Welcome back to my second pick 1 pack 1 article for Ixalan. In the first, the pack that many of you seemed to disagree with the most was pack 1, the pack that had Pirate’s Cutlass, Snapping Sailback, and Imperial Aerosaur. Now that we’ve had more time with the format, let’s talk about those cards a little, then get into the new packs.
I think that Imperial Aerosaur is the best card in that pack. However, white/blue seems basically undraftable in this format. That means you have three decks you can play Aerosaur in: W/B, W/R, and W/G. It’s a good card in all three decks, but W/B tends to be about going wide with 1/1 Vampire lifelink tokens and Anointed Deacons to pump them. I might rather have the common 4-drop creature Paladin of the Bloodstained for that deck. Pious Interdiction and Fathom Fleet Cutthroat also cost 4 and are quite good in that deck. I’m not saying Aerosaur isn’t good, or might not even be better than any of those, but at the least it’s close. Since it’s kind of off plan and synergy, I don’t think it offers anything special in that slot.
W/G Dinos tends to be a ramp/control/giant Dinosaurs deck. Is Imperial Aerosaur better than Grazing Whiptail in a deck that has massive late game and doesn’t care about attacking or pushing through damage much? Probably yes. But a lot better? Definitely not. Still a good card, but unexciting.
In W/R aggro Dinos, Imperial Aerosaur is an absolute bomb. It turns on your synergies and pushes through game-winning damage and is just an amazing card. All three color combinations of Pirates, U/B, R/B, and U/R, are little aggro decks where the equipment performs very well. Additionally, it’s great with those 1/1 lifelink Vampire tokens in the go-wide token Vampire deck I mentioned above.
Because you only need 1 Merfolk out to make River Heralds’ Boon great, I usually play quite a few little blue Pirates in my Merfolk decks. Cutlass works very well as long as it comes out and equips for free once and then you have a bunch of small creatures that really want equipment. All that said, Aerosaur is the more powerful card so there is nothing wrong with taking it. I think P1P1 it’s a close pick.
Snapping Sailback is a disappointing card. I’m always going to play it in Dinosaur decks but there are plenty of flyers, pump spells, and just bigger creatures in this format. This card needed reach. It’s still the third best card in that pack and a card that’s always going to make my main deck, but it’s a distant third. Thanks again for all the great feedback and discussion at the time. Now let’s get to some fresh packs!
This card is broken. It’s easy to draft a deck that contains almost exclusively creatures from one of the four major tribes, and Banner plays well with all of them. If you are Dinosaurs, you draft defensively and use the card advantage here as a win condition. If you are drafting one of the other three, then you have a deck full of little creatures that love the +1/+1. This card can do no wrong if you get it early, just make sure you draft all cards of one tribe.
Honorable Mention: Lightning Strike.
Except for the giant Dinosaurs, the creatures are small in this format. This is a 2-mana card that can kill almost all the 4-drops and even some of the 5-drops. In most sets, I haven’t been big on inefficient removal, but this is throwback removal that trades up a mana or two almost every time. Additionally, red is the most aggressive color in this format and the reach is nice. Even if you draft a defensive Dinosaurs deck, it’s still valuable to have your removal be cheap when your creatures are big. I expect to first-pick this card a lot. This time it goes second to one of the most busted rares in the set.
My opinion on this remains unchanged. Since there are few cards that reward you heavily for being all of one tribe like Vanquisher’s Banner above, I usually draft about 10-12 on-tribe creatures and 4-6 off. This means I play some of the good Pirates in Merfolk, Vampire, and r/w Dino aggro decks as well as all three color combinations of natural Pirate decks. If you have a small creature deck and one Pirate out to get the equip for free the first time, this card is excellent.
Honorable Mention: Contract Killing.
It’s really important to kill the few big creatures that can blank your team or dominate the board in this format full of little creatures with synergy and enters the battlefield abilities. Even thinking of it as costing 5 is questionable, since you get two mana back to use whenever you see fit. I know some people are going to be surprised I didn’t touch the mythic rare, Tishana. I think that card can be powerful, but it’s also 7 mana and sometimes doesn’t really function well. It’s a good card, but I prefer Cutlass and Killing. They are efficient cards that pretty much always perform for me.
I think this is one of those cards that is much better than it looks. It costs 3 and can effectively block most creatures in this format. So, you basically get a reasonable 1-for-1 there. Then you get a bonus 10 damage that you didn’t really have to spend a card or mana on since this card already effectively traded with whatever creature it blocks. This card creates a ton of value that way and I’m happy to first pick it.
Honorable Mention: Dire Fleet Captain.
This card is underwhelming and a bad second pick in my opinion. It’s a nice 2-drop for red-black aggro pirates, but there are quite a few reasonable 2-drops in this format and this card isn’t really splashable, so it’s extremely narrow. Even then, you must have other creatures that can profitably attack, so it’s only good some of the time. Excluding Lightning-Rig Crew, this pack is terrible.
Planeswalkers that make 2/2-or-bigger creatures are pretty much always great in limited. It’s easy to use this card’s zero ability to run away with a game. Additionally, how splashable this card is in a format with treasures and green fixing means you can play it in almost every deck. The minus ability is a little expensive and I wouldn’t expect to use it often until it’s literally ending the game. I very rarely plus or minus this card. I just keep cranking out 3/3s until I have won the game with them.
Honorable Mention: Sky Terror.
Sky Terror is excellent in R/W aggro Dinosaurs, but that’s the only deck in which it is playable. That said, the next best card in this pack is Shipwreck Looter, and though I do like Looter, I’m not going to take it over the 2/2 flying menace for 2. R/W Dinos might be the best archetype in this format when it gets there, so I’m willing to start out with a good card for it and see if it comes. If it doesn’t, then I’ll just bench the Sky Terror and draft something else.
This card really performs well because the blue decks are aggressive. I think the only time the “can’t block non-flyers” drawback comes up is when you are first casting it and can’t ambush a little ground creature. Just keep playing flyers and attacking, and use this to swing the race whenever you need to. Whether out of Pirates or Merfolk, this is an excellent efficient rare that can quietly swing almost any game.
Honorable Mention: Wildgrowth Walker.
While I generally like to take cards like this after I’m already in that deck, this card has a few things going for it. The green explore creatures are good in both Merfolk and Dinosaurs, so this is one of the more flexible green cards you can pick early in a Draft. This card doesn’t require you to have that many explore creatures to be effective. If you trigger it once, it’s a great card. Twice and it’s borderline broken. Just prioritize the explore creatures a little higher when you get this early, but don’t think you need to draft some kind of crazy all explore deck. Don’t sleep on this card though—you should draft it and play it frequently, but I would usually expect it to be more of a 3rd-5th pick than a 2nd pick.
I’ve heard mixed opinions on this Draft format, but if you look at how weak a lot of the cards are, you know you are in for good games of Magic. My opinion in general is that tribal is bad, and I still don’t understand why we don’t have Changeling. Still, a low power level is great, and I have been enjoying a lot of the games in this format. I’m still happily firing Draft after Draft. How about you?