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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Jul 16 2020 12:00pm
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So what am I supposed to think of Double Masters? Even if you ignore Wizards increasingly catering to the whales, “we have two rares now” just isn’t that great of a theme to build a set around, especially when many uncommons were rare already in the average Masters set. Yes, the explicit doubling theme hinted at by Doubling Season and Infect fills in a bunch of rares and mythics like Doubling Cube and Furnace of Rath, but it doesn’t limit the set either in theme or range. In addition, the ballooning of the number of rares and mythics (121 rares, 40 mythics) means this is the biggest set in a while (the average pre-Shard of Alara large set was only 301 cards, and that counted basic lands), and it distracts from the part of set design I enjoy most (designing Limited environments and naturally getting important reprints from that) and instead means I’m poring over lists of rares looking for random cards that are desirable and tangently fit into the design. In addition, I’m not doing a money sanity check (both because the standards of Wizards have changed so much since the last Masters set and because I’m a lot busier now), which means I’m likely to be even farther off than normal. All of that is part of why I’m barely getting this under the preview wire. Still, a new reprint set is fun (and a change of pace from all the Pioneer Remasters I’ve been designing—but more on that in a bit), so let’s get going, starting with the archetypes.

 

Archetypes:

White/Blue: Control

Of my “regular” archetypes, Azorius Control is one that’s the least defined by explicit signposts and build-arounds, but Suspend gives it a bit more of a direction here—play threats early, and then use counterspells (or cycle cards if you don’t use them). I’m most worried about my gold cards as Render Silent feels like an aggressive downgrade, while cube all-star Fractured Identity might need to move up to mythic rare, swapping with Grand Arbiter Augustin IV. This is a difficult archetype to balance, but it could work.

 

Blue/Black: Rogues

Surprisingly I only have one explicitly tribal theme in this batch of archetypes, and Prowl means it’s not just “play a lot of Rogues” like other tribes. Instead, I’m trying to carefully manage evasion—Triton Shorestalker might be a little aggressive (and I’ve already downgraded it from Slither Blade), and I don’t know how many Rogues I can afford—six Rogue creatures seems good enough, though I wish there was any colorless Rogue to round things out. This seems like it needs a lot of massaging of numbers to work, but it seems interesting.

 

Black/Red: Sacrifice

Yes, Rakdos Sacrifice isn’t an original idea, but I’m trying some interesting ideas. The biggest twist is that I’ve added a bunch of Eldrazi Spawn producers to the pair, which gives me a ramp sub-theme (which means the pay-offs like Gavony Unhallowed, Rage Thrower, and Dark-Dweller Oracle can require a bit more mana) and differentiates it a bit from other sacrifice decks. Of course, even Wizards can’t consistently hit the right power level for a sacrifice deck—I’ve weakened some of the other parts (there’s no free sac outlet, there’s a common threaten but it’s Limits of Solidarity) so it seems fine, but the large number of payoffs might be too big.

 

Red/Green: 5-Color

It’s rare I copy a unique archetype from a Masters set wholesale, but the Gruul five-color deck from Modern Masters 2015 is an obvious template. However, while there are some ports like Dragonsoul Knight and Tribal Flames, here the archetype both gets older stuff (Invasion Domain cards, Crystal Quarry) and newer stuff (Converge). It also focuses more on explicit WUBRG stuff like Cromat and the Bringers. I’m worried the fixing is a bit too good, but the archetypes in general seem more powerful here, so the possibly clunky deck needs more to compensate.
 

Green/White: ETB

There have been a lot of archetypes based on ETB triggers, but surprisingly I don’t think it’s ever been in Selesnya. Otherwise it mostly follows the template with Whitemane Lion and Fleetfoot Panther bounce Elvish Visionary and Kor Hookmaster. I feel like it might be a little too underpowered on the payoff side, but that’s an easy thing to overpower.

 

White/Black: Lifegain

Yes, we just had a lifegain theme, but my focus here is on lots of small triggers more than bigger chunks—Orzhov Guildmage and Soul's Attendant pair up well with Cliffhaven Vampire. This one feels like it’s a little overpowered, but a lot of its good cards work in multiple archetypes, so they’re harder to get.

 

Blue/Red: Tempo

Another unconventional archetype, and I’m not sure if I beyond “efficient two-for-ones” with cards like Steamcore Weird, Jilt (which I wanted to upshift but it got pushed down since Riftwing Cloudskate was already at uncommon), and Fire Imp. I like that there’s a lot of tapping (Mind Games and Noggle Hedge-Mage are neat deep cuts), but like with the Control archetype I’m worried this is a little too pushed to make it stand out.

 

Black/Green: Infect

Yes, Blightsteel Colossus is forcing my hand and making me do what seemed extremely impractical: make Infect work as a single color pair (plus Viral Drake, which is more for Simic) without it dominating. Overall I have six Infect creatures at common, and while Scars of Mirrodin had nine, the creature quality is a lot better (Glistener Elf, downshifts of Core Prowler and Septic Rats) and the pump is more efficient (though Wax/Wane, Aggressive Urge, Clear Shot, and Supernatural Stamina aren’t Giant Growth-level). I’ve also focused on a little more resilience, as while Corpse Cur was upshifted, a dash of Scavenge on Drudge Beetle, Golgari Decoy, and a downshifted Slitherhead gives the Infect deck more of an incentive to play non-Infect creatures, which should help make it work with a lower Infect density. Meanwhile uncommon has a pair of mini-Overruns with Stampede and Dark Triumph to help break through. Assuming Infect is a theme, I’m very interested to see how Wizards does it.

 

Red/White: Swarm

Boros continues to be a difficult color pair to construct an archetype for; I usually save it for last, and it usually ends up as a generic aggro deck. Yes, I brought back Battalion to encourage more of a swarm strategy, but there are only so many ways to put together token producers and mass pump. There’s a minor Spirit token theme I pushed a bit, but I still think this is underpowered on first glance.

 

Green/Blue: +1/+1 Counters

Doubling Season and Atraxa, Praetors' Voice point towards +1/+1 counters being used in some capacity, so I brought back one of my classic archetypes: an Evolve-focused Simic strategy. There’s also a dash of +1/+1 counters matter with Modular cards and other cards like Avatar of the Resolute, but it’s pretty unspectacular otherwise. This requires more precise numbers than I’m willing to fine-tune at this point, but the traditional deck could work.

 

Rares and Mythics Overview:

First of all, there are just so many rares it’s overwhelming—I started this article when I thought I was done, only to double-check my math and find I still had 20 more slots to fill. As such, I didn’t do the math and there are a lot fewer “bulk” rares than a normal Masters set has. I did try to pick a lot of rares that are supply-constrained (and thus will drop in price more) and also upshifted more uncommons than usual, but the value is still going to skew high.

 

Otherwise I tried to tightly tie most of the high-value reprints either to the archetypes (Grave Pact, Saffi Eriksdotter, Aura Shards, Karlov of the Ghost Council), the mechanics (Reiterate, Constant Mists, Triumph of the Hordes, Orim's Chant, Brand), or both (Skithiryx, the Blight Dragon, Collective Restraint, Arcbound Ravager, Engineered Explosives). I also only put in five planeswalkers, and the Scars of Mirrodin fastlands seem like a lock (unless we’re returning to New Phyrexia in the near-future). If you want to see the full list it’s here, though it isn’t pretty.

 

Conclusion:

I’ll be honest: I’m not happy with this set design. I like some of the pieces and the way they overlap, but there was so much to cover with it and virtually no guidance, so the coherence is a mess. It isn’t too long until we know more, so I’ll be sure to put out a report card soon after the full set list drops.

 

However, on the Arena side, we have two big sets incoming, both with big details coming from the July State of the Game. Let’s start with Amonkhet Remastered. First of all we know it’s one set that’s around 340 cards—even if we ignore that a set that’s a month away shouldn’t have an approximate set size that’s an extremely large set that’s also not the entire block (the total is around 400 cards even if you cut the Invocations, Planeswalker deck cards, and everything already legal in Historic). I’m not sure why you would need so many cards; the only cards I specifically left out were the Defeats, and while the Trials, most of the Reckonings, and both versions of Samut got crunched out among others I don’t think they were that important. For that matter, most of the cuts were duplicates between Amonkhet and Hour of Devastation in terms of Limited role, and I don’t know how you get to ~100 cards with just that. I’ll be interested to see what the cuts end up being (particularly if anything I put in my normal-sized set got cut) and if there are any rarity shifts (*cough*Glorybringer to mythic*cough*).

 

Of course, the much bigger news is that Pioneer Masters has finally been confirmed to be an actual Masters set, not the remasters I assumed it would be based on the previous wording. While that means my work on the remasters didn’t end up mattering much, an actual Masters set with a very limited range—assuming it’s only Return to Ravnica-Kaladesh for the vast majority of cards, it’s roughly the same number of sets, except that they’re smaller than pre-Alara sets and that doesn’t even count that I assume few, if any cards already on Arena will make it into the set, limiting the card pool further. As such I’m very interested in designing this set (in part because I’m very likely to get stuff right), though I want to wait until Amonkhet Remastered to start in earnest.

 

As for me, my next article will probably be a Limited review of Double Masters, but I’m not sure if I’ll need to do a Limited Review for Amonkhet Remastered. That puts the Reprint Set Report Card side of my writing in limbo; if I knew I didn’t need to do a Limited Review for Amonkhet Remastered I’d do a RSPC for both sets together, but otherwise I’d put it in each individual article, which is probably the right decision. After that, depending on the timing I’ll either pivot to Zendikar Rising or work on my Pioneer Masters design—hopefully that won’t take as long as this one. Until then.

 

Vincent

@VincentSIFTD on Twitter