In my preparation for Pro Tour Battle for Zendikar I played 15-20 booster drafts and I attended Grand Prix Madison, so I felt comfortable with the format. I’ve been told my approach to the format is unconventional, and I’ll preface my picks by saying I don’t have definitive proof that following these instructions will lead to the highest possible win-rate one can achieve in the format—but I believe in my picks since it’s what lead me to going 5-1 on Day Two of Grand Prix Madison and 5-1 in draft at the Pro Tour. Any common cards that are unranked were not forgotten, but are instead cards that I so rarely put in my decks that I did not feel they were worth mentioning.
Red is the best color in Battle for Zendikar Limited. Not only does it have multiple premium removal spells at common, but it’s also deep and quite flexible in the kinds of decks you can draft. There is variation in the common pick order based on what kind of deck you’re drafting but I tend to have a strong preference for low-curve aggressive decks based on having a colorless sub-theme to enable Nettle Drone, Kozilek’s Sentinel, and Vile Aggregate.
Blue is easily the 2nd-best color in draft and it pairs particularly well with red. Tons of colorless cards fuel various synergies and there are also many low-curve creatures that fit well in an aggressive deck. UR is by far my favorite deck to draft and I’ve had the most success with it. Once again this color has a high card quality, a deep pool of playables, and it’s flexible in the kinds of decks you can play with these cards. UW fliers is a totally reasonable deck to draft as well as UB control or UR aggro.
I’ll be the first one to admit that my ranking of the black cards could be incorrect. I have the Ally cards valued low and the aggressive devoid cards rated high because I’ve had a good experience with the BR devoid deck, and I’ve attempted to draft BW Allys multiple times and had bad experiences. I’ve found that BW decks are over-drafted on Magic Online and unable to support more than one person per pod—additionally I feel that the black Ally cards are not very flexible whereas devoid creatures are easier to pick up, and they go well in any kind of deck.
White is a fine but unexciting color. It pairs best with black if you can get the nutty Ally deck, but it also can pair well with blue as an aggressive tempo deck with Clutch of Currents and flying creatures. I also like it in an RW Ally-themed deck—Resolute Blademaster can wheel pretty late in drafts as RW isn’t a natural color pair to fall into, and it’s an incredibly strong card.
Green is the worst color in Battle for Zendikar. Not only is it the worst color, but it’s outright unplayable. I am not using a hyperbole when I make this statement, you should never, ever play green in BFZ Limited. If you do end up playing green, you’ve made a mistake. In the Pantheon’s Limited discussion we talked about green, and it was so extreme—for me it’s like poison and I won’t pick a green card under any circumstances. We knew going into the tournament that green was bad and that other people would know that it was the worst color, but I believe one of our biggest edges in this format was to get seated at a draft table with players who had the mindset “I don’t like green but I’ll draft it if it’s open.” If you pretend that this is a draft format with only 4 colors and not 5, you will flat-out win more matches than when you occasionally draft green.
Pack 1, pick 1 I would take even the 5th- or 6th-best red and blue cards over top-tier green mythic rares.
For posterity’s sake, I’ll do my best to rank the cards but I’ve clearly stated and I firmly believe that if your goal is to win, these are cards you should never pick.
I expect there to be a large number of detailed comments about how I’m an idiot, and how this person or that person loves green and how they draft it to success all the time. I can only speak from my own experience, and these are the picks that I was making at the Pro Tour and what I felt gave me the best chance to succeed. After returning home and doing a few more drafts on MTGO, my opinions haven’t changed.