This week has been interesting for this format. The aggressive decks are extremely overdrafted. The bad cards that are supposed to wheel (Sacred Cat and Slither Blade, I'm looking at you) are not coming around the table.
What this means is that the control/midrange decks get much better! It's easier to get a large density of rares as most of your table will be playing aggro, and the aggressive decks are no longer as streamlined. I predict this format will converge in about a week to where aggro, midrange, and control are all viable options. I also expect this format to end up as one of the best of all time (if not the actual best).
Let's see what this pack gives us:
Pack 1, Pick 1
At GP Richmond, I would have taken the Honored Crop-Captain, but that was before people knew how good the aggressive decks are. Now, I would advise against "forcing" aggro. Mono-colored powerful aggressive cards like Ahn-Crop Crasher and Trial of Solidarity are still some of the best first-picks in the set, but the more middling cards such as Honored Crop-Captain have gone down in value, simply because the probability that other players in your pod are aggressive has skyrocketed. I still would prefer to be aggressive, for the record.
Nissa, Steward of Elements is an extremely powerful Magic card, but U/G is the worst color combination because it is pretty much dependent on getting good late-game rares. Luckily, Nissa is a great way to start regarding that track. And she is splashable, so if you get an Evolving Wilds (which is notably in this pack, making picking Nissa even more enticing), you will probably be able to play her. A couple of weeks ago I wouldn't have even thought about taking Nissa, Steward of Elements. But now that aggro is overdrafted, there is a higher probability that I can get the rares necessary for U/G, especially if I start with one.
Unwavering Initiate and Final Reward are both very solid cards. I would probably take Unwavering Initiate over Final Reward just because there's only so much room for clunky removal, and Unwavering Initiate is one of the few cards that is both great in and against aggressive decks! But it's still not a card I'm happy to start off my draft with. I'm going to take the Nissa, Steward of Elements here. It's the most powerful card in the pack, and I think the other options are just too lackluster.
Pack 1, Pick 4
The Picks So Far:
Hopefully this is refreshing for you. Look, it's not an aggro deck! This is a pretty great start to a U/G ramp deck with very solid removal spell and two amazing late-game cards. I'm very excited to see how this deck turns out!
I'm going to start off by saying that Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons is the pick. Even though Ornery Kudu and River Serpent are solid on-color playables, they are replaceable, and Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons this late is a huge signal. That card is one of the ways I end up in B/G, so I can pretty much expect (not 100% certainty, but quite high) that for the rest of this pack and in Pack 3 I will get the powerful B/G cards like Decimator Beetle.
Maybe you're sitting there saying, "But Ryan, we're throwing away our two best cards in Lay Claim and Nissa, Steward of Elements!" This is not at all the case. A base-green deck can splash in this format. Remember the Evolving Wilds? Well, that pack was extremely powerful and Evolving Wilds has a good chance of coming back. Taking Hapatra, Vizier of Poisons is a hedge. I cement myself in green and go either black or blue with the capability of splashing regardless. And don't forget that Lay Claim is also splashable because of cycling. I'll play it in my B/G decks when I have cards like Gift of Paradise and the like.
I would also like to mention that, while Fan Bearer and Trueheart Duelist are great cards, they just don't mesh with the U/G cards that we have in the same way that Hapatra does. This is because both W/U and W/G do not splash well as they are better as aggressive decks, in my opinion.
Also, for those curious, I picked up a copy of Approach the Second Sun and destroyed people with my four-color durdles! I lost to a deck that was able to grind me out with Anointed Procession combos, though.