Welcome to my first pick 1 pack 1 for Ixalan. The set just came out, so this is when we aren’t sure what to do and every pick feels like an adventure. This format reminds me of Lorywn. There are four main tribes: Merfolk, Pirates, Dinosaurs, and Vampires. They have greatly varying amounts of tribal synergy and lots of cool comes into play effects. So far I have found trying to value everything pretty interesting. Let’s crack some packs.
This equipment is really good. The main advantage of Auras is that they are efficient and they give you a good attack immediately.
The main disadvantage is that you lose card advantage when you get 2-for-1’d if the creature you enchant is killed, and the Aura is gone for good if it’s bounced.
The main advantage of equipment is you have an everlasting advantage on the board. But the main disadvantage is you get nothing right away so they tend to be slow and inefficient.
This card has the advantages of both Auras and equipment, and the disadvantage of neither. Additionally, Pirates is one of the classes spread across 3 colors and not 2, so that makes this card one of my favorite cards to first pick. It’s not broken, but it’s flexible and powerful. You don’t even need all your creatures to be Pirates, or even close. You just really want to make sure you have a bunch of cheap Pirates for this to equip for free when you first play it.
Honorable Mention: Imperial Aerosaur.
This card doesn’t fit perfectly in a lot of Dinosaur strategies since they tend to be powerful late-game decks and this card’s enters-the-battlefield ability is very aggressive. Luckily that doesn’t matter that much when a card is this good. A 4-mana 3/3 flyer is a very good Limited card and this thing being a Dinosaur helps your synergies. The aggressive ability is just more upside. Dinosaurs, like Pirates, are spread across 3 colors, which means that you still have more options to get max value but ultimately this card is going to be good in any deck.
This is a good card but a weak first pick. That said, this card is substantially better than it looks. Any game where it takes something and doesn’t die makes this an incredible card. But let’s say they have two removal spells in their hand. You can still take the cheaper one and force them to spend the good removal on your 2-drop if they want to get it back. That’s a very effective Limited card. Or they can ignore it and use the good removal on your good creature, but then you played a 1/2 flyer for 2 that is a Pirate and took away a cheap removal spell. That’s a very good card.
Honorable Mention: Lookout’s Dispersal.
There are a lot of powerful cards running around in this format, and being able to answer them for 2 mana is really nice.
The only downside I see to this card is that with Treasures, even paying 4 can be doable. But I like efficient counterspells a lot in Limited, because they always have the ability to fit your curve. You just play your creatures and whatever turn you don’t have one you get to leave up a counterspell. Also, sometimes you get far enough ahead that you know you just need to stop their next play if they have something good and you will win the game. 2 mana is not a lot to pay for this effect.
This is good removal with good upside. People often have multiples of the same common in Draft decks and if you get the 2-for-1 on a good card, this goes a long way to winning the game. Even if that doesn’t come up a ton, being able to completely exile anything for 4 mana is good efficient removal that I’m happy to first pick.
Honorable Mention: Rigging Runner.
The trick here is not to play this card turn 1 very often. A 1/1 first strike isn’t a very good card, but a 2/2 first strike is. Ideally, you play a 2-drop. Then on turn 3 you play this and something else. If you don’t have another 2-drop but do have a 3-drop, I would usually play that and wouldn’t worry about missing out on triggering this raid. If you are never able to attack again then you probably weren’t going to win anyways. Just focus on using your mana efficiently and enjoy your 1-mana 2/2 first strike, if and when you are able to land it.
This is an efficient and powerful card. A lot of the removal is damaged based, which means if they want to kill it, you are getting a card. This also synergizes well with everything red-green Dinosaurs wants to do. More expensive, more powerful creatures are going to be less effective because Dinos are already very good at the late game. That’s not to say they aren’t good—it always depends on what they offer and at what cost. But a 4-drop that’s tough to attack through or kill profitably is exactly what Dinosaur Draft decks are looking for.
Honorable Mention: Kitesail Freebooter.
I already talked about this card earlier, but ultimately it’s a cheap, efficient, disruptive Pirate that is great at triggering raid and generating an advantage. It’s not on the power level of anything broken, or even great. But it is cheap, efficient, and effective. It should be an early pick, but not usually a first pick.This card will most likely be the second or third best card in most packs.
This card is completely and totally broken. It’s easy to cast. It gives you 7 power and toughness for 5 mana. In case they have a removal spell, it splits that power/toughness into two different cards. The ability to give all of your other Dinosaurs haste is extremely powerful. At least they made this card very easy to splash so that you don’t even have to be seeing red-green Dinosaurs to be able to play one of the most broken cards in the format after you first-pick it!
Honorable Mention: Air Elemental.
A 4/4 flyer for 5 can vary greatly in Limited. It will always be at least good. But there are some formats where I think it won’t be anything special and some formats where it will be very tough to beat. I think this format is more the latter. Other than the giant ground-pounding Dinosaurs, the creatures in this format are pretty small with lots of small abilities. The staple reach creature in green, Grazing Whiptail, happens to be a 3/4, so Air Elemental is just big enough to fly right past it. I think this can often be a board-dominating card in this Limited format and it should be taken pretty early.
All the great feedback I receive in these really helps me, especially this early in the format. So don’t be shy to let me know what you think—it’s okay if we disagree. There is nothing more exciting in all of Magic than exploring a new Limited format! I hope you enjoy this as much as I do.