Modern Masters is an unusual set. It’s a short print run and has only one major event — many, including myself, will be attending Grand Prix Las Vegas this weekend — so a full breakdown of drafting has less value than normal. The set was created more for value and to get people into the Modern format while still producing a fun, draftable set of cards. There are still stores doing drafts, however, along with a stint on MTGO, so having ideas of what is good and bad in the format is still beneficial.
There is little reason to go over the rares and mythics. In terms of Limited playability, cards like Dark Confidant, Vendilion Clique, and Tarmogoyf aren’t as great as you may expect. They are awesome monetary-wise, but the reason they are so expensive is because their playability comes in formats where you can build around them. Keep this in mind when deciding to splash another color for a money card.
If you are drafting casually among friends or at an event you don’t particularly care about, it’s easy to snag the Tarmogoyf and call it a day. But if you are trying to win a Grand Prix, it honestly might not be the best choice. For this particular reason, you have to be careful what signals you choose to accept from your opponent and which ones to ignore.
Even if they aren’t first-pick worthy, many commons are undervalued and should be picked more highly:
- In a blue tempo deck, Aether Spellbomb gives you significant value. It sits on the table and forces your opponent to play around it, which makes them forget about the other cards in your hand. I was able to lead my opponents into some blowouts by having them play around the Spellbomb and using the cards in my hand to seal the deal. It can also just be cashed in for another card as well if you have no use for its main ability. If you pick up an Academy Ruins, it can be combined with the Spellbombs to do disgusting things to your opponent and also works incredibly well with Executioner’s Capsule. Bouncing your opponent’s creatures, drawing cards or killing non-black creatures every turn is a pretty solid interaction.
- Does your deck play creatures? Yes? Then run Bonesplitter. I can even see it being first-picked given the right circumstances. It works particularly well with flyers (especially Pestermite) and has a pretty awesome interaction with Cold-Eyed Selkie if you opponent is playing blue. Swinging for three and drawing three is pretty nuts. More commonly though, a Turn 1 creature into Turn 2 Bonesplitter and equip isn’t anything to scoff at.
- Avian Changeling is probably my favorite common in the set. As a 2/2 flyer for three mana, it’s already pretty good, but its Changeling ability helps with any tribal archetype deck (like Faeries and Giants) while putting significant pressure in the air. It’s particularly strong in the R/W Giants deck because it fits the curve nicely at the three-mana spot. Fortunately, most Changelings don’t have awful base stats either.
- Latchkey Faerie always did really well. It needs a little push because you have to deal damage with a Faerie or Rogue to get the draw benefit and reduced mana cost. If your deck can manage to do that though then it’s a particularly fine card. I wouldn’t pick this super highly but don’t expect it to table either.
- Penumbra Spider is very annoying to play against and can be a great wall against the Faerie decks. It seems to fit nicely in the green-based suspend decks as you can protect yourself from damage while you wait out the last remaining turns before your big guys come out from hiding.
- Stinkweed Imp is a heck of a card. You need to have some sort of Dredge strategy to make it incredibly valuable, but in a deck running Worm Harvest or something of the like it’s great. It also works nicely with Sword of Light and Shadow should you open one. And a “deathtouch” flyer seems to have a lot of benefit in this set because of the fact that Faeries seems to be such a strong archetype.
- Two of the most undervalued common cards in the set are Test of Faith and Blinding Beam. Coincidentally, they are both in white. I am even willing to say splashing white as a third color for access to Blinding Beam can be worth it in a more aggressive beat down deck. Four mana isn’t much to pay to be able to tap two of your opponent’s creatures when they also aren’t untapping at their next untap step. Test of Faith can be used to protect yourself against red-based decks. It works primarily well in the combat stage when your opponent aims to kill your creature because the extra +1/+1 counters can be deadly.
- Runed Stalactite has the potential to come out of the sideboard. I used it for a Faerie vs. Faerie match where a lot of the creature cards tend to be fighting with one toughness, allowing my Faeries to trade up with my opponent’s. It can also be useful in a tribal foundation to equip to your few creatures that aren’t of the same tribe.
- Like many other suspend cards, Ivory Giant is fantastic when played for its suspend cost on Turn 1 and is mediocre when cast on Turn 7 for its normal cost. The problem lies when the card is cast between Turns 4 and 6. If you suspend Ivory Giant after Turn 3, he comes down a turn later than he would if you eventually had the mana to hardcast him. Your decision to suspend or not to suspend should be based on mana efficiency and your cards available, which can actually be more difficult than you think. And remember he comes on to the battlefield with haste.
I would first- or second-pick a lot of these uncommons:
- Murderous Redcap is an amazing card, and it’s probably in the running for my favorite uncommon. You can use it to squeeze a little extra damage out of your opponent and put a decent body on the table. The persist ability makes this card that much more desirable. You can chump block really well and still either put damage to your opponent’s dome or kill off a smaller creature. This card should be highly picked in experienced draft circles.
- Manamorphose is excellent and will be sought after by those with the intention to play Arcane/Storm. It can be cast fairly easily and can assist you in fixing your mana if need be. In essence, much like Burning-Tree Shaman, it is a free spell that pays for itself and replaces itself (via drawing a card) upon resolution. It costs two mana and gives you the same amount in return, which makes it perfect when you are trying to increase your storm count.
- Kitchen Finks should be gone within the first three picks at the latest. It’s much better than some of the set’s rares and can fit nicely in either white or green because of its hybrid mana. Any card with a recurring effect is pretty decent. This card makes for a fantastic blocker and nets you four life; it has three power to begin with so trading profitably is very possible. This card nets you lots of two-for-ones.
- Marsh Flitter is undervalued. I love this card. When combined with Mothdust Changeling, you can tap a Goblin to give it flying, then use the same goblin you tapped as a sac outlet before swinging for four in the air. I also love playing it with Warren Weirding and sacrificing my goblins to make more goblins and sacrificing all those goblins to make my Marsh Flitter into a nice clock. Sam Black, eat your heart out.
- Mulldrifter is first-pick worthy, and I have no problem taking it over many rates and mythics. It works well with Otherworldly Journey, allowing you to draw four cards and get a 3/3 flyer for only 3UW. With the evoke trigger on the stack, you exile it via Otherworldly Journey and it comes back with a +1/+1 counter. It gets to stay on the field and both draw triggers happen.
- Flickerwisp is a really great tempo card. It can remove the annoying blocker off the field so you can push through for damage and still put a decent body in the air. Since it allows you to exile a permanent and not just a creature you can also take your opponent’s untapped mana to allow yourself a clear path to victory. Forcing your opponent to use cards like the Spellbombs before they desire, making them take an extra turn to replay their equipment, or forcing them to play cards prematurely can put a wrench in the gears. Avoid using this card on permanents with enter-the-battlefield abilities as they will trigger again at the next end step.
- Cloudgoat Ranger. That’s really all that needs to be said, but if you can’t see why this card is good then I’ll just say it’s a bomb. You get a significant body and two smaller bodies for five mana and the chance to make that significant body into an even bigger one!
This is a very synergistic set that has high rewards for those who follow its foundation. It’s possible to make a good stuff deck but the most consistent and successful decks will be those that play to a certain archetype. I prefer two-color decks in the format unless you are drafting a deck with a Sunburst theme, which seems to be best with red or white as the base color. Red gives you access to burn-based removal and Shrapnel Blast; white gives you access to Court Homunculus and Sanctum Gargoyle.
Don’t be afraid to hate-draft when the pack doesn’t really have anything for your deck. There lot of cards that can steal games from underneath you. If you are looking at a seventh-pick Cloudgoat Ranger and a borderline playable green card while you are playing green, I would probably hate the Ranger. Don’t short yourself playables but don’t give anyone too much edge.
As a fan of Modern, I’m very happy to see a set cater more to getting players into the format. The fact that it is perfectly draftable and also very fun is a huge bonus. I hope some of my draft experience will give you some help and insight on the format.
May all your foils be Tarmogoyfs,
— Ethan Clark
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