Hello everyone. Today I'm going to be discussing M15 Limited. While Core Set formats are usually not very popular, it's still going to be the format for upcoming Limited PTQs and GPs until Khans of Tarkir comes out. I have been spending the last week and a half testing for the upcoming Pro Tour in Portland so I have a lot to say about the format with about ten Drafts and a couple of Sealeds under my belt.
I usually like Core Sets a lot for Limited play and after the debacle that was M14 Limited it's great to have a fun Core Set to draft again. M14 limited was a disaster. Blue was so much better than any other color which made drafts very weird. It was really hard to get good blue signals because all of the blue cards were just so good. If you got passed an Air Servant, that may not even mean anything if your neighbor first picked an Opportunity. Being blue was kind of a trap because it was very likely that up to five players in the pod were blue and you could get cut off pretty badly. Additionally, not being in blue was also pretty bad because blue was the best color in the format by a Landslide.
Thankfully, this format is much different and I feel that all the colors are equally balanced. There are many different strategies for each color and today I'm going to be covering the major archetypes of M15 draft and what cards you should be looking for when drafting each one.Tokens
Tokens has been my favorite archetype to draft so far and is one of the most powerful strategies of M15. The cards that make up the Token deck are Raise the Alarm and Triplicate Spirits. Triplicate Spirits is just insane. If anyone remembers playing with Spectral Procession back in Shadowmoor limited, this new version of it is only slightly worse. It's pretty common to curve out and cast this on turn four but it's good at any stage of the game. There are a lot of creatures in this format that are X/1, such as Child of Night, Welkin Tern, and practically every red aggressive guy, so the tokens can provide some nice card advantage. I also look for Selfless Cathar, Sacred Armory, Sanctified Charge, and Paragon of New Dawns as ways to trade up your tokens for your opponent's better creatures. Seraph of the Masses is a great finisher in this deck.
I like to pair the white tokens with either blue or green. I like blue because it offers a lot of good support cards. Bounce, Turn to Frog, defensive creatures like Coral Barrier and Wall of Frost, and card draw are the cards I look for when drafting this deck. The best blue card in this archetype is Military Intelligence. For a two mana investment, you will usually draw your first card immediately and with all of the tokens you will be generating it's not too difficult to draw an extra card every turn.
The green cards in this set offer some nice synergy for the Token deck. Pump effects like Gather Courage and Titanic Growth are the most obvious inclusions and Sunblade Elf is a fantastic card for this strategy. There are a lot of green cards with the convoke mechanic and they synergize nicely with the tokens. It's possible for a Siege Wurm to come down as early as turn four in this deck which is very difficult for most decks to deal with. Overwhelm is a great finisher. Seven mana is a lot but you will usually be casting this for five or six mana and tapping creatures to do so while giving your 1/1 spirits +3/+3. I really don't like Overwhelm in most green decks but it's great when you're drafting tokens.
One weakness that this deck has is Festergloom. It's a common so if you're up against a black mage, you can bet that they will have one. Festergloom is only borderline playable in the maindeck but you should definitely expect it after game one. Not only does it kill the tokens, but it will also get your Oreskos Swiftclaws, Welkin Terns, and any other X/1 creatures. It's usually a blowout for this deck. I usually try to hate draft these if my deck is built around Triplicate Spirits.RG Beats
Red/green aggro is a classic archetype in core set draft and in M15 it's no different. One difference between drafting red/green in this set and other sets is in M15 the main focus is on the red creatures as opposed to the green creatures. Green is pretty slow in this format. Elvish Mystic is a fantastic card to help speed you up but there is no guarantee you will see one in the draft. The green two-drop is Runeclaw Bear, and honestly he isn't even that good here. There are plenty of 1/3 and 2/3 creatures in this format and it's possible that your turn two bear will never be able to attack in a game. It still has uses of course, such as blocking and convoke, so it will still make the cut every time, but it's one of the worst two-drops.
The aggressive creatures you want in your RG deck are Forge Devil (almost always has a target), Borderland Marauder, and Generator Servant. The three-drops in green are very good. We have Invasive Species which combos nicely with Forge Devil, and Netcaster Spider, one of green's best commons. The spider can trade with any common flyer in the format and can shut down 1/1 spirits, Welkin Terns, and Carrion Crows quite nicely. I pick the spider pretty highly if I'm green.
Kird Chieftain is probably the best non-rare card in the archetype. A 4/4 for four mana is huge and his activated ability can make blocking a nightmare for your opponent. There isn't much removal in this format that can kill a Kird Chieftain, so this guy will usually stick around. Kird Chieftain is definitely a reason to be in red/green so if I ever get passed one, you can bet I'm going to try to draft that archetype.
Surprisingly, some cards that would be considered good in most core set formats are pretty mediocre here. For example, Shaman of Spring is nothing better than okay. You would think that anything that says "draw a card" on it would be good, but this guy doesn't really do much to affect the board. There are just so many better four-drops in this format that you don't want to be playing a 2/2 for that cost when you could be playing a Roaring Primodox or even a Scrapyard Mongrel.
At the top of the curve, I'm a big fan of Thundering Giant. It was a mediocre card back in Modern Masters draft but it can hit pretty hard in core set draft. This format is defined by two power creatures so generally two creatures will have to block this guy to trade. Siege Wurm is another great card. You won't want to tap your creatures to convoke in this deck as opposed to the GW Tokens deck, but it will be worth it to lose tempo if you are holding spells like Lightning Strike and Titanic Growth.
The removal in this archetype is situational. Lightning Strike is obviously awesome, and we also have Hunt the Weak - provided you have a big creature in play and your opponent doesn't have a way to kill your guy - and Inferno Fist, which is a three mana shock. Inferno Fist is a great card in an aggressive deck. You can cast it and hit for an extra two damage, and then later on you can sacrifice it to kill a two toughness creature. I like that you don't need to spend all three mana in one turn and can save the enchantment for later if you want. Blue/X Artifacts
The blue artifact deck is a bit gimmicky but can work very well if you have all the right pieces. Basically, the card that makes this deck work is Ensoul Artifact. The problem is that you may need to play bad artifacts in your deck in order for Ensoul Artifact to be playable. You're not going to want to run Tormod's Crypt and Ornithopter in your deck but if you have two Ensoul Artifacts you may need to. Darksteel Citadel is obviously great because it's a free artifact for the small downside of making your manabase slightly worse. Aeronaut Tinkerer is another amazing card here. A 2/3 for three is a fine blocker but in this deck it actually has some evasion.
This deck is usually paired with red for cards like Shrapnel Blast and Scrapyard Mongrel, but mostly for early aggression. You can beat down your opponent in the early game and when they stabilize, you can slam down your Ensoul Artifact and give your opponent a 5/5 to deal with. Generally you'll be able to attack the turn you cast the Ensoul Artifact, putting even more pressure on your opponent.
One card that has actually really surprised me in the blue/red archetype is Glacial Crasher. When I first saw this guy I thought he was garbage because blue/red is rarely a playable archetype and you'll never want to play a 5/5 that may or may not be able to attack. However, once I started playing with this guy, I really liked him. The trample is very relevant in a deck with burn spells and bounce, and six mana is not a lot to ask for.
While I have never drafted this deck myself, I have played against it quite a few times and it has been either hit or miss in my opinion. Sometimes you won't get the right pieces and the deck will not come together, and sometimes you will have a 5/5 creature on turn two and win very easily.Blue/Black Control
Blue/black control is another classic core set draft archetype, but I feel that it's a little weaker in this format than in previous ones. The black removal in M15 is just not that good. We have no Doom Blades or Murders to work with, and instead we are given the five mana Flesh to Dust. In blue, the bounce spells are tempo based and are just not that great in control decks. Into the Void and Void Snare are much better in aggressive decks than in control decks and don't usually do anything if you aren't putting pressure on your opponent. I also haven't been impressed with Peel from Reality. Peel from Reality was just never the same once the damage stacking rules changed. In a blue/black control deck, you are playing mostly defensive creatures. You are rarely going to want to return one to your hand in order to save a couple of points of damage.
The one removal spell I think is awesome in this format is Covenant of Blood. Seven mana is pricey, but you are going to be playing early defensive creatures such as Research Assistant and Coral Barrier. Coral Barrier is amazing with Covenant of Blood because it essentially reduces the cost by two. Speaking of Research Assistant, at first I thought that guy was a joke because I'm used to having free looting effects, like Merfolk Looter and Thought Courier. I never thought that anyone would ever want to pay four mana for this type of ability. However after seeing this guy in action, he's actually really good. Games tend to go long and it's not unlikely that you have seven or eight mana in play, allowing you to loot and still play a creature. He's a really good blocker too and a huge upgrade from the vanilla 1/3s for two that we're used to.Black/White Lifegain
The lifegain deck is another one of my favorite decks to draft in this format. The deck basically revolves around an uncommon, Ajani's Pridemate, but you don't actually need him to have a great deck. There are lots of ways to gain life in black and white, such as Child of Night, Covenant of Blood, and Rotfeaster Maggot. You can use this extra life for effects such as Sign in Blood, Necrogen Scudder and Shadowcloak Vampire, or even create a kill using Wall of Limbs.
One card that has impressed me is Warden of the Beyond. It seems like this guy is always a 4/4. There are just so many ways to exile your opponent's creatures. Devouring Light, Pillar of Light, Constricting Sliver, and Rotfeaster Maggot are just few ways you can exile creatures in black/white. Imagine a scenario where you have a 2/2 Warden of the Beyond and your opponent is attacking with two 3/3s. You block one with the Warden and then Devouring Light the other. Your Warden becomes a 4/4 and your have just two-for-one'd your opponent. The best part about the Warden is you can never Remove a card from exile, so once a card gets to that zone it will always be a 4/4.
The black/white deck can play any type of role. Sometimes you will get your aggro draw and other times you will sit there and play control. White and black have access to the best removal so the color combination is quite powerful as long as you get a good mix of creatures and spells.
That's all I have for this week. This weekend is Pro Tour M15 and I'll be there battling some Standard and M15 draft. Be sure to follow the coverage here! Next week I'll be back with my report of the Pro Tour including our team's preparation for the event and the deck we're playing. Our team for this Pro Tour has a lot of talent and we all hope to do well. Thanks for reading!
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