MM3: Compact release notes

My compact version of the official release notes for Modern Masters 2017 can be downloaded by clicking here. It’s 15 pages vs. 36 pages for the original, so it saves paper and is easier to carry with you at release events.

MM3: Compact spoiler

Click here to download a 9-page version of the full Modern Masters 2017 spoiler. The card image gallery at DailyMTG is 65 pages, so I’m hoping this saves a couple of trees, while also being easier to carry around for reference. This spoiler is also text instead of images, so it’s easier to search for card types or keywords before the set is available on Gatherer.

EMA: Effectiveness of low-toughness and non-creature removal

Effectiveness of low-toughness (1-2 damage) and non-creature removal in Eternal Masters limited is available at

EMA: Expected numbers of copies of a card

Expected numbers of copies of cards (accounting for the foil card in each pack) in Eternal Masters limited formats is available at

EMA: Observations on removal has my observations on the removal available in Eternal Masters.

EMA: List of removal

The list of the removal in Eternal Masters, categorized by type and color, and sorted by converted mana cost, is available at

EMA: Playing around the instant-speed tricks examines the instant-speed creatures, removal, and pump that you need to play around in Eternal Masters limited.

EMA: List of instant-speed tricks

The list of the instant-speed tricks in Eternal Masters, categorized by color, rarity, and converted mana cost, is available at

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.