Mercadian Masques Booster Draft
With PTLA approaching, I'm receiving more and more requests via IRC and e-mail for draft advice. This is the first of a series of articles analyzing the cards in the set. Keep in mind that I'm still developing my approach to the format and that all comments apply specifically to Mercadian Masques booster draft. The following are my observations on the Green commons in the set.
A few thoughts...
Time and again, as limited formats have formed, Green has been the least drafted color in these formats. First in MVW, then in Rath and finally in Urza's, the majority of American pro players vouched for the inefficiency of green from the rooftops, considering those environments to be four-color in nature. Most Europeans ignored these attitudes, and a number of them had success drafting Green, a good example being Tommi Hovi, who won PTLA2.
Now, with a new stand alone upon us, a number of players are again preaching the woes of Green, but as usual, I disagree. Green, used best in an aggressive deck, may well be the second strongest base color in the environment, as its depth makes up for it's lack of true breakers.
The one major deficiency in MM green, which didn't exist in past incarnations, is the lack of mana production. While Land Grant and Vine Trellis are both playable, they only produce Green mana. In the past, Green loaned itself well to 3 color drafting as cards like Skyshroud Elf, Rampant Growth and Yavamaya Elder allowed for increased access to three colors of mana. Now, only the uncommon Silverglade Pathfinder can accomplish that, and one can not count on drafting one.
The following, in a rough order, are Green's commons from best to worst. While one can spend all the time they want trying to rank the commons, each deck has different needs, and therefore these rankings will change with each pick. These then, are a general guideline to work from.
Spidersilk Armor - Amongst those PT players who are willing to draft Green, the debate as to the color's best common has been a well-contested one. While the Armor may not be the best, it is likely the most essential, strengthening one's creatures in combat as well as solving two major problems: protection from ping abilities and red kill, and stopping evasion. There is a limit to how many a deck needs, with 2 being the optimal number, but if I were starting a draft with the intent to draft Green, this would be the common I'd want first pick. It's value goes down a little if you have a lot of white or black creature elimination, but it should always be in your main deck.
Silverglade Elemental - the biggest common creature in the format, sometimes you can't argue with a fat 4/4 beating down. While not as effective on the attack as Snorting Gahr, the fetching of a forest (usually allowing for Troll regeneration or Herbalist/Drummer use on the turn you cast the big guy) as well as the extra +1/+1 gives him a slight edge, though in ultra-aggressive decks, the Gahr is better.
Snorting Gahr - Hardest common creature to stop in the set. Coupled with Rushwood Herbalist, one'd better have some form of black or white kill, because nothing else will stop this fatty. Unlike the armor, you can NEVER have enough of these guys.
Invigorate - The third best of the alternate casting cost commons, Invigorate has strengths that make it rival the top two. The reason it comes fourth are twofold: a lack of staying power and the fact that it often goes extraordinarily late for a card of its power level, more so than the Gahr or Elemental, though Armor does often go later than it should. Invigorate would be pretty good if it only had one CC, but the alternate makes it impossible to account for and screws up your opponent's mathematics.
Giant Caterpillar - More giant than the original, this guy is better for two reasons: MM is a smaller environment where 3/3 creatures are rare, and its ability can now be activated after damage is on the stack. The caterpillar's ability to make itself a 1/1 flyer is often underrated, as in an environment where creature lock is a norm, that little guy can do the last 1 or 2 points (or with Invigorate, a lot more) needed to win the game.
Horned Troll - In past environments, 2/2 regenerators have barely passed as mediocre, but in MM booster, this guy is strong. Many decks have nothing that can stop it efficiently, and combine it with a Deepwood Drummer and there's very little that will stop it for more than a turn.
Rushwood Herbalist - Most pros would disagree with my putting this guy ahead of the Deepwood Drummer, but it seems like most of the time he hits the table he dominates. With Green's larger creatures, the Herbalist forces a chump block instead of a gang block, also protecting one's creatures from direct damage.
Deepwood Drummer - Really close to the Herbalist in power, the most compelling argument for taking it higher is it's CC. With Rushwood Dryad and Vine Trellis being the only other playable 2 CC Green commons, the Drummer often makes for an efficient use of mana and completion of mana curve. He improves in a quick swarm deck, or a deck with a lot of evasion.
Vine Trellis - a double threat, this card's main function is to give synergy to the Green intensive deck. 3rd turn Gahrs and 4th turn Elementals are really strong, especially if your Wall is blocking your opponent's 2/2s and 3/3s while your fatties attack.
Tiger Claws - a really strong Creature enhancement, the bigger your creatures are, the more it moves up. Best use? Gets your Gahrs/Elementals though Darting Merfolk pretty effectively.
Rushwood Dryad - a decent 2 CC attacker, this guy is huge in the mirror match.
Tranquility - A card you definitely want to have one of, although you shouldn't necessarily start it in every deck. If nothing else, this is Green's only defense against Story Circles, Kyren Negotiations and a number of other high-powered enchantments.
Venomous Dragonfly - Don't build your deck around this guy, but he's not horrible. Becomes a lot more effective when used in tandem with Rushwood Herbalist.
Ancestral Mask - There are enough enchantments in the environment that having one in your deck is never atrocious, but it's much better when you have some of your own. Can dominate when placed on an evasion creature.
Deadly Insect - Generally, if this guy is in your deck, you're in trouble, but it can be effective with cards like War Cadence or Cowardice.
Land Grant - a little bit better than a Forest, when building your deck, make sure you count this as a land.
Deepwood Wolverine - Generally not a good card, but it fills the seldom filled 1-slot in your mana curve and combines very well with tricks like Flaming sword.
Howling Wolf - If you have two, they aren't worth playing. Three starts becoming viable.
Squall - Almost never good for card advantage and totally devoid of versatility, you have to be desperate to sideboard this in.
Sacred Prey - I'd rater play a nineteenth Forest, assuming I have at lease 1 Spellshaper).
Ferocity - I'd rather play Sacred Prey