Draft Digest: Once Bitten, Twice Shy

It’s a double dose of Daily Digests! Ryan Saxe has refined his understanding of Ixalan Draft over the past few days! Today he presents picks from a Vampire-leaning session to sink your fangs into, and don’t miss his Premium appearance as part of Pack 1, Pick 1!

Honestly, after a couple days of drafting this format, I’m not entirely sure if it’s balanced. Currently my highest-performing archetype by a very large margin is U/G Merfolk. And it’s also the archetype that I lose to the most. After that, pretty much everything is solid except for W/G Dinosaurs. I have yet to see a good version of that deck, but my guess is that it’s a bit more reliant on Kinjalli’s Caller than you would like.

In general, it seems like you either want to be aggressive or have access to a good amount of lifegain in order to combat the aggressive decks, as they have enough evasion and redundancy to run over general midrange decks. Because of this, Bishop’s Soldier has gone up in my pick order. It’s an efficient two-drop that is a pain for any deck to race with, and hence I’ve also liked W/B Vampires. That’s how this draft started:

Pack 1, Pick 3

The Picks So Far:

Note that, this early, you shouldn’t always be committed to both of your cards. I could see playing Duskborne Skymarcher in a U/W flying deck with some Vampires or splashing Call to the Feast in a U/B Treasure-based deck. So don’t write out any non-Vampires just yet! But I will lean towards W/B Vampires if given the option.

The Pack:

The Pick:

Don’t worry; I’ve gone down on Perilous Voyage since my last article. I still think it’s great, but it’s not really in contention here, given that the other cards are on-color. I also think it’s just worse than both Kitesail Freebooter and Vanquish the Weak.

That should also tell you that I’m not taking Mark of the Vampire here. While I do like Mark of the Vampire a lot, the other options are just too efficient. If you play this card well, it often swings the game drastically in your favor. Don’t just drop it on turn 4 and pray they don’t have an answer (although, if you’re far behind, sometimes you have to do this). Instead, wait until you’ve exhausted a removal spell or two and then end the game.

Kitesail Freebooter is a great Magic card. A lot of people say that the inability to take creatures makes this bad, but I disagree. The floor of this card is a 1/2 flying creature that lets you see your opponent’s hand. Now, in a format with Raid, that’s a card that I’ll play, but won’t be too happy about. If you ever snag a spell, though, the card is extremely disruptive. I wouldn’t be surprised if this is the pick, but I think the next card beats it out by a little.

Vanquish the Weak has impressed me. It’s the most efficient instant-speed removal spell that we have access to at common. Creatures in this format tend to be small (I think Legion’s Judgment is more of a sideboard card). Now, suiting up a creature with One with the Wind or Mark of the Vampire is common, and this doesn’t always handle those after, but it answers most things. Given that the removal in this format is extremely clunky and this isn’t, I prioritize it highly. I’m happy to take it here and it’s definitely one of the top commons.

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

While the Explore cards are the best cards in this pack, I don’t think you should take them. We have a really strong start to a W/B Vampires deck, and I would like to stay on that path. Of note, if you do take one, it should definitely be Siren Lookout. This card could fit in a W/U flying deck or a U/B Pirates/Treasure deck, both of which can go with the cards in the pool.

I have not been impressed with Vicious Conquistador. I like when my early drops scale into the late-game, and this doesn’t do a great job at that. While it is a cheap Vampire, the best versions of W/B in my experience have played a good number of non-Vampire creatures simply because they’re good. Anointed Deacon is a good payoff and it doesn’t require all your creatures to be Vampires, just a reasonable number.

Skittering Heartstopper may not be a Vampire, but it’s a one-drop that scales well into the late-game. Vampires has had some difficulty handling larger threats if it doesn’t get the opportunity to pick up cards like Contract Killing, and this fills that role to some degree. It also turns on Raid for random black cards. I wouldn’t be unhappy picking a Heartstopper up here, but the last option is extremely important and takes the cake.

I have been impressed by Skulduggery. If any of my black decks don’t have a copy, I’m upset, and I actively want two in all of them. A solid combat trick that can frequently yield a two-for-one is nothing to scoff at, and it doubles into a removal spell for one-toughness creatures too. The card is quite flexible, and I’m happy to pick it up here.