Back for the 4th installment of pick 1 pack 1! I’m going to switch to pack 1 pick 2 after this one. I enjoy that format too, and would like to explore it. I also think that Core Set 2019 isn’t the best for pick 1 pack 1, because the rares are overwhelmingly better than the uncommons, and the uncommons better than the commons. I’ve been trying to find interesting choices, and hope that I have succeeded at that.
There was a lot to learn. Electrify wouldn’t be better than Shock in very many sets. I’ve been winning a lot at Core Set 2019 and I think the key is to understand what each color is trying to do and therefore what each color pair is trying to do. I feel confident in my analysis that red is the most aggressive, followed by white, green, and black, with blue being the least aggressive.
Each of the color pairs prioritize cards very differently. Core Set 2019 isn’t Dominaria, and I’m not going to pretend that it is, but I hope that everyone is still enjoying all of the Limited content. I enjoy playing Core Set 2019 a lot less than Dominaria, but I always love talking, thinking, and writing about Limited. Now, let’s dive into the last five packs of pack 1 pick 1 before I switch to pick 2 pack 1.
I’m all about this card. Red is the most aggressive color, and a 4/4 haste flyer to top your curve wins a lot of games. It’s extra important because if you draw exactly four lands, you can win without casting this, but the games where you draw six-eight lands are the tough ones with red aggressive decks.
Don’t be scared to play this in a 16-land aggressive deck. You can’t have a lot of 5+ mana cards in a 16-land deck, but you could be holding your one 6-drop the whole game while you are on three/four/five lands because that means that you have other things to do every turn since you only have this one 6-drop in your whole deck. It’s not like on turn 8 Volcanic Dragon will no longer be good. As the board breaks down, you will still usually be able to attack with a 4/4 flying, haste at any stage of the game, and it will often win the game for you.
Honorable Mention: Exclusion Mage
This is almost not a blue card. Don’t get me wrong—I would never cut this from a blue deck. Sometimes they sneak out something good and then you can bounce it and Essence Scatter it. Other times they will Aura up something and you can bounce it for a nice profit. But this card isn’t a great first-pick if you are already heavy blue in pack 3. This card is an absolute monster in aggressive decks that have some blue as a support color. For controlling strategies, it’s still a good card but nothing special. That’s why I like Volcanic Dragon over it. Volcanic Dragon is at its best as a curve topper in very aggressive strategies, and that’s what red does best in M19.
I wonder if it’s a coincidence that I think R/W is the best archetype and they have the best gold uncommon in Heroic Reinforcements. B/W is the second-best archetype, and they have the second-best gold card in Regal Bloodlord. This card is fantastic. It’s a good blocker the turn you play it. Its ability is game winning. It combos with Diamond Mare, Vampire Neonate, or Leonin Vanguard to gain a life and make a Bat every single turn. Those are all good cards on their own in B/W, so being able to pair them with another great card to win the game is very powerful. This is a card I’m happy to first pick.
Honorable Mention: Psychic Symbiont
This card will often trade down 2 mana with the 4-mana removal, but that’s okay since it will leave you up two cards. This is one of the only powerful gold uncommons that is truly splashable. I pick up a land or two and toss this into G/B, U/G, U/W, and U/R decks all of the time. Big flyers rule in M19 Limited, and while this is more mid-sized, it has the crucial 3rd toughness that allows it to dodge Shock and attack into Spider. Really though, this is just a fantastic way to gain card advantage while not falling behind too much on board since you are adding a 3/3 flyer.
Yes, it’s a gold card and not splashable. And I don’t care one bit. This is the best card in the best archetype. It wins the game almost every time it’s cast.
It’s a tough debate between Dryad Greenseeker and Heroic Reinforcements for best uncommon in the set. Greenseeker gets the nod from me because it’s cheaper, one color, and incredibly powerful. But I feel like I win every time I cast Reinforcements, and lose to it every time my opponents do.
Aside from having lethal or a truly amazing turn, your general play pattern should be to dump your creatures and then play this last, but before you play something else that pumps your team like Inspired Charge or Angel of the Dawn since this gives you two more creatures in play. It should most often be played on your penultimate turn and then you finish them with one of those, or the next alpha.
Honorable Mention: Chaos Wand
I’m not as a high on this as some, but it’s still clearly a good card that wins a lot of games. Sometimes it’s too slow or it hits the wrong spells, and you lose a game you could have won.
I think people are bad at adding in the fail rates to cards like this. They just see it single-handedly win the game and think, wow, that’s an amazing card. Of course, while I tend to value cards like that a little lower than most people, that doesn’t mean I don’t think they are any good.
I take Reinforcements over Wand because it’s powerful and has a low fail rate. But I’ll still take this over Luminous Bonds, because that’s just a removal spell and not some game-winning card. Especially pack 1 pick 1, because this is an artifact that’s good in any type of deck. Don’t be afraid to board it out for game 2 if it’s not good against your opponent, especially if they saw it in game 1.
This is the best common by a wide margin. It kills anything and gains you life, so you can hold on to it longer or avoid getting swarmed or burned out. Additionally, while Luminous Bonds sits around waiting to be destroyed, this sits in your graveyard waiting to be recurred with Salvager of Secrets. Rares and big flyers rule in M19 and Lich’s Caress can take care of anything. The more cards you possess to win through card advantage the more a deck wants to gain life. Black-blue has Salvager, Divination, Waltz, and Mind Rot at common. B/W has life gain synergy. This card was designed to be great in this format.
Honorable Mention: Luminous Bonds
Bonds is closer to Herald of Faith than Caress is, and there are decks where Herald is better than Bonds. Almost any time I’m B/W, I would take Herald over Bonds. While I would never ever cut Herald from a 16-land R/W aggro deck, you do need to keep your curve down in that deck and you are going to play every copy of Angel of the Dawn you can get your hands on, so Herald is a lot worse than Bonds there, though still good. Additionally, Bonds is easy to splash, and Herald is not splashable at all. While I could see myself taking the Herald a substantial percentage of the time later in Drafts, pack 1 pick 1, Bonds is the right choice.
A great card to start the Draft because it means that you can just prioritize artifacts the whole way through. If this card makes one Thopter, then it’s perfectly fine but nothing special. If it makes three, then it’s incredible.
If you start a Draft with Sai, don’t draft solid artifacts like Explosive Apparatus and Field Creeper over good removal, but draft them over okay creatures. This should produce a nice high artifact count and you should be a big favorite in any game where you play turn-3 Sai.
Also remember that card drawing goes up in value. Divination will help you find Sai and artifacts to fuel him, and it’s hard to get run over when you are generating 1/1 flyers throughout the game. So plan your deck for long games where you win through Sai advantage.
Honorable Mention: Knightly Valor
This is one of my favorite curve toppers for white decks. In this format, it’s easy to avoid getting blown out when you cast this. Only red can kill a creature for less than 4 mana at instant speed at common in this format. Also, if they are red and have 1-3 mana up, you can play it on a 3-toughness creature to dodge Shock.
White is about swarming and going wide. Valor will almost always give you a good attack the turn you play it and therefore get in a nice chunk of damage, while also providing you with an additional 2/2 for your swarm. Even out of decks like W/B and W/U, this can power up a small flyer after it gets blanked by a Spider or bigger flyer. Knightly Valor was a great inclusion in this set as it really performs well in M19 Limited.
This concludes my pack 1 pick 1s for M19, but not my Limited content. Next up is my B/W Life Gain archetype guide and then pack 1 pick 2s. I tried to choose packs that don’t have top rares like Patient Rebuilding, Ajani, Vivien Reid, Banefire, and the Elder Dragons because, well, those aren’t interesting picks. I’ll include them a little more (but not too much) in the pick 2 pack 1 articles because how much they influence your second pick is interesting, and now you know where I stand on pick 1 pack 1s. Let me know what you think. I have changed my perception on some picks due to all of the wonderful feedback I received from these. So don’t be shy with your constructive criticism!