This series is dedicated to helping you go infinite on MTGO through a combination of playing and investing better. Today we bring you the second in our series on beating EMA draft alongside our two draft gurus: Matthew Watkins and Bing Luke. Part One of the series looked at rareshifts and underrated cards in each color—check it out here.
As we discussed yesterday, there are ten two-color pairs in Eternal Masters:
- W/U Flying Matters
- U/B Reanimator/Recursion
- B/R Sacrifice
- R/G Fast Aggro
- GW Enchantments
- W/B Enters-the-Battlefield Effects/Blink
- U/R Flashback/Retrace
- B/G Elves
- R/W Tokens
- U/G Threshold
There may also be other “hidden” archetypes, as well as particular three- and four-color combinations that have synergy. I asked Matthew and Bing their views on the format, and in particular their views on the ten archetypes Marshall Sutcliffe identified. Would these be “strong” archetypes, like in Lorwyn, where you really can’t win if you aren’t in a tribe, or “weak” archetypes where they add value but aren’t essential?
“With Lorwyn on Magic Online flashback, it's a great opportunity to revisit what a format on rails looks like and how different it looks from draft formats nowadays,” wrote Bing. “In Lorwyn, the strongest decks can play any card that have the respective creature type in the text box (Elvish Eulogist being a prime example of a card that goes from filler to unbeatable once you have 15+ elves). Most of the archetypes in Eternal Masters appear based on the synergies that have a more straightforward relationship with card power to deck power.”
“This feels a little more like a standard limited set with modern design principles than something like a cube or Vintage Masters. The ‘build-around-me’ uncommons are based off of strong synergies (like Intangible Virtue, Timberwatch Elf, and Animate Dead), but don't include format-warping cards like Lightning Rift or Brain Freeze."
"There are also a number of incredibly strong commons across all colors that can by themselves lead to some pretty busted decks depending on how many you get. My initial reaction is that the best decks will have a critical mass of overpowered commons that are supported by on-theme uncommons or rares rather than being a deck that only does its one thing very well.”
Matthew had a slightly different take: “This is very much an archetype-based format, like the other Masters formats. I think that you are heavily advantaged to read the signals and get into the correct archetype as soon as possible and then try to squeeze out every ounce of synergy you can. Every deck gets powerful cards in this format; it's a very deep format where virtually every common and uncommon is there to fill a specific role in an archetype. If you aren't building on synergy, then you are losing the only edge you are going to get.”
For Matthew, the deepest colors are green, red and blue, in that order. “I think any deck in those colors is going to be pretty solid by the end of the draft. However, the colors are all so strong and deep that I think going for the ‘safe’ color is a huge mistake. A decent archetype deck is going to be stronger than even a very good ‘good stuff’ deck.”
W/U Flying Matters
It looks like the set will support two distinct versions of the W/U Flyers deck. The first is a more traditional “skies” deck that seeks to lock down the ground and use evasive threats to kill the opponent in the mid game. The second is a more aggressive tempo deck that will look to play threats early and back them up with removal and bounce to win the race.
The first set of cards is strong in either deck, but the others will probably only flourish in one type or another. (Note that I didn’t mention Swords to Plowshares or Pacifism here—both are first-pick quality removal that are great in any white deck.)
Matthew "considered putting the white-blue deck in the top five, but my concern is that the synergy just won’t be enough to compete against strategies like Vengeance, Threshold, or Elves. I would be glad to be wrong about that, since W/U Flyers tends to be one of my favorite decks to draft in most formats. But white-blue also has the problem of just not having the powerful commons that red gets in Firebolt and Carbonize, as well as missing out on the depth and versatility that you get from green."
Blue and black have a lot of great control and card advantage elements. There is also a reanimator and recursion sub theme which will allow the deck to cheat in a fatty in the early game or grind out value in the late game.
I think the jury is out on this. Matthew notes, "I don’t think a reanimator strategy is a good idea unless you pick up multiple Ingestors. Instead, I think it’s powerful to center the deck around a control strategy that leans on value creatures to hold and trade on the ground, and then uses reanimation spells to recycle that value. Of note, Animate Dead is an aura that probably splashes really well in into the white-green deck."
Bing writes, "I was viewing reanimation as having two main routes. The first is the more traditional reanimation strategy, but this is contingent on opening one of the premium targets like Sphinx or Inkwell. Without those cards, it might be good enough to have cards like Jetting Glasskite or Prowling Pangolin if you get them out on turn two or three, but which are still castable on curve."
In other words, reanimation is a tool in the kit, but you'll need other tools as well. Fortunately, blue and black have some strong control elements and defensive creatures that can hold the ground while you're up to no good. Merfolk Looter is strong in most blue decks, but really shines here. Even better, some of the key cards for the blue-black control deck will table because no one else wants them (I'm looking at you, Urborg Uprising and Innocent Blood).
This deck combines a bunch of seemingly mediocre cards together with strong synergies, similar to B/R Goblins in Lorwyn. It is probably best played aggressively, though there will be midrange versions as well that use recursion to accrue value.
Neither Bing nor Matthew had much enthusiasm for this deck, which suggests it may also be overlooked at draft tables. That doesn't mean it's good, but if it's open there are multiple redundant cards that can combine into a powerful strategy.
R/G Fast Aggro
Matthew argues that R/G Fast Aggro isn't a thing. Obvious it was designed to be so, but it turns out that most of the green cards are more suited for a midrange deck, and the "fast aggro" cards are just weak in general. Instead, the red-green deck is more of a good stuff midrange deck that leans on great green creatures and powerful removal spells, as well as being a great color for splashing.
Green-white has a lot of aggressively costed cards. It also has an enchantment subtheme. As you can see, there are only a few cards that pay you for playing enchantments, so don't move into this deck unless it's open. This deck did not appear on Bing or Matthew's radar.
W/B Enters-the-Battlefield Effects/Blink
By Matthew's reckoning, "W/B Enters the Battlefield isn't a thing. Yes, they tried to go there, but there simply isn't enough support for the archetype. The deck leans way too hard on Whitemane Lion, without paying you off like it should. It really needed more flickering at common for that deck to be a thing. Instead, you just get a white-black midrange deck that probably isn't good enough unless you get a ton of great removal, which could definitely happen."
Matthew argues that "calling the blue-red deck Flashback is very misleading, since the flashback deck only really exists if you have Burning Vengeance. Yes, there's a great U/R Burning Vengeance deck, but trying to force that every time you end up in blue-red will be pretty disastrous. However, the blue-red deck is still probably one of the strongest decks in the format on the back of three very powerful common bounce spells in Man-o'-War, Silent Departure, and Stingscourger. A blue-red tempo deck with powerful flashback spells to close out the late game seems awesome."
With all the aggressive creatures in red and blue, getting in some early damage shouldn't be hard.
This is the only tribal deck in the set, and provides a fairly linear strategy. Do not underestimate these folks. As Matthew mentioned in the last article, Timberwatch Elf is bonkers, and there are enough incidental elves that even non-dedicated decks will find a home for some of these synergies.
White-red is super aggressive, whether you're seeking to go wide or not. In the token deck, the idea here is to go wide and overwhelm the opponent with an aggressive swarm backed by pump effects and burn. Rally the Peasants is a total beating at common and will steal some games. As with white-black, Whitemane Lion and Glimmerpoint Stag will be in high demand so take them early.
This one is pulled right from Odyssey block, but with a few nice additions.
If you can get a Wonder in this deck you're golden---your fatties will outclass anything else in the air. This deck lacks removal but has a tempo, bounce and card advantage strategy that is hard to keep up with.
So what do we miss when we only look at the two-color pairs?
Bing: "I can imagine some great decks that go real deep on Hondens. Otherwise, the fixing doesn't seem very deep, so any deck that goes above two colors is going to need some strong rewards. Initially, Jund or Sultai look like the best fit for a "good stuff" deck, full of independently strong cards. That being said, there are some great rares and mythic rares that I could easily see trainwrecking my mana to fit them into my 40. If I open Jace, the Mind Sculptor in my pack three and I'm not blue, I'm going to find a great excuse before I pass it."
Matthew: Of the archetypes that didn't get covered, "one of them is, I suspect, the best archetype in the format: RGu Burning Vengeance. Yes, the U/R Vengeance deck looks great, but I suspect that the R/G Vengeance deck is the optimal build. A red-green deck can lean on Abundant Growth, Pilgrim's Eye and Civic Wayfinder to fix mana while also generating velocity in the deck. But the key card comes in Commune with the Gods."
"This common lets you dump a bunch of cards into your discard pile while also finding Burning Vengeance. You even get good flashback spells in Sylvan Might and Roar of the Wurm. The really powerful part is that you still get to splash all the blue flashback and retrace cards that you want."
"[Another uncovered] archetype is 5-Color Green. This set gets three powerful common fixers on top of the full cycle of Khans of Tarkir gain lands. That by itself is not enough to create a five-color archetype, but this set has so many powerful bombs and removal spells that it would not be hard to find good reasons to play all five colors. There are both an abundant amount of fixers, as well as some powerful bombs and removal, even at the uncommon level. On top of that, you can lean on the RUG Hondens for a powerful long game if you are already in three colors."
So what’s our verdict? Which archetypes do you want to be in?
Matthew: I would rank the top-tier archetypes in some order close to the following:
(0.) Decks with Burning Vengeance
1. RGu Midrange
2. B/G Elves
3. U/G Threshold
4. U/R Tempo
5. R/W Tokens
The decks I'm most excited to try are the following:
1. U/G Threshold
2. B/G Elves
3. U/B Control/Recursion
4. W/G Enchantress
5. 5-Color Green
The one combo I would avoid is white-black unless I just have an incredible density of removal, but even then I'd probably move into one of the other colors and just splash either white or black.
For Bing, "I'm looking forward to having those busted decks with the commons that get really stupid in multiples. Something like the seven Squadron Hawk deck, or four Elvish Vanguards with a Wirewood Symbiote."
When asked if he had final thoughts Bing replied, "I would like to use this to reiterate that it is simply wrong that Silvos, Rogue Elemental is just an Elemental and not an Elemental Rogue."
Good luck this weekend going rogue, whichever way you choose to do it... Let us know your thoughts in the comment section, and enjoy your drafting!