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By: Cheater Hater, Vincent Borchardt
Jul 13 2022 11:51am
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Double Masters 2022 is the flashiest Masters set we’ve had in a while; possibly ever. On one hand, there are a ton of crazy reprints, whether it’s from Modern Horizons, all the old Commander precons, or multiple high-profile reprints from Portal: Three Kingdoms. On the other hand, the Limited format is three-color-focused, with all ten three-color shards/wedges supported, and that’s what we’ll be focusing on here. However, I’m worried this format is both a lot more and a lot less open than that implies. On one hand, like most modern Masters Limited formats, there are a ton of interconnected synergies such that even though there are technically archetypes, the individual cards are more important overall. On the other hand, there doesn’t appear to be nearly enough fixing to support three-color decks. Yes, Cryptic Spires helps somewhat, but it’s not clear how much of an improvement this is over, say, a typical set with duals in the land slot (especially gainlands). The problem is that there isn’t much beyond that, as Traveler's Amulet is bad in a Masters context and as good as bouncelands are, they’re uncommon. Furthermore, Streets of New Capenna is a bad sign for Wizards’ prowess in this balance, and I’m seeing some possible two-color aggro decks we’ll get to in the archetype breakdown which starts… right now.

 

Archetypes:

Esper (WUB): Blink

As traditional as this archetype is for Masters sets in particular, it feels a little off here, particularly in the rarity distribution. On the enabler side, Momentary Blink has to pull a lot of weight at common, though Settle Beyond Reality might be better than it looks in a format with a lot of bombs. Meanwhile, Aethersnipe is the main payoff at common, unless Sensor Splicer is a lot better than I think. There are a ton of enablers and payoffs at uncommon, but notably I don’t think the deck has much of its power at rare, which could be a good thing.

 

I also think there’s the potential for a more aggro-focused UW Blink deck, as Lyev Skyknight is a powerful downshift, and along with Aethersnipe and Relief Captain could lead to a focused archetype overall. It needs a critical mass, and I don’t know if it can exist with another traditional Esper drafter taking your Mulldrifters and Momentary Blinks, but it seems possibly better.

 

Grixis (UBR): Graveyard Midrange

This is one of the weird in-between decks that’s trying to meld multiple themes and get value out of its graveyard while running a fundamentally midrange strategy. Honestly, I don’t like it that much, as the plan is mostly “good cards” without a way to go over-the-top. The one exception isn’t even a Grixis deck; it’s more Esper Reanimator built around Unburial Rites and Body Double, getting value from cards like Ashen Rider, Scion of Darkness, and even just Mulldrifter. That deck relies more on higher rarity cards, but it can go over-the-top of other decks.

 

Jund (BRG): Classic Midrange

As nostalgic as many players are for “efficient creatures and removal” to be good, classic Jund is one of the strategies that has done the worst since FIRE design, especially in a Limited format built around synergies. Sure, Bloodbraid Elf into Dreg Mangler will steal a bunch of games, and there’s a ton of good removal in black and/or red (though in a format where even Lava Coil is common and Go for the Throat is in the set, it’s strange that Terminate is still uncommon, and that it isn’t Dreadbore instead), but when opponents are ramping into giant rares or going even faster, I don’t think Sprouting Thrinax can keep up. Maybe there is enough efficiency that it can compete, but it feels uncommon-reliant in particular.

 

Naya (RGW): Heroic Aggro

This is such an interesting archetype, though it’s also the most likely to break the three-color focus of the set. On one hand, some of the pulls are interesting (including a great deep cut of Gnarlback Rhino, and the crazy downshifts of both that and Purphoros's Emissary to common and Labyrinth Champion and Livewire Lash to uncommon) and there aren’t nearly as many of the Favored Hoplites of the world that really make this deck go super-fast (Tenth District Legionnaire carries a lot of weight). However, there’s almost no way this can work as a three-color deck, in particular because the three-color gold cards don’t align with it at all. In addition, as much as I like the idea of the slower Heroic cards, they just don’t compete with the slower decks in general.

 

My biggest concern is that the two-color versions seem poised to go off and upset the balance of the archetypes. Red/White has both Martial Glory and Sparkmage's Gambit as cheap enablers, and the Prowess creatures like Monastery Swiftspear and Seeker of the Way can more than fill in the gaps in the curve. Green/White gets to combine the raw card strength of cards like Travel Preparations and Rancor with the +1/+1 counter synergies like Abzan Falconeer and Conclave Mentor for a more resilient package, if more uncommon-focused. This may be “unfun,” but I think this is where you want to be if you want to win at the start of the format.

 

Bant (GWU): Big Ramp

Ramp makes sense as an archetype, especially in a format with a ton of rares in it. The question is if there are enough ramp spells and enough finishers. The former is in a decent space, if you combine Rampant Growth, Deranged Assistant, Coiling Oracle, and Elvish Rejuvenator at common, though I’m worried many of them are generally good. I’m also interested in seeing how Bounty of the Luxa performs as a unique downshift, and if Dragon Arch is too slow. I am wondering what targets there are, particularly below rare. Obviously Aethersnipe is fine, but the other main common ramp payoff is Annoyed Altisaur, which doesn’t seem at its best in a deck with a bunch of ramp spells. If you pick up a Hydroid Krasis or Drogskol Reaver the deck has a lot of power, but if you need a rare the deck is less consistent, even in Double Masters land.

 

Abzan (WBG): +1/+1 Counters

Here is the other aggro deck I’m worried about taking over. Black does almost nothing for the archetype (mainly Seeker's Squire and Lotleth Troll, neither of which is great here), so you’ll want to stick to Selesnya. If you do, you get a lot of power with the Outlast creatures, Experiment One, and Relief Captain. For the latter to work you’ll need a lot of fodder—Doomed Traveler and Brindle Shoat work well in that role if you don’t have enough synergies. Again though, the real power is in the uncommons with Conclave Mentor, Abzan Falconeer, and Travel Preparations, but there are enough powerful cards that it should be more reasonable to get than some other archetypes.

 

Jeskai (URW): Spells/Prowess

This is another familiar archetype, though it feels like it’s going in two different directions. On one hand, with both Monastery Swiftspear and Seeker of the Way at common along with a lot of burn and pump spells, this can go in a hyper aggro deck (likely Boros overlapping with the corresponding Heroic archetype). On the other hand, (Living Lightning) and Bloodwater Entity focus on recursion, and when combined with Prophetic Bolt and Rebound spells point towards a slower archetype. It probably depends on the colors: RW is aggro, while UR/URW is control, and both are viable (assuming the aggro decks aren’t overtuned).

 

Sultai (BGU): Graveyard Growth

Spider Spawning is back, but while the infinite combo has been dropped, it’s brought a lot of friends, from Breakthrough to Sidisi, Blood Tyrant. Of course, the key is that you need creature density for the deck to work, and while Deranged Assistant is as good as you’d expect, Seeker's Squire, Glowspore Shaman, and Balustrade Spy are other great self-mill cards that often generate value. You also have good payoffs with Webweaver Changeling and Graveblade Marauder, so you aren’t reliant on just Spider Spawning. This is also one of the decks that really wants to be three colors, though I can imagine a pure Golgari version that is more value-focused with Lotleth Trolls and the like could work as well. As such, since you can’t afford to play Rampant Growth, this deck is one of the most reliant archetypes on the lands for fixing and gets the most value from Cryptic Spires.

 

Mardu (RWB): Sacrifice

This deck should be set up for success, but I’m not sure where it ends up in the grand scheme of the format. There’s a ton of quality fodder, whether it’s Doomed Traveler, Call to the Feast, or even Young Pyromancer. There are also a lot of good sac outlets like Cartel Aristocrat and Bloodflow Connoisseur, but your main payoffs are Blood Artist and Hissing Iguanar, which doesn’t seem quite as good for Limited. I think what the deck actually wants to be is an aggro deck with some staying power, built around losing your fodder in combat instead of sacrificing a bunch of creatures directly, and winning off a Heroic Reinforcements or a Orzhov Pontiff instead of a big Bloodflow Connoisseur.

 

Temur (GUR): Midrange Ramp

This is a fairly bland deck that doesn’t hold a candle to the big ramp deck. You still need all the Simic ramp enablers like the big ramp deck, but what are you getting instead? Bear's Companion and Storm Fleet Pyromancer, cards I’m not sure would be good enough in this format even if they cost less mana? Ruric Thar, the Unbowed and Arjun, the Shifting Flame are a little more appealing, but random rares can just as easily be splashed in a big ramp deck. I’d stay away from this as a pure three-color deck and instead just expand the big ramp deck into multiple colors.

 

Design Review:

Designing a set built around ten three-color groups is difficult—even a set with all ten two-color pairs supported with multiple gold cards per pair isn’t practical for a normal set. Given that, Double Masters 2022 appears to be doing that about as well as you can. Of course, the reprints are crazy, but that’s what you can get when it’s an expensive, limited print run set in paper. Meanwhile, it works well that MTGO is a more affordable, accessible option (and even gets its first printing of Warrior's Oath as a bonus). We’ll see what’s next for reprint sets—if I had to predict something, I’m guessing that Pioneer Masters has been upgraded to a normal set and will launch across paper, MTGO, and Arena, and that could come as soon as next year. Until then, we have to be content with multiple Anthologies on Arena and a million Secret Lairs and Commander decks in paper, while Treasure Chests continue to be an imperfect analog on MTGO.

 

Conclusion:

I’m really happy with how Double Masters 2022 ended up based on a first look—and I know this “first look” is really late since I’ve been both busy with other things and checked out somewhat on Magic in general. But still, you can never quit, and I’m hoping the return to Dominaria this Fall (likely with a Phyrexian war) is more interesting than both Commander Legends and New Capenna. Speaking of which, Alchemy Horizons is a mess with its six-sided cards and isn’t worth covering, even before you consider it’s extremely close to a mod of Adventures in the Forgotten Realms with all the reprints. As such, the next article I write will probably be for Dominaria United in a couple months. Until then.

 

Vincent

@VincentSIFTD on Twitter