Welcome to my pick order list for Hour of Devastation–Hour of Devastation–Amonkhet Draft! In this article, I will rank all cards in Hour of Devastation from high to low for the first-pick, first-pack decision.
At the time of writing, I have done 10 Drafts on Magic Online, going 2-1 or 3-0 most of the time. While I feel I’ve gained a reasonable understanding of the format, I am impressed by the dedication of other Pro Tour competitors. There are over a dozen players who have already collected 11 or more trophies in the Competitive Leagues, exceeding the number of Drafts I have even entered! Nevertheless, I’m happy to share my views on the format.
Many Cards are Better When You’re the One Attacking
In this Limited format, attacking is heavily rewarded. Blocking, by contrast, doesn’t allow you to leverage your cards. This was already true to some extent in triple-Amonkhet Draft due to exert, and exert returns in Hour of Devastation (with Oketra’s Avenger, Rhonas’s Stalwart, Khenra Scrapper, and so on). But in addition, we get a lot of other attack triggers, afflict creatures, and sorcery-speed boosts. The following group of cards, which mostly consists of commons, illustrates this nicely.
Yet, there are almost no cards in Hour of Devastation that get better when you’re blocking. There is no creature with a trigger like, “when this creature blocks, it gains +1/+1 until end of turn.” The only card I could find that gives a minuscule advantage to the defender was Act of Heroism. All right, the rules of combat themselves still favor the defender, but the format rewards attacking so much more.
This skews the format toward aggression, but it doesn’t necessarily mean that the format is hyper-aggressive or that no one ever blocks. Apart from afflict, blocking is not punished per se—all of the creatures displayed above can block, and you often have to block when you’re on the draw or behind in the damage race. The issue is that they are just mediocre vanilla bodies with no relevant abilities at that point. As a result, there are a lot of cards that are better when you’re the one attacking and/or pressuring your opponent’s life total.
While sideboarding in any Limited format, I often change several cards depending on who is on the play, but Hour of Devastation amplified this effect for me. All of the cards displayed above get better on the play, and you could add Frilled Sandwalla, Riddleform, Unsummon, and Torment of Scarabs to that list as well. On the draw, I often want to board out some of them while bringing in removal spells, high-toughness creatures, and life gain: Sandblast, Ruin Rat, Seer of the Last Tomorrow, and Scrounger of Souls are good examples.
I’ve started to emphasize cards that are better on the draw as valuable sideboard cards. In my view, a random 1/4 or 3/4 could be a potentially better sideboard card than, say, Liliana’s Defeat. Liliana’s Defeat only comes in against black decks with at least 4 black creatures worth killing, while 1/4s and 3/4s could come in against any deck with multiple copies of Spellweaver Eternal, Oketra’s Avenger, Mummy Paramount, or Thorned Moloch, especially when I’m on the draw.
But I digress… let’s get to my pick order. I broke the list down into separate categories to make it easier to read and to allow me to intersperse some comments, but you can think of it as one continuous list if you like. As a reminder, don’t mindlessly follow this pick order for the entirety of the Draft. You need a good mana curve and a coherent game plan, and things can change a lot depending on what you have already picked so far. The list is just an indication for the first-pick-first-pack decision.
The Bomb Rares and Mythics
In my view, these are the best cards in the set, and I would first-pick them over any common or uncommon. The Gods may be multicolored cards, which I typically rank lower because they leave you with less flexibility to choose a second color, but they are ridiculous bombs (at least when they don’t get exiled by Final Reward or Puncturing Blow) and at worst, you can pick up a Manalith to splash them.
Pride Sovereign and Grind // Dust could also be considered multicolored cards. They’re best in their respective 2-color decks, but you don’t need to be playing a lot of white sources for Pride Sovereign or black sources for Grind // Dust. Just one basic land alongside a Traveler’s Amulet or Survivor’s Encampment is already enough for them to be insane.
The Best Uncommons and More
Struggle // Survive is my pick for the best uncommon. It’s basically an easier-to-cast Murder with a small upside against embalm/eternalize if you have access to green. Abrade is hyper-efficient in terms of mana cost, and Sand Strangler would be the best uncommon if it weren’t for the Desert restriction. The Desert restriction makes it a little worse, but not that much in a first-pick-first-pack context. After first-picking Sand Strangler, you can emphasize Deserts (even colorless ones) and should end up with at least 3 Deserts most of the time.
After several months of a format where the only sweepers were Dusk // Dawn and Rags // Riches, there are now a lot of Wrath of God effects in the format. Hour of Devastation and Bontu’s Last Reckoning are not for an aggressive deck that is on the play, so I first pick the most efficient instant removal spells over them, but they will be powerful inclusions in any midrange or control deck. Chaos Maw and Hour of Revelation are way more expensive and therefore relegated to a lower spot on the pick order list, but they are the other rare sweepers you have to keep in mind now.
The Best Commons and More
In my mind, Open Fire and Ambuscade vie for the slot of best common. In a red-green deck, Ambuscade may be better as it could generate 2-for-1s, but ultimately I used color preference as a tie-breaker. I believe red to be the “best” color, as it has great commons, great uncommons, and good depth. For that reason, I’d rather first-pick a red card than a green card.
Overcome is a powerful uncommon that can win the game if you end up in a board-stall somehow, but it’s again one of those cards that is better when you’re on the play, and creatures tend to trade off quite often in this format. I still take it pretty highly, but not over the very best commons. Note that you’re about as likely to face a specific Hour of Devastation uncommon (such as Overcome) as you are to face a specific Amonkhet common.
Solid Commons and More
Here you can find the best common creatures, common removal spells that come with some downside or restriction, and the best uncommon gold cards.
For the gold uncommons, I would generally take them much higher if I was already locked into these colors, as you can never count on wheeling them. To illustrate that with a quick, assumption-ridden calculation: If everyone picks two colors completely at random, then with probability 52% someone else at the table is drafting the same two colors as you. It’s a little lower in practice, but I find it an insightful number.
There are four interesting rares in this group:
- Mirage Mirror is a card I’ve had good experienced with. It can copy the biggest creature on the board, it’s the perfect answer to Fervent Paincaster, and I’ve seen it copy Sandwurm Convergence for 10 turns in a row. But you have to think of it as a 5-drop or 7-drop, not a 3-drop.
- God-Pharaoh’s Gift and Hour of Eternity have been good for me as well. They make copies, not just vanilla 4/4s, and there is a big difference between an Air Elemental and a Durkwood Boars. I prefer the artifact as a first-pick because it’s colorless, and perhaps I should take it even higher, but I’ll happily build around both.
- Nicol Bolas, God-Pharaoh places a hefty demand on your mana base, and it can take over games, but it’s not always good enough when you’re far behind. It was played against me once, and it was merely a 7-mana removal spell that gained 3 extra life for my opponent.
The Cycling Deserts
These lands can protect your from mana flood, turn on Desert-matters cards, and enable cycling triggers. Often, the card quality difference between a Mountain and a Desert of the Indomitable as your 17th land is larger than the card quality difference between your 23rd and 24th card.
I put the red one first because red has the best Desert payoff cards, but all of them are great. I’ll gladly add 3 cycling Deserts to any deck, in which case I’d increase the land count by one.
The uncommon Desert “painlands” are all pretty good as well, for similar reasons. Ifnir Deadlands is on par with the best commons in my view, and I’ve placed the green, red, and white ones just below the cycling Deserts.
A few notes on various cards that I found interesting:
- Torment of Hailfire and Torment of Scarabs – Punisher cards that give your opponent a choice are typically bad, but the Torment spells could provide quite an impact over the course of a long game. I believe that they are playable as long as you can pressure your opponent enough for the life loss to hurt them. Be ready to leave them in your sideboard when you ended up with a less aggressive deck or when you’re on the draw, but I don’t mind taking them as a speculative pick-up.
- Abandoned Sarcophagus – I have yet to start the Draft with this one, and I can see it being a payoff card on the level of Drake Haven, but I fear it will be a bit of a trap because there are relatively few good cycling cards in Hour of Devastation.
- Aven Reedstalker – It has poor stats for its cost, but it’s the perfect way to snipe Aerial Guide and Dauntless Aven. Yet, you can’t realistically pass on turn 4 and hope that your opponent walks into it—that’s too suspicious. Better to play 1 or 2 other spells first, all the while taking a couple points in the air. If you then pass with mana up, your opponent might just believe that you don’t have it and attack with their 2/1 or 2/2 flyer.
- Quarry Beetle – I initially expected this card to be great because 4/5 would be perfect against eternalized creatures. But there are only two common and two uncommon creatures with eternalize (found in white and blue) so it’s not that much of a sizing constraint on the format. For that reason, I ranked Quarry Beetle below various other 5-drops with more relevant abilities.
I wasn’t sure where I wanted to stop the “fine playables” category and start the “filler” category, but in the end these labels don’t really mean anything as this is just one continuous list.
I can’t really imagine first-picking a card from this group, though. Once you get to the point in the Draft at which you might be interested in any of these cards, you’ll know if they will fit your deck or not. As an example: Strategic Planning, Crash Through, and Tragic Lesson are all decent in red-blue spells, but I don’t value them highly outside of that.
You Need Very Good Reasons to Play These
Nothing is truly unplayable, and I’m sure that someone has already drafted a Fraying Sanity deck, but the number of uses for these cards is limited.
That wraps up my pick order list. I hope you enjoyed my initial thoughts on the format. Please let me know if I completely misjudged a card! I’ll be flying to Japan soon, where I’ll do coverage at Grand Prix Kyoto together with Riley Knight before traveling around and then playing the Pro Tour. Looking forward to it!