The new core set has been out for several weeks, so it’s time to present my pick order list for M15 draft.
A few things to keep in mind while looking at my card rankings:
1.) The list ranks all cards in M15 from high to low as a guide for the first-pick-first-pack decision in a 3xM15 draft. It is based on the power of the cards during game play—the monetary value is not taken into account.
2.) Multicolored cards (Garruk, pain lands, and the cycle of uncommon creatures that are boosted by an allied basic land type) are ranked a little lower than you might expect because you can not always end up in exactly those two colors. Although there may be a sweet payoff on a gold card, there is more flexibility and a higher likelihood of making your deck for single-colored cards.
3.) Colorless cards (artifacts and Evolving Wilds) are ranked a little higher than you might expect because they fit into every deck and they allow you to postpone your color decision.
4.) Black has too many playable 5-plus-drops at common (Rotfeaster Maggot, Shadowcloak Vampire, Flesh to Dust, and Covenant of Blood). Since you can’t clog your deck with too many late-game cards, you can’t pick them highly. As a result, Accursed Spirit is the best black common—not Flesh to Dust.
5.) I do not have a strong color preference in M15 draft. Blue is probably the worst color, and white and red are probably the best, which I may use as a tiebreaker when a pick is close, but in M15 draft I generally don’t force anything and try to take the colors that are open.
6.) Every color combination is viable. Allied color combinations give you access to the cycle of uncommon creatures, which is nice, but there is a lot of synergy in the non-allied color combinations. For example, the U/R artifact deck based around Aeronaut Tinkerer, Scrapyard Mongrel, Darksteel Citadel, Ensoul Artifact, Ornithopter, Illusory Angel, and Shrapnel Blast is probably the best deck in the format if you can assemble everything.
With those caveats out of the way, let’s move on to the list. I broke it down into separate categories to make it easier to read and remember, but you can think of it as one continuous list if you like.
The Top Rares and Mythics
Soul of Theros is the best card in the set. Cone of Flame is kind of a mythic uncommon as it provides massive card and tempo advantage for only five mana. Because it’s so strong, it’s included in the rare/mythic category, and I would first-pick it over any card other than Soul of Theros.
The Top Commons and Uncommons
Triplicate Spirits usually provides a lot of value on turn four, has great synergy with all of the white pump cards, and is the best common in the set. Besides Triplicate Spirits, this category contains several top-notch removal spells and Kird Chieftain.
Kird Chieftain is a fine first pick. In the worst-case scenario, when green is not open, you get to add a Hill Giant to your red deck, which is fine, and it is even better than that if you can afford an Evolving Wilds and a Forest. In the best-case scenario, when green is open, you get an insane four-drop that can dominate games. So, there’s plenty of upside and not a huge downside to picking it early.
Rares That Are Just Below the Top Commons and Uncommons
All of these cards can win games, but they can also be somewhat situational, requiring either a lot of mana or a favorable board position. Taking bombs over removal is typically correct, but when the bombs are situational and the removal is extremely efficient, then that rule doesn’t apply. A card like Lightning Strike, which is great in every game, is what I prefer over the above rares.
Good Cards That You’re Still Happy to First Pick
Good value, but all of these cards come with some kind of downside: a high cost, a restriction, or an effect that won’t be of use in every game.
Decent Non-Committal Artifacts
As I mentioned before, the good thing about these cards is that they don’t demand a color commitment
Solid Playables, But Disappointing First Picks
I don’t have much to add here, except that by now I can give a quick overview of the top two commons for every color:
White – Triplicate Spirits and Raise the Alarm
Green – Elvish Mystic and Siege Wurm
Red – Lightning Strike and Borderland Marauder
Black – Accursed Spirit and Flesh to Dust
Blue – Welkin Tern and Frost Lynx
Black and blue are the worst when it comes to top commons, which means that these colors are sometimes underdrafted early on.
Mediocre Picks That Don’t Always Make the Cut
We’re Starting to Stretch the Notion of Playable Here:
The Worst Cards in the Set:
We’ve come a long way since Soul of Theros. The worst card in M15 has to be The Chain Veil. Even in the triple-planeswalker/double-Ensoul Artifact deck, it will probably help your opponent more than you.
A handy cheat sheet:
When facing a difficult decision on how to block, then the following cheat sheet can help you remember all of the playable instant speed cards to keep in mind:
Twenty Thoughts on Drafting with M15:
To conclude this article, I have a collection of random thoughts on the format.
1.) In M15 Limited, 1-toughness creatures are relatively weak. Cards like Child of Night and Oreskos Swiftclaw match up very poorly against Satyr Wayfinder, Forge Devil, Raise the Alarm, Coral Barrier, Festergloom, Black Cat, and so on. Oreskos Swiftclaw in particular is rated much lower than it was in Theros block, not only because it has 1 toughness but also because white has so many alternative two-drops that are better.
2.) If you have multiple expensive convoke spells in your deck, it becomes worthwhile to run crappy cheap creatures. There’s nothing wrong with playing Foundry Street Denizen or Soulmender if have you several copies of Siege Wurm.
3.) Playing first is generally better than drawing first because the format is based more around tempo than card advantage. During testing, I recorded for 60 games whether the player on the play or on the draw won. The result was 34-26 in favor of playing first.
4.) In our testing for the Pro Tour, we did eight-man drafts where four-man teams were chosen after the draft. Having teams is nice because you can help your teammates with deckbuilding and you have someone to root for after losing the first match. Picking teams after the draft ensures that there is no perverse incentive to hate-draft more than usual. I recommend this structure if you want to learn a new Limited format.
5.) When exploring a new Limited format, it is valuable to experiment a little. When in doubt, pick the rare over the common because you will have few opportunities to try the rare.
6.) Brood Keeper is a reasonable but unspectacular card in most red decks. However, once you have drafted two Inferno Fist, its value shoots up. Brood Keeper also goes really well with Marked by Honor, Divine Favor, and Heliod’s Pilgrim, so pick it more highly if you’re in white.
7.) Warden of the Beyond can grow at instant speed when you cast Pillar of Light mid-combat. That’s a devastating interaction, even though I think Pillar of Light is often too narrow for maindeck inclusion. Granted, it’s an excellent answer to mythic rares like the Souls, but there are very few relevant creatures that it kills at common. Only Charging Rhino, Glacial Crasher, Rotfeaster Maggot, Siege Wurm, and Will-Forged Golem come to mind. It does work well in tandem with or against Titanic Growth, though.
8.) Often-overlooked fact: Boonweaver Giant can also take enchantments from your graveyard. So, don’t despair if you milled your Spectra Ward with Satyr Wayfinder. By the way, Spectra Ward is one of those cards that suddenly turns Heliod’s Pilgrim into a very high pick.
9.) Suppose your opponent goes Plains, Selfless Cathar on turn one, and Plains, attack, go on turn two. You draw Forge Devil. This will not work out as well as you might hope. If you cast Forge Devil in that situation, your opponent will sacrifice Selfless Cathar in response. Then, when Forge Devil enters the battlefield, it has to kill itself. The better approach in this scenario is to hold on to Forge Devil until your opponent taps out.
10.) If your red/green deck is in need of some late-game card advantage, then consider pairing Rummaging Goblin with Vineweft. It’s a slow, awkward combo, and you probably need some additional reasons to play a bad card like Vineweft (stuff like Brood Keeper and Sylvan Wayfinder come to mind) but it does provide a running source of card advantage.
11.) Undergrowth Scavenger is not great in every deck, but it may be one of the most underrated cards in the format. In the right deck (that is, a deck with Rummaging Goblin, Satyr Wayfinder, Necromancer’s Assistant, and/or deathtouch creatures that fill up the graveyard) it can easily be an 8/8 for four mana.
12.) There are several cards that I don’t like for the main deck but that I love in the sideboard. Life’s Legacy is an excellent answer to Encrust. Tyrant’s Machine is a beautiful way to deal with Spectra Ward. Fugitive Wizard is a good way to block hyper-aggressive X/1 creatures. And Hydrosurge is a nice trump to Crowd’s Favor.
14.) Ajani’s Pridemate needs some help, but it can dominate games if you can support it. I like Radiant Fountain, Divine Favor, Soulmender, and Sungrace Pegasus in particular. Invasive Species works with the first two, so keep that in mind as well.
15.) Bronze Sable is much better than it looks because it can block Krenko’s Enforcer and Accursed Spirit and because it can boost Aeronaut Tinkerer and Scrapyard Mongrel. Phyrexian Revoker is even better and almost always makes my main deck. If you have to play it in the dark, then good guesses are Inferno Fist against red, Elvish Mystic against green, Selfless Cathar against white, Amphin Pathmage against blue, and Zof Shade against black.
17.) A nice trick is that you can use the mana from Generator Servant on two different creatures. They will both gain haste in that case.
18.) Remember that you can pair Polymorphist’s Jest or Turn to Frog with Festergloom or Forge Devil to kill a creature outside of combat. This can be relevant if, for example, your opponent doesn’t dare to put his Soul of Theros in combat. Or if you want to devastate your opponent with the Polymorphist’s Jest + Festergloom combo. Another thing to remember is that you can target yourself or your own creature to counter Plummet or to get rid of a Stab Wound.