Pack 1 Pick 1: More Rivals Of Ixalan!

Gerry, Cedric, and Ari debate the best picks from packs freshly cracked! Vote for the guy you think navigated the early picks best!

Bombard is splashable removal that’s cheap and removes four toughness
creatures, which is a benchmark in the format. The same can basically be
said about Luminous Bonds, but it’s vulnerable to bounce spells,
Disenchants, and isn’t an instant. There are also a non-zero number of
things you’d prefer to remove outright rather than Luminous Bonds. The
argument for ascend is reasonable, but it also keeps a permanent around for
your opponent, so it’s kind of a wash.

I don’t mind moving in on gold cards as early as most players. Your blue
decks want splashes and ascend, so Deadeye Brawler shouldn’t be seen as a
commitment. The real question should be regarding power level, but I like
it more than Goblin Trailblazer, Forerunner of the Legion, Evolving Wilds,
and Strength of the Pack.

I think Bombard is pretty clearly the best card here. Splashable, instant
speed removal that hits the right toughness in this format is a no-brainer.
It’s not that Luminous Bonds is bad – far from it actually. It’s just that
Bombard is miles better than it. That said, there are things that Luminous
Bonds handles that Bombard doesn’t (a giant Dinosaur) or would prefer not
to (something with enrage). Then again, there are cards that Bombard cleans
up (Vona, Butcher of Magan, any of the Forerunners) that Luminous Bonds
technically handles but really doesn’t.

Both cards are good. Both cards will make your deck. But one is better than
the other.

As for Goblin Trailblazer over Forerunner of the Legion, it’s pretty simple
honestly. I think that Goblin Trailblazer is one of the best two-drops in
the format, and this is a format that’s all about two-drops. Some have
claimed that this limited format isn’t as aggressive as people originally
thought, but I haven’t found that to be the case yet. Naturally, I love
giving beatdowns and I like pairing my hard to block creatures with
removal, bounce spells, or pump spells, so Goblin Trailblazer has a home in
a lot of my decks. Further, two of my favorite archetypes are U/R Pirates
and B/R Pirates, a place where Goblin Trailblazer is at its very best.

There’s nothing really wrong with Forerunner of the Legion; it’s just not a
card I ever get excited about.

I don’t actually have a good answer for which of the removal spells is
better here, but my general rule is the best splashable removal is better
than uncommon tribal payoffs. I also don’t buy into the whole “red is bad”
nonsense a bunch of people are spreading, though I do think white is pretty
solid. The quality level isn’t clear cut as Luminous Bonds stops Colossal
Dreadmaw because Bombard killing Legion Lieutenant-style threats is
important. I’m currently on Bonds, but take whichever one you want.

Immediately after those is Forerunner of the Legion. The uncommon tribal
payoffs are all pretty great in this format and let your cards really
outclass your opponent’s. Forerunner of the Legion is in the top tier of
those because it doesn’t require a two color commitment. I have had W/U
decks where Forerunner was great just because I could get a Sanguine
Glorifier or a Skymarch Aspirant, and the +1/+1 matters more than you
think. Honestly, the Glorifier three-four setup alone means that if I end
up in white Forerunner of the Legion is going to end up in my deck the
majority of the time I’m in white even if I’m not dedicated Vampires.

Golden Guardian is kind of a chore to transform, but it gives you some nice
inevitability while providing a reasonable blocker early. It’s a card
you’ll almost certainly play, so there’s an added bonus, but I don’t rate
that too highly. If there were a good removal spell or great blue card, I’d
be all over those instead.

Siren Reaver and Goblin Trailblazer are both fine. While two-drops are
generally more valuable than three-drops (especially because blue has
several great threes), Siren Reaver’s flying is incredibly important.

Overall, a weak pack.

You ever see a card that has a weird text box, you have to read it a few
times to make sure you understand it, and then ask your friends to make
sure you’re reading it right so that you can evaluate it correctly? That’s
what I had to do with Golden Guardian. And after all my friends said “It’s
insane!” I played with it, realized it was insane, and won’t ever pass it
again. Golden Guardian goes in any deck, is a good cardbefore it
transforms, and borders on an unbeatable card after it transforms.

Siren Reaver is a 3/2 flier for three mana. I know it may look like it
costs four, but if you draft hyper aggressive decks as much as I do, it
costs three. I don’t think it’s that great or anything, but I’m never
cutting it from my deck and flying is pretty dope.

As for my ole friend Goblin Trailblazer again, if I’m taking it over
Forerunner of the Legion last pack, I’m sure not passing it this pack and
taking any of this other trash over it.

Golden Guardian is messed up. If you haven’t had the experience of casting
or playing against the card, here is how it goes. First, your opponent
looks at a 4/4 and realizes that is actually just too big to beat in this
format. Then, you untap and they realize they can never attack on the
ground again, as even if Golden Guardian blocks a 2/2 that just lets it
fight something and die. Then, eventually you just transform it anyways and
they die to 4/4 Golem tokens. It requires no real assistance besides you
controlling creatures and is even a colorless first pick.

After that, I take the evasive creatures. Siren Reaver is distinctly better
than Goblin Trailblazer. It is actually a three-drop and 3/2 flying is way
higher impact than 2/1 menace. I could see an argument for Squire’s
Devotion as the third card instead of Goblin Trailblazer, but I value
two-drops pretty highly and auras still have real downsides even if they
are the good ones.

Taking Deeproot Elite and passing Merfolk Mistbinder can be awkward, but if
you’re doing a good job hard cutting Merfolk, it likely won’t matter.
Deeproot Elite is incredible, and I wouldn’t pass it. It’s similar to
Merfolk Mistbinder except that it gives you flexibility to go tall if
necessary. If it sticks around for a few turns, the damage is often already
done, even if they remove it later. Also, you don’t need to be full-on
Merfolk for Deeproot Elite to make a huge impact.

Everything I said earlier about Bombard applies here. Impale is great, but
I’d prefer to start with a great blue card and go from there because blue
is the best bridge color in the format. If you start in blue, you’re going
to be happy no matter where you end up, so something like Kitesail Corsair
is an ideal first pick from a weak pack. The aggressive decks have gotten
worse, but two-drops are still premium, especially those with evasion.

I would also take Merfolk Mistbinder over Impale, I’m generally happy
taking a powerful tribal payoff over a removal spell. It’s speculative, but
you don’t want to make everyone else’s job super easy by gifting them a
great tribal deck. At some point you have to plant your flag and that’s way
more difficult if the person on your left has already been dabbling.

Bombard is Bombard. I’m saving my keyboard strokes for the other two cards.

Kitesail Corsair is what we in the biz like to call a “mythic common.” If
you see one past fourth pick, you’re drafting with maniacs who don’t
understand how good a two-mana 2/1 flier is in this format. The fact that
it’s easy on the mana and has a relevant creature type makes it even
better. Rarely, if ever, do I pass it in a draft; and any time I do, I feel
like I’m losing or have done something wrong.

Deeproot Elite, in the right Merfolk deck, is completely unbeatable. It
turns mediocre cards like Jade Bearer and Mist-Cloaked Herald into real
cards that you actively want in your deck, and it turns real cards, like
Jungle Pioneer, into unpassables. In my experiences, Merfolk decks have a
very high ceiling and a very low floor. When they come together correctly,
I cannot ever imagine ever losing with them. When they don’t come together
correctly – like a draft I did two nights ago – I cannot imagine dealing a
point of damage with them (spoiler: I did not deal a point of damage in my
two games before being kicked out of the MTGO League I was in because my
deck was so bad).

I think Deeproot Elite is the best card in this pack by a fair margin, but
Merfolk Mistbinder also being in the pack makes me really hesitant to take
it. I don’t think you ever want to be fighting over Merfolk in a draft. The
archetype requires a lot of specific fillers, a lot of payoffs, and the
failure case of the deck is really bad. When Merfolk comes together it is
great, and if the other cards in this pack were a bit worse I would just
say whatever and take the rare, but I’m taking the safe route here.

That leaves Bombard and Kitesail Corsair as the best two cards. Even if
Deeproot Elite wasn’t in the pack I would take both of them over Merfolk
Mistbinder. Unlike the previous Luminous Bonds versus Bombard pick, this
isn’t close. Splashable removal is better than the best common two-drop,
and Bombard is my pick here. Also to clarify on the other removal: Impale
isn’t splashable and costs four, and Hunt the Weak is basically not
splashable due to it needing green bodies and also costs four. Both of
those are worse than the Merfolk payoffs, with Impale being significantly
better than Hunt the Weak.

If you’ve never been on the receiving end of Needletooth Raptor mowing down
your entire team, consider yourself lucky. Once you have it, you should be
looking to exploit the synergy with cards like Dual Shot.

Jungleborn Pioneer is simply fine, but moves up to great the more synergies
you have with it. As is, Goblin Trailblazer and Waterknot are both stronger
cards. Pioneer will merely clog up the ground while Waterknot and Goblin
Trailblazer often dictate how the games are played out. Those cards should
be a priority over filler.

Needletooth Raptor has one of the highest ceilings in the format, but its
floor is major-pain-in-the-ass 2/2. That’s my kind of card. Take it early,
try to draft around it, and if you fail in drafting around it, still put it
in your deck because it’s still awesome.

Waterknot is similar to Luminous Bonds, even though it is a little rougher
on the mana. Both cards are really good and you’ll always play them. I’m
never fist pumping when I see a Waterknot in a pack, but I’m never frowning

Oh, look. Goblin Trailblazer. What a lovely little Magic card.

Needletooth Raptor is pretty great. I think I still take top tier removal
over it, but it falls into a similar category as Forerunner of the Legion
but with more extreme results. You can always play it as a passable
four-drop, but it just goes off the rails if you’re G/R with fight spells
and random ping effects like both Raging Swordtooth and Raging Regisaur.
Even if you aren’t G/R, any color pair can get the mondo-combo with
Forerunner of the Empire, Needletooth Raptor is splashable in W/G, and even
your U/R deck can just set up to play a Tilonalli’s Crown.

Note that I said top tier removal, which doesn’t include Waterknot or
Impale. There are just a lot of double color commitments in this format
that make them occasionally awkward. Both are still great, but they have a
tangible downside. I still take Waterknot here over the strong two-drop of
Goblin Trailblazer, with the red two ahead of Giltgrove Stalker due to a
much better evasion ability and ahead of Jungleborn Pioneer because two is
less than three.

Y’all are gonna think I’m crazy.

As I mentioned in Pack 3, starting with a blue card is ideal, attacking in
the air is ideal, and picking up solid two-drops in blue is of the utmost
importance. Cards like Impale, Moment of Craving, and Crashing Tide are
great, but replaceable. It’s also questionable how good those cards are on
rate compared to a Welkin Tern in this format.

Everdawn Champion reads strong, but is a weak body and a mostly defensive
card in a format where you’d generally prefer to be attacking.

My most common Pick 1, Pack 1 in this format has been Kitesail Corsair by a
wide margin.

Kitesail Corsair, I just can’t quit you. I wish I could, but I just can’t.
Let’s go find ourselves a Goblin Trailblazer and go kick the crap out of
some Dinosaur casting doofus, shall we?

Moment of Craving kills my two favorite creatures in this format, so why
aren’t I taking it first? I’m not really in love with black in this format
for starters, but I also just put a huge premium on elite two-drops as
well. Kitesail Corsair and Goblin Trailblazer are elite two-drops and not
the kind of cards I pass with regularity. That said, Moment of Craving is
no slouch, as it’s cheap, splashable (though not the kind of card I like to
splash for as its power level is far behind Bombard), and lets you trade up
the curve.

And well… Waterknot is Waterknot

It would be difficult to get a clearer cut example of my common rankings
than this.

First up is the single color cost removal spell. If you have been drafting
for a while, you may have compared Moment of Craving to Sorin’s Thirst or
Pharika’s Cure, but it is well ahead of those cards. Beyond the obvious
doesn’t cost double black, -2/-2 often lets you crunch a 4/4 with your 3/3
or something similar, where two damage would only let you one-for-two

After that comes Kitesail Corsair, which is basically the only card in its
class. The other evasive two-drops are good, but flying is just the best of
the abilities they offer.

Then you have the solid removal that has cost restrictions. In a heads up
pick I would take Waterknot over Impale for a couple reasons. Three is less
than four, I like blue more than black, and often I find it hard to end up
in black because someone took one of the four best black cards, like
Ravenous Chupacabra, and never abandons it. In this specific pack if you
for some reason didn’t want Kitesail Corsair, I think there is an argument
that Impale pulls ahead as you are passing a lot more blue of which several
are good, but I’m not going to worry too much about that.