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By: MarcosPMA, Marcos Rodriguez
Jun 02 2015 12:00pm
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Hello and welcome to another edition of Sealed Success!  This past weekend was the Modern Masters weekend and it was quite the weekend even though I wasn’t at any of the Grand Prix.  It really did feel like a weekend of Magic conventions rather than just Grand Prix, and that’s quite the feat.

First of all, I would recommend any fan of good Magic/Limited Magic to go watch the replay of Grand Prix Chiba and find Round 6: Kenji Tsumura vs. Shouta Yasooka.  That match was INSANE.  I won’t spoil the ending, just know that the match is worth the watch.  It definitely gave me new respect for Swans of Bryn Argoll.

Modern Masters 2015 Sealed

So there was a bunch of Modern Masters Sealed and Draft and with that means a lot of information to analyze/digest.  A theme I was seeing as I saw coverage of Grand Prix Chiba was that players were in either 1 of 2 camps: 2 color aggro/synergy or 3-5 color bombs.  This doesn’t surprise me since that’s how pools will generally play out due to the high density of artifacts in the format.  Modern Masters Sealed is a 6 color format: WUBRG + Artifacts.  This poses a new dimension in deckbuilding, not to mention that the addition of a colorless “color” makes it more likely that you’ll have less playables in any one color.

In normal Sealed formats you’ll open at best 2-3 colorless cards, which makes the density of your colored cards that much higher.  Modern Masters actually takes the density of playables in any one color away and makes it into a generic playable in an artifact.  Given this, it’s quite difficult in some pools to actually construct a good 2 color deck.  At this point you’re looking at 15-20 actual solid playables across 2 colors before having to add artifact cards.  Once you’re adding artifacts to your deck just to make 23, you’re not that far off from pushing the artifact theme further and supporting that with the best cards in your pool because this will give you a more powerful deck.  You’d rather play a more powerful 5 color deck than a mediocre 2 color deck, right?

In essence, card quality is high but sometimes it’s not high in quantity in each individual color.  There’s also just a lot of incentive to play more than 2 colors in the format.  Your good cards are really good and the removal and fixing is excellent enough that you don’t really need to fear opposing creatures/bombs your opponent may have.  In fact, because there are a lot of high impact “I win the game” rares in this format leading you to actively want more removal in your deck!   So the confluence of all these factors will inevitably lead someone down the path of 3-5 color bombs and after you factor that other people will come to the same conclusion you have even more reason to commit to this strategy.

Modern Masters Draft on the other hand is about synergy.  Each 2 color pair has cards that work best in their particular strategy and are powerful when you’re a linear deck.  So how does this relate to Sealed?  Well, just because you’re more likely to play more than 2 colors when you open your packs, that doesn’t mean you’re not able to assemble the linear decks you would expect in draft.  Once you account for the fact that there will be others that are playing slow grindy decks with cards like bouncelands and Sphere of the Suns, putting pressure on turn 1 and curving out seems like a great plan.  The 5 color deck spends the first few turns fixing their mana before actually playing threats, but they’re only play ONE threat per turn.  They’re unable to double spell until they reach 6+ mana most of the time, and by that point they might already be dead!  A curve of Goblin Fireslinger, Stormblood Berserker, Blood Ogre and Gorehorn Minotaurs might be too much even if they’re first meaningful play is a 4/4 Etched Oracle.  With if you’re WU Metalcraft?  Court Homunculus, Glint Hawk Idol, Sickleslicer, Frogmite, Myr Enforcer could be your board after turn 4 facing down a lowly Nest Invader or Alloy Myr.  Who do you think is winning that game?

Traditional control decks can withstand the onslaught of aggro decks because they have trumps like Supreme Verdict, Anger of the Gods, Wrath of God, Terminus, etc.  They can play 1 card that will deal with your 3-4 cards and force you to have a meaningful follow up.  If your turn is land-go after a sweeper, you’re not winning that game.  However, if their “sweeper” is a Kozilek’s Predator, that’s not going to get the job done.  0/1 Eldrazi Spawn don’t actually trade for a card, nor can they do anything other than give you more mana in a deck that is built to get a lot of mana into play.  However, if you’re able to stop the aggro onslaught from the 5 color side, your victory is pretty much assured.  The deck you crafted is full of powerful expensive cards that can dominate 2/2s and 3/3s at will.  One side of the table is trying to go under the 5 color deck and the other side is trying to go over the 2 color aggro deck.  The existence of the other informs the deck choices you make and can make for a dynamic metagame once you understand the complexities of Modern Masters.

Modern Masters 2015 Draft

So, what about draft?  Like I said earlier, Modern Masters 2015 Draft is mostly about synergy.  Your typical deck will be a 2 color deck that is linear (although not necessarily aggressive) and is going to be able to curve out most of the time.  The more I see the draft format and see others draft it, the more it feels like mini-Sealed.  There is still the subgame of 2 color/5 color, although now it’s more tilted towards the 2 color side.  If an archetype is open in draft then it’s really open and you can end up with a powerful aggressive deck, but some people prefer to take generically powerful cards/artifact cards and stay open until they decide to make a commitment.  Half the time you end up with the 2 color combination you think is open and the other half you take fixing and bombs and end up in a 3-5 color deck.  I believe a lot of games of Modern Masters 2015 will be won/lost during the actual draft portion instead of the games.

Let’s talk about floors and ceilings with regards to card evaluation.  The floor for a card is how the card functions in the worst case scenario.  The ceiling for a card is how good the card can be in the best case scenario.  A card like Grizzly Bears has a low floor and a low ceiling.  A 2/2 for 2 is at its best on turn 2, but once you get to turn 3+, it just doesn’t do anything.  A card like Wingsteed Rider has a low floor but a high ceiling.  Worst case scenario you get a Wind Drake, but the best case scenario it’s a Baneslayer Angel (in that format.)  In a regular draft environment there’s a higher proportion of unplayable cards that show up in packs with the rest of the playables having a medium floor and a low ceiling.  Here however, the floor and ceiling both waver from low to high depending on your deck relative to the cards you can pick from.  For example, Blood Ogre has a low floor and a low ceiling in RG Domain, but it has a medium floor and a high ceiling in BR/RG Bloodthirst & WR Aggro.  What this means is that even if you take a Blood Ogre and play it, it can be wrong to play it in one deck and correct in another.  If you draft the wrong cards for your deck even if they are playable, you’re going to suffer when your opponent plays cards that have a high ceiling in the right archetype.  In a regular format, playing the wrong card in a low power format isn’t a big deal, but in Modern Masters 2015 it can turn wins to losses.

With that said, let's see how the principles I talked about actually apply in Modern Masters Draft. 

Modern Masters 2015 Drafts

  • I did rare draft a bit this draft, but you kinda have to given how expensive the drafts are.  You have to make your tickets count for as much as possible when doing these type of drafts.  It also helps that there are a lot of playables in the packs so you can take a pick or 2 off and still wheel a good card.
  • I was a bit all over the place in Pack 1, but that's to be expected since I didn't make "actual" picks using my first 2 picks.
  • Trying to play Ashenmoor Gouger and Nobilis of War in the same deck is a bit ambitious on my part.  It's not a bad idea, but it's not a good idea either.  I could have been more consistent with my plays if I cut the Gouger or picked up a Rakdos Carnarium to support it.
  • Game 2 of Round 1 I nearly threw away.  Should have used my Apostle's Blessing to keep my Gorehorn Minotaurs from trading with his Lodestone Golem.
  • I should have gone down to 5 in Game 1 of Round 2.  The keep is sketchy and while I would keep a 1 land on a mull to 5, you can't keep this 6 since the Coronet needs another card to even be cast.  That said, if that was our actual 5 (minus the Coronet), then we just got unlucky.
  • Even with my slow start in Game 1 I still think I could have won that game if Karn didn't happen.  

  • I really think I could have had a really good RW deck if I had drafted white in pack 2.  That said, not taking the Archangels is still correct in my opinion.  It's hard to say no to Necroskitter since there's no way you're in black and pass it.
  • Is it just me, or was pack 3 really empty?  I keep looking at that last pack and there were cards I could have taken but they weren't better than what I had.  I was seeing a lot of 12th-15th pick cards in those packs and it wasn't worth taking them.  What do you think?
  • Game 1 of Round 2 was a bit disappointing.  I had what it took to win and my opponent applied just enough tempo that he was able to win while keeping me off balance.  I could have played it a bit better with the Death Denied but I probably still lose that game anyway.
  • Really, another Karn?  That's rude.  Just my luck, I face Karn twice in the 3rd round of my 2 drafts.  I'd keep my hand in Game 2 10/10 times and 10/10 times I'd still lose that way.

* (In case the videos don't show up you can find the first draft here and the second draft here.)

Conclusion

Modern Masters Draft seems to be faster than Sealed, but it can vary a bit.  There are decks that capitalize on early aggression and there are others that build towards powerful spells like Pelakka Wurm and Artisan of Kozilek.  The removal is good and Plagued Rusalka is a card that seems to overperform every single time when facing an aggro deck.  The aggro decks can steamroll you pretty easily if you’re not prepared to handle early 2/2s and 3/3s.  Deck construction and good drafting skills seem to be the most important skills when drafting this format. Deck construction and good drafting skills seem to be the most important skills when drafting this format.   I believe knowing how to draft your archetypes is just as important as knowing what strategies are open in a given table.

If you have any comments, questions, or concerns please leave them in the comments section below!  Next week I’ll break down the Top 8 Drafts from the Grand Prix and do some drafts of my own.

Thanks for reading/watching!