War of the Spark has 10-20 cards that are just windmill slams you should take over everything else. The Gods, Ugin, Nissa, Liliana, Roalesk, and the black and white Finale immediately come to mind. I will not be using any packs that have these cards. You should take them over everything else and try hard to play them if you open them. They aren’t interesting, and if it were up to me, they wouldn’t exist.
After those, though, there is a lot to consider when first picking a card in WAR Draft. Every color combination is playable and splashing is easy. This leads to a lot of very interesting choices (when the “should be banned from Limited” rares don’t show up), so let’s dive into five packs of War of the Spark.
3-mana unconditional removal is always going to be good. But this card is substantially better than that. Scry 1 is not some minor bonus. It’s closer to draw half a card, and card advantage is the most valuable resource in Magic. Throw in that this card is a single white and can take care of the biggest threats, and you get a very appealing card to splash.
Honorable Mention: Evolution Sage
This card is more powerful than Prison Realm. Not in terms of it being proactive and Realm being an answer, but in terms of what it does for you for how much mana you pay for it.
The main reason I take Realm over Sage is because it doesn’t make for a great splash. If you play this card on the last turn, when you finally hit your splash mana, it won’t necessarily do much. You won’t be holding many lands or your planeswalkers and creatures with counters may have already died. Finishers and unconditional removal make the best splash cards.
This card is an engine, and a really powerful one, so I take it early and aggressively, but not over Prison Realm, which is also very powerful and a better splash.
This card reminds me of Thought Erasure, in that small changes to a card that was already close can elevate it to excellent. The hexproof while untapped on a 2-mana ramp creature is huge. If you get to use this once before the opponent can kill it, you played something good ahead of schedule and the opponent will be on their back foot if they want to deal with the Druid instead of whatever you played. Without the hexproof ability they would have dealt with the Druid and you would never gain that advantage.
Mix that with this format, where there are a lot of powerful single color cards to cast, like removal spells and powerful cards to splash, and this card becomes a strong first pick.
Honorable Mention: Nahiri, Storm of Stone
I don’t think this card is amazing, but I do really like first picking hybrid mana cards. You can play this card in any red or white deck. If I am already B/W and face this pack, I would likely take Oath of Kaya over Nahiri. But in pick 1 pack 1, deal 3 gain 3 plus a small upside isn’t enough better than what Nahiri offers in killing tapped creatures to take a B/W gold card over a card that can be cast with either of 2 different colors of mana.
This is a very powerful rare and you should definitely be first picking it. The casting cost isn’t as prohibitive as it looks, because green has multiple good common fixers that add any kind of mana, so you don’t need to be green and white to play this card, just green.
This is true of all the green/x cards that are splashable. That’s an important concept in this format and part of why I chose to use this pack. The other reason is because the second choice out of it is extremely interesting.
Honorable Mention: Jaya’s Greeting
This is an early frontrunner for best common in the set for me. I love scry 1 on 2-mana cards because hitting land 3 turn 3 is often the difference in a game.
Additionally, scrying lands to the bottom in the late game is extremely valuable. Cheap, efficient removal that also puts up cards (even if not a whole one) is a great way to start a draft. Gleaming Overseer would be my next choice and I think this card and Jaya’s Greeting are very close, so you should go with the 1-color card. Ashiok isn’t close. Ashiok is a win con if you need it, and a good sideboard card versus some decks, but it’s not close to Jaya’s Greeting or Gleaming Overseer.
I can’t do more than beg. Please stop taking Ashiok early. Limited revolves around the board and Ashiok doesn’t impact it. Jaya’s Greeting will trade up on mana and offer card advantage with the scry. That’s not even counting the true blowouts you sometimes get in combat when you have a cheap, instant removal available and they double-block or play a pump spell.
I love everything about this card. If you don’t have an army in play yet it goes wide. If you do it gives flying and grows an attacker this turn. That means you can now take out an opposing planeswalker or present a big flyer, which usually must be dealt with or it will win the game. If they do deal with it, you still have a 3/3 for your trouble, and that’s not even mentioning that future army tokens will also have flying. Throw in that the card is single blue, therefore splashable in any type of deck, and you have a very nice first pick.
Honorable Mention: Arlinn, Voice of the Pack
With all the good ramp green has in this format a 6-mana casting cost is much less of a drawback for green than for other colors. Where green can often suffer is from flood. This is a tough card to deal with and one that can single-handily win a game. I like my green decks heavy on power in this format, so don’t be scared to channel your inner LSV and draft a lot of 5-7 mana cards in your green ramp decks in War of the Spark.
This is a very good card. If you kill a 2-drop and get a 2/2 for 3 mana you are now down a mana and up a card. That’s basically a Stoneforge Mystic! Okay, not really. But down 1 mana and up a card is a great place to be in Magic. Cheap spells that impact the board, while providing card advantage, are great.
Honorable Mention: Nahiri
Similar to how I felt in the earlier pack with Nahiri, I don’t think it’s powerful enough to take over Paradise Druid or Bleeding Edge. But it is a card you can play almost 100 percent of the time you take it and it is a good card. A lot of the creatures aren’t very big and it’s not hard to play this and kill something, and have it stick around with enough loyalty to be threatening. Another thing worth noting is that killing a tapped creature is better in this format than in most because so many attacks are spent on planeswalkers and not the players’ life totals. You will rarely die from the damage the attacker already did before getting to deploy your resources.
I think there is a lot to like about War of the Spark and only one thing to dislike. Sadly, it’s a big one. The games not involving the top 10-20 cards in the format have been a real treat. I think R&D did an amazing job with the uncommon planeswalkers. Amass and proliferate are also cool and interesting Limited mechanics. But a lot of games are ruined by the Gods and some of the other rares listed above. If you are like me and love Limited but hate having the games ruined by ridiculous amounts of broken rares, please express that feedback to Wizards as I have. It’s important for them to know that Limited is what matters most, not Standard!
As always, any and all constructive feedback is appreciated.