You did it! You practiced Sealed Deck, opened a good pool, and played well. At the end of Day 1, you qualified for Day 2 of Grand Prix Las Vegas (or Utrecht/Chiba) with an impressive 8-1 record. On the next, you sit down at the draft table for the first draft of the day.
Modern Masters 2015 draft will be relatively unknown territory for most players. With so many good cards in the set, the first couple of picks can be overwhelming. To help guide your decisions here, a pick order list can be useful. I’ve provided them for every set since Theros, and I won’t skip Modern Masters 2015.
Before I begin, I have to admit that I haven’t done a single Modern Masters 2015 draft yet. Many of my evaluations will be based on theory-crafting, but I’ve played with all of the cards in their original sets and I’ve done a few practice Sealeds, so at least it’s theory-crafting based on relevant experience.
Based on my initial impressions, my overarching theory for Modern Masters 2015 draft is that you should aim for a synergy-driven 2-color deck, but that you should start the draft with versatile, non-committal cards. Let me break down this statement one-by-one.
Draft is not the same as Sealed Deck. In Sealed, there will be plenty of slow 5-color good-stuff decks with cards like Sundering Vitae, Stoic Rebuttal, and 6-drop bombs. In draft, decks are generally more aggressive and focused—your deck needs to have a well-thought out plan for how you’re going to win the game, and you need to focus heavily on the synergies available. The white/black Spirits deck or the white/blue affinity deck, for example, include many cards whose power scales with how many Spirits or artifacts you drafted.
2) 2-Color Deck
There is some fixing at common, but not as much as in Khans of Tarkir or Return to Ravnica block. Maybe the Rampant Growth domain drafter or the Alloy Myr affinity drafter will splash one or two colors, but generally speaking I would expect most people to end up in a 2-color deck. Well, not just a deck—an archetype. There are so many cards that only work in a specific 2-color archetype. For example, Devouring Greed is like a white/black card and Dispatch is like a white/blue gold card, and these cards can’t even be splashed by other players. Hence, finding an open archetype will be essential.
3) Start with Versatile, Non-Committal Cards
Since we have more non-overlapping archetypes (10) than drafters at the table (8), there should always be an open archetype to move into. Accordingly, I’d like to stay open to avoid the nightmare scenario where you are in a color combination that is drafted by someone else at the table.
Suppose, for example, that you first-pick Rusted Relic. This card is great in blue/white artifacts, and it’ll help guide your draft direction. But if a drafter on the other side of the table first-picks Dispatch, then both of you will be in trouble! Even if you discover that artifacts are not open and switch colors, then you have wasted an early pick.
To avoid these situations, I prefer to start my draft with versatile, non-committal cards that can always make my deck, regardless of archetype. Colorless, hybrid, or splashable bombs or removal cards are best because it’s more likely that you can play them. Later in pack one, I’ll take note of synergy/gold cards that are being passed late, and I’ll be flexible enough to move in.
Well, that’s the theory at least. Now, on to the list! It ranks all cards in Modern Masters 2015 for the first-pick-first-pack decision without taking into account the monetary value of the cards. I added some headings for ease of overview, but you can think of it as one continuous list.
The Top Rares
I would pick all of these rares over any common and uncommon. There are several insane X-spells in this set.
The Top Uncommons and Good Rares
Mulldrifter is an incredibly strong uncommon, but Dismember and Selesnya Guildmage are higher in my list mainly because this is meant for first-pick first-pack, and I like to stay open with a hybrid or colorless card.
I would pick all of the cards in this category over any common. The gold and triple-colored cards at the bottom are perhaps a bit risky as far as their mana costs are concerned, but I think the payoff is high enough.
The Top (Non-Synergy) Commons and Good Uncommons
The highest-ranked commons in my list are all removal spells. No matter which archetype you end up in, you can always play these. I put Nameless Inversion as the best common mainly because you can soulshift it back to your hand.
The bouncelands shouldn’t be underestimated. They fix mana, but that’s only half of it. I would play a couple of them even if they are half off-color (for instance, run Golgari Rot Farm when I’m blue/black) because they provide card advantage. It’s like getting a land in your hand for free. Because of this free additional mana, you can cut a basic land for approximately every 2 bouncelands in your deck. My limit, however, would be 5 bounce-lands and 10 basic lands. More than 5 bouncelands slow you down too much, and fewer than 10 basic lands lead to too many opening hands without a basic.
There are several expensive rare cards in this category as well. You may see them decide games in Sealed Deck, but they come with a hefty mana requirement, which will be trickier for the draft environment. Hence, I have them a little bit lower than the easier-to-cast top rares.
Top Synergy/Gold Cards That Are Playable in Various Decks
If there is no top rare, uncommon, or common in my booster, then I would take my chances with a good synergy or gold card, but only if they are also reasonably playable outside of their most prominent archetype. So in this category, we have the cards that are splashable or that don’t need a lot of work to become good.
For instance, Scion of the Wild requires some support, but it combos with green in general as Kozilek’s Predator and Scatter the Seeds at common easily turn it into a 4/4 for 1GG, so I think it fits around here in the list. Likewise, Gorehorn Minotaurs excels in red/black bloodthirst, but it’s playable in various other color combinations as well.
I want to reiterate that this list is meant to indicate the order in which I would approach my first pick (and perhaps second and third as well) but beyond that, the archetype requirements of my color combination become more demanding. If I’ve settled in red/white, for example, then I’ll probably pick that Darksteel Axe over Sunlance because so many of my cards will need equipment!
Good (Mostly Non-Committal) Cards
This is the last batch of good cards that don’t require a huge commitment to a certain color combination or archetype. If you don’t mind taking a chance with a specific archetype (say, when you have to go 3-0 to win any prize at all) then you might want to take the top gold/synergy cards in the next category over some of the cards listed above.
Good Gold Cards and Synergy That Are Not Great Outside Their Archetype
There are a lot of synergy cards in this set. All ten color combinations have at least some, even if UB and UR seem to have the least. Based on that, blue might be the worst color, but I don’t feel comfortable rating all of the colors yet.
The cards in this category are cards that I would not like to take first-pick first-pack, but I would hope to receive them later if I move in their archetype.
Other and Filler Cards
If I’m drafting to win, then I would be very unhappy to first-pick any of these cards The top of this category consists of playable filler cards, and it gets progressively worse. I didn’t spend a lot of time ranking these cards because, well, by the time you get to these cards, you will know if these cards will support the game plan of your deck or fill a hole in your mana curve, so a pick order list won’t tell you all that much.
I really hope someone drafts the Eldrazi deck, but it seems so ambitious to me that I’m filing them away under “bad cards” for now. I also hope that at least one brave soul will manage to activate the ability on Viashino Slaughtermaster by turning it into an Elemental with Blades of Velis Vel to get the mana from Smokebraider, but this won’t be the most reliable strategy. Probably better to leave that Blades of Velis Vel in your sideboard.
And Finally, Some Numbers
To conclude, I have a few quick guidelines for how many cards you need to support certain effects.
Faerie Mechanist – It’s playable but mediocre with 6 other artifacts (which gives a 40% chance of hitting an artifact). It becomes good once you have at least 10 other artifacts (which gives a 60% chance of hitting an artifact).
Smokebraider – I wouldn’t play this without having at least 6 cards that turn it on. This gives you an 85% chance of having at least one of those in your top 10 cards, which is the cutoff value I’d be looking for a card with high upside and a low ceiling.
Rusted Relic – I would never play this with less than 14 artifacts, and it’s still not particularly good unless you have 17+. With 14, you have roughly an 84% probability of having drawn at least three artifacts in your top 11 cards. With 17, this number has increased to 94%, not to mention that your metalcraft can usually withstand a single removal spell.
I hope this article provided you with a good overview of my initial approach to Modern Masters 2015 draft and a solid basis for discussion. I’ll be doing video coverage in Chiba this weekend, and I’m looking forward to seeing the set in action. Due to the nature of this pick order list, it is to be expected that many of you will disagree with a bunch of my rankings. That’s excellent—sound off in the comments section below and let’s get a good discussion started!