How to Draft Masters 25

Posted in How to Play Limited on March 6, 2018

By Kenji Egashira

Better known as NumotTheNummy, Kenji is a lover of all things Magic. A "legendary streamer," you can almost always find him playing Magic Online over at his Twitch channel. When he's not playing Magic, Kenji enjoys long walks on the beach, romantic comedies, and devouring the hopes and dreams of the innocent.

Hello friends! It's been a while since my last article, but I'm hyped and ready to give you folks the rundown on drafting another set. What this time? Masters 25. Like other Masters sets, this one is fully reprints, so you'll probably recognize some of the cards immediately. Unlike some of those other sets, though, Masters 25 is more about drafting a deck of cards that are individually powerful, rather than one that is better because of the total of its parts.

What exactly do I mean by that? For example, in Iconic Masters you could draft a powerful white-black deck centered on life-gain cards like Angelic Accord and Sanguine Bond. These are cards that are generally poor on their own but become extremely potent when used with cards that gain life. There were plenty of other reasons to draft around life-matters cards because of their inherent synergy with one another; when one was good, all were good.

Compare that to Masters 25 and things are a bit different. Yes, of course there will be cards that synergize nicely with one another—Ravenous Chupacabra and Cloudshift, for example—but entire strategies will often not have the building blocks to come together like dedicated strategies we've seen before. That being said, I'm going to highlight what I believe to be the drafting pick order for the top three commons and uncommons in each particular color and why I'm rating them as such. Afterward, I'll explore some unique deck examples that you might be able to pull off in this Draft environment.


Top 3 Draft Commons

  1. Pacifism
  2. Noble Templar
  3. Whitemane Lion

Seems like a pretty standard list for white cards that are good in a drafting environment. Pacifism has always been a very good removal spell, though it can be a little weak to bounce or enchantment removal. Two mana is just too good of a rate for that type of effect. Second, and perhaps a little surprisingly, we have Noble Templar. This cycle of large creatures that can also find a land of their type have always been good, and Noble Templar is no exception. It finds a Plains early if you need it while also being a large body later in the game. Last of the white commons is Whitemane Lion. A bit innocuous at first, this creature can either save one of your others from dying from a removal spell or rebuy a creature with a relevant ability.

Top 3 Draft Uncommons

  1. Swords to Plowshares
  2. Urbis Protector
  3. Fiend Hunter

Not too much to be said here for uncommons. Swords to Plowshares is basically the best one-mana removal spell ever printed, so I wouldn't pass it for much beyond a bomb in a drafting scenario. Urbis Protector has always been decent, but pair it with Cloudshift or the aforementioned Whitemane Lion and you can just pull way too far ahead for your opponent to catch up. As for Fiend Hunter? Just a solid removal spell attached to a 1/3 body. Note that Fiend Hunter is phrased in the old-school fashion; this isn't a Banisher Priest. If you play Fiend Hunter and kill it, bounce it, or flicker it before the first ability resolves, the second ability will trigger and do nothing. The first ability will then resolve, permanently exiling a creature.


Top 3 Draft Commons

  1. Sift
  2. Man-o'-War
  3. Horseshoe Crab

A few classic blue cards here at common. Sift has always been an amazing card in Draft, and Man-o'-War has definitely been the same. I wouldn't pass these around very late, and if you see them it's probably a good sign that blue is open. As for Horseshoe Crab, this is more wishful thinking than anything else. I genuinely think this card can be amazing, but it requires help from a few other cards. Among the cards that Horseshoe Crab "combos" with are Retraction Helix, Presence of Gond, and Quicksilver Dagger. While Retraction Helix is one-time use, any of these cards immediately makes the Horseshoe Crab a must-kill target for your opponent. You are either bouncing their entire board, making an endless army of 1/1 Elves, or repeatedly dealing them 1 damage while drawing one card. That seems good. More on that later.

Top 3 Draft Uncommons

  1. Murder of Crows
  2. Merfolk Looter
  3. Exclude

The blue uncommons are similar in power to the common cards. Murder of Crows is purely a win condition that loots you into more action. Merfolk Looter finds the other best cards in your deck while getting rid of your worst card in hand. And Exclude is an efficient answer to any creature that also draws you a card. Think of Exclude as an easier-to-cast Cryptic Command and you'll start taking that card a little higher in your Draft order.


Top 3 Draft Commons

  1. Murder
  2. Twisted Abomination
  3. Bloodhunter Bat

Black has access to both some very powerful creatures and some very powerful spells. Murder was a staple in many Standard decks while it was legal in that format, and it still makes its presence known in this format. Similar to Noble Templar, Twisted Abomination serves the role of not only being able to fix your black mana early but also acting as a very potent win condition later in the game. Rounding out the commons is Bloodhunter Bat, which doesn't have the best of power and toughness for four mana but has great value immediately when it enters.

Top 3 Draft Uncommons

  1. Ravenous Chupacabra
  2. Ancient Craving
  3. Fallen Angel

I thought we had finally departed from the world of Ixalan, but lo and behold, Ravenous Chupacabra makes its appearance once again. There aren't going to be many cards you take over this solid card in a draft, though the double-black casting cost might make you pause for a second. Ancient Craving is no Sift, but it is close enough in power level, and in a color where card draw generally comes at a price anyway, this is a good rate. Fallen Angel as the third best uncommon isn't entirely impressive, but the creature is good enough and plays nicely enough with graveyard recursion that I think it warrants a spot.


Top 3 Draft Commons

  1. Chandra's Outrage
  2. Kindle
  3. Skirk Commando

We have a frequent theme here with the red commons and uncommons: burn. The first Chandra's Outrage is certainly better than the first Kindle, but the more Kindles you pick up the better they get. Both cards are decent enough, but I wouldn't be surprised if you'd rather take the second Kindle over the second Chandra's Outrage in Draft. Skirk Commando is a bit worse than those other two cards, but has high potential. Your opponent is often not going to want to block a morphed creature if you have access to any amount of mana, which means you can turn it face up before damage is dealt and get some nice value that way.

Top 3 Draft Uncommons

  1. Lightning Bolt
  2. Spikeshot Goblin
  3. Pyroclasm

There isn't really much to say about the red uncommons; they are just good. Lightning Bolt has always been a stellar Magic card, and that fact doesn't change in a Draft environment. Spikeshot Goblin was basically the premium card to get back in Mirrodin Draft, where it was originally printed, and though this time there aren't as many Equipment options or sustained pump effects to make it truly shine, it still deserves a high pick in Draft. As far as Pyroclasm is concerned, it's probably better as a sideboard card, but when you want to bring it in, it will often be one of the best cards in your deck.


Top 3 Draft Commons

  1. Woolly Loxodon
  2. Epic Confrontation
  3. Cultivate

If you didn't play during Khans of Tarkir block, then you won't know how powerful Woolly Loxodon can be. Morph creatures are always awkward threats for opponents, who don't know what they truly are. Turns out a 6/7 that can be unmorphed for a mere six mana is pretty fantastic. Epic Confrontation was actually in the same block as Woolly Loxodon, though it is a bit worse. A solid rate for a solid fight effect means you're probably taking this relatively early. Last for the green commons we have Cultivate. Not a card that is hugely impactful on the surface of things, but it does a surprising amount of work at accelerating and fixing your mana.

Top 3 Draft Uncommons

  1. Iwamori of the Open Fist
  2. Rancor
  3. Krosan Tusker

Iwamori of the Open Fist has got to be one of the best uncommons in Masters 25. While there will certainly be rare scenarios where your opponent opens a mythic rare legendary creature, such as Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, I have to imagine that the large majority of the time this is simply going to be a four-mana 5/5 creature with trample. As for Rancor, this card always seems to impress. It turns small creatures into threats that trade with bigger creatures, and bigger creatures into even scarier ones with trample! Krosan Tusker is simply value. Similar to the plainscycling Noble Templar and swampcycling Twisted Abomination, Krosan Tusker helps smooth out your mana while also providing a large threat later in the game.

Strategies to Expect

Now that I've gone over my top three commons and uncommons in each color, and given a brief explanation of those cards, I'll give a sample of some decks you might find in Masters 25 Draft. Remember, these aren't strict guidelines as to what your decks need to be—they are simply things that you could potentially draft and build. Let's start with one of my favorites, White-Black Value.

White-Black Value

Download Arena Decklist

This doesn't look amazing at a quick glance, but look closer and you'll start to notice some subtleties that make a deck like this quite deceptive. This deck can gain immense value through the synergy of enablers such as Whitemane Lion and Supernatural Stamina. You can either bounce your "value" creatures, such as Bloodhunter Bat, Ravenous Chupacabra, or even Dusk Legion Zealot, and start gaining incremental advantage off of that, or use Supernatural Stamina as a way to retrigger those abilities. My particular favorite "combo" of this deck is to Supernatural Stamina your Ravenous Chupacabra, then sacrifice the Chupacabra to Phyrexian Ghoul to not only kill another creature with your Ravenous Chupacabra when it reenters, but also pump your Ghoul +2/+2. The key during the draft is to take the highly sought-after creatures first, then focus on the ancillary cards like Supernatural Stamina afterward.

Slightly less focused than the white-black deck, but still very powerful, is the classic five-color monstrosity. The five-color deck is similar to previous Masters sets in that it requires ample amounts of easy-to-draft fixing while also having large win conditions that aren't hard to acquire. This set covers both of those requirements. What might this five-color deck look like? Let's take a look.


Download Arena Decklist

This definitely looks a bit greedy on the surface, but you have to remember that a large portion of these cards can either be cycled away or cast for an alternate cost. A full six creatures can be cycled for basic lands, while another four can be cast for morph costs. Many of the noncreature spells are either helping you get to the necessary mana or slowing the opponent down. Fixing is by far the most important element to drafting this strategy, and you'll often take a card like Prophetic Prism over a much "better" card such as Murder. By taking the fixing early during the draft, you're able to sculpt your deck in a manner that will then allow you to take the best card, regardless of color, after that.

The last strategy that I want to showcase is one that will take a little more work during the drafting portion. Similar to the five-color archetype, where you'll need to prioritize drafting the fixing early on, this deck will require you to draft in a more unconventional manner where the pieces need to fall in place.

Crab Control

Download Arena Decklist

If you've never had the opportunity to draft this style of deck before (back in the days of Pili-Pala and Presence of Gond, or even better Power of Fire), hopefully you get the chance to do so with Masters 25. At its heart, this is a control deck that looks to draw cards and establish the Horseshoe Crab and Presence of Gond combo as quickly as possible. With Presence of Gond attached to the Crab, you can produce a 1/1 Elf token for every blue source you have available to you per turn. As both are common in rarity, it should not actually be too hard to pick these up during the draft, and once it's online, it doesn't take very long to overwhelm your opponent with tokens. While admittedly not the most back-breaking of combos, it's certainly fun.

That's it for this overview of how to draft Masters 25. Hopefully you folks got a better impression of cards to take during a draft, and what cards might signal that a particular color is open if they're being passed to you. Did you just get a sixth-pick Lightning Bolt in a Masters 25 draft? It might be time to move into red. Furthermore, I hope you take note of the three sample decks/strategies you might similarly run in this Draft format. Remember, those lists are simply guidelines and definitely not hard-coded decks you have to adhere to. They simply give good representation of what those particular decks might look like. Don't be afraid to branch out and try other strategies and color pairings I didn't necessarily touch upon. The Draft pick guide should give you a good tool in starting down that path, and indeed I hope you find success should you draft Masters 25.

Until next time,

—Kenji "NumotTheNummy" Egashira

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