Only one card appears in all three Modern Masters sets. [casthaven]Tarmogoyf[/casthaven] also happens to be the most valuable and sought-after, so go figure. It’s not a big star in Limited, though it might be pretty good in Jund graveyard decks this time around. While the cards keep changing from one Masters set to the next, your general draft strategy does not: find an open archetype and scoop up powerful cards nobody else wants.

All Masters set draft environments are built around specific archetypes for each color pair. While that’s somewhat true for normal draft sets as well, it is more pronounced in these reprint formats, and intentionally so. Wizards designs these Masters sets specifically to have clear and distinct draft archetypes. They do this because Masters sets have limited print runs with higher pack prices. That means most players will have few chances to draft the sets. The life cycle of a Masters draft metagame is much shorter and more static than a regular Standard set release. You don’t have time to explore and figure out what to do. The archetypes show you what to draft; and the way Masters sets are designed, you can trust you’ll be rewarded for finding an open archetype. Well, most of the time. (I’m looking at you, elusive Golgari [casthaven]Worm Harvest[/casthaven] deck from original Modern Masters!)

You don’t have to take my word for it, even though I’ve said this before. Ask Sam Stoddard from Wizards, who recently explained how they designed and developed Modern Masters 2017:

A real struggle for each Masters set is how we make it something that has straightforward drafting strategies (since most people won’t get to draft it for the twentieth time to explore some of the more nook-and-cranny aspects of the set) while still allowing the level of depth and complexity that you would expect from a Masters set. For this set, this was accomplished by letting the two-color strategies be very straightforward and for the more complicated drafting to come out of adding a third color. Green-white populate tells you quickly what to do—but if you open up a [casthaven]Wing Splicer[/casthaven], do you splash into trying to make that deck work or stay the course with more traditional cards like [casthaven]Call of the Conclave[/casthaven]?

Sure enough, for Modern Masters 2017, we have ten two-color archetypes. They did throw us a bone this time, though, with three color shard spells and tri-lands, to open the door for creative mixing of color pairs. I enjoyed exploring outside the defined archetypes in the original Modern Masters, though I am still sad I never got to draft a [casthaven]Death Cloud[/casthaven] deck.

While Modern Masters 2017 offers up the expected set of ten two-color archetypes, the additional emphasis on shards—three-color pairs built from each color plus its two allies, like the white-blue-green Bant shard—suggests that allied-color pairs are more heavily supported than enemy-color pairs. In Sam’s article linked above, he emphasizes the allied-color pairs and the shards without discussing enemy-colored archetypes. But he sort of discusses them, in the context of the shards. That’s because each shard contains one enemy-color pair: Bant contains Simic, Jund has Golgari, Grixis has Izzet, Naya has Boros, and Esper has Orzhov.

And sure enough, you can find some enemy-color gold cards in the set. What does Izzet like to do? Cast a lot of instants and sorceries. [casthaven]Goblin Electromancer[/casthaven] is the perfect card for that. What about Golgari’s love of sacrifice? [casthaven]Golgari Rotwurm[/casthaven] is your common of choice for that. I can’t recall many Boros decks that would turn down [casthaven]Skyknight Legionnaire[/casthaven]. [casthaven]Gift of Orzhova[/casthaven] helps Orzhov run an unfair race, padding your life as you hack chunks out of your opponent’s. And then there’s [casthaven]Coiling Oracle[/casthaven] at common for Simic—the absolutely perfect card for building a board presence while you ramp and play the tempo game.

At their core, each Masters set is full of powerful cards. You aren’t quite drafting a cube, but “good stuff” is plentiful. Strong playables will be there to pick, even late in the packs. But you must be able to cast them. Some will go for five-color decks, snatching up lands and signets early in the draft, hoping to stock up on power cards in pack three. But many others will slot into a color pair or shard, leaving those [casthaven]Coiling Oracle[/casthaven]s to circle the table in search of a player preparing to sleeve up islands and forests together.

Draft is all about finding the undervalued resources. When you sit down this weekend to draft Modern Masters 2017, read the signals. Figure out what color pairs the other players in your pod pass along. Take those cards, and profit.

Carrie O’Hara is Editor-in-Chief of Hipsters of the Coast.

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