When I did the first p1p1s for the new set, the set hadn’t even come out yet, and I hadn’t played with it. Now I’ve had the chance to play it a lot in preparation for the Pro Tour, so I expect my evaluations to be a little more accurate. That said, let’s begin!
Nimble Obstructionist is very powerful. Blue is an aggressive color in this format, and a 3/1 flyer for 3 packs a punch. There are also many playable counterspells and instants, so the flash ability is very relevant. It’s rare that you’ll cycle it, but it does come up, and when it does it’s very good—it can counter embalm and eternalize abilities, as well as exert triggers. It’s also the kind of card that no one plays around unless they’ve seen it since it’s a rare with a very unique ability, and most people forget it’s even in the set, so you can really get them with it.
Honorable Mention: Desert’s Hold.
Desert’s Hold is incredibly effective, and a card I’m always happy to first pick. It goes well in any white deck and is also a potent splash in the 5c green decks, which can use the life gain and usually play a bunch of Deserts anyway. I think Nimble Obstructionist is a more powerful card, but I wouldn’t fault you for taking Desert’s Hold over it—they’re pretty close.
U/R Spells is, in my opinion, the best archetype, and Spellweaver Eternal is one of the key cards in it. I like taking it aggressively since it’s significantly better than the other 2-drops, and you usually want a lot of 2-drops anyway.
It’s not as good in U/W and U/B, but it’s still pretty good there. It’s at its worst in U/G, but even then you want 2-drops and you’re often happy to have it.
Honorable Mention: Sunset Pyramid.
At the beginning of the format, I didn’t think the Pyramid would be very good, but it turned out that the format was slower than I expected, so I’m usually happy to have it. It’s an artifact, which theoretically goes in every deck, but not all decks want Pyramid (or not all decks are very happy to have it), so it’s not the same as the other colorless cards.
Ammit Eternal is a 4/4 for 3 most of the time, but that’s already bigger than anything else. The play pattern with this card is usually that they take 4 from the first attack, and then it trades with 1 or 2 of their creatures while they take 3 from afflict, which is pretty good from a 3-drop. If they do not have a good curve or if you have something to stop them from double-blocking, then they often die to it. There are games in which it doesn’t do anything, but you’re never going to find a 3-drop that’s great at every point of the game.
Honorable Mention: Abrade.
Abrade is better than Open Fire. Going to the face is sometimes relevant, especially in the super aggro red decks, but costing 1 less mana is too important because it often lets you double spell in a spot where casting Open Fire would take your whole turn. Destroying an artifact rarely comes up, but when it does it’s game-winning, as it lets you get rid of cards like God-Pharaoh’s Gift that would otherwise win the game.
When I did the first p1p1 for the set, the set hadn’t even been released. I didn’t know what the format was going to look like, and assumed that it’d be similar to triple Amonkhet. In triple Amonkhet, Nicol Bolas would have been a bad first pick, as the decks it’d be played in were awful and your problem wasn’t winning once you got to 7 mana—it was getting to 7 mana to begin with.
Hour of Devastation is not like Amonkhet. It’s significantly slower, and it has a lot of good ramp (Oasis Ritualist, especially). Nicol Bolas won’t go in every deck so it’s a risky first pick, but it’s so good in the decks it’s good in that I think it’s worth taking here. In my experience, if you first pick the payoffs, you can usually find a way to play them and have a good deck.
Honorable Mention: Ominous Sphinx.
Ominous Sphinx is just a very solid card—Air Elemental has always been good and it’s Air Elemental with upside. It’ll make every one of your blue decks and it’s better than any common, but I still think Bolas is a better first pick here.
Burning-Fist Minotaur isn’t the best card in the pack (Bloodwater Entity is), but I like to be flexible early on, and that means I’m not going to take a gold card that is slightly more powerful. I’ll take a card like Scarab God, but I think the gap between Entity and Minotaur is small enough that I’d rather have the card that goes in R/B, R/G, and W/R, as well as U/R.
Honorable Mention: Oketra’s Avenger.
The gap here is larger than the one between Bloodwater Entity and Burning-Fist Minotaur, but I think it’s still small enough that you should pick the card that goes in more decks. Oketra’s Avenger is nothing special, but it’s a good 2-drop and aggro decks want 2-drops.
Hour of Revelation is a card that would be first-pickable in many formats, but I don’t think it’s good in Hour of Devastation. White decks are generally aggressive and don’t want a wrath, and the control decks are splashing multiple colors, so WWW is hard to get. Killing noncreatures is actually a problem for those decks as well, since a lot of the time they rely on cards like Manalith and Gift of Paradise to ramp up and fix their mana, and it’s very bad if those cards randomly die to your own wrath.