Cheater Hater's picture
By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Aug 10 2020 12:00pm

Somehow I’m even less sure what to think about Double Masters now that we have the full set list. Sure, “Artifact Masters” is a fine idea for a set (and that would have been nice to know beforehand to guide my design…), but overall there are two major problems I see with the design. At the bottom end, there are a ton of synergies, and if I hadn’t gotten an archetype list from the Mothership I would have had no clue on some of them. Furthermore, there are so many cards that work with all the archetypes that I have no clue where I would start drafting—then again, this is for experienced players, so maybe that could work.

At the top end, there are so many cards just randomly thrown in for random value purposes that it feels like there’s no unified theme, especially for something that’s getting so much focus in the marketing. That goes doubly (no pun intended) so for the mechanics. A total of 28 different non-evergreen/deciduous mechanics are used in the set, with a max of five of one mechanic (Historic, along with Morbid if you count Bone Picker), only 11 are used the former rule of thumb of three times, and 10 used just a single time. I prefer my sets to have more focus, and it would look a lot better if those singletons were thrown out, even if they were mostly for expensive reprints like Council's Judgment, Noble Hierarch and Avenger of Zendikar. However, you aren’t here for my design ramblings, you’re here to learn how to play this unique set.


Before we get into the archetypes proper, there’s an important rule that will be going for all MTGO drafts (the only drafts you should be doing in the near-future): you get two first picks. While the marketing says you’ll use this to pick both great rares in a pack, that isn’t as important on MTGO (either because you’re doing phantom drafts or because most cards are near-worthless on the platform). Instead, you should use them to lock in synergies, since this format looks to be so synergy-driven. As for the archetypes themselves, along with the ten two-color pairs, most of the three-color clusters have obvious synergies at least worth touching on. I’ll also add more rare analysis, as you’ll be seeing twice as many and they’re important to the overall design.



White/Blue: Artifact Aggro

Double Masters starts with a throwback, as Azorius Artifacts goes back to the first two Modern Masters, with hits like Sanctum Gargoyle, Esperzoa, Glassdust Hulk, and Myrsmith paired with newer cards like Relic Runner and Chief of the Foundry. It is a little slower since there aren’t good one-drops (just Thraben Inspector and Flayer Husk, which are both good but not super-aggro like Court Homunculus but it’s better at pushing through damage with cards like Sanctum Spirit. I don’t want to underestimate the deck, but it seems a little small-ball for the format, and there are better places for these cards. I’d only want to go hard on the deck if I got lots of mass-pump effects like Chief of the Foundry, Tempered Steel, and Master of Etherium.


Blue/Black: Artifact Value

This deck focuses on ETB and death effects more than actually attacking with the cards, most notably with the powerful downshift Sphinx Summoner, but also smaller effects like Parasitic Strix and the Ichor Wellspring/Metalspinner's Puzzleknot pair. While all the value from this pair is great, I’m not sure how it closes out games when some of the other decks have a bigger top-end. I still think this pair is good, but it’s worth noting that weakness.


Black/Red: Artifact Sacrifice

Yes, it’s another sacrifice deck, but sacrificing artifacts is a much different deck than general sacrifice; in exchange for not having a Threaten you get a lot more fodder (Treasure tokens, cyclers like Ichor Wellspring and Chromatic Star. The payoffs are also better, as while Kuldotha Flamefiend is still good, the downshift of Orcish Vandal seems bigger as it’s repeatable (and there isn’t much that exclusively kills small stuff). I’m worried this deck might have trouble balancing fodder and payoffs and it has almost no rare support (mostly indirect support like Tuktuk the Explorer and Disciple of Bolas), but it could do well.


Red/Green: Pump/Ramp?

It’s rare I say this, especially in a Masters set, but there is nothing here, and what is here is done almost strictly better by the Equipment deck. Bloodrush should be comparable to some of the lesser equipment, but the advantage of getting creatures is negated by all the Living Weapons and a ton of downgrades. In addition, the attacking clause on Bloodrush and Balduvian Rage means you don’t get Bloodshot Trainee, leaving you with Temur Battle Rage as the only real payoff. The ramp midrange stuff is okay, but otherwise stay far away from this archetype.


Green/White: Token Wide Aggro

This is a traditional archetype, but it’s one of the stranger builds of the deck. The token producers are good with Glint-Sleeve Artisan, Chatter of the Squirrel, and Iron League Steed, but those are the only real common enablers unless you count Kozilek's Predator, which is more situational. Fortify and Angel of the Dawn are good pump effects and Crusader of Odric is a good pay-off, but there isn’t something like Convoke that lets you a bunch of tiny creatures into something tangible in the late game. Instead, you need to go to higher rarities with Selesnya Guildmage, Ulvenwald Mysteries, Skullmulcher, Shamanic Revelation, and Champion of Lambholt among other strengths, meaning this leans more on higher rarity cards than average. It definitely can succeed, but it isn’t as mindless as the token deck generally is.


White/Black: Artifact Attrition

If the Dimir are about getting the obvious value, the Orzhov are about getting every scrap of value from its cards, as shown most blatantly from the signpost Hidden Stockpile. The recursion is a focus, with Sanctum Gargoyle, Myr Retriever, and Remember the Fallen getting tons of value, and the former two easily forming loops. This deck has so many two-for-ones it can most easily play all the good removal like Cast Down and Revoke Existence, and cards like Executioner's Capsule and Topple the Statue play into the plan directly. Like with Dimir I don’t know if this has an easy path to victory beyond value, but you should have so much removal you can just outlast your opponent, and this seems like one of the decks to beat.


Blue/Red: Artifact Tricks

This is one of the few combo decks in Limited, as your goal is to put big artifacts in cheaply. There are multiple ways to do this: the primary way is to reanimate them with Trash for Treasure or Argivian Restoration (using Lightning Axe, Sift, or Cathartic Reunion as a discard outlet), but you can also ramp with Apprentice Wizard or Basalt Monolith (and maybe getting extra mana with a Corridor Monitor, or cheat them into play directly with Master Transmuter or Braids, Conjurer Adept. We’ve just seen how well a reanimator deck can do in M21, and the enivironment seems even slower here. In addition, the bomb rares like Inkwell Leviathan, Sundering Titan, and Myr Battlesphere are much more impactful than the core set rares, and they get enough value so even the high-quality removal doesn’t hurt as much. I hope this deck isn’t as good as I think it is, but maybe being rare-dependent is enough to hold it back?


Black/Green: Morbid Midrange

If Rakdos is biased a bit towards artifacts, Golgari moves back towards creatures, but it’s focused more on death than sacrifice. You also have a ton of fodder such has Dire Fleet Hoarder, Kozilek's Predator, Chatter of the Squirrel, and more. There are also a lot of ways to enable Morbid, but there are surprisingly few pay-offs. At common you have the expensive Silumgar Scavenger and the conditional Bloodbriar, but then you have to rely on higher-rarity cards like Morkrut Banshee, Skirsdag High Priest, and Ulvenwald Mysteries. The deck seems fine, but for something that’s dependent on higher rarities I’d like a higher top-end.


Red/White: Equipment Aggro

Like Azorius’s throwback, the archetype for the Boros is very similar to the Equipment archetype in Modern Masters 2015, but there are some interesting changes. The equipment itself is a lot better, with five common Living Weapons (counting Ancestral Blade) along with three other downshifts (though Darksteel Axe was technically already downshifted). There’s also a ton of rare support, with Hammer of Nazahn, Puresteel Paladin, Stoneforge Mystic, and much more before you even touch mythic with Batterskull and five Swords (which don’t need the Equipment deck to be successful). In addition, don’t overlook Strength of Arms, which seems very powerful when you essentially always have an Equipment.


On the other hand, the creatures to put the Equipment on seem much worse. The only double-striker is Fencing Ace moved back up to uncommon after Masters 25 downshifted it, as opposed to MM15’s two commons and two uncommons. Kazuul's Toll Collector is a neat downshift with all the overpriced Equip costs on Living Weapons, but you’re replacing Sunspear Shikari with Goblin Gavelineer, which seems much more fragile and bad without tons of Equipment. I’m worried the way this deck is supposed to go is to pick up a bunch of Living Weapons so you can afford to play a bunch of Equipment then go over the top in the late game. That doesn’t seem like a winning strategy when everyone else is doing such powerful things and you’re playing 1/1’s for 1 and 2/2 fliers for 4.


Green/Blue: Big Ramp

Many formats have a ramp deck, but few have a “Yavimaya's Embrace as the signpost uncommon” ramp deck. There are lots of traditional ramp sources such as a downshifted Everflowing Chalice (with charge counter support like Coretapper and Surge Node), Whisperer of the Wilds, and Apprentice Wizard, so reaching expensive cards like Inkwell Leviathan, Liege of the Tangle, and Sundering Titan is realistic. However, the only good super-ramp payoffs below rare are Gelatinous Genesis and Yavimaya's Embrace, though powering off a good five-drop like Conclave Naturalists or Serra Sphinx seems good enough. Even as just a “traditional” ramp deck this feels good enough to be one of the top decks of the format.


However, there’s another wrinkle if you want to go even bigger: the Urzatron are at common, and you get Expedition Map and Ancient Stirrings to try and find them. However, this seems like a massive trap for multiple reasons. First you aren’t likely to get the lands: one person at most can draft them, and in paper they’re also a reasonable value pick as the only black-border new-border versions). Second you aren’t likely to get them in a quick timeframe without completely slanting your deck towards them (and don’t forget you’re still putting a bunch of colorless lands in your deck in that case). Third, even in this hyper-ramp deck you don’t really need to go past nine mana on a regular basis—Blightsteel Colossus still doesn’t seem practical in this deck, and Gelatinous Genesis for 6 (thirteeen mana) doesn’t win many more games than for 4 (nine mana). The one plus is that the double-pick rule means you probably could pick up multiple Urza-lands at once (if multiple can show up in a pack), but that doesn’t seem great. Maybe there’s room for playing one copy of each in a ramp deck with an Ancient Stirrings or two that occasionally gets lucky, or a mostly colorless deck like in Masters Edition 4 (the last time Urzatron was in Limited, though there it was in the land slot so more copies would show up), but I wouldn’t start there.


White/Blue/Black: Full Artifacts

As the original artifact shard, Esper gets a bit of special treatment with both Thopter Foundry and a downshifted Sharuum the Hegemon, both of which play best as a splash in the attrition deck, along with a possible Faerie Mechanist or two. I’m assuming if the shard got its own rare it probably isn’t awful, though you should obviously lean on the slower side with a three-color deck.


Blue/Black/Red: Artifact Reanimator

Doomed Necromancer and Beacon of Unrest don’t have that much to do with the rest of the black cards beyond generic value, but they feel great paired with the Izzet’s strategy of cheating artifacts into play. The one problem is that the Beacon is double-black, so this might be best as a RB strategy that might splash for a Master Transmuter. Kuldotha Forgemaster also is at its best here, benefiting on both axes.


Black/Red/Green: Super-Sacrifice

I mentioned Bloodbriar was in a strange place when there wasn’t much sacrifice in black, but red has more with Orcish Vandal and Ravenous Intruder. I don’t think this is a great deck since it feels like it wants to be straight three colors, but the synergies between Rakdos and Golgari might be too much to ignore.


Red/Green/White: Hyper-Pump Aggro

This should be great, since pumping with Equipment is the same as pumping with Bloodrush, right? Unfortunately, the lack of double-strikers means that isn’t the case. You do get a bunch of bodies to pump/mass-pump/equip, but that isn’t enough to make a three-color aggro deck work.


White/Green/Black: Token Value

This is another deck where all the synergies work great together: both Orzhov and Golgari like stuff dying, both Orzhov and Selesnya make lots of tokens, and Selenya provides plenty of fodder for Golgari. Again, a straight three-color deck doesn’t seem good in a format with limited fixing, but this might make enough value to work.


Green/Blue/Red: Artifact Ramp

Cheating out artifacts feels like it could be more successful if you can naturally ramp them out. Most of the ramp tools are in blue anyway, so this could just be a splash for a Yavimaya's Embrace or a Gelatinous Genesis. Theoretically you could splash any big card in the Simic ramp deck, but not only is ramping harder with the color requirements (and possible Urza-lands clogging up your draws already), there isn’t much to ramp into in the other colors.


Other Important Cards:

As I mentioned a bit above, the removal in this set is insane with Abrade, Cast Down, Crib Swap, and more all shifted to common, and it’s even cheaper at common with multiple one-mana removal spells. Artifact removal also is very maindeckable here (though obviously flexible removal like Abrade and Topple the Statue is better than Revoke Existence or Dismantle). There are also a lot of “junk” rares for Limited clogging up slots (stuff like Ravenous Trap, Exploration, Blood Moon, and the Reflection cycle), so don’t assume there will be a lot more bomb rares than normal just because a lot more appear in the set—there will be more, but not unreasonably so. Finally, don’t forget smoothing—stuff like Twisted Abomination, Ancient Stirrings, Brainstorm (just as a cantrip without focusing on shuffle effects), and Chromatic Star—becomes more important when the card quality is higher, just like in cube.



Double Masters is an interesting set, especially considering its status as the return of the Masters set on short notice. It was hard to predict (I’m not doing a full comparison to my design, but the number of cards I got correct barely hit double-digits) and I have concerns about its design in the big picture, but it should be an interesting draft environment. I’m also interested in what it means for Pioneer Masters, another Masters set done on short notice—the format itself will barely be a year old when the set releases, and it being digital-only (at least in the short term) means the turn-around could be much faster. Obviously it’ll be a lot harder for that to be inventive and it has a much clearer goal, but that set is much more interesting to design.


One other note on things I used to do: the Treasure Chests got a major overhaul with the launch of Double Masters. In addition to all the Jumpstart and Commander 2020 cards that were impossible to find moving to their own slot and appearing more often, the curated list got a huge culling (and nothing was added), so what’s there is now better. It sounds like the Double Masters box-toppers will be added soon (probably in the Zendikar Rising update), so it could get even better, which is a good thing overall, even without running the numbers.


As for me, the next thing will be a Limited Review/Reprint Set Report Card on Amonkhet Remastered, which is another interesting set as the first Arena-only set (not counting the intro set or Historic Anthologies). In addition, I am almost done with a basic design for Pioneer Masters (as I said I was a lot more interested to design that than Double Masters), but I want to wait and see how much liberty Amonkhet Remastered took as an Arena-only set before I completely lock it in. Of course, Zendikar Rising is right around the corner (and “Supreme Draft” is worth watching if nothing else), so I have plenty to cover. Until then.



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