A little back story before we begin. Pro Tour March of the Machine came to an exciting end this past weekend. Nathan Steuer won, but I could be talking about any event at this point (long live the king!). The format may have been Standard but for 10 of those 16 rounds, we got to play one of the best limited formats we have ever seen from Magic: The Gathering (good work Dave Humphreys!).
I would like to do a little deep dive into how to win in this limited format. Whether you only draft at FNM or have an upcoming RCQ, I hope you can take away something of value from our team’s limited insights going into this Pro Tour. I will admit to being a bit of a wild man with my style of drafting, but as a good friend once said of me, “let him cook.” To start, lets go over the color pairs that MoM encourages:
Dimir (Blue/Black) – This one’s the fan favorite. You can hardly throw a pair of dice and miss hitting several people on the PT who are diehard Dimir fans. If anyone caught my first draft via the feature match in round three of the PT you would have gotten to seen my funny take on Dimir in limited. Essentially, I started with opening Breach the Multiverse (an already constructed all-star) and proceeded to draft around it being my win condition. Using Halo-Charged Skaab to recur Breach, I effectively won via Milling out my opponents out. For the first two rounds, I was very successful at it.
Now to be helpful, I should point out what to do with this archetype when you do not open a busted rare and still find yourself wanting to draft Dimir. Let’s start with the top common pics of this archetype. Preening Champion was the card we used in our Pro Tour testing house as a gauge if a card was better than a common or not. On the surface it’s a basic Wind Drake that backs itself up by giving you a free 1/1. In a set filled with powerful convoke spells, you can see how this could get a little out of hand. It’s also worth noting the token being Izzet colors can convoke for both Blue and Red spells.
To avoid going on forever I’ll shortly state that you want to be picking up: Meeting of the Minds, Ephara’s Dispersal, and Eyes of Gitaxis (with Eyes being the worst of these three) from the Blue commons. From the Black commons we want to pickup Final Flourish, Deadly Derision, Nezumi Informant, and Vanquish the Weak. You may be surprised to see Nezumi Informant (Ravenous Rat reprint) amongst the list, but keep in mind it’s an automatic 1 for 1 that then enables Convoke.
Now the overall themes for Dimir are enticing to take on a control role. Try and resist that urge, unless you build something of a combo deck like I have done above. To abuse Dimir you’ll want to access card advantage, a tempo curve, plenty of evasion, and use targeted removal to disrupt the enemies plans. Do this enough and you’ll eventually win through grinding them out of resources.
Azorious (Blue/White) – This two-color pair is mostly fixated on the knights strategy. Each knight creature in this set typically plays off of one another to contribute to additional abilities. At uncommon there is even a knight lord that has incredible abilities and stats for its casting cost. Notable blue commons are the same but they then also include Protocol Knight. It’s interesting how with some sets, cards will be good in one arch but not good in another. Protocol Knight is a great example of that. From White we are looking to pickup these commons: Realmbreaker’s Grasp, Swordsworn Cavalier, Sigiled Sentinel, and Angelic Intervention.
The hard part about knights is many of its best cards are uncommons, and if you get cut, you can get cut hard. This is typically an aggressive strategy that wants to utilize tempo and sizing to outclass the opponent in the early to mid-game. Typically, if games go pretty long, this archetype tends to get weaker in comparison to the quality of the enemies cards.
Rakdos (Black/Red) – This pair is probably the last of the top three two-color pair archetypes along with Azorious and Dimir. Rakdos is generally built to utilize the sacrifice mechanics to build incidental card advantage and value. Like Azorious knights it is trying to be fast and aggressive, but unlike knights strategies. It is often outclassed in the early game and its cards begin to cascade up as they coalesce together. So, this means we are weak in the early game, then strong in the mid to late game as a result. We also get access to all the premium removal in this archetype.
The Rakdos commons we want to pickup are: Final Flourish, Dreg Recycler, Deadly Derision, Nezumi Informant, and Vanquish the Weak, Beamtown Beatstick, Ral’s Reinforcements, Volcanic Spite, and Hangar Scrounger. The interesting thing here is all the black cards double as good cards in Dimir and the Rakdos Archetype. This is one of the attributes that encourage people to rate Black as the top color in MoM draft. Dreg Recycler got an additional inclusion for this archetype as opposed to Dimir because in Rakdos the ability to sacrifice things is key to the coalescence we mentioned earlier.
There are a flurry of subpar other archetypes that I am going to label as tier 2, but I don’t want to focus much of your time on them because really they should be avoided whenever possible. Here is a brief synopsis of them just in case you get stuck.
Gruul – Red and Green Focus on getting good battles and the mechanics that buff your creatures for attacking them. Focus here should be to overwhelm with the board state and hope it is good enough.
Selesnya – Green and White is a Backup mechanic strategy. Utilizing cards that give +1/+1 counters to grow large armies. The flaw here is there is plentiful removal and investing time and energy into growing creatures that will probably be dealt with anyway is typically a losing strategy.
Simic – Green and Blue actually pair quite nicely and I would rate this the fourth best color pair. Having the best blue cards and adding in the power level of greens creatures on rate is a winning strategy. You’ll want cards like Storm the Seedcore for finishing value (card is a very high pick but people haven’t caught on yet).
Golgari – Green and Black is probably the fifth best color pair. Unfortunately, its good cards are not often found in the common category, so it may be hard to get the cards you want and you’ll find people fighting over them for good cards in their own archetype.
Boros – Red and White are deceptively bad together in this archetype. They appear good when you read them, but trust me they are not. If anyone cuts you even a few of the powerful spells opened, then RIP.
Izzet – Blue and Red makeup the sixth best color pair. Seth Manfield was a big fan of this Archetype in our in-house testing. What I found by observing his drafts as they continued to evolve with this archetype is that you really need to know what you are doing to successfully pull this one off. In his early builds he was getting bodied, but then his later builds he solved the equation and was the one doing the bodying. Having the right amounts of threats that can also convoke to spell ratio is often the difficult part. I can’t pretend to be an expert on this one, but if you go deep here you’ll find it rewarding often enough.
Orzhov – Black and White are one of the poorest pairs. I’ve drafted many iterations on this color pair trying to make it work. The decks on paper look nice, but then they do not play out as anything I would want to write home about. Incubator tokens are cool but without broken cards to flip them on the cheap or free really. These decks end up being a little behind the 8-ball and have trouble with recovery.
I’ll wrap up with the last type of deck that may actually be the truly best draft strategy for MoM limited. Domain! All five colors baby. That’s right it is actually very good. Half the packs have a come into play tapped dual land. If people aren’t fighting over them it can be fairly easy to pickup four to six of them. On top of which there are many cards that provide color fixing and land searching to smooth out these decks.
Obviously a domain deck gets to draw on the power of all five colors to their fullest. The hardest part or the biggest risk here is you’ll need to make sure you mana math all makes sense. If you don’t have a good sense of deck building math, then probably avoid this risky archetype though. A general principle is you want eight mana of one color to likely have one on the first two turns. Six sources of mana to have one by turn four. Nine sources to have double colors spells that you want to cast early. Portent Tracker and similar cards make the double colored math a little different. They do not boost two-drop double color spells but they improve four-drop spells like Deadly Derision.
That is all the limited I want to throw at you today. The more we play this wonderful deep, rich, robust set the more we will learn and keep evolving the draft strategies.
Thanks for tuning in, good luck out there!