Thank you for all the excellent feedback on my last Pick 1 Pack 1 article. The cards that you disagreed with me most on were Mirage Mirror and Sunscourge Champion. I haven’t had these cards many times this week, but I stand by the Mirror—it’s useful, but rough when you play against aggressive decks. The Champion is a bad fit for red-white and white-black aggressive decks, which was why I was so low on it, but I did get to draft it once or twice in U/W Flyers and G/x/x/ ramp decks, and it was much better in those homes. I think you should take it early once you have those decks, but be aware that it’s only an average playable for aggressive Boros and Zombies, which I think will be the most common white Draft archetypes.
While not the best fit in red aggressive decks, this card is powerful. This card is insane in G/R Ramp as it often won’t kill any of your creatures, and playing it turn 5 off an Oasis Ritualist is practically game over. I also think the cycling lands allow for higher land counts if you have 7-mana bombs like this. Do consider this a bit of a gold card and look to play a controlling or ramp strategy if you open it.
Honorable Mention: Torment of Venom.
Solid, efficient removal. Don’t sleep on the bonus part of this card. Taking 3 life or a card from the opponent pushes this card from around replacement level to a quality card that helps you win games. It’s also very relevant that its 3 counters stick around, so if the dust settles and they have a 5/5 and you have this, you can just shrink it to a 2/2 and have a reasonable chance to win the game. This card isn’t amazing but I think it’s better than it looks.
This rare is totally broken. Searching out 2 Deserts should give you 3 almost every time, assuming you draft Deserts highly. I do that anyway, as anyone who read my last P1p1 article already knows, but even if you disagree with me on that, if you can first pick this you should, and then you should draft Deserts highly. If you search out or draw 1 of the uncommon ones, then you practically go off when you cast this. 1 card producing 2 Zombies and giving you an endless supply of Deserts to feed whichever uncommon one you have is a lot of resources for 5 mana. Green even has great 7-mana cards to ramp into. This card is just excellent.
Honorable Mention: Unraveling Mummy.
I’m nowhere near as down on Zombies as a lot of people. Mummy Paramount might be better than Binding Mummy and it’s easier to get more of them now. It’s a smaller set and fewer people are trying to draft Zombies in each pod. It’s true that there was more payoff for Zombies in triple-Amonkhet, so I wouldn’t necessarily look to go Zombies with the hope of getting paid off later. But if you can start with a card that costs 3 mana and is near unbeatable when it lives, then embrace your calling and get ready to start eating some brains.
Don’t let the look of this little kitty fool you—it’s a broken rare. A 1/1 double strike is already considerably better than a 2/2. It can be punished worse by things that kill 1-toughness creatures, but you practically want this thing to die. Meanwhile, if they aren’t trading with it, then pump spells can kill them from pretty high life totals and your 2-drop is getting in for 2 every turn, which is already pretty good. Later when this thing comes back it can easily dominate the board. A 4/4 double strike for 5 mana is absurdly good.
Honorable Mention: Ramunap Ruins.
Yep, I still think this Desert is a better pick than Aerial Guide. Aerial Guide is quite good and I like U/R and U/W aggressive decks, but getting value out of your land slots is awesome. I also don’t think people fully grasp how great only having to deal 16 instead of 20 is. This land is a nightmare for controlling/ramp strategies trying to stabilize and win in the late game.
Despite the growing power level of creatures, a 4/4 for 4 is still a very nice card. What makes this a 1st pick though is the deathtouch/vigilance combo. This will often need to be double-blocked, and deathtouch means you get to 2-for-1 them and take out both creatures. Vigilance means they can’t take the hit and try to attack back and race you. That means you will often get a 2-for-1 out of this and that’s the good scenario for the opponent. If you have a pump spell or an instant-speed removal spell, that could be game over.
Honorable Mention: Magmaroth.
This card isn’t far from a 5/5 for 4 mana. There are plenty of spells to cast in this format and a creature that hits this hard this fast can’t just be ignored on the hopes that it will shrink away. Magmaroth is at its best in U/R Prowess where you will have cantrips and a lot of spells, but I don’t think there is any red deck that this isn’t an early pick for. Do prioritize spells a little higher if you draft this, but don’t be afraid to draft it early pack 2 even if you are light in spells. It’s always going to be a big undercosted creature.
Early reservations about 7-mana cards have gone out the window for me. This format is not as fast as Amonkhet and there is more productive ramping you can do. This card can very easily win almost any game when its cast, and unlike in Modern, you don’t have to be Corey Burkhart to win with Grixis Control decks. With Manalith and Evolving Wilds it is very easy to do a light splash, and all the combinations of U/R/B can make for nice controlling decks with removal and ways to gain card advantage in this Limited format. This can even be splashed into a G/x/x/x ramp deck and reasonably cast as early as turn 5.
Honorable Mention: Fervent Paincaster.
There are a lot of solid 1-toughness creatures in this format and you are going to be a solid favorite in any game of Draft where you can kill your opponent’s 2-drop with your 3-drop at very little cost (leaving it tapped for one turn). One thing that is important to note is that if your opponent doesn’t have any 1-toughness creatures out, there is absolutely nothing wrong with trading this for a 4/4 (block it and ping it). Part of why this pinger is so good is that a 3/1 for 3 is not an unreasonable body, so don’t be afraid to trade it away after it has pinged away their 1-toughness creature or even if it hasn’t, if you are trading it up. You would rather it stick around and help kill things by using other creatures, but I think it’s important to note that if you don’t have that luxury, you shouldn’t be afraid to sacrifice the Paincaster’s body for the greater good if you are getting a good deal.
I really appreciated all the comments and feedback on my last Pack 1 Pick 1. I hope everyone is enjoying them, and please don’t be shy in letting me know where we agree and disagree.