It's always the hardest to draft during the first few weeks when a new set has just been released. It is also the time when the best drafters figure out the format before everyone else follows in their lead. I talked to some of the great Limited players for their take on the format, which archetypes they preferred, and what they thought were the keys to successfully draft Modern Masters 2015 Edition.
Portugal's Marcio Carvalho had made the Top 8 of nine Grand Prix, most of them in Limited. He finished in the Top 4 in Liverpool earlier this year and could legitimately be called a real master of Magic. Even though Modern Masters 2015 Edition had been released a mere week ago, he'd already had the time to get plenty of practice drafts in. “I've done five drafts on Magic Online and four in paper,” he said.
Carvalho had been successful in many different Limited environments over the years, and he argued that this one differs from a lot of them, especially in one aspect. “The set is really interesting, and I think the key to it is synergy rather than power. I think people focus too much on power and that the best decks will always be the two-colored decks where all the cards play well together,” he said.
“I favor Green/White Tokens, which is what I drafted in my first draft today. But I also like White/Black Spirits. I don't like Affinity which I think is sort of a trap in the format. And when it comes to colors I think that green, white, and maybe red are the strongest. Blue is probably the weakest.”
About his first draft, he said, “I started out going for White/Black Spirits with some black cards and a Hikari, Twilight Guardian. But a fourth-pick Kozilek's Predator and a seventh-pick Nest Invader made me move into green/white. And then I got lucky and opened Mirror Entity in pack two which is a crazy card, and at its best in those colors.”
Carvalho also mentioned that the games in this format tended to be long and grindy. "So I don't like cards that don't do anything by themselves, like equipments. I don't play those, unless they're Living Weapon, or maybe Darksteel Axe which is pretty good.”
Another proven Limited expert is Czech Platinum pro Martin Jůza. With 22 Grand Prix Top 8s, including four wins, he could be considered one of the most experienced Limited players in the world. And he didn't mind sharing his opinions on the format. He claimed he had drafted the best deck he's ever had in the first draft of the day, and with a résumé as long as his, that's saying a lot.
“It was Green/White Tokens, with four copies of Scion of the Wild. People don't realize how insane that card is. It used to be a rare, and for a very good reason,” Jůza said.
Like Carvalho, he favored synergy over power and also mentioned green/white as one of the best examples. “I think green/white is the best archetype by far before people start to figure out how good it is. In fact I've done over 20 drafts, but I just learned myself that cards like Sunlance and Arrest aren't where you want to be in the archetype. You only really want creatures and pump spells.”
An interesting card that Martin Jůza said no one else appeared to like was Commune with Nature. He explained how it could even be good in many different decks. “In green/white it's a tutor for Scion of the Wild, and in the five-color decks it searches for cards like Skyreach Manta or Pelakka Wurm. I think Commune with Nature is the most underrated card in the format, and it always wheels in the draft, so I'm happy to pick up a few copies for my green decks.”
As for his overall impression of the draft format, Jůza said, “ I think it's a good format. Even better than last time when the original Modern Masters was around. I feel like the archetypes were more narrow then. Now you can do different things with some of them. If you first pick a Kozilek's Predator for example there are three different archetypes you can go into.”
Martin Jůza might be the perfect example of someone who tends to learn the ins and outs of a format before most people, and then teaches others who then teach more people. That way the canon of the draft format is created. He believed that many people might be doing their first drafts with Modern Masters 2015 Edition this weekend, and, like he himself at first, would be tempted by impressive-looking cards like Rusted Relic and would take those over seemingly weaker cards like Kozilek's Predator, which might be a better pick if you really like green. Which Jůza did.“I think green is the best color by far. In normal formats, like Dragons of Tarkir/Fate Reforged, there were few removal spells that weren't red or black, so you wanted to be one of those two colors and had to take removal highly. In this set, there are tons of removal spells spread out over many colors, so you can easily get removal late in the draft. And with a green-based deck you can also splash whichever color you need if you're lacking removal.”
Jůza considered Elementals to be the worst draft archetype. “It just seems like it's the weakest one. Smokebraider doesn't even seem very good, and the good Elemental cards like Mulldrifter, Aethersnipe, Spitebellows, and Nameless Inversion get taken by people who want them for other decks. So you're left with a bunch of small bad creatures and nothing to back them up with," he said. "So I really can't recommend Elementals.”
There still seemed to be a lot to learn from the Modern Draft Masters, and until us regular mortals have had the chance to learn the format better, the best bet probably was to trust the experts' judgment.