Carrie On – Mastering MMA Draft

Modern Masters has finally hit the shelves. Much more product than I expected arrived, which means a whole bunch of my friends managed to acquire boxes. Not one to pass up an opportunity to draft, we now have a bunch of draft evenings scheduled, plus there is always more available on Magic Online during the downtime to get my fix.

I wasn’t sure if Modern Masters draft would be all that. Boy, I was wrong. It’s a bit like a Cube draft. Powerful, synergistic cards abound, but you can get multiple copies of them for vicious, consistent decks. So, yeah, I’m hooked.

A few articles have already surveyed the first picks in the format and general archetypes available. I want to share with you my initial thoughts on the draft format and then take a close look at how to draft two of my favorite archetypes so far: Faeries and splice.

I really have only one takeaway for you on MMA draft: if you are not drafting a synergistic deck with value, you are doing it wrong.

In Limited, it’s crucial that you generate card advantage. Because decks aren’t well tuned or consistent, if you can 2-for-1 your opponent a couple of times, then you have more cards, and more cards often equates to winning. This is what I mean by value. There are many ways of doing this. For example, (and I’ve plucked this at random from all sorts of Limited formats): [card]Skinrender[/card] gives you a 3/3 and kills one your opponents creatures. [card]Blade Splicer[/card] gives you two creatures for one card. [card]Mulldrifter[/card] gives you a 2/2 and draws you two additional cards. [card]Arc Trail[/card] kills two creatures. [card]Liliana’s Specter[/card] gives you a 2/1 and makes your opponent lose a card. The list goes on and on.

This concept is hardly new. As I said, it’s a key component to many a successful Limited deck. However, what I want to drum home is that in MMA there is a lot of value available, much more than in a more traditional draft format. If you are not making use of this value then you will lose because everyone else is.

A fair amount of this value is tied up in synergy. For example, [card]Latchkey Faerie[/card] generates value only when its prowl cost is paid and as such it needs to be in a deck with plenty of Faeries or Rogues.

When I drafted MMA for the first time with my friends, the players that did well successfully drafted an archetype and were profiting from all that beautiful card advantage. Those of us with respectable decks and only a reasonable number of value-generating cards just couldn’t touch them because they were doing it bigger and better.

Luckily, there are lots of archetypes, so there’s plenty to go around. They do share some cards, but that’s true for any draft format.


I loved the Flower Fairies when I was little. I don’t know how international they are, but they were beautiful books with poems and pictures of the appropriate fairy to accompany them. I had six of them. No wonder I was drawn to the tribe.

My first draft, however, was mono-red burn—it didn’t quite work out (see the bit above about card value). Meanwhile, one of my friends had drafted a vicious-looking Faerie deck and I wanted to emulate it. I booted up Magic Online and got into a queue.

Faeries was surprisingly open in pack one but dried up later on. Unfortunately, the “fliers” archetype is always obvious, so I guess someone else was grabbing some of my Faeries, even if they weren’t quite going for the whole tribal bit. I still made it to the finals, where I lost to a hilariously awesome-looking deck, which I’ll talk about later.

Back to Faeries. I’m going to ignore rares because you can’t guarantee getting them, and I’m sure you can appreciate that [card]Scion of Oona[/card] will work well here. Looking at commons and uncommons, there are of number key value pieces you ideally want multiple of. My top three are: [card]Latchkey Faerie[/card], [card]Dreamspoiler Witches[/card], and [card]Errant Ephemeron[/card].

[card]Latchkey Faerie[/card] has an aggressive body for a great cost, as you definitely intend to cast it for its prowl cost and, as already discussed, that will net you a card. In order to enable prowl, it’s important to pick up some cheaper Faeries even if they are less value-tastic. You want to look after your curve regardless, so this shouldn’t be a hardship.

[card]Dreamspoiler Witches[/card] is an insane card in a well-built Faerie deck. This card generates plenty of value if you have appropriate cards to cast on your opponent’s turn. Luckily, there are a couple of Faeries with flash that also contribute to your plan ([card]Spellstutter Sprite[/card] and [card]Pestermite[/card]). Spellstutter might just net you incredible value if you also have Dreamspoiler in play as you counter their spell, kill their 1-toughness guy, and have another flier to attack with next turn. Pestermite is good on its own as a surprise tempo play. In combination with Dreamspoiler, I got to use it to kill a dude, untap my land, and then have enough mana to cast a removal spell as well. I used two cards and got a 2/1 flier while they lost three creatures. It was pretty sweet.

It’s only -1/-1, how good can that be?

Of the 122 creatures in Modern Masters, 30 of them have 1 toughness. A surprisingly large number of the tokens that you can generate also have just 1 toughness (Goblins, Soldiers, Wurms, Goblin Rogues, Illusions, Saprolings). Sure the tokens are probably only half a card, but as I said, Modern Masters is all about the value, so undoing their value with your repeatable effect is good.

[card]Dreamspoiler Witches[/card] is a common, and only really wanted in the Faerie deck—a 2/2 flier for 4 isn’t really good enough—so you should be able to get multiples. If you untap with two in play, then it’s pretty much game. As long as your opponent has a 1-toughness creature, any instant-speed removal spell immediately becomes a 2-for-1. First pick this card.

[card]Errant Ephemeron[/card] isn’t a Faerie, but it fits in nicely with the strategy. It provides a superb tempo effect, since cards coming off suspend gain haste. This allows you to bounce their blocker or the card that is threatening to race your flying army, and then attack with everything including the newly arrived [card]Errant Ephemeron[/card]. That sort of play in Limited is going to win games.

Some other value cards I would look to pick highly are [card]Mulldrifter[/card] and [card]Peppersmoke[/card]. [card]Peppersmoke[/card] is a handy little removal spell that will net a card, and it combines well with [card]Dreamspoiler Witches[/card]. [card]Mulldrifter[/card] does what it says on the tin. Generally you don’t evoke it in this deck, as you should have enough other things to be doing at three mana, but the option is always there if you get mana screwed.

As with any Limited format, you want to pick up removal, particularly instant-speed effects to synergize with [card]Dreamspoiler Witches[/card]. [card]Horobi’s Whisper[/card] and [card]Death Rattle[/card] fit the bill nicely in this category, and while [card]Phthisis[/card] isn’t an instant, the added life loss works well for this deck (also your opponent may hold off too long on casting their awesome creature for fear of its impending demise while this card is suspended).

Here is the deck I drafted online and got to the finals with:

[deck]Main Deck
1 Meloku the Clouded Mirror
1 Keiga, the Tide Star
1 Mulldrifter
1 Latchkey Faerie
3 Dreamspoiler Witches
2 Spellstutter Sprite
2 Mothdust Changeling
2 Thieving Sprite
1 Pestermite
1 Peppersmoke
1 Aether Spellbomb
3 Drag Down
1 Death Rattle
1 Path to Exile
1 Faerie Macabre
1 Rathi Trapper
1 Plains
2 Terramorphic Expanse
7 Island
7 Swamp[/deck]


The deck I lost to in the finals was not one I even realized existed. People had been so busy talking about storm that I assumed any UR mostly-spells deck would be storm. I knew no one was in storm, however, because all the storm spells kept going around late. I had two [card]Grapeshot[/card]s in my board just in case someone was being very greedy. However, there is a much more fun UR deck to draft: splice.

Splice onto arcane is a mechanic from Kamigawa block. When you cast an arcane spell you can also cast spells with this ability at the same time. This combines them into one super-spell, and the kicker is that you get to keep the “spliced” spell. For example, I can cast [card]Lava Spike[/card] for red and reveal [card]Glacial Ray[/card] from my hand. I then pay 1R to splice [card]Glacial Ray[/card] onto [card]Lava Spike[/card]. I now have a spell with CMC 1 which is doing 3 damage to a player and 2 damage to a creature or player. When this resolves, [card]Lava Spike[/card] is put into the graveyard and [card]Glacial Ray[/card] remains in hand. This is a slightly weird form of card advantage, but it works, although it can be pretty expensive.

I lost to a deck that was pretty much all arcane spells. The game plan revolved around casting this card many, many times (well, about 7 times):

[draft]Dampen Thought[/draft]

In order for this deck to work, you absolutely need this card. It is quicker than trying the same strategy with [card]Glacial Ray[/card]. Luckily, no one else wants this card (unlike [card]Glacial Ray[/card]), so if the deck is open you will get these late.

Alongside [card]Dampen Thought[/card] you need cards to splice it onto. The cheaper the better really, as you can get going faster. [card]Lava Spike[/card] and [card]Reach Through Mists[/card] are the cheapest available. Reach is a better candidate, since it lets you dig for more arcane spells at the same time, and the 3 damage from [card]Lava Spike[/card] is going to be irrelevant.

In the 2-drop slot the best options are: [card]Glacial Ray[/card], which allows you to slow you opponent down; and [card]Peer Through Depths[/card], as this should hopefully net you another arcane spell. While you don’t want too many, [card]Petals of Insight[/card] is a value late-game digging tool even if you don’t have enough mana to splice onto it, and if you do then it is a constantly reusable one and you can always trade it in for a second [card]Dampen Thought[/card] if you find one in the top 3.

Other slots probably want to be filled with card-draw effects to find the all important [card]Dampen Thought[/card], so cards such as [card]Mulldrifter[/card] (intended purely to be evoked in this deck) and [card]Manamorphose[/card] are solid contenders. Also don’t forget cycling cards such as [card]Street Wraith[/card] and the Spellbombs.

This deck looked hilarious and I kind of enjoyed being beaten by it. I can’t give you the exact build, but I didn’t see any creatures game one. Thanks to [card]Glacial Ray[/card], it just about out tempo’d my flier beatdown and it clearly two other decks to get there. I certainly hope to get the chance to try this one out for myself.

I hope this has given you some guidance for any upcoming MMA drafts you are attending/organizing. Good luck, and just remember to stick to a strategy and ensure you have value whatever you do. See you next week.

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