Masters 25 Draft - A Colorful Guide to Victory
- Thoralf Severin
Masters 25 is a unique draft environment, which combines the powerful cards of a masters set with a pretty straightforward drafting strategy one would expect in a mainline expansion. Combine that with excellent mana-fixing and we end up with a fantastic recipe for multicolored fun.
It's not a secret that I'm into slower strategies which use the best cards in a set. The fact that those cards are usually spread through all the colors is not an obstacle, it’s a feature. Drafting these decks is the first thing I try when a new set comes out, but regardless of the set, there are three important questions to answer:
- What are my options regarding ramping, fixing, and card draw?
- How many expensive and powerful cards does the set contain?
- How easy is it to defend yourself with good blockers and efficient removal?
It is very important that our decks have access to a sustainable amount of all three aspects. Removing one makes these decks much weaker. You can’t play your expensive spells or build your mana base without defending yourself and you can’t win even with the best removal and fixing spells if you don't have any decent finishers.
But historically, masters sets are a very friendly environment for these multicolored shenanigans. They are usually filled with good card advantage options and premium color fixing. The rares, mythics and even some of the uncommons are full of power and value and finally, they include some of the best removal spells in Magic. This makes it a perfect set-up to satisfy your inner compulsion for value.
The Fixing (4 - 7 cards)
We are looking for a reliable way to fix our mana in every draft. That means, we are specifically looking at the commons and uncommons, since those are the cards we can expect to see.
This is great fixing, not only in quality, but in colorless quantity. Having access to prophetic prism and the common basic landcycling creatures gives every deck the option to splash every card they want to, even without being in green. But the landcyclers even provide respectable win options, which makes them a high priority pick, since they are valuable in every state of the game. You can basically never make a mistake picking them, or any fixing, very highly. Masters sets are full of playables and you will almost never be short on playables after drafting your deck. That means that you can invest some picks in important pieces for the deck early in the draft.
Generally speaking, early in these sets, you should aim to pick the more powerful cards first, since people will prioritize those cards more than they should. Then, later, they will realize that fixing and good card draw spells are just as important and you end up short on those cards a lot of the time if you don't prioritize them heavily enough. Thus, later in a set's lifetime, picking those cards early becomes a higher priority.
Masters 25 makes it even easier to play more colors since this set includes cards with cycling and morph. While those cards are a bit under our wanted power level, they are at least doing something most of the time. It is not overwhelming to play cards like Renewed Faith or Woolly Loxodon, but they do an acceptable job for a low opportunity cost.
The Pay-Off (6 - 8 cards)
Well, even without looking at a masters set, it’s a pretty easy assumption that there will be some premium pay-off cards. After all, those sets thrive of the powerful spells and creatures like Jace, the Mind Sculptor, the Akromas, Blue Sun’s Zenith, Decree of Justice, Living Death, Plague Wind, Gisela, Blade of Goldnight, Brion Stoutarm, Grenzo, Dungeon Warden, Niv-Mizzet, the Firemind, and many more.
While there should be plenty of possibilities to pick those cards in a draft, we do want to look at potential uncommon spoilers to satisfy our craving for powerful cards. And, as expected, this set delivers. Murder of Crows, Urbis Protector, Baloth Null and , most importantly, Cloud Blazer. Those are wonderful uncommons and we are more than happy with any of those.
Remember, all the land-cyclers are also relevant spells in the later stage of the game, as well. They might not be as splashy as the cards listed above, but they do their job once you have control over the game. It is not uncommon to play 4-6 copies of those cards in total.
The Defense (10 - 15 cards)
Your defense is a bit more flexible than the other two categories. Every decent removal spell is obviously a high priority pick, but most of the time it's correct to just ignore the colors on the cards and just pick the best cards in every booster for the first couple of picks. Starting a draft with Courser of Kruphix, Niv-Mizzet, Pillory of the Sleepless and Blue Sun’s Zenith seems all over the place, but you can spend a lot of picks later in the draft to make it work.
If there is no removal or bomb left in the booster, you can start looking at other cards that defend yourself. They don’t have to be of high quality, they just have to do their job right. Nyx-Fleece Ram, Broodhatch Nantuko, Dragon’s Eye Savants, Ruthless Ripper, Kavu Climber, Returned Phalanx and Perilous Myr are just some acceptable cards. As long as they protect your life total until the good cards take over the game, they're perfectly fine.
There are cards that you will have to pick highly, since they are very good at their job and therefore almost as important as good removal spells. In Masters 25, Man-O’-War, Court Hussar and Ghost Ship are just tremendously well positioned that they will be gone by pick 2-5.
The Card Draw (2 - 4 cards)
The reason why card draw gets its own category is that card draw kind of counts as all of those three. As in any typical control deck, you will need some card draw to make your deck run smoothly. Card draw, or card selection helps you to find the necessary mana or fixing, helps you to find early interaction, helps you to find your powerful late game cards, and helps you mitigate the high amount of mana sources and bad early game creatures. This is very important and your deck can't function without it.
Sometimes the card draw is implemented in
- Powerful cards, like Cloudblazer,
- In fixing cards, like Cultivate or Krosan Tusker,
- Or in the defensive cards, like Court Hussar.
On the other hand, you will need raw card draw and this set is not full of it. We don’t really want to play Fathom Seer, since it needs two islands and sets us back on lands. That leaves us with a lot of Accumulated Knowledge, which are hard to acquire, and Sift. If you are in the luxurious spot to play 3-5 Accumulated Knowledge, that is amazing, but most of the time, you won’t be in that position. That means, most of the time you will have to pick and play 1-2 Sifts and not having them can really hurt your deck.
Filling the Gaps
Every set is different and demands different priorities. While masters sets are usually full of all of those categories, there are also usually some aspects you have to prioritize higher in this specific set. Sometimes fixing is slightly worse, sometimes the payoff density is not as high and sometimes the removal spells are a bit more situational. It is important to identify the gaps and adjust the draft pick orders accordingly.
As I said, we definitely want card draw and Sift is our best option to rely on. Identifying this and adjusting the pick order accordingly makes the difference between a medium and a great deck.
Drafting those decks is a lot of fun and while they are rewarding simply to play, we still want to win with them. As long as you can identify the priorities in any stage of the draft, I believe that these decks are, by far, the strongest decks in Masters 25.
I will leave you with a few examples of decks that will give you a visual goal of how these multicolor decks might look:
Thanks for reading and please feel free to leave a comment in the section below.
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