Howdy howdy howdy! Are you still trying to get used to the new MTGO client? Me too. It’s actually not that bad. That’s not a ringing endorsement, but it really could be worse. There haven’t been many reasons to play online lately, though, as we are in those early days when Magic 2015 is available only in paper. You don’t need no software to ride that train, just some friends and some packs. So draft it I have.

This week I bring to you my three early impressions of Magic 2015 draft. Here we go!

1. None Shall Pass Bombs

Core sets draft formats tend to be bomb heavy. You need two conditions to make a set bomby in draft: lots of strong bombs and a slow enough format to cast them regularly. Magic 2015 fits this perfectly. Core sets tend to be slow because they aren’t dominated by synergy-based mechanics that speed up the natural curve of the game. Here we have convoke as the only mechanic like this, and it doesn’t really speed the format up that much. Instead it encourages building up your board presence, which takes time, leaving the door open for casting bombs anyway.

chocolate-frosted-sugar-bombs-calvin-hobbes-2 And boy does Magic 2015 deliver some bombs to play with. The soul cycle are all incredible and powerful cards that dominate the board once they hit play. Heck, they can even dominate the board after they die, depending on the situation. Soul of Theros has the most bonkers ability—if you are able to use it for a turn or two, you will just win. The other souls are no slouches either, pumping out beast tokens, Searing Blazes, graveyard recursion, indestructibility, or raw card draw.

But the bombs don’t stop with the souls. Magic 2015 has plenty of powerful fliers at rare, like Avacyn, Guardian Angel, Indulgent Tormentor, and Master of Predicaments. Green even offers up big power at uncommon, with Siege Wurm and Ancient Silverback. And if you want to build your own bomb creature, auras like Spectra Ward and Burning Anger do quite well.

2. Be Proactive

The number one way to beat bombs is to beat down. If you can win before your opponent draws and plays a bomb, you’ve neutralized that threat. Even if they aren’t fully dead yet, bombs become weaker when cast at a low life total. Most bombs in the set aren’t so insanely powerful that they will fully stabilize the game when the caster is almost dead. The souls require untapping and spending mana to gain value, so other than the lifelink-granting ability of Soul of Theros, you can win a turn or two after your opponent drops a soul.

Justin-Bieber-ProactiveThe most proactive color in Magic 2015 is red. It is full of efficient beaters that come down early and require answers. Crowd’s Favor helps keep the beats going through blockers, and of course Cone of Flame can devastate any defense set up to buy time to cast bombs. For this reason I like red as the best color in the set. If you pair red with green or black, you get your own uncommon bombs in Kird Chieftan and Nightfire Giant.

The flip side of being proactive is that control decks become worse. Blue-black seems like a weak color combination in the format—you need some serious bombs to justify running this sort of deck. But if you do, you also want counterspells, removal, and card draw to survive and win the game. Fortunately, there are two solid blue counterspells, Dissipate and Statute of Denial, which can stop a bomb or Cone of Flame cold. Even Negate can be good out of the sideboard to shut down Cone of Flame or Spectra Ward, along with other spell-based threats like Triplicate Spirits. And finally, int hat deck you want to pick up a Jorubai Murk Lurker to help stabilize against early assaults and gain life to buy time. The good blue-black deck is possible, but not easy, to put together. Unless you feel adventurous, I recommend sticking to being proactive.

3. Learn the Tricks

Magic 2015 offers convoke, which is a way to cast combat tricks for free. You really need to learn what those spells are so you can recognize situations where you could get blown out. Monique’s awesome chart is required reading! Some of the powerful spells don’t have convoke, like Sanctified Charge, so you can recognize whether those are available simply by counting your opponent’s open mana. But Devouring Light is much harder to play around than its analogue, Divine Verdict. You can still neutralize Devouring Light by tapping down their creatures before combat starts, say with Kapsho Kitefins, Frost Lynx, or Dauntless River Marshal.

Old_Trix_Box

One other convoke trick worth keeping in mind is Ephemeral Shields. Removal is pretty sparse and generally expensive, so you can’t afford to get blown out by making the target indestructible. This one is especially hard to play around, since all they need is two untapped creatures with one being white. If they just cast Avacyn, it is going to be really hard to kill her when all they need to do is tap Avacyn and one more creature to cast Ephemeral Shields. Gods Willing was a powerful card in Theros block, but at least it cost actual mana, making it safe to go for the kill when the opponent tapped out.

In the same vein, don’t forget about a soul after you kill it, as the graveyard ability might blow you out. For example, a dead Soul of New Phyrexia can totally blank a Cone of Flame, as Hunter learned the hard way this week in our team draft league match.

Anyway, those are my initial impressions of Magic 2015 draft. I can’t wait to watch the Pro Tour coverage in a couple weeks to see how the pros (and Hunter) handle this exciting new format!

Brendan McNamara (MTGO: eestlinc, Twitter: @brendanistan) used to play Magic in the old days. His favorite combo was Armageddon plus Zuran Orb. After running out of money to buy cards and friends who were willing to put up with that combo, he left the game. But like disco, he was bound to come back eventually. Now he’s a lawyer by day and a Dimir agent by night.

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