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.

Lands
2 Blinkmoth Nexus
Darksteel Citadel
Gruul Turf
Rakdos Carnarium

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

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

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

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

Red
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
Smokebraider
Tribal Flames

Green
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

Multicolor
Boros Swiftblade
Plaxcaster Frogling

Hybrid
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.”

MM2: Sealed pool #1

Here’s the sealed pool I opened at a Modern Masters 2015 release event yesterday. It didn’t seem particularly strong, but I went 2-1-1 with the deck I built, and the draw would have been a win if I’d had another turn, while the loss was due to my opponent drawing a rare bomb followed by a mythic while I drew lands. How would you have built this deck? (I’ll post my built in the blog comments later this week.)

Lands
Azorius Chancery
Eye of Ugin
Gruul Turf
Izzet Boilerworks
Simic Growth Chamber

Colorless
Ulamog’s Crusher

Artifact
Alloy Myr
Blinding Souleater
Cathodion
Copper Carapace
Cranial Plating
2 Darksteel Axe
Flayer Husk
2 Myr Enforcer
Precursor Golem
Runed Servitor
Skyreach Manta
Sphere of the Suns
2 Wayfarer’s Bauble

White
Apostle’s Blessing
Arrest
3 Conclave Phalanx
Court Homunculus
Dispatch
Fortify
Hikari, Twilight Guardian
Kor Duelist
2 Mighty Leap
Moonlit Strider
Skyhunter Skirmisher
Spectral Procession
Sunlance
Terashi’s Grasp

Blue
Air Servant
Cloud Elemental
Guile
Helium Squirter
Hurkyl’s Recall
2 Mana Leak
2 Repeal
2 Steady Progress
Stoic Rebuttal
Vigean Graftmage
Wings of Velis Vel

Black
Bone Splinters
2 Death Denied
Duskhunter Bat
Grim Affliction
Shrivel
Sickle Ripper
Spread the Sickness

Red
Blades of Velis Vel
2 Fiery Fall
Goblin Fireslinger
3 Gut Shot
Soulbright Flamekin
Spikeshot Elder
2 Tribal Flames
Viashino Slaughtermaster

Green
All Sun’s Dawn
2 Aquastrand Spider
Cytoplast Root-Kin
Kozilek’s Predator
Nest Invader
Rampant Growth
Root-Kin Ally
Scatter the Seeds
Scion of the Wild
3 Sylvan Bounty
Vines of Vastwood

Multicolor
Agony Warp
Sigil Blessing

Hybrid
Dimir Guildmage