3. Consecrate // Consume
Busted rare is busted. The times when Spawn of Mayhem enters the
battlefield on turn 3 are going to result in some savage beatings for
whomever is on the receiving end of this evasive trampler. Spawn of Mayhem
will close out any game in a hurry if it goes unanswered, and the answers
for a card like this are hard to find in this format. Beyond that, I think
Gateway Sneak as an Ophidian with upside is just going to be great in
either Azorius or Simic decks and might even be a push into a multi-color
Gate deck. It being a single color and able to go in multiple decks is why
I have it ahead of Consecrate//Consume, which is a great removal spell but
pigeonholes you into a guild a little too soon for my taste – even though a
Crackling Doom that gains you life is definitely something I’m in for.
2. Consecrate // Consume
A bomb rare is a bomb rare. Spawn of Mayhem seems absurd to me. A 4/4 flier
on turn 3? Okay fine – sometimes turn 4. But that’s still substantially
above rate. As far as the next best cards, I think it’s very close between
Consecrate//Consume and Gateway Sneak. The Sneak has a very high ceiling
but isn’t going to be great in a deck without a bunch of Gates since a 1/3
is unlikely to successfully rumble in combat. When evaluating new cards, we
often look at old ones, such as Ophidian. However, Ophidian is from a time
when creatures were worse. The most recent variant, Eternal of Harsh
Truths, was good but not busted or anything. It was just too hard to attack
with a 1/3. You need to draw more than one card off this to be happy
because a 1/3 isn’t a good enough body on its own. Maybe that’s being too
pessimistic, but my gut is hesitant about this card especially because the
creature stats in this set are inflated thanks to both adapt and riot.
Consecrate//Consume doesn’t come without downsides, but it’ll mostly remove
the most relevant threat and has a cantrip mode if all else fails. It’s
also splashable so I give it the nod.
2. Consecrate // Consume
Spawn of Mayhem is an absurdly efficient bomb and a windmill slam here.
Worst case scenario is a turn 4 flying threat that will trigger spectacle
every turn for as long as this survives. When you cast this on curve with
spectacle for three mana, the game is practically over unless your opponent
has removal immediately, and four toughness dodges most of the common
Consecrate // Consume is very close with Gateway Sneak for me in the
runner-up contest, but ultimately, I think it boasts more raw power than
the Sneak. You’ll rarely be Consecrating anything, but Consume will often
be “four-mana, kill the biggest threat from your opponent and gain 3-5 life
to help catch you back up if you’ve fallen behind early.” The times you
need to pick off a smaller utility creature will feel bad when this is in
your hand, but I think those will be few and far between. This format looks
to be slower than Guilds of Ravnica at first glance, and I think
that will lead to more splashing and picking guildgates more highly.
Consequently, taking an easily splashable gold card that has high power
level is a fine place to start your draft.
If the bomb weren’t in the pack, Gateway Sneak as a mono-colored card would
be a very respectable way to start off your draft. I like an Ophidian, and
this comes with free upside of getting in unblocked occasionally. Don’t
make the mistake of thinking this needs Gates to be good – you’ll be
playing this in every blue deck, and playing Gates alongside it is just
pure upside. Speaking of Gates, this pack has weak commons, and I think
Gruul Guildgate is likely the next best card in the pack after Gateway
Another super strong line up of uncommons and what looks to be a great
rare. Gruul Spellbreaker having trample and coming down as a either a 3/3
with haste or a 4/4 for the low price of three mana is a fantastic rate and
exactly what Gruul looks to be doing in this format. This is a powerful
card that certainly makes me willing to commit to a guild early to try and
ensure I can play it.
Next in line is Azorius Skyguard which looks like a great top end for any
control deck, and I imagine is quite splashable in Simic or Orzhov as well.
If you’ve never played with a -1/-0 effect to all your opponent’s creatures
before, you may make the mistake of undervaluing this card, but believe me
– it’s incredible. And this format looks to have some high toughness
creatures, so shrinking a four-power attacker to a three-power creature
could be the difference between a profitable attack and a battlefield
stall. The only drawback here is it’s quite expensive, but I’m willing to
take the risk early. On the other end of the CMC spectrum we’ve got
Hackrobat, which is cheap, flexible, and synergistic. All things I like on
a Magic card, and I wouldn’t be surprised if in a few weeks it was a higher
pick than the Skyguard.
Gruul Spellbreaker is a stat-monster at an efficient cost. It’s possible
that Gruul ends up being lackluster and this first pick isn’t correct, but
we can’t know that going in. I think it’s important at the beginning of the
format to do the following things: assume each archetype is good and of
equal value and take rares to get data on cards you won’t see often. That
makes this easy pick even easier!
After Gruul Spellbreaker, the standout cards are Hackrobat, Final Payment,
Azorius Skyguard, and Skewer the Critics. While I think Skyguard is good,
six mana is a lot for a three-toughness creature. Sure, it plays like it
has four toughness in combat thanks to the -1/-0 ability, but the fact that
Skewer the Critics, a common, can answer this for just one mana raises an
eyebrow. Final Payment is a fantastic removal spell, but it does get worse
in multiples as you can’t always pay life. I still think it’s a better
first pick than Skewer the Critics, although that could be wrong.
That being said, Hackrobat seems like one of the best uncommons to me. If
you can manage to play this on turn 2, it’s an absurd rate and probably
even better than the rate on Gruul Spellbreaker. And it’s still
substantially above rate as a three-drop anyways. I wouldn’t be surprised
if this is the pick over the Spellbreaker, but as I said earlier, I’m
taking the rare to prioritize learning.
This is a deep pack, and I think five cards are worthy of P1P1
consideration – Azorius Skyguard, Gruul Spellbreaker, Hackrobat, Final
Payment, and Skewer the Critics all seem like reasonable places to start a
draft right now. However, my nod for first pick goes to Azorius Skyguard
because a splashable flyer that gives -1/-0 to the opponent’s team is
borderline bomb status if it goes unanswered. The -1/-0 effect is
extraordinarily powerful and will bring the opponent’s offense to a
complete halt if you have any sort of a reasonable battlefield. The only
knock here is that three toughness may end up being too fragile to spend
six mana on.
Gruul Spellbreaker is a maybe a slight notch above Azorius Skyguard in
power level, but only if it comes down on turn 3, which will require you
being solidly in Gruul. As such, I would view this as a high-risk,
high-reward first pick. I’m sure Ryan will be slamming this and looking to
smash face, and if I were him, I would be looking to go hard into Gruul if
I started with this, but I would also be very willing to move off it if
Gruul didn’t flow my way.
Final Payment is one of the most difficult cards to evaluate in the entire
set. The first copy is extremely valuable and subsequent copies drop off a
tad after that. Solving the puzzle of how good multiple copies play
alongside each other is going to determine how highly you need to pick it
in Draft. I think it is fine to pay five life once for this effect, and it
can also be used as an instant in response to your opponent’s removal if
you have two mana up. I also assume you’ll have some afterlife creatures or
Spirit tokens you won’t mind sacrificing if you’re in exactly Orzhov. Add
in the fact that other drafters will be looking to splash this and I’m
going to start the format off with it as a high pick then adjust if needed.
1. Gates Ablaze
I have no idea if Gates Ablaze is going to be as good as I hope, but
there’s only one way to find out. If you can get 8-9 Gates, this being a
Sweltering Suns on turn 5 or 6 doesn’t seem unreasonable, and it can get
better from there. It’s also cheap so you can often deploy a threat after
the dust settles from your sweeper. I’m interested in grabbing this early
and moving in on the Gate deck (and hoping to get passed some Archway
Angels along the way).
Next in line is Final Payment. The removal in this format is not great, so
seeing “destroy target creature” on a two-mana common is very enticing. The
additional cost to cast this card does require some set up so I’m unsure
how many you can end up with in your deck, but it looks like one of the
strongest options out of this pack certainly. Sauroform Hybrid is
definitely one of the best two-drops in the set and has my vote for best
green common – good early, good late, and even better with some +1/+1
I’ll start this off by saying that I don’t think Benthic Biomancer is the
best card in this pack. However, I said that I prioritize taking rares
early for data and that’s exactly what I’m doing here. How easy will it be
to trigger Biomancer multiple times? Does Simic use a bear well? Does it
need the card selection more than you would think? I think Benthic
Biomancer is good enough to justify taking early and I’m not just taking a
rare for the sake of taking a rare, but my gut says this card will
overperform, and I won’t know unless I take it. It’s kind of like the
Multi-Arm Bandit problem if you think about it. You can’t approximate the
payout of the slot machine until you play it a couple times, and so a good
solution – the solution here is learning the limited format – assumes
machines you haven’t played on payout highly, which biases yourself to new
The other cards to consider in this pack are Gates Ablaze, Final Payment,
and Orzhov Racketeers. Gates Ablaze has the highest upside but is
incredibly narrow as it really requires three Gates to be first-pick
worthy. Occasionally a Pyroclasm will be first-pick worthy – Golden Demise
in Rivals of Ixalan, for example – but usually it’s not. I’m going
to pass on Blaze, but I’m sure Ethan is all about it.
I think Final Payment and Orzhov Racketeers are close. Final Payment is a
fantastic removal spell, but Orzhov Racketeers has so much potential.
Trading and leaving back two 1/1 fliers sounds fantastic to me and if they
don’t want to trade, they have to discard a card? Sign me up! It’s five
mana, and there’s only so much room at that slot, but I have high hopes for
1. Gates Ablaze
Building your own three-mana wrath with Gates Ablaze is one of the things
I’m most excited to do in this format. Add cards like Archway Angel and
Gatebreaker Ram into the mix, and the Gate deck looks crazy fun and
powerful. The speed of the format looks to be a little slower, which
incentives splashing and makes Gates a higher pick. All this leads me to
believe is that Gates Ablaze is going to be one of the best uncommons in
the set and well worth building around.
Orzhov Racketeers is a distant second to Gates Ablaze for me, but it
definitely has less setup cost. This is always going to trade for something
and leave behind two 1/1 Spirit tokens, making it a surefire two-for-one
that’s easily splashable. However, there looks to be a lot of powerful
five-drops in this format, which may lower the stock on this card a bit
because you can only run so many.
Finally, Final Payment as a powerful, instant speed removal spell is again
going to get the nod from me at the start of the format over cards like
Benthic Biomancer as a flexible, yet clunky looter or Collision // Collosus
as a fantastic trick in Gruul.
I’m not sure if Rakdos is going to be all that aggressive this time around.
If there’s a strong Act of Treason/Sacrifice deck, that definitely lends
itself to a more midrange strategy and this card will be a nice curve
topper for those decks. I imagine games being decided by incremental
advantage in this format and once Captive Audience hits the battlefield,
your opponent only has a couple of turns before the curtain comes down
(it’s a theater reference, get it?) It’s also a mythic, and I’d really like
to take the opportunity to play with this early to get a sense if it’s good
If I’m not trying the rare, I’d like to take the uncommon Goblin
Chainwhirler which obliterates Afterlife tokens and can usually be used to
do something beneficial, either enabling attacks by playing it precombat or
finishing off creatures post combat (and don’t sleep on the interaction
with Bladebrand to build your own Plaguewind). Fireblade Artist also looks
very strong as a great two-drop in a format where there aren’t a lot of
great two-drops. Not only is it a free sacrifice outlet for some
shenanigans with Vindictive Vampire, but if you can get your opponent down
to six, this can help close out the game in a hurry as well.
2. Consecrate // Consume
Alright, Cedric, you gave me a rare that I’m not going to take for data.
Maybe Captive Audience is good, and I’m sure Ethan or Ben can figure that
out, but personally, I think the probability that Captive Audience is utter
trash is just too high to justify taking it. If I’m paying seven mana for a
card, does my opponent really have cards in hand? Are they really at a high
life total? I get that after three turns have passed, I can guarantee that
my opponent doesn’t have many cards in hand, is at a low life total, and I
have plenty of creatures, but in what world am I paying seven mana for an
enchantment and not dying before all that goes my way?
I think this pick is Fireblade Artist by a large margin. Rakdos really has
some nice uncommons this time around and while I don’t think Fireblade
Artist is better than Hackrobat, the card is very powerful. A 2/2 haste for
two is a fine rate and it becomes a must-kill threat once you’ve dealt
enough damage. Add on the fact that it enables spectacle without a mana
investment and this card really is the whole package. Following the Artist,
the pack gives a reasonable removal spell in Consume and a potential value
creature in Dagger Caster.
I’m going to give my first hot take of the set: Dagger Caster is mediocre.
It’s probably not that bad, but I don’t expect it to be good and am just
giving this the benefit of the doubt given the high upside. Sure, it cleans
up afterlife tokens, but I’m not convinced that’s going to be incredibly
relevant. The window to play this card with high impact feels too small.
And even though it can maybe get some creatures after combat, a 2/3 for
four is so unbelievably below rate that potentially getting your smaller
creatures to trade up just doesn’t seem worth it — and yes, I’m taking
into account that you can make your own Plague Wind with Bladebrand.
Looking at the set list, there really aren’t that many one-toughness
creatures running around, disregarding afterlife. I think people are
thinking about this card with Guilds of Ravnica in mind, which had
a lot of one-toughness creatures, but it’s a new set now.
3. Consecrate // Consume
Seven-mana mythic enchantment with lots of text that requires a semi-stable
battlefield and multiple turns to do awesome stuff? Sign me up! The power
level is here on Captive Audience, and I plan to be one of the first people
testing it for science! It seems a bit at odds with the Rakdos curve out
and trigger spectacle gameplan, so maybe this is more at home in a
controlling Gate deck, which I plan to be drafting early and often anyway.
The Pro Tour first pick here is probably Dagger Caster. The ability to
build your own Plague Wind in combination with Bladebrand is crazy strong
for six mana and this Dagger Caster is a solid B- on its own. There are
eighteen creatures with one toughness in the set not counting the 1/1
flying Spirits roaming around. If you pick off anything with this, you’re
going to feel great!
Consecrate // Consume again looks like a rock solid early pick as a
splashable removal spell that deals with a large threat and helps catch you
up from behind. I value its flexibility and power early over more narrow
guild cards like Fireblade Artist. While the Artist will be good on turn 2
or maybe help you close out a game in a dedicated Rakdos deck, it’s going
to get blanked from attacking by the plethora of big butts running around
in this format too quickly to pull me into Rakdos early.
3. Savage Smash
As a difficult to cast In Bolas’ Clutches, I expect Mass Manipulation to be
fantastic. And if you can cast this for eight mana, may God have mercy on
your opponent with a game ending four-for-one. Sure, your deck needs to be
heavy blue for this card to be reliably cast and you probably must
prioritize guildgates, but that all seems worth it for this kind of
back-breaking effect. Next in line is Sphinx of New Prahv, another card
with a prohibitive mana cost. But even if this doesn’t come down until turn
6, I’m pretty happy with a 4/3 flyer with vigilance. I wouldn’t be
surprised if Savage Smash ends up edging this out in a couple of weeks
because the removal in this format is pretty weak. A fight spell that gives
a +2/+2 buff until EOT is quite strong, and I imagine this will be great in
Gruul or as a splash in Rakdos or Simic.
And back to a rare that I’m slamming on the table! Mass Manipulation has a
steep cost, but dear lord is it a beating. Six mana for a mind control is a
bomb in Limited as we learned from In Bolas’ Clutches. Now, with the mana
requirements, maybe I won’t be able to play this on turn 6 that often, but
I still think the upside is so high that, as a rare, I should take it. And
if you ever take more than one creature, the game probably ends
Sphinx of New Prahv is a stupid card, but at least it’s less frustrating
than Nightveil Predator. Four mana for a 4/3 flying vigilance is already
undercosted to first-pickable over most uncommons, but now it’s also
difficult to interact with? At least with three toughness it can’t block
all that well and can be answered by Skewer the Critics.
While there are a couple other cards that can take slot number three here,
I think Bloodmist Infiltrator takes the cake. Cards that can enable
spectacle easily seem great to me, and with afterlife it may not be
difficult to find something to sacrifice. Any cheap creature that has the
potential to be a must-answer threat is reasonable to take early, and
Bloodmist Infiltrator is no different.
2. Savage Smash
Mass Manipulation is going to be one of the biggest bombs of the format.
The slight saving grace is that there are common bounce spells running
around, but a difficult to cast Control Magic is still Control Magic. The
fact that X will sometimes be two and lead to an absolute blowout puts this
card over the top. I will always first pick this and do everything in my
power to be heavy base blue.
Savage Smash is savage, confirmed. You will hear those words coming out of
my mouth on stream when I cast this and when it is cast against me. Fight
spells that provide +2+2 are historically good – I’m looking at you, Savage
Punch! – and I’m going to assume that Savage Smash is no different. This is
going to lead to your Gruul creatures killing not only opposing creatures
but also the opponent in a hurry.
Sphinx of New Prahv is a good card, but people are evaluating this with
Nightveil Predator-colored glasses. Sadly, Nightveil Predator this is not.
The fact that Sphinx has vigilance is largely irrelevant because you’ll
rarely want to risk your flyer in combat, and three toughness doesn’t block
all that well, anyway. The Frost Titan clause is nice, but it’s a far cry
from hexproof and deathtouch. I’ll be taking this when I’m in Azorius later
in the draft, but it’s difficult to cast and not worth committing to early
as your first pick.