The time has finally come!
I've already said my piece on how I feel about Eternal Masters as a set, but that doesn't mean I'm not excited to play some Limited with it! Both Vintage Masters and Modern Masters had great Limited formats that felt like a perfect melding of the synergies of Cube Drafting mixed with the power level of a normal draft. A lot of the focus in both those sets was drafting archetypes, and it looks like Eternal Masters is no different.
However, while Cube environments often feature mostly cards that see or have seen play in Constructed, Eternal Masters likely has many cards that most Magic players have probably never touched before... especially not in a Limited environment. It's not hard to evaluate a card like Control Magic in a Limited format because the effect is so obviously powerful, but most cards aren't that simple.
Today we are going to look at eight cards you should be keeping an eye out for this weekend at your Eternal Masters release events. Some of these cards are sleeper cards that are easy to overlook if you've never played them before, and some are cards that are already powerful but become even moreso due to the context of the format.
We are going to start with the oldest card on today's list and perhaps the easiest one to misevaluate. On its surface Coalition Honor Guard merely looks like an okay creature for a defensive deck. A 2/4 is pretty mediocre for four mana in this day and age, and its ability seems very non-tricky because it is always face-up on the table.
Coalition Honor Guard is card that is easy to see and gloss over very quickly when you are drafting a pack or going through a sealed pool.
If you have never had the displeasure of having a Coalition Honor Guard on the other side of the table, let me tell you: it is not a pleasurable experience.
On the surface, it looks like Coalition Honor Guard exists to protect your better creatures from removal. They want to kill your Serra Angel with Eyeblight's Ending, but instead have to kill your Coalition Honor Guard instead. If this was all Coalition Honor Guard did, it would be a reasonable card. It's double nice how it interacts with cards that don't outright kill it like Pacifism and Faith's Fetters.
But once you actually get into a game with Coalition Honor Guard, it quickly becomes apparent how much more it affects the game.
Coalition Honor Guard completely neuters most damage-based removal, making it look foolish. First picks like Chain Lightning end up being almost blank when they are forced to target a four-toughness creature.
But that's not all!
Nice pump spell or creature aura... I'll take that.
Just a cursory glance at the set's spoiler shows an astounding number of cards that Coalition Honor Guard makes look very foolish, and with its high toughness and easy-to-manage cost it is fairly easy to get in play and keep in play. This isn't even accounting for activated abilities on creatures or other permanents!
Coalition Honor Guard was the inspiration for this article, and if you get one thing out of it make sure you respect this card!
You may be familiar with Kira, Great Glass Spinner from when it occasionally shows up in Legacy or Modern decklists, and Jetting Glasskite is Kira's older, angrier sibling. You can ignore a 2/2 flier, but Jetting Glasskite is a Dragon-sized monster that will end the game in a hurry.
Whether as a curve-topper in a blue/white fliers deck or a hard-to-kill finisher in a more controlling deck, Jetting Glasskite is easily better than many good rares in a normal Limited environments. It also makes a superb reanimation target in the early game, and I doubt many decks can beat turn-one Faithless Looting, turn-two Animate Dead on Jetting Glasskite.
Jetting Glasskite isn't too flashy, but it's a card that should not be underestimated.
The larger cousin of Squadron Hawk, Avarax was actually a commonly-played Constructed card when it was legal in Standard and Block Constructed. The rate of a 3/3 haste creature for five mana isn't anything exciting, but when you consider that it begins a chain that provides you with a ton of late-game value it's much easier to see why. The firebreathing only increases the card's late-game power.
Avarax is fine in a beatdown deck as a way to keep the pressure on, but it is even better as the top end of a more controlling deck as a way to close out games. If you are involved in an attrition war, simply ramming Avarax after Avarax into your opponent in the later stages of the game is going to win you a lot of matches. Having haste also lets you put the pressure on and close the game at a reasonable speed. The blue/red archtype seems to be grindy and spell-based; Avarax looks like a great finisher for that deck.
Given that Avarax is a common, it is likely going to be more relevant in draft than in sealed. Getting at least two is obviously necessary to make it really good, but ideally you would have between three and four. Even so, keep an eye out for Avarax in your sealed pool and be ready to pull the trigger if you open a few.
In a vacuum, Tragic Slip is already a reasonable removal spell. On the front side, -1/-1 is enough to kill the format's smaller utility creatures or be used as a combat trick, and creatures die often enough that the Morbid ability shouldn't be too hard to trigger and give you a premium removal spell.
However, with the black/red archetype being based around sacrificing creatures for value, Tragic Slip's value goes way up.
Not paying echo on cards you have already gotten value off of like Mogg War Marshal and Ghitu Slinger is a great way to trigger Morbid as you often won't want to be paying the echo cost anyway. More traditional sacrifice outlets like Mogg Fanatic and Carrion Feeder will also do the trick, and it only takes a little effort to make Tragic Slip an all-upside Swords to Plowshares in your black/red deck.
Good cards are clearly good, but it's important to recognize how much the context of the format can make them even better.
Speaking of context cards, Commune with the Gods is an excellent example. We last saw Commune with the Gods fairly recently, as it was a fairly major player in Theros Standard as well as a reasonable Limited card.
Trust me when I say Commune with the Gods has never had it so good as it does in Eternal Masters.
Commune with the Gods has always been an enabler card, but now in Eternal Masters it has more than one deck to enable. The green/white theme is based around enchantments and enchantments-matter cards, and in those decks Commune with the Gods is a great way to dig deep into your deck to find either the enchantments that really matter to you or the creatures that care about enchantments. That's all well and good, and is pretty clear from the onset.
However, I'm not interested in finding any enchantments with Commune with the Gods.
I'm interested in casting Commune with the Gods on turn two and being only two cards away from achieving Threshold while turning on many of my graveyard cards. Blue/green Threshold and/or Madness was the defining deck of Standard when Odyssey Block was legal, and a fast way to achieve threshold will go a long way to powering up cards like Werebear and Centaur Chieftain to their full potential.
It may say enchantment in the card text, but Commune with the Gods is a card tailor-made for blue/green threshold strategies.
Speaking of green/white enchantment decks, we come to one of the most unbeatable commons in the history of Limited. When Armadillo Cloak was printed in Invasion, it was borderline unbeatable in Limited. You either removed the creature right away or you died in a few turns with zero possibility to race. Decks without access to black removal or blue bounce were often just caught dead to rights, and I promise you they weren't laughing.
So why are we talking about a card that is quite obviously very good?
Because it is even better than “very good” in Eternal Masters.
There are a ton of cards that care about enchantments in both green and white, and cards like Yavimaya Enchantress and Ancestral Mask help to promote building a huge creature that would love to have lifelink and trample.
More importantly, there are a ton of tools for mitigating the usual aura drawback of getting yourself two-for-one'd. Protection cards like Coalition Honor Guard, Benevolent Bodyguard, and Shelter can help protect your unstoppable creature, and even if your creature is bested Monk Idealist can bring the Armadillo Cloak back and provide a body for it.
Armadillo Cloak already very good, but it is borderline broken in the right shell in Eternal Masters.
While there were some rarity shifts in Eternal Masters bringing cards like Armadillo Cloak and Timberwatch Elf up to much more reasonable-for-Limited uncommon rarity, there were also some downshifts in rarity to make archetypes more interesting as well. This is notable on cards like Elvish Vanguard and Emperor Crocodile, but also on some powerful fatties like Phyrexian Ingester.
Straight up, Phyrexian Ingester is a powerful Limited card. You are getting a ton of value for your seven mana, as you can exile your opponent's best creature while putting a rather large threat in play. These sorts of two-for-ones are the lifeblood of a Limited control deck, and Phyrexian Ingester is likely to end many games it is cast.
The extra upside here however is that reanimation is a large part of the blue/black theme. Cards like Animate Dead and Victimize can bring Phyrexian Ingester to the party much earlier than expected. Having these sorts of reanimation targets at uncommon (and even common with cards like Twisted Abomination) make these reanimation spells well worth the payoff.
I first started playing serious competitive Magic during Onslaught Block. I was a Limited-only player who would log tons of drafts on Magic Online, and my first real-life event was the Legions prerelease follow by a Sealed Deck PTQ at Neutral Ground a few weeks later. I still remember the Onslaught Limited format very fondly, but there were two commons in particular that were better than most rares in the set.
If not dealt with almost immediately, both cards would completely take over any game they were involved in. If they only counted themselves for their abilities they would have been reasonably playable commons, but with so many Goblins and Elves floating around they often gave absurd bonuses that ended the game in short order. In most decks, Timberwatch Elf is going to tap to give a creature anywhere from +3/+3 to +5/+5, making combat completely impossible for your opponent and ensuring they will be signing a match slip very quickly.
Nothing has changed here except for the move to uncommon, so if you are drafting an Elf deck then Timberwatch Elf should be the number-one card you are looking for. Yes, it's better than Imperious Perfect. Yes, it's better than Heritage Druid. It's absolutely comical than Timberwatch Elf was a common and Elvish Vanguard was a rare in Onslaught block.
There are many more amazing Limited cards in Eternal Masters, and I'm very much looking forward to the release event at my local store this Saturday. With so many possible archetypes to draft, I really can't decide which one I'd like to try the most!
Which Limited archetype interests you the most?
Team MGG had a decent showing at #SCGATL last weekend, with Andrew Jessup coming in ninth place, Dan Jessup coming in 22nd place, and myself coming in 34th place.
We are very excited to keep growing as a team and look forward to keep the growth moving forward both for the team and for Magic as a whole.
Last week we had a very fun challenge for Challenge Thursday: “(Modern) Binary only! Only cards that cost zero or one mana” submitted by @Joshmiller0326. I really enjoy the deckbuilding restriction challenges, and had a brew that was perfect for this one.
While I was super excited to play my deck, my opponents just weren't having it.
My round one opponent's play on turn three of game one was Timely Reinforcements, and it just got worse from there. We ended up going 1-4, losing to a never-ending tide of Kitchen Finks, Lingering Souls, and Timely Reinforcements. Still, the deck was a blast so I consider it a successful Challenge Thursday.
This week we've got new challenges to choose from:
As always, the poll will end at 6:00pm Eastern time, which will give me one hour to construct my deck. Then you can tune in at 7:00pm for the start of the stream. I will be playing an entire League with the challenge deck, tweaking it a bit, and then playing another League right after.
How many wins can I get? Cast your vote and tune in to my stream at 7:00 tonight to see how it goes!