Modern Masters 2015 GPs in Vegas, Utrecht, and Chiba kick off in just a few hours, and I’m here to give you some tips on the format. I’ve already played close to 20 Sealeds and a bunch of drafts, so I’ll share everything I’ve learned so far.
• In my experience, you end up playing the 5-color control deck a lot because there is just so much fixing and so many good cards. Eldrazi monsters are your best finishers because they are so hard to kill.
• I usually like to play 1 enchantment/artifact removal card in the main deck, like Terashi’s Grasp and Sundering Vitae. The average deck probably has around 4-5 artifacts, and being able to destroy an Arrest, Rusted Relic, or a 5/5 Skyreach Manta can be the difference between winning and losing.
• You can also build an affinity deck out of most pools, but don’t fall into this trap if you only have the average affinity cards without the good high-end and a lot of flyers, because a bunch of Frogmites and Myr Enforcers aren’t going to get the job done.
Other writers have already discussed Sealed at length with a ton of examples of interesting pools, so I’ll try to focus more on drafting and general tips.
Cards you want to draft your deck around:
Karn Liberated, Kozilek, Butcher of Truth – These cards are obviously busted and will win you most of the games you play them unless you are already very far behind on board. They go into control decks in which you prioritize ramping and fixing like Rampant Growth, Wayfarer’s Bauble, and Kozilek’s Predator. You take all the removal you can get your hands on, and Savage Twister is one of the best card for this kind of deck. Ulamog’s Crusher and Artisan of Kozilek are also very good and easy to cast with the help of some Eldrazi tokens, but Ulamog and Emrakul are too expensive.
Overwhelming Stampede, Scion of the Wild – Green decks with a lot of tokens are very good in this format because there are so many good commons for this archetype (which I’ll cover later) that other people don’t have a good use for. If you happen to open Overwhelming Stampede you should absolutely move in and take all the Scatter the Seeds and Raise the Alarms you can get. Scion of the Wilds used to be a rare for a good reason.
Lodestone Myr, Rusted Relic – Affinity is still great, but you need to prioritize the right cards. For a good affinity deck you absolutely need to have 15+ artifacts, a good mix of early aggression, flyers, and bigger creatures like Rusted Relic and Myr Enforcer. Darksteel Citadel is one of the key cards because it makes your spells cheaper while not really taking up a slot in your deck. Take artifacts over spells unless they are premium removal like Dispatch or Arrest. Thoughtcast is not where you want to be, your goal is to have as many artifacts as possible. Frogmite is also in a weird spot because its only good in the best affinity decks where you play them for free and follow it up with 2 Myr Enforcers. If you consistently have to pay 2-3 mana for it and your next play is Thoughtcast, you are not going to have a good time.
Skyreach Manta – 5-color decks usually happen when you just open an expensive bomb and draft around it, but it also just works without the broken cards. 5-mana 5/5 flyers are no joke and cards like Repeal, Arrest, and Tribal Flames make sure you stay alive to cast all your sweet cards. Cards like Matca Rioters and Etched Monstrosity also do something even if you don’t have the full domain.
Wildfire – This is the kind of rare that does something so game-breaking that’s worth completely building your deck around. There are almost no sweepers in this format so it’s really hard to play around it. It’s also very good against opponents with multiple bounce lands.
Cards you DON’T want to draft your deck around:
Horde of Notions, Smokebraider – Unlike the sunburst cards, Horde of Notion doesn’t do anything unless you can produce all 5 colors of mana. Smokebraider feels to me like they were struggling with U/R and just wanted the combination to do something, so they just threw a couple Elementals into those colors and called it a day. The problem is that there aren’t nearly enough of them to justify having Smokebraider in your deck because most of the time it’s just going to be a useless 1/1. With Rampant Growth or Wayfarer’s Bauble you know exactly what you are getting in return, Smokebraider will be worse than a basic land 90% of the time and a great card on turn 2 about 10% of the time.
Devouring Greed, Long-Forgotten Gohei – Spirits is the second-worst archetype. Sure, the synergy is nice and rebuying Nameless Inversion feels great, but most of the time your cards are underpowered compared to your opponents’ and you are basically trying to make a lot of cards work together to get on the same level, and I just don’t think that’s worth it in this format. Imagine a simple start like creature into Blood Ogre into Gorehorn Minotaurs, and think about what BW needs to do to feel similarly powerful. You can do much better with other color combinations without having to play 5-mana 4/2s, Grey Ogres, and situational cards.
Daybreak Coronet – There are a bunch of cards in Modern Masters 2015 that were printed just to reduce their price and make it a little bit easier for players to get into Modern. Daybreak Coronet is one of them, so before you take it, make sure you read the entire spoiler—there is exactly one other enchant creature and that’s Goblin War Paint, which is basically unplayable.
Inexorable Tide – There are also a bunch of cards that feel like the development team had good intentions with them but they are just completely outclassed by everything else. Proliferate might not be the best thing you can do in this format, but at least cards like Grim Affliction and Spread the Sickness are actual removal spells. Inexorable Tide is just a 5-mana blank.
Bloodshot Trainee – Another example of a situational card that will obviously be good in a deck with 2 Darksteel Axe and Sickleslicer, but the problem is that in red you prefer removal and creatures to equipment and the RW double strike archetype just gets owned by so many cards like Plagued Rusalka or Gut Shot. Don’t try to draft anything that feels too complicated—simple is better.
The best archetypes are:
BR Bloodthirst – Your creatures are bigger and better, and the rest of your deck is burn and removal spells—hard to ask for more.
GW or GB Tokens – White for Arrest and Raise the Alarm or black for Bloodthrone Vampire and Bone Splinters, green for everything else. Wilt-Leaf Liege, Selesnya Guildmage, and Bestial Menace are ridiculous in this kind of deck. Just be aware of cards like Shrivel that can completely wipe your board.
Affinity – Glint Hawk Idol, Rusted Relic, Darksteel Citadel, Myr Enforcer, and Dispatch are the cards you want. Thoughtcast and Frogmite are not. Narcolepsy is also very bad here because it doesn’t help you get rid of a blocker the turn you play it. The only problem with Affinity is that other players will take a lot of cards that you want like Darksteel Axe, Arrest, and Blinding Souleater.
5-Color/Ramp – The good thing about this archetype is that there are so many good cards in this format and so many removal spells that if you make sure to get enough fixing, there will always be something good for your deck in pretty much every pack.
The worst archetypes are UR Elementals, BW Spirits, and RW Double Strike. You are either forced to play cards that do nothing half of the time or you have to do way too much work to make them good.
Tips and Tricks
- Pay close attention to which cards have changed in rarity. There’s usually a very good reason why a certain card that is now common or uncommon used to be uncommon or rare. I think they mostly changed the rarity of some cards to allow certain archetypes to get even in power level with others, but that doesn’t mean the card is any less good than last time around.
- If you have a lot of bouncelands, you should always play first to prevent having to discard on turn 2 on the draw. These decks also mulligan much better.
- Shadowmage Infiltrator is not the bomb it used to be, there are a LOT of artifact creatures and all the living weapons make black Germ tokens. The same applies to Etched Champion.
- There are almost no sweepers—the only cards that can clear the board are Savage Twister, Wildfire, All is Dust, and, given enough mana, Comet Storm.
- Wings of Velis Vel on a graft creature still counts the graft counters on top of the 4/4.
- I know this is very basic, but keep in mind that Sign in Blood can target your opponent and Vapor Snag can help you save your own creature. Wrecking Ball on a bounce land on turn 4 can also be devastating.
- How many bouncelands is too many? I think you can usually afford 4-5, I wouldn’t play 6. Make sure the lands are actually good in your deck, because not every deck wants too many of these. Playing your spells on curve is important and having too many enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands can cost you big, because essentially starting the game with Sphere of Resistance in play is not where you want to be with an aggressive deck.
- Swans of Bryn Argoll is a double-edged sword. You can certainly get a lot of value by targeting your own guy with a burn spell, but keep in mind that your opponent can do the same and that Burst Lightning, Tribal Flames, and Fiery Fall are all commons.
- Necrogenesis is a good sideboard card and sometimes even belongs in the main deck, but it’s going to be especially good against the BW Spirits deck with a lot of soulshift creatures
- With so many good cards with a lot of abilities, there are more interactions between cards than usual. Take advantage of this and try to think outside the box. Sometimes that means you Oblivion Ring their Skyreach Manta, then Repeal the Ring back to your hand to get rid of something else. They will get the Manta back with no counters. Another interesting situation I just encountered was when I played an irrelevant Azorius Chancery with 7 other lands in my affinity deck in a drawn out game while having a Rusted Relic and 2 Darksteel Citadel as the only artifacts in play. My opponent drew an Arrest, put it on my Relic and I immediately realized I could’ve played around this by holding the bounceland in my hand and playing it next turn to return Darksteel Citadel to my hand, turn off the Relic, and destroy the Arrest. Helium Squirter can give your opponent’s creature flying so you can destroy it with Plummet. Vines of Vastwood can target your opponent’s creature to prevent them from equipping a lethal Cranial Plating. It feels like with every draft you learn some new interaction that can be the difference between winning and losing.
- Make sure you don’t have too many cards of the same casting cost. Argent Sphinx is a great card for Affinity, but if you already have 3 Rusted Relics and 2 Faerie Mechanists, it’s probably better to take something cheaper out of the pack.
- This format is about synergy and there are very few bad cards in the packs, which means you will almost always end up with enough playables. So make sure you pick up sideboard cards like Terashi’s Grasp, Celestial Purge, or Shrivel instead of some 25th card that you aren’t going to play.
- Pump spells in general – Mighty Leap, Blades and Wings of Velis Vel, Brute Force, Goblin War Paint. There is just too much removal.
- Dark Confidant – This isn’t Modern where you can only put 1- and 2-mana cards in your deck.
- Expensive rares like Endrek Sahr, Tezzeret, Skarrgan Firebird, Puppeteer Clique, or Drooling Groodion – I prefer synergy or removal for my deck rather than an expensive card that I might not even get to cast or activate. This may sound wrong, but I don’t think you want Tezzeret in a good affinity deck.
- Overwhelm – Unless you really have a lot of tokens, you’d rather pick up some big guy with convoke like Kavu Primarch or Root-Kin Ally.
- Grim Affliction – Obviously it’s still an OK removal spell, but not every deck wants to have too many of these if you can’t take advantage of the proliferate effect.
- Necrogenesis – I’ve seen too many people put this card into their 5-color deck thinking it will act as a finisher, but that’s just wrong. You don’t have enough cheap creatures that trade early and between Arrest, Narcolepsy, and cards that exile like Wrecking Ball or Celestial Purge, removal won’t always put the creatures in an actual graveyard.
- Dimir Guildmage – This format is faster than it seems, don’t think this is a bomb
- Eldrazi – These are almost impossible to kill in combat and there are very few removal spells that deal with them.
- Sickleslicer – I’ve been very impressed with this piece of equipment and will pretty much always put it in my deck instead of something like Cathodion.
- Sideboard cards – Deathmark, Combust, Celestial Purge, Sundering Vitae, Shrivel, Terashi’s Grasp.
- Plagued Rusalka – At first I thought this card would be terrible, but there is exactly enough synergy to make it more than playable.
- Reassembling Skeleton – Works very well with Bloodthrone Vampire, Plagued Rusalka, and Bone Splinters.
- Algae Gharial – There are no deathtouch creatures in this set so it’s almost impossible to kill. Great sideboard card against control decks.
- Otherworldly Journey – A maindeckable card because of all the creatures with sunburst, evoke (imagine playing it on your evoked Mulldrifter on turn 5) and creatures with ETB triggers like Mystic Snake and Pelakka Wurm. You can also use it as a sideboard card against something like Apocalypse Hydra if you don’t have anything else that deals with it.
- Commune with Nature – This is one of my favorite cards in the format that will almost always table but shouldn’t. It can help you find anything from a 2-drop to a life-saving Pelakka Wurm or Eldrazi when you are looking for a big monster to close out the game.
That’s all I have for today, good luck at the GP!