And Draft Digest is back! Given midterms and my comprehensive guide to Ixalan Limited, it's been a while. My approach to the format is still similar, so definitely check that out if you're still struggling in this format. Of note, I do think that Territorial Hammerskull edges out Bishop's Soldier at the moment, but the points made in their comparison are still very much relevant for the approach to the format.
Before we get into the packs today, I want to say that my largest takeaway from this format is: don't be afraid to switch lanes. While, yes, wavering is how a trainwreck can happen, if approached meticulously, you can avoid said trainwreck while also maximizing the deck to your seat. My archetype often is not solidified until Pack 2, and I have switched colors in Pack 3 multiple times already (all of which either ended up winning or making the finals of the draft, for what that's worth). I know it's anecdotal, but just keep it in the back of your mind.
So don't be afraid to speculate, as you never know where you might end up! Let's see if today's draft requires it.
Pack 1, Pick 3
The Picks So Far:
I am going to keep giving Unfriendly Fire as an option until the world gets it into their head that the card is mediocre. I'm not taking it here. I look to pick up this card around Pick 6 or 7, but only if I'm already red. I'll play the first copy in my red decks, but I'm rarely sad if I don't have access to the card. To put it this way, in the majority of my red decks I would prefer Sure Strike.
Mark of the Vampire has been very impressive in Ixalan Limited. Games often come down to a race, and boy does this card swing it in your favor. Between Mark of the Vampire and Duskborne Skymarcher, Mark keeps you the most open. It will be great in any black deck, and the Contract Killing could easily assist in splashing the Ixalan's Binding if necessary. And hey, if black doesn't happen to be open, the card is splashable to boot. I wouldn't fault you for taking Mark of the Vampire here, but it's not what I would do.
I have been impressed by Duskborne Skymarcher. In my estimation it is somewhere below Bishop's Soldier and above Pious Interdiction if I were to rank the cards. Both W/U and W/B can use it to spectacular effect, and it's even solid in W/R — hello, Swashbuckling. But this pick is more nuanced than comparing card-for-card power.
If I end up drafting W/B, this pick is extremely important. Mark of the Vampire is not as necessary in W/B due to an abundance of four-drops and lifelink creatures. So not only is Skymarcher substantially better than Mark there, but passing Skymarcher could easily put somebody else into W/B, where Mark of the Vampire is less likely to send such a signal.
If I end up B/R or B/U, I'll wish I had the Mark. But if I end up W/U or W/R, I'll wish I had Duskborne Skymarcher. And given that I would like to avoid W/G and B/G, I think the large difference between Mark of the Vampire and Duskborne Skymarcherer in W/B is the tie-breaker that makes me lean towards the cheap flier.
Pack 1, Pick 6
The Picks So Far:
We are set up nicely to be pretty much any shade of the Esper colors at this point. The last pack was pretty mediocre, and I took a hedge by taking Shaper Apprentice in case blue turns out to be open. While the Apprentice isn't great outside of Merfolk, there are enough tempo-based Merfolk in blue such that it can still be a fine card. And hey, if this pack has a Kumena's Speaker or River Heralds' Boon, I'll likely take it as a signal that Merfolk is open and attempt to move in. If it's not, I lose a couple of picks and, again, it's not the end of the world.
Queen's Commission is fine, but not exciting. I think picks like this are where the majority of players are misled in Ixalan. I already have some great black cards, and even a Vampire payoff card, so this Queen's Commission should solidify me into my archetype, right?
Well, I don't really think so. I have no reason to believe that Vampires is where I'm supposed to be. Maybe it is, but if I take this Queen's Commission and really commit and Vampires is not open, there's going to be a problem. The fact of the matter is I can still be Vampires if I pass this card, but I pretty much close the door to be blue if I pass the Watertrap Weaver.
Watertrap Weaver this late is a signal. All I'm missing out on is a Queen's Commission, which is just filler even in the Vampire deck (yes, it's good there, but other three-drops are better). If the next couple picks don't have blue cards, then I'll be quick to move off the color, but I would rather put myself in the best position to end up in an open color-combination. In this format, I value such hedging more than a card like Queen's Commission.