Now that the Rivals of Ixalan Draft format’s been out for a week, the different archetypes are starting to solidify. While a lot of players stand by “aggro or bust,” I actually believe that the tools against aggressive decks in this format are so strong that you can draft in a manner to be favored against aggressive decks without losing stock against the rest of the field. There are abundant value-creatures such as Legion Conquistador, Jungleborn Pioneer, Sailor of Means, Dusk Legion Zealot, and beyond. These creatures help you stonewall aggressive decks as well as grind out the midrange or control decks. Start taking them higher than you do currently. I’m not saying aggressive decks aren’t good, as they are quite good, but you can certainly draft other things.
The other thing that I’ve observed is that the colors are not balanced. Well, more specifically, blue is miles ahead of the rest of the colors in Rivals of Ixalan. Kitesail Corsair, Crashing Tide, and Waterknot are all cards I’m not unhappy to first-pick, and the next five best blue commons are still pretty good! Blue can easily support four drafters at a table, and so I’m giving every blue card a bit of a bump just for its color. Of note, once the world changes its approach to draft blue cards higher, the Limited format will self-correct, but for now it’s been treating me well!
Pack 1, Pick 1
Timestream Navigator has been better than I thought it would be, but the card still isn’t all that great. It’s a little clunky, and if the ability becomes a problem, the opponent can always kill it. I’ve played it to good success, but it’s not a card I want to first-pick.
If I were to first-pick a black removal spell here, I would actually take Moment of Craving. While Reaver Ambush kills more things, Moment of Craving is cheaper and the lifegain is relevant. I think they’re close and both quality cards that I would be happy to first pick. But I’m actually taking neither here.
Merfolk Mistbinder is pretty much the card that makes Merfolk tick. But so far in my experience of this format, that deck has been hit-or-miss. I feel like all the commons that are good, such as Giltgrove Stalker and Jungleborn Pioneer, get picked up by everybody. Further, Jade Bearer and Mist-Cloaked Herald need a highly linearized version of the deck to be good. This has felt dependent on the third pack. Sure, Merfolk Mistbinder is one of the cards that can tie it all together, but I just don’t think I’m willing to first-pick a Merfolk gold card in this format.
And this leaves us with what I have as the best common, Kitesail Corsair. I keep getting this card as a fifth and sixth pick, which is surreal. Two-drops are important, and I’ve found many games come down to whoever has the flier. And this little “Welkin Tern” is a blue Pirate to boot. You may think I’m crazy to take this card over an archetypal slam dunk, a mythic rare, and two premium removal spells, but I stand by my decision.
Pack 1, Pick 2
The Picks So Far:
Jungleborn Pioneer is great and all, but as I said, I don’t really want to draft Merfolk (especially now that I’ve passed the lord, since it certainly cannot support two drafters). So Pioneer just seems like the worst option here, even though it is still good.
Waterknot is the most straightforward follow-up, given that we started with a blue card and blue is the best color. However, I’ve gone down on the card. There are a ton of bounce spells and double blue mana can be quite annoying. Ascend is real and hence permanent-based removal has benefits, but I don’t believe those benefits outweigh the consequences.
I have Moment of Craving as the second-best common at the moment. I also have been quite impressed by U/B as an archetype, so I’m happy to follow up a blue card with a black card. Additionally, I’m pretty high on Sailor of Means, which means that my blue decks can often splash a removal spell anyway. I’m happy to pick of Moment of Craving here!