First Pass at Eternal Masters Limited

Posted in How to Play Limited on June 2, 2016

By Marshall Sutcliffe

Marshall came back to Magic after discovering Limited and never looked back. He hosts the Limited Resources podcast and does Grand Prix and Pro Tour video commentary.

Eternal Masters has big shoes to fill.

Modern Masters and Modern Masters (2015 Edition) were big hits with us drafters. I can only imagine what it's like to be a developer at Wizards of the Coast R&D when you get an assignment like putting together one of these sets. You have so many options to choose from, so many different avenues you could take, and so many sweet, sweet cards to revisit.

My guess is that it's more of a process of elimination than creation.

But, since neither you nor I actually work in R&D, we don't have to worry about it! We just get handed these great sets and get to draft them.

Today we'll be looking at the broad-stroke strategies for each color pair. It's meant to be a starting point rather than an end point, a way to get your feet under you before doing your first Eternal Masters draft.

As you may imagine, I'll be focusing mostly on the commons for this article, though I've selected some uncommons to mention as well for some of our color pairs.

One thing to keep in mind is that the developers of compilation sets like these have a tool at their disposal that we don't see often: they can change the rarity of the cards.

That's right, if they want to beef up a certain archetype, they can grab a powerful uncommon from an older set and make it a common here. Doing so has a dramatic effect on the different archetypes, so I imagine it's not something they do lightly, but you will see it from time to time in this set.

Let's dive into the color pairs.

White-Blue Flying-Matters

White-blue often comes together in what we refer to as a "skies" archetype: a deck that has a lot of (hopefully) cheap flying creatures, as well as ways to stall out the board on the ground. This usually means high-toughness blockers, removal spells, or tempo plays to buy you enough time to attack for lethal damage in the air.

Cards like this get that job done very nicely:

Looks innocuous enough, but Mistral Charger is the kind of card that can spell real trouble for your opponent when you play it on turn two. This also is one of the rarity-shifted cards in the set, as it was originally printed at uncommon but is common here.

You also get this:

A deceptively good card-advantage engine, with the bonus of putting out a bunch of flying creatures, Squadron Hawk is very good in Limited—assuming that you get enough of them. The third one is very nice to pick up, but remember, remember, you can go beyond four in Limited if you like.

Another rarity shift, Phantom Monster was first printed all the way back in Limited Edition (Alpha), and every time it's been reprinted since, it's been at uncommon. But not here! You can get this rock-solid flier at common, and that is going to push things significantly for this deck.

Another common that is one of the best, most annoying cards to play against ever is this one:

Seriously, this card is absurd. It may not seem like it at first glance, but just trust me and give it a shot, it will not disappoint. (Assuming you remind your opponent what it does!)

In the interest of keeping things moving, we should...wait.

Wait just a second.

Let's not forget this:

Yes, Wizards, yes!

I get to draft Man-o'-War. I get to put it in my deck, make Jellyfish happen, and then do it again next draft. I won't be passing many of these, and you probably shouldn't either.

Man-o'-War!

Blue-Black Reanimator/Recursion

Much like the author of this article, this archetype is less about outright attacking and more about value.

For example, you could play one of these creatures early:

Merfolk Looter helps you find what you need throughout the game, but also puts cards in your graveyard. Plague Witch helps you control the board by either killing creatures or messing with combat, and also puts cards in your graveyard along the way.

Then, you can use cards like these to get value:

As you can see, if you are getting value from your discard outlets, you have a great long-term game plan with this deck. You could also set up even more broken things with Animate Dead bringing back some expensive creature very early in the game.

Back that up with traditional control cards like these, and you have a rock-solid value shell:

Black-Red Sacrifice

You'll see some similarities to the previous archetype, as they both have the ability to put creatures in the graveyard, but this one does it a bit more assertively.

Check out this little one-two punch:

Ka-pow! Both of these cards are common, and I'll tell you, the thought of my opponent playing a Carrion Feeder on turn one, right into a Mogg War Marshal on turn two, is terrifying. It gets even worse when you throw this card into the mix:

Don't overlook this card. It may not look super powerful, but once you play it you'll change your mind on that. Especially in a deck like this.

You can also use this strategy to turn on a card like this one:

Being able to turn Tragic Slip into an insane removal spell whenever you want is a big payoff for a deck like this.

You'll get a host of cheap, aggressive (and often expendable) threats as well, to help back up the sacrifice synergies. This feels like one of those archetypes that needs exploring. You can see some of the synergies forming, but it's not as straightforward as a tribal deck, for example.

Red-Green Fast Aggro

The card that jumped out to me for this kind of deck is this one:

Ol' Flinty encapsulates the ideals of this archetype quite nicely. Make big creatures and turn them sideways. And this color pair has the combination of pump spells to keep the attacks rolling and burn spells to finish things off in the event that your opponent stabilizes the board.

You get some nice, inexpensive creatures as well:

You can see how this deck's creatures lend themselves to fast starts with oversize attacking creatures priced just right. But you can also augment said creatures in a few powerful ways:

These three cards represent ways to get a ton of damage through in a real hurry. You'll also have a suite of burn spells and other pump effects to get your opponents dead. This deck looks powerful and consistent, and I'd expect that Kird Ape ends up being a very important ingredient. Only this deck wants Kird Ape, and it's a common. This deck will basically get all of them that are opened at the table.

Green-White Enchantments

Enchantments, huh?

Let's start here:

You can get a taste for where this is going from these two cards. Basically you'll have cards that "care" about casting or controlling enchantments, and then you'll have to get a bunch of enchantments in your deck to realize the payoff.

These strategies can be very effective, but you have to really commit to them to make them great. The high-value enchantments will be your first stop, since everyone in those colors will be fighting for them.

Cards like these:

Then later in the pack you can pick up cards more specific to this deck, like:

 

By the way, props to whoever dug up Roots to put in this set. I'd bet the rest of Homelands is cheering it on.

White-Black Enters-the-Battlefield Effects/Blink

"Blinking" is the term we use for when a permanent leaves the battlefield but then comes right back again. Sometimes you also just return the creature to your hand so you can recast it.

If you can assemble the right balance of cards with enters-the-battlefield triggers and ways to reuse those triggers, you can dominate the mid-to-late game pretty effectively.

One of my favorite ways to enable this is:

Glimmerpoint Stag has a lot going on, but the key is that it lets you develop your board in a meaningful way while also blinking something. (Remember, you can also just use it to get a blocker out of the way for a turn.)

I also like this one:

Few things to note here. First, it has flash, which is really important when it comes to blocking or saving your creatures from removal. Second, it's not a "may" ability: you have to return a creature you control to your hand. Yes, even if the only creature is the Whitemane Lion. Third, its ability doesn't target.

This can be important. Like, if you get one of these guys, for example:

Calciderm is way cheaper than it should be, but that's because you only get it for a few turns. If you use your Whitemane Lion to return it to your hand before it's fully vanished, you can just recast it and keep the beats flowing.

Here are a couple other juicy targets to replay:

 

So. Much. Value.

Blue-Red Flashback/Retrace

This deck looks sweet. The number-one card that just flies off the sheet at me is this:

I loved playing Burning Vengeance in Innistrad, and it looks like it may be even better here than it was there. There are flashback spells in this set, but there are also retrace spells, and they meet the criteria for Burning Vengeance as well.

Of course, in order to cast spells from your graveyard you'll need to get spells into your graveyard. Here are a few choice ways to do so:

So you've got these powerful self-mill cards lined up. Dream Twist looks bad but is actually really sweet in a Burning Vengeance deck, since it helps you find more things to cast from your graveyard and is a flashback spell itself.

There are other payoffs for milling yourself besides Burning Vengeance, too:

 

As you can see, this deck has all the tools it needs to win—it's just a matter of how committed you are to the plan, and if anyone else at the table is also committed to said plan.

Black-Green Elves

These are the brooding, kind of angry version of Elves. Not just the happy mana-producers, but the kind that get very unhappy if you break a branch on their turf.

Like these:

As you can see, you have some solid Elves already and some decent payoffs too (Lys Alana Huntmaster can go insane with enough Elves in the deck). This deck is pretty straightforward really; it's a traditional tribal deck in most aspects, focusing on Elf cards and cards that care about Elf cards.

One of the big payoff cards is this one:

When this was originally printed, it was a rare. In Eternal Masters, it's a common. That's a huge difference and it means that this card will be a big player in a dedicated Elves deck.

There are other big payoff cards at rare and above, but I'll let you find those for yourself.

Red-White Tokens

Red-white usually has an aggressive angle going on, and it does here as well. This time, though, it does so by producing a lot of small creatures and then capitalizing on them. It's a simple but effective premise that has the ability to feel very powerful, with a reasonable baseline of being just plain good.

You get quite a few token-makers to help get that big board state online:

These cards are just good on their own, but when you combine them with some of the big payoff cards in the set, they get out of hand.

  

These cards let you translate multiple creatures into tons of damage, and can be very difficult to interact with as well. Spot removal, which is usually at an absolute premium in Limited, won't get the job done in most cases. This archetype looks quite strong to me.

Green-Blue Threshold

Threshold is a mechanic that cares about whether you have seven or more cards in your graveyard. The payoff can be huge, often transforming your board from just okay into dominating. Take a look at the difference in power level between the pre-threshold and post-threshold states for these creatures:

As you can see, you are heavily incentivized to get threshold online as soon as possible so you can capitalize on the bonuses before your opponent can stabilize. Thankfully, there are quite a few ways to do this:

You can get threshold in a real hurry with cards like Dream Twist and Commune with the Gods. Dream Twist being an instant means that it can even mess with combat (blue combat tricks!). You'll get incidental value from this strategy as well.

Hey, while you're throwing a bunch of cards in the graveyard, a few may as well be for value, am I right?

Excite

I have to say, writing this article has really amped up my excitement to draft Eternal Masters. Now you've got a snapshot of what the big-picture archetypes look like in this set, but it looks super deep and there are a million synergies to explore. So pick a path, commit to it, and see how far you can take it. Don't be afraid to try out new things, and always keep your eye out for synergies you may have overlooked.

My last piece of advice is to take cards that are good in multiple decks very early. Those won't be lapping around the table for long.

@Marshall_LR

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