The release of a new Magic: the Gathering Masters set is always a reason for excitement. Sure, Wizards of the Coast reprints some of its most sought-after cards, but the draft formats are not to be overlooked. Sets like Modern Masters are frequently considered among the greatest of all time. We don't get many shots to play them, so this time around, if you have the opportunity, make sure you have a plan.
The gimmick with Double Masters sets like this is that each pack is seeded with a second rare or mythic slot. Double the rares! Double Masters sets also have a unique draft procedure. For the first pick of each pack in the draft, each player selects two cards for their first pick, not just one. The draft then proceeds normally from there. As we will see, this first-pick procedure changes our approach to the draft.
Pack 1 Pick 1 (2 Cards):
Double Masters 2022 has ten supported three-color archetypes. The five wedges and five shards are all bound by overlapping themes. Each archetype has cards that will elevate that specific deck in a big way. There are also individually strong cards like Path to Exile, Mulldrifter, and Lightning Bolt that are good options to start your draft. However, they're not the first cards I'll be looking for in each of my packs.
When cracking a premium set, don't be ashamed to recoup value when you see it. These sets are pricey and you're only going to get to see them for a limited time. These booster packs are designed like lottery tickets. Don't be afraid to cash in when you see the opportunity. With the ability to take two cards for our first pick, we have the opportunity to hedge when both rares in the pack are not valuable and take a solid Limited playable as well as the money. This allows players to grab something with real blue-book value, while still putting their flag in the sand when it comes to deck-building.
Post-Business Decision Drafting
Once I take a money card (if I'm lucky enough to see one), I need to return to the draft in earnest. Early on I'm looking for a card that is either:
- Useful in any deck that can play it. These will be cards like Skinrender, Prophetic Bolt, Eternal Witness, or Mulldrifter. Some of these cards play stronger in certain archetypes, but all will play well in any deck that can reliably cast them.
- Engine cards for a specific archetype. These are cards that optimize specific decks. Cards like Blood Artist in Mardu (BWR) Sacrifice or Travel Preparations in Abzan (GWB) +1/+1 Counters.
Single-colored cards are still going to be valuable as they keep you open to reading the table. However, we need to know which archetypes we actively want to be in. What are the critical cards to get there? With such a short lifespan, we won't have a chance to map out the landscape as carefully as we did in Streets of New Cappena (SNC) where we heavily hedged towards Brokers (GWU).
Abzan Counters (GWB)
The Magic homepage lists this as an Abzan (GWB) archetype, but the biggest inclusions all seem to fall inside of the Selesnya (GW) colors. If the wedge is open, I might try to streamline the mana and make this a two-color deck. Travel Preparations is a card I remember most fondly from Innistrad draft, as it was pure gas for any aggressive deck. Being able to strategically place two counters on two separate creatures, two times for two mana a pop was hard for opponents to play around.
Even though the flashback sorcery was up-shifted to uncommon, critical cards for the archetype have been down-shifted to common. Having access to multiple copies of Experiment One provides a legitimate early threat. This is especially important because cards like Chronicler of Heroes and Relief Captain want a big board presence.
The outlast cards, specifically Abzan Falconer and Ainok Bond-Kin, should be priorities. Having a two-drop generate first strike for your team, or airlifting the squad for lethal with Falconer is devastating.
I will also prioritize cards like Mentor of the Meek and Militia Bugler in this archetype if my creature count is high enough. A board full of small creatures increases the flexibility of your +1/+1 counters, and effects like Thrive or Biogenic Upgrade become game-ending on a big board.
Mardu Aristocrats (RWB)
Sacrifice synergies are often present in draft formats, but in Masters sets, players get access to a larger range of possibilities.
There are no Act of Treason variants in this format. Generating sacrifice fodder might be a bottleneck for this deck. There are some rares that do this exceptionally well like Bitterblossom and Seasoned Pyromancer, but at lower rarities, you'll have to work harder. Doomed Traveler does work here, as will Call to the Feast. However, I am concerned about the lack of disposable creatures.
The good news is that all of the pay-offs are here. Blood Artist is the face of the franchise, and I would love to have multiple. Hissing Iguanar does a reasonable impression. Seeing these late will be a sign you're in the right archetype. The freshly down-shifted Dark-Dweller Oracle and the surprisingly powerful Cartel Aristocrat are also viable sacrifice outlets, as is Bloodflow Connoisseur.
Honestly, this is an archetype where I'd consider the possibility of splashing a Spider Spawning to generate bodies. Being able to send a fresh batch of reinforcements to extract value from your sacrifice engines and death synergies is what this deck is lacking. A slight green splash can fix that in a big way, providing instant kills and ending the game in a hurry.
The Flicker archetype in Esper (UWB) utilizes the "enters the battlefield" (ETB) abilities of creatures. It aims to play high-value creatures and reuse their ETB effects.
This archetype has a high upside. Using an early Momentary Blink on a turn-five, evoked Mulldrifter or Aethersnipe will be game-breaking. However, those cards will be coveted by all players in your colors. There is a big difference between flickering Skeleton Archer and Skinrender. If the colors are open, this archetype should be extremely powerful, but even when contested the archetype presents opportunities.
Blue and Black offer control tools like Agony Warp and Deep Analysis. A signpost for this archetype is the common removal spell Settle Beyond Reality. Pairing these types of cards with high-end finishers like Psychic Symbiont or Vampire Sovereign can be a good way to finish your opponent.
While this sounds like a great archetype, my biggest concern with this deck is its early game plan. Once you start snowballing card advantage you should be fine, but the aggressive decks in this format look like they'll be able to get under you. Unsurprisingly, Wall of Omens looks like a crucial piece to the success of this deck.
Sidenote: Unburial Rites does a reasonable job reactivating potent ETBs. The flashback sorcery is a sneaky Flicker card.
Jeskai Prowess (URW)
Excited drafters will look for any excuse to splash an off-color bomb. Fortunately, we have the tools to punish that greed. The prowess deck looks to play aggressive low-costed creatures and leverage well-timed spells to finish them off.
This deck relies on tempo to win the game, so I think cutting a color is an option to streamline this deck. Often times when we build decks like this, we're looking for any cheap instant to activate prowess with flexibility. This set offers great options in Lightning Bolt, Lightning Helix, and Path to Exile for turns where removing a blocker while double-spelling will lead to a win. However, like the high-powered cards in the Flicker archetype, those cards will be high-picks for many players at the table.
When it comes to spells, efficiency is the name of the game. As I mentioned in a previous article though, expensive removal can be fine in aggressive shells. The top-end interaction for this deck is really exciting. Domestication and Prophetic Bolt are powerful ways to trigger prowess. These cards might not kill your opponent on the spot, but they set up multi-turn kills quite well.
Heroic "Aggro" (RGW)
I am far more excited about the Prowess version of the aggro deck than the Heroic one. The Jeskai (URW) version has better interaction and is harder to interact with. While some of the cards overlap, the Heroic archetypes often risk "putting all their eggs in one basket".
If you're able to end up with multiple copies of Experiment One, Tenth District Legionnaire, or Monastery Swiftspear, I can see the aggressive plan working well. However, if your plan is to build a Wingsteed Rider into an Archangel, I'm far more skeptical. This deck wants to be explosive, so it needs to be pressuring opponents. I do see another option here though.
I'm curious about cards like Labyrinth Champion and Gnarlback Rhino. These cards generate more value when they are targeted than the other heroic cards. A Centaur Battlemaster can grow huge, but this set has removal to deal with a single big threat. If I find myself in this archetype, I'd like to try and use the blink spells to protect my value engines, rather than use pump spells to push through lethal. As a result, I'm prioritizing Hyena Umbra and Ambuscade over more traditional tricks like Might of Old Krosa and Battlefield Promotion.
The heroic mechanic is temperamental. You're not just collecting"good heroic cards". You need to build a deck with a plan. There are a lot of upsides here, but the pitfalls are also very real. Heroic is the last archetype with clear defining features. The remaining five archetypes feature more overlap and utilize less overt synergy.
Graveyard Value UBR and UBG
There are opportunities to self-mill in Dimir (UB). Similarly, Dimir offers a few options as to how to use the graveyard. The blue zombies from Innistrad are undercosted but require some fodder in the graveyard. Thought Scour, Seekers' Squire, and Deranged Assistant can help you generate value from Advanced Stitchwing, Makeshift Mauler and the suite of Flashback spells the format offers. Spider Spawning is a major payoff for being green.
Wizards would have you believe that there are two fundamentally different archetypes here. I am skeptical. Both decks are Dimir-based and use the graveyard as a resource to grind out their opponents. In theory, Grixis (UBR) is more of a midrange approach and Sultai (UBG) is ramping into a bigger endgame. In actuality, Grixis seems to be an unsupported archetype. The Izzet components are very spell-heavy, but black does little to support that initiative.
It's difficult to identify exactly what red brings to the archetype. Pirate's Pillage, Living Lightning, and Surreal Memoir all seem fine, but I'd rather showcase those cards in one of the more spell-centric archetypes. Conversely, Unburial Rites can be a strong splash while you're filling your graveyard.
Still, this game plan is a reasonable one. Using the graveyard as a resource can help win longer games. Because it lacks synergy, you will need to rely on stronger cards. Thankfully, the format's removal and card advantage can make that possible.
Ramp (GWU and GRU)
Both of these decks build off of the green tools for ramping. Rampant Growth and Elvish Rejuvenator do a lot of work for both of these decks. As a result, I imagine these decks will often just be piles of good cards. If you do get the ramp tools and the payoffs, leaning into this theme can be quite powerful. Webweaver Changeling and Eternal Witness both thrive in longer games, but I wonder how the flicker effects will spike in value once you're building in this direction.
Similarly, Bear's Companion looks the part of a good ramp card, but wouldn't you also just rather be flickering it? The only real payoffs for ramp at common are Annoyed Altisaur and maybe Dreamshaper Shaman. Both of these need more high-costed creatures waiting at the top of your deck.
If I see a bunch of threats at higher rarity then this shell could be an effective one. If I open a Hydroid Krasis and get passed a Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, I can imagine myself aggressively looking for the ramp pieces. In general, though, I'm going to be looking for powerful cards or inroads to another more synergistic archetype.
Jund 'Em Out (BRG)
Jund. Whatever you call it, this archetype is the least defined of the archetypes in Double Masters 2022. The deck is essentially just playing the good cards in these colors. Strong creatures backed by powerful removal spells. It's a simple recipe, although I do think the previous four archetypes use a similar blueprint.
Typically, Jund wants a lot of two-for-ones. Cards like Brindle Shoat, Seekers' Squire and Staggershock can provide that value. You don't need to be particularly aggressive if you have access to premium removal, which this set offers these colors.
Good creatures, good removal, and good card advantage make this deck tick. Jund is the epitome of overlooking synergy, though that isn't to say none exists. You can build sacrifice synergies with Brindle Shoat and Severed Strands. Furthermore, you can add ramp elements if you opened a payoff. Jund uses the best tools to make a solid deck and it usually works fine.
My Archetype Rankings
- Jeskai Prowess - Aggressive, with a ton of options at the top end. Proactive with great interaction. This is where I want to be.
- Abzan Counters - This deck scales with the game and seems very well-supported at common. It may struggle with bombs.
- Esper Flicker - This deck might just be Bant more often than not. If it can solve its late-game issues, I think this is the most dangerous deck in the format.
- Jund - Good ol' rock. It probably has the best tools of the ramp decks and a deep arsenal of removal. I want high-quality threats in this deck, but if I have them, this becomes a great home.
- Mardu Aristocrats - Though I'm not convinced this deck has all of the pieces to get there, I'm excited about the upside. If you can either snag aggressive early pressure or a reliable way to make more bodies, I think this can be powerful.
- Graveyard Value Decks - I don't love the design space here, but playing a grindy control deck in a format where you have access to high-powered cards still is exciting to me.
- Ramp Decks - Assuming we have something to ramp into? Otherwise, these colors just have reasonably strong cards to play a midrange game plan.
- Heroic Decks - I want to like these, but I've been hurt before.
To paraphrase Jim Nance, the Masters are an experience unlike any other. Cracking these boxes is a ton of fun, but the draft format will likely be deep and challenging. Take your money cards, then put your game face on and win a few free packs. Let me know what has you most excited about in this draft format in the comments.