8 Core Points on M19 Limited
Before Core '19 launched, Thoralf had some predictions as to how its Limited would play out. Here, he looks at how it actually played out, presenting a nice list of rules that are worth following when you draft the format. He covers going fast, going big, and everything inbetween, so be sure to check it out.
Quick catch-up: Last time around, I tried to make sense of M19 limited before it was released. I assumed it would be a slower format, where planning for the long term is key. One should not expect to be run over in most games, but there are some decks that have the capability put a fast clock on you. With this, I will summarize my draft experience in eight key points in order to give an easy overview of what the decks I'm trying to draft should look like.
1. You can go fast, but not without synergy.
Being aggressive doesn't work just by picking cheap creatures and hoping they make it through. Early creatures are horrible, and you can't just pick good cards and hope they win quickly. But, you have two options that can twist your pile of vanilla ice cream into a real wrecking ball.
A) Go wide - RW swarm
This was kind of on the wall and I talked about it in my last article. Picking very cheap creatures and creatures that make multiple creatures and pair them with the various "pump-my-team" effects. This works very well because your opponents will be mainly focusing on winning the value game by cutting a lot of bad early game defense. That means your less-than-optimal early drops will hit a few times while still being useful later as a final blow with Trumpet Blast or Inspired Charge. One major upside of this deck is that is can be based purely around commons that very few other players will want. Rustwing Falcon, Goblin Instigator, and Cavalry Drillmaster are perfect for this. This is, by far, the easiest archetype to surf into because if those colors are open, you will get all those cards, probably even in multiples. Just make sure that you have a decent distribution of all the effects. You don't need too many creatures, and you do need at least two or three pump effects, otherwise your low-end creatures are as miserable as they look.
B) Go big - GW Aura
I kind of slipped into this by accident by picking a Vine Mare and a Druid of Horns early in pack one. After that, I picked a late Novice Knight, and all auras I could find. I ended up with four Knight's Pledge and four Oakenform and it worked like a charm. By the time my opponents were able to interact with those high toughness creatures, it was already too late for them. This deck makes really good use of Rustwing Falcon as well. I said last time that I could see this working, but I didn't imagine it being nearly as good as it actually ended up being. Granted, there are some cards that are very good against you, like Disperse or Dwindle or even Invoke the Divine, but most of the time you will find a chance to do damage once and then everything beyond that is a bonus. One card that impressed me a lot was Mighty Leap. It gets that last hit in when your opponent can block and then, on their turn, use their removal.
2. Don't play vanilla two-drops, but draft two-drops for defense.
Since we will mainly play against slow decks, we want our deck to be prepared. We don't know, for sure what our opponent is going to do, but it will likely be something rather solid. You might remember one of the golden midrange rules - usually the slightly slower deck is a favorite - and that is exactly what we want to do. Our cards want to be either strong by nature, like Omenspeaker or Druid of the Cowl so that our early plays have an effect when they don't need to block. Don't play Child of Night, Goblin Instigator, Oreskos Swiftclaw or Walking Corpse just because you want a two-drop. If you feel that you are weak early, you can add a Doomed Dissenter or a Daybreak Chaplain but I would not go above two or three of those cards. Except if it's Dryad Greenseeker - that card is confirmed broken. I am not kidding around when I say that this card is top 5 in the set for Limited. See it as a hidden ninth rule: never pass on this card if green can at all be one of your colors. But you really should pick up a few mediocre two-drops, in case you have to board into a better early defense.
3. Save removal for the strongest creatures.
There have been quite a few recent sets where most of the early creatures were worth removing, due to their high-power level. Think about Gust Walker, Shaper Apprentice or Sporecrown Thallid. These creatures are powerful early on, but also powerful later in the game, making them prime removal targets. M19 doesn't have those cards. Almost all the creatures that don't fly can be dealt with through basic creature combat. While you will take a few points of damage here and there, our deck is, again, focusing on playing better cards on average. That means we can afford to save our removal spells for the bombs of the world. It looks tempting to use your Strangling Spores on a Havoc Devils, but if you picked some 1/3 creatures ore even any 2/2s, you'll be fine. Since we can expect our opponents' creatures to have no additional text a majority of the time, we are perfectly fine with letting their low-cost creatures slide.
4. Pick dual lands often and aggressively.
After a lot of drafts, I never had a problem getting the needed 23 playables for a solid deck. While I am picky in some aspects (like the two-drops), I am not picky in playing edgy cards like Duress or Mind Rot or even Plummet in the main deck. Games go long, and it is very likely that those cards will have a use over the whole game (if you play exactly one copy of it!). With the ability to pick lower-end mediocre picks fairly late, I will frequently allow myself to pick the dual lands (and important sideboard cards) over mediocre cards like Anticipate or Onakke Ogre, because I do want to be able to play all the good removal spells I see. It doesn't matter in the end, which basic creature you use for blocking, but it does matter how many very good cards your deck has access to. The same is true for the multicolor cards. It is fine to take them early, even though you are very unsure about playing them, because the upside of playing them is that high.
5. Always have cards, that use your mana.
Core sets are the coal factories of magic. You are using so many resources on playing your spell, that you have way too much mana waste in the end with no way to dispose it. Every time I "untap" my 6-9 - not tapped - lands it hurts. We, unfortunately, can't have a Arcane Encyclopedia in every draft (and I do think this card is a first pick - over Strangling Spores for example), but we can at least make sure, that we have some cards that need our mana. It can be anything, really. I have played Chaos Wand, which is very good, to Marauder's Axe, which is decent to Millstone, which is - let's say - fringe, but the point stands: every time we do something, when our opponent does not, we gain. I am happily trading any 2 mana 2/2's for Millstones in the main deck. On that matter, I even found Vampire Neonate as a decent card for this purpose. It is nice with some synergies, but it is fair even without.
6. Play first except if you know your opponent is slow.
Now this might seem like a little surprise, since we do think that this format is about value and drawing first is the freest value of all, but, as you might have guessed by now, we are deliberately playing cards that are better for the late game. We don't want to fall behind. Besides, we are generating relative card advantage with our better spells. It doesn't mean that we don't want cards like Divination or Arcane Encyclopedia. We really do, but we can't rely on being able to draft them and that is not good for our general strategy. What we almost always can rely on is that we get cards like Skyscanner Elvish Rejuvenator or even Tormenting Voice to hit our lands more frequently.
7. Play some six-drops.
I have seen too many people passing on my best friends Bogstomper or Frilled Sea Serpent. Yes, yes, they are sadly no Colossal Dreadmaw - as if we all expected this sentence to be real - but they are the biggest reliable thing we have and they do their job just fine. With them, we have the strategy to defend until turn six and lock the board. They are must-remove creatures and are a strong defense as well as a strong offense a few turns later. We are assuming, by this,that creatures are pretty medium and easy to come by, so we can expect our opponent to block our creatures as well. That means we either need more of those garbage blocking creatures or we play better garbage creatures. My argument is why not do both.
8. Fountain of Renewal is a very good card.
With decks assembled like this it is hard to run out of gas quickly. I have tried the fountain in the beginning and I realized very quickly, that it is amazing. In most of the games the Fountain of Renewal was still in the game when it ended, because I never really wanted it to go away, nor did I really have the time to do that. Of course, I would instantly use it if I didn't need the life or have nothing else to do, but these cases were rare. And besides that, this is just a refreshingly great card. It's beautiful on turn one and even drawn later it fits in somewhere and makes some passive life points. In the decks I am trying to draft I would definitely play all the fountains I have even without any synergy. And now imagine we do get a Regal Bloodlord (where I suspect people do play this card) or a Nightmare's Thirst. That is just the stuff dreams are made of.
Well, that concludes my 8 core points of M19 drafting. I hope you enjoyed reading it and, like me, feel the urge to join a draft as soon as possible. What were your most successful decks and strategies? Do you feel there is a card a lot of people over- or underestimate?
Thanks for reading,
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