MM2: How many drafters can each archetype support?

While Modern Masters 2015 has an archetype for each color pair, it doesn’t have equal numbers of cards for each of those archetypes. And sometimes, the key cards for one archetype are also valued by other archetypes, which means you’re less likely to get passed that card. Let’s take a look at how many cards are available for each archetype, and how many other archetypes are likely to want those cards, to try to get a rough estimate of how many drafters each archetype can support at a table.

The table below lists what I think are the key commons and uncommons for each archetype, as well as the other archetypes those cards are shared with. If a card is listed with italics, that means the card is a splash for that archetype. If the other archetype is listed in parentheses, it means it is slightly less valued by the other archetype. “all” (which I’ve also highlighted in yellow) means that the card is valued highly by most or all of archetypes in those colors.

Some observations from this table:
– The artifacts archetype has the most number of key cards at 24, while elementals has the least at 4 (primarily because I’m only including elementals with tribal abilities or that are key to the archetype). The rest of the archetypes have between 10 and 17 key cards.
– The domain/sunburst archetype has the most number of cards that are valued by other archetypes (Evolving Wilds, Wayfarer’s Bauble, Skyreach Manta, and Savage Twister). This means that you should prioritize taking these cards, especially the mana fixing, in the early portion of the draft. Shortly after the set was released, I had a draft where I did the opposite, taking Tribal Flames and Matca Rioters over the mana fixing in pack 1, because I didn’t want someone else at the table to go into the archetype. I ended up with 4 Matca Rioters, 3 Tribal Flames, and 2 Skyreach Mantas, but the only mana fixing I saw after the first pack was a Fiery Fall and a Sylvan Bounty, and my domain count was frequently 2 😦
– The artifacts and equipment archetypes share a number of key cards, primarily equipment. While these archetypes can be drafted in adjacent seats, you may want to prioritize good equipment if you suspect you’re next to a player in the other archetypes, since you’re less likely to see those cards late.
– The sacrifice archetype share cards with both the tokens and the domain/sunburst archetypes. While there may be enough of these cards to support each archetype, you may need to prioritize the shared cards if you believe you’re drafting next to a player in one of those archetypes. (Nest Invader, Kozilek’s Predator, and Bone Splinters are shared with tokens, and Ulamog’s Crusher, Artisan of Kozilek, and Pelakka Wurm are shared with domain/sunburst.)
– Graft and proliferate share a lot of cards, primarily the blue and black spells with proliferate. (While graft is base G/U, it can easily splash Spread the Sickness and Grim Affliction since they only require 1 black mana.) These cards are often better in graft, since they can proliferate +1/+1 and charge counters on your permanents, while proliferating -1/-1 counters on opponents’ permanents. The bloodthirst and domain/sunburst archetypes are also likely to take the black proliferate cards highly since they are likely to have creatures with +1/+1 counters. Because of this, and because U/B proliferate is usually a very slow control deck (although I have seen aggro builds with Vampire Lacerators and Duskhunter Bats), I don’t think it is a viable archetype in this format.

Next, I’m going to attempt an exercise to help get a rough estimate of how many drafters each of these archetypes can support. There are an average of 2.5 copies of any given common and 1.0 copies of any given uncommon in an 8-person draft. The Unshared #Cards column computes the number of cards available to an archetype in an 8-person draft by computing (#commons * 2.5) + (#uncommons * 1.0), ignoring the fact that some cards are shared with other archetypes. The Unshared #Drafters uses this to compute the average number of players the archetype can support in an 8-person draft. The Shared #Cards column assumes that this is the average number of players for each archetype, and assumes that an archetype’s chance of ending up with a card is proportional to its representation at the table. And the Shared #Drafters column uses the relative proportions of Shared #Cards to try to estimate how many drafters each archetype can support. (Ideally, this computation would be repeated until it converged, but I didn’t have time to do that.)

Archetype Unshared #Cards Unshared #Drafters Shared #Cards Shared #Drafters
Artifacts 48.0 1.5 40.9 1.7
Bloodthirst 20.5 0.6 15.6 0.7
Domain/sunburst 31.0 1.0 20.8 0.9
Elementals 8.5 0.3 8.5 0.4
Equipment 26.0 0.8 18.5 0.8
Graft 22.0 0.7 12.3 0.5
Proliferate 19.0 0.6 11.8 0.5
Sacrifice 29.0 0.9 19.9 0.8
Spirits 23.0 0.7 19.0 0.8
Tokens 28.5 0.9 21.5 0.9

Based on this rough computation, it seems that artifacts can support about 2 drafters in an 8-person draft, and that bloodthirst, domain/sunburst, equipment, sacrifice, spirits, and tokens can usually support 1 drafter each. However, in every other draft, elementals and/or graft (and perhaps also proliferate) might take the place of 1 or more of these decks.

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.

MM2: Why W/B spirit control is bad: Lessons from day 2 of GP Las Vegas, draft 2

Yesterday, I discussed some of the problems with my first draft deck on day 2 of GP Vegas: the person to my left was also in W/B spirits after first picking a Long-Forgotten Gohei, and I drafted too many removal auras and then discovered they aren’t as good in Modern Masters 2015 Limited as they are in other formats. For reference, here is my decklist from that draft.

Creatures (13):
– 1cc: Vampire Lacerator
– 2cc: Dimir Guildmage, 2 Sickle Ripper, Raise the Alarm
– 3cc: 2 Thief of Hope, Restless Apparition, Waxmane Baku, 2 Blinding Souleater
– 4cc: –
– 5cc: Scuttling Death, Hikari Twilight Guardian

Non-creatures (9):
– 1cc: Dismember, Sunlance, Apostle’s Blessing
– 2cc: Otherworldly Journey
– 3cc: 2 Pillory of the Sleepless, 3 Arrest

Lands (18): 9 Swamps, 9 Plains

Sideboard (23):
– Artifact: Alloy Myr, Runed Servitor
– White: Conclave Phalanx, Fortify, Mighty Leap, Terashi’s Grasp
– Blue: 2 AEthersnipe, Air Servant, Faerie Mechanist, Narcolepsy, Somber Hoverguard. Steady Progress, Vigean Graftmage
– Black: Bone Splinters, 2 Death Denied, Duskhunter Bat, Instill Infection, Shrivel, 2 Waking Nightmare
– Multicolored: Agony Warp

This deck has a lot of removal but lacks synergy, so maybe it wasn’t surprising that I went 1-2 with it. But I figured I’d learned some useful lessons, and was hoping to redeem myself in the second draft. That draft started with Spread the Sickness, Nameless Inversion, Blinding Souleater over Arrest, and Thief of Hope over Waxmane Baku (since it can Soulshift the Nameless Inversion). I got passed another Waxmane Baku mid-pack, and realized spirits was wide open when the first one wheeled. This time, my W/B spirits deck had less removal, but had a ton of synergy. I had 6 (six!!) Waxmane Baku, almost thrice the 2.2 you’d expect to see in a 7-person pod. I also had 2 Thief of Hope, 2 Nameless Inversion, Dismember, and Sunlance. Here’s the decklist from that draft.

Creatures (17):
– 1cc: 2 Plagued Rusalka
– 2cc: Spellskite, Reassembling Skeleton, Sickle Ripper
– 3cc: 2 Thief of Hope, 6 Waxmane Baku
– 4cc: 2 Moonlit Strider
– 5cc+: Chimeric Mass, Scuttling Death

Non-creatures (6):
– 1cc: Dismember, Sunlance
– 2cc: 2 Nameless Inversion
– 3cc: Waking Nightmare
– 4cc: –
– 5cc: Spread the Sickness

Lands (17): 9 Swamps, 8 Plains

Sideboard (22):
– Artifact: 2 Blinding Souleater, Cathodion, 2 Runed Servitor
– Colorless: 2 Ulamog’s Crusher,
– White: Skyhunter Skirmisher, 2 Spectral Procession, Terashi’s Grasp
– Blue: Tezzeret’s Gambit, 2 Wings of Velis Vel
– Black: Instill Infection, 2 Sickle Ripper, Sign in Blood, 2 Vampire Lacerator
– Green: Thrive, Tukatongue Thallid

Sickle Ripper is a speedbump against aggro decks. Reassembling Skeleton does that to a lesser degree, but also combos with Plagued Rusalka. Waking Nightmare triggers spiritcraft abilities and is a proactive answer to bombs. Everything else is good enough to not even require explanation, yet I also ended up 1-2 with this deck. While the second loss was a concession to an opponent who’d been paired down, just before I would have won, the 1 official win was once again a bye. This was obviously quite disappointing, especially since I thought I had a pretty good deck. It was lacking Kami of Ancient Law and did have a lot of creatures at 3cc, but was otherwise a model W/B spirits deck.

My first opponent was playing W/U affinity and we split the first 2 games. In game 3, my 7-card hand had 3 Swamps and 4 white spells. It was a sketchy keep, but I figured I had a decent chance of drawing a Plains or a black card. Instead I only drew Swamps and white spells until my last turn, while my opponent played Glint Hawk Idol, Cathodion, another Glint Hawk Idol, and Rusted Relic on turns 2-5, a sequence of plays that my deck would not typically be able to withstand.

My second round was a bye (both my drafts were 7-person pods). My third round opponent was playing G/W/r ramp with 4 Ulamog’s Crushers, a strategy that Waxmane Baku is particularly strong against. I conceded the match just before I would have won, since my opponent had been paired down and had a better shot at prizes and Pro Points.

So, what did I do wrong? It’s possible that I should have built a more aggressive deck, with 2 Vampire Lacerators, 2 Runed Servitors, and the remaining 2 Sickle Rippers replacing Spellskite, Reassembling Skeleton, 2 Moonlit Strider, Scuttling Death, and a land. In that deck, Thief of Hope and Waxmane Baku would hopefully serve as the nail in the coffin after an aggressive start. But I am convinced that a controlling W/B spirits deck is not a good choice for a competitive event. It may be well positioned against W/R equipment and R/G domain/ramp, but it’s too slow against the format’s aggro decks (W/U affinity, B/R bloodthirst, and U/G graft/proliferate) because they pay 2 mana for 2/2’s, while spirits usually pays 3. W/B spirits also has trouble with flyers since it has only 3 flyers of its own, none of which are at common, and has no creatures with reach.

MM2: Why removal auras are bad: Lessons from day 2 of GP Las Vegas, draft 1

Unfortunately, I scrubbed out on day 2 of GP Las Vegas. I drafted W/B spirits both drafts and went 2-4, and both my wins were actually byes 😦 I could have won my last round but conceded because my opponent had been paired down and had a better shot at prizes.

The first draft started with Dismember over Nameless Inversion, Pillory of the Sleepless over Hikari Twilight Guardian, and Arrest over Waxmane Baku, then a Blinding Souleater, and then another Arrest. At the time, I thought this was shaping up to be a pretty good draft deck. By the end of the draft, I had a 3rd Arrest, a 2nd Pillory of the Sleepless, a 2nd Blinding Souleater, and a Sunlance, but only about 6 spirits, and I didn’t have cards that could replace the spirits. I thought the deck would do well because of the extensive removal suite, but there were 3 problems.

The first was that the person to my left was also in spirits. I knew someone else at the table was playing spirits when the Waxmane Baku and a mid-pack Devouring Greed didn’t wheel, but it was too late to switch colors that close to the end of pack 1, and I didn’t realize that it was the person immediately to my left. He’d opened a Long-Forgotten Gohei and taken that pack 1, pick 1! He didn’t take the Nameless Inversion second pick (and didn’t remember what he took over it), but the 4th pick Waxmane Baku and the Devouring Greed put him solidly in W/B spirits. He had some reasonable spirits and a couple of Ghostly Changelings to help trigger their abilities.

The second problem is that Arrest, Pillory of the Sleepless, and the other removal auras (Narcolepsy, and to a lesser extent, Oblivion Ring) are not actually that good in this format. Each color has a number of cheap, maindeckable ways to neutralize them or make alternate use of the creature: white has Apostle’s Blessing, Otherworldly Journey, Kami of Ancient Law, and Moonlit Strider, blue has a number of bounce spells plus AEthersnipe (although at least those require them to spend mana to recast the creature), black has Bone Splinters and Plagued Rusalka, and green has Vines of Vastwood. There’s also Terashi’s Grasp and Sundering Vitae in postboard games. Red is the only color that doesn’t have good answers to the removal auras.

Even more important, the removal auras aren’t actually good against most of the archetypes in this format. In my opinion, they’re only really good against B/R bloodthirst, R/G domain/ramp, and to a lesser extent, U/R elementals.

  • W/U affinity: Disabled artifact creatures still help with affinity/metalcraft. Also, equipment can turn a different creature into a bigger threat.
  • W/B spirits: Thief of Hope’s triggers continue to occur, and ki counters accumulate on Waxmane Baku until they find a Kami of Ancient Law or Moonlit Strider. It sometimes helps that the removal auras don’t put the creature into the graveyard, but the deck often has Plagued Rusalka and Bone Splinters.
  • W/R equipment: They just move their equipment to another creature.
  • W/G tokens: You don’t usually want to arrest a 1/1 token, so the removal auras are only good against their larger convoke creatures and Scion of the Wild. However, W/G has access to both the white and the green protection spells, so you might have a difficult time keeping the creature disabled.
  • U/B proliferate: Unsure, since I haven’t actually seen anyone play a U/B proliferate deck.
  • U/R elementals: Incandescent Soulstoke and AEthersnipe are problematic, but this is good against some of their other cards.
  • U/G graft: Disabled creatures can continue to graft their +1/+1 counters onto your other creatures.
  • B/R bloodthirst: Removal auras are good against this deck.
  • B/G sacrifice: This deck runs Bone Splinters, Plagued Rusalka, Drooling Groodion, and other cards that allow them to sacrifice the disabled creature profitably. It might be worth it if their plan is to use Eldrazi Spawn tokens to accelerate into Eldrazi.
  • R/G domain/ramp: Removal auras are good against this deck.

    • The third problem is that I played poorly. My first opponent appeared to be playing Jund, although I suspect there might have been some Plains and Islands in the deck because he had at least 2 Dragonsoul Knights and 2 Tribal Flames. I won game 1 and had control of game 2 until I misplayed. The first time he went to attack with his Dragonsoul Knight, I tapped it with my Blinding Souleater. On subsequent turns, he declined to attack with it, so I was tapping it on his end step. After a couple of turns of this, he announced an attack step and I just automatically tapped his Dragonsoul Knight without thinking about why he was declaring an attack when he hadn’t been doing so previously. It should have occurred to me that he might have drawn Vines of Vastwood, and in that case I would have been better off just blocking with the Souleater. The Vines of Vastwood took me from 10 to 4, and he drew 2 Tribal Flames to kill me over the next 2 turns. Another possible mistake in this game was that I had an Arrest in hand and maybe I should have played that on the Dragonsoul Knight so I could attack with the Blinding Souleater in addition to my 2/2, since the Souleater could probably neutralize the next creature they played.

      Then I misplayed twice more in game 3 to punt the match. My opponent had a fast start that got me to 4 life, but I was starting to wrest control back. On turn 7, I had 6 lands and Thief of Hope on the table, and Pillory of the Sleepless, Plains, and Swamp in my hand, but didn’t have an answer for his 3/3 Chimeric Mass. I normally advocate never holding back more than 1 land, but I decided to hold back and not play a land that turn, hoping he would think I had a trick. He played a 2/2 on his turn. On my turn I drew a Conclave Phalanx, played Pillory on the Knight and then tapped 4 lands and the Thief of Hope to play the Conclave Phalanx, going from 4 to 6 life. He cast Sundering Vitae on my end step and then played Goblin War Paint on his 2/2 and attacked. If I chumped with my Phalanx, I would not have had any good blocks the following turn, so I went to 2 life and he had a Tribal Flames to finish me off the next turn.

      My opponent had sided in 2 Sundering Vitaes against me, and cast both of them in both our postboard games, usually immediately after I cast a removal aura, so he did get a little lucky. But this was definitely a winnable matchup against a mediocre deck and an opponent who also misplayed a few times.

      Unfortunately, I then got paired against the other spirits deck. My removal auras were useless against him since he still got his spirit triggers and had Kami of Ancient Law and Bone Splinters (which is extra good with soulshift). I sided out all 5 of my removal auras for game 2, but lost to Long-Forgotten Gohei.

      I received a bye the next round and so ended the first draft at 1-2.

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.