3. GB – Elves
Sometimes the most obvious deck is also one of the best. You’ll notice that the key cards contain exclusively Elf creature payoff cards and that’s because without them your deck is a bunch of below rate creatures, but with them your synergies will often dominate the game.
When drafting, keep this in mind. If it’s not an Elf, you probably don’t want it. The exceptions are removal spells and sideboard cards.
Sometimes you’ll have the choice between a Sentinel Spider and a pretty bad Elf like Blightsoil Druid. In those spots you’ll want to think about how much ramp and Elf synergy cards you already have. Normally you’ll want the Elf since it’s the perfect card to pair with Lys Alana Huntmaster, but if your deck isn’t quite getting there, then you might want to shift to a more midrange deck. I particularly like this example because Sentinel Spider helps shore up one of the Elf deck’s weaknesses, which is blue flyer decks.
The Elf deck really starts to snowball but doesn’t get going until turn 4 or so. It can clog up the ground efficiently, but is quite bad at actually racing. The more time the Elf deck has, the more likely it is that it will win. Its Elvish Vanguards will get bigger, Shaman of the Packs will cause more life loss, and Timberwatch Elf will be even more unbeatable.
As the Elf player it’s your job to make sure you don’t die. Eyeblight’s Ending and Tragic Slip are the main spells you’re looking for to help this goal, and Thornweald Archer also gets the job done while promoting all your Elf synergies. I’m not in love with clunkier removal like Roots since it’s expensive and your deck wants to advance its own game plan by that point, not to mention it shores up a weakness you don’t really even have.
The final thing you want to consider while drafting is the option to be more interactive post-board. Hymn to Tourach, Duress, Seal of Strength, Nature’s Claim, and even Fog are all options you might want access to that are simply too narrow to want to include in a linear main deck. I like to pick these up early on the wheel if possible, and over passable green or black cards that wouldn’t really help your plan such as Emperor Crocodile or Twisted Abomination.
Strengths: Snowballing game plan that will trump almost any other deck in the late game.
Weaknesses: Linear focus can be detrimental since you’ll be unable to interact and lose races.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Prioritize early removal and good sideboard cards to help beat decks like UR post-board.
2. UW – Flyers/Blink
If I had to pick a deck as my favorite in the format it would be this one. The games are really fun and it’s always a question if your flyers are going to be good enough the get the job done. Luckily, the answer is usually yes. Warden of Evos Isle does an incredible amount of work in this deck and can do completely busted things. From least busted to most busted:
• Cast another Warden plus 2 Squadron Hawks turn 4.
• Cast a turn-4 Serra Angel.
• Cast 2 Peregrine Drakes turn 5, floating a mana each time on the untaps, and cast a Phyrexian Ingester eating your opponent’s Sentinel Spider.
While you’re curving out in the air, your opponent is likely playing bigger creatures than you on the ground. If you don’t have a way to stop those creatures, you’re likely to lose. UW has access to great blockers though with Giant Tortoise and Glacial Wall at common. Of those, I prefer the Tortoise because it’s cheaper and the 1 power can stave off multiple attackers since many creatures in the format have 1 toughness. Above both of these I like Wall of Omens. It holds the fort early and works well with the blink subtheme of white with Glimmerpoint Stag, Whitemane Lion, and if you’re really lucky, Brago, King Eternal.
UW also has access to some great removal and bounce spells which can round out a deck with a ton of evasive threats. You want to make sure you still have defensive creatures though even with that removal, since you really want to save it for opposing reach and flying creatures that can slow down your own game plan.
I already mentioned Coalition Honor Guard way back when I discussed GW but this is another great home for it since you’re interested in the 2/4 body. It does compete with some other great 4-drops though, like Phantom Monster, Glimmerpoint Stag, and blue card draw so I will often prioritize a cheaper card over it early in the draft and then raise it in my pick order if I don’t have any going into pack 3.
Strengths: Difficult-to-interact-with swarm of flyers and ways to prevent your opponent’s game plan.
Weaknesses: Slow, interactive decks like UR or Honden control decks that you can’t race, and those where Walls are bad.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Draft Seal of Cleansing for the sideboard, and be sure you have enough cards to take out or add in more defensive creatures depending on the matchup.
1. RW – Tokens
The absolute #1 best deck of Eternal Masters is RW! This deck curves out efficiently with small creatures and then looks to go wide with tokens and the team pump spells Rally the Peasants and Flame-Kin Zealot. I peg it as #1 because that combo is so potent and so hard to stop in this format.
1/1 creatures are already often worth a card because of the size of creatures in the format, so Raise the Alarm feels like a 2-for-1. Then those creatures can both trade up with Rally if you aren’t just killing your opponent, plus Rally works on defense too in a pinch.
Squadron Hawk works well here too for a bit more of a mana investment. Squadron Hawk also has the upside that you can mulligan to it on borderline hands since it effectively helps you un-mulligan, and creates a reliable, repeatable game plan that is easy to execute.
If you think about all the other decks I’ve discussed you’ll see they’re either too slow to stop what RW is doing, or unable to interact with this plan because they’re too linear on their own. Bounce spells work particularly well in this format as a whole but are particularly weak against RW since almost all your cards are just 1/1s that you can recast.
As you can see, these are some real strengths, so what’s to stop you from just forcing RW in your next draft? First, your deck doesn’t do a whole lot without Rally the Peasants and Flame-Kin Zealot so if you are fighting over the deck, or are just unlucky and these cards aren’t opened at the table, your deck is going to be much worse. Second, your entire deck is made up of 1-toughness creatures so cards like Mogg War Marshal, Zealous Persecution, and Giant Tortoise can cause some problems.
You’ll also almost always be getting worse post-board because your opponent can bring in cards to further punish this weakness. Nausea specifically hoses your strategy and is a common Plague Wind that you’ll need to be aware of. For this reason I like to board up a bit if possible. Consider cutting some of your all-in cards like Elite Vanguard in post-board games. As long as you’re smart about it, you can play around these troublesome cards, and it’s still hard to beat RW when it casts 2 Raise the Alarm end step, untaps, plays its 6th land and casts Rally the Peasants with flashback.
Strengths: Hard-to-stop proactive combos alongside reasonable creatures and removal spells.
Weaknesses: Relies on drafting Rally the Peasants/Flame-Kin Zealot, and weak to 1-toughness-punishing cards.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Board up into some bigger creatures post-board and be careful not to overextend when possible.
Bonus Archetype: 4-5 Color Honden Control (Rank 3.5)
The Honden control deck appears often enough that I would be remiss if I didn’t mention it. It’s a deck that you can look to get into by taking an early Honden and then a ton of fixing when a normal deck isn’t open. The white and red Hondens are the most powerful individual cards so taking one of those early is a pretty easy way to open up this path, though don’t think you have to go Hondens just because you have one of these since they’re just good cards in the format, especially Honden of Infinite Rage. Usually you’ll end up base-green with Civic Wayfinder for fixing and Commune with the Gods to find your Hondens while also fueling threshold for the Werebears you want for their acceleration anyway.
The biggest thing to watch out for with the deck is that it can be too clunky. Make sure you’re actually doing something and that your first play isn’t a Honden, since that’s a good way to get run over. The best news is that if you can survive you’ll have the most powerful end-game of anyone in the format. Additionally, with all your fixing you gain access to any bomb you might open. Hello Maelstrom Wanderer! You also can be 4-5 color good stuff without Hondens because there is an abundance of fixing, and the gainlands give you an extra life buffer to enable whatever cool thing it is you’re trying to achieve.
Strengths: Most powerful late game.
Weaknesses: Can be clunky; your key enchantments are easy to remove post-board.
Ways to beat those weaknesses: Draft some early plays and don’t be overly reliant on Hondens as your only victory condition.
I hope you get a chance to draft Eternal Masters. It is truly a delight, and I’ve had a blast delving into the format. Now, if you don’t mind, I think I’ll go jump in the next queue.