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Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2021 draft guide: How to draft M21

10 of the best archetypes to use when playing Limited Draft with the latest MTG set.
Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2021 key artwork
Image: Wizards of the Coast

Magic: The Gathering’s Core Set 2021 has been out for a little bit now, and you’ve probably been sinking your teeth into the Limited Draft format as much as we have. As such, you’ll have noticed that there are some very specific archetypes you can try and build your MTG deck around using the latest set.

While not all of these are equal, they can all be a lot of fun if you get some of the key cards in M21. We’ve specifically not mentioned Rares or Mythic Rares in this draft guide, because getting hold of those is far harder than tracking down the Commons and Uncommons that are the core of any Draft deck.

M21 draft guide

It’s also worth mentioning that there are other ways to build in each of the MTG mana colours; if you happen to pick up a couple of powerful Rares or Mythic Rares, simply using whatever you have in those colours is a perfectly viable strategy too.

Now then, read on for our guide to how to draft Core Set 2021 with ten of the best archetypes in the latest set.

1. Black/Blue Control

Dead creatures can’t attack you

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Core Set 2021 makes playing a control deck a bit easier than previous Magic: The Gathering expansions. Image: Wizards of the Coast

As is often the way in any Draft, playing a control deck is a little bit rough. The most significant advantage Core Set 2021 has for this archetype is Teferi’s Tutelage, a three-mana Blue enchantment that allows you to mill your opponent for two every time you draw a card. Thanks to how much card draw there is in both Blue and Black, this is a fairly viable win condition.

Of course, you need to focus on getting lots of other things like removal, and repeatable card draw like Teferi’s Protege, but it’s a fun deck to pilot. It’s not the most powerful archetype in the format, but it might be the most fun.

2. Black/Green Morbid

A bird in the graveyard is worth two in your hand

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M21 brings a number of options to the table when playing Limited Draft. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Both Black and Green have some very good cards, but the theme with the two colours tends to be that dying matters. Twinblade Assassins is a creature that lets you draw a card if a creature died on your turn. You can turn this into incredible value with creatures that make tokens, as well as the Sabertooth Mauler, which gets a +1/+1 counter on it if a creature died on your turn.

This isn’t the most supported archetype in the latest MTG set, but there’s enough fun stuff here that you can still get a lot of value out of it. Plus, if you’re feeling especially cheeky, you could always try and splice it together with our next archetype.

3. Black/Red Sacrifice

Kill your darlings to kill your opponent

Nine Lives Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2021
Sacrificing creatures to gain an advantage is the heart of this Black/Red archetype. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Black/Red is doing its standard thing of attacking a lot and killing off its own creatures for value. The heart of this deck is Dire Fleet Warmonger, which lets you sacrifice a creature at the beginning of combat to give it an extra +2/+2 and trample until the end of turn.

This is especially potent if you can use Traitorous Greed, a spell which lets you take an opponent’s creature for a turn and attack with it. You can basically turn it into a removal card, or even use something like Witch’s Cauldron to sacrifice that creature and then draw a card and gain a life.

4. Black/White Lifegain

You can’t be killed if you keep gaining life

Rin and Seri Inseparable Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2021
Core Set 2021 includes a number of strong Black and White removal cards. Image: Wizards of the Coast

This particular deck is surprisingly strong, but it’s more due to the strength of both the White and Black removal cards than the core archetype itself.

The idea of many of the cards here is to gain life; you’ve then got a few payoff cards that reward you for gaining three or more life in a turn. The two best ones are Griffin Aerie, a two-mana White enchantment that rewards you with a 2/2 flyer on your end step if you’ve gained three or more life that turn, and Indulging Patrician, which makes your opponents lose three life if you’ve gained three or more.

You’ll likely end up with a core of lifegain cards that can help fuel these engines, but you should also make sure to take any decent removal cards you find too, such as Grasp of Darkness. The finisher is that a lot of these cards become even more powerful thanks to Light of Promise, an aura card that costs three-mana that puts +1/+1 counters on the creature it is attached to for every point of life gained. This makes for some genuinely monstrous creatures, especially if they happen to have Lifelink anyway.

5. Blue/Green Value

More cards than you know what to do with

Cultivate Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2021
Cycle through your deck as quickly as possible to overwhelm your opponent with this archetype. Image: Wizards of the Coast

The aim of this archetype is just to draw a lot of cards and win via card advantage. You’ve got the almighty Lorescal Coatl, a creature that gets a +1/+1 counter on it every time you draw a card; Burlfist Oak, which gets stronger temporarily whenever you draw a card; and a lot of different card draw engines too.

If you get really lucky, you can also use Teferi’s Tutelage here as an alternate win condition, which is great if you’re struggling to make your creatures big enough to attack through, but you can comfortably stay in a defensive position.

6. Blue/Red Prowess

Watch this 1/1 become an 8/8… it’s Magic

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Red planeswalker Chandra makes a return in M21 after heading up last year's Core Set. Image: Wizards of the Coast

There are few things in MTG as satisfying as just absolutely going off for one turn and winning a game. It’s a feeling that is captured perfectly in some of the older formats, and it’s one that you can enjoy a little taste of thanks to this archetype. The aim is to have lots of creatures that benefit from your casting non-creature spells, and then cast lots of spells, attack and win the game.

Building this requires some creatures with Prowess, which makes them stronger for the turn whenever you cast a non-creature spell. Spellgorger Weird is similar, but it gets a permanent buff instead thanks to +1/+1 counters. Your best cards tend to be commons, which are Spellgorger Weird, Goblin Wizardry (which creates two Prowess creatures and happens to trigger Prowess as well), Opt and Crash Through. It’s a lot of fun, and very powerful too.

7. Blue/White Flyers

You can’t block what you can’t catch

Teferi Master of Time Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2021
Flying remains a formidable tactic in M21. Image: Wizards of the Coast

As is often the case, Blue/White Flyers is an excellent go-to archetype when drafting Core 2021. This time, you’ve got Watcher of the Spheres to make things even better. Watcher of the Spheres is a flying 2/2 for one White and one Blue mana that not only gets bigger for the turn whenever a flying creature enters the battlefield under your control, but also makes your creatures with flying cost one less mana to cast.

This means you can ignore your opponent’s defences completely and just sail over their creatures to take down their life total. It’s a classic strategy for a reason, and Watcher of the Spheres just upgrades the strategy more than ever.

8. Green/Red Ferocious

Be the bigger player

Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2021
M21 is a good place for new Magic: The Gathering players to jump in. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Green and Red do what Green and Red always do when they get together: make big creatures. The name of the game here is size, and you want your creatures to be powerful - specifically to have over four power, in order to trigger some of the best cards in this archetype.

One of the best cards for this is Leafkin Avenger, which lets you gain mana for each creature you control that has power four or higher, and use that mana to remove creatures or planeswalkers. It’s a great archetype, and it’s perfect for people who like to win through brute strength alone.

9. Green/White Counters

Make your tiny army massive

Magic: The Gathering Core Set 2021 artwork 2
Teferi is the star planeswalker of Core Set 2021 - and brings a slew of impressive time-bending abilities to the game. Image: Wizards of the Coast

Putting +1/+1 counters on things allows you to turn a small threat into a big threat, seemingly out of nowhere. This is made far more powerful in Core 2021 thanks to Conclave Mentor, a card that lets you put an extra counter on whenever you do so, and Pridemalkin, a very good cat that gives any creatures with a +1/+1 counter Trample.

You want to take a fair few creature cards, ideally with keywords like Flying or Lifelink, and then cover them in counters. It gets especially silly when you factor in cards like Feat of Resistance, which for two mana puts a counter on a creature and allows you to give them protection from a colour until the end of that turn. It’s a fun “build your own battleship” kind of deck.

10. Red/White Aggro

Stop thinking, just attack

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Core Set 2021 introduces a number of brand new cards, along with some exciting new reprints. Image: Wizards of the Coast

This isn’t the only aggro deck you can make in Limited Draft, but it is one of the best. It requires a little bit of luck to get the best version, but as long as you take a lot of cheap creatures and some cards that create multiple creatures, then you’ll be able to flood the board and overrun your opponent.

The aforementioned luck comes in the form of managing to draft Alpine Houndmaster, Alpine Watchdog and Igneous Cur. The former lets you search your deck for the other two, and gets a boost to its attack for each other attacking creature. You’ve also got the rather excellent Basri’s Solidarity, which for a measly two mana puts a +1/+1 counter on every creature you control.