2. Basic Land
3. Ham Sandwich
Bonded Horncrest is the easy pick here. 5/5 is a lot, and the drawback on this kind of card is never as big as it looks. It's even less of an issue on a four-drop, as you will likely have cast something first and have an attack on Turn 5 most of the time.
Whoever gets passed this pack is going to be really sad, though. Is the next-best card Anointed Deacon, a conditionally fine five-drop? Overflowing Insight, a seven-mana "game-ender" that does nothing to immediately stabilize you? I'm just glad this isn't my problem.
Umm...can I get another pack? Are you sure this is right? None of these cards strike me as first-pick material, so I'm going to go with the three cards that I think have the most upside.
Bonded Horncrest is a big, efficient body whose downside is easy enough to mitigate in a deck that plays plenty of creatures and combat tricks, which tends to be the case in Limited. Anointed Deacon may be better than it reads due to tribal synergies, which I would look to explore early and often to learn the format, and Overflowing Insight, while expensive, is very close to reading "You win the game." The important thing to note is that I'm virtually ignoring whichever card I take here when looking at the next pack.
This pack is quite weak, but I'm not too unhappy to first-pick Bonded Horncrest. It's a big dumb Dinosaur and sometimes that's all you need! I find R/W and R/G to be the best versions of the Dinosaur deck, and it's nice to start with a Dinosaur card that can go into both.
Overflowing Insight is one fancy-shmancy Magic card. If you aren't dying after you cast this card, you'll probably win the game, but since it doesn't affect the battlefield at all, I would call it a build-around card. This card can be a house in decks trying to pump out Treasures, so I'm excited to try it out, but I wouldn't be surprised if it required too many hoops to jump through.
Anointed Deacon has gone up a lot for me. The Vampire deck has a ton of 1/1 lifelinkers lying around, and turning them into 3/1s is big game. Not happy to first-pick it, but it has a high ceiling in W/B and the rest of this pack is unexciting.
This is not the kind of pack I'd want to get passed to me right away, that's for sure.
To play a seven-mana card that has no impact on the battlefield, you need to have extremely good plays the next couple of turns, and Overflowing Insight can set you up for that. I wouldn't take Overflowing Insight over any top common or uncommon, but it's definitely the best card in this pack. With Treasure tokens in the set, playing seven-mana cards isn't too difficult, and I like the payoff this provides.
After that I'm going with the Vampires, a tribe I slept on at first but have really started to enjoy drafting. Anointed Deacon is a bomb in a Vampire tribal deck, allowing all of the 1/1 lifelink tokens to be real attackers as well as making it easy to finish the game in the air. Skyblade of the Legion is a nice filler card, there aren't many two-drop Vampires in the set, and I prefer starting with that synergy over the middling Dinosaurs in the pack.
Pack 1: Who Picked It Best?
This pack is pretty easy for me. I can't imagine Sunbird's Invocation is anything but awesome. Doubling up your spells is going to be insurmountable very quickly. Unlike in the previous pack, this slow card advantage spell repays you in mana too!
If it turns out with more experience that Sunbird's Invocation is too clunky or unreliable, I am taking Inspiring Cleric. Tempest Caller is interesting, but a four-mana 2/3 implies a card that isn't good when behind, and while tw- drops are always important, Inspiring Cleric makes up for missing on Turn 2 too much to take Fathom Fleet Firebrand over it.
This pack is a little better, but still not particularly exciting. The best removal spell, Legion's Judgment, is narrow enough that I'm not interested in taking it early, so let's look at the creatures. I like Blossom Dryad the most, since green decks will be focused on getting out large creatures, and unlike most accelerants, the 2/2 body means this one will trade reasonably often so you're not out a card later in the game.
Next I have to go with a solid two-drop, which I'll always value highly unless the format proves incredibly slow, and Fathom Fleet Firebrand has the important ability to not be blanked later in the game via Firebreathing. Finally, I'd look at Tempest Caller due to its high upside if the battlefield stalls. If the removal in the format proves poor and there are lots of combat-centric games, then this card could easily rise in the pick order, but early on I'd rather play it safer.
Tempest Caller is just so efficient at what it does. While four mana is a lot for a 2/3, I'll gladly pay that price if it gets to win me the game. This format has had a higher density of battlefield stalls than I initially expected, and Tempest Caller Cleans that up. Also, Merfolk are spectacular, so the creature type is extremely relevant.
One with the Wind may be my pet card of the set. I've already drafted a deck with four copies that played Spell Pierce and Dive Down, and it performed well. I like drafting the card and it sometimes just ends the game. Just be careful how you sequence it.
Fathom Fleet Firebrand is a two-drop with solid upside and a relevant creature type. I like taking these cards early as there isn't a limit to how many I would play.
I didn't include Sunbird's Invocation because, while it's powerful, I think it's too inefficient. It essentially reads that all your expensive spells have cascade, but if I'm casting a bunch of expensive spells, I should be in good shape, right? I like my six-drops to be good when they're the last card out of my hand.
Tempest Caller has the opportunity to be a game-winner during a late-game battlefield stall, which is why it's my first pick here, but it does come with the downside that it isn't good when you're behind. Still, U/G Merfolk is one of the strongest and most aggressive archetypes to draft, and Tempest Caller is the perfect top-end for the deck.
For the next pick I'm going with what may be a surprise to people, Sunbird's Invocation. At first glance it looks like all the other expensive red enchantment do-nothings that are in every set, but I've been pleasantly surprised with Sunbird's Invocation. You're most likely going to be behind if you spend six mana not affecting the battlefield, like mentioned with Overflowing Insight last pack, and Sunbird's Invocation is powerful enough to catch you back up in a hurry. You ideally want to cast expensive spells, such as five-mana creatures or removal, after casting the enchantment, and thankfully the format has plenty of good cards to cast. Don't write this card off! Give it a try.
Fathom Fleet Firebrand is one of the best common two-drops in the set, and therefore would be my pick over Grazing Whiptail and Legion's Judgment, the latter of which I usually relegate to the sideboard to bring in against Dinosaur decks.
Pack 2: Who Picked It Best?
Of the common removal spells, I think Contract Killing is the best. You aren't dodging the clunk factor with any of the other options, and Treasure let you do some cool stuff with future mana efficiency or fixing.
On to the higher-rarity threats, I'm just going to take Charging Monstrosaur. It, Air Elemental, and Rowdy Crew are all good, I just like throwing threats at people and just getting them dead. Crew is definitely the worst in a format without lots of ways to trade resources, but Air Elemental could be better if the format tends towards Dinosaur stalls.
So, removal or threat?
Rawr! Was there ever any doubt?
3) Rowdy Crew
Okay, I think I know what happened to all the good cards in the first pack. There are three solid removal spells and a bevy of great creatures to choose from, so narrowing it to three will be difficult. Pious Interdiction, since it's a mana cheaper and still quite versatile, is the best of the removal spells, and Charging Monstrosaur on raw rate is the best of the creatures. I'm putting Rowdy Crew in my top three as well since most Limited decks are majority creatures and lands, so it'll be a 5/5 fairly often, and even if you don't get there, a Hill Giant with some card advantage is quite good. You could reasonably order them any way you want, but I'll go Dinosaur, enchantment, Pirate.
2. Rowdy Crew
It isn't often that my top three cards in a pack are this expensive, as I tend to really prioritize efficiency when it comes to Limited, but all of these are spectacular.
Rowdy Crew can look a little scary, but it's great. Sure, you could discard your best cards, but you could also discard your worst. In general, it's a bit better than 2RR for a 3/3 with trample that draws a card, and that card is great. If it's ever a 5/5, which happens more than you would think, the card is just a bomb. I could see it being better than Monstrosaur, but the stats on that card are always stellar.
Air Elemental is and always will be a solid Limited card. It's a great addition to any deck, and it's even better in this format than usual. There are a couple of 3/4s with reach and flying and just not that many four-power creatures running around, so it does a good job of holding up the ground and clocking the opponent.
1. Rowdy Crew
Can't go wrong with picking either of the top two here, and I personally would take the mythic rare over the mythic uncommon right now, but it's really close. Charging Monstrosaur is an amazing threat in this format of smaller creatures and has the added benefit of plenty of Dinosaur synergy with red commons as well. Even with that said, I'd take Rowdy Crew, as it has the potential to be just as large and provide card advantage for one less mana. There aren't as many Pirate synergies in red as for Dinosaurs, but there are still some, and this is the type of card I'd love to use a Siren's Ruse on.
The rest of the pack is incredibly good, with a full nine cards I'd be satisfied with first- or second-pick. I'm probably going with another surprise for my third card, as I'd actually take Siren Lookout over any of the other cards, including Air Elemental, Contract Killing, and Unfriendly Fire. There is no shortage of powerful cards to pick up at five mana in the set, and I highly prioritize all of the two- and three-mana Explore creatures to make sure all of games play out smoothly.
Pack 3: Who Picked It Best?
Pack 4 (With Foil Captain Lannery Storm!)
None of the non-rares are as good as the rare options. Firecannon Blast often involves a sacrificial attack to kill larger creatures and Thundering Spineback suffers from the horrible disease of just being a seven-drop creature.
Of the rares, I think I am on the side of Captain Lannery Storm. There aren't many sweepers making Wakening Sun's Avatar more exciting, but blue and black Treasures are the best ramp and Avatar is not quite Plague Wind there. Captain Lannery Storm is at worst a 3/2 with haste for three and at best some crazy attacker-mana ramp hybrid. There are plenty of non-rares I would take instead, but I'm happy to choose her.
The clear standout from this pack is Firecannon Blast, which I imagine will end up as one of the best commons in the set, especially when paired with flying Pirates. After that it comes down to how the format plays out. Is it slow enough that Wakening Sun's Avatar and Thundering Spineback are reliably castable? Just how good is a narrow removal spell like Vanquish the Weak? Is the format fast enough that the bounce spells are good?
We're all flying mostly blind this early in the format, so I'd err toward the high-rarity cards. Captain Lannery Storm can be a great aggressive creature whose Treasures put you very far ahead on development and Wakening Sun's Avatar can win the game by itself. The other cards don't have that kind of potential.
Thundering Spineback has been an absolute house. There aren't that many removal spells that can get this gigantic Dinosaur off the battlefield, and if you untap with the card, you win at an extremely high rate.
Captain Lannery Storm is a really exciting card to me, though I'll admit I haven't played with her. A 2/2 haste for three isn't a good rate, but a 3/2 haste for three is! Now maybe this creature trades too often, in which case I'm overrating her, but an aggressively costed creature that can also ramp has to be at least pretty good, right?
Wakening Sun's Avatar seems like a pretty awesome build-around card. The reason I'm not so high on it is that I have really disliked W/G. And all the other white decks don't seem like a good home for this eight-drop. Then again, this might be the best payoff for the Dino-ramp strategy and I'd be happy to take it. It's could be better than Thundering Spineback in W/G, but eight is a lot more than seven.
Wow! This is the best Limited pack I've ever seen in this set; every single card in it, I would be happy with in my first five picks or so.
I like the two big Dinosaurs the best in the pack, and although it's close, I'd take Thundering Spineback over Wakening Sun's Avatar. Thundering Spineback is easier to cast, is in a better color overall, and brings an army along to the party. Wakening Sun's Avatar is the opposite, as it destroys your opponent's army if they aren't playing Dinosaurs, but if they are, then paying eight mana for a 7/7 isn't the best thing to do, which is why it's my second pick in the pack. Still, Wakening Sun's Avatar is incredibly good, and picking it up in Pack 1 so you can build your deck around it is exactly what you want to do.
Third pick in this pack is very difficult, and we have the two of the best common removal spells with Vanquish the Weak and Firecannon Blast, but I'm barely leaning toward Lurking Chupacabra. I mentioned before how I love the Explore cards and value them very highly, and Lurking Chupacabra brings an incredible payoff for doing what I want to do anyway. Black isn't the best Explore color, but with Ixalan being a small-creature format, which means the triggered ability will be able to kill some of your opponent's creatures, I'm willing to take Lurking Chupacabra early and build around it with cards I wanted to play anyway.
Pack 4: Who Picked It Best?