Today we enter the dynamic format of Limited. Limited is arguably one of the hardest formats in Magic to learn. It takes time and preparation and even a little luck here and there. And so, for all you players who find yourself lost and bewildered at a Friday night draft, confused and shaky at a prerelease and generally not very confident in Limited skills, this article is for you. I introduce to you a guide to evaluate cards for the Limited format.
There are several things that should be looked for in a card to see its quality in Limited. A rare card that performs well in Standard can often be seen taking a seat at the bottom of the pile in this 40-card format. Cards like Cranial Extraction and Boseiju, Who Shelters All, though a rare-drafter’s delight, will not likely be picked early on by people looking to win.
The card selection for Limited is based around commons and uncommons in the set. In contrast to the above mentioned cards, such goodies like Scuttling Death and Glacial Ray will see themselves swiped up mighty quickly, because of two general understandings of what makes a good Limited card.
Glacial Ray is not popular merely because it can get rid of any creature with two toughness or less (most of the creatures in Champions of Kamigawa). The Ray is such a great card because of the ability to splice it several times and either kill several creatures or deal a fair bit of damage to your opponent. Many Arcane cards from Kamigawa that are mediocre as standalones can find themselves in decks that know how to use them. If, for example, you were to get a Glacial Ray, it might not be a bad idea to pick up a couple of Lava Spikes to splice it onto.
Reusability is also what makes equipment such a powerful force in Limited. Equipment can be used over and over whereas its enchanting predecessors could not.
Reusable abilities on creatures are also a major factor in limited. The spiritcraft effect (whenever you play a Spirit or Arcane card…) is huge in Limited. Teller of Tales, Kami of Fire’s Roar, Kami of the Hunt, Kami of the Waning Moon, and Innocence Kami are excellent examples of a good card in each color with a nice spiritcraft ability. In addition, cards like Frostwielder and Kabuto Moth all offer reusable effects that can completely alter the outcome of the game.
2) Card Advantage
Scuttling Death is a perfect example of a card that can provide massive card advantage. Its 4 power makes it a powerful blocker and its ability can make sacrificing it after blocking an easy two-for-one, but Scuttling Death goes even further by returning a card from your graveyard to your hand with its Soulshift ability, netting you a massive three-for-one gain! In a format like Limited you are probably not going to be packing much draw so you have to be able to take full advantage of the cards you actually play. Graveyard recursion like Soulshift is very useful in Limited.
Likewise, cards like Soulless Revival and Stir the Grave let you get the most out of your creatures by bringing them back after you make a 1-for-1 trade with an opposing creature during combat, you can quite willingly throw a creature into the fray know they will soon return. Fork-Branch Garami not only provides a large body but when it dies it can get two creatures back from your graveyard! That, combined with its low casting cost, makes it extremely valuable in Limited.
We then come to the beatdown analysis of creatures in Limited. When drafting or playing sealed, your goal will usually be to smash your opponent’s skull in with creatures until the white stuff shows (for breakers of this rule Google Dampen Thought). Creatures are a major part of drafting and each one should be carefully considered before being placed into a deck. Two main components of a good creature are:
Sometimes, a creature can be good just because it’s a fatty. Fine examples of fat in a Champions draft would be Order of the Sacred Bell and Samurai Enforcers. In an environment in which most of the creatures have a power and toughness of 2 or less, creatures with 3-4 power and toughness can really dictate a game. Most of the time, though, the fat in each set will be reserved to the rares. Kodama of the North and South Tree are both awesome beatsticks as well as the cycle of dragon legends which also have…
The main evasion usually found in Limited is flying. Other forms of evasion can include but are not limited to: Fear, Trample, and unblockability. Cards like Nezumi Cutthroat and Shimmering Glasskite are picked for their wonderful ability to bypass the creatures on the other side of the board. In a different light, cards that can help create a passage through the opposing force can also be powerful limited cards. Cards like Waxmane Baku, Kami of Fire’s Roar, and Kami of the Waning Moon create ways to quickly and easily carve a highway to your opponents gullet.
Moving on, I will now reveal to you a type of card that could be considered the most important by pros and is also the most over-looked by new players: removal. Not all colors have access to direct removal. Red and Black are usually the only colors in a block to contain true removal cards (a true removal card being “I play this spell and that creature dies”). Other colors, such as green and white, contain harder-to-use removal. White removal usually revolves around destroying a creature or dealing damage to a creature that is either attack or blocking. Alternatively, cards like Reciprocate let the white player kill a creature after it has dealt damage to him or her. Green does not truly have removal, yet it has a good selection of cards such as Kodama's Might you can use to kill your opponents creatures through combat damage. Blue, as sad as it is, possesses practically no removal in its slice of the color pie. It usually has access to a few bounce spells that now and again see play, but when playing blue in a draft you will usually want to back it up with strong removal from either black or red.
Then of course there are cards that are just plain powerful. In Limited you generally have more time to get more mana and other bits and pieces set up for a large effect. Cards like Devouring Greed and Strength of Cedars offer powerful effects in Limited for a price that snooty Constructed players aren’t willing to pay.
Of course, looking at individual cards can help you to a certain point, but you have to make sure that these cards can all help support each other as a deck. It would do no good to have a deck full of evasion creatures only to have no removal or fat blockers to back them up. Likewise, a Devouring Greed will find itself quite helpless in a deck with a low Spirit count. Once you have your deck together, look for interactions between the cards that you might want to use to your advantage in a match. That said, don’t concentrate too much on specific card combinations in Limited as you have to be aware that you are not likely to pull all the pieces you need for the effect.
While selecting what cards will make the final cut into your deck, looking at the mana cost can usually help. If a card’s effect is slightly better than another’s yet costs two or three mana more to play, its generally better to go with the cheaper spell. This is why a card like Nezumi Cutthroat is generally considered better than a Crawling Filth. The Filth has soulshift, an extra tougness point, and can block yet the cheap price of the Nezumi makes it much better. On the other hand, sometimes an ability will not outweigh the cost of the spell. Child of Thorns is a nice cheap card to have around, yet Burr Grafter's bigger body, ability, and Soulshift make it a better choice in a deck.
If you are new to the Limited format, beware of the pitfalls of reading articles online. You may become trapped into drafting whatever the crazy guy online says is good to draft. This suppresses your creativity, which I would hate to do. If you were to draft all the great white and red creature spells noted above with several copies of some, you would certainly go into a draft feeling pretty confident. However, you may have overlooked the importance of red removal and would most like find yourself losing in the final rounds when the competition gets tougher. Vice versa, you could have a Red-Black deck practically bursting with removal but you would soon find your hand empty and no good creatures to back it up.
If you have to...
If you have to...
It is important to think about every single card and what it does for your deck. If you find you do not have enough creatures, by all means draft subpar creatures over good removal because you really don’t need that 9th removal spell. It’s the same concept the other way around. If you don’t have enough removal, grab that Ire of Kaminari and Pus Kami.
On a final note, the only real way to get better at drafting and sealed is to do it. Find a store near you that runs Friday Night Magic drafts and go to them. You will usually find the people friendly and willing to help you with your draft.
If this article is received well I will go into more specific card and archetype analysis that more experienced players might gain something from.
Hope to hear feedback, go out and draft!
*Special thanks to iloveatogs for the banner!