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Double Masters Format Overview

Drafting Masters sets has always been one of my favorite ways to play limited. Not only  are they filled with a bunch of sweet, high-powered cards, but they offer a level of complexity and challenge not often found in standard legal draft sets.

I’ve been drafting Double Masters non-stop during the week it’s been out and while I’m hesitant to make a bold claim seeing as we’re still in the honeymoon stage of the format, I think Double Masters might be the best Masters format we’ve ever had. So far I’ve managed to get 30 drafts under my belt and I’m excited to share with you all the goodies this set has to offer!

Wait, It’s Just Artifact Masters? Always Has Been

For those who have already drafted the format or even those who have just read the full card list, it’ll come as no surprise to you that Double Masters was originally concepted as Artifact Masters.  Somewhere along its path to release, it underwent a name change, and a few “doubling gimmicks” were added, but its core identity as a set with a heavy artifact theme remained the same. This of course has some pretty substantial implications on the way you should approach Double Masters limited and where your incentives in the draft lie.

There are a ton of cards in Double Masters that reward you for putting artifacts in your deck. As a baseline, this means every card with artifact in its type line should be bumped up in your pick orders and are worth more than just the words in their text box. I think a great card to illustrate this is Executioner’s Capsule. I believe you should be taking Executioner’s Capsule over Cast Down, and arguably “better” card, because Capsule interacts favorably with so many cards in the set. Cast Down is a tad more efficient, but rebuying Executioner’s Capsule with Sanctum Gargoyle or pumping up your Cranial Plating is big game.

Executioner's CapsuleCast Down

Even cards like Ichor Wellspring and Chromatic Star which look unimpressive on their surface, act as the glue that holds many of the archetypes together and end up being pretty high picks.

Ichor WellspringChromatic Star

The payoffs for putting artifacts in your deck come in all shapes in sizes but one piece of advice I’d give for building any flavor of deck is dream big. You aren’t putting Glaze Fiend in your deck to make it a 2/3 flier every turn, you’re putting 14 one to two mana artifacts in your deck to consistently attack for 6 with it.

Similarly, the goal of drafting Auriok Salvagers shouldn’t  be to sometimes buy back the one Executioners Capsule in your deck, it should be to gain an absurd amount of value with the handful of one mana artifacts you took aggressively in the draft.

(deck credit @jrpinato on Twitter)

Now, I’ve been going on about the importance of drafting artifacts but I don’t want to give the impression that’s all this format has to offer. This may come as a surprise after the emphasis I placed on picking up artifacts early and often, but Green-White Go Wide, Green-Black Sacrifice, and Green-Red Beatdown are my picks for some of the better decks in the format, and none of them explicitly care about artifacts.  While white, blue, black, and red all have a bunch of cards that play nicely with artifacts, green is kind of doing its own thing and often doesn’t care about how many artifacts it picks up. This creates a clear dichotomy between the archetypes and means that during the draft, your goal is often to figure out whether you’re supposed to be some flavor of artifact deck, or one of the green decks.

Perhaps obvious at this point, but still worth a mention, artifact removal is eminently main-deckable In Double Masters.  I often find myself wanting to play two or three artifact removal spells, especially the premium ones like Topple the Statue and Reclamation Sage and will bring in more post-board in the right matchups.

Double the Rares and Double the Picks

Each pack of Double Masters contains two rares and two foil cards. As wild as that sounds, the real wild part about the format is that you’re allowed to take two cards out of each pack you open (pick one pack one, pick one pack two, and pick one pack three.)

Two foils in each pack means that pack collation is inconsistent. In most sets, each pack is guaranteed to contain a common of each color meaning that if you get passed a pack with one card missing and there’s no white common, you know the person next to you took a white common. This is not the case for Double Masters and no such information can be gleaned from the packs passed to you.

Taking two cards out of your first pack leads to some fascinating pick one pack one (and two) discussions. In a normal draft set, your pick one pack one is just going to be the best card in the pack, but the ability to take two cards from a pack introduces a whole new dimension to the decision. Taking two cards from the pack has us asking questions we’ve never really had to ask and thus, have no solid heuristics for.

Do you just take the best two cards out of each pack even if they aren’t the same color?

Do you take the best card plus a card that plays well with it, even if that second card is worse than the objective second best card in the pack?

Do you take two cards that play well together in a given archetype even if neither is the best card in the pack?

I’ve found in general my answer has been take the best card in the pack as your first card, and take the card that plays best with that card as your second pick. This includes the times that the card that goes best with your first pick isn’t the objective second best card in the pack. Since this format encourages you to build a streamlined linear deck, taking two strong cards in a single color or archetype gives you a great jump-start towards a synergistic deck. In the pack where I took Thragtusk and Selesnya Guildmage, I believe that Thopter Foundry is the second best card, but Selesnya Guildmage is close enough in power that I like taking the card that goes well with Thragtusk.

Being able to take multiple cards also means signals are often quite clear in this format, as you’re able to cut more cards of your archetype from the people you’re passing to and the people passing to you will be able to do the same. This isn’t to say I’m not looking to stay open in the draft, in-fact, quite the opposite. I’d love to be able to play my first two picks if I can, but since this set is chalk full of playables, and the aforementioned “artifacts vs green” dichotomy exists, I’m much more willing to jump ship if I get passed powerful cards that don’t belong to the lane I’m currently drafting than I would be in a set with fewer playables like M21.

Playables, Playables Everywhere!

Much like drafting cube, the card quality in Double Masters is so high that you’ll almost never be short on playables. I often end pack two with a deck I’d be happy to sleeve up right then and there. This means that pack 3 is often the “fine tuning pack”, and in this format making appropriate cuts and fine tuning is key. While you can get away with playing a pile of powerful cards, the best decks in the format are linear, well-oiled machines that do a thing, and do it very well. It almost doesn’t matter what your “thing” is as long as all of your cards are in your deck for a reason (although as a general tip, I would suggest leaning towards either hyper aggression or going way over the top.)

Take advantage of the fact that you’ll never be short on playables by making speculative picks more often than you might normally, even if they don’t quite line up with the cards currently in your pile. I’m often drafting multiple decks at the same time and wont fully decide if I’m Green-White or Red-Black until pack three.

The Removal

The removal in Double Masters is superb and plentiful.

OubliettePath to ExileCast DownExecutioner's CapsuleAbradeClear Shot

There’s so much removal running around, that I’ve started to de-prioritize it in favor of taking archetype payoffs an engine cards. Don’t get me wrong, the first three or four removal spells you pick up are great, but since there’s so much interaction in this set, I know I’ll be able to pick some up eventually and don’t need to spend a first pick on anything but the best of the best removal spells like Path to Exile and Abrade

I’ve also bumped the removal down in my pick orders a slight bit because there is certainly a such thing as having too much removal in this format. So many of the creatures are either recursive or generate value when they enter the battlefield. A deck full of Cast Downs is just going to lose to a deck full of Sanctum Gargoyles and Conclave naturalists.

Archetypes

One of the great things about Double Masters is how much freedom you have when it comes to building each archetype. Sure, you can build your deck how each sign-post gold uncommon for each color pair is telling you to, but it’s by no means a requirement. Sort of the antithesis to the way we’ve been drafting M21, there are so many cool and interesting interactions in this format that it would be disingenuous to tell you for example “Blue-Black wants to be an artifact control deck.” Sure, you can draft a Blue-Black deck that way, but by no means is it the only way. All that being said, there are certainly patterns that emerge within each color pair, and I want to walk you through a few decks that I’ve been having success with.

Green-White Go Wide

Glint-Sleeve ArtisanMaster SplicerAngel of the DawnKozilek's PredatorChatter of the SquirrelMight of the Masses

Green-White Go Wide is my pick for the best deck in the format, a great version of the deck can be build using just commons. This is exactly what you’d  expect from a go wide deck, you want to play a bunch of cheap creatures and token makers and pump them up.

One of the secret best cards in this deck is Might of the Masses. Early game it acts as a serviceable combat trick, but once you get to turn five or six, It’ll often pump for eight or nine points ending the game when cast on an unblocked creature.

Red-Black Artifact Aggro

Glaze FiendSalivating GremlinsOrcish VandalRapacious Dragon

The two key cards in this deck are Glaze Fiend and Salivating Gremlins. The idea here is to jam as many one and two mana artifacts in your deck as you can so that Fiend and Gremlin attack for massive amounts of damage each turn. 

Red-Black often has a sacrifice subtheme, so any card that creates multiple permanents, especially artifact permanents, is a huge boon.

A variant on this deck is Blue-Black aggro, which replaces the Salivating Gremlins with Parasitic Strix.

Red White Equipment

Weapons TrainerGoblin GaveleerFlayer Husk

The trick to this deck is picking up enough Living Weapons (and honorary Living Weapon Ancestral Blade) to keep a high creature count, but also play a good number of equipment. This is the most low to the ground deck in the format, I’ve had versions with 10 one drops in it that have been great.  

Goblin Gavaleer might look a little dorky, but with a couple of equipment and some removal to back it up, it can end the game all by itself in just a few turns

Blue-White often plays out similar to Red-White, but has a few grindier elements to it.

Green-Black Grind

Deathreap RitualBloodbriarDefiant SalvagerKozilek's Predator

Double Master’s Green-Black deck is everything that M21’s Green-Black deck wanted to be and more. This is my favorite grindy deck in the format. It does a pretty good job of stopping aggressive starts from the opponent while having some explosive aggressive draws itself.

The deck often has Morbid and sacrifice subthemes so similar to Red-Black, anything that creates two permanents pulls its weight in this deck. Bloodbriar and Defiant Salvager are houses in this deck, especially in tandem.

The Best Commons and Uncommons

With so many cards in the set excelling in some archetypes and floundering in others, it’s hard to give a definitive ranking to the commons the way I would for a set like M21. Instead, I’m going to give you a quick and dirty list of some of the powerhouse cards at the lower rarities. This is by no means a pick order list, and not every card I list here belongs in every deck, but my goal here is to give you an idea of the cards you should be looking to build around, or are generically powerful enough to take early in the draft.

Commons

Thraben InspectorGlint-Sleeve ArtisanAncestral BladeParasitic StrixFaerie MechanistRelic RunnerGlaze FiendExecutioner's CapsuleDefiant SalvagerCast DownBone PickerAbradeSalivating GremlinsOrcish VandalConclave NaturalistsKozilek's PredatorClear ShotIchor WellspringMyr RetrieverPyrite Spellbomb

Uncommons

Auriok SalvagersFlickerwispMyrsmithPath to ExileTopple the StatueEsperzoaOublietteOvalchase DaredevilGalvanic BlastKuldotha FlamefiendReclamation SageUlvenwald MysteriesWoodland ChampionTreasure KeeperCranial PlatingChief of the FoundryThopter FoundryHidden StockpileSelesnya GuildmageSphinx SummonerDeathreap RitualWeapons TrainerUnlicensed Disintegration

Over performers and Under performers

One of the things I love most about Masters sets is the way they take old cards and re-contextualize them. This often means that cards that weren’t great in their original format get their day in the sun, and cards that were great the first time we saw them are sometimes worse when surrounded by  different of cards.

Over performers

Anything with Morbid 

Skirsdag High PriestMorkrut BansheeDeathreap Ritual

The last few times we’ve seen sets with a Morbid theme in them, an issue you’d often run into wan it was too difficult to have creatures die on command. This time around there are a ton of sacrifice outlets in the set meaning your Morbid cards are going to do what you want them to do more often than not.

Oubliette

Oubliette

Black Oblivion Ring would already be a great card, but the fact that this nabs any equipment attached to the creature you target means this is a two for one a good amount of the time.

Topple the Statue

Topple the Statue

This one wins most improved student of the year award. Topple has gone from a medium playable in War of the Spark to Doom Blade draw a card in Double Masters.

Ovalchase Daredevil

Ovalchase Daredevil

Not to say this was a bad card the last time we saw it, but this thing basically never dies in this set and with a bunch of ways to sacrifice it for value, you can get some crazy engines going (no pun intended.)

Defiant Salvager

Defiant Salvager

Defiant Salvager was 23rd pick material in Aether Revolt, but in this format it’s a key role player in a lot of decks given the sacrifice themes and the fact that so many cards in the set make multiple permanents. For similar reasons, Dire Fleet Hoarder has well exceeded my expectations

Relic Runner

Relic Runner

Unlike in Dominaria, a lot of the Blue decks in this format want to beat down and Relic Runner is often their two drop of choice.

Underperformers

Cloudreader Sphinx

Cloudreader Sphinx

Med-sized flier with an okay enter the battlefield effect just doesn’t cut it in a set as high-powered as this one. This is still a fine card, but closer to 10th pick material than a card I’m excited to have in my deck.

Crib Swap

Crib Swap

Crib Swap is okay, but there’s so much good removal in this set that this one comes off as second rate. It’s not at all an embarrassing card to include, but there’s almost always a better option.

Sift

Sift

There are just better ways to gain card advantage in this format than tapping out for a four mana draw spell. Cards like Faerie Mechanist or Sanctum Gargoyle fill this role much better.

Whisperer of the Wilds

Whisperer of the Wilds

Most green decks in this format just aren’t looking for a mana dork in the two drop slot. Green-White, and Green-Red, and to some extent Green-Black all want to play a two drop that can start attacking on turn three. In addition, there just aren’t many good things to be ramping to in this set, as most of the powerhouse cards are cheap.

Some Closing Thoughts

  • There are a TON of board wipes in this format, seven if I’m counting correctly and I wouldn’t be surprised if I missed one. Be aware of this and play around them accordingly. If your opponent is acting fishy, it’s not that unlikely that they have one of the format’s many Wraths
  • Blue is the weakest color in the format by a decent margin. I still like blue, but I need good rares and uncommons to get me into a blue deck as the commons just aren’t up to snuff.
  • There are a few gimmicky decks in the format like Blue-Green Tron and the charge counter deck but I’ve largely found them to be traps. Not to say that they won’t come together if the stars align, but if you’re only going to be able to get in a few drafts of this format, I wouldn’t suggest going down these paths.
  • Aggro decks are the default in this format, but the control decks can do some over the top busted things (think reanimating an Inkwell Leviathan) given the right rares are opened. One of the cool things about this set is that with double the rares opened, you have a much better chance at seeing a niche rare that your deck really wants and no one else does.

That’s going to do it for my overview of Double Masters! We’ve really only scratched the surface here, there’s a ton to explore in this format and I’d highly recommend drafting this set if you get the chance.

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