Seal Away, Seal Away, Seal Away

Ari Lax, Ryan Saxe, and Ben Friedman take on five more Dominaria packs! Who’s your winner? And why is Ben Friedman channeling Enya?

Round 1

1. A New Pack

2. Grow from the Ashes

3. Deep Freeze

4. Deathbloom Thallid

Wow, this one is bad. Not that any of the three cards I’ve selected are bad cards, but none of them are things I’m excited to first-pick.

Grow from the Ashes is the most distinctive effect of the three, and as a result is the top pick. There isn’t a lot of good fixing in Dominaria, ramping into powerful five-and-higher-cost things is good, and often your low-drops are seven-drops too due to kicker.

Deep Freeze is the most generically powerful card of the group but suffers depending on your deck. Deep Freeze in U/R is not great as the blocker hangs out and even helps brick one of your 4/4s in Rampaging Cyclops, and about half your W/U decks will be annoyed by it from time to time. That said, it’s still removal that answers whatever, so it’s a card you take.

Deathbloom Thallid is just the safe pick. A 3/2 for three is solid, leaving a 1/1 behind is solid, and being the best fodder for Vicious Offering kicker is even more solid.

1. Grow from the Ashes

2. Blink of an Eye

3. Deep Freeze

I’m at the point where I think Grow from the Ashes is one of the top five commons in the set. When I’m drafting Dominaria, I feel as though I’m trying to maximize the amount of mana I spend. There are so many powerful cards, and plenty of cards with kicker, that Grow just lets you do it all. Additionally, there aren’t too many ways to facilitate a splash, and it’s quite nice that this one card covers double splashes if you decide to be greedy. Also, don’t forget that the lands enter untapped, so you can often double-spell!

After Grow, the next-best cards in the pack really taper off. In my opinion, it boils down to two interactive blue commons: Blink of an Eye and Deep Freeze. Originally, I wasn’t a huge fan of Deep Freeze. We’ve had these effects before and they’ve rarely been good. But it turns out that the blue decks in this format rarely care about a 0/4 defender.

However, I think Blink of an Eye is just a more powerful spell. While it can’t handle problematic permanents in the same way Deep Freeze does, it’s just better in more scenarios and doesn’t get countered by a variety of commons like Deep Freeze does (bounce spells and Disenchant).

1. Blink of an Eye

2. Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker

3. Deathbloom Thallid

This pack is kinda…not great. Blink of an Eye is an excellent trick and in the perennially good U/W Flyers or U/R Tempo archetypes, nothing beats a cheap bounce spell that can also cantrip if you have some extra mana to spare. I generally prefer taking a single-color (or occasionally colorless, if I’m lucky enough to open a Karn, Scion of Urza or Icy Manipulator!) spell with my first pick, and Blink of an Eye is a slam-dunk pick out of this weak pack with that guideline. That said, if it were only a one-color spell, you might see me picking…

Tiana, Ship’s Caretaker. That’s my second choice here, and it speaks volumes about the overall quality of the pack that I’m willing to take a strong, but by no means unbeatable, flying creature in two colors here. I’d much prefer to be solidified in one of the two colors before branching into the second one, but in a weak pack, sometimes the correct choice is to jump in with both feet and see if that color combination is open for business.

In third place is the unremarkable workhorse of Deathbloom Thallid. Nothing wrong with a three-power three-drop, and the leftover morsel it leaves behind is a quality bonus. It doesn’t wow me, but I suppose it’s an acceptable card for any black deck in this format.

Round 2

1. Seal Away

2. Shivan Fire

3. Cast Down

You’re obviously taking a removal spell here. It’s just a matter of which one. I don’t have a strong color preference and all three are splashable, so it’s just picking the actual best card.

Cast Down is good, but there are obviously a ton of legendary creatures you need to kill in the set. It’s the worst of the three but still a card I’m glad first-picking.

Shivan Fire is great. It’s one of the few ways to keep parity with Turn 1 Llanowar Elves when you’re on the draw and one of the few easy ways to trigger Bloodstone Goblin and make a good attacker. But Seal Away is just a clean two-mana answer to basically anything, and having it early means you can skew a bit away from decks that need their removal to kill blockers. Convenientl,y both good common white three-drops do this, either via evading blockers with Pegasus Courser or just tapping their things proactively with D’Avenant Trapper.

1. Shivan Fire

2. Cast Down

3. Seal Away

The pick here is between three premium removal spells, and I think the common gets the job done best. While both the kicked and non-kicked versions of Shivan Fire are worse than Cast Down, the flexibility takes the cake. Shock is a completely serviceable card, and four damage kills a lot of relevant creatures.

Shivan Fire can’t kill Mammoth Spider or a kicked Baloth Gorger where Cast Down can, but many of the most powerful uncommons in the set are legendary. Answering Raff Capashen, Ship’s Mage; Adeliz, the Cinder Wind; Slimefoot, the Stowaway; and more is extremely valuable. Both cards will have targets, but I think Shivan Fire will more often kill the important ones. This is sometimes at a cost of efficiency, however given the one-mana-mode, it’s not as large of a cost as usual.

So why is Seal Away not even in discussion here? Well, it’s a good card that I don’t mind first-picking, but I’m not sure I’d be all that happy to start off a draft with the card. Requiring a tapped creature is a relevant drawback. It can’t answer blockers, Serra Angel, or even On Serra’s Wings. Furthermore, there are plenty of Disenchant effects, and even cards like Blink of an Eye and Gift of Growth to blow you out mid-combat. It’s good, but not great.

1. Cast Down

2. Shivan Fire

3. Seal Away

Oh, come on. This is just a question of which color you prefer in this format. I suppose Cast Down hits the most creatures out of the three removal spells, while Shivan Fire gets the bonus of potentially being the cheapest. Seal Away is excellent as well, although the “tapped” clause basically means you’re (on average) going to want to be a slightly more defensive deck, which isslightly restrictive.

The other two work just as well in both aggressive and defensive decks, so I suppose I’ll put them ahead of Seal Away. Regardless, where the previous pack had a paucity of power, this one is an embarrassment of equally enticing entry-points for your draft. Enjoy!

Round 3

1. Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar

2. Seal Away

3. Fiery Intervention

This is super-easy.

Multani big. Multani smash. Multani smash fliers.

Seal Away is just better removal than Fiery Intervention. It costs two, it doesn’t cost five, and it kills everything Fiery Intervention does besides Icy Manipulator. It’s even still fine against both the rare Equipment cards in the set, eating a bunch of equip payment tempo on Blackblade Reforged and Forebear’s Blade.

I’m going that deep just to make the point that there’s no excuse to break from the obvious pick order here.

1. Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar

2. Seal Away

3. Fiery Intervention

Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar is a very powerful card and I’m happy to start off with the card. While at first glance the card seems like a glorified Colossal Dreadmaw, it’s much more than that. With the amount of ramp in this set, it’s quite reasonable to cast Multaini on Turn 5, and since you actually want to (and do) hit ten land-drops, the card scales more than you would expect. Add on the fact that regular non-exile removal doesn’t clean the card up and you’ve got a great and resilient finisher!

After that it’s just between two removal spells. While in the last pack I said I wasn’t too impressed by Seal Away, two mana is just vastly better than five mana. Sure, Fiery Intervention can be a Shatter to handle bombs like Helm of the Host, but that’s not enough for an additional three mana.

1. Multani, Yavimaya’s Avatar

2. Seal Away

3. Fiery Intervention

Well, Multani is a busted top-end killer. This card will win games like no other, and it’s incidentally immune to over half of the removal in the format. It even comes back from the graveyard and the keyword abilities are super-valuable. As an all-around verified bomb that incentivizes you to play green (which I think is great in this format), there can be no other top pick.

Second, of course, goes to Seal Away, the flexible removal spell that hits anything…as long as it’s tapped. In U/W Flyers, there are few cards more precious and the card is worth a first pick regardless. Maybe it looks a little meek in competition with Cast Down and Shivan Fire, but even there I think it’s super-close. This is a great way to open a draft. Your opponent has powerful creatures. You want to remove them. Let’s do this.

Third, for me, is Fiery Intervention. It’s expensive, but it gets the job done against most creatures. I’m not too high on Dub right now, and most of the other stuff seems super replacement-level. A flexible way to kill most anything, including Icy Manipulator, is probably worth a spot in your deck, even at five mana. Why not? I’ll bite.

Round 4

1. Seal Away

2. Deathbloom Thallid

3. Cloudreader Sphinx

Yet again, good removal is the best pick in a pack lacking a crazy rare, so let’s talk about the good creatures.

Deathbloom Thallid is worse than Cloudreader Sphinx as an individual card. An immediate scry 2 is just a huge benefit, and the fourth toughness on the Sphinx is a big upgrade from the slightly-too-clunky five-mana 3/3 with flying standard. But there are just a lot of good five-drops in this format. You want a fair number, but too many will lead to you looking at two-land hands on the play and knowing you can’t cast multiple of your cards before Turn 6 or 7 half the time.

The value of Deathbloom Thallid over the replacement-level three-drop is higher than the value of Cloudreader Sphinx over the replacement five-drop, and it’s also easier to find replacement five-drops. Deathbloom Thallid is a more important piece of a high-quality deck, even if it is a slightly less powerful card.

1. Naban, Dean of Iteration

2. Seal Away

3. Cloudreader Sphinx

This is one of those picks that may be colored by the fact that it’s the beginning of the format and my experience with Naban, Dean of Iteration has been biased. Every time I’ve played with or against this little Wizard, he’s had a huge impact on the game. So many Wizards have enters-the-battlefield effects. Combine the card with Academy Journeymage, a common, and it’s just backbreaking. Not to mention cards like Ghitu Chronicler, Merfolk Trickster, or even Caligo Skin-Witch work very well with Naban too. Starting off the draft with a semi-build-around card with a high floor sounds good to me!

Cloudreader Sphinx is a solid finisher, but is it better than Seal Away? I don’t believe it is. I’m lower on the Sphinx than most because I feel like this format is flush with ways to win the game. And while the Sphinx is a good one, I would rather take a cheap removal spell, even if it isn’t a great one.

1. Seal Away

2. Cloudreader Sphinx

3. Mesa Unicorn

Broken record alert! Yeah, yeah, Seal Away, we get it, flexible, removal, etc. It’s the first pick out of any pack without a competing premium removal spell or a nutty bomb. Hooray!

The next two are close for me. I love lifelink in Limited, as it’s one of the proven ways to turn around losing game states. I also love big ol’ flying creatures, especially ones which scry you towards your best cards and away from mana flood. I think that Cloudreader Sphinx is slightly more desirable because of how creature sizes work in this format, as Ari Lax mentioned in a recent Pack 1, Pick 1. A Bishop’s Soldier is great, but not irreplaceable. For that reason, it’s the Sphinx and then the Mesa Unicorn. I don’t hate taking the Unicorn and looking to pick up Equipment and tricks to build an aggressive W/x deck, though!

Round 5

1. Rite of Belzenlok

2. Fight with Fire

3. Kwende, Pride of Femeref

Rite of Belzenlok is darn good. A 6/6 flier is probably killing them before you expend the 0/1 Clerics, so it is really a 6/6 with extra bodies for four mana. You can also do the same Saga rebuy tricks I’ve talked about in the past. Blink of an Eye, recast, even more Clerics and Demons!

Fight with Fire is also darn good. It’s a three-mana splashable and pretty unconditional removal spell a lot of the time, but then sometimes you just light them on fire. Ghitu Chronicler is a big part of this, allowing you to regain access to a used Fight with Fire when you’re closer to the mana to kicker it. Honestly, this card is close to the Rite and I wouldn’t fault anyone for taking the card they are more likely to play just via splashing.

The pack drops off pretty far after that, but Kwende, Pride of Femeref is my third option here. Having legendary creatures just matters sometimes, and the double strike upgrade matters more than you would think. Just getting an immediate four damage attack off a pumped, upgraded Serra Disciple is a big bonus.

1. Fight with Fire

2. Rite of Belzenlok

3. Kwende, Pride of Femeref

Fight with Fire is even better than I thought it would be, and I thought it was going to be great. The card is just a flat-out A+! I figured this card would mostly be Murder in red, but with the amount of acceleration in this format, you win the game by kicking this card more often than you would think. It’s a slam-dunk first pick, and one of the best uncommons. I think I would take this card over most rares in the set as well.

Rite of Belzenlok has also impressed me. In fact, almost every single Saga is better than I thought it would be. A 6/6 flying trample is nothing to scoff at, and the card provides the sacrifice fodder such that the downside isn’t likely to be detrimental. This card is powerful and it plays smoothly.

And last, if I had to take a third card, it would be Kwende, Pride of Femeref. This card can end a game quickly and combos with cards like Dub and Warlord’s Fury. Unfortunately, a four-drop that dies to cheap common removal such as Shivan Fire and Vicious Offering just isn’t a good rate.

1. Fight with Fire

2. Rite of Belzenlok

3. Syncopate

Ooh, now this is a nice little pack. Fight with Fire is just a bomb uncommon, so we must take it first over nearly everything. A split card with “three-mana Fiery Intervention” as one mode and “weird game-winning Fireball” as the other is nuttier than the chunkiest jar of Skippy. I’d take Lyra Dawnbringer over it, but I’d be sad about the choice. I hope that clarifies my position on this card.

Rite of Belzenlok is a fun rare that gives you a delayed beefcake and a few chumps for blocking or sacrificing duty. Nothing wrong with a delayed beefcake, I always say. Massive Demons, like game-winning Fireballs, never go out of style. Stay current with a classic look at the undercosted flying monster and his four backup singers with this Saga. Easy silver medal behind Fight with Fire.

Third place must go to…Syncopate. It’s a flexible pseudo-removal spell on two or three mana, and by the late game it can hold the door closed on a winning position to keep a random topdeck from stealing the game. Comparing it to the other potential options of Jousting Lance, Keldon Overseer, Windgrace Acolyte, and possibly Kwende, Pride of Femeref, it seems like flexibility wins here, and I’m taking the counterspell. The other cards are just a bit more replaceable or low-power. I wouldn’t taunt you for taking one of the other playables, though.