This past Friday (June 7th 2013) saw the release of the highly anticipated Modern Masters, for those of you that don’t know Modern Masters is a limited print set, comprising wholly of re-prints from MTG sets 8th edition through to Alara Reborn. “So no new cards?” Well these aren’t exactly your grandmother’s reprints; these are Modern staples. Never before has a draftable set been more pushed, it is a cube in a box. I have been fortunate enough to draft Modern Masters a few times this weekend, and I must say, if you get the chance to, draft it.
My first opportunity to draft came in the way of a midnight release at Good Games, Brisbane. I arrived at around 6pm Thursday; Modern constructed, LCG’s, and Vanguard were all on the menu, and with 6 hours before the release I was glad I had packed my Netrunner deck. Chatting with the LCG players was amusing; they were confused as to the unusually high giddiness of the Magic crowd. I also had to explain to one Game of Throne’s player why the words “Foil Goyf” were the topic of every other sentence.
They tournament organiser didn’t waste any time, at 12:01am I was in my seat with my Modern Masters packs in front of me. Before I even got the chance to look at my rare, the person sitting across from me windmill slammed a card and sleeved it right away; he later told me that his first pick was a Vendilion Clique. My first pick was a “Greater Gargadon”, a bit of an ask at a hard cast of 9R, but with all the suspend acceleration at common I couldn’t help myself. With Pardic dragon’s, Rift Elementals, and Fury Charms falling into my lap from that point on, my calling to RG suspend was obvious (I splashed white).
My first opponent for the night had drafted Affinity, an archetype near and dear to my own heart. We both missed some very early land drops and my game slowed down drastically, naturally Affinity seemed to be hardly affected by the lack of land and before long he had an insurmountable board state. I lost around turn 10, but my spirit would not be crushed; I knew I had the cards to beat him. Second game, my opening hand compromised of 3x lands 3x remove target artifact, and a turn 2 Kataki, War Mage, certainly happy with that splash for white at this point. My strategy in the second game was inevitability, card for card my deck was better than his, affinity’s strength comes from its synergy and its speed, both of which I had shut down. So even though I was in top decking mode in order to get any sort of board state, I had managed to run the game long enough to the point where my creatures were able to make an impact. I won the second game and we tied the round, apparently I had made the second game run too long and we were on to our second round of the evening.
The Vendilion Clique player from earlier was my next opponent and naturally he had drafted faeries. Faeries seemed like a very good archetype going into the drafts, and certainly one I had intention of attempting to draft at a later date, however his never seemed to get online. His problem was that his cards were based on interaction with my board and with my hand, and I was playing a lot of suspend which he just couldn’t interact with. The games lasted long enough to be fun, and I was certainly sweating at a couple of points, but when I managed to drop my Greater Gargadon on turn 5 with some suspend trickery it was game over and onto round 3.
So at this point I am 1-0-1 going into the third round. I was tied for second, and based on the points of the other players, and the rares that I knew were in the pool for the re-draft; if I won just one of the three games it would be good enough to pick up a “Kokusho, the Evening Star” for my collection. My opponent was playing a similar deck to my own, Red green stompy. And that’s all I remember from that round. From that point on it was just a blur of mana acceleration, and tempo advantages. I came to in the second game around turn 8, my sudden found consciousness didn’t help, it only meant I could comprehend the fact that he had 25+ power on the field and I only had two blockers. Both games were blowouts and I ended up finishing in fourth.
Fairies – A Good Draft Choice
Happy with my games and the rares I ended up getting, I made for the door when a friend asked if I had signed up for the next draft, or if he should do it for me while he was up at the counter. Never has more excitement been mustered at 3am than in that moment, “You mean I get to draft again?!” After 20 minutes of trading and gloating about the cards we pulled, we were all back at the tables ready for draft two.
Affinity is one of my favourite archetypes, although I love all Magic, I particularly love aggressive synergistic decks, of which Affinity and Goblins are kings. I opened my pack and nothing particularly jumped out, but I wasn’t waiting for a bomb to tell me to draft affinity, forcing a draft definitely isn’t a good thing, but when I fifth picked a glimmervoid I think it was safe to assume that artifacts were open. By the end of the draft I laid out my cards and I had 40 playables.
Across my 3 rounds I ended up going 1-2, with the one I won due wholly to a crazy good top deck, and the two I lost being total blowouts. I drafted pure aggressive artifacts, and I believe that is where I went wrong, I had no late game strategy outside of a “Tromp the domains” top deck. Each game essentially comprised of me setting up a massive board state and applying pressure throughout the first 5-7 rounds, and then sitting back for the next four while he promptly killed me, and my army of little artifacts. After my games ended, I talked to two other people who drafted affinity in their pods, they had very similar problems to me, and we discussed how we could have built it differently. The consensus between us was that artifacts needed to be a part of a deck, rather than a pure affinity deck. I think part of the problem for me is the temptation of theme within a deck; instead of taking a great blue or white card which would have been easily casted off the mana base I had, I picked another artifact I probably didn’t need.
The winner of my pod was playing faeries, I took a look through it and it wasn’t hugely different to my opponent’s faeries deck in the first draft. Something I am learning about Modern Masters is that no one archetype is strong or weak; it is based more on the strength of the player. Which is true of any draft, however in draft normally you can get lucky and open a thragtusk or a planeswalker, and the opponent can still definitely beat you, but the odds are stacked in your favour. Whereas in Modern Masters the card quality is so high across the board that it is difficult to really get an advantage based on one or two lucky pulls, which ultimately is what you want in a draft format.
Gauntlet would be my fourth and potentially final time to draft Modern Masters. Gauntlet is my go to LGS and as always you want to perform especially well in your own store, especially seeing as I was one of only a couple of people who had drafted it before. After the blow out with Affinity I decided I wanted to stay clear of it, I am sure someone has the capacity to make it work but I just didn’t want to touch it again. Going into the draft I had only one strategy in my mind, inevitability. I wasn’t going to try and force any particular archetype; my strategy was simple, card for card my deck would need to be better than anyone else’s.
I crack my first pack and the rare is the green Kamigawa dragon, Jugan. A green bomb, exactly what I needed, I proceed to keep picking cards that fit my theme of inevitability. A Maelstrom pulse and a stinkweed imp come through in back to back packs, both good enough cards to solidify black as my second colour. I laid out my deck at the end; it started curve at about 3, with most of the creatures sitting around 4 and 5, I was definitely leaving myself to being blown out early, but the reward was bigger than the risks. I also had a lot of graveyard fetch, so I could afford to be more aggressive with my creatures and then bring them back with death denied, eternal witness, and Warren Pilferers. A bit of dredge also allowed me to dig for the creatures I wanted.
Game one and three played out fairly similarly, I went 2-0 in both of them and for very similar reasons, namely my creatures were bigger and they kept coming back, and the opponent didn’t have enough answers.
Game 2 was a different story. Pairings were called and a pit in my stomach began to form when I heard I would be going up against Mike. Mike was featured a couple of weeks ago in Lochlan’s FNM article and there is a very good reason that he is being brought up again, he is a Magic powerhouse. To the best of my knowledge he had not previously drafted Modern Masters, and I kept reminding myself of that as I sat down, I had already drafted this set 3 times and this was his first, I should be able to pull it off, how wrong I was. The game started and I began slowly, trying to study his deck, trying to work out when I would need to play my answers. His deck had a lot of synergy, it functioned around storm and goblins, with empty the warrens being a 3 of in the deck. As the game went on I noticed that he wasn’t particularly aggressive with his goblins, he was happy to chump all day long but never went on the offensive, he was waiting for something. I top deck my Maelstrom Pulse, and there is a target on the field that is a being a thorn in my side but I hold it off, I get the feeling there is a bomb coming. Sure enough next turn he plays a Demigod of Revenge, but before he ends his turn he discards a land and retraces Raven’s Crime forcing me to discard the only card
I had in my hand, Maelstrom Pulse. This was only mid game and I continued to fight from there, but I was fighting a losing battle, and Mike top decking a Lava Spike when I was on 3 life ended the game. Game 2 went on much in the same fashion as the first one, they were long and hard and in the end I went 0-2. Mike went on to win the Draft for the day.
All in all I am a little bit sad, this past weekend I was fortunate enough to draft Modern Masters four times, which is definitely more than most, however I am sad because like all Magic players I want more of it. Modern Masters was a truly fantastic draft format, and it is sad to see it go. I am sure some of you have hidden your boxes away as in investment, or to draft it on a special occasion and those few remaining boxes are more than a box of cards, they are an experience waiting to be had. Here’s hoping for a Modern Masters 2.