Welcome to the first edition of What’s the Pick? for Battle for Zendikar. I am going to do things slightly differently this time around. The readers really tend to dislike the concept of an honorable mention in every pack and the packs where I end up taking a rare. I do want to keep the series organic, and not just engineer packs myself, so I decided that I’ll try not doing an honorable mention except in cases where I take a rare. Also, to make things more clear, I renamed the honorable mention to: What I would take if the RARE were replaced with a basic land. I hope you all enjoy:
This card is probably not a bomb rare, but it is very good. It is large enough that it’s difficult to remove and the fact that it has trample really puts it over the top. In a format where players will potentially have a lot of 1/1 Scions lying around ready to chump-block, the trample is really necessary to make it a very potent threat. Oran-Rief Hydra can get out of control very quickly with its landfall ability, particularly if those lands are Forests, which provide double the benefit.
If Oran-Rief Hydra were replaced with a basic land: I’d take Complete Disregard. There are a lot of very large creatures in this set, and Complete Disregard won’t deal with those. However, it can deal with many of the early plays, and also exiles to fuel any Eldrazi Processors you might be lucky enough to get later in the draft. My inclination is that all these things make Complete Disregard better than the next best removal spell in the pack, which is Stonefury. Stonefury has the upside of being able to kill larger creatures, but with the obvious downside of costing 5 mana.
The newest iteration of Sandsteppe Outcast/Ghirapur Gearcrafter is the best one yet. The fact that the 2/1 itself has flying and the 1/1 can be sacrificed for mana makes this card look great. It provides you with a threat in the air that will eventually need to be dealt with, as well as helping you cast your more expensive threats even faster, which is a real deal for 3 mana. This pack also has a few decent/middling blue cards, so you might even be fortunate enough to get one on the wheel. The Skyspawner is not the ideal first pick, but still a powerful card.
A 3-mana spell that can kill any creature or occasionally a planeswalker is going to the best card in almost any pack. The fact that late in the game you can pay 7 mana and also turn one of your lands into a 4/4 creature puts Ruinous Path even more over the top, not that it even needed it.
If Ruinous Path were replaced with a basic land: This is similar to the scenario in pack 1, where we were choosing between Complete Disregard and Stonefury. In this pack, I think Grove Rumbler is a very good card as well, but made worse as a first pick because of the fact that it’s two colors, even though it very well may be the best card in the pack. The decision then is between Stonefury and Touch of the Void. Touch of the Void does seem substantially worse than Complete Disregard to me, but at 3 mana I think I’d prefer it to Stonefury. It does have the upside of being able to target a player, but I wouldn’t expect that to come up a tremendous amount of the time in Limited.
I expect Smite the Monstrous to perform very well in this format, which has many big, powerful creatures. It will save a lot of games against some of the rares, and even pick off some unsuspecting smaller creatures with landfall triggers from time to time. This pack is weak overall, but Smite the Monstrous is a good card, and I’d probably be happy to play multiple copies in my white decks in this format.
This card is extremely powerful. Exiling any creature for 6 mana at instant speed would be passable, and the fact that this gets a land as well really puts it over the top, especially in a format that has an above-average number of high-end spells. I’d be happy to first-pick Grip of Desolation out of a lot of packs. The next best card in the pack is probably the Eldrazi Skyspawner, but I think even though it’s a very powerful card, it comes up a bit short compared to Grip of Desolation.
Thanks for reading the first edition of What’s the Pick? with Battle for Zendikar. I’m really looking forward to drafting the set for real, it looks like a lot of fun, and also a bit different than some of the recent formats, which should make things interesting. See you next time!