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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Nov 06 2019 12:00pm
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Masters Edition III is where the Masters Editions sets start to get some true definition. The focus here is all the awful Legendary creatures from Legends, which combines well with Portal: Three Kingdoms. Of course, if you want to make random 5/7’s for 7 playable you need to make the environment slower than normal. Conversely, most of the P3K-flavored generic cards being shoved in here means the format feels the most “normal” of any Masters set so far. It also is bigger than normal with 70 rares, 70 uncommons, and 75 commons (not counting basic lands). It also has some interesting inversions of what you would expect, as you see from the mechanics round-up.

Mechanics:

Horsemanship/Flying:

Horsemanship is what Wizards used for Flying in an environment that doesn’t have any creatures that actually fly but instead ride horses. Mechanically it is Flying (can’t be blocked by creatures without Horsemanship, has equivalent interaction like Trip Wire and Rolling Earthquake), but there isn’t interaction between Flying and Horsemanship. This is interesting, as while Horsemanship is in all five colors, it’s focused in the traditional flying colors (white, blue, and black), while red and green get a decent number of fliers.

 

World/Rampage:

A couple of old mechanics also make cameo appearances here. World Enchantments are like legendary enchantments, but only one can be in play between both players. They only appear at rare, so that isn’t likely to come up. Rampage does appear on a couple uncommons, but it only triggers on being multi-blocked, so it functionally is a little worse than “can only be blocked by one creature.”

 

Tribal:

The major tribes in ME3 are Faeries, Kobolds, and Minotaurs. Kobolds still aren’t going to be great, as 0/1’s for 0 are going to be underwhelming even with Kobold Taskmaster at common and more lords at uncommon. Conversely, while there are only four red Minotaurs (plus Labyrinth Minotaur), all of them are common, Hurloon Minotaur and Raging Minotaur have a decent rate, and Anaba Spirit Crafter and Anaba Ancestor are decent support. Faeries are weirder, as you only get two 1/1 fliers at common but Faerie Noble is an okay lord. I’d rather focus on the bigger themes in ME3, but that’s mostly because it’s a slower format.

 

Colors:

White:

It is such a relief to see some expected cards like Shu Cavalry, Shu Elite Companions, and Eightfold Maze, even if they’re surrounded by weirder cards like Lightning Blow. You have good fliers and removal, which generally fits well, especially since Misfortune's Gain is the unconditional removal white generally doesn’t get. At uncommon you have a surprising reanimation theme with Loyal Retainers and False Defeat, which fits well with all the giant Legends, though there aren’t really any self-discard outlets. One card I’m not sure about is Call to Arms, as Crusade with downside seems bad.

 

Blue:

One of the biggest signs that ME3 is a slow format is that Brilliant Plan is one of the best commons. You also have a lot more staples of the color like Remove Soul, Forced Retreat, and Wu Elite Cavalry. Benthic Explorers is also an interesting addition, and the pinger pair of Wu Longbowman and Reveka, Wizard Savant can do a lot of work. At uncommon you have the bomb Horsemanship trio of Lu Meng, Wu General, Lu Xun, Scholar General, and Sun Ce, Young Conquerer, and Dance of Many is a cheap clone.

 

Black:

Unfortunately, while white and blue got a bunch of good creatures in the transition to Portal filler, black is still stuck in the era of Wei Infantry, Wei Strike Force, and Young Wei Recruits. Ghostly Visit is still as good as you would expect and Lesser Werewolf is a weird Wither/First Strike combination on a reasonable body, but there aren’t many other good commons. Uncommons has a lot of bombs like Wei Night Raiders, Famine, and Ashes to Ashes, but the commons are not why you’re in that color.

 

Red:

Conversely, red is in the era where you get Chain Lightning, Fire Ambush, and Immolation at common while multiple common slots are taken up by Kobolds. As I said above, the Minotaurs are fine, Fire Drake is also good in a format without many fliers, and Blood Lust is an interesting trick/removal spell. However, things get even more dumb at uncommon where good cards like Corrupt Eunuchs, Crimson Manticore, and Forked Lightning pale in comparison to Disharmony. The one downside is that there isn’t much of a top end other than Cinder Storm and the underwhelming Frost Giant, but that’s what the gold legends are for.

 

Green:

Green is divided into two distinct halves. On one hand you have an aggro deck with the Faeries, Jungle Lion, Giant Growth, and Riding the Dilu Horse (which is essentially an Aura that can’t be removed). On the other, there is a ton of ramp with Elves of Deep Shadow, Three Visits, and Spoils of Victory. Green itself doesn’t have many payoffs other than Meng Huo's Horde and Desert Twister, but the Legends work well in that role.

 

Gold/Colorless:

Almost all of the gold cards in ME3 are legendary creatures, and they’re mostly big dumb creatures focused in allied color combinations. ME3 is paired with Homelands as the only set with common legendary creatures: two in each allied color pair (though they’re each individually half as common as other commons) and nine of the ten are vanilla creatures. At uncommon the cards are slightly more interesting, though complex cards like Nebuchadnezzar share the stage with simpler cards like Princess Lucrezia. However, the key is that a lot of them have the keyword “big,” and there isn’t much that can kill Riven Turnbull or other big creatures (especially the black ones that dodge Ghostly Visit), so if you can cast them you’ll likely win. The biggest lesson here is that as bad as gold vanilla overcosted creatures look, they’re good (or at least not awful) in this format.

 

The colorless cards aren’t nearly as exciting, as there are only nine (not counting basic lands). Common’s main purpose is the trio of ramp cards Astrolabe (note it gets you two mana unlike most Chromatic Sphere analogs), Fellwar Stone, and Sol Grail, and Bone Flute doesn’t seem awful in a defensive deck. As for uncommons, Hammerheim and Urborg are surprisingly impactful for cards that don’t cost anything, Knowledge Vault seems good in this slow format, and don’t play Didgeridoo.

 

Conclusion:

Masters Edition III is one of the slower sets around, and the pure aggro themes like Faeries and Kobolds are mostly traps. You either want to focus on the evasive white and red midrange creatures or go big, either with a UB Control deck or by utilizing all of green’s ramp. It’s easily the best Masters Edition so far (if only because it actually has themes), and unlike the previous formats this is well-worth drafting for the gameplay—that’s good as the financially-relevant cards dry up quickly past the dual lands and a couple other outliers. Next time we Tron it up as we finish up this sub-series with Masters Edition IV.

 

Vincent

@VincentSIFTD on Twitter