Ultimate Masters seems like a fairly deep format from an initial glance. These are the archetypes I see after glancing at the full set:
Note: "x" can be any color.
- Azorius Heroic/Auras
- Selesnya Heroic/Auras
- Izzet Spells (Rise from the Tides)
- Sultai Graveyard (Spider Spawning)
- W/x Reanimator
- Boros Heroic
- Rakdos Madness
- Rakdos Aristocrats
- G/X Ramp
- Gruul Madness
I'm sure there's more, as these sets tend to have a bunch of Easter-egg-esque archetypes, but this is a good starting point. Let's see what the first couple picks of a draft have to say about these archetypes. And remember, only vote for the money rare if you think it really is the pick . These are phantom drafts!
Pack 1, Pick 1
At the beginning of a format, it's hard to narrow down the picks. I'm sure after a couple weeks of drafting, one card here will stand out. The one thing that I'm sure of is that the pick is not Unholy Hunger. Removal spells are safe picks in most formats, but Masters formats tell a different story. In Modern Masters 2017, every creature had such good value when it entered the battlefield that removal wasn't all that great. You played it, but it wasn't premium. A five-mana removal spell that conditionally gains life is not at all what I'm looking for. Add in the fact that totem armor is a common mechanic, and I'm not even sure I'll want more than one copy of Unholy Hunger in my black decks.
Between the blue cards, I would actually take Circular Logic. I could see both Deranged Assistant and Treasure Cruise being better, but given the density of discard outlets, Circular Logic seems very good to me. Look at how it combines with Mad Prophet - a one-mana counterspell that cantrips is unheard of, but that's the ceiling on the card! This ceiling is comparable to that of Treasure Cruise, but early on in a format I value learning highly and would take Circular Logic because it's uncommon and the value of the card is likely to be more variable than Treasure Cruise.
Kodama's Reach is a phenomenal Magic card. It's one of the few ways in this format to both ramp and fix your mana, and it's card advantage to boot. I expect it to be one of, if not the, best green common, but I'm not convinced it's a card I want to first pick. If I wanted a piece of card advantage so badly, I would likely lean harder on Treasure Cruise.
Mad Prophet is one of the rarity downshifts. I expect looters in this format to be very powerful because of all the graveyard synergies and madness. Zero-mana discard outlets will be at a premium, and this one draws cards too! I actually think Mad Prophet is the pick and with both Fiery Temper and Reckless Wurm at common, it won't be hard to turn the Prophet into a must-answer threat! There's merit to a lot of cards in this pack, but I think the Prophet is the best choice.
Pack 1, Pick 2
The Picks So Far:
Platinum Emperion is a very powerful Magic card, but eight mana is a lot of mana. This is where knowing the archetypes is crucial to a pick. If I was just walking into this draft with no knowledge of the format, I would not take Platinum Emperion. However, given that Resurrection was downshifted to common and I already have a discard outlet, it's definitely possible to draft a Boros reanimator deck (or any white color pair, to be honest). Let's look at the rest of the cards first, but the Emperion is a good follow up to the Mad Prophet.
Miraculous Recovery is also a very good Magic card. Reanimating a threat at instant speed gets around sorcery speed removal and has the upside of sometimes eating a creature in combat. With reanimator as a theme in this format, I think Miraculous Recovery is a solid first pick, let alone second.
I spoke about Circular Logic in the last pick, and it's even better situated here now that I have a Mad Prophet in my pool. This pick is defensible, and I wouldn't fault anyone for taking it, and if you're taking a blue card, you should definitely take Circular Logic over Deranged Assistant. I wouldn't be surprised if Assistant was close to Logic in a vacuum, but with the Prophet already, I don't think that's close.
Garna, the Bloodflame is a powerful card meant for the aristocrats archetype, but it's also pretty cool with Mad Prophet! That said, I think all the cards mentioned previously are better pick ups at this point in the draft.
The last card to consider is Apprentice Necromancer. This card is very powerful because this format has multiple Eldrazi creatures with annihilate, so reanimating them for one attack for one mana is certainly worth a card (especially if it's Emrakul, the Aeons Torn). However, if I'm taking an instant speed reanimation spell, I'd rather take Miraculous Recovery because the creature sticks around.
So, this pick, in my opinion, is between Platinum Emperion, Miraculous Recovery, and Circular Logic. Without any experience in the format yet, it's very hard to tell which is correct. I think the best approach is to take Platinum Emperion because it's a mythic. I won't have many chances to play with the card and given that I know I can pick up reanimation spells since there's one at common, I think it's not as risky a pick as it looks!
Learning is crucial to success at the beginning of the format, so if you see a rare and you're not sure what to do, my default heuristic in the initial stages of a format is to take it.