Yorke on Games #37 – Mind: Sculpted! Masters 25 League & Limited Review

Nostalgia is “a wistful desire to return in thought or fact to a former time in one’s life.” But how far back in time do you have to go before you start to feel nostalgic? Like any other question where human desire is concerned, the answer is largely subjective. Which way of listening to music is the most nostalgic for you personally: Is it compact discs? Cassette tapes? Or vinyl records?

Some people might have to dig back five years or more before feeling nostalgic, while others might get nostalgic for a pastrami on rye they had five hours ago in a particularly charming delicatessen. Thus, it may appear difficult to design a product with the general theme of ‘nostalgia’ guiding it that would be objectively appealing. By necessity, it would lack accuracy; hitting some targets and missing others, like Homer’s Makeup Shotgun:

And yet, this seemingly impossible task is exactly what Masters 25 achieves as a Magic set. It borrows carefully-preserved slices of time from each and every expansion from the game’s history, stuffs them into a cannon, and blasts particles of nostalgia through the hearts and minds of every demographic in its player base. I haven’t been this excited about a release in years, and I can’t wait to spend the next six weeks or so playing with the set.

Six weeks, you say? Why yes, Face to Face Montreal is hosting another of its famous leagues, where you get to play with your card pool for nearly two months. That’s great entertainment value, and you can be sure I’ll be savoring my time with A25 well into May.

If you think you’d be interested in joining us, check out the full ruleset on the league’s new webpage:


But before you play with the cards, you should take a good look at the following limited review. I’m going to briefly break down what I think each color in the set is trying to do, and some cool things that can happen with those cards in a Sealed envirnoment like league. It was the philosopher Edmund Burke who wrote: “those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.” And if you’re not familiar with some of these older cards do, your fate may well be losing matches when you didn’t have to…


At each level of rarity, white has enablers and / or payoffs for a go-wide strategy. Traditionally, Squadron Hawks have favored carrying swords, but this season our flying weenies will be wielding Sai of the Shinobi and the occasional Heavy Arbalest. Promise of Bunrei is also in the set, and if you have any board presence to speak of, its trigger will produce an instant kill in combination with Valor in Akros in play. Kongming, “Sleeping Dragon”, is also there at uncommon to help buff your team. At the top end, Decree of Justice, Luminarch Ascension, and Darien, King of Kjeldor will flood the board with even more helpings of beef. Griffin Protector just loves all of this. And don’t forget to fire off a Congregate or two to keep yourself alive while you’re building all of this up.


Blue has a solid suite of remarkably cheap hard counters at common—namely, the classic Counterspell and Arcane Denial—so expect blue players to be saying ‘NOPE’ early and often. Overall, however, tapping down the opponent’s team for tempo and card advantage seems to be the big game, with Man-o’-War and Choking Tethers enabling this, and Bident of Thassa / Borrowing 100,000 Arrows paying it off. Blue can untap its own stuff with Horseshoe Crab and Freed from the Real, so expect to get blown out by (or blow out others with) Retraction Helix at least a few times in this limited format.



Play utility creatures… let ‘em die… engage in graveyard shenanigans. This is black’s game plan in a nutshell. Bloodhunter Bat, Dusk Legion Zealot, Laquatus’s Champion, Mesmeric Fiend, and Ravenous Chupacabra all have enter-the-battlefield triggers. Fallen Angel, Hell’s Caretaker, and Phyrexian Ghoul all have ways to put them into the graveyard for some benefit. And Unearth, Zombify, and Living Death all bring them out of the graveyard for another spin. Lather, rinse, repeat, and profit.



Red wants to take your opponent’s stuff and hit them over the head with it, again and again, until all that’s left is hair and teeth. Turn 3: Act of Treason to take your opponent’s best creature. Turn 4: Enthralling Victor to take your opponent’s utility creature. And, if you’re lucky, turn 5: Izzet Chemister to recast Act of Treason for free to take down the game. Alternately, with efficient, flexible burn spells like Lightning Bolt, Kindle, and Chandra’s Outrage at low rarities, red’s horde of assorted goblins is a lot more likely to punch through for damage. Other than the high level of raw aggression holding all of these threads together, red is the most thematically loose of all the colors. Soulbright Flamekin and Thresher Lizard, at common, look particularly orphaned from the rest of what’s going on there.



In a set where the only mana-fixing at common is Prophetic Prism, you’ll probably want to be playing green in every multicolor deck you build, unless you get very lucky with your fixing at higher rarity. And while you’re ramping into your Colossal Dreadmaw (for the third consecutive set in a row… ugh) and your Krosan Colossus, there are some tasty plays you can make. Imagine this dream scenario: you have a turn 3 Courser of Kruphix, turn 4 Cultivate, shuffle and cast a card for free off the top of your library (don’t forget to gain 2 life off the played lands). With your remaining mana, Living Wish for Sundering Titan. Alternately, turn 4 Fierce Empath (another shuffle trigger) into some green-splashing-whatever legendary hotness like Prossh, Skyraider of Kher, Ruric Thar, the Unbowed, or… perhaps the most terrifying of them all… Stangg!! A man can dream.

Out of this general picture, we can see that the two-color archetypes will be fairly open-ended. The combos seeded in the set are generally card-for-card, rather than color-for-color. Which means that the set will be a real playground for deckbuilders. Have fun brewing, and we’ll see you on March 16th for the ultimate test of cerebral fitness… Masters 25 Sealed League!

Bonus Material: Iconic Masters League Recap

There is already a very good summary of the IMA league MegaDraft finals, wherein we drafted various masters sets (EMA-MM3-IMA), by Richard Koffler on the league website:


Spoiler alert: I won, in no small part by making the top-tier decisions of first-picking Jace, the Mind Sculptor, including him in my deck, and playing him when I drew him. After coordinating a dozen league tournaments for F2F, I’d finally achieved my longstanding goal of actually winning one. Mind: Sculpted!

What wasn’t included in the article was my pick order for the draft. I’ll include it here for your amusement:

Pack #1: EMA

  1. Jace, the Mind Sculptor
  2. Swords to Plowshares
  3. Glacial Wall
  4. Shoreline Ranger
  5. Ichorid
  6. Gaseous Form
  7. Kor Hookmaster
  8. Squadron Hawk
  9. Aven Riftwatcher
  10. Carrion Feeder
  11. Winter Orb
  12. Relic of Progenitus
  13. Hydroblast
  14. Seal of Cleansing
  15. Wirewood Symbiote

(5/15 made final build: still wasn’t sure if I’d go Esper or not)

Pack #2: MM3

  1. Wall of Frost
  2. Abrupt Decay
  3. Mistmeadow Witch
  4. Wingcrafter
  5. Dinrova Horror
  6. Sea Gate Oracle
  7. Tandem Lookout
  8. Dinrova Horror
  9. Eyes in the Skies
  10. Crippling Chill
  11. Azorius Guildgate
  12. Orzhov Guildgate
  13. Call of the Conclave
  14. Pyromancer Ascension
  15. Intangible Virtue

(7/15 made final build: by end of pack now firmly in UW with possible black splash)

Pack #3: IMA

  1. Keiga, the Tide Star
  2. Blinding Mage
  3. Mnemonic Wall
  4. Frost Lynx
  5. Ojutai’s Breath
  6. Jhessian Thief
  7. Phantom Monster
  8. Student of Ojutai
  9. Riverwheel Aerialists
  10. Angel of Mercy
  11. Mnemonic Wall
  12. Pentarch Ward
  13. Doorkeeper
  14. Assault Formation
  15. Moonglove Extract

(12/15 made final build: this was the real payoff pack, which put me squarely in a controlling UW build and ended my flirtation with other colors / strategies)

Here’s how it looked when it was all put together. It won every game I played with it:


9 Island
7 Plains
1 Azorius Guildgate
1 Mistmeadow Witch
1 Tandem Lookout
1 Jhessian Thief
1 Sea Gate Oracle
1 Wall of Frost
1 Frost Lynx
1 Phantom Monster
2 Mnemonic Wall
1 Shoreline Ranger
1 Riverview Aerialists
1 Keiga, the Tide Star
1 Blinding Mage
1 Kor Hookmaster
1 Aven Riftwatcher
1 Student of Ojutai
1 Angel of Mercy
1 Pentarch Ward
1 Swords to Plowshares
1 Crippling Chill
1 Ojutai’s Breath
1 Eyes in the Skies
1 Jace, the Mind Sculptor

For the Master 25 League finals, we’re going to draft five masters sets—MM2-EMA-MM3-IMA-A25—and make 60-card decks out of them. We’re also planning to film the tournament for YouTube! Stay tuned for more fun with made-up formats…