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Putting All The Lessons Together In Zendikar Rising Draft

Put your Zendikar Rising Draft skill to the test as Ryan Saxe takes you through three tricky picks applying his past Limited lessons.

Akoum Hellhound, illustrated by Jason Kang
Akoum Hellhound, illustrated by Jason Kang

Sometimes drafts illustrate valuable lessons about how to navigate a Limited format. Sometimes they’re just plain interesting. Today’s draft has three intriguing picks early on that bring together a lot of the lessons I’ve discussed in past articles. Let’s get to it!

Pack 1, Pick 2

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

My take!

I have gone way down on the DFCs lately. I still always play them, and take them over most commons in the same color; however, I no longer prioritize the non-premium ones early in the draft. Song-Mad Treachery is a good card, but it’s not something I’m happy to take early. However, Spikefield Hazard, Akoum Minotaur, and Kazuul’s Fury are much better, and I would take them out of this pack.

Umara Mystic is the most powerful card in this pack, but it cannot go with my Murasa Sproutling. I wouldn’t fault somebody for taking the best card in the pack this early, but I believe Taunting Arbormage is a better pick. Staying in the same color as my first pick is a nice bonus, and I think Murasa Sproutling is a better card than Umara Mystic. Add in that Arbormage has synergy with Sproutling, and I think this pick is fairly clear.

Pack 1, Pick 4

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

My take!

The statement I made about the previous pack with Song-Mad Treachery is the same with Makindi Stampede. It’s a good card, but not something I’m taking early unless it’s on-color.

Iridescent Hornbeetle, in my opinion, is one of the most overrated cards in the format. It’s a clunky five-mana play. There are commons that work well with it, but it’s not like a 3/4 that makes a 1/1 is a good rate for five mana. The card has an incredible ceiling, a terrible floor, and a below-par average-case scenario.

At the beginning of this format, I would have taken Vanquish the Weak. Both Golgari and Simic are supposedly decks that care about kicker for Murasa Sproutling, but my intuition was that Vanquish would be better than Bubble Snare.

I was wrong. Bubble Snare has been incredibly impressive. The one-mana mode comes up frequently, and can be game-winning. And the kicker synergies provide much more value than I expected. The correct pick is Bubble Snare by a significant margin.

Pack 1, Pick 5

The Picks So Far:

The Pack:

The Pick:

My take!

Stonework Packbeast keeps climbing up and up and up in my pick order; however, this is for nongreen decks. With this start, it’ll take quite a lot to pull me off green, and so I think taking Packbeast is likely a mistake.

This pick is between Canopy Baloth and Cunning Geysermage. Geysermage is the intuitive pick, as it pushes towards Simic Kicker. However, I took Canopy Baloth. Why?

Last week I wrote about how the context of what might wheel can change the course of a draft. This pick is the same. This pack has Akoum Hellhound. Both previous packs in this article also have Hellhound. The Gruul aggro decks that are impressive have at least three copies of the Hellhound, ideally more. They aren’t good decks because the average Gruul deck will only have access to around two copies. However, this draft already contains three. That means that, if all the Hellhounds in this pod wheel, this deck should end up with approximately five.

Given that Canopy Baloth is a super-solid card in Simic Kicker, but one of the best cards in Gruul Landfall, I believe it is correct to take Canopy Baloth to see if all the Hellhounds wheel. If not, I’ll still have a super-solid Simic Kicker deck, but if they do, I’ll have a fantastic Gruul deck! It’s a win-win!