MM2: Today I learned

Some things I learned over the course of day 1 at GP Las Vegas and Modern Masters 2015 release events:

  • I’d done some analysis previously to try to determine whether it made sense to maindeck artifact removal in Modern Masters 2015 limited. My conclusion was that it didn’t make sense in draft, and only made sense in sealed if you expected a lot of W/U artifacts or sunburst decks. However, there was no way to know predict the metagame would be. My 8th round match took only 15 minutes, so I decided to scout the rest of the tables to see what people were playing. There were indeed a lot of 4- and 5-color decks. For each game that was in progress and not in the first few turns, I looked at whether each player had at least one artifact in play that I’d be willing to expend a card to destroy. I was trying to do this quickly, so I didn’t evaluate the board state to determine whether a Cathodian or a Flayer Husk, for instance, was really relevant to the board state, and I didn’t keep track of how many artifacts each player had in play. I saw 42 tables with an appropriate game state and found that 49 players had an artifact that I’d want to destroy if I were their opponent, while 35 did not. This is just 58%, so my inclination is still to not play artifact removal maindeck. I will add, however, that a surprising number of those 49 artifacts (I didn’t keep a count, but it was about 8-10) were Chimeric Masses, which can become quite problematic if you don’t have an answer, since much of the removal that kills large creatures can’t kill Chimeric Mass (e.g., Arrest, Narcolepsy, Bone Splinters, and Spread the Sickness). Also, colorless bombs can go in any deck, so you’re also more likely to face them than you are to face colored bombs, and you may need to ensure you have a way to deal with them if you hope to make day 2 or the top 8 of a tournament.
  • Grim Affliction interacts differently with +1/+1 counters than I’d realized. I thought if the counter went on a creature with a +1/+1 counter, then the -1/-1 and +1/+1 counter would cancel each other out right away and that you could not add another -1/-1 counter to the creature. It turns out that the +1/+1 and -1/-1 counters don’t cancel each other out immediately, however. They both exist until the next time state based effects are checked, so the -1/-1 counter is still there while Grim Affliction is resolving, and you can give the creature an additional -1/-1 counter.
  • You can’t tap an Eldrazi Spawn token to pay a convoke cost and also sacrifice it for mana to pay for the same spell. An opponent tried to do this at a release event last week, but a judge confirmed that he couldn’t do that.

MM2: GP Las Vegas sealed pool (made day 2!!)

Here’s my sealed pool from day 1 of GP Las Vegas. It was a difficult pool to build, and I’m not certain I built it correctly, but I managed to go 5-0 after starting 2-2, so I made day 2!! How would you have built this pool? (The pool is also posted on TappedOut if you find that easier to work with.) I’ll post my build in the comments section later this week.

2 Blinkmoth Nexus
Darksteel Citadel
Gruul Turf
Rakdos Carnarium

2 Alloy Myr
Chimeric Mass
Culling Dais
Glint-Hawk Idol
Myr Enforcer
Rusted Relic
Skyreach Manta
Tumble Magnet
Wayfarer’s Bauble

Hikari, Twilight Guardian
Kami of Ancient Law
Otherworldly Journey
2 Raise the Alarm
2 Sunlance
2 Sunspear Shikari
Waxmane Baku

2 Aethersnipe
Helium Squirter
Somber Hoverguard
Stoic Rebuttal
Telling Time
2 Tezzeret’s Gambit
2 Thoughtcast
Vigean Graftmage

Bloodthrone Vampire
Daggerclaw Imp
Duskhunter Bat
Ghostly Changeling
Grim Affliction
Instill Infection
Nameless Inversion
Scavenger Drake
Scuttling Death
Sign in Blood
Spread the Sickness
Surgical Extraction
Thief of Hope
2 Vampire Lacerator

2 Blades of Velis Vel
Burst Lightning
Comet Storm
Fiery Fall
Goblin Fireslinger
2 Goblin War Paint
Gut Shot
Inner-Flame Igniter
Skarrgan Firebird
Smash to Smithereens
Tribal Flames

2 Aquastrand Spider
Gnarlid Pack
Kavu Primarch
Kozilek’s Predator
Matca Rioters
Pelakka Wurm
Rampant Growth
Scatter the Seeds
Scion of the Wild
3 Thrive
Vines of Vastwood

Boros Swiftblade
Plaxcaster Frogling

Ashenmoor Gouger
Hearthfire Hobgoblin
Selesnya Guildmage

MM2: Maindeck artifact/enchantment removal

I’ve heard a number of people suggest that artifact removal is maindeckable in Modern Masters 2015 Limited since there are a number of playable artifacts that can go in any deck. My initial instinct is to disagree. Most of my decks have had 3-4 artifacts, which means that my opponents may never see an artifact. Even if they do, it may not be problematic, yet they will usually have to spend their removal on it since they may not see another artifact later. I’ve also seen a few B/X decks that have no artifacts, although I don’t know how common they are.

Let’s start by looking at the playable artifacts in the set by archetype / color pair:

  • W/U artifacts: Court Homunculus, Faerie Mechanist, Frogmite, Myr Enforcer, Rusted Relic, Ethercaste Knight (uncommon), Glassdust Hulk (uncommon), Cranial Plating (uncommon), Etched Champion (rare), Lodestone Myr (rare), Mox Opal (mythic) = 5 commons + 3 uncommons + 2 rares + 1 mythic = 16.7 in an average 8-person draft / 4.2 in sealed deck (excluding Darksteel Citadel since it’s indestructible)
  • R/G sunburst: Alloy Myr, Skyreach Manta, Sphere of the Suns, Etched Oracle (uncommon), Everflowing Chalice (uncommon) = 3 commons + 2 uncommons = 9.6 in draft / 2.4 in sealed (excluding Wayfarer’s Bauble and Expedition Map since they can usually only be taken out on turn 1)
  • G/W or B/G tokens: Culling Dais (uncommon), Mortarpod (uncommon) = 2.0 in draft / 0.5 in sealed
  • U/B or G/U proliferate: Tumble Magnet (uncommon) = 1.0 in draft / 0.2 in sealed
  • W/B Spirits: Long-Forgotten Gohei (rare) = 0.4 in draft / 0.1 in sealed
  • W/X: Blinding Souleater, Glint Hawk Idol = 5.1 in draft / 1.3 in sealed
  • U/X: Gust-Skimmer = 2.5 in draft / 0.6 in sealed
  • Other equipment (any deck, but especially good in G/W or B/G tokens, or in R/W): Copper Carapace, Flayer Husk, Kitesail, Sickleslicer, Darksteel Axe (uncommon), Sunforger (rare) = 4 commons + 1 uncommon + 1 rare = 11.5 in draft / 2.9 in sealed
  • Most decks: Cathodion, Runed Servitor, Chimeric Mass (rare), Etched Monstrosity (rare), Lodestone Golem (rare), Precursor Golem (rare), Spellskite (rare) = 2 commons + 5 rares = 7.2 in draft / 1.8 in sealed

If you face W/U artifacts or R/G sunburst, you’ll be quite happy with your maindeck Smash to Smithereens. Otherwise, they player is sharing 19 artifacts with the table and so is likely to have about 2.4 artifacts, perhaps slightly more if you’re playing against a W/X or U/X deck. However, the average could also be lower than 2.4 since the W/U artifacts deck will probably pick some of these artifacts more highly than the other archetypes. This is certainly not enough to merit playing maindeck artifact removal, since you’re likely to never see either of the artifacts they’re playing in any given game.

A sealed deck that is not W/U artifacts or R/G sunburst will typically have about 5 artifacts it wants to play. About 3-4 will usually make the cut, so you’re likely to see about 1 in a typical game. If we assume we’re equally likely to face all archetypes, then maindeck artifact removal is only slightly more playable in sealed than in draft. However, if you believe, as some people do, that sunburst is going to be the most popular archetype, then it may make sense to run Smash to Smithereens maindeck.

Since a lot of the artifact removal spells also destroy enchantments, let’s also look at the playable enchantments in the format:

  • White: Arrest, Oblivion Ring (uncommon) = 3.5 in draft / 0.9 in sealed (excluding Daybreak Coronet and Leyline of Sanctity, which are unplayable in Limited)
  • Blue: Narcolepsy, Inexorable Tide (rare) = 3.0 in draft / 0.7 in sealed
  • Black: Bitterblossom (mythic) = 0.2 in draft / 0.05 in sealed
  • Red: Splinter Twin (rare) = 0.4 in draft / 0.1 in sealed (excluding Goblin War Paint, which is usually unplayable in Limited)
  • Multicolor: Necrogenesis (uncommon), Pillory of the Sleepless (uncommon) = 2.0 in draft / 0.5 in sealed

So white and blue have the most enchantments as well as the most artifacts. If you’re playing against a W/X or U/X deck, it may make sense to side in artifact/enchantment removal, even if you haven’t seen any particularly juicy targets yet.

MM2: How many bounce lands is too many?

A lot of good players like to play as many bounce lands as they can get their hands on, but doing so also increases the risk of having to mulligan hands where your only lands are bounce lands. It may seem unlikely, but it happened to me thrice in my first 8 matches of Modern Masters 2015. (I had 3-4 bounce lands in each of those decks.) Was I just unlucky? Let’s try to quantify the risk.

An 8-person draft has about 1 copy of any given uncommon on average and there are 10 bounce lands, all at uncommon, so the typical draft will have about 10 bounce lands. This is only about 1.25 per player, but for our analysis we’ll consider decks with up to 10 bounce lands. We’ll also assume 40-card decks with 17-18 lands and where each bounceland replaces about 1.5 lands. I’m also going to ignore the case where you only have 1 bounceland and no other lands, since you wouldn’t usually keep a hand with only 1 land in most Limited games, but the risk of this does increase slightly since you’re running fewer lands in the deck.

# bounce lands # other lands P(2+ bounce lands & no other lands
2 15 0.07%
2 14 0.09%
3 14 0.26%
3 13 0.35%
3 12 0.47%
4 12 0.85%
4 11 1.12%
5 11 1.71%
5 10 2.23%
5 9 2.88%
6 9 3.93%
6 8 5.03%
7 8 6.41%
7 7 8.13%
7 6 10.24%
8 6 12.43%
8 5 15.53%
9 5 18.16%
9 4 22.55%
9 3 27.81%
10 3 31.60%
10 2 38.74%

With 3 bounce lands and 14 other lands, the probability of all the lands you draw being bounce lands is only 0.26%, and with 4 bounce lands and 12 other lands, the probability only goes up to 0.85%, so the risk isn’t as high as it seemed from my small sample size. As long as you have fewer than 6 bounce lands, the probability is less than 3%, which is well worth the virtual card advantage of drawing a bounce land, and the greater density of spells in your deck. The risk involved with running 6+ bounce lands might still be worthwhile if you compare it to the lowered probability of getting stuck at 2-3 mana sources, the increased mana you have available for multikicker/X spells, and the ease of splashing cards from other colors and maximizing sunburst cards. But it’s always better to enter such situations with a good understanding the risks involved.

MM2: Expected numbers of copies of a card

Modern Masters 2015 has the same rarity distribution as Khans of Tarkir: 101 commons, 80 uncommons, 53 rares, and 15 mythics. However, each pack also has a foil card. According to some sources, a box typically has about 16 foil commons, 6 foil uncommons, and 2 foil rares (presumably 1/8th of which are mythics). This means that an 8-person MM2/MM2/MM2 draft will have an average of 2.5 copies of a given common, 1.0 copies of a given uncommon, 0.4 copies of a given rare, and 0.2 copies of a given mythic.

MM2: Observations on removal

Some observations about the removal in Modern Masters 2015:

  • Other than Savage Twister and Shrivel, the global removal is rare or mythic and costs 6 or more (All Is Dust, Elesh Norn Grand Cenobite, Midnight Banshee, and Wildfire).
  • There are relatively few non-global removal spells that kill multiple creatures, and all those that exist require red mana (Wrap in Flames, Electrolyze, and Comet Storm).
  • Other than Blinding Souleater, Midnight Banshee, and Karn Liberated, the reusable removal in the format comes with limitations:
    • Mortarpod, Plagued Rusalka, and Drooling Groodion require mana and sacrificing a creature.
    • Bloodshot Trainee requires an effect that increases its power by 2 or more. Similarly, Spikeshot Elder only does 1 point of damage per activation without such an effect.
    • Niv-Mizzet the Firemind requires card draw effects to do more than 2 points of damage a turn.
    • Tumble Magnet requires proliferate effects, although an aggressive affinity deck might play it even without those.
    • Waxmane Baku requires Spirits.
    • Air Servant only affects fliers.
  • Observations about the removal spells available in each color:
    • All colors have access to Blinding Souleater and Gut Shot at common, and Dismember, Mortarpod, and Tumble Magnet at uncommon.
    • White has my favorite removal suite, with Sunlance and Arrest at common, and Dispatch and Oblivion Ring at uncommon. Sunlance is a sorcery-speed Lightning Bolt that can’t target white creatures or players, but is common instead of uncommon and is less likely to be splashed by non-white players. Dispatch requires metalcraft, but is otherwise an instant-speed Bone Splinters that prevents soulshift and doesn’t require you to sacrifice a creature. On the other hand, Arrest and Oblivion Ring may suffer splash damage if people maindeck Terashi’s Grasp and Sundering Vitae to deal with artifacts.
    • Blue has Narcolepsy, which is better on defense than offense, plus 5 bounce spells and 5 counterspells. There are no effects that steal creatures in this format.
    • Most of black’s common removal only kills creatures with 1 toughness. The only common black spells that kill larger creatures are Grim Affliction, Nameless Inversion, and Bone Splinters (which only shines in B/G or G/X/b since those tend to have tokens).
    • Red’s common removal is able to kill a larger range of creatures than black’s, but the cheaper spells usually only do 2-3 points of damage, and the ones that do 4+ points of damage usually require 5+ mana. There are no effects that steal creatures in this format.
    • Green has no fight effects in this format, and only has Plummet and Sundering Vitae for removal.
  • There’s only 4 discard effect in the format: Waking Nightmare at common, Dimir Guildmage at uncommon, and Vendilion Clique and Karn Liberated at mythic.

MM2: List of removal

This is a list of all the removal in Modern Masters 2015, divided into permanent creature removal, temporary creature removal (such as bounce, tap, and falter effects), non-creature removal, and off-battlefield removal (hand, stack, and graveyard). The column labeled T (to the right of the permanent creature removal column) indicates how tough a creature the removal can handle; if there is no number in that column, the removal is independent of the creature’s toughness (it is a destroy effect unless specified otherwise). Conditional removal is indicated after the card name.

Italics indicates that one or more permanents have to remain in play for the effect to continue. Bold indicates a reusable or ongoing effect. Yellow highlight indicates that multiple targets are affected. Red highlight indicates mass removal that you may be able to avoid overextending into. Within each color/rarity, cards are ordered by how tough a creature they can kill, then by converted mana cost.

Unlike the list of tricks, this list does not try to provide an abbreviated description of the effect, but just references how it affect creatures. Here’s how to interpret those effects:

  • Abbreviations used: A (artifact), attkr (attacker), blkr (blocker), borrow (untap & gain control until end of turn; the permanent gains haste), bounce (return to owner’s hand), bury (destroy & it cannot be regenerated), C (creature), CMC (converted mana cost), counter when used as a verb (counter a spell), dmg (damage), draw X (draw X cards), E (enchantment), ETB (enters the battlefield), flicker (exile, then return to the battlefield), flyer (creature with flying), freeze X (tap X and it doesn’t untap next turn), gain X (gain X life), GY (graveyard), I (instant), L (land), loot X (draw X cards, then discard X cards), lose X (lose X life), mill (put cards from a library into a graveyard), opp (opponent), opp’s X (X controlled by opponent), P (player or power, depending on context), prot (protection), PW (planeswalker), raise (return card from your graveyard to your hand), reanimate (return card from the graveyard to the battlefield), redirect X dmg from A to B (next X dmg that would be dealt to A is dealt to B instead), regen (regenerate), S (sorcery), sac (sacrifice), T (toughness), your X (X you control).
  • Effects (+X/+Y, -X/-Y, hexproof, first strike, prot from a color, etc.) last until end of turn unless specified otherwise.
  • Effects only target creatures unless otherwise specified, e.g., X dmg without any qualifiers means that the effect does X damage to any creature. If the effect also targets players, that won’t be mentioned here.
  • Descriptions sometimes mention other spells to avoid lengthy descriptions, e.g., Silumgar Spell-Eater’s unmorph effect is described as “Mana Leak” to avoid having to write “counter target spell unless its controller pays 3.”