Modern Masters is here! And it rocks! Sure, it’s only around for a limited time, but so was the original Modern Masters, and it’s one of my favorite formats of all time.

This past weekend, I had the pleasure of drafting the format thrice: in two eight person events, and then one for fun six person draft. I did well, but more importantly, I had a blast. Without any further ado, here’re the three decks and what I learned from them.

MMA Draft #1: UB Control

Lands (16)
10  Island
Dimir Guildgate

Creatures (10)
Augur of Bolas
Azure Mage
Snapcaster Mage
Wall of Frost
Falkenrath Noble
Entomber Exarch
Mist Raven
Venser, Shaper Savant

Spells (14)
Dimir Signet
Golgari Signet
Simic Signet
Serum Visions
Agony Warp
Soul Manipulation
Mystical Teachings
Grasp of Phantoms
Sideboard (5)
Scavenging Ooze
 Golgari Guildgate

Two Color is really viable. This deck went 3-0 in matches and 6-0 in games. I’d expected that with fixing being so plentiful and “UB instant speed control” being such an unclear archetype, that UB by itself wouldn’t do very much. However, this deck was not only excellent, it didn’t need a splash.

There are amazing common four drops. This format is defined by getting to four mana and resolving spells like [casthaven]Falkenrath Noble[/casthaven], [casthaven]Mist Raven[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Grasp of Phantoms[/casthaven]. Seriously, these three cards are bonkers.

Because of that, signets are incredibly powerful. Signets allow you to play a four drop on turn three. Even off-color signets can be inordinately useful if you have enough stuff to ramp into.

[casthaven]Soul Manipulation[/casthaven] is nuts. I wasn’t initially excited by this Alara Reborn common, but it’s overperforms in a format where you have access to so many two-for-one creatures, your opponents want to resolve four+ mana creatures, and you skip past three mana because of signets. [casthaven]Soul Manipulation[/casthaven] is a mid-to-late game [casthaven]Remove Soul[/casthaven] which is often a three-for-one.

MMA Draft #2: Five Color

Lands (16)
Verdant Catacombs
Boros Guildgate
Izzet Guildgate
Golgari Guildgate
Selesnya Guildgate
Orzhov Guildgate
Jungle Shrine
Arcane Sanctum

Creatures (13)
Gideon’s Lawkeeper
Kor Skyfisher
Coiling Oracle
Sin Collector
Sedraxis Specter
Desecration Demon
Entomber Exarch
Obzedat, Ghost Council
Arachnus Spinner
Dinrova Horror

Spells (11)
Boros Signet
Orzhov Signet
Augur Spree
Soul Manipulation
Grasp of Phantoms
Vanish into Memory
Urban Evolution
Entreat the Angels
Banishing Stroke

Five color is definitely viable. My second deck is what I assumed I’d be drafting every single time: five color goodstuff. This deck also went 3-0, as good creatures, good removal, good card advantage, and nutso bombs in [casthaven]Obzedat, Ghost Council[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Entreat the Angels[/casthaven] formed a powerhouse.

[casthaven]Arachnus Spinner[/casthaven] is great. [casthaven]Nessian Asp[/casthaven] was a Limited bomb, and [casthaven]Archnus Spinner[/casthaven] is able to stonewall a majority of threats in the format (as well as survive some removal, like [casthaven]Augur Spree[/casthaven]). Even without any [casthaven]Arachnus Web[/casthaven]s to fetch up, this downshifted rare can buy you all the time you need to win the game.

Have a plan for tokens. GW tokens and Bant golems produce large amounts of card advantage and board presence via populate and blink effects. A slow five color deck will struggle to outgrind or outrace the archetype. However, [casthaven]Mist Raven[/casthaven], [casthaven]Grasp of Phantoms[/casthaven], [casthaven]Dinrova Horror[/casthaven], and [casthaven]Vanish into Memory[/casthaven] can ruin the tokens plan—with [casthaven]Vanish into Memory[/casthaven] reading: “Exile target token. Draw cards equal to its power. Cackle maniacally as you do so.”—and normal removal spells like [casthaven]Augur Spree[/casthaven] and [casthaven]Agony Warp[/casthaven] should be saved to kill value creatures in response to a [casthaven]Momentary Blink[/casthaven]. Similarly, [casthaven]Falkenrath Noble[/casthaven] can turn a board stall into an impossible uphill climb for your opponent—seriously, you should be taking that card crazy high.

Fixing is incredibly plentiful and relatively interchangeable. Normally, one has to pay close attention to the fixing one grabs. As always, you should focus on fixing that fits the color or colors you’re in and should take tri-lands and on-color signets highly. That said, there are so many guildgates going around that you can take them early—or whenever there’s not a card you’re stoked to grab—and then pick up whatever late multicolor or off-color cards circle the table. In a five color deck, it doesn’t make an enormous difference whether you have two [casthaven]Boros Guildgate[/casthaven]s and two islands, or two [casthaven]Izzet Guildgate[/casthaven]s and two plains.

MMA Draft #3: Bant Go-Wide, 6 Person draft

Lands (17)
Simic Guildgate
Azorius Guildgate
Savage Lands
Seaside Citadel

Creatures (18)
Call of the Conclave
Sylvan Ranger
Kor Skyfisher
Attended Knight
Kor Hookmaster
Rhox War Monk
Sea Gate Oracle
Thornscape Battlemage
Wayfaring Temple
Wing Splicer
Arachnus Spinner
Urbis Protector
Craterhoof Behemoth

Spells (5)
Gaea’s Anthem
Urban Evolution
Banishing Stroke
Cyclonic Rift

Lots of powerful archetypes. All three of these decks were strong, though this one relied most heavily on having a mythic rare as a finisher. I can certainly attest to the strength of tokens, UB, and five color. That said, in all three drafts I never saw a high-performing aggressive red or black deck. This doesn’t mean that those archetypes don’t work or underperform, but in my small sample size I didn’t witness them succeed.

Have powerful, disruptive things to do. Other than [casthaven]Craterhoof Behemoth[/casthaven] and playing out a bunch of 3/3s in the first four turns, this deck didn’t do anything exciting. It contained few cards that dramatically affected the board or disrupted the opponent’s plans. This can often happen in Limited when one fails to open or get passed any bombs or premium removal, but MMA2017 has [casthaven]Falkenrath Noble[/casthaven], [casthaven]Mist Raven[/casthaven], [casthaven]Grasp of Phantoms[/casthaven], and the like at common—there are so many disruptive cards in the format at common, it’s more likely to be your fault you didn’t get any, rather than you were unlucky to not open any. This deck suffered because I lacked sufficient disruption. You shouldn’t make that mistake.

That’s all for this week. I have one more Modern Masters draft to play before flying to Orlando for the Grand Prix—my first one since Atlanta. Here’s hoping you all enjoy mastering this wonderful new and ephemeral format.

And, as always, thanks for reading!

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash is a New York City-based game designer. He’s played Magic since 1994, but went on a long hiatus, like many folks. He’s currently pursuing his MFA in Game Design at NYU and designing for Kingdom Death: Monster, a game that is most definitely not Magic.

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