Welcome back to Very Limited, GatheringMagic.com’s exclusive Limited column. Whenever we approach a new Limited format, it’s easy to dismiss cards that seem overly complicated as just that. Unfortunately, in doing so, we often overlook some of the set’s most interesting and powerful cards. Today, we’ll be talking about the unsung heroes of Limited in an effort to identify them in Magic 2015.
Last weekend, I was doing coverage at Pro Tour Magic 2015. I had done many Magic 2015 Drafts prior to the event, and I felt confident that I had a strong handle on the format. Then, I watched Neil Reeves draft at the beginning of Day 2. It was pack one, pick three, and he had taken two green cards already. The pack was relatively dry for Reeves. I thought to myself, “Well, that’s fine,” as I jotted down Will-Forged Golem. The decision wasn’t so easy for Reeves though. Jalira, Master Polymorphist jumped to the front of the pack. In the last second, Reeves ended up taking the Will-Forged Golem, but I would later ask him about that pick.
As it turns out, Jalira, Master Polymorphist is actually very strong in Magic 2015 Limited. I never even thought to try it before last Sunday, but the one Draft I’ve had it in since then showcased its power beautifully. Coral Barrier, Forge Devil, Triplicate Spirits, Raise the Alarm, and Black Cat offer just some of the great interactions available here. We don’t need to draft a deck with particularly large creatures. We just need a deck that produces bodies that are only worthwhile because of their enters-the-battlefield or death triggers. A lot of the time, we’ll be sacrificing a 1/1 and gaining a 2/2 or a 2/3, but sometimes, we’ll be sacrificing our useless body and picking up a 5/5 or even a bomb for our efforts. Jalira, Master Polymorphist had gone from obscurity to being one of my favorite rares to play with in the entire set.
There are unsung heroes in every Draft format. These are cards that aren’t immediately recognized as particularly strong but that gradually increase in demand and playability as time goes on. Today, we’ll be talking about the best cards that people aren’t taking in our Magic 2015 Drafts. Being one of the few players in the know about obscure cards can give us a huge edge. Let’s talk about beauty off the beaten path.
Glacial Crasher is a card that was going fourteenth-pick a lot of the time when we first started drafting Magic 2015. The card remains unplayable for decks that don’t have Mountains, but it’s actually a huge incentive to play the U/R deck. 5/5 tramplers for 6 mana are very good in this format. I strongly suggest trying Glacial Crasher the next time U/R is available. This has quickly become one of my favorite archetypes, and Glacial Crasher is a big part of that. When I’m another color, I need to use a first, second, or third pick to grab a 5/5 trampler for 6. When I’m U/R, I can pick it up super-late.
Congregate is the type of card I really don’t want to like. I’m a big fan of playing to card advantage, and life-gain cards that don’t draw cards, deal damage, or give me a body to work with are about the last things I want to include in my deck. Brad Nelson told me that Congregate was good in decks that were able to race. I was a bit skeptical, but then I saw what the card is capable of when it’s combined with Spectra Ward or a lot of evasion. When our deck can race unimpeded, Congregate becomes awesome. It’s rare I would main-deck it, but it’s a huge swing in a lot of games and lets us win otherwise-losing races.
Heliod's Pilgrim is a card that people weren’t taking early enough. The more time that passes, though, the more people are realizing just how good it is. When we’re playing blue, we are able to play Encrust. When we’re playing red, we have Hammerhand and Inferno Fist. Sometimes, we just have Marked by Honor. When we have Spectra Ward, we should be taking Heliod's Pilgrim over basically anything that isn’t an actual bomb. We gain tangible card advantage out of Heliod's Pilgrim, and as aggressive strategies are proving themselves to be worse by the minute, it’s clear that’s what we’re looking for in Magic 2015 Drafts.
Constricting Sliver is pretty close to being a bomb. It’s especially absurd in multiples. Faceless Butcher has always been a first-pick-quality card, and Constricting Sliver gives us an extra point of power and turns other creatures in our deck into Faceless Butchers. People will know that this one is playable, but they probably aren’t taking it early enough. I would be taking this above Oreskos Switfclaw as a white drafter.
Ensoul Artifact is a card that I’ve been championing for the last couple of weeks. Coming into the Magic 2015 Limited format, not many players thought this would be a playable strategy, but there were a lot of 3–0 decks that were built around Ensoul Artifact last weekend, and it’s clear that making a 5/5 flying on turn two or a 5/5 indestructible haste on turn three is usually good enough to win a game.
Into the Void is overdrafted. I feel that the card is only good if our deck has at least sixteen creatures, and people keep shoving it into decks with eleven bodies and losing when their opponents just recasts their guys. Remember that bounce spells are only as good as the pressure you’re applying when you cast them.
Brood Keeper becomes insane if we’re able to trigger it at least once during a game. The card combos nicely with cards like Heliod's Pilgrim and Invasive Species that let us find and replay Auras to great effect. Don’t be afraid to grab this earlier than your peers strictly on speculation that it’ll work out.
Ancient Silverback is a first-pick-quality bomb that players seem to be taking below tier-one commons. The truth is that a 6-mana, 6-power regenerator is pretty close to unbeatable in this format for at least seventy percent of the decks we’ll be facing. Take this earlier than your friends, and crush them with it.
Undergrowth Scavenger shouldn’t be taken early, but there are a lot of decent ways to fill our graveyard, such as with Satyr Wayfinder and Necromancer's Assistant that can lead to Undergrowth Scavenger being an undercosted fatty with the ability to take over a game by itself. Originally, I thought B/G was among the worst color combinations in Magic 2015, but it became clear I needed a bit more Undergrowth Scavenger in my life.
Satyr Wayfinder is another card that’s a very high pick that seems to be underdrafted. The card contributes to convoke, fixes mana, fills our hand, fills our graveyard, and synergizes very well with a lot of the other cards in the format. I’m rarely upset when I am able to take one of these.
Admitting mistakes is probably the most important action one can take to improving his or her skills as a Magic player. We’ve all misjudged cards and assumed they were better or worse than they actually were. By broadening our horizons as we dive deeper into a Limited format, we gain a deeper understanding of what actually works. Next week, we’ll be talking about the process of a card making the jump from Limited to Constructed. From Umezawa's Jitte to Pack Rat, Limited strength has often been the portent of Constructed oppression.