Mercadian Masques Booster Draft Part Six
Continuing with my analysis of Mercadian Masques booster draft, the following are a few notes on the first five segments as well as my opinions on the common and uncommon artifacts and lands of the set.
I seem to have left Crossbow Infantry off of the white list. The infantry is a deceptively strong control card that plays a major factor in the white on white mirror match as well as being instrumental in killing weenies and flyers, most notably the Rishadan Airship, whilst in combat. Especially strong with Stinging Barrier or Kris Mage, the Infantry fits in either before or after Ramosian Rally on the white list, depending on how aggressive your deck is.
I seem to have worded my feelings on first strike rather poorly. What it was my intention to say was that while First Strike is still a strong ability, I don't feel it's as strong as it has been in other draft environments. As a result, with the Hounds dying to both Lunge and Maggot Therapy, while Wild Jhovall doesn't, while being rather mana intensive, I'd leave it where it is for my personal rankings.
The above brings up another good point. These articles are based on my personal opinion, and while my track record is a solid one, not all players will or should agree with me. My rankings are, of course, based on my personal style. I wouldn't recommend a beatdown player like Mike Turian use these lists to make his decisions and he wouldn't recommend his every preference to a control player like myself. That said, those players like Mike, Gab Tsang and Gary Krakower with whom I do a lot of live playing and environment analysis do have a lot of influence on my opinions about certain cards, so they are partially responsible for my attitudes towards this draft environment.
Also along those lines, it has to be kept in mind that these lists are only a guideline, and every pick in a draft can change the pecking order cards take. Some cards aren't necessary in duplicates and therefore lose value once picked, some just won't suit a certain style of deck and some will be poor in conjunction with another color. It's also possible that sometimes you'll need creatures so badly that you'll feel you have to take a solid body over a superior kill spell. With each pick, ask yourself how your possible choices reflect upon your deck. Hopefully with practice, you'll begin seeing how your picks should meet your deck requirements.
Well, my poor understanding of Magic's story lines aside, even I know that Urza, Mishra and the like were asleep on this one. Of course, Mercadian Masques has its share of broken artifact rares, but with only 8 non-rare artifacts, the odds of starting your draft off without making a color selection are infinitesimal. That said, there are players out there including world champ Kai Budde who, aside from the odd bomb, would prefer to make a color selection immediately, establishing themselves in a color so that their neighbor won't establish themselves in the same color.
Most of the artifacts that I deem playable can be played in any kind of deck. That's what makes artifacts so good: versatility. Noticing a theme in my preferences by now?
Crenellated Wall - While a lot of people prefer the overrated Puffer Extract, I'll take the Wall every time. In an aggressive deck, this 0/4 allows you to attack with reckless abandon, with your blocked creatures getting +0/+4. In a defensive deck, your blockers and targets of red kill spells are saved. It seems like most people don't treat this as a first-pick caliber card, but it's better than Sanctum Custodian was in just about every way except for the obvious susceptibility to artifact destruction, and is therefore a more than acceptable first-pick.
Puffer Extract - Where the Wall is underpicked, it seems like the Extract more than makes up for it. At 5 mana, this card is definitely cumbersome, and in an environment where you are more often than not pitching lands to spellshapers, it seldom reaches maximum intensity. Add to this the fact that you lose every creature in the environment except for Horned Troll, Deepwood Ghoul and Darting Merfolk to it, and you have a high casting cost card that doesn't give you card advantage. This all said when you have 5 attackers to your opponent's 4 blockers and they're low on life, this thing is great. A third to fifth pick most people take higher.
Henge Guardian - The descendant of the Igneous Golem, this guy is a lot better in Mercadian Masques then he was in Mirage. In a slow environment where 2/2 is the norm, 3/4 trampling artifact creatures are big. Huge even! This guy stops every common ground creature except for Snorting Gahr and Silverglade Elemental in its tracks and is pretty hard to stop at the same time. A strong mid round choice.
Panacea - the last of the playables here, this card has turned out to be a bit of a disappointment. When the set came out, a lot of people looked at Panacea as a possible environmental force, but it soon became apparent that with lands being tossed to spellshapers, it was just too expensive to be that effective. This having been said, if you get Panacea, it's good enough to play main deck, just don't pick it too high.
Barbed Wire -Here's where things get ugly. This card is playable but you REALLY don't want it to be. Can be a finisher against a slow-to-gain-control opponent or a way around Story Circle.
Iron Lance - That's a lot of mana to pay for what I consider to be a weakened ability in the first place, especially when Power Matrix just requires a tap and gives your creature all that extra stuff.
Credit Voucher - You need to be playing a LOT of bad cards...
Jeweled Torque - mono red vs. mono red?
God I miss cycling lands. The aspect of Urza's block I miss most is the strength of the lands, which led to a number of interesting strategic discussions on how high said lands should be picked.
Unfortunately, with the introduction of Mercadian Masques, those conversations have ended. Masques lands seem to be singularly unspectacular in limited play, serving only to thin out packs in much the same way basic lands did in Revised.
Sandstone Needle - What makes this the most playable of the lands? Simple: there are three great splashable (not automatic) cards with double red in the casting cost. Volcanic Winds, Kyren Negotiations and Two-Headed Dragon are all cards you can splash if desperate, and if you have spellshapers, you can make this splash with one Sandstone needle. If you find yourself with only one of the two and need to use a spellshaper, don't be afraid to break up the 'combo' though.
Hickory Woodlot - If you have 3 or more Silverglade Elementals, this becomes a viable card as the fourth turn Elemental (third if you have a Trellis) replaces the lost land.
Saprazzan Skerry - Coastal Piracy and Aerial Caravan?
Peat Bog and Remote Farm - Splashing large Mercenary/Rebel search engines hardly seems viable, though you may want to sideboard in Cateran Slaver vs. black or Ramosian Skymarshall against decks that have problems with flyers.
Henge of Ramos - a REALLY bad card, if you're playing four colors, maybe it's viable.
Saprazzan Cove - maybe, if you have a couple of Tidal Krakens this becomes viable (I wouldn't advise it)
Subterranean Hangar - Ditto for Cateran Overlord and Forced Mach
Rushwood Grove - Rushwood Elemental is really pushing it.
Mercadian Bazaar - Furnace of Rath isn't legal in Masques...
Fountain of Cho - ...nor is Farmstead