My Initial Thoughts on M14 Limited

Feature Article from Melissa DeTora
Melissa DeTora
7/10/2013 10:01:00 AM
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It's Prerelease time again. This weekend, most of us will be taking a break from 60-card decks and cracking open some M14 packs. I've intensely analyzed the M14 spoiler and am looking forward to start drafting with the new set. Core sets are relatively straight-forward when it comes to limited play, and I feel that this core set is no different. However there are some new strategies in M14 and I'm looking forward to seeing how they play out.


Slivers
Slivers are a tribe that players either love or hate. I've played with slivers in Onslaught block and Time Spiral Block limited but I've never had the opportunity to play with them in Tempest block draft. The problem with Slivers back then was that playing them could totally Backfire on you. If you had a very powerful sliver in play, your opponent could use your sliver to his advantage. Back then, slivers granted their ability to all slivers, not just your own. A good example of this was Telekinetic Sliver. Tappers are insane in limited, and Telekinetic Sliver had the ability to tap any permanent. If you had lots of slivers on the battlefield, you could not only stop all of your opponent's attackers every turn but also lock your opponent out of a game by tapping all of his relevant lands during his upkeep. If your opponent had more slivers than you, casting a Telekinetic Sliver could actually lose you the game. It was also quite embarrassing to stare at your opponent's board of slivers while you have a Shifting Sliver in your hand.

M14 slivers are completely different from past slivers, granting abilities only to slivers that you control. This change will make drafting a sliver deck much easier, as you no longer have to worry about what your opponent is doing. The downside is that slivers in M14 are much worse than slivers in previous formats. Most of the slivers only grant abilities that are relevant in combat and there is no more tapping, card drawing, or other utility slivers and therefore sliver decks will primarily be aggro decks.

The best non-rare sliver in M14 limited is easily Predatory Sliver. If you are drafting the sliver archetype, you should be taking these as highly as possible. The other common and uncommon slivers are all pretty mediocre on their own but become excellent with Predatory Slivers in play. The best slivers in the set are rare (Bonescythe Sliver, Galerider Sliver, and Syphon Sliver are all very strong), so if you open one or get passed one, it is usually worth moving in.

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If you are drafting the sliver archetype, you will likely be in three colors (four if you are lucky enough to open the blue or black rare sliver), so manafixing is very important. Of course, you will want Manaweft Sliver, but Lay of the Land, Verdant Haven, and Darksteel Ingot are all necessary for this archetype. Shimmering Grotto also works but that card is often more hurtful than helpful, as you will be casting your spells a turn later than normal if you are relying on it for colored mana.


Monoblack
Most core sets reward you for playing 17 Swamps in limited. It's usually a difficult deck to pull off but very powerful if it works. There was one card reprinted in M14 that makes this archetype great: Corrupt. Without that card, it's usually not worth it to limit yourself to only one color.

If you are able to get a Corrupt or two and decide to go the monoblack route, Quag Sickness is another very powerful removal spell. In a two color deck, it's typically a bad Disfigure, but it can kill practically anything in monoblack. Nightmare is the other “Swamps matter” card in the format, but at rare, you're probably not going to come across one. However, if it's in the draft, it will probably get passed to you, as it is unsplashable and most black/x drafters would not want a 3/3 for six.

Monoblack is usually the only monocolored archetype in core set limited. The color is incredibly deep and has so many playable cards. With all of the removal you have, the power level of your creatures does not need to be very high. For example, Vile Rebirth and Undead Minotaur are mediocre bodies in most decks, but they are fine in monoblack. The top end of your curve gives you access to Minotaur Abomination and Nightwing Shade, two slow creatures that can be very powerful in the late game once your opponent's board is clear.


Monogreen and Red Green
There was one card that was reprinted that gives you an incentive to play all forests: Howl of the Night Pack. While there are no other “forests matter” cards in the set, green is deep enough where it can work as your only color. However, without a Howl of the Night Pack in your deck, there is absolutely no reason to be in monogreen. There are no Prey Upon like cards in the set, and you're going to need to play another color for removal. Based on some of the commons we've seen in the set, the most likely pair for green is red. You're going to want to play mostly forests because a lot of green's creatures have GG in their casting cost, and the red removal is mostly splashable.

It goes without saying that you're going to want burn such as Shock and Flames of the Firebrand in your deck. Red also gives you some other interesting cards that pair very well with green. Marauding Maulhorn works nicely with Advocate of the Beast. There aren't that many beasts in the set and red is one of the few colors that make Advocate of the Beast playable. The Maulhorn's drawback for not controlling Advocate of the Beast doesn't make much sense because you're going to want to be attacking with a 5/3 most of the time. The Advocate is only there to pump him up every turn.

Another great red card that works very well with green is Shiv's Embrace. Sure, there is always a risk involved with playing auras in limited. Shiv's Embrace will make you very vulnerable to a two-for-one, but if unanswered, this card is going to go all the way. Green's creatures are huge and slamming down a Shiv's Embrace on something like a Kalonian Tusker is going to create a very fast clock that must be dealt with immediately. I'm not a fan of most auras in limited but this is one I'll always play if I'm red.


Blue White Skies
Skies is a classic archetype that's been around forever and by far my favorite archetype to draft in core set limited. It's the most flexible deck in the format and can play both an offensive or defensive game depending on the situation. The basic premise of the UW deck is simple. You establish an early defense with cards like Angelic Wall, Wall of Frost, Pillarfield Ox, and even Siege Mastodon. Pacifism and Claustrophobia can take care of any problem creatures that your ground guys can't deal with. Once you have established control, flyers such as Air Servant and Charging Griffin can close out the game.

Counterspells such as Essence Scatter and Cancel are great in core set limited. There are lots of bombs that you need to be worried about and counters are the most effective answers for them. Even Negate, a very situational Counterspell, is always playable in core sets. I also really like Time Ebb in this archetype. Time Ebb can be a huge tempo swing and at times even be a pseudo Time Walk. For example, if you play a creature on turn two, then Time Ebb your opponent's turn three play for the next two turns, you've bought yourself tons of time while your opponent was forced to play that same three drop two turns in a row. If he chose not to play that three drop and instead played something bigger, it's possible that he may never even get a chance to play that card for the rest of the game, or play it at a time where it is no longer a relevant threat. With the right spells to back it up, Time Ebb can be an amazing card.


Red/X Act of Treason
This is a fun archetype to play, however it's difficult to draft and if the cards aren't there, it won't work. The premise of the deck is to draft a lot of Act of Treasons and sac outlets. Steal your opponent's creature with Act, attack with it, and then sacrifice it for instant value. Act of Treason is not the card that every red deck wants, so they will surely get passed frequently in draft. Most core sets have enough sac outlets to build a great Act of Treason deck, and M14 is no different. Usually the Act of Treason deck is paired with black, a color that has lots of ways to sacrifice creatures.

In red, the only sac outlet available to us is Barrage of Expendables. I don't think you'd want to play this card in most decks. Sacrificing a creature to do one damage is not very strong, but it obviously becomes a very high pick the more Acts you have in your deck. For artifacts, we have Trading Post and Bubbling Cauldron. Bubbling Cauldron is pretty bad and actually unplayable unless you have the cards that work with it. I highly recommend not playing Bubbling Cauldron in your deck unless you have at least three Act of Treasons or somehow managed to draft a large amount of Festering Newts. Trading Post is great in any deck but it's a rare so it's very unlikely to come up in draft.

While it's possible to make the Act deck work in any red deck, black is really the color you want to be in when drafting this deck. Black has lots of great sac outlets such as Altar's Reap, Gnawing Zombie, and Blood Bairn, and if you're really desperate even Vampire Warlord is fine.

Generally, when drafting this deck, you need to really make sure that black and red are open. If that's the case, then Act of Treason and sac outlets must be taken extremely highly. I wouldn't take them over bombs or premium removal like Doom Blade or Flames of the Firebrand but the combo of Act plus sac outlets is your main source of removal, so taking those cards over worse removal like Shock or Quag Sickness is fine.


What to Avoid
I've always enjoyed looking for the obscure draft archetypes in limited so naturally I like drafting mill in core sets. Unfortunately the mill deck is just not there in M14. The best mill cards in this format are Jace, Memory Adept, Traumatize, and Jace's Mindseeker and those cards are rare or mythic. The commons and uncommons we have to work with are Millstone and Tome Scour.

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Millstone has always been a great way to win in limited. I drafted a lot of Seventh Edition, and Millstone was always a windmill slam. I think that Millstone is nowhere near as good as it was back in Seventh Edition, mostly because Core Set Limited was much, much different back then. Games usually consisted of cluttered boards and complicated stalemates. These days, core sets are actually designed to be drafted, so you are never in a situation where it is impossible to win and Millstone is necessary to break the stalemate.

Although times have certainly changed, Millstone is still a decent win condition. However, you never want to draft a mill deck based around the card but rather a control deck with your normal control elements and win conditions. Millstone acts as a secondary win condition for those games that are really hard to close (like the control mirror for instance).

Please do not draft a Tome Scour deck. It's just not going to work. There have been formats where there was enough support to draft a good mill deck, but this isn't one of them. Jace's Ingenuity, Mind Sculpt, and Thought Scour are not in M14, and Tome Scour is not good enough on its own. If you somehow managed to get Jace, Memory Adept and double Jace's Mindseeker and some Traumatizes, then maybe the Tome Scour deck will work. Maybe.

The other “trap” deck of this format is the lifegain deck. Angelic Accord can be a very powerful card if you've drafted a lot of lifegain effects. The problem with this combo is that the lifegain cards are really bad without Angelic Accord in play. You never want to play Congregate and Soulmender in your white aggro decks. Their effect is just not powerful enough to take up a slot in your deck.

To make matters worse, if you draw the Angelic Accord and no lifegain effects, then your four-mana enchantment is going to sit there and do nothing while you get beaten down by real cards. There will be some decks where the Accord is playable and those decks will probably involve lots of lifelink creatures. However I see Angelic Accord being unplayable more often than not.


Wrap Up
Overall M14 feels the same as any other core set for limited play. Despite that, there are lots of M14 Grand Prix that we have to prepare for so I'll be drafting this set quite a bit. I am much more excited about what M14 is bringing to the table for constructed ( Scavenging Ooze!!!) and I'll be working on some Standard decklists in the upcoming weeks. Until then, good luck and have fun in your prerelease this weekend!

Melissa DeTora
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