Welcome back to another Pack 1 Pick 1. Thank you for all the help and great feedback on the ones I did before the Pro Tour. I have many more Drafts under my belt now, so I feel a little more confident in my picks. This is an incredible Draft format where the colors can bend in a lot of different directions. That makes pack 1 pick 1 especially interesting and has me prioritizing flexible cards over more narrow ones. You still have to go for the best cards though, so there can be some tough first picks in this format.
I wouldn't call this rare broken but it is very good. It's not tough to get this thing to be a 4-mana 5/5 and that’s a very good card in most Limited formats. Once you add on vigilance so that it can't be raced on the ground, reach so it can't be raced in the air, and trample so it can't be chump-blocked you end up with an incredibly tough to beat creature. Make sure to draft Deserts much higher when you start with the Hydra. It's great to draw multiples so you can put 1 in play and 1 in your graveyard—that means you are going to want to have a lot.
Honorable Mention: Open Fire.
This is a very close pick between the two best commons in the set. I rank the commons in this format 1) Open Fire 2) Ambuscade and 3) Unquenchable Thirst. It wouldn't take much at all to move me from Open Fire to Ambuscade. I am assuming the Hydra was already taken, so this pack has basically no other meaningful green or red cards. But if this pack had a Puncturing Blow, then I would take the Ambuscade over Open Fire. I don't worry that much about what else is in the pack in general, but it is a tie-breaker, and when cards are this close I think it makes sense to use it.
This pick might surprise you. I have heard this card referred to as a glorified Sandblast. I think that is completely wrong. In R/W Aggro, that's what it is. But Market isn't some throwaway. The problem with card drawing is that you fall behind on board. Farm is a reasonably efficient removal spell on the front half so you don't fall behind when casting it. Then when you are out of gas in the late game, draw 2/ditch 2 isn't much worse than just draw 2, since lands are usually dead and 2-drops might not be far from it. If I was R/W and opened this pack in p2 I would take Open Fire, but p1p1 I'm taking Farm // Market knowing that I can play both halves in green ramp decks or U/W. Even if I end up W/R or W/B, I can still probably pick up a Traveler's Amulet or Evolving Wilds and put 1 Island in my deck.
Honorable Mention: Open Fire.
This is solid removal because a lot of the creatures exert and afflict aren't very big, and good reach that gives you the ability to close out games against control and/or ramp decks that are very good tier 1 strategies in this format. You might have thought I would take Overcome here, and I do like it. It's a great card in green creature decks and green creature decks are underrated. Ramp is the best green strategy, but you can still always win in Limited with creatures, removal, and pump spells. That said, only about half of your green decks should be trying to curve out and attack, and this card is borderline unplayable in ramp, so it is a pretty narrow card. Open Fire is great in every red deck. It's even splashable if you get some free sources.
This is a weak pack. I think Manifestation can be very good or mediocre but never bad. You will play some cyclers in any black deck. Some of the best decks I've had in this format were very cycling heavy decks though, and this card can be an absolute powerhouse in them. A 4/4 is acceptable at 5 mana, good at 4 mana, and flat-out broken at 3 mana. This card costs 2. If you don't end up with a ton of cyclers, it's still a cycling wall. Play against an aggro deck and draw this as your only 2-drop—it's a decent blocker. Play against a non-aggro deck or draw this in the late game and you get to cycle your 2-drop away for a new card. It's not a card I'm super happy to first pick and it's not much better than the other good-but-not-great cards in this pack, but it's better than Ambuscade, Burning-Fist Minotaur, and Spellweaver Eternal as a first pick when you have time to either be all-in cycling or just prioritize cycling cards a little bit
higher than normal.
Honorable Mention: Burning-Fist Minotaur.
Close enough with Ambuscade that if you have a strong color preference for green, you should probably take that. One of the most important things for aggressive decks is to be able to play a good 2-drop that won't end up blanked a few turns later and can keep doing damage. I’ve said this time and time again. Hitting your curve in Limited is great, but the biggest problem with small creatures in Limited is that they often become blanked a few turns later by bigger ones. This is a 2-drop that can never be blanked. How big are their creatures going to be? You can always attack with this card. It's not quite the 2-mana 4/4 that I have often seen Vile Manifestation be and it doesn't cycle away in the late game, but it is a highly effective 2-drop for aggressive decks, and I think it's better than the good common removal spells.
This thing is cheap and big. It's basically a 3-mana 4/4 afflict 3. Your opponents will rarely be able to play two spells in one turn, and then they can either block it or it'll reset to a 5/5. The fact that this thing is a Zombie is just a bonus. Zombies are very draftable in this format, but only if you get Zombie payoff cards and this is not one of them. But it doesn't need to be since it's a giant, cheap creature. It's good in any style black deck and if you happen to get Zombie lords to make it even better, that's great—but don't look to draft Zombies just because you opened the Eternal like you would if you started with an Unraveling Mummy.
Honorable Mention: Abrade.
Super-efficient removal. Removal that trades up in mana has always been awesome. This card trades with almost every 2- and 3-drop and even a lot of the 4-drops in this format. That means it is most likely going to net you mana on the exchange and give you an advantage. You can use it at instant speed to get a blowout occasionally when the opponent goes for a Cartouche or combat trick, and if that isn't enough, hitting a ramp deck's turn-3 Manalith can be very important. It even has the bonus where if you happen to get to kill a God-Pharaoh's Gift for just 2 mana your opponent may be so demoralized that they concede the whole match.
This card is the best uncommon in the set by a very wide margin. I think there are only a handful of rares that are better than it and it is miles better than Banewhip Punisher, which is the uncommon I consider the 2nd best in the set. I haven't seen a reprint this close to the original Flametongue Kavu in a long time. Draft Deserts very highly if you get this. I just got done talking about how Abrade kills most 3-drops and a lot of 4-drops. Abrade is a very nice
uncommon that is better than every common. Paying 2 extra mana to get to put a 3/3 in play while killing their creature takes it from a good first pick to broken.
Honorable Mention: Desert's Hold.
This is a very good pack. 2 of the 3 efficient removals that I consider to be the best commons in the set, 3 good uncommons, and a rare that is better than it looks. This is a slow format and I think game-breaking rares like Razaketh are good win conditions for slower decks, but I wouldn't take it over any of the uncommons, Open Fire, or Ambuscade. Only Sand Strangler is far above the rest, but I would rank the rest of the good cards in this pack 1) Desert’s Hold 2) Ominous Sphinx 3) Open Fire and 4) Unquenchable Thirst. Desert's Hold being so easy to splash is what puts it above Ominous Sphinx for me. I can easily see myself taking Sphinx over Desert's Hold in a U/W deck. But if I first pick Hold and move off white, it's still an easy splash in a green deck or off an Evolving Wilds or Traveler's Amulet.
Thanks again for reading. Any and all feedback is not only welcome but appreciated. Draft is incredibly difficult, but that's a big part of why it's so great!