Three Things to Know about Masters 25 Limited

Posted in Beyond the Basics on March 8, 2018

By Gavin Verhey

When Gavin Verhey was eleven, he dreamt of a job making Magic cards—and now as a Magic designer, he's living his dream! Gavin has been writing about Magic since 2005.

Masters 25 is just around the corner!

Next weekend, you'll finally be able to get your hands on some Masters 25 booster packs of your own and dive into the Limited format. But what's a Planeswalker to do in the meantime?

Well, as they teach you in the Planeswalker Scouts, the key to success is preparation. And if you want to take down your local Masters 25 event, a little bit of preparation work will go a long way.

And fortunately, I have you covered with the basics.

There are three things you should know about going into Masters 25. Whether you're new to giving this Masters thing a shot, or have played every Masters set released so far, this one has a few differences going on—and you're going to want to be prepared for them.

Ready? Well, let's dive right in!

  1. Masters 25 Is Much More Open (and Less Linear)

In most previous Masters sets, the format has been a lot about drafting very specific, linear archetypes. Sure, not every deck is that way—you have plenty of decks with mana fixing playing cards in all sorts of colors—but many of them are. For example, you hop on board the artifact train and draft affinity in the first Modern Masters, or you decide to go down the route of trying to draft the cast-from-graveyard deck in Eternal Masters.

This has varied from Masters set to Masters set. Some, like the original Modern Masters, are more prescriptive, and some are less prescriptive, like Modern Masters 2017 Edition. (Though even then, there are subthemes throughout.)

Masters 25 is still fairly different from that.

This set is a combination of history, of disparate cards across pretty much every set. You won't see loud themes like affinity or Eldrazi here. It's a lot more about identifying individually powerful cards and building your Limited deck. You really do get a chance to tell your own kind of story here, and play Magic with a truly wide pool of cards.

Yes, occasionally you'll open Ratcatcher and go to town with Nezumi Cutthroat and Relentless Rats, but that's a pretty infrequent occurrence. There are "collect me" cards at common, like Relentless Rats and Squadron Hawk, but those are hardly going to be all your deck is doing. (Though if you manage to draft so many of those cards that it becomes your primary strategy, well done!)

But that doesn't mean there aren't still archetypes—they're just a lot less prescriptive.

What do I mean? Well . . .

  1. Masters 25 Is Much More about Classic Magic Archetypes

There are absolutely archetypes you can draft and lean toward in Masters 25—just not ones that are quite as linear.

Masters 25 is about classic Magic play, representing the 25 years the game has been around. So it's much more about building traditional archetypes.

In previous Masters sets, you might have built up a soulshift Spirits deck. Here, you will simply be trying for a control deck. A white weenie deck. A green ramp deck. And we put important cards at low rarities to allow that to happen in these kinds of ways. Blue control has common Counterspell. White weenie has common Savannah Lions. Green ramp has common Arbor Elf. And that's just to name a few!

Many classic Magic archetypes can be built here. Whether it's making tokens and sacrificing them or simply red-white beatdown, you'll find a bunch of core Magic archetypes you've seen across many years here.

And there's a very important difference between previous, more linear archetypes and these wider archetypes: you know the shape of your strategy, but not exactly what goes in it. You don't need to find Glacial Ray to make your deck great, like you did in the arcane deck in the first Modern Masters.

Here you can draft a slow blue control deck full of Accumulated Knowledges, Counterspells, and Excludes one draft, then gum up the ground with high-toughness creatures and win with fliers the next. (And sometimes, your deck will do both!)

This means it's important to stay flexible and think of classic strategies as you're playing the set. Control. Tempo. Beatdown. Ramp. They all have a place here. Each color has the tools to make each viable (at least in combination with another color), so you have a lot of flexibility across them. There are so many fun ways to make the colors and playstyles work well together!

And speaking of making things work together . . .

  1. Masters 25 Has Many Individual Card Synergies and Combos

Something Masters 25 does feature in spades is powerful combinations of two (and sometimes more) cards. But you don't have to make your entire archetype about this combination—there are many you can discover and naturally fit into the deck you want to play anyway. Several of these work well in specific kinds of archetypes and playstyles as well. They're something to nudge you toward playing both cards (including cards you might not have included otherwise), many of which hearken back to fun combinations you may have built in the past.

Who says you can't draft a combo deck?

I still want to leave plenty to discover in the set, but here are ten of my favorite synergies and combos at common or uncommon in each color and some two-color combinations to keep in mind.

Valor in Akros? An okay card on its own. But alongside Whitemane Lion? You can return the Lion to your hand over and over again to basically create the effect of "two mana to give all of your creatures +1/+1."

This "build your own Cyclonic Rift" can sweep your opponent's board out of nowhere. No Retraction Helix? Don't worry—Heavy Arbalest is another great option to pick up in mono-blue!

It's nothing fancy, but a turn-four 5/3 regenerator is an easy way to steal games. In a deck with some Abominations, the odds I'll play Zombify go way up.

Okay, so Zada and a pump spell isn't the most original thing in the world. But with Zada at uncommon, this is more of a real possibility in Limited than ever—and packs a real punch. If your opponent plays a Zada, watch out to make sure you don't just lose to this combination!

Turn two, Kavu Predator. Turn three, attack and alternate-cost Invigorate. Your Predator is now permanently a 6/6, your opponent takes 10 and is at 14, and if they don't have a removal spell . . . that's probably game over.

Find your Hawks. Brainstorm them back. Shuffle your library with your remaining Hawks. It may not be quite as crazy as Jace, the Mind Sculptor was in Standard with Squadron Hawk, but it's still a great reason to consider including Brainstorm in your deck.

Really, the combo here is just Cloudshift with any morph. But while we're going all the way, why not Krosan Colossus? A turn-four 9/9 sounds great to me! If you want to shift to black, you can also use Supernatural Stamina the same way.

This is maybe my favorite combo to try and put together, and it's a great endgame for my ramp decks. Arbor Elf is good enough to make my deck anyway, and while Caustic Tar doesn't always make my decks on its own, with Arbor Elf it's easy to close the game in a single turn cycle. (Plus Arbor Elf helps you cast it quicker!)

As if Spikeshot Goblin weren't strong enough, build your own Archivist this way and crush your opponent under the weight of your card advantage. (Plus, you probably have ways to pump your Goblin in those cards you drew, right?)

Oh, hello again, Whitemane Lion! Tap the Defector to draw two cards. Whitemane Lion it back before you hand it to your opponent. No problem!

That's just ten of them—but there are many more. Even just looking at this list, you'll start to see combinations between them. (Zada and Retraction Helix? Cloudshift and Humble Defector? Sign me up!) And then eventually you discover you can Congregate your opponent with a Kavu Predator in play and—okay, well, you get the idea.

These kinds of different synergies and sweet combos really give this set its own identity, and there are plenty of ways to make every draft a little different depending on what is available.

Achieving Mastery

Hopefully you enjoyed this look at what to expect in Masters 25! I can't wait to hear about your experiences with the set—and what combinations you discover and pull off. When we were playing this set internally, every draft had people wandering by just to see what was going on this time, and I always found something new and cool to discover. There's a lot out there!

This set is full of memories. Hopefully you find plenty of great memories while playing—and create some new ones in the process!

Have any thoughts or feedback? I'd love to hear from you! Please feel free to send me a tweet, ask me a question on my Tumblr, or email me at

Have fun playing next week, and enjoy all your preparation in the meantime. I'll talk with you again soon!


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