I just finished playing the Pro Tour, and my perception of Rivals Draft hasn’t changed. I saw many different decks win. I think this is a format where you can draft 4-Color Control, very slow defensive ascend, and Merfolk/Pirate/Vampire tribal beatdown. Almost every strategy can produce a great deck. My one complaint so far would be that there are too many really powerful rares like Profane Procession and Hadana’s Climb that are hard to answer and nearly impossible to beat.

Pack #1

My Pick

Golden Demise

This card is incredible. Usually cards like these are only good in controlling decks with big creatures and/or low creature counts. This card is good in those same decks but can also be amazing out of heavy creature decks. If you are putting out a lot of small creatures it’s extremely easy to get the city’s blessing. Then you just cast this main phase 1, kill a few of the opponent’s blockers, and weaken the rest of their blockers until end of turn. This usually gives you a great attack, and that’s after it has already killed a few of the opponent’s creatures.

Honorable Mention: Kitesail Corsair

This format is a little slow. That means a 2/1 flyer for 2 can be tough to beat. While it’s true that some blue decks won’t be very aggressive and want a card like this, it’s a key creature for U/W Flyers and U/R Pirates. It’s also one of the non-Merfolk that I’m happy to play in my Merfolk decks. Even if you end up with a U/B Control deck, it can still block. You want to have some 2-drops in every deck so while it’s not exciting in these strategies, it’s still a solid playable that should almost never be cut.

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Pack #2

My Pick

Seafloor Oracle

From what I have seen this card is underrated. Merfolk are looking to attack with small creatures and even have a good unblockable one in Mist-Cloaked Herald. It’s not hard to play this on a turn where the opponent doesn’t have blockers or good blockers (if they would have to chump block to prevent you from getting a card, that’s usually going to be worse for them than just taking the hit and letting you draw, so Seafloor Oracle is still effective). If you draw a single extra card, then it was a good card, and if you get two it was a great one. This is not a broken rare but it’s pretty close to most of the good-but-not-broken uncommons (take the Chupacabra).

Honorable Mention: Siren Reaver

Another aggressive blue flyer I like a lot. There are a lot of slow decks that really get punished by good, aggressive flyers. A lot of what makes it a slow format is that there aren’t a ton of good cheap flyers and there are good ground blockers. While it might seem like there are good flying blockers too, the difference is that if you use your removal and pump to clear them, they won’t just be replaced by another one on the following turn.

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Pack #3

My Pick

Deadeye Brawler

I’m big on cards that work when you are ahead or behind. If your opponent curved out on the play, there is a decent chance that a 2/4 deathtouch will stop them dead in their tracks. Even if they have a pump spell, they are likely looking at the prospect of getting 2-for-1’d because of deathtouch. If you are ahead you can use this to draw cards and push your advantage. If they have a big Dinos deck, the Brawler can trade up, and if they have a deck with small creatures, it’s an incredible roadblock. The only drawback is that it’s a gold card, but it’s not that hard to splash in this format and especially easy to do in Pirates thanks to Treasures.

Honorable Mention: Luminous Bonds

Unconditional removal that is easy to splash is always going to be good. Being an enchantment is a small draw back, but not a big one. Don’t take every copy of this as highly as you take the first because then you can really power up the Naturalizes in your opponent’s sideboard. But if you only have 1-2 of these in your deck and they bring in the Naturalize, then sideboarding will often do them more harm than good. Sometimes they will get to Naturalize it, but other times it will create value for you because they will draw their Naturalize and you won’t have drawn Bonds. Forerunner of the Heralds is close but it’s only good in 1 draft deck and Bonds is good in every white deck and even super easy to splash. That makes it a clear pick for me.

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Pack #4

My Pick

 Forerunner of the Coalition

Though I don’t love starting out with super focused cards, this pack sucks. Path of Mettle is hard to flip, and Imperial Ceratops and Pirate’s Pillage aren’t good cards. Pirates do tend to be aggressive and there are a lot of control decks in this format. This means that in some games Forerunner of the Coalition’s drain ability will be powerful. Hopefully you have something great to tutor up but even just a Dire Fleet Neckbreaker may be extremely valuable for a Pirate deck to be able to have access to in a bunch of games.

Honorable Mention: Hunt the Weak

This removal is very good. The format revolves around big creatures, tribal lords, and small flyers. Hunt is obviously great with your enrage creatures, but it’s also just great at taking out the opponent’s best creature. This is a common we have seen multiple times and this is the best I can remember it being.

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Pack #5

My Pick

 Waterknot

This is an extremely interesting pack. All of the uncommons and the rare are playable, even early picks, but none are very good. Blue is the biggest ascend color so Waterknot sticking around as an enchantment can be beneficial (not better than if the creature was exiled, but this helps mitigate the drawback).

Honorable Mention: Protean Raider

A clone that requires you to attack is a lot worse than one that doesn’t. If they have the best creature, you may end up having to throw away your worst creature to copy theirs. That said, if you have the best creature, you will most likely be able to attack and copy it. 3 mana isn’t a lot to pay for this effect. This may result in a good, positive tempo turn where you attack with a flyer, copy their big creature, and then bounce or kill it.

Sometimes things won’t line up that way, though. A 3-mana 2/2 Pirate is a pretty bad card, but hardly a mulligan. I like that you can play this on turn 3 if you have ways to enhance it and no other creatures, or play it later, copying things that are big or broken. I would still take virtually every common removal and a lot of the better uncommons over it. This card is about as good as most of the common creatures that you always play.

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These were particularly weak packs and presented a lot of close picks, so I’m interested in hearing everyone’s opinions on these. I have personally been finding removal to be very good in this format. A lot of the games seem to end up with a lot of creatures in play and having that removal for the most important one toward the end of the game has been key. In the last one of these, some of you suggested pack 1 pick 2. Let me know if you’d prefer that format for the next one!