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Owen’s a Win – Drafting M15

I’ve played a ton of Magic 2015 Limited recently, given that it was the draft format for PTM15 and Grand Prix Portland. I’m also really looking forward to Grand Prix Salt Lake City which is right around the corner. M15 is a great draft format and one that highly rewards an understanding of how the cards interact with one another. It’s a common misconception that core set draft formats don’t have a ton of synergy—it certainly has less than other formats traditionally have, but there’s still some there, it’s just a little harder to spot.

Creatures Rule

What helped me most was realizing that creatures are totally great. I was recently discussing a draft pick of Into the Void vs. Frost Lynx second-pick after a Triplicate Spirits. I would say in most draft formats that Into the Void is just generally a better card, it has a higher impact on the game and a higher overall power level. I also think that most people would just take Into the Void.

It think you should take Frost Lynx. The existence of the already-picked Triplicate Spirits and convoke in general is a fine reason to prioritize a creature over a spell. My good blue decks usually end up with Quickling and Peel From Reality which are awesome cards that get way better the more Frost Lynxes you have, they get better with more Frost Lynxes and they also get substantially worse if you end up with zero Frost Lynxes. My good white decks also usually have a Sanctified Charge in them. Lastly, with Paragons in the format you’ve always got a good excuse to prioritize creatures.

Side note: If you have a good aggro deck, Frost Lynx and Into the Void will both be great and it’s unclear to me which would be better,  so at the end of the draft if you have a perfect deck it can only be a small mistake to take the worse card here, but if you have a great control deck Frost Lynx will be a welcome addition whereas Into the Void can be awful. If you plan to play a long, controlling game, a card that is always card disadvantage in a deck that can’t capitalize on the tempo swing is a losing proposition. At Pro Tour M15 I second picked an Into the Void in pod 1 during Day Two and I ended up just not putting it in my blue/black control deck.

Let me take a moment and talk about Bronze Sable. Somehow Bronze Sable is awesome in this format. It’s still clearly an unremarkable card that doesn’t swing games, but it plays its role very well. I’ve found that I always play Bronze Sable in any color combination or any archetype, either control or aggro. He’s just solid as a rock. Two-drop creatures are great in this format and they power out convoke, a point that can’t be understated. Additionally he beats down for a fine price and can randomly power up sweet cards like Aeronaut Tinkerer, Scrapyard Mongrel, and Shrapnel Blast. Bronze Sable, aka the Paul Cheon, also blocks and trades with Krenko’s Enforcer and Accursed Spirit regardless of your color combination. I’ve found those cards to be high picks in this format so the existence of a card that you can take late and always play to handle them is something you should keep an eye on.

In the colors green and white I almost always take any creature over a spell of similar power level. In one of my first drafts of M15 I took a Titanic Growth over a Runeclaw Bear and I couldn’t have regretted that more. Triplicate Spirits and Siege Wurm are super powerful as long as you’re even a little bit mindful of making sure you can convoke them out consistently. I feel strongly that convoke is absurdly powerful and a great way to reduce variance. It’s huge to be able to always play your spells even when you’re mana-screwed as long as you have a few lands and a few cheap creatures. I love Siege Wurm—on Day One of the Pro Tour, pack 1 pick 1 I took Siege Wurm over Cruel Sadist. It lives through Covenant of Blood and Lightning Strike and it’s really hard to interact with. It’s cheap, powerful, flexible, and just really well positioned in the format. On top of that I think green is great and black is mediocre, couple that with my uninspired experiences with the Cruel Sadist and it was a clear pick for me. Don’t get me wrong, of course Cruel Sadist is a good card but it isn’t some kind of unpassable bomb rare and it looks like it’s a better card than it actually is.

Synergy

The best common in this format is Triplicate Spirits. People have been saying it for weeks and they aren’t wrong, it’s better than most uncommons and even many rares. It’s just an absurdly powerful card. Understanding why it’s so good can be useful as well. On the surface it’s a six-mana card that produces 3 power and 3 toughness which clearly is mediocre. 4WW for a 3/3 flying creature with convoke would be good but not great but luckily Triplicate Spirits does a little more than that.

One of the main reasons Triplicate Spirits is so good is because M15 has a moderately strong focus on creatures with 1 toughness. If my opponent has a Bronze Sable and an Oreskos Swiftclaw in play then my Triplicate Spirits goes from a pretty good threat to a serious blowout. It’s now produced card advantage! Paragon of New Dawns, Sanctified Charge, and Selfless Cathar are cards that really only fit well in a base white deck which doesn’t support more than two people at most at the table, and turn Triplicate Spirits from a good card to an absolute bomb. It’s pretty good to get Sanctified Charge late in a draft knowing that if you ever draw it together with Triplicate Spirits you can combo kill people with ease. Once you have a Triplicate Spirits that Sanctified Charge shoots up in value enormously.

You may notice many more people playing with Soulmender and that’s only in very small part due to the fact that life gain is pretty good in M15. Traditionally this card has been horrific and playing with it strongly correlates to having a low win percentage, but that is no longer the case. Soulmender with Ajani’s Pridemate isn’t exactly synergy as much as it’s totally awesome. Soulmender also plays quite well with convoke, if you have a creature that can do something somewhat worthwhile but also have this extra bit of text tacked on to it that says “Tap: add 1 white mana to your mana pool, this mana may only be spent to cast your best spells” then that card becomes much more attractive. Also might I point out part of the power in Triplicate Spirits that translates favorably here is that a white 1/1 creature is just good in this format.

Going All-In

Generator Servant is a card I didn’t like much at all when I first started to draft the set but it didn’t take long for that to change. The problems with this card are clear, it has 1 toughness making it weak against cards like Raise the Alarm, Festergloom, and Forge Devil and its ability requires you to sacrifice a card to cast another card which can lead to getting 2-for-1’d—a travesty in Magic. Though all these things are true I would say they are slightly overblown. One thing I have noticed is I see weaker players play with Generator Servant and they use it as soon as they can to cast the biggest and best creature they have, traditionally the better players in Magic are more conservative and do what they can to not lose card advantage. I believe Generator Servant is the exception because the more I watched weaker players go all-in the more I saw them win and win and win. They may not have even been weaker players to begin with, I may have just wrongly assumed they weren’t good because I thought they were making a mistake. As much as I wanted to see them get blown out for putting all their eggs in one basket they just rarely did.

It was around that time I started to value the card higher and change how I play with it. The reality is that the only cards that just wipe out a creature no-questions-asked are Flesh to Dust, Devouring Light, and potentially cards like Void Snare and Peel From Reality. Often if you get to hit your opponent for 5 or 6 damage ahead of schedule you don’t really even mind if your creature gets bounced because that much damage from a red deck can decide a game as is. People just don’t have the best card possible every time and Generator Servant lets you capitalize on their worse hands.

In regards to going all-in I also really like cards like Marked by Honor. In general I wouldn’t prioritize it very highly in a draft as it’s not a great card but once I get one or two Sungrace Pegasus I would always play at least one Marked by Honor and I would play very aggressively with them. I would slam turn four Mark by Honor on Sungrace Pegasus and not think twice about it. As I explained there are just very few cards that can fully punish you and with the Pegasus specifically having evasion and lifelink you can’t be beaten if undisrupted in your normal racing scenario. It’s good to prioritize Sungrace Pegasus in draft when you start to get multiple cards that can pump up white creatures. M15 is a format like others where your pick orders should change and vary wildly based on the cards you’ve drafted and knowing which cards work really well with one another is paramount to making a strong, focused, cohesive deck.

I’ve been really impressed with M15 and the more I play it the more little interactions I find and the more my drafting evaluations change. As I mentioned before I know many people will figure out that Triplicate Spirits and Sanctified Charge are good together but knowing just how good can help players at all skill levels and I’d challenge you to try and play with some draft decks that have certain halves of these synergies and less focus, you’ll find they simply don’t win as much.

Owen Turtenwald
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OwenTweetenwald on twitter

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