We’re in a bit of a lull this week. Eternal Masters has been fully spoiled, but we have to wait a week and a half for it to come out. Shadows Over Innistrad remains an enjoyable set, but it’s been out for several months (so some format fatigue is likely) and Eternal Masters makes it old news. Right now, all we can do is speculate about Eternal Masters or try simulating the draft environment.

Eternal Masters looks like a pretty sweet Limited format. It contains a whole bunch of high impact commons and some sweet all-in archetypes, like Elves, reanimator, and Burning Vengeance. Rather than do a full on analysis, which I’ve already seen on Reddit and I’m sure LSV is working on as well, I’m going to talk about a few specific cards. Eternal Masters has a lot of axes to play along and a high complexity ceiling, so it’s worth knowing some shenanigans and interactions before settling into one of the few paper EMA drafts one’ll be able to do. We’ll also have a bit of time to analyze some cards’ power.


White Protection

White has a trio of powerful protection spells: Benevolent Bodyguard, Coalition Honor Guard, and Shelter. Shelter is a surprisingly powerful combat trick that will often be a 2-for-1. Benevolent Bodyguard is a powerful one drop that functions a fair bit like like Mother of Runes. While it’s on the battlefield, combat math gets appreciably more difficult and removal spells are likely to fizzle. At some point, you’re going to have the bite the bullet and spend a removal spell on it or let it trade for a creature more expensive than itself.

Coalition Honor Guard is a Spellskite that ‘s always on, works for free, and is a common. If you think of it like that, you’re far less likely to accidentally waste a Chain Lightning. Its stats aren’t impressive, but it can mess up removal and pump spells even worse than Benevolent Bodyguard does: a Benevolent Bodyguard can be killed by Firebolt, whereas a Coalition Honor Guard laughs at Firebolts and Carbonizes.

Hero of Bladehold

White Aggro

White also has a series of powerful aggressive cards. Kor Hookmaster is a lot like Man-o’-War, but it’s in a color that’s substantially better at taking advantage of the tempo gain. It’s also comparable to Fervent Cathar: while it lacks haste, it’s much better on defense and it stops a creature from blocking for twice as long. White also has Mistral Charger and Elite Vanguard, which were uncommon for a reason (they’re supremely aggressive). Yes, Giant Tortoise laughs at Elite Vanguard and Firebolt and Nausea make mincemeat of both, but they’re otherwise likely to murder all the folks who’re too eager to durdle.

Squadron Hawk is an interesting card. One copy is awful, two copies are okay, and 3+ copies start getting insane. While a 1/1 flyer for 1 is usually unplayable, a 1/1 flyer for 2 that draws you cards is very powerful. If you have multiple copies of Squadron Hawk, you can often safely mulligan, then unmulligan when you draw your first hawk. While there’s no equipment for them to pick up, they still combo insanely well with Brainstorm and can both be a good speed bump in control and a reliable flyer in aggro. Just know that the odds are low that more than two or three hawks will be opened in a particular draft, so if you’re fighting with anyone for them, you’re likely to leave a lonely hawk in your sideboard.

One of the most important things an aggressive deck can have is a finisher like Overrun or Sanctified Charge. However, there aren’t many in Eternal Masters, and Rally the Peasants may be the best option. Intangible Virtue is a stronger effect but is far more limited. Torrent of Souls is a substantially weaker effect (unless you’re in BR). and Orcish Oriflamme is likely a whole lot weaker. The jury is out as to whether Rally the Peasants will be an important finisher for a white-red tokens or white/x aggro decks, or if it’ll be be just another mediocre Trumpet Blast.

Possessed Aven

Blue Traps

Blue can go in a lot of different directions. It has powerful flyers, control spells, and combo decks. It seems a little soft to aggro, particularly cards like Mistral Charger which ignore Giant Tortoise and can get under Phantom Monster. But of all the blue-based decks, the blue-green threshold deck looks worst of all. Blue provides only one creature to the deck, Cephalid Sage, which looks a lot better than it is. If it were a 2/3 that came with a free Compulsive Research, it’d be phenomenal. But it’s no Mulldrifter: getting 7 cards in your graveyard isn’t easy, and without that ETB effect, you’re not at all happy with a four mana 2/3. I expect this card to make a splash in Burning Vengeance, but likely be too slow and weak to be good enough in GU Threshold. And speaking of bad cards and Burning Vengeance

Oona’s Grace is a bad magic card. You don’t want to pay six mana and a land to draw two cards. It requires an absurd amount of mana for what amounts to looting away lands in the super late game. The only deck I expect it to be potentially good in (other than it being a tolerable sideboard card in a control mirror) is Burning Vengeance, where it’ll be a moderately efficient way to trigger the namesake card. Though I expect Dream Twist to be far superior—it costs less and digs for other flashback cards.

Great Whale

Let’s discuss some of blue’s better options: control and flyers. Counterspell and Memory Lapse are absurdly strong permission spells, but they’re weak against the format’s aggressive creatures, particularly cards like Kird Ape and Elite Vanguard. I expect these to be be awful against aggro and amazing against most other decks. Deep Analysis is in the same vein. Fortunately for the durdling mages among us, there is a hero come to save us from the aggressive hordes: Giant Tortoise. The big turtle can stop an army of X/1s (and do nothing card against flying creatures and Emperor Crocodile, its natural predator). I expect to maindeck at least one or two turtles, but recognize that they’ll sometimes be worse than Seagraf Skaab (which can attack as a 1/3).

The two cards I’m perhaps most excited for are Peregrine Drake and Warden of Evos Isle. While 5 mana is hardly a good cost for a vanilla 2/3 flying, zero mana is an absurd cost. Peregrine Drake allows you to hold up countermagic or deploy a second threat, both of which are huge games. If you combine it with Warden of Evos IslePeregrine Drake will even ramp your mana. The Warden can also allow some busted starts, like turn four Peregrine Drake plus Phantom Monster or even the silly triple Warden of Evos Isle.

Oh yeah, and blue also has Man-o’-War and Silent Departure. Those cards are awesome.

Plague Witch

Plague Witch is a Versatile Elf

This is a public service announcement to remind you that Plague Witch is an elf and can contribute to the elf deck. She’s not a particularly aggressive elf, nor does she kill creatures efficiently (and in fact, many of the creatures she can kill are other elves), but she can kill Mistral Chargers, discard creatures you want to reanimate, and enable your elf shenanigans.

Flame Jab

Retrace Spells are Cast from the Graveyard

Yes, we mentioned this already with Oona’s Grace, but Flame Jab is a good card that should be excellent in Burning Vengeance.. With one copy of the enchantment in play, every land becomes a Lightning Bolt. As an old friend frequently says, “That bonker.”

Elvish Vanguard

Old Templating Elves

Elvish Vanguard (which has been downgraded from rare), and Timberwatch Elf (which has been upgraded from common) are exceptionally powerful and have old-school templating: they count your opponent’s elves in addition to yours. If you’re in black or green (but not elves), chances are you have some elves in your deck. You’d be wise to consider the board state before casting them, and might want to sideboard them out to keep from buffing your opponent’s entire team with a poorly-timed Plague Witch.

Price of Progress

That’s all the analysis we have time for this week. There’s plenty analysis to talk about, but we can save it for next time. Before signing off, I’ve a nagging thought about Eternal Masters I’d like to share: it takes a decent amount of time, energy, and money to get good at any Limited format. You need to play it a bunch of times to get a feel for what’s good, what combat tricks will be common, and what you enjoy. Is Eternal Masters worth getting good at?

Modern Masters 2013 and 2015 both had massive Grands Prix to look forward to. Stores generally had enough MMA boosters to run a bunch of events and sell a bunch of boxes. Sure, packs were expensive, particularly MMA2013 packs, but there were enough of them and sufficient reason for many to shell out on them. Eternal Masters has no large tournament to prepare for (the largest you’re likely to find is an expensive PPTQ), and appears to have a smaller print run than its Masters forebears. If you’re lucky enough (both in terms of financial stability and pack availability) you’ll be able to get in a draft or two with some powerful cards, but is it worth it to put in a lot of effort for a format you’ll draft once, and likely for few prizes other than what you open? It’s worth it to me, but I plan on playing in an EMA PPTQ and drafting online, where I have the possibility of spending no money on EMA.

All that said, I love Masters products and would love to see more in the future. A Modern Masters 2017 seems almost inevitable, and that’s a great thing: it’ll increase card availability, be a sweet and high powered format, and help folks enhance their cubes or even inspire them to create their first cubes. That said, I would love it if Masters products had higher print runs (and thought that MMA2015 demonstrated that the market could withstand them). Yes, I understand that creating a market glut of valuable, expensive cards risks alienating collectors as well as undermining the price point of Masters boosters, but it’d be nice if people could afford enough boosters to actually draft the format and get good at it (setting aside Magic Online, where the value is worse, not to mention the lack of face-to-face gameplay with real pieces of cardboard). Food for thought.

And as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash


Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner, improviser, and game designer (currently going for an MFA in Game Design at NYU). He has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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