This is a very weak pack, and I think there are three reasonable approaches.
Sandwurm Convergence is the most impactful card, as you'd expect, given that it costs twice as much mana as the second-most-expensive card in the pack. It does have eight mana worth of impact on a game; it's very hard to beat a resolved Sandwurm Convergence, and it's a great card in a deck that wants to get eight mana.
Amonkhet is generally viewed as an aggressive format because Exert makes blocking difficult, and while that's true, I've found that, at its core, it's really just a polarized format. Most cards are only good at playing one way, and while most decks will never want to get anywhere near eight mana, there are a lot of cards that let you do it if you draft toward it, and most of them will be available cheaply in the draft because so few decks want them.
Sandwurm Convergence has the ability to be the best card in your deck and to make your deck considerably better than it would be otherwise, but it's a huge commitment to start with it. It's like first-picking a gold card, in that it locks you into looking for something extremely specific, and there's a good chance you can't make it work. The other cards are replaceable enough that I think it's okay to take a shot here, but you risk derailing your draft if you push for it and fail to make it come together.
Bloodrage Brawler is likely the consensus “best” card in the pack. It's a very aggressive creature that plays well in a format that often comes down to tempo rather than attrition, which is to say games regularly end before one or both players have emptied their hands. Also, in the right deck, you can mitigate the drawback by discarding a card that does something in your graveyard or emptying your hand before casting it. That said, the default case, when you cast it on turn 2 and discard an extra land or something, does risk giving your opponent an easy two-for-one if they have a card like Impeccable Timing or Compulsory Rest.
I view every other card in the pack as an essentially replacement-level common, but among them, I'd choose Initiate's Companion. Combat tricks play very well in green in this format, and a 3/1 creature that does something if it hits your opponent is very effective at forcing your opponent to block, which allows you to exchange your combat tricks for tempo as quickly as possible. This is the safest pick, but it offers the lowest ceiling.
If I were advising someone, I'd be comfortable with them taking any of the three, my personal order would likely be Initiate's Companion, Sandwurm Convergence, Bloodrage Brawler, but that's really subject to my mood at the time.
Sandwurm Convergence is a card I'm very excited to have in Amonkhet Sealed due to the slow nature of the format. But this isn't Amonkhet Sealed. This is Booster Draft, where things are quite a bit quicker. So why am I advising first-picking an eight-mana enchantment? Because outside of Bloodrage Brawler, I'm not very excited about much that is going on in this pack and now I can immediately begin to build a deck around taking advantage of Sandwurm Convergence. With this as my first pick, I'd be on the hunt for as much good mana acceleration as possible, but also more defensive-minded creatures and things that let me handle fliers until my game-winning enchantment arrives.
Not starting off with the most exciting pack, but these wouldn't be fun if it was too easy. [The Editor who makes these is obviously brilliant.--Ed.] Bloodrage Brawler would be my pick, as good two-drops that will trade up are at a premium in Amonkhet. Brawler's downside of having to discard a card is lessened in this set over normal ones because of Aftermath, Embalm, and cards that have a bonus for having few cards in hand. After Brawler, the pick is tough, and I would hardly ever take an eight-drop in Draft, but Sandwurm Convergence is just on such a different power level from everything else in the rest of the pack that it's my next pick. It's best to take a card like this with your first pick so you have more time to build your draft around it. Hekma Sentinels would be my third pick, as it has the ability to overperform and make combat very difficult for your opponent if built around properly.
In my experience with Amonkhet thus far, the format is friendly to an extremely large range of decks. I have been beaten on turn 5 through a series of Exert activations plus Fling. I have had opponents sit behind 1/5 Crabs and counter every creature I cast. Generally speaking, if you know what you're doing, the tools are there to make it work. Sandwurm Convergence is a legitimate bomb in any deck that can cast it, and because it is showing up in Pack 1, we have the best chance at building around it and making it work. The rest of the pack is rather weak, although I wouldn't feel terrible taking Sacred Excavation and trying to get some value. U/B discard decks have really impressed me at times and they tend to run extremely smoothly due to all that cycling.
If you wanted to be aggressive after this pack, Bloodrage Brawler is a legitimate option. Like Convergence, you will need to support the card well, but some players just prefer beating down. I could also see taking Initiate's Companion if you just wanted a safe, no-frills, aggressive creature.
Pack 1: Who Picked It Best?
All of the uncommons in this pack are considerably stronger than any of the commons, and taking anything other than one of them would be a considerable mistake, while taking any of them is justifiable.
Personally, I think black is the weakest color in Amonkhet, and I really like starting any draft with a Trial, as it gives me a direction that's fairly easily and reliably actionable. Trial of Solidarity looks like a variety of cards that have been bad in the past, but vigilance plays extremely well with Exert, so this card has really overperformed.
My second choice would be Stir the Sands, as it's the most powerful and flexible card by itself. It will be a welcome addition to any black deck.
My third choice would be Merciless Javelineer. It's very easy to lose to this card, but it's also fairly easy to answer, and it needs to be discounted as a first pick because it's gold, so I don't see any reason to take it over the similarly powerful but more flexible Stir the Sands.
Talk about a trio of uncommons! Perhaps Stir the Sands isn't as good as I think it is, but I'd be shocked if this flexible uncommon isn't one of the best uncommons in the set. It's great in the mid-game, great in the late-game, and can catch people off-guard in combat. Past that, it's possible that Merciless Javelineer is better than Stir the Sands, but I've never been a huge fan of taking a gold card this early in a draft unless it's a total bomb. Merciless Javelineer is a powerful card without question, but I'm generally going to side towards a single-color card that I have a strong opinion about over a two-color card that I'm not positive is elite.
Merciless Javelineer can singlehandedly win games, an attribute that I want to see from my first pick of a draft. Stir the Sands is close, and a card I usually like to first-pick, but it doesn't have the ability to win the game on its own. I'm all for instant-speed Nimble Innovators in draft, as it doesn't get better than drawing cards while playing creatures. That's not all Stir the Sands can do; it can also create three 2/2 bodies in the late-game, making it a very solid early-pick choice. Floodwaters rounds out my picks with this pack with the ability to turn a battlefield position around; it's especially useful against Embalm tokens.
Typically speaking, I value power first and foremost with my early picks. In this case, I think Stir the Sands and Merciless Javelineer are somewhat comparable in that department. As a tiebreaker, I feel that a single-color card has greater value compared to a two-color card right out of the gate. Being able to leave ourselves open to whatever color is getting passed is a crucial element to the way I prefer to draft. In this case, Stir the Sands has even more versatility to it, as it fits into a wide range of strategies, from Zombies to U/B cycling to G/B. Merciless Javelineer is going to be at its best in R/B aggro and I'd rather not commit that heavily when I don't have to.
Once we escape that power duo of uncommons, the pack is relatively open to move in whatever direction you want. Trial of Solidarity and Floodwaters are probably next in rank and I think I prefer the Trial. Again, it is Pick 1 of our draft, so we have the maximum amount of time to find Cartouches and Exert creatures that synergize.
Pack 2: Who Picked It Best?
Cruel Reality is like Sandwurm Convergence, but it costs a full mana less, which usually means it comes down multiple turns earlier, which makes it a much better card; also, answers to enchantments are rare, so it's worth noting that Lay Claim, the best answer, beats Sandwurm Convergence but has no impact on Cruel Reality. Like Sandwurm Convergence, it's a dangerous pick, as it involves moving into the “wrong” color and “wrong” strategy, but the payoff is high enough that I think it's the “best” card in the pack.
Aside from that, the three uncommons are all comparable to each other, and any of them is entirely defensible over Cruel Reality. Labyrinth Guardian is the most flexible. It's one of the few cards in this set almost exactly as good in aggressive or controlling decks. It's a flexible creature at a great rate that attacks and blocks well, so it's very hard to go wrong with.
Battlefield Scavenger and Honored Crop-Captain are both good aggressive red cards, and both are at their best in R/W, although Battlefield Scavenger is about as good in R/G and playable in any red deck. This flexibility pushes it over the top for me, and I think it'd be a mistake to take Honored Crop-Captain even though it's slightly better in R/W, even if you have a preference for R/W, because the power level difference is so small and the flexibility has to have some value.
I haven't had the opportunity to play a ton with Battlefield Scavenger, but in what I have done, I've been very impressed. With how many Exert cards red and white have, this is going to be a centerpiece of any very good R/W deck and understandably so. It does kinda stink to have to pass Honored Crop-Captain because I think Battlefield Scavenger is at its best in R/W, but much like the previous pack, I'm not going to take a gold card over a single-colored one. As far as Sparring Mummy being second on this list goes, I have found it to be one of the best white commons, with its sizing, creature type, and enters-the-battlefield trigger all mattering in the games I've played.
If you like attacking, then this is the pack for you! Like I mentioned earlier, I value quality two-drops highly, which leads to Battlefield Scavenger and Honored Crop-Captain being my top two picks. Although the two cards are very close on power level, I would take the Battlefield Scavenger first because it is easier to cast and keeps our color options more open than the two-color card. Scavenger can also help out during a battlefield stall where it can't profitably attack as long as you have another creature with Exert that can attack beneficially. Thresher Lizard isn't spectacular, but it has a solid rate and will oftentimes trade up on mana in combat.
Early on in a format, I think valuing mythic rares a little more highly than usual; just to get some experience with the card is extremely valuable. This is especially true in the case of Cruel Reality, which has a power level we can't easily rate in a vacuum. In a lot of packs, I would just take the mythic rare and see how it goes. That said, there are two uncommons in this pack that get me excited to draft aggro, and if this were a Grand Prix or Pro Tour, there isn't a chance I am gambling with two powerful two-drops.
Between them, I am a bit torn. Battlefield Scavenger allows you to move into R/W or R/G aggro pretty easily and provides you with lands and constant gas. Honored Crop-Captain is clearly only going into R/W, but I do think its ability is a little more attractive to an aggro deck. Right now I would take the Crop-Captain and try to push the archetype as hard as I could. This pick is really close, though, and I could definitely see my opinion evolving and Scavenger being my pick later on in the format.
Pack 3: Who Picked It Best?
1. Fan Bearer
I think taking any card other than Fan Bearer is indefensible. Like Labyrinth Guardian, it's great in any deck, and it does several things white is specifically looking for. It's a one-drop to curve out if you're trying to go wide, a Zombie for Zombie synergies, and an excellent home for a stray -1/-1 counter, on top of just being a powerful card.
Following that, I think Hieroglyphic Illumination is the clear second pick, as it's a flexible card that will improve any blue deck, and it has a lot of synergies with any of the cycling matters cards and any of the cards that care about spells in your graveyard.
I think the third choice is Lay Bare the Heart. The play pattern of this format isn't great for discard, since, as I mentioned earlier, games often end while both players have cards in their hand, but this set has a well-above-average number of borderline-unbeatable rares and other build-arounds, so this is a valuable sideboard card at worst.
1. Fan Bearer
I was really surprised to see a tapper at common in Amonkhet, as it feels as though WotC has been putting that effect at uncommon over the past few years. Throw in the fact that it actually has decent power/toughness and is a relevant creature type and it's hard to argue that Fan Bearer isn't a top common in Amonkhet. Quarry Hauler is another card I'm a fan of, as green is a color that takes part in the -1/-1 counter theme of this set, but I just don't think it's as good as good as Fan Bearer. As for Shadowstorm Vizier, let me direct you to my previous conversations about not wanting to take a old card first.
1. Fan Bearer
Fan Bearer has the ability to make a huge impact on the game, as removing a creature's ability to interact in combat each turn is one of the best things to be doing in Limited. The two-mana cost from Fan Bearer isn't free, and it's not an ability that you'll want to activate early when you need to progress your battlefield, but there isn't much better at breaking late-game battlefield stalls than this little one-drop. Shadowstorm Vizier would be my next pick; not only is it a quality two-drop, but evasion with flying is at a premium with Amonkhet. I'm a bigger fan of Quarry Hauler than most, as the Camel is always overperforming for me. There is an abundance of different counters that either your creatures or your opponents creatures could have, and Quarry Hauler's ability to add or subtract one of those counters can oftentimes come close to a full card in value.
3. Fan Bearer
If you have not had the chance to play with or against Shadowstorm Vizier, let me be the first to inform you of how incredible the card is. It plays defense extremely well and then cuts chunks out of your life total whenever the coast is clear. There is an incredible amount of support for the card and committing yourself to U/B is worth it in this case.
After slamming Vizier, I have fallen in love with Quarry Hauler, as it just offers so much versatility and a great set of stats for four mana. I have played four of these in a deck and did not regret it for a second. Lay Bare the Heart has been pretty good for me, but it is a rather uninspiring first pick. I think I give Fan Bearer the edge in this spot. The card works in every white deck and will gain a ton of value if we draft some Zombie tribal around it!
Pack 4: Who Picked It Best?
This is the strongest pack, with Final Reward and three good uncommons as the highlights.
I'm currently drawn to the flexibility of Edifice of Authority. It's not good in the absolute fastest decks, but it's exceptional in midrange or control decks in any color, which makes it the most flexible card in the pack by far, and the power level isn't far enough behind any of the other cards to outweigh that for me.
My second choice would be Ruthless Sniper, as it's very easily to find cycling cards if you know you're looking for them from the beginning, and if you have a lot, this card can easily win a game by itself, and it's surprisingly difficult to answer compared to how easy it might be to kill a 1/2 in other formats.
My third choice would be Scaled Behemoth, and I wouldn't fault someone for choosing it as their first choice. Without hexproof, the rate is competitive but unexciting for Limited, and hexproof is an extremely important ability on the creature your opponent most wants to kill. This plays incredibly well with any Cartouche other than Cartouche of Zeal and also with any combat tricks, as your opponent's only option will often be to block this with several creatures, in which case a trick will usually win the game on the spot.
3. Final Reward
I'm not sure if Edifice of Authority classifies as a bomb, but it sure does seem close if not. An uncommon that anyone can play, Edifice is cheap to activate and it doesn't take all that many activations for it to level up into its final form. I've loved this card thus far and it would take a lot for me to pass one. Ruthless Sniper is another card I've loved, but I'm not sure how much better it is than Final Reward. Final Reward is rather expensive, but it's a clean removal spell in a format where instant speed and exile both matter. There's a lot of upside to Ruthless Sniper, especially when taking it first in a draft, but there's certainly something to be said about the knowing-what-you're-getting nature of Final Reward.
3. Final Reward
I would draft Edifice of Authority over any card from any of the five packs so far. I was hard-pressed to ever pass a Tumble Magnet back in Scars of Mirrodin, and Edifice of Authority is even stronger in Limited due to being able to use it turn after turn. Although there are plenty of good artifact removal options in Amonkhet Limited, they are left on the sidelines due to the lack of artifacts in the set, which makes it more likely Edifice of Authority will stick around and take over the game for you. Although Final Reward is a premium removal spell that can exile any creature at instant speed, which is exceptionally rare in Limited, I would take Scaled Behemoth over it. Hexproof is an underrated keyword for a creature to have, especially an extremely large creature. Scaled Behemoth may not have obvious card advantage built in, but it will almost certainly be a two-for-one or better, as it will take multiple resources from your opponent to deal with and can also give you the opportunity to use combat tricks to full value.
2. Final Reward
This pack starts off extremely hot with arguably the best common in the format in Final Reward and some intriguing uncommons. Edifice of Authority may be the card that has surprised me the most thus far in terms of power level. The card looks very playable, but in actuality it just takes over games. If we only ever had access to the “can't attack” portion, the card would still be solid, but that third brick counter makes it really tough to lose. This card also happens to be colorless, which is always a great place to be coming out of your first pack.
Final Reward is about as safe as a colored spell can get, extremely strong and relatively simple to splash, so it's an easy second pick. After that, I can see arguments in favor of Ruthless Sniper and Binding Mummy, but after playing with it, I think I give Scaled Behemoth the nod here. Hexproof on that large of a creature is absolutely amazing. Just be sure to avoid Trial of Ambition! Any of the runner-up cards I listed would be perfectly acceptable here, though.
Pack 5: Who Picked It Best?