Cycling, in my opinion, is one of the best mechanics of all time. Games play quite smoothly when you can turn a card you don’t want into something else, and that is especially relevant for reducing mana screw. Furthermore, cycling encourages players to look far ahead in the early turns. Consider the following example. You have Floodwaters in your hand and nothing else to do on turn 2. Do you cycle it or hold it?
I can conjure up a bunch of scenarios where it’s correct to cycle, and also plenty where it’s correct to hold the card. Are you missing your fourth land? Is your hand less aggressive, such that the bounce effect is unlikely to make a large impact? What if you have a card that cares about instants or sorceries in the graveyard, like Warfire Javelineer? If not, then maybe you hold the card. There are so many questions that you can ask in order to discern whether or not to cycle a card that I urge you not to rush through the early turns in this format.
Speaking of cycling, I think this draft might be off to an interesting start…
Pack 1, Pick 2
The Picks So Far:
Is this card good in Limited? I’m not sure. I want it to be. And I do think it has serious potential, especially when first-picked. Once you get your second Drake out of this card, it’s well worth it, and if you can keep churning them out, it will singlehandedly win you the game. I would look to play more than eight cards with cycling, but that shouldn’t be too hard.
Also, it looks like the “cycling matters” deck is U/B, so let’s keep that in mind as well.
We have a card-draw spell (that also makes you discard, which is an upside with Drake Haven), a removal spell, Gravedigger, and two cards with cycling. The safest pick of this bunch is Shimmerscale Drake. It’s on-color with our first pick, synergizes with it, and is a completely reasonable card. I don’t like taking five-drops early in Limited, but since Shimmerscale Drake has cycling, there isn’t the same level of diminishing returns as usual.
Trial of Knowledge doesn’t impress me. Sure, it’s card advantage and all, but a four-mana sorcery that doesn’t affect the battlefield is worrisome. There is only so much room for cards that don’t affect the battlefield, and we already started with Drake Haven. I’ll admit, the card is powerful, especially with the ability to re-draw it with a Cartouche, but I’m not going to take it here.
Floodwaters does have an incredibly high ceiling, so maybe I am undervaluing it, but it’s difficult to see where the card lands before playing with it, and I’m pretty certain that a 3/4 flier is going to be very solid. My guess is that Shimmerscale Drake is going to be better on average. Of note, Floodwaters does get much better when your opponent has cards with Embalm.
So if we’re going off-color, it’s between Gravedigger and Electrify. Gravedigger is one of my all-time favorite Limited cards (so maybe I’m a little biased here), so I’m going to throw out the idea of taking Electrify. The real question: should I take Gravedigger or one of the cycling blue cards? Although the 2/2 body isn’t great, in a format with cycling, it’s going to be very common to have a creature in your graveyard. It also can be pretty annoying for your opponent if you get two Gravediggers. Maybe I’m higher than I should be on this card, but I’m snapping up Gravedigger here and I’m pretty happy about it. It’s just the best card in the pack.
Pack 1, Pick 5
The Picks So Far:
And we already have the double Gravedigger combo! This deck looks like it’ll turn out to be pretty awesome. We have ways to interact with the graveyard and two good “cycling/discard matters” cards. We need cards with cycling, though. Let’s see what this pack has to offer.
As good as I want Seeker of Insight to be, it seems too conditional and two mana for a 1/3 is just too below rate. The card is certainly playable, especially in the U/R Spells archetype, but it’s not the card I’m going to take here. The pick is between Shimmerscale Drake and Horror of the Broken Lands.
On the majority of Limited battlefield states, a 3/4 flier is going to be better than a 4/4 that gets +2/+1 whenever you discard a card. But in the majority of scenarios, cycling for one is going to be better than cycling for two (pretty much only worse if you don’t have black mana, given the creatures in question). The best way to discern which card to take is to figure out which gap is bigger. Mathematically speaking, if X is the difference in value between cycling costs and Y is the difference in value between the creatures on the battlefield, if X minus Y is greater than zero, then Horror of the Broken Lands is the pick, and otherwise it’s Shimmering Drake.
This is why it’s hard to answer this question. When so many cards trigger on cycling (and we have some Gravediggers to boot), one-mana cycling on a solid card appears premium. Both cards are solid finishers, but I think the flying body really makes the difference here, more so than the one-mana difference for cycling, so I am going to take Shimmerscale Drake. If it turns out that Horror of the Broken Lands can attack as well as it looks and is more often a 6/5 or 8/6, this pick could go the other way. But that’s what the beginning of a format is about: getting it wrong and recalibrating your evaluations!