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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Oct 22 2019 12:00pm
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The Masters Edition series of Flashback drafts continues with Masters Edition II, and with it continues my history lesson. After the good and bad of the original Masters Edition, Wizards made a plan to evenly divide the remaining themes, tribes, and good cards of the pre-Mirage sets into three sets and go through them from newest to oldest. The set also came closer to a large set, as while it’s still split evenly (80/80/80 with 5 snow-covered basic lands) it has the same number of uncommons and rares as a pre-mythic large set. It even had theme decks for some reason! However, that knowledge isn’t important for your Limited games, so let’s start on that by talking about the mechanics:


Cumulative Upkeep/Banding:

Sign #1 that ME2 had a lot more care put into it: While there are 13 cards with Cumulative Upkeep, only Soldevi Simulacrum isn’t rare and the rares are mostly conditional things you don’t play. Banding hasn’t changed as much, as it’s still at lower rarities and only in white, and it’s still really good. If you’re wondering about either of these, I covered them in my Masters Edition 1 article a couple weeks back.



If your only experience with Snow is Modern Horizons or Coldsnap you might be expecting Snow to define the format, but that isn’t the case here. “Snow” mana was only invented for Coldsnap, so the snow theme only cares about controlling and/or doing things with snow-covered lands. Furthermore, a lot of the snow themes are extremely minor on cards like Thermokarst, Storm Elemental, or Viscerid Drone. The main color that wants snow is black, as Withering Wisps and Gangrenous Zombies are good removal, while Drift of the Dead can be a big wall, though that generally wants your deck to be full of snow lands. That’s the other problem with actively trying to draft Snow: the snow lands are some of the more valuable cards in the set.



There’s a focus on Soldiers, Orcs, and Fungi in this set, but there isn’t much actual tribal. Aysen Crusader is the only hint of Soldier Tribal, while of the two Orc tribal cards Orc General is fine while Orcish Captain is much better at killing opposing Orcs than buffing your own. Fungus is also strange, as while the Thallid theme you might recognize from Time Spiral block is here, Elvish Farmer isn’t a Fungus (just like its Timeshifted counterpart Mycologist) and neither Feral Thallid nor Spore Flower make Saprolings with their spore counters. Thallid Devourer is probably good enough to build around (especially with Night Soil in the set), but overall the tribes aren’t defining here.




The immediate impression is just how much adding a couple boring creatures from Portal/Starter can help round out a color, as Armored Griffin and Angel of Light fill in holes, even if the color pair is going to be defined more by the Banding creatures just like last time. In particular, even Shield Bearer is better than it looks as it’s a place to dump damage. You also have good removal with Reprisal at common (though there aren’t many four power or greater creatures in these old sets) and Swords to Plowshares at uncommon. There are also a lot of good on-board tricks with Kjeldoran Elite Guard, Icatian Scout, and Combat Medic, just to name a few. An uncommon that’s very easy to overlook is Juniper Order Advocate, as that should standout in a set with at least a minor Saproling theme.



Wow, blue looks awful, even by the standard of these low-powered sets. You get a lot of looters (Screeching Drake, Krovikan Sorcerer) and cantrips (Brainstorm, Portent) but nothing to do with them. There are okay creatures like Storm Elemental and Wind Spirit, but they’re all uncommon—all you get at common is Screeching Drake and Shyft. The removal is also clunky, though Icy Prison is okay and Counterspell and Ray of Command are both great at uncommon. The one ray of hope is pairing it with black, as you upgrade Krovikan Sorcerer and get to use Viscerid Drone and Brine Shaman, but otherwise I’d stay far away.



Hope you like removal, because that’s all you get here. In addition to the snow synergies I mentioned earlier, you also get Dark Banishing and Necrite at common and Broken Visage at uncommon. Again, the creatures aren’t great, though admittedly Phantasmal Fiend is fine and both Knight of Stromgald and Lim-Dûl's High Guard are efficient uncommons. Then again, if you kill everything else you don’t need to have something big to finish the job.



Red seems surprisingly good after it was thoroughly mediocre last time. No Lightning Bolt of course, but you do get Incinerate and Meteor Shower at common and Lava Burst and Orcish Cannoneers at uncommon. However, the surprising part is the decent set of small creatures, as Ironclaw Orcs, Brassclaw Orcs, and Orcish Veteran are all very efficient (especially the Veteran; note it only can’t block white creatures), and Varchild's Crusader is a great curve-topper if you don’t get a Stone Spirit or Flame Spirit. The key is these are commons, so you can reliably get them, which puts it a step above blue and black.



For the color that actually got good creatures in the early days of Magic, green is surprisingly lacking here. You have the three-drop trio of Leaping Lizard, Thallid Devourer, and Woolly Mammoths, and Aurochs is okay to build around, but Feral Thallid and Folk of the Pines are not where I want to be, and Johtull Wurm and Yavimaya Ancients are uncommon. The more interesting card is Stampede as while instant Overrun effects generally don’t exist, it’s a much more minor effect. Elvish Hunter is also an okay removal spell (it’s essentially a bad combination of Royal Assassin and a tapper). The biggest problem is that all the good green cards other than Johtull Wurm require a lot of green, so it makes the mana hard. It seems fine, but I don’t think it’s the best choice in a vacuum.



Of the cycle of five allied gold uncommons, Fumarole is obviously the most impactful, but all except Wings of Aesthir are fine. As for colorless, the obvious all-star is Aeolipile, but Roterothopter is a fine cheap flier and Adarkar Sentinel is surprisingly resilient. At uncommon Clockwork Steed works as a bad 4/3 for 4 and Skull Catapult might be good, but most of the rest of the artifacts aren’t great. As for lands, while Ice Floe is a final removal spell (though don’t count it as a land), I think you’re fine playing one of the Ebon Stronghold style lands, as you aren’t going to curve out much here and the extra mana can make the difference.



Masters Edition II tries to carve its own path, but it doesn’t really do much to carve it, as all of the themes are half-baked. I want to either be UB or one of the various red decks, but the rares will probably dictate your direction as much as anything else. Next time it’s Legendary and Chinese as we dive into Masters Edition III.



@VincentSIFTD on Twitter



This was a helpful starting by CottonRhetoric at Sun, 10/27/2019 - 16:05
CottonRhetoric's picture

This was a helpful starting point. Thanks for putting it up! I'm having a surprising amount of fun with this clunky set.

No problem :) by Cheater Hater at Tue, 10/29/2019 - 14:23
Cheater Hater's picture

No problem :)