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Preliminary Thoughts on MH3 Limited

First Impressions: MH3 Limited - BG: Galvanic Discharge

Many of you will be playing Modern Horizons 3 by the time this is published. It may be your local pre-release, release weekend, or like me, on MTGO or MTG Arena the day it's released.

While it's impossible to play with the set as of writing, I drafted some decks on a draft simulator, which I do almost every time a new set is released.

Bot-only draft simulations are not great tools to practice drafting. The bots' pick orders are questionable, but that is not the point of the exercise. When I use a draft simulator this early, I focus on understanding how cards go together, what a good deck could look like, and a general idea of what resources are in abundance and which are scarce.

For instance, if a set lacks two-drops, you'll feel that as you're drafting and may begin your first real drafts prioritizing them, putting you slightly ahead of the pack.

You can study a spoiler set and list things if that's how you operate, but my ADHD wants me to be hands-on when learning, so I dive right in, however imperfect.

Draft simulation showed me that there's not much fixing with this format. The cycle of lands that fetch for basic lands and the cycle for three colors of mana are often clunky. They will be contested by people only playing one color because they make colorless mana for various effects or spells they need to pay to use. There's also the dual land cycle of spell lands.

The dual-land spells are high picks since they're both fixing and usually solid spells. This is the most pushed I've seen these types of cards. They can be played in single-color decks, and you'll always play them if you're touching either color, making them harder to pick up and more valuable. Overall, splashing seems difficult. Because of this, a card I am high on is Solar Transformer. A gemstone mine on a mana rock feels like it will play well in almost any deck. It has energy synergies, artifact synergies, and a way to produce colorless mana. This is a card you should value highly.

The decks seem to draft themselves. You are pushed into your lanes and penalized for deviation. Energy decks want to focus on energy cards, and you may find it necessary to take cards that are above rate. There are some miscellaneous cards you might grab, but archetypes are hard to steer out of because the synergies don't overlap well. It's tough to bounce from energy into devoid or devoid into artifacts.

Sealed decks will likely be a mess. Highly synergistic formats aren't well-balanced for Sealed, as you're left up to the whims of your packs, and and you can't properly support cards that would be all-stars in a booster draft. Sealed will likely be about building around your most powerful cards, avoiding trap cards that need a lot of support, and understanding how little support something needs to work. For instance, how many colorless mana pips do you need for a card that needs colorless mana to be cast? It depends on where that curve is on your mana curve. If it's a card like Eldrazi Ravager, you don't need many sources. Maybe two lands and one or two ways to make an Eldrazi spawn. Eldrazi Ravager cycles, so you have a buyout option.

A card like It That Heralds the End is a card that has to support your entire deck, acting as a mid- to late-game anthem effect for all your creatures, or it's a card that's best left on the sidelines, as it's nearly impossible to play on curve.

There's a massive disparity between some of the rares against the average common. I'm surprised, but this feels a lot like a Standard draft rather than a Modern Horizons one, power-level wise, though there are some excellent commons that wouldn't be printed straight to Standard such as Galvanic Discharge.

There's a lot of value and card draw, so I expect the games to be grindy. There's a lot of efficient removal, various creature tokens, and powerful top-end, so aggro decks will struggle in this setting. This isn't to say aggro is unplayable, as it's hard to determine before getting any games in, but these formats are about adding to the battlefield as much as possible. If you spend time drawing extra cards rather than adding to the battlefield, you need some catch-up cards or synergies in your deck.

There's a lot of fun drafting around rares. I suspect much of my early play will be exploring these rares rather than specific archetypes. The format looks well-balanced at first glance with tons of ways for all colors to spend mana, the presence of efficient removal, and potent threats.

There are many filler rares you'll never get to play, which makes me worried the set will get dull more quickly. Filling packs with Medallions and Fetches may prop up the value of the packs, but it's not doing favors for the Limited format.

Regarding color preference, my initial thought is that I want to learn red first. I've no idea if it's best, but there are two commons I'm excited about at common in red in Galvanic Discharge and Fanged Flames. Cranial Ram in gold looks absolutely cracked. As I do in almost every draft format, I start with a heavy bias towards blue.

Blue is secretly always the safest or best color in Limited these days because it's capable of interacting with the stack and drawing extra cards. Card advantage isn't king these days but finding your most powerful cards is. You will draw your busted cards more if you're seeing a larger portion of your library. Serum Visionary looked absurd before the full set release. While it still seems good, it does miss out on not having any synergy, which puts it in a weird place but also makes it a perfect fit into the set. If you want this powerful common, you will have to give up on an archetype-boosting slot in your deck.

The TLDR is that I'm going to try and find my lane for my first drafts in the first three or four picks, try and stay in that lane, focus on just two colors, and draft for synergy, so my whole deck is a complete one rather than a pile of good cards. There are some sets that have soft synergies and some where the synergy is important. This set seems to be close to the latter.

Next week, I'll dive into drafts and keep you all updated. I generally go into the first few drafts with a loose plan and change based on how games play and how things feel. If people don't value the same cards you do, it doesn't mean you're wrong, but it does mean you can find value later in packs and should account for it by adjusting your pick orders. Your goal as a drafter is to gain as much deck advantage as you can in the drafting portion and make playing the games as easy as possible.

This means you need to exploit others' weak points in the draft and have a fluid pick order. It's never been easier to find that value since 17 Lands has proliferated through the community. You can look at drafting habits of top players in real time, find where there's something being left behind, and grab cards that are performing better than you'd think. It's an excellent tool to use for a variety of reasons, just don't be blind to the win rates of best-of-one. They're often different if you're playing other formats.

I hope you have a great time playing a new Limited format. I know I will!

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