Pro Tour Magic 2015 is in the books and the M15 draft metagame is coming into focus. Going into the pro tour, early impressions were that the format was quite aggressive, dominated by fast red and white decks. As the format has developed, though, that has not held true. It turns out the tools are readily available to slow down fast assaults, and the format actually revolves around card advantage and big threats.

Let’s get down to it.

Fighting Aggressive Decks

Aggressive decks in M15 tend to be filled with 2/1, 3/1 and 3/2 attackers. so you want three-toughness blockers to fight aggro decks. Coral Barrier is the gold standard, since the 1/1 squid token provides extra value against  one-toughness attackers, of which there are many. The barrier plus squid can combo block a Borderland Marauder as well. But a vanilla 2/3 like Witch’s Familiar does just fine. Research Assistant is quite strong and a high pick for controlling blue decks. Living Totem is a nice one as well, since it can help make two strong blockers.

wall frost

If you really want to get serious, you can bust out the big guns like Wall of Frost, but that’s not really necessary. The aggro decks tend to run out of cards while trying to break through reasonable defenses. If you can back up your blockers with a Peel from Reality and then drop a big creature like Siege Wurm or Rotfeaster Maggot, you will generally be able to stabilize and start taking over the game.

White life gain decks also give fast decks headaches. A turn two Sungrace Pegasus makes opponents shudder. In white you can try to go further down that road using cards like Divine Favor, and that strategy is actually pretty good if you have enough copies of Ajani’s Pridemate to convert your life gain into board presence.

Black provides the more versatile life gain, though, through Covenant of Blood and Rotfeaster Maggot. Those two spells can stabilize a board out of nowhere and provide enough cushion to survive whatever the aggro deck has left in the tank.

Gaining Card Advantage

Did you see Sphinx’s Revelation win Pro Tour Magic 2015? It turns out drawing extra cards is still good. Who would have thought? M15 draft offers a few goodies in the raw card advantage category: Divination, Jace’s Ingenuity, and Sign in Blood. All three are great cards and high picks. Sitting behind a Coral Barrier and Witch’s Familiar while you cast those draw spells works pretty well in M15.

cone

Other colors offer card advantage without being so explicit. Cone of Flame is the obvious red blowout that can potentially kill three cards, but you can do similar work with a well-timed instant-speed removal spell. Even just playing a Forge Devil to kill a Welkin Tern is a nice card advantage gain.

White can get ahead through Triplicate Spirits, especially if you have a white paragon, Sunblade Elf, or Selfless Cathar to provide extra power for your tokens. You can also get Cone-level blowouts with Sanctified Charge, either on offense or defense. Even when your opponent knows the charge is coming, what can they do? They can choose to lose creatures or lose life, but either way you are getting ahead in the game.

Green has the underrated Shaman of Spring, along with other enters-the-battlefield creatures like Reclamation Sage and Living Totem. Hornet Queen is the insane monster of card advantage, but we can’t all be so lucky and open those all the time.

Closing Out Games

Like many core sets before it, M15 draft leads to a fair amount of board stalls. It’s important to have big threats and evasion to force through damage. My personal favorite is Stormtide Leviathan. Don’t be scared off by the huge mana cost—you can survive to eight mana and once you drop Big Stormy on the table, your opponent has very little room to maneuver.  I think the leviathan is one of the stone cold best bombs in the format, up there with Hornet Queen and Soul of Theros, so don’t be afraid to first pick it, or switch into blue if you get passed one in the first couple packs.

leviathan

You don’t need to go the rare route to victory, though. Siege Wurm does a great job at common, as do various other green creatures. Amphin Pathmage can top off a proactive curve quite well, or it can sit back and slowly chip away over a number of turns.

Another great finisher is Caustic Tar. Short of Naturalize effects, your opponent can’t do much except try to race the tar. You can even fetch up the sweet aura using Heliod’s Pilgrim. I’ve been able to play the pilgrim and tutor out the tar once so far, and it feels really good. You can also get a similar effect in white-black by tutoring up a Stab Wound. Ideally you have both. Soon then you will have victory.

I think red and white have the hardest time coming up with finishers, which is part of the reason that the aggressive decks can be beaten. Outside rare, white only gets Seraph of the Masses, and that can be a bit inconsistent if the game has ground into an attrition war. Red’s Scrapyard Mongrels and Thundering Giants are good enough usually, but when they aren’t good enough, there’s not much red can do other than hope to draw a Lava Axe.

I haven’t tested it much, but I bet Lava Axe is pretty good in red decks now, as the last few points of damage can be tough to come by in M15. Jon Finkel killed Bob Maher with Lava Axe at the pro tour, so maybe there’s something to it.

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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