With nothing too exciting in the uncommon and rare slots, we get our pick of top commons. Both Impale and Luminous Bonds are solid ways to start a draft and I would be fine taking either of them, though I think Impale is a slightly stronger card. In addition, the next-best cards in the pack are Squire’s Devotion and possibly Martyr of Dusk. With so many of the early picks in whit,e I’d rather let the players to my left sort out Pack 2 while I leave myself open to moving into a non-Vampires black deck if I have to.
A week ago, I would’ve taken Squire’s Devotion here. However, now that it’s common knowledge that the aggressive decks aren’t as good as you would expect, Devotion loses stock as those are the matchups where it’s most impactful. Don’t get me wrong, it’s still a solid card, but I’m now taking removal spells over it.
The pick between Luminous Bonds versus Impale is one you should be familiar with. I prefer Bonds for three reasons. First and foremost, it’s cheaper. But it’s also splashable, which is relevant in a format with Treasures and fixing. Finally, it can also help with ascend, which is something a lot of my white decks are looking for. Now, the downsides of enchantment removal and not handling something like a Tendershoot Dryad are real, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives in this case.
Removal is great. White is a deeper color than black, three mana is less than four, a single-color cost is more splashable than double, and Luminous Bonds is better than Impale. After those is Squire’s Devotion, which is really good, but the fact that the Rivals of Ixalan removal is so good makes it a bit worse than Auras in Ixalan. Also, +1/+1 is less than +2/+2, but I hope you all knew that.
We need to have a talk.
I know that some of the other kids at the store are playing B/G and you’re thinking of doing it too. You’ve seen them cast Jungle Creeper and it looks like it might be a lot of fun. You can cast it on Turn 3, attack with it, block with it, and trade it. You might even be thinking that you could buy it back down the road and have all that fun a second time. But look – B/G isn’t a deck, no matter what those kids say. If all the kids at the store jumped off a cliff, would you? Because if you try to draft B/G, your draft is going over that cliff.
We have some opportunities to play real decks like Vampires and Pirates. Let’s do that.
I’m always happy to start my draft in this format with a solid removal spell. I’ve found that not a lot of creatures matter in a fair amount of matchups, so waiting on removal spells for the couple of fliers is a great way to win the game.
Sailor of Means is a format-defining card. It invalidates a large array of creatures, helps with ascend, helps splash, and can give you a tempo advantage of double-spelling early. While it’s not a card I’m ecstatic to first-pick, it does a lot in this format and I think it’s one of the best blue commons.
Storm Fleet Sprinter is not a card I’m happy to start with, but if I have to choose a third card, I guess it’s the best option. Starting with gold cards generally isn’t good, and the red aggressive decks in this format just aren’t where I want to be. Sure, it’ll help that aggressive deck and you can play it in U/R control, but Storm Fleet Sprinter is just too narrow for too low of a ceiling in the way it lines up with Rivals of Ixalan.
Luminous Bonds again wins out, but past that this pack is pretty interchangeable. Storm Fleet Sprinter and Martyr of Dusk were literally next to each other in our team’s rankings, with Sprinter being powerful but less reliable to play and Martyr being reliable but fairly replaceable with other white two-drops. If you really like Dinosaurs or Treasure nonsense, you can put Knight of the Stampede or Sailor of Means third, but they are less generically good than the two creatures I mentioned.
The best card in the pack is Relentless Raptor, but it’s also a risk to first-pick a gold card. While playable, R/W is not one of the premier archetypes in Rivals of Ixalan, which means that when you end up playing it, you’d like to have a good helping of rares and uncommons. Fortunately, Relentless Raptor is one of the premier uncommons for the deck. If we didn’t have another great option, I’d be happy to take the Raptor and hope to see more great R/W cards.
But we do have another option and that’s Crashing Tide. Crashing Tide is premium removal and fits into multiple archetypes and that’s why it would be my first pick. But don’t get me wrong, I’m going to be pounding the table when my second booster has another Relentless Raptor in it.
Azor’s Gateway is better than it looks at first glance. This format has a huge flooding problem, so starting off my draft with a colorless way to solve that problem is spectacular. After this card, the drop-off in power level is real.
I’ve gone down on Crashing Tide recently. It’s a card I like, and it usually makes my decks, but given that my blue decks rarely want to be attacking in the early turns (and are often not merfolk), I can’t make good use out of the tempo. If I’m taking a blue card, it’s going to be Sailor of Means. It’s not replaceable, as no other card fills that slot in the same way.
Ugh. Crashing Tide is always fine, despite what people hating on it say. It still stops Auras on creatures, including removal on your stuff. Past that, the pack is all average cards, with the 3/3 of Fathom Fleet Boarder being slightly more generic than Sailor of Means’s 1/4. Some of the misses: Frilled Deathspitter is fine but more replaceable than a 3/3 Pirate, Jade Bearer is merely fine even in Merfolk, Relentless Raptor is just silly, Azor’s Gateway is slow with low immediate impact, and the other cards all cost five.
Once again, we look over the pack for the elite first picks and find that there are two of them here. Bombard is great in any red deck and I’m happy to start the draft with one. Sadistic Skymarcher matches Bombard on power level in a Vampires deck but drops from elite to just solid if we end up playing it in a Pirates or non-tribal deck. The rest of the cards are all curve-filler in different archetypes, and while we could try to pick the right one for the deck we end up in, I would play it safe with my third pick and just take the Evolving Wilds.
Sadistic Skymarcher is definitely the best card if you can reliably cast it on Turn 3, but if that’s not the case, it’s pretty much filler-plus. That stark of a difference makes it a card I will take early, but I’m not slamming it by any means. Bombard is just always solid and splashable, similar to Luminous Bonds.
After those cards, the drop-off in this pack is pretty big. Nezahal, Primal Tide is a solid finisher, but you don’t need to take finishers early and it’s quite a replaceable card. I like splashing around in this format, and given, that combined with the abundance of double-colored requirements in this format, I do take Evolving Wilds higher than you would think. I would be upset to take it this early for sure, but I like it around Pick 5-6 or so.
Bombard is great, splashable removal. I like taking tribal payoffs early and Sadistic Skymarcher meets the bonus criteria of being fine off-tribe and not multi-color, but the on-tribe payoff of a 2/2 flying lifelinker for three is just good and not game-breaking like Legion Lieutenant. After that….. Evolving Wilds is always fine? I don’t know. There isn’t even an exciting wheelable card to talk about.
This pack offers playable cards across many archetypes. I would be happy to be the player picking sixth or seventh out of the booster.
When it comes to making a first pick out of the pack, I want to take a removal spell over the curve-filling creatures. Hunt the Weak and Crashing Tide are both great options, and while I favor the blue spell, I could see picking Hunt the Weak as well. My third pick out of the pack, however, would be the rare. Arch of Orazca is pretty reasonable in most decks and I’d rather start with something flexible than to take my chances on a Resplendent Griffin.
I don’t think this pack is very good. While many players have mentioned a lack of success in green, I think the color is fine. Hunt the Weak is just the most impactful card in this pack.
If I were higher on red aggressive decks, I would take Storm Fleet Swashbuckler over Hunt the Weak. However, I’m not going to avoid drafting these aggressive decks, and a two-drop that scales well into the late-game will be fine in a red midrange deck too. So while I’m not happy to first-pick the Swashbuckler, it’s a solid little beater.
Arch of Orazca helps with flood protection, which is important in this format. But a colorless land is not free and the activation cost is quite expensive. The cost can be mitigated if I start my draft with it, and it’s pretty likely to make my control deck, so I think it’s the third-best option, but I’m not looking to take a card like this too early.
Arch of Orazca is amazing. It’s colorless and lets you just play a completely different game from your opponent at almost no real cost. You don’t need to play stupid ascend enabler cards in your deck. Just put Arch on the battlefield and you’ll win if the game goes long.
After that I take both of the interactive spells. Crashing Tide is in a better color and is less conditional than Hunt the Weak, which is still fine. Both are better than Resplendent Griffin, which is a solid U/W card but not immediately game-swinging like the actual multicolor payoffs, and Storm Fleet Swashbuckler, which is just a solid but not stellar two-drop.