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What to Pay Attention to in DTK Limited

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Adam Koska
Adam Koska

About Adam Koska

Adam is an experienced player from the Czech Republic who has a number of high-profile finishes under his belt:

  • 14th at Pro Tour Portland 2014
  • 9th at Worlds 2009
  • 9th at Pro Tour Kyoto 2009
  • 64 Lifetime Pro Points
  • Three times Czech Nationals Top 8

What to Pay Attention to in DTK Limited

Hey everyone!

In today’s article, I’m going to take a break from Constructed and focus on Limited for a change. The current limited format is a curious one – after Dragons of Tarkir was released, we kept Fate Reforged in the format, but instead of the clan-based Khans of Tarkir environment, we added it to the new set. This means that, in addition to having to learn how to draft a new set, we also had to rethink the value of many of the Fate Reforged cards, since in the new environment, a lot of them started to work in a different way as well. Today, I’m going to take a look at some cards from Dragons of Tarkir and some from Fate Reforged – not necessarily the best ones or the worst ones, but the ones that deserve attention for one reason or another, the ones that I feel are mostly not understood correctly.

Fate Reforged

Cunning Strike
Versions:
Fate Reforged (Foil)

Let’s start with some of the Fate Reforged cards. There are several major themes regarding the most significant change of value. The biggest one is probably about the viable archetypes – in the previous format, the default way how to draft was to be in an enemy-color combination that would allow you to choose one of two potential clans in pack two. With Dragons of Tarkir, the gold cards are in allied color combinations and there’s only very limited color fixing, so the default way how to draft is to stick to an allied two-color combination and avoid enemy-colors if possible (meaning unless you keep getting great cards in two enemy colors). Because of this, the Fate Reforged common gold cards like Cunning Strike or Grim Contest lose value simply for the fact that it’s much harder to play them. However, this in turn means that there will only be very few people interested in them and it could be a pretty decent payoff to go that way and then get these cards late, especially for black-white, since Harsh Sustenance is by far the best one of the whole cycle. I still wouldn’t deliberately choose to go into an enemy-color combination, but for white-black, the possibility is there. For the other combinations, I think the payoff is not nearly significant enough.

Fate Reforged cards that gained some value can also be divided into several categories, but mostly, the reason why their stock went up is because they fit into some particular archetype or work well with Dragons of Tarkir cards. A good example of this would be the cycle of uncommon 4/4 dragons like Shockmaw Dragon or Noxious Dragon. Personally, I’m not a huge fan of the Dragons of Tarkir uncommon megamorph dragon cycle (Stormwing Dragon, Herdchaser Dragon...), since seven mana to unmorph is really a lot. But there are cards in DTK that are much better if you have a dragon and in order to make some use of them, you need to get the dragons from somewhere. The Fate Reforged cycle is a good option, since their power level is definitely higher than that of their DTK counterparts and getting your Dragonloft Idol online, for example, is a pretty decent bonus.

Merciless Executioner
Versions:
Fate Reforged (Foil)

Another group of cards that work well in the new format is pretty much anything blue or black that has synergy with exploit in some way. U/B exploit is pretty much the most pronounced archetype and it would be difficult to draft it without having some sort of support for it in the third booster. Fortunately, enablers like Jeskai Sage, Sultai Emissary, but even outlets like Merciless Executioner or Qarsi High Priest fit in perfectly. Other color combinations don’t go so far in how much they push some theme, but you can definitely find some synergies there as well. Gore Swine gets much better in the U/R type of deck that relies on Taigam's Strike. Fate Reforged is a small set, so to some extent, you can rely on getting the mediocre commons late, but you shouldn’t draft your whole deck around it. It’s reasonable to expect that you’ll be able to scoop up some dash creatures in FRF for your R/B dash deck with Ambuscade Shaman and Warbringer, but going all in with R/B exploit when you desperately need a pair of Collateral Damage is probably too risky.

One last card from Fate Reforged that I’d like to mention is Renowned Weaponsmith. In the pre-DTK format, this card was a reasonable blocker in a deck that needed one at two mana. With Dragons of Tarkir, this card can actually generate some card advantage and thus moves up quite a bit. Vial of Dragonfire is a common and when I’m drafting blue, I will take it a bit higher than in other combinations, The card is not great (actually borderline playable in most cases), but with the Weaponsmith, you can get some pretty nice „free“ removal, which is always nice.

Dragons of Tarkir

Since the archetypes in Dragons of Tarkir are fairly simple and self-evident, I’m going to talk about some individual cards, rather than whole archetypes. The first card that I’d like to mention is Butcher's Glee. Ever since the pre-release, this black combat trick is steadily going up and up in my ratings, to the point where I’m actually not disappointed to take it somewhere between pick 2 and 4. The card does so much – it makes sure that your creature can take down pretty much any other dork in a brawl and provides such a massive tempo swing that it’s very hard for your opponent to race. So many situations in DTK Limited boil down to „well, if he has Butcher's Glee, my plan goes down the drain, so let’s hope he doesn’t have it“ and the card is excellent pretty much at any point in the game. Lifelink and +3/+0 are such a strong combination (together with regeneration, which basically means „+0/+8“, or something like that) that this card just leads to blowouts really reliably.

A card I’ve found having a really nice role is Sibsig Icebreakers. While I almost never want to start with this card in the maindeck, I’m regularly sideboarding it in when I know I’m going to be on the draw the next game. The effect of „both players discard a card“ might look like a symmetrical one, but it definitely isn’t. When you’re down a card from going first, you’re likely going to have fewer cards to choose from and thus discarding any card is going to sting a lot more than for the player who goes second. It’s the same with mulligans – going down to six hurts a lot more on the play than on the draw. Also, a fairly defensive 2/3 body is going to be better when you’re not the player who wants to attack. I don’t pick Sibsig Icebreakers highly by any means, but I’m always happy to take some late in the draft.

The uncommon cycle of Monuments is something that I see picked highly quite often but I think that in most decks, you don’t even want to play these, even if they’re in your colors. The Monuments are pretty close to Banners in terms of power level – if you have something to accelerate into, go ahead and play it, but in most decks, skipping your third turn to get to five mana on turn four is just not good enough and the option of getting a 4/4 dragon online later in the game doesn’t cut it either.

Sprinting Warbrute, on the other hand, is a card that keeps surprising me in a good way every time I play it (or against it). Frank Karsten has it listed as the sixth best red common in his pick order, after Sarkhan's Rage, Twin Bolt, Tail Slash, Atarka Efreet and Sabertooth Outrider. I think that for red decks that are aggressive and have a low curve (meaning most red decks), the Warbrute should probably be taken as the third best red common, after Sarkhan's Rage and Twin Bolt, but over Atarka's Efreet and definitely over Sabertooth Outrider. The card is capable of dealing more damage than pretty much anything in the common slot and even the „four mana upkeep“ clause is not that bad, since I can’t imagine many games, where the opponent could afford to let you dash the Warbrute multiple times without getting into chumpblock mode very soon.

There are a number of blue cards that have dropped a lot in value in my eyes since I first started playing them, and I consider all of them only barely playable now, which is why I don’t like being blue, unless it’s paired with black. Monastery Loremaster, Mystic Meditation, Ojutai's Breath, Reduce in Stature, Void Squall – all of these have mostly disappointed me and I would never be happy about including them in most of my limited decks. Reduce in Stature looks like it might be close to a Pacifism, but it’s actually very far from that and even Pacifism isn’t great in this format in the first place. Exploit is a very good way how to punish people for using auras as removal and Reduce in Stature doesn’t even make sure that the creature is not going to continue being a threat. +1/+1 counters from bolster or other mechanics will still work for the owner of the dork, creature types like dragon or warrior still apply even if the creature is „decommissioned“, you can’t really punish the creature’s controller for using combat tricks like Coat with Venom... All these small things add up and lead to a card that’s very unexciting and often a candidate for the 24th or 25th card in a deck, which means getting cut.

Speaking of Coat with Venom – this trick is another great and underestimated card, mostly because of how cheap it is. At one mana, it can generate pretty big tempo swings and is a nightmare to play against with something like Hunt the Weak or Epic Confrontation. I’m frequently siding the fight spells out against black decks, when I know they have Coat with Venom (or Butcher's Glee, to a lesser extent) and sometimes also even when I have seen some going around during the draft. 2-for-1ing yourself when the opponent spends just a single black mana is simply a disaster and you never want to put yourself in a position where the opponent might have the card that can do this to you.

Ancestral Statue is a card I’ve seen played and I think it almost never should (and when I say „almost never“, I really just mean „never ever“). Invasive Species from M15 was a great card, which often allowed you to reuse some of your comes-into-play triggers and I think that people who want to play Ancestral Statue might be confusing these two cards. The biggest difference is that Ancestral Statue says „nonland“ – Invasive Species could just bounce a land and even though this would sometimes set you back by a turn, it was still an option on turn three. Ancestral Statue doesn’t give you this possibility and bouncing a creature that you have spent mana for (and will have to again) is mostly going to be a pretty big tempo loss. Even in decks that have some cards like Sandsteppe Outcast that could work with it, the downside of drawing the Statue when you have no synergistic creature is simply too big to outweigh the benefit of getting some extra value out of your cards.

These were some of the cards in the current limited format that I think are often mis-evaluated. Let me know if you think there’s some other card that doesn’t get the attention it deserves or that is often over-estimated (I’m sure there are many)!

Thanks for reading and see you next time!

Adam

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