Hi everyone, welcome to What’s the Pick with Oath of the Gatewatch! I haven’t actually had a chance to draft the set in real life yet, but I have studied it, and I’m starting to form some instinctive opinions. Here we’ll open some sample packs and I’ll let you know what I’d take. Let’s get to the packs:

Pack #1

My Pick

Goblin Dark-Dwellers.

Goblin Dark-Dwellers, Malakir Soothsayer, and Hedron Crawler all look like they could be the correct pick to me. One drawback with Goblin Dark-Dwellers is that if you don’t pick up enough cheap instants or sorceries, it can become a 4/4 menace for 5 mana without much of an upside. Of course, when you do pick up some cheap instants and sorceries, that upside is massive, and with removal spells, you get a Nekrataal.

Malakir Soothsayer also looks pretty good if you get it online, but that’s not a given, either. Also, drawing a card is great, but you’re using a 4/4 and another creature, plus paying a life to set it up. That being said, I think I would still take Malakir Soothsayer over Hedron Crawler, without having played the set yet, just because the upside seems high enough to me. It’s possible that Hedron Crawler could even be the best of the lot if it turns out that decks that need a lot of access to colorless mana are among the strongest available. Hedron Crawler also keeps you open and accelerates any deck, not just colorless ones.

Honorable Mention: Malakir Soothsayer, for the reasons discussed above.

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Pack #2

My Pick

Embodiment of Fury.

Embodiment of Fury is a really powerful, aggressive card. 4/3 trample for 4 mana is already a fine card, but the upside of being able to attack with a 3/3 every turn by playing a land is huge. This also means if you get off to a faster start than your opponent, you can afford to spend your mana casting removal spells or bounce spells and attack for very large amounts of damage. If your opponent doesn’t have an answer for Embodiment of Fury or a high-toughness creature to stabilize the ground, I would expect this card to end games quickly.

Honorable Mention: Cyclone Sire.

Cyclone Sire is a potent threat with a high upside. A 3/4 flier for 5 mana is a fine rate, and when Cyclone Sire dies, it effectively leaves you with a 3/3. Although it’s not quite as good as a 3/3 token, since it turns your land into a creature, it’s still extremely powerful, and this looks like a card I’d be happy to take early and play in all my blue decks.

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Pack #3

My Pick

Reality Smasher.

Reality Smasher is the clear best card in the pack. A 5/5 trample haste for 5 is pretty insane. It also has the upside of being an automatic 2-for-1 if your opponent uses a removal spell to get rid of it. The one interesting question could be the necessity to cast Reality Smasher with one colorless mana. In some sense, when a spell requires colorless to cast, you’re drafting a sixth color. If you look at this pack though, there are two random lands that tap for colorless, and there seem to be enough cards that tap for colorless in the set that I think taking Reality Smasher is worth the risk.

Honorable Mention: Boulder Salvo.

This card looks great. More often than not, you’ll engineer a situation where you’re casting a spell for 2 mana that deals 4 damage to a creature, which would be a first pick in almost any format. Of course, occasionally, you’ll be unable to string two spells together, and you’ll have a 5-mana sorcery that deals 4 damage to a creature, which is clearly not ideal, but certainly still playable. The upside of this is very high, and I actually think it will be even easier to make sure Boulder Salvo costs 2mana than it may look.

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Pack #4

My Pick

Oblivion Strike.

For a common removal spell, Oblivion Strike is very powerful. A 4-mana removal spell that removes any creature from the game is always strong, but it’s especially effective in a format like this where there are so many giant Eldrazis running around. Having even a single spell like Oblivion Strike in your deck will greatly reduce the chances you lose to a single bomb rare creature. It’s also worth noting that exiling the creature is more important in this format than it has been in many other formats because of the ability to process the exiled card.

Honorable Mention: Roiling Waters.

I think Roiling Waters is probably a little worse than Oblivion Strike, but I could definitely see being wrong on this one. Roiling Waters provides a large amount of both card advantage and tempo. If you bounce an awakened land, a big creature, and draw two cards, you’ve come out way ahead on the exchange by effectively killing a creature. One problem with expensive card draw spells is that if you’re already behind on the board, you won’t have time to cast them. Roiling Waters naturally avoids this problem by returning the creatures to your opponent’s hand so you have the needed time to do something with your cards.

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Pack #5

My Pick

Grasp of Darkness.

2 mana for -4/-4 at instant speed is a great removal spell. The one knock on this card is that it costs two black mana to cast. In a format where you’re playing two colors and sometimes going out of your way to play lands that produce colorless mana, this could be a bit more troubling than we’re used to in other formats. That being said, the card is just too good to not first pick here.

Honorable Mention: Reality Hemorrhage.

2 mana for 2 damage—can be used to kill annoying creatures like Drana’s Emissary. I’d play this card in any red deck, though I wouldn’t be particularly happy to first pick it.

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Thanks for reading this edition of What’s the Pick? I’ll be back very soon with some more. What did you all think of the first set of packs? Let me know in the comments.