I was able to collect some insights from the co-Players of the Year Guillaume Matignon and Brad Nelson as well as Level 8 Pro Martin Juza about Scars of Mirrodin / Mirrodin Besieged Limited.
Want to know what these masters of the game have to say? Then read on!
When we get to the Limited portion of Pro Tour Paris, all eyes are going to be on infect.
Reigning World Champion and current co-Player of the Year Guillaume Matignon posited in a recent article for StarCityGames.com that "Mid-range decks seem to be better with Mirrodin Besieged in the mix. I believe that aggressive poison decks are weakened greatly by Mirrodin Besieged, since there aren't any good two-drops with infect at common in the set. This will change the face of poison decks a lot. Poison decks will be forced to go mid-range too. "
Fellow StarCityGames.com columnist and Co-Player of the Year Brad Nelson explained in an article that:
"White now has infect creatures but that does not mean that it is a viable draft strategy just yet. I wouldn't say that it is impossible to draft a good white infect deck, but there's no way that I'm going to try to force it.
Before the introduction of Mirrodin Besieged, infect was, typically, played as a pretty straightforward aggressive deck with multiple two-drops. Sure the fact that Untamed Might could be waiting right around the corner was pretty frightening (and often deadly) but it was pretty easy to control them if you had the correct tools because they never really did anything else.
It is becoming less important to have an abundance of two-drop infect creatures since infect decks now have relevant five- and six-drops as well as new toys like Morbid Plunder that help them immensely in the mid-late game.
It used to be a decent defense to put down a card like Loxodon Wayfarer as a roadblock—but that really doesn't work anymore. You need a lot of pressure to be able to combat modern infect decks. I don't think you can push the game into turn fifteen and expect to have a way better board than they do unless your deck is filled with six-mana bombs like Steel Hellkite and Massacre Wurm."
When asked about infect, ChannelFireball columnist and Level 8 Pro Martin Juza explained that: "I like infect a lot. In triple Scars of Mirrodin I took to drafting it almost every time because there are just so many ways you can draft an infect deck; you can put together something extremely aggressive with a ton of Plague Stingers, you will almost always end up with something good. You just need to know how the card evaluations change in all the different types of infect deck.
I don't think people are going to force infect just because there are some good infect cards in Mirrodin Besieged. If they do force infect, it will be because they already know how strong infect is—not because they happened to open (or get passed) an above average infect card."
New Draft Order
When asked about the impact of the new drafting order, Martin Juza explained that: "The new drafting order definitely spices things up and keeps things fresh, but ultimately I don't think that it is going to change the way that people draft too much. That said, since the introduction of Mirrodin Besieged, the format looks much slower to me—so players will have to keep that in mind and draft accordingly."
Unlike Martin, I happen to think that the new draft order will have a big effect on the way that people draft the format—especially during the first few weeks of the format's life.
While players like Martin Juza, Brad Nelson and Guillaume Matignon (as well as many of the players who they expect to face when they are playing at the top tables of Pro Tour) have a tremendous understanding of the game on both a practical and a theoretical level—not everyone who plays Magic will have the same initial perceptions as our panel of experts.
During the first few weeks, I expect that many people (even at the Pro Tour) will overvalue infect thanks to the high density of good infect cards that can be found in Mirrodin Besieged. This might be counterbalanced by the fact that a good number of players will be too afraid (for either legitimate or illegitimate reasons) to draft infect even if all the signals are there for them to do it.
As Brad Nelson, Guillaume Matignon, and Martin Juza have all explained: you should definitely be aware of the reduced speed of the format. And if you are playing at the Pro Tour this week—you should be aware that many players will be drafting Mirrodin Besieged / Scars of Mirrodin in a similar way to which they drafted triple Scars of Mirrodin.
I think that as players (pros included) become more familiar with the format, they will discover numerous new archetypes that are viable pretty much exclusively because the first pack of each draft is Mirrodin Besieged.
It's typically very risky to draft your deck around cards that you hope to get in the final pack. But drafting around cards that you get in the first pack, that's easy!
Pick up a couple of Vivisections?
Grab a couple of Accorder's Paladins?
Then it very well might be time to put together an aggressive battlecry deck!
Martin Juza: "I haven't drafted a battlecry deck (yet), but I think that it is going to be more relevant for Constructed than it is in Limited. In Mirrodin Besieged Limited you end up trading one for one a lot—so it's pretty difficult to swarm your opponents."
Brad Nelson "Super aggressive decks do not really work in Mirrodin Besieged Limited. Make sure to draft some haymakers because you are going to need them."
I've always been a fan of aggressive draft decks—particularly in slower formats, and I think red-white battlecry decks offer players who are looking to beatdown in a pretty powerful way to do so.
While aggressive decks aren't great if other players are drafting with the specific goal of crushing decks full of quick creatures—if players do not respect hyper-aggressive strategies, they suddenly become quite powerful even if the cards aren't there for them to be effective against prepared opponents.
Master's Call is a particularly interesting card to me because of how well it works in both battlecry and metalcraft decks.
Are Brad and Martin right that hyper-aggressive decks just aren't good?
Maybe, maybe not. We're just going to have to wait and see what happens this weekend to know ...
Brad Nelson: "It's a lot harder to put together a good metalcraft deck now that Mirrodin Besieged is in the picture.
Not only do you have one less pack of mana Myr and Spellbombs, but the metalcraft cards in Mirrodin Besieged are significantly less powerful (and plentiful) than the metalcraft creatures in Scars of Mirrodin.
There is also a shift away from good artifact creatures and an abundance of great colored creatures. This makes it even less attractive to draft metalcraft and instead just grab great creatures. Not to mention how good the artifact removal has gotten ...
Sure, it's still possible to get 4/4 Chrome Steeds on turn three, but I don't think there's much upside to trying to force metalcraft anymore."
Martin Juza holds a different, but logically consistent position on metalcraft, explaining that: "I suspect that metalcraft will probably be a little underdrafted because there are so many good colored cards in Mirrodin Besieged."
I've said it before and I'll say it again. I do not like playing dedicated metalcraft decks. Even when things do go well for me, I feel like I'm extremely vulnerable to even the slightest bit of disruption on my opponent's part.
If metalcraft becomes a seriously endangered species, then it might be worth drafting—but I don't see that happening any time soon.
Cards to Watch in Every Color
I think that Accorder Paladin is going to be at the heart of some pretty excellent aggressive decks. If your opponent stumbles even a little bit and you have an Accorder Paladin, he or she is going to be in a world of hurt. Sure mana Myr can block and trade with it (which is kind of a downer), but you should also keep in mind the fact that Accorder Paladin is capable of trading with almost any (non-evasive, non-Blightwidow) creature out of an infect deck.
In the right deck, Vivisection is absolutely amazing. If you're looking to pull ahead in a close game, or you just need to draw into a bomb and/or a removal spell to help close things out—look no further than Vivisection!
If you have more than one Vivisection, be sure to pick up some cards like Oculus, Myr Sire, Master's Call, Origin Spellbomb, etc. to make sure that the additional cost of sacrificing a creature doesn't hurt you too badly.
Morbid Plunder is going to have a huge impact on this weekend's tournaments. This card gives infect decks so much staying power.
I love this kind of card. Sparkmage Apprentice, Blister Beetle, you name it. If I can kill a small creature and get a warm body for a reasonable price, I'm all over it. Blisterstick Shaman is excellent against infect decks, metalcraft decks, aggressive decks, and even slower decks that are chock full of mana creatures. What's not to love?
Viridian Emissary is an incredibly solid card for only two mana. If your opponent doesn't want to trade with it (and allow you to accelerate + fix your mana), then you will be able to crash in for a bunch of damage. If your opponent is trying to put pressure on you early—Viridian Emissary will do a ton to get you to a stage of the game where you are actually able to do what you want/need to do to win.
While Viridian Emissary (probably) isn't worth a very early pick—you don't want to overlook it.
No, Flayer Husk isn't the flashiest card—but it's an incredibly solid role-player that seems to be pretty underappreciated right now. I expect this card to get a lot of love this weekend.
What cards do you think are going to shine in Paris? Let the world know in the forums!