As a Limited format develops and as we get more experience playing it we will be able to develop a very deep and intricate appreciation for the many different strategies that we can pull off.
The set has only been out a couple of weeks and so, is still a very young format. Grand Prix–Sydney last weekend was the very first major international tournament featuring the new set. That means that there's still a lot for all of us (myself included) to learn about the format.
If you've already had the chance to draft the set heavily, then you've no doubt already familiarized yourself with many of the most powerful (and most obvious) archetypes. You've likely seen some slightly less standard but still fairly easy-to-pull-off strategies.
If you haven't had the chance to draft the set much (or at all) yet, and you're getting ready to sit down with three booster packs in front of you then worry not—it won't take very long to get you caught up to speed and ready to start ripping those packs open and putting together decks that will give your opponents some very real things to worry about.
Don't Try to Reinvent the Wheel
There is a very different feel to Scars of Mirrodin than most other Limited formats in the past or will have in the future. But that doesn't mean that you can forget everything you know about Limited.
Creature removal is still awesome—and artifact removal is better than it's been in about six years, since the original Mirrodin was the set to draft.
If you're trying to draft an infect deck, you're going to want to have all the removal you can get your hands on to clear the way for your poisonous critters. If you're playing a red-white beatdown deck, you are going to want to have good removal spells to kill your opponent's mana Myr (stopping him or her from casting some really big threats) or to deal with some of those big threats in case your opponent lives long enough to start casting them.
And if you're playing a slower deck, you are really going to need to have removal spells so you can kill off infect creatures, mana Myr, big threats like Carnifex Demon, or to keep your opponent under three artifacts so he or she won't be able to reap the benefits of metalcraft.
And if you are playing with metalcraft, be very careful not to walk into a trap where your opponent will be able to use one removal spell to put a whole bunch of your creatures out of commission.
No matter what type of a deck you are drafting, it is very important to pick up removal spells.
Just as removal remains great, evasion continues to be very good. Cards like Neurok Invisimancer and Glint Hawk are awesome ways to beat down your foes. You can take advantage of evasion creatures in really fast decks to help you swarm your opponents, or to deal those last few points of damage. And you can just as easily reap the rewards of hard-to-block creatures in slower decks that need ways to actually kill their opponents after they have managed to take control of the game.
But no matter how good your cards are you still need a good mana curve. If your deck is too slow, you will get annihilated by gigantic metalcraft-enhanced armies, or poisoned to death by quick infect creatures all the time.
Yes it's important to have some good things to do late in the game—but there's nothing more important than making sure you will live until you get the chance to actually cast your spells.
Don't Play Too Many Base Colors!
Just because there are a lot of artifacts in the set doesn't necessarily mean that you can get away with playing a bunch of colors. If you try to cram too many different colored mana symbols into your deck you will often find yourself in some pretty unfortunate situations where you are able to cast some of your cards, but you will have to sit around for a long time before you get the chance to play with half of your cards.
Rather than try to play three or four colors evenly in your Scars of Mirrodin Limited deck, you should try to play one or two base colors and you can splash a third (or sometimes even a fourth) if you have a good reason to.
There are a ton of different viable color combinations in Scars of Mirrodin Limited and because of the high density of artifacts it will often feel like you aren't playing any colors at all—heck, if you get enough artifacts you can reasonably play black for a single Skinrender, or red for just a Kuldotha Phoenix and not have to worry about it.
While there are some very good reasons to go black-green (infect), black-red (beatdown), or white-blue (metalcraft), you can just as easily put together a successful green-blue metalcraft deck, or a red-white beatdown deck, or a blue-black control deck and end up with something really good.
Unless you are trying really hard to draft a specific deck, like black-green infect, you should try to wait patiently before you commit to a color or colors—the high density of artifacts in this set gives you the luxury to wait and see if you open, or get passed, any bombs and then to be able to move in on them. Even if you don't manage to pick up any bombs, if you wait long enough you will be able to see if you are getting sent any very strong signals and then jump on them.
While you might be a bigger fan of, say, white-blue metalcraft than green-blue metalcraft, if you get passed some really late Carapace Forger I'm sure you will be willing to change your tune about playing blue and green together.
If you want to draft an infect deck, you need to make a serious commitment to the strategy.
If you end up merely dabbling in infect, you will, on average, end up with a far less menacing deck than you would have if you had drafted an infect-heavy deck that is hell bent on delivering your opponent ten poison counters, or a normal deck that aims to deal your opponent 20 damage (or a little bit more if some life-gain hits the scene).
At Grand Prix–Sydney last weekend, a number of the top players in the world were asked what their favorite deck to draft in Scars of Mirrodin was. Three of the six players questioned answered either infect, poison, or black-green.
The infect deck is very real, and very popular.
Even if you aren't playing it, you should be prepared to deal with it. If you aren't prepared for infect, you are going to have a lot of trouble winning your next draft.
That means that you need cheap blockers (with decent amounts of power), and as many cheap removal spells as you can get your hands on.
If you are drafting an infect deck, be sure to pick up as many creatures with infect (duh), removal spells and as many accelerants, such as the mana Myr, as possible. Even if you are playing a more controlling infect deck that looks to grind out advantages with cards like Corpse Cur, you should aim to put the pressure on early to be able to quickly defeat any opponent who is unfortunate enough to stumble while playing against you.
Unlike infect decks, where you need to be in black or green (or preferably both) to get enough cards to be able to reliably poison your opponent to death with, artifact-heavy metalcraft strategies can be put together using pretty much any color combination you can think of.
You can put together an aggressive red-white deck, or a controlling green-blue deck, or an evasion heavy white-blue deck or a ...
One of the most important things to keep in mind when you are drafting a metalcraft deck is that you want to end up with at least fourteen (but preferably sixteen, or even eighteen) artifacts to be able to reliably turn on metalcraft and keep it on even in the face of removal spells and combat steps.
Even if you aren't trying to draft a metalcraft deck, you can easily end up with a very good one as there are just so many good artifacts in the set. But if you are mindful of your artifact count, and the possibilities that you are unlocking each and every time you add an additional artifact to your deck, you will be able to put together some pretty phenomenal decks.
If you decide not to take advantage of infect or metalcraft, you can still end up with something awesome.
While most of the other players at your table are fighting over Corpse Curs for their infect decks and miscellaneous artifacts for their metalcraft decks, you can spend your time picking up traditionally good cards in two (or three) colors and clean up with your traditional—but powerful—deck.
Maybe, instead of doing anything too complicated, you just want to play a bunch of mana Myr and then plop down really fast Alpha Tyrranax.
And guess what? You can!
While this set might present you with the opportunity to put together some very complex and very powerful decks, there is also the chance for very straightforward, mechanically driven decks. There are times when the best thing you can do is just get back to the basics and play a deck with good mana, a good curve, some good removal and some excellent, if unexciting, threats like Alpha Tyrranax.
Red, white and black all have the tools to be a part of awesome aggressive decks. While you can put together a good aggressive deck using any one of these colors paired with any other color, you will be able to reliably put together fast and furious decks if you limit yourselves to some two-color combination of red, white, and black.
Aggressive decks can take great advantage of cards like Tumble Magnet that provide a powerful effect for a few turns until you use them up.
Necrogen Scudder is a good card for almost any deck, but in an aggressive deck that is looking to win before its opponent is able to really get anything of significance going, it becomes phenomenal.
While your opponent is busy trying to set up metalcraft, or poison you to death, you could just be killing them before they even know what hit them.
Good Luck in Your Next Draft!
If you get the chance to do any drafts this week, or you have done any recently that you are looking to talk about, then hop on over to the forums and let me—as well as the rest of the community—know what happened.
If you still have a deck list, you should share it. If you were able to do something really cool, let us know about it!
I'm excited to learn more about the format, and one of the best ways to do that is to know what other people think about it. So head on over to the forums and let me know what you've been drafting or what you're looking to draft.
I can't wait to read what you have to say.