else have stuff they want me to write about? If I don't have anything else, I've started that MM19 wedge-focused design I talked about in my design article, but my last two-year-ahead design article I pitched got shot down due to being too speculative.

An analysis of the monarch by AJ_Impy at Fri, 03/17/2017 - 09:44
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An analysis of the monarch mechanic and how relevant it is likely to be in various official or unofficial formats and subformats?

That sounds interesting, and by Cheater Hater at Sat, 03/18/2017 - 03:14
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That sounds interesting, and certainly something I can try (even if examining things for constructed isn't my strength).

On a semi-related note, an article I've been thinking about is taking my Treasure Chest theory and actually testing it. I'd take a lot of my MTGOTraders credit that's been collecting dust, buy a bunch of chests (I'm thinking 100) and open them in a video--that's what most streamers/video producers have done, but instead of just keeping track of ticket value, I'd drill into the math: see what each slot gives, check the probabilities, etc. I'd have to overcome some hurdles though: I'd be editing the video (unlike my experiments at the beginning of the MFS), I need to decide how much should be in the video versus the article, and for that matter, if I could get away with text or have to do voiceover. Is this something people would be interested in, and is it high-enough quality content (different enough from the typical gambling video)?

I think you could treat the by MarcosPMA at Sat, 03/18/2017 - 05:41
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I think you could treat the video as just another opening video and write out the math/results in the article. I think what you're trying to find out is unique enough to warrant writing about.

A blinked unearthed creature by Rerepete at Thu, 03/16/2017 - 13:14
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A blinked unearthed creature gets exiled. From the unearth reminder text: "...Remove it from the game at end of turn or if it would leave play."

The fun thing about this is by Paul Leicht at Thu, 03/16/2017 - 14:35
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The fun thing about this is that the clause does not care how the creature gets exiled just as long as it does, so unearth does not stop for example, momentary blink from bringing the creature back. One of my favorite weird rules interactions.