Feature Article - The Rares (And Mythics!) Of M11 Limited
A few weeks ago I wrote a few tips on how you could get better at Magic and about a U/B Eldrazi deck I'd been working on. This week I'm going to mix it up and talk about M11. I'm sure many of you are either drafting at your local store or on Magic Online —my goal for this article is to give as much information on the quality of the rare cards in M11 since most of the time players will have less experience with them. Also I'll give you some basic thoughts on the format.
First I'm going to break down all the rares and mythic rares in the set and give them a ranking on a scale of 1-10 along with a brief overview on my thoughts about them. I'll also sometimes mention what colors you should try to go with when you have them in your picks.
The scale will be weighed thusly:
- A 1-2 on the scale will make the card nearly unplayable in most scenarios.
- 3 is borderline playable (or you know not).
- 4-7 will be a card that you should have in your deck and pick somewhat highly depending on whether it's a “4” or a “7.”
- 8-10 are cards I consider to be great and are easily first-pick quality.
Ajani Goldmane: 9
Any of the planeswalkers are clear powerhouses when it comes to Standard and Limited is no different. Ajani has an immediate impact on the game state as long as you have creatures in play. Then you will be able to pump your guys or start to gain life. If you choose to gain life your opponent will most likely be trying to attack Ajani which essentially turns into more life.
If you do open Ajani in pack 1 I would lean towards trying to draft a U/W flying deck. You want most of your creatures to have a low cost along with cards like Wall of Frost to defend on the ground. Low-cost creatures are the most relevant in a deck like this and you should definitely keep that in mind; even if a creature with the lower cost is slightly less powerful I would consider taking it over the more powerful one when you have Ajani.
Ancient Hellkite: 7
I have been getting the Hellkite a lot later than I feel I should be. He has no drawback as most of my decks are 2 colors so getting triple red by turn 7 shouldn't really be a problem. If you happen to open him in pack 1 I would lean towards trying to draft Red/Green. Cards such as Cultivate and Sylvan Ranger help you both ramp to and find the colored mana you need to cast Ancient Hellkite… Not to mention the card advantage of both cards will help you protect the Hellkite from cards such as Mind Rot or Liliana's Specter. Scenarios like this occur much more often than you may think so you should think ahead and prepare for it best you can by drafting these types of cards to support your bomb.
Angelic Arbiter: 8
The thing you have to know about M11 is that seven mana is not a lot. The game tends to last for turns well past 7. The Arbiter has a powerful effect — and it's even more powerful because I feel it has the Planeswalker Theory in its favor.
The Planeswalker theory is that Planeswalkers gain value because it gives your opponent an option —and every time your opponent has an option it's a chance for them to make a mistake. Angelic Arbiter makes your opponent think whether it's right to attack or play a spell this turn. This also basically shuts down any combat trick your opponent may have… And in this case Arbiter basically morphs into Teferi Mage of Zhalfir.
I have no color recommendation as Arbiter can combo well with and other color except for R/W since I want my R/W decks to be fast and not have a seven-drop in them so I can play fifteen lands.
Baneslayer Angel: 10
One of the best creatures ever printed. When I think about Baneslayer I kind of feel like R&D would turn the card down if someone who won the Invitational tried to submit it as their card.
Regardless Baneslayer is a windmill slam but no one does that anymore so it's more like a “Puertoooooooooooooo Ricoooooooooooooo!”
Birds of Paradise: 3
Birds is a card that seems like it's really good to most players but it actually is just not that good.
First off it doesn't have a body. All it really can do is ramp you early which isn't even really relevant in the format. Then later it chump blocks.
It's cool that it does fly and if you have equipment you can get a use out of it. I can see you taking it slightly higher if you were a Green deck splashing two colors but overall it just doesn't do enough for me to take it early or midway through a pack —and I would not always play it in my green decks. I always had this theory that a card like Birds of Paradise is such high variance since after turn 1 the value of it drops drastically.
Brittle Effigy: 8
This is a card that I am a huge fan of. I see people playing it out on turn 1 and I'm not quite sure why. You want to gain as much value as you can in this format and playing it out turn 1 gives your opponent value by a) letting him know what you have when this could have been used an unexpected trick and b) allowing your opponent to destroy it before you actually use it.
I'd just recommend for the most part that you hold on to it and be prepared to use it the turn you cast it.
Speaking of getting destroyed I think Manic Vandal does not get enough respect in this format and is a card that I am happy to main deck.
Captivating Vampire: 3
The Vampire is not very good although he is playable. He shouldn't be taken highly because you need a truly dedicated vampire deck —and even then he doesn't really shine because at the end of the day he is still just a 2/2 that can easily get killed.
In addition to that if you ever want to use his main ability you can't trade in combat which means you will be taking unnecessary damage. Overall he is a filler card; don't try to go crazy picking up vampires unless you are just mostly drafting for fun and trying out this plan.
Chandra Nalaar: 9
Chandra shines when the board is clogged and no one can get through. You can just build a few counters on Chandra then use the ultimate ability to take complete control and probably win on the spot. Any color combination works with Chandra and she is a first pick.
I give Clone a five because every time I played with it it kind of disappointed me. When I first started playing Magic about fifteen years ago it was one of the best cards I'd ever seen (second only to Vesuvan Doppelganger) but nowadays it just doesn't really cut it. Sometimes it's good and you get to copy one of your opponent's best creatures and trade with it working as a four mana removal spell. But the other times you draw it on an empty board — or a board filled with random 2/2s and 3/3s where you playing it makes little to no difference.
I would play Clone in 99% of my decks but would not take it very highly.
Conundrum Sphinx: 9
Sphinx is a powerhouse. A four mana 4/4 flyer is great and it works very well if you happen to pick up lots of scry cards since they combo together. If you don't have a scry card then most of the time you should just name the best card you can think about drawing.
I see people just naming a basic land to play the odds which doesn't really make sense; you want to name whatever great card you have to get you out of a rough spot or to put the game out of reach for your opponent since a wrongly-named card goes to the bottom of your deck.
Cyclops Gladiator: 6
I know I know; earlier I said that getting triple Red isn't a big deal. But when you want triple Red by turn 4 it becomes one. The Gladiator will shine in a mono-Red deck when you know you'll be much more likely to cast it on turn 4; otherwise in the late game it turns into a four-mana removal spell that makes you wait a turn before killing something. A strong card but I would tend to not pick it early due to the mana commitment.
Dark Tutelage: 4
Most people I talk to feel that this card is close to unplayable but I disagree. When put into the correct deck Dark Tutelage becomes very powerful. A U/B deck with many scry cards or a super-aggressive B/R deck with tons of low casting cost spells are the two decks where it shines in. And any deck can play Crystal Ball which combos well with this.
Day of Judgment: 10
I did a team draft at Grand Prix: Columbus and one of my teammates passed it. I don't really know what they were thinking because the card is extremely powerful. Regardless of what some people think about playing around it it's very difficult to do so.
Demon of Death's Gate: 2
There is a big difference between seven mana and nine mana which makes the Demon on the unplayable side. And on top of that you aren't even getting an immediate impact when you cast him! Nine-mana cards are just something you often want to stay away from in Limited — unless it's something so powerful that it will have an immediate impact when you play which the Demon does not have.
Force is good but there are lots of times when you cast Destructive Force and still lose — and with a card so powerful you would think that's not the case. If you do draft a Force early I would try to go into R/G since you can get mana ramp and huge guys. I would also try to draft Earth Servant since it could soak up the 5 damage and stay in play as a 4/6 after the Force resolves.
Elvish Archdruid: 5
The Archdruid is certainly a good card and I'd play it in my green decks but it isn't really too powerful. If you happen to other elves in your deck or a few big spells it gets better but overall it's just pretty much average.
Fauna Shaman: 9
Shaman made its way into many of the top Standard decks out there —and it also shines in Limited for the same reasons. Being able to discard your tenth pick to find your first pick is almost unfair. Shaman allows you to set up your plan to always get your best big creature drops which will give you a huge advantage.
The Shaman also combos well with Squadron Hawk if you manage to get two or three which isn't too unrealistic —but then again that means you are in G/W which isn't too good either.
Frost Titan: 10
I think all the Titans are clearly bombs.
Gaea's Revenge: 8
Gaea's Revenge is a powerhouse but he lacks trample. (Then again if he had trample he would be too broken.) However there are some creatures that stop him from getting through and against other green decks he often just trades with a random five- or six-drop creature. Against U/B removal-heavy decks he is insane. Regardless of what deck you are going to get matched up against he is a first pick if you don't mind going Green.
Garruk Wildspeaker: 9
Garruk is another clear first pick. He works well in any type of deck you are trying to draft —and when it comes to playing with him he is almost always a two for one in your favor. If I have Garruk I will try to draft a Nature's Spiral since he is one of the permanents you can get back.
Grave Titan: 10
A card that is nearly impossible to beat makes for a very easy first pick. If you happen to first pick a Grave Titan I strongly recommend you picking up Gravediggers just in case your opponent can somehow deal with the Titan.
Haunting Echoes: 1
Pretty much unplayable in Draft or Sealed and I realistically can't really see you bringing this in against any deck you may face.
Hoarding Dragon: 7
Hoarding Dragon is solid but nothing broken. If you do manage to first-pick him (which I would over most other red cards) then you should try to have a few artifacts in your deck as long as they're pretty good. I would take Fireball over the Dragon but not Pyroclasm.
Honor of the Pure: 3
I'm not really a fan of this card. You have to be almost mono-White to make it really work… And in Limited I'm not really a fan of a card that does nothing by itself as it needs White creatures in play to make this card even relevant. If your deck does end up being twelve or more white creatures I could see playing it; otherwise leave it on the sideline.
Inferno Titan: 10
Another card that is just amazing. Most of the time it will be at a minimum a three-for-one and at best it's obviously a game-winner. I would try to go B/R with Gravediggers if I have any Titans.
If you do first-pick him I would try to go for the Millstone deck and draft all the tools that go with it.
Jinxed Idol: 2
Jinxed Idol is okay in some decks but for the most part I wouldn't play it. It works best in black decks when you can have a Recurring Skeleton to sacrifice over and over again. Otherwise leave it in the board.
Knight Exemplar: 4
The knight is okay since you can pick up some other solid knights… But again most of the time it's just Gray Ogre with first strike. Don't take it too high but pick it up if it comes around late in case you see a bunch of knights later on.
Leyline of Anticipation: 3
I think this card is underrated… but as long as you have cards like Foresee to make up for the initial loss of cards you should be set. Even if you don't have Foresee or its ilk you can gamble in the hopes that you are able to jump a creature into combat or use a sorcery as an instant to gain an advantage that you normally would not have gained.
If you do have Leyline in your deck I would most certainly draw first.
Leyline of Punishment: 1
Pretty much unplayable could maybe side it in on some rare case that your opponent has a life gain deck or one with three to four Safe Passages.
Leyline of Sanctity: 3
This leyline can be sided in against either a Black-heavy discard deck a Red-heavy burn deck or a Blue Millstone-type deck with many Tome Scours. I wouldn't main deck it but keep it in mind as a sideboard card.
Leyline of the Void: 1
Almost unplayable in Limited as it really doesn't serve a purpose against most decks.
Leyline of Vitality: 3
I've seen a lot of people playing this but I'm not really sure why. The life gain only works for your guys and the +0/+1 doesn't really give you enough of an edge to be playing a card like this. If you're short on playables you can run it but try to leave it in your board.
It is good against Red decks however so consider boarding it in against them.
Liliana Vess: 9
I'm a huge fan of planeswalkers in M11 and Liliana is a good one. She will help you either Tutor up your best card or to gain card advantage through discard. When I have Liliana I try to draft a W/B control deck with Diabolic Tutor and lots of defensive cards.
Magma Phoenix: 7
Magma Phoenix is a very solid card. When I have him I'll try to go either B/R (so I'll have ways to either destroy him or sacrifice him) or R/G with creatures that have a toughness greater than three.
Sometimes Phoenix will backfire on you; that's why if I was a U/R deck I would take Foresee or Jace's Ingenuity over it as I value card drawing very highly.
Mass Polymorph: 3
I'm not a fan of this card since you need guys in play to use it — and even if you do have guys in play you might just get worse guys when you cast it. If there was a good way to make tokens for cheap I would consider ranking it higher… but since there isn't really I would almost always not play it.
However I have played it before (as did Luis Scott-Vargas) in one of our team drafts so it is a card with potential in the right deck… For example if you have a bomb creature in your deck that you are trying to get to. It works best in Green decks with Sylvan Rangers or as a sideboard strategy against a U/W deck that has a few Ice Cages or Pacifisms.
Merfolk Sovereign: 3
Just like the others Merfolk Sovereign doesn't do much other than serve as a Gray Ogre. However one of my favorite cards in the set Scroll Thief is a merfolk… so if you happen to see a Sovereign pick it up since your Blue decks should have Scroll Thieves in them.
Mitotic Slime: 7
The Slime is solid as it normally gets you card advantage… But with cards like Pacifism or Ice Cage sometimes it doesn't work out. That's why I prefer to pick Garruk's Packleader over Mitotic Slime.
Mystifying Maze: 7
I was very impressed with this card. It solves almost any problem you may have against a huge creature. Plus when you take it early you know you can play it without having to worry about color issues early in the draft.
Nantuko Shade: 5
Shade's good but it only really shines when you are heavy Black. In a two-color deck it may be tough to cast on turn 2… And since it doesn't have evasion it just doesn't really work that well. Run him but I wouldn't take him early.
Necrotic Plague: 6
This card is good and shines in U/B control but you will only want to play it on the right board position. It works as a removal spell if your opponent is the only guy with a creature… but if you have guys as well it will come back to your dude. I would most want to play Plague with a deck that has a couple of Reassembling Skeletons.
Obstinate Baloth: 7
A very solid creature. With there being a few good discard spells in the format you might get lucky and slam it down for free.
Overwhelming Stampede: 8
I am really not a fan of Green in this format but this is one of the few cards I will open and take to go Green. It is often more powerful than Overrun; during M10 Overrun was one of the only cards that would make the game swing in your favor heavily or just steal a win on the spot.
Make sure when you are facing an opponent with untapped mana to consider what he may have to foil your Overwhelming Stampede plan. Another thing to consider is to not be afraid to wait to cast Overwhelming Stampede even if it is not lethal. Forcing your opponent into bad blocks or dealing a guaranteed fifteen damage is often worth it.
Phylactery Lich: 1
This card is pretty bad since not only do you basically need to be mono-Black but you also need to have a fair amount of artifacts in your deck in a format where there are very few playable artifacts. I can see playing it in some extreme case but 99% of the time I wouldn't.
Platinum Angel: 9
I'm a big fan of Platinum Angel and I think it is almost always a first pick—even over Fireball or Mind Control most of the time (though it's a tough call). It just comes down to what else is in the pack whether you should commit to a color and what signals you want to send.
I'll almost always try to pick up a Whispersilk Cloak when I have the Angel in my deck then try to go U/B so I can have Mind Rot and Duress to clear the way for my Angel then and counters like Negate and Cancel to protect it.
Primeval Titan: 10
Another bomb here since by the first attack you will thin out your deck so much that you'll most likely only have a few lands left in your deck — which means from then on out you will be drawing action spells. Not to mention the fact that they have to deal with a 6/6 trampler!
In a format like M11 trample is defiantly relevant and Primeval Titan is a card I would take to go Green.
Protean Hydra: 6
I'm not really that much of a fan of this card and a six may be a high rating… but since the scale is just a rough sketch we'll give him the extra point.
Overall this guy doesn't impress me and is not a reason for me to go Green. If I open him I will almost always pass him unless the rest of the pack is unplayable. He's not a bad card by any means just not one I get excited about.
I really like having this in my Blue decks since there are lots of powerful spells in the format that are just game breakers if they get Redirected. Since I'm such a huge Blue fan I wouldn't mind taking this card early; if the pack is real weak I would even first-pick it.
I'm less of a fan of this card than I am of Redirect. First off it's in a color that I'm not really a fan of; secondly it doesn't change the target of a spell which is often more powerful than just copying it. If you're Red I would play it as long as you have a few instants and sorceries but it's just a card I wouldn't get too excited over.
Royal Assassin: 8
Assassin is a card that varies in how good it is because what really matters is whether your opponent has an answer to it. Against some decks it could be “game over” and against others it will almost instantly be destroyed (but you can draft multiple Gravediggers to help fight this problem).
Assassin should be taken over Doom Blade or Lightning Bolt in a R/B deck and even Foresee in a U/B deck.
This is another card that works well with Whispersilk Cloak.
Serra Ascendant: 2
I'm not a fan of this card as it is just a 1/1 with no evasion and it's usually pretty difficult to get up to thirty life. I would almost never play this card unless I had a couple of Honor of the Pures or ended up having to play a bunch of creature enchantments.
This is another pretty bad card since it will basically be a mulligan. More than anything else I would not advise you to play this.
Steel Overseer: 7
This card I have very much been impressed with since it comes down early and does a good job holding down the ground then in the late game it turns into a huge attacker. Also every time I have the Overseer in my deck I try to pick up both Gargoyle Sentry and Stone Golem —and of course if you happen to get a Triskelion….
Stormtide Leviathan: 8
Normally I could care less about some big expensive creature but Stormtide Leviathan is simply game breaking. Once it comes down the game should swing in your favor (or put you further ahead than you already were). I would easily first-pick Leviathan over the fancy common removal spells and would be fine going into G/U splashing some removal since Cultivate and Sylvan Ranger will help give you the mana you need to cast it and the Blue card draw to help you find it.
Sun Titan: 10
Sun Titan shines in B/W when you can draft multiple Quag Sicknesses. But Sun Titan is a powerhouse in any deck that will gain you card advantage. It also works well with sacrifice effects like Ember Hauler.
Sword of Vengeance: 8
This is a card I'm a fan of… but since most of the decks I draft tend to have such few creatures it isn't as good as it could be in say a U/W flying beatdown deck.
If you do first-pick a Sword you want to try to draft around it. I used UW as an example but any fast beatdown deck with lots of early creatures will do. What you don't want is some clunky deck with all four- and five- drops leaving you no time to equip your guys.
Also if your deck is looking like it is going to have ten or fewer guys I wouldn't pick Sword. Opt for something that suits your deck better.
Temple Bell: 6
This card is better than most people give it credit for and is one of the key components in the Millstone deck. It is also good in other archetypes like R/W beatdown. If you haven't tried this card out yet I suggest you do so since it will most likely surprise you with how good it actually is.
Time Reversal: 3
This card is playable but it has to be in the right deck and cast at the right time. It is a card that would make the blue Leyline more playable as you can cast it on their end step then be the first to unload your hand. It is also better in a U/G deck where you will have more mana than your opponent and make better use of it.
Over all I would more likely than not leave this card in my sideboard but don't be afraid to play it. It's often good to board in a random card like this against a deck that is strictly better than yours to try to give you a way to work around the randomness of your deck.
I give it a 4 because it is only playable in one type of deck —and that's the Millstone deck. In that it is very good and a key part. If you do happen to get a Traumatize late in pack 1 I would try to see what other “mill” cards are coming around and also be on the lookout for picking up Call to Minds since they are another key card in the “mill” deck.
Triskelion is good but I'm not crazy over it and would honestly prefer to take a good draw card spell or a solid removal spell like Doom Blade over it. It's often hard to abuse not because of the support cards since there are a fair amount of them —Aether Adept Steel Overseer Gravedigger — but the fact that it costs six mana and only does three damage. If you take him early I would try to go to my normal plan of U/B and look for the above-mentioned cards.
Vengeful Archon: 8
I like Archon a lot since like Platinum Angel it is a game winner if your opponent can't do anything about it.
If you draft Archon you can pretty much go any color combo except R/W since R/W should be drafted very aggressively and a seven-drop is something that you wouldn't want in an aggro deck. But any of the other color combos should work out fine.
Wild Evocation: 1
I think this card is close to unplayable. It's expensive and doesn't do anything half the time. The other half of the time it will just help your opponent.
Since you have my general ideas on the rares in the format I will give a brief discussion on my thoughts about why you might have lost.
My plan which was originated from Hall of Fame hopeful Anton Johnson is to draft a blue-based deck with a few ways to win. You should be looking at about ten creatures unless you are drafting a U/W flying beatdown deck — then of course you would want somewhere around fifteen to seventeen creatures. Other than that card draw is key (along with some way to handle creatures whether it's Aether Adept Sleep Excommunicate Pacifism or Blinding Mage).
U/W and U/B are my two favorite archetypes so I try to draft them since both colors offer lots of card advantage type cards.
In conclusion this breakdown of M11 rares should help you in your future drafts. Thanks for reading.
Also I created a group on Facebook called MODO-Police — to stop people from disconnecting on you and making Magic Online a more enjoyable experience.
Gernardi on MODO