MM2: Evaluations by archetype

(Quick note: I’m walking in Relay for Life tomorrow to raise money for cancer research. My team will have at least one person walking around the track at any given time for 16 continuous hours. If you’d like to support me, you can make a donation on my fundraising page. All amounts raised will go to the American Cancer Society, and help in the fight to eliminate cancer.)

This is my initial evaluation of the cards in Modern Masters 2015. Since these cards are reprints, we already have have a good sense of how good they are in general, so I will focus on how good they are in the various archetypes. The general column indicates how good I think the card is in a generic deck playing the appropriate color(s); if there is an evaluation in an archetype column, I believe the card is better (or sometimes worse) than the general evaluation, e.g., Fortify is filler in most decks, but exceptional in G/W tokens. If my evaluation in the archetype column is the same as in the general column, I believe the card is slightly better in that archetype, but not sufficiently better to be bumped up to a higher valuation.

For this evaluation, I’m only going to consider the archetypes defined by the 10 color pairs:

  • W/U artifacts
  • U/B prolferate: I think this archetype is too slow to be viable in this format, but am including it for completeness. In practice, G/U graft splashing Spread the Sickness and Grim Affliction is probably a better option.
  • B/R bloodthirst
  • R/G domain/sunburst: Red and green have the only 2 domain cards and the only 2 landcyclers in the set. Red also has 2 creatures that get better if you have access to WUBRG, and this deck can usually also make the best use of the sunburst cards and Etched Monstrosity as well as splash bombs/removal from other colors. If you have multiple cards with domain, you should probably deprioritize bouncelands.
  • G/W tokens/convoke
  • W/B spirits
  • U/R elementals: Relies on Smoketeller + large blue Elementals, and Soulbright Flamekin + Incandescent Soulstoke (which can combine to give your creatures +3/+0, first strike, and trample once you have 7 mana).
  • B/G sacrifice: Eldrazi Spawn tokens can be sacrificed to Bone Splinters, to grow an Algae Gharial or Scavenger Drake, or to ramp into Eldrazi.
  • R/W equipment: The set has 2 cards that get better if equipped (Sunspear Shikari and Kor Duelist), 2 more that get better if their power is increased in any manner (Bloodshot Trainee and Spikeshot Elder), and 5 double strikers (Skyhunter Skirmisher, Viashino Slaughtermaster, Boros Swiftblade, Hearthfire Hobgoblin, and Mirran Crusader).
  • G/U graft: This deck can often splash black for Grim Affliction and Spread the Sickness, since proliferate combos well with graft.

Here’re what my evaluations mean:

  • Bomb (B): Will usually win the game if not dealt with and usually also difficult to deal with or play around, e.g., large flyers or mass removal.
  • Exceptional (+): A superior card that will turn the tide in your favor, e.g., cheap unconditional removal or a 3/3 flyer for 4 mana.
  • Good (/): The bread and butter of most decks, e.g., a 2/2 flyer or a vanilla 3/3 for 3 mana.
  • Situational/Filler (~): Good in the right deck, filler in most others, e.g., a vanilla 2/2.
  • Sideboard (S): Useful to have in your sideboard, but not usually playable maindeck, e.g., artifact/enchantment removal or color hosers.
  • Unplayable (x): Should not be played except in the right deck or under exceptional circumstances, e.g., a vanilla 1/1. Some unplayable creatures can be sided in against the right deck, e.g., a vanilla 1/3 for 3 mana might still be sided in against an aggressive deck if you need more cheap creatures.
  • TBD (?): Requires more analysis or more experience with the format to evaluate, e.g., a card that depends on how many +1/+1 counters there are in the format.

While most of my evaluations should not be a surprise, here are some where my opinion may differ from the mainstream:

  • Arrest, Narcolepsy, Pillory of the Sleeples (~): Removal auras are weaker than usual in this environment because each color has a number of cheap, maindeckable ways to neutralize them or make alternate use of the creature. Even more important, the removal auras aren’t actually good against most of the archetypes in this format. Note that I still like Oblivion Ring since it can target any nonland permaanent, and since it removes that permanent from the game.
  • Terashi’s Grasp, Smash to Smithereens, Sundering Vitae (S): Decks other than W/U artifacts and R/G domain/sunburst are expected to have an average of 2.4 playable artifacts each. Also, an 8-person draft only has 9 playable enchantments, 6 of which are removal auras that aren’t particularly good anyway.
  • Cryptic Command (B), Wrecking Ball (+), Fulminator Mage (/): I value some of these higher than others may in part because bouncing/destroying a bounceland in the early game is not something most decks can recover from.
  • Wings of Velis Vel is usually filler (~) but is quite good (/) in U/G graft because +1/+1 counters are applied on top of the 4/4 base power/toughness.
  • A few black cards are ranked higher in U/G graft because it can splash the black proliferate cards since they combo with graft creatures. Also, while Puppeteer Clique is more difficult to splash, it can be particularly good in this deck; when it returns to play with a -1/-1 counter, you can graft a +1/+1 counter onto it, which removes the -1/-1 counter and means it will return to play again the next time it dies.
  • Reassembling Skeleton (~) combos quite well with reusable sacrifice effects, especially Plagued Rusalka, Mortarpod, Drooling Groodion, and Culling Dais.

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