A few weeks ago the Escapist Staff gathered round our streaming room table to take part in what our Twitch chat has now forever dubbed “Barbeque Draft”, BBQ Draft for short. You can watch the whole draft here. What happened was we wanted to draft a box of Modern Masters 2015 that Wizards of the Coast had sent us to show off the format, but we couldn’t quite gather enough people together in the middle of the work day. The solution was to rotisserie draft it instead.

If you’re not familiar with rotisserie draft, the basic idea is that you lay out all the cards face up. The first plays takes their first pick from the entire card pool, and then each player goes after that with a snake occurring at the last player to take two cards.

Often rotisserie drafts are done with gigantic card pools, like all of Vintage or Modern, but some of the basic strategies are the same. The first few picks are usually to gobble up the most powerful cards or to plant a strong flag to your opponents of the kind of deck you’re drafting. At any point another player could try to screw you over by taking an important card from you, but that also denies them a card for their deck. So usually what plays out is this game of chicken where you’re trying to leave cards that only you want for later while fighting over the ones everyone is willing to take. The twist here, of course, is what we’re calling a Barbeque Draft: Instead of a limited set, use a full booster box and let the cards fall where they may. You get a powerful pool and some vicious deck setups, but are ultimately limited in power by what key rares and uncommons show up in force.

mtg apocalypse hydra

Justin Clouse

Now I had participated in a few Modern Masters 2015 drafts before this, so I had a pretty decent understanding of the archetypes and their important cards. I’ve really enjoyed drafting this format, there are some powerful and exciting cards to crack and the archetypes reward reading the draft. A lot of the cards a bonkers in the right deck, but mediocre to unplayable elsewhere. So you can get some nutty draft decks with some amazing late pack picks if no one else is drafting what you are.

I ended up 3rd in the pick order, and my very first pick was actually a [mtg_card=Dismember]. I wanted to stay open and see where everyone else was going to end up. For the first several rounds Janelle and Jon fought over Blue cards, while Josh had free reign over Red/Black bloodthrist. I started to go towards Green with the potential of Green/White tokens, but Jon ended up cutting some of my [mtg_card=Raise the Alarm]s when he was done contending with Janelle for Blue.

As the draft continued I consolidated myself in a Green ramp strategy. I wasn’t certain if I was going to be fully domain or sunburst, mechanics that reward you for playing four or five colors. Domain specifically cards about having basic lands of each type, while sunburst only cares about the colors itself. I ended up opting to keep a stronger core of Green and Black cards, since both Josh and Jon were aggressive decks I didn’t want to stumble against, with a splash of Red for [mtg_card=Apocalypse Hydra] and [mtg_card=Savage Twister]. Decent removal, ramp, and some of the best threats around? Yep, that’s Jund. There’s just something undeniably satisfying on filling your deck with just a bunch of good cards. Synergy be damned, I just want to trade with all my opponents early threats and let my more powerful topdecks take over the mid game.

[mtg_card=Apocalypse Hydra][mtg_card=Pelakka Wurm][mtg_card=Drooling Groodion][mtg_card=Precursor Golem][mtg_card=Ant Queen][mtg_card=Creekwood Liege][mtg_card=Wolfbriar Elemental]2 [mtg_card=Kozilek’s Predator][mtg_card=Tarmogoyf][mtg_card=Nest Invader][mtg_card=Noble Hierarch][mtg_card=Necrogenesis][mtg_card=Savage Twister]2 [mtg_card=Rampant Growth]2 [mtg_card=Bestial Menace]3 [mtg_card=Nameless Inversion][mtg_card=Dismember][mtg_card=Wayfarer’s Bauble][mtg_card=Evolving Wild][mtg_card=Golgari Rot Farm][mtg_card=Gruul Turf][mtg_card=Mountain]6 [mtg_card=Forest]6 [mtg_card=Swamp]
mtg bestial menace

Match One – Jon Bolding’s Blue/White Artifact Affinity: 2-1

Game one Jon was able to get off to a fast Affinity style start. This was why I had designed my deck to be more strongly two colors because I knew I would need to be able to keep pace with these kind of draws. With so much evasion in his deck, the game ultimately came down to the race. The key play besides Jon playing a [mtg_card=Glint Hawk] on Turn 2 that I don’t think he ever needed to use White to activate, came down to me using a [mtg_card=Dismember] on a [mtg_card=Myr Enforcer] instead of the [mtg_card=Glint Hawk]. I wanted to be able to untap, attack him low, and [mtg_card=Savage Twister] most everything away. A few turns later I died to that [mtg_card=Glint Hawk].

Games two and three were much more in my favor with the deck preforming exactly as planned. I would spend and early turn or two ramping, and then just keep playing high impact cards every turn. I was a little worried about counterspells after sideboard and my [mtg_card=Precursor Golem] always seemed to find a removal spell. But I’m pretty certain I played [mtg_card=Bestial Menace] and [mtg_card=Creekwood Liege] in both games, and that’s an ungodly amount of power and bodies to put into play for only two cards and nine mana.

Also, [mtg_card=Tarmogfy] is usually pretty anemic in draft, but he’s a beast when you’re [mtg_card=Nameless Inversion]ing [mtg_card=Lodestone Golem] – which gets you tribal, instant, artifact, and creature in the graveyard to grow.

Match Two – Josh Vanderwall’s Red/Black Bloodthirst: 2-0

While Josh went virtually uncontested in the draft portion, sans the [mtg_card=Nameless Inversion]s I snagged away from him, I actually just think the Red/Black bloodthrist pool wasn’t terribly good. I’ve had more [mtg_card=Vampire Lacerator]s in smaller booster draft pools, and there weren’t a lot of [mtg_card=Lightning Bolt] and [mtg_card=Burst Lightning]s either. So his deck wasn’t able to get off to that punishing of starts nor was it able to reach for those last few points of damage well either.

There’s a pretty common strategy when it comes to Magic, you always want to be the slightly slower deck. As long as you’re not so slow that they can go underneath before you have a chance to deploy all your cards, you want to be the deck that’s a little on the backfoot but will play bigger and better cards. This is pretty much exactly how I imagined this match-up, granted it certainly helped that Josh got a little flooded on mana both games. On Games One and Two after some initial aggression my bigger Green creatures and removal stabilized the game, while 10/10 [mtg_card= Apocalypse Hydra] and [mtg_card= Pelakka Wurm] went over the top to close out the games.

Match Three – Janelle Bonanno’s Blue/Green Graft & Proliferate: 2-0

Remember what I said about wanting to be the slower deck? Well much like I designed my deck to prey on the little aggressive decks, Janelle’s graft deck was perfectly placed to punish mine. Her deck had all the inevitability, in addition to some card draw, and my deck was poor at putting early pressure or especially evasive threats into play. Value cards like [mtg_card=Bestial Menace] aren’t terribly great when a [mtg_card=Thrumming Birb] is pumping her team every turn.

Game one I had to mulligan and ended up keeping a ramp heavy hand as my deck still needed to get off to a fast start in order to win. A few turns later I had tons of mana in play but didn’t draw enough threats to contend with Janelle’s every growing creatures. A [mtg_card=Helium Squirter] sealed it up since I was no longer even capable of drawing to the [mtg_card=Savage Twister] since chump blocking stopped being an option. Game two went similarly; I got in a few early hit but eventually Janelle locked up the ground. Despite the monetary difference, [mtg_card=Tarmogoyf] can still get outclassed by a [mtg_card=Aquastrand Spider] in the right circumstances. To her credit, Janelle played the second game excellently, aggressively trading off creatures to [mtg_card=Bestial Menace] tokens to have enough time to play out her whole hand.

mtg myr enforcer

Jon Bolding

Going into the draft I was aiming at a Blue/Green proliferate deck, focusing on graft creatures to pump up a large stable of creatures to a high power level. However, it became clear early on that Janelle was going for the same archetype, so I went ahead and swapped to another – not giving up my beloved blue mana, heaven forbid, but instead focusing on grabbing some of the more useful white cards and going for an Affinity deck where heavily investing in artifacts would really reward me with cheap creature after cheap creature. Seeing that there were plenty of affinity staples like [mtg_card=Frogmite], [mtg_card=Thoughtcast], [mtg_card=Myr Enforcer], and [mtg_card=Court Homunculus] on the board for drafting, I figured I could get where I was going pretty quick – and I did. Then I started second guessing myself, trying to figure out what I might need to sideboard, and setting up alternate strategies. That unfamiliarity with the set caused me to miss some white removal spells that Justin was interested in – even if I did manage to hate-draft a few cards like [mtg_card=Wayfarer’s Bauble] and [mtg_card=Raise the Alarm] away from him. For example, I think a few [mtg_card=Arrest] would’ve let me beat Janelle or Justin. Oh, and I hate-drafted all the [mtg_card=Hurkyl’s Recall] because of how badly it would’ve beaten me down.

2 [mtg_card=Court Homunculus]
[mtg_card=Ethercaste Knight]2 [mtg_card=Faerie Mechanist]
[mtg_card=Lodestone Golem][mtg_card=Mulldrifter][mtg_card=Myrsmith]2 [mtg_card=Myr Enforcer]
2 [mtg_card=Somber Hoverguard]
[mtg_card=Dispatch][mtg_card=Oblivion Ring]2 [mtg_card=Thoughtcast]
[mtg_card=Vapor Snag]2 [mtg_card=Darksteel Axe]2 [mtg_card=Flayer Husk]2 [mtg_card=Glint Hawk Idol][mtg_card=Mortarpod][mtg_card=Mox Opal][mtg_card=Azorius Chancery]2 [mtg_card=Darksteel Citadel][mtg_card=Island] x6
[mtg_card=Plains] x6

mtg glint hawk idol

My final deck did what it was supposed to do… most of the time. If I got unlucky and didn’t pull a [mtg_card=Darksteel Citadel], one of the cheap equipments, or [mtg_card=Mox Opal] fast enough my Affinity wouldn’t really kick in until a turn too late – sending me into a death spiral I couldn’t recover from. In other games a lucky draw of a few [mtg_card=Court Homunculus] and [mtg_card=Glint Hawk Idol] would send me shooting for the moon. In retrospect, though, I should’ve ditched the Court Homunculus entirely and substituted tougher creatures like [mtg_card=Glassdust Hulk] and a third [mtg_card=Somber Hoverguard], alongside the [mtg_card=Tumble Magnet] I drafted but decided not to use after all. In the end, it’s the stuff that the Tumble Magnet or an equipped hulk could’ve blocked that killed me – not the early game chumps that the homunculi dealt with just as well as the flayer husks and mortarpod. In the end, I came out feeling that while Blue/White isn’t the weakest archetype in the set, it lacks clear win conditions among its strategies – especially without [mtg_card=Cranial Plating] in play.

Match One – Justin Clouse’s Green/Black Ramp: 1-2

My first match against Justin was a strong start, as a turn one Homunculus and a turn two Glint Hawk Idol alongside a Darksteel Citadel sealed his fate – he simply couldn’t keep up with that much affinity that fast and I pulled precisely as many lands as I needed to keep dropping an artifact every turn for free flying attacks. As he ramped up the game became a race, but my early lead sealed it. Ultimately, it was my lack of ability to downtempo his deck that killed me – once the [mtg_card=Creakwood Liege] and [mtg_card=Bestial Menace] got rolling it was over. He also sideboarded in a Tarmogoyf and, well, you read how that went in his writeup. Ultimately I was fast – but not fast enough to seal the deal. After this matchup I permanently shelved a few white buff cards in my deck to make room for the [mtg_card=Faerie Mechanist]s which served me very well against Josh and Janelle.

Match Two – Josh Vanderwall’s Red/Black Bloodthirst: 2-1

Josh and I really only had one good match – he got totally mana screwed on his first game against me, and flooded on his last game against me. Our second game was a close victory for Josh as I tried to fend him off with increasingly desperate plays of small creatures while waiting to draw something bigger than a 2/2. I never did and died for it – however, my anemic removal did show up to the fight and let me take out some of his more dangerous critters like [mtg_card=Ashenmoor Gouger], so he had to make a few trades for effective attacks. If I’d drawn the second [mtg_card=Faerie Mechanist] or even a single [mtg_card=Myr Enforcer], I think I could’ve eventually taken that game with either superior evasion or blocking potential. Of the three matchups I played, though, I couldn’t even begin to get a sense of what our decks were like against each other – he got a near-perfect kickoff on the one game he didn’t get screwed. All I want to do is play again, now. That’s Magic for you.

Match Three – Janelle Bonanno’s Blue/Green Graft & Proliferate: 1-2

I knew going into this one that both Janelle and I had strong midrange decks with a propensity to create a board state our opponents simply couldn’t overcome. In order to win, I thought, I’d have to carefully manage what removal I had and play aggressively to leverage the slight speed advantage I was getting from Affinity. I managed to do that effectively once, getting a [mtg_card=Lodestone Golem] onto the board and forcing her deck to move so slowly she simply ran out of steam. Ultimately, it was my lack of ability to remove key creatures or counter key spells that lost me the game, as I couldn’t stop [mtg_card=Steady Progress] from ramping her board power and I couldn’t stop [mtg_card=Helium Squirter] from making her big grafted . Between all three games, I drew neither of my spell removal cards, and while Janelle thinks it was Lodestone golem that lost her the second game, it was ultimately my ability to pull goofy combat tricks with [mtg_card=Mortarpod] that cost her several useful creatures. The highlight of these matches was that they usually went long enough for some nice Affinity drops, like one mana [mtg_card=Somber Hoverguard]s and even once a completely free [mtg_card=Myr Enforcer]. The final match was the most frustrating, because even though I got Lodestone Golem on the board again, I didn’t pull an island until turn 7 – then I died.

mtg vampire lacerator

Josh Vanderwall

To be honest, I haven’t done a lot of competitive Drafting over the years. My typical Draft experience has included entirely too many shots and entirely too few matches. I have, however, played a good bit of Sealed Deck, as it’s standard for pre-release events, which are my favorite events to attend. One thing I’ve learned from my Sealed Deck play is that rush decks don’t usually go over too well in limited formats, although there are certainly exceptions. I was hoping that our Modern Masters 2015 Draft would be one of these exceptions, given that I had virtually no competition for either of my colors during the draft, but fate was not on my side. My match record was 1-2 after playing each of the other drafters, which was a little disappointing, given how strong I thought the build was.

I was last in the rotation during the Draft, so I already knew for the most part what other people were looking for, and Red/Black seemed to be the color choices with the least competition, so I went with it. The dominant RB theme in MM15 was Bloodthirst, which I’ve always enjoyed as a mechanic, but does demand a bit of a rush strategy to get off the ground. I picked up all the Bloodthirst creatures I could get my hands on, as well as enablers like [mtg_card=Gut Shot] and [mtg_card=Goblin Fireslinger] to ensure they’d always hit the board with counters. There were a few aggressive creatures like [mtg_card=Vampire Lacerator] as well, which certainly do well with a rush strategy.

I believe one of my fatal errors during the draft was to ignore some of the cheaper removal for smaller creatures, like [mtg_card=Nameless Inversion]. I saw entirely too many early 3/3 creatures that I couldn’t attack through, and would have done well to include some ways to clear the path. I did get a [mtg_card=Dismember] and [mtg_card=Lightning Bolt], but in most cases, it simply wasn’t enough.

3 [mtg_card=Vampire Lacerator]2 [mtg_card=Goblin Fireslinger]2 [mtg_card=Duskhunter Bat]3 [mtg_card=Gut Shot]2 [mtg_card=Ashenmoor Gouger]2 [mtg_card=Gorehorn Minotaurs]2 [mtg_card=Blood Ogre][mtg_card=Stormblood Berserker][mtg_card=Vampire Outcasts][mtg_card=Wrap in Flames][mtg_card=Bone Splinters][mtg_card=Sign in Blood][mtg_card=Spread the Sickness][mtg_card=Lightning Bolt][mtg_card=Dismember]8 [mtg_card=Swamp]8 [mtg_card=Mountain]

mtg ashenmoor gouger

My matches didn’t offer much of a sense of how the deck should play out. While I did have some good games, the bulk of my games played were wrought with mana issues. I ran 16 lands in the deck, and found myself both mana flooded and mana screwed in equal measure. I didn’t win every game that I didn’t have mana issues, but I definitely had a more favorable record.

Match One – Jon Bolding’s Blue/White Artifact Affinity: 1-2

Game one – 2 Lands on turn 6, scoop.
Game two – Aggressive start with Lacerator, got Gouger out early, effective beatdown.
Game three – Flood with 11 lands and 6 spells.

My first match against Jon Bolding’s Blue/White Artifacts deck had us both fighting mana problems for all three games. I went 1-2 in the match, but the win, like the losses, had more to do with mana issues than deck construction. That game did offer a glimpse of what my deck was capable of, however. Casting [mtg_card=Vampire Lacerator] into a [mtg_card=Duskhunter Bat] into a [mtg_card=Ashenmoor Gouger] more or less sealed the game by turn three. Of course, there was little opposition, because Jon was stuck on two lands for the first four or five turns, but it was demonstrative of the potential power of the rush strategy.

Match One – Justin Clouse’s Green/Black Ramp: 0-2

Game one – First 5 draws are all lands. Get crushed by 10/10 Apocalypse Hydra
Game two – Flood out on lands mid-game. Got him down to 7 or so with Fireslingers, but Pelakka Wurm into 12/12 Apocalypse Hydra sealed it.

Match two against Justin Clouse and his beast of a Jund deck didn’t go quite as well. I was 0-2 here, and again presented mana trouble in both games. That’s not to say that I necessarily would have won either game, even with the perfect land draw, but it might have helped. After drawing several lands back to back in game one, Justin dropped a10/10 [mtg_card=Apocalypse Hydra] and I scooped immediately. Game two went a bit better, as I was able to ping him down to 7 life with early creatures and a [mtg_card=Goblin Fireslinger], but I ran out of gas mid-game, and he responded with a [mtg_card=Pelakka Wurm] followed by a 12/12 [mtg_card=Apocalypse Hydra].

Match Three – Janelle Bonanno’s Blue/Green Graft & Proliferate: 2-1

Game One – Aggressive start with Lacerator into Duskhunter into Vampire Outcasts, but graft dudes quickly outmatched my creatures, and I didn’t draw the Lightning Bolt I needed to close out the game.

Game Two – Turn two Duskhunter Bat into Minotaur after Minotaur after Minotaur. 2x Gorehorn Minotaur back to back sealed the game.

Game Three – Lacerator into Lacerator+Fireslinger into Duskhunter. Stuck on RB mana for most of the game, but top-decked my second swamp to close the game with Sign in Blood the turn before she killed me.

My last match against Janelle Bonanno and her Green/Blue Graft deck was definitely my best as far as land balance. Some of the Graft creatures are surprisingly aggressively costed, so in game one, my early pressure was immediately offset by 3/3 and larger opposition that I couldn’t get through for pretty much the rest of the game. When they got up to 5/5 and bigger, thanks to counter shenanigans, I was more or less done for. Games two and three went significantly better, as I had early aggression, as well as strong mid-game plays. For game two, I cast a turn two [mtg_card=Duskhunter Bat] without Bloodthirst, which enabled the mechanic for the rest of the game. I dropped Bloodthirst-enabled minotaurs consecutively on turns three, four, and five, which quickly closed out the game. The third game of the match was actually incredibly close, as I stalled out with only a Mountain and a Swamp in play. I did have a number of small creatures, so I kept the pressure on fairly effectively. Mid-game, I started to worry, as I was out of castable creatures, but the turn before her team was able to deliver the killing blow, I topdecked my second Swamp, and was able to burn her out with [mtg_card=Sign in Blood].

If I had to do it over again, I think the best approach would be to focus my drafting on the affordable early-game removal first, since there wouldn’t like be much competition for the Bloodthirst creatures or enablers later on, but removal is always at a premium. Unfortunately, there’s just not much you can do about mana flood/screw, so other than praying harder, I’m not sure those losses could necessarily have been avoided.

mtg thrummingbird

Janelle Bonanno

Although I rarely draft, preferring sealed deck instead, I love limited formats. Limited formats generally allow you to play cards and deck types that generally don’t have much viability in standard. Thankfully, Modern Masters 2015 was designed to support varying deck archetypes that I rarely get to play. When I heard there was a plethora of graft cards, I knew from the start that’s what I would draft. I went first in the draft rotation, so I was fairly confident that I would be able to snatch up a graft card or two, freezing out others by not wanting to compete with me for a limited pool of cards, which you really needed all of. And I grabbed every graft and proliferate card I could, with a small assortment of removal to protect my important combos.

2 [mtg_card=Thrummingbird][mtg_card=Aquastrand Spider][mtg_card=Plaxcaster Frogling][mtg_card=Scute Mob][mtg_card=Nest Invader][mtg_card=Cytoplast Root-Kin][mtg_card=Lorescale Couatl][mtg_card=Kavu Primarch][mtg_card=Vigean Graftmage]2 [mtg_card=Aethersnipe]2 [mtg_card=Helium Squirter]2 [mtg_card=Tezzeret’s Gambit]2 [mtg_card=Steady Progress][mtg_card=Water Servant][mtg_card=Thrive][mtg_card=Remand]2 [mtg_card=Repeal]2 [mtg_card=Dimir Aqueduct]7 [mtg_card=Forest]8 [mtg_card=Island]

Match One – Josh Vanderwall’s Red/Black Bloodthirst: 1-2

My first match against Joshua Vanderwall and his Rakdos Bloodthirst deck was not the best. While Graft creatures can build up over time to become some serious threats, time is still key. In addition to requiring time, Graft creatures are aggressively costed, making it almost impossible to drop multiple creatures in one turn. Josh’s aggressive, early-game deck was perfectly designed to take mine out. This wasn’t immediately apparent in game one, where I managed to stop his early pressure with a 3/3 that had the time to grow into a 6/6. His deck may be fast, but his creatures are small. But Game one was not a sign of things to come. For games two and three, Josh’s deck came to life, delivering the cards and combos he built into it. He managed to play a lot of early aggression, making me unable to keep creatures on the board and proliferate them into mid-game threats. When he started playing strong mid-game plays, I was done for.

mtg tezzerets gambit

Match One – Justin Clouse’s Green/Black Ramp: 2-0

I generally play super-fast aggressive rush decks or end-game control decks. Mid-game decks usually make me nervous, as I worry about match-ups like the one with Josh. Fortunately, my graft deck was in a perfect position to take Justin’s slower deck down. He didn’t have enough cards designed for early game pressure, and without the cards to stop my board state build up, the continual proliferation of my graft creatures, with cards like [mtg_card=Thrummingbird] and [mtg_card=Tezzeret’s Gambit], can get scary fast. By the time Justin was able to drop a threat on the board, my creatures had built up into multiple threats that were hard to contend with. Normally, my strategy was to allow him a few early game hits, preserving my board state for proliferation until my creatures were powerful enough to lock up the board. My most valuable card against Justin’s Jund deck was [mtg_card=Helium Squirter]. With him, I was able to stop Justin’s endless chump blocking and swing for leathal.

Match One – Jon Bolding’s Blue/White Artifact Affinity: 2-1

After my first two games, my deck has both handedly won and lost. I had no idea what to anticipate from Azorius Artifacts, but I was not optimistic. Watching the draft play out, I knew he had a bevy of small creatures and artifact affinity creatures that he could easily ramp up to. While I assumed this all meant an aggressive early game deck, akin to Josh’s Rakdos Bloodthirst, I was pleasantly surprised to learn that this was the most balanced match-up against graft out of them all. One card that worked particularly well for him, and granted the game two win, was [mtg_card=Lodestone Golem]. Assuming I make all my early land drops, the lack of ramp means my deck provides just enough mana to perform. Especially considering the fact that it contains double forest and double island creatures, in addition to a high-casting cost convoke beat, [mtg_card= Kavu Primarch]. Make all my spells cost one more however, and I’m toast. Without the ability to land the card combos I need in an efficient and timely manner, my deck stalled as I couldn’t graft and proliferate fast enough and Azorious Artifacts slowly overtook me. Overall, each battle was a close one, especially early game. But Jon’s inability to pull any of his creature removal meant my proliferation would eventually get out of hand, and beat out his late game drops.

And there you have them – the rather potent and thematic draft decks that come out of a box of Modern Masters. Have you drafted modern masters? Did you see decks like ours, or did other archetypes emerge? Sound off in the comments to let us know.

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