In most sets that exist outside of the world of Mirrodin, artifacts tend to be good picks because they are easy to cast (you just need lands, doesn't matter what color they are!) and they require no color commitment. You might first pick a Juggernaut in a Magic 2011 draft, not because it's the most abstractly powerful card in the pack, nor because nothing can stop it, but because you know that you will be getting a good card for your deck no matter what color(s) you end up drafting.
But in Mirrodin Limited, and now in Scars of Mirrodin Limited, you get substantial benefits for controlling a bunch of artifacts. While many of the cards in Scars of Mirrodin are pretty boring—but still functional—if you don't control any (or many) artifacts, they become pretty phenomenal once you add a good number of artifacts to your team.
For example, Carapace Forger, from the Scars of Mirrodin
But Carapace Forger doesn't suffer from that problem. As long as you have three artifacts on your side of the board, your Elf Artificer will become a pretty fierce 4/4 creature.
Time will tell how early we will want to take cards like Carapace Forger (I'm guessing that I'm going to be taking them very early) and how early we will want or need to take artifacts (I'm guessing it will make sense to take them pretty aggressively) but the fact is, Scars of Mirrodin is an artifact-themed set. And you are going to have to draft accordingly.
- Killing them Softly
A lot of the Scars of Mirrodin cards that have been previewed so far definitely emphasize the set's artifact theme. But that doesn't mean that you can, or should, focus exclusively on artifacts when you are playing Scars of Mirrodin Limited.
Even if you can put together an extremely powerful artifact-heavy metalcraft deck, you are going to want to pick up some tricks and removal spells so you have some room to maneuver, and the ability to deal with your opponent's most powerful cards.
In fact, removal spells become even more valuable than they would be normally (and removal spells are normally very valuable) when they can be used to disrupt things like metalcraft.
Note that the danger of removal spells makes it particularly important for you to pick up a TON of artifacts for your metalcraft deck. If you only have three artifacts for your Carapace Forger, you will put yourself into positions where you can get completely blown out if your opponent has a single bounce or removal spell to get rid of one of your three artifacts, thus shutting off metalcraft.
So while you shouldn't think that you can ignore normal tricks and removal spells while drafting Scars of Mirrodin, you will be heavily incentivized to pick up as many artifacts as possible when you are drafting artifact-themed decks. This means that you will want to, and have to, take artifacts over cards that are stronger in the abstract in order to make sure that your deck functions properly even in the face of some fairly strong opposition.
- Rending the Game
Pretty much every set has a couple of cards that are worth hooting and hollering over. My preview card this week is one of them.
Ready to see it?
Well then go ahead and click here!
I'm willing to pay four mana for a vanilla 3/3. No I'm not typically happy to do that, but I've played more than my fair share of Hill Giants in my day and it's certainly worth the cost.
I would happily pay four mana for a card that puts three -1/-1 counters on a creature. Heck, I would first pick a card that did that.
But with Skinrender, you get it all. You get a 3/3, and you get to kill an opposing creature all for the low, low cost of four mana.
(A word of caution: Skinrender's ability is mandatory. That means that if Skinrender is the only creature on the battlefield when it enters the battlefield, you must choose it as the target.)
But that's not all! In Scars of Mirrodin, Skinrender can do much more than kill 3-toughness creatures. When combined with proliferate, Skinrender can be used to kill even the most fearsome threats.
Truly no opponent is safe when Skinrender is around.
While there are still large chunks of Scars of Mirrodin that I haven't seen yet, I already know that if I open up a Skinrender in my first pack, there is very little chance that I'm going to pass it.
Sure if I open up a Molten-Tail Masticore or some other splashy rare I might have to pass along a Skinrender to the lucky player on my left—but that's about it.
Even if I decide that I'm not a particularly big fan of black in Scars of Mirrodin Limited, I will probably be willing to make an exception and go for a Swamp-based deck (a great cue to pick up a Leaden Myr or two) if I have the chance to start my draft with a Skinrender. It's just that good.
- How Much Do Colors Matter?
The fact that Skinrender has two black mana in its casting cost means that it will be pretty tough to splash. This means that you will need to make a pretty significant commitment to black if you want to be able to reliably cast your Skinrender.
But how big of a deal will that actually be in the artifact-heavy world of Scars of Mirrodin?
We need to see more of Scars of Mirrodin before I can safely say how much colors will matter. If the set is loaded with playable artifacts at common and uncommon, it might not matter too much which base colors you choose. In that case, you might be able to simply pick the color pair (or trio) that offers you the best bombs and go from there, switching colors in pack two with the greatest of ease.
Or it might turn out that you get a significant edge from picking a color combination and a theme and staying on target throughout the draft. For example, a card like Goblin Gaveleer won't be all that great in the majority of decks, but in an aggressive red-green deck it could easily be one of your most important cards.
Will players be able to put together extremely fast and powerful infect decks, poisoning helpless opponents to death on a regular basis while they can only watch as their best creatures wither away?
- Myr Or?
Another possible strategy in a set that may not give you loud color cues is to keep your splash possibilities open. If you don't want to commit to a color, and you want to pick up valuable artifacts, and you want to open yourself up for valuable splash opportunities, then Copper Myr, Gold Myr, Silver Myr, Leaden Myr, and Iron Myr are the way to go.
The mana-producing myrs are great additions to any deck. Heck, even if you don't have any cards that have synergy with artifacts, you will probably be happy to include an off colored myr or two in your deck just to be able to accelerate a bit (and maybe help you carry some equipment like Darksteel Axe). But if you are playing green, and you have a lot of metalcraft there will be few better additions to your deck than a Copper Myr.
And let's just say that it turns out that there are some very good removal spells that cost a single red mana, such as Galvanic Blast. Then an Iron Myr that you pick up in the first pack will open you up to a whole world of splash opportunities that you can jump on at any subsequent point in the draft.
If you're stumped with what you want to take with one of your earliest picks—and you want to take a card that will keep your options open as wide as possible, then look no further than the myr family. I can guarantee that you won't be disappointed if you take a mana-producing myr early.
We will have a better sense as to how we should answer these and many more questions next week as more cards and then finally the entire set are previewed, and an even better sense when we finally get a chance to play with the set at the Prerelease on September 25th-26th, but we won't be able to fully answer these questions until we have had the chance to play the set heavily for a number of weeks/months.
Until we get a better idea of what overarching draft strategies are best to pursue in Scars of Mirrodin we are going to have to really go with our guts as to when we decide to jump on colors—or maybe, if we're lucky, we will be fortunate enough to open a card like Skinrender and we won't have to worry too much about which color we want to start our draft with.