First Impressions of M13

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I really do prefer these non-rushed events. Every PT, the spoiler comes out and its rush-rush-rush to come up with decks and draft competency. Nats, Worlds and now the World Cup are much more relaxed, and I get a real chance to get enough drafts under my belt to learn the format inside out.

Of course, I’m not there yet! I think for most normal sets I need about 20 drafts to be fully comfortable, and about 15 for core sets. As of writing this I’ve done a sealed and six drafts, but not only is my article due, I also like to give opinions early on and see how they evolve as the archetypes are explored.

My initial reaction is a good one. The set may be poop in terms of money rares, but the lack of amazing, game-dominating bombs has helped balance the drafts a bit. It seems like tight play wins more games than hitting a huge bomb or needed a perfect 2-3-4 curve (although you can’t ignore curve of course) and overall it’s pretty fun stuff.

Let’s look at where the shifts occurred; titans replaced with four mana value creatures, the white and black planeswalkers replaced with new ones who are in some cases inferior to uncommons (in fact the other night I took a Rancor over Ajani P1P1, which may or may not be right but it’s at least debatable). As well the first pick commons and uncommons have been replaced by less powerful versions. Switcheroo for Mind Control, Murder for Doom Blade, Volcanic Geyser for Fireball, Searing Spear for Incinerate/Bolt, Rancor for Overrun. On top of that there is actually a lot of depth in the commons, which I find rewards reading signals a bit more since you can afford to switch to the more powerful cards being passed and still end up with a deck.

It’s not as bland and simple as something like M10. Whereas M12 broke tradition by being very different from previous core sets (for a few weeks Tormented Soul went 13th or later), M13 does not seem to be quite as absurdly fast. There are still things you need to look out for though. Tormented Soul + Dark Favor, Mark of Mutiny + Bloodthrone Vampire, the mill deck, Warhawk with enablers and a few goblin/merfolk enhancing cards allow for the occasional “theme deck” but sticking to the basics will yield good enough results.

The gameplay is also very interesting due to Exalted. Wizards has gotten quite good at building small tensions in recent sets, and Exalted is one of the more interesting ones to play with. If I have two Duskmantle Prowlers, do I swing with both or just with one? Well even on an empty board, swinging with both plays into faeries, but swinging with just one plays into Murder, Divine Verdict and Unsummon. That might seem like it’s obvious to swing with both…so what if instead we replace one of the prowlers with an Aven Squire? Do you go for the extra damage with the chance of dealing zero, or do you guarantee a hit but dealing less if they have nothing?

With these impressions in mind, here are a few cards that I think are going to be overrated and underrated for the first month or two.

Overrated:
Divine Verdict People think with Exalted this gets better, which is true, but it’s still pretty bad. Against a better player, they can usually maneuver a situation where you are either trading it for a far worse card, or you are just doing nothing while they advance their board. It is one of the few answers to Tormented Soul so I think I’d always play at least one in the main deck, but don’t be picking this card highly.

Captain’s Call/Krenko’s Command 1/1s with no abilities don’t really do anything in core sets. People just play creature after creature and they become irrelevant so quickly. Without any synergies I would happily leave either one of these cards on the bench.

Divination This card was quite good in M10 and quite bad in M12. Its fine now, but I think people are still thinking back to M10 with rose coloured glasses.

Safe Passage Safe passage was at its best in a number of situations; if they were swinging with everything looking to trade, if they were burning your guys or if they cast an overrun. With exalted, two of those three situations aren’t going to come up enough for safe passage to shine as it has before. I used to always include one in my white decks but now I see it as a 23rd card.

Encrust Removal is removal but this still underperforms. Like Assassinate, it has the drawback of letting them hit you first, and especially underperforms when their board consists of 1/1s and 2/2s with Exalted.

Underrated:
The Rings
Already people are realizing these are pretty good. You need about 10+ creatures of the respective colour but they work wonders. They get your creature up to exactly the size it needs to be to start attacking profitably then goes to work on the next one. I especially like the black one.

Unsummon With the rings giving counters, a bunch of playable auras, some 187 abilities and decks revolving around attacking with a single creature Unsummon does quite a bit of work in this core set. You can still use it to protect your best creatures, but it’s the utility that really helps Unsummon shine.

Fog Bank I thought this would be good, but in play it just does so much. I’ve been on the giving and receiving end of having to use removal on this guy. If you consider that Wall of Frost was playable, this also shuts down fliers, lifelink and deathtouch for a mana less. Apart from Tormented Soul and Harbor Bandit not much gets past, and you can bank (ha!) on him getting the job done.

Duty-Bound Dead Exalted is just a good ability. I always tell newer players to never play one drops unless they have a relevant ability later in the game. This guy has two! Another more obscure bonus is that this guy survives Cower in Fear and Chandra’s Fury where most other Exalted creatures don’t.

Mark of the Vampire These are both quite playable. With Exalted, games often become very race oriented as attacking is rewarded more than blocking. Pantsing up a creature can be the difference between winning the race and losing the race.

Naturalize Once people pick up the point above about the rings and the auras, as well as stuff like Primal Clay, Chronomaton, Oblivion Ring, Jayemdae Tome, Pacifism, Encrust and a few sweet rares (Staff of Nin and Sands of Delirium for example) almost every deck will have a couple of targets for Naturalize, and I am fine with having one in the maindeck.

Hopefully these tips prove not only useful, but accurate! If you haven’t tried drafting M13 I highly recommend it. It’s not a super relevant format, but I’ve been practicing for the World Magic Cup, which is coming up next month! Our team is actually favored to make top 8, so hopefully it goes well enough for me to have a sweet tournament report to bring you guys!

Thanks,

Marc Anderson

**Bonus** Although most people outside of Ontario won’t be able to appreciate this as much, I needed to fit in the lineup for our sweet draft pod the other day. Lucas Siow, Noah Long, Tyler Longo, Rich Hoaen, Steven Wolfman, Andrew Oyen, David Caplan and myself. Three people with PT top 8s and three people who have been on the train multiple times. So sick! /endbrag

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