Master 25, while having plenty of synergies, avoids pinning any color combination into true roles. Every color combination comes equipped with 2-power 1-drop commons, a common that gets better in multiples, and an efficient, on-color removal spell (with the exception of blue, which gets bounce spells and counterspells). This means that every color can be drafted heavily, and every color can be drafted as a support color (with the exception of blue, because cards like Counterspell, Fathom Seer, and various Horseshoe Crab combos all want you to have lots of Islands).
Every color can fit into any strategy. You can waffle between aggro, midrange, or control strategy until you’re pushed in a specific direction. Every color has a land cycler to find that color of mana, which makes it easy to splash cards in a slower deck because you can play a land cycler of your splash color with a Prophetic Prism and a single basic land, and that gets you to three sources of a color. If you draw your basic, then your land cycler just becomes a 6-drop for later.
Generally, the way I’ve been drafting the format is to take powerful cards early, and draft around them. If a bomb or powerful uncommon isn’t available, I take the best removal spell in the pack. I like midrange and control more than aggro, because I feel that aggressive decks are easily stifled by cheap removal unless your curve is particularly low. Decks with five or more of the same color 1-drops that can consistently get far ahead on board are solid against the control decks, as they won’t be able to keep up. But there are plenty of 1- and 2-mana plays that can trade off with the aggressive decks’ 1-drops, making it more difficult for aggressive decks to keep the pressure on.
Since I like slower decks, I like to prioritize cheap removal, and like to find cheap spells that can interact with the 1-drop creatures out of my sideboard. Ruthless Ripper and Loyal Sentry are two examples of creatures that you can play and trade off with the aggressive creatures, and you can pick up Loyal Sentry on the wheel and even much later. The plan against the aggressive decks is simply to thwart off their early efforts, and as the game progresses their combat tricks and creatures get worse, and all of your value cards and bigger creatures can take over the game.
Cards that generate value are at a premium in this format. The answers are almost as good as the threats, meaning you can often find yourself playing a long and grindy game while trading card for card. For this reason, card draw effects like Sift and Fathom Seer are great ways to draw extra cards, but cards like Kavu Climber and Self-Assembler can also give you enough gas in the tank to continue to cast spells while trading off cards with another slower deck. I don’t usually play Self-Assemblers myself because I have high curves, but if you’ve got a lot of removal and no other way to generate value, they can be a great way to continue to pump out threats.
I like to take Prophetic Prism early to enable splashes for cards I may get later in the Draft. For example, if I’m drafting a W/B deck, I would take a Prophetic Prism over a card like Path of Peace if I already have a removal spell or two, because Path of Peace is a lower tier removal spell and having Prophetic Prism early can open up my options.
As far as trying to draft around the cards that get better in multiples, it’s best to avoid them early, and if you happen to see a Squadron Hawk, Timberpack Wolf, or Accumulated Knowledge wheel then you can start speculating on them. Relentless Rats is a trap, as even in multiples they’re generally too slow. Kindle is a solid, cheap removal spell, so taking those early is acceptable.
I tend to avoid trying to move into the Horseshoe Crab combo decks as well, because while the payoff is high, it can be very easily disrupted, while Heavy Arbalest, Presence of Gond, and Retraction Helix are quite weak on their own. Quicksilver Dagger is still a good card outside of on Horseshoe Crab, so I’m perfectly happy taking that and then a Crab later to go with it. Outside of that, I don’t ever set out to exploit Horseshoe Crab.
Black is the best color, as it can support both aggressive Drafts with Vampire Lacerators, Erg Raiders, and Nezumi Cutthroat, while other decks are mostly interested in removal and Twisted Abominations. Murder is the best common in the set, and Twisted Abomination is the best land cycler. Disfigure is also one of the best commons in the set since it’s able to interact with even the morph creatures at 1 mana. I like Murder the most, because I find myself often facing down creatures like Fencing Ace with a Lunarch Mantle on it, or a Phyrexian Ghoul with an Act of Treason on the stack. Murder is the cleanest way out of these situations.
I think the weakest color might be blue. I don’t think blue is bad, but I don’t find myself in it very often. When my plan is to take removal early and blue is the only color without a true removal spell, I find it hard to get into the color unless there’s a strong rare pulling me in that direction.
Let me show you some examples of the kinds of decks I like to draft.
Deck 1: B/R/g
As you can see, this is a B/R Control deck, but B/R can be drafted in a few different ways. You can draft a low-curve aggro deck leaning on Vampire Lacerator, Jackal Pup, Mogg Flunkies, and Erg Raiders as your common 1- and 2-drops, and back those up with removal.
You can also draft a Phyrexian Ghoul/Act of Treason sacrifice deck. This package can really go into any B/R deck, but gets much better in aggressive shells.
I got into this deck by opening Prossh, and basically feeling out which two of the three colors were most open early, and finding some fixing along the way. This deck has a powerful late game with the splash, and it’s able to disrupt early with three Mesmeric Fiends, Disfigure, and a pair of Ruthless Rippers. These cards were key in stifling aggressive starts and bridged me into my late game where I could generate a ton of value with my splash cards, and by making regenerating Skeletons off of Skeletonize to eventually close with Fallen Angel or Prossh. Imperial Recruiter would usually find Ravenous Chupacabra or Izzet Chemister, the ladder of which was an absurd combo with Unearth, allowing me to Unearth it over and over if necessary as the cards cast from the Chemister’s ability don’t go into exile.
This was an excellent deck for my first Masters 25 Draft as it had all the tools necessary to combat aggressive decks and and slower decks. I went 3-0, 6-0 with this deck.
Deck 2: B/G/w
This is how a typical B/G deck should look. B/G midrange has access to land cyclers and various ways to get those cyclers back from the graveyard. After drafting this deck, I couldn’t help but wish I had a Zombify to take advantage of all of these land cyclers and Krosan Tuskers. I immediately moved Zombify up in my pick order. It plays especially well with Elvish Aberration, which can give you a huge mana advantage early in the game.
Baloth Null pairs perfectly with the land cyclers. You can find lands, make your and drops, then bring them back with Baloth Null, which should be enough to close out the game if you can stabilize.
This was my second deck with Undead Gladiator and the card was fantastic. This deck was prone to flooding with all the land cyclers, and Undead Gladiator gave me a way to cycle those lands into more action to find my power closers like Master of the Wild Hunt and Laquatus’s Champion. You need bombs in a deck like this as it can be too difficult to turn the corner.
Deck 3: G/R/b
I began this Draft by opening Akroma, Angel of Fury and decided to take it over a common removal spell. Akroma has a huge impact on the game and can be cheated into play with Zombify and Living Death, or even Cloudshift can flip it way ahead of schedule. Zombify and Living Death work incredibly well with both the big morphs and land cyclers so this is what I’d be looking to draft if I open a pick 1 pack 1 Living Death.
I realized about half way through my games with this deck that I likely should have just played the Nihil Spellbomb main deck as a way to make the Living Death one-sided, but thought I could set up favorable positions without it. I have a fair amount of removal, which I needed to use early to stabilize. When I’d eventually draw Living Death, I’d have larger creatures, but it wouldn’t quite be the big swing in the game it could have been if I had access to Nihil Spellbomb. I ended up playing Simian Spirit Guide over it as a way to flip my morphs early or play a spell a turn ahead of schedule.
This deck’s weakness was its mana base, but it drew smoothly enough, and I was able to implement my game plan often. Living Death did a lot of heavy lifting against aggro decks, while I was able to unload big threat after big threat against slower ones. While this deck could certainly be better, it was good enough to earn a trophy.
Deck 4: B/W/u
This is a beautiful example of a B/W Control deck. I began this Draft with a Ravenous Chupacabra and was moving toward B/U when I started seeing some late white cards, such as a pick 7 Pacifism. I took the Chupacabra over a Cloudblazer and then wheeled the Cloudblazer. This told me that people were avoiding white for whatever reason, and I was likely the only white drafter at the table when all was said and done. I even ended up getting a last pick Pacifism in pack 2.
This deck had bombs to go over the top of other control decks, tons of early interaction to deal with other bombs and stifle opposing aggressive decks, but I went 2-1 because of a hole in the deck I didn’t see. I lost an entire match to the card Caustic Tar. I had no way to remove it, and almost no way to race it as well because my deck was so threat light. This was a Draft where I was the only white drafter, which means that at some point I likely should have sacrificed some card quality for a valuable sideboard option of Disenchant, or even a card like Auriok Survivors, which I could morph with the Prophetic Prisms.
Lesson here: If you’re going to play a control deck, make sure you do what you can to pick up answers to any threat that can be thrown at you.
Deck 5: W/G/r
The last deck I’ll show you was this W/G midrange deck splashing for Gisela, Blade of Goldnight.
I got a third-pick Gisela for this deck, and planned on going into specifically this archetype because R/W isn’t an archetype that wants to support a 7-drop. What was most interesting to me about this Draft was that the first three Squadron Hawks kind of landed in my lap—I got them at the tail end of the first two packs. I wasn’t looking to play that package, but when I had four it was too good not to. My games always played out almost exactly the same where I’d spend my early turns casting all of my Squadron Hawks and then I’d close out by playing a Decree of Justice or a Gisela when I got to 7 or more mana.
Armageddon was an odd card in this deck because I was both incentivized to play out all of my lands because of the Decrees, and holding onto them for after an Armageddon was also a possibility.
This deck performed admirably, but I finished with a 2-1 record, losing to a very good aggressive B/R Sacrifice deck.
I’ve been relatively successful, getting a trophy in almost half of my Drafts. Masters 25 is an excellent format, and with the phantom option on Magic Online it costs the same as Cube. So if you haven’t gotten around to it, I highly recommend it. Whether you like aggressive decks, control decks, or even combo decks, Masters 25 supports them all. Happy drafting!