It's time to get our hands dirty with Rivals of Ixalan! I've been hearing a lot of concern about this set lately because it looks like Auras may be playable, and there's a fear that Rivals is going to be too similar to Ixalan.
First off, it's important to note that the reason why Ixalan was disliked by many was the accumulation of many things, not just that Auras were good. A tribal format mixed with low-power-level cards and anemic strategies upset a fair amount of Limited players. While Auras appear good in this format, the removal is also almost a full mana cheaper on average, which should keep Auras in check, especially because there's only one pack of the card Dive Down.
Overall, I'm hopeful that this format is everything Ixalan wanted to be. But remember, Rivals of Ixalan is not Ixalan, so let's start with a fairly clean slate, okay? Good.
Now, let's jump into a draft!
Pack 1, Pick 1
While usually at the beginning of a format I take rares just to get data on them, I just don't think Silverclad Ferocidons is going to end up being good. Seven mana is a lot, and the Enrage trigger late in the game really doesn't do all that much, as your opponent should have plenty of lands to sacrifice. An 8/5 body is going to dominate most cards in the format, but I just don't think I'm willing to pay seven mana for such an uninspiring card.
Raging Regisaur, however, is a Dinosaur that I wouldn't mind starting my draft off with. While it's a gold card, it's powerful and splashable, which is important with both Traveler's Amulet and Evolving Wilds at common. There are plenty of one-toughness threats for Reggie Jr. to take down, and even without that, a 4/4 will dominate the majority of battlefields. I think this card is likely the best in the pack, but given that it's multi-colored, I think there's a better option.
Swift Warden is a card you should always have in mind. According to the most recent Lords of Limited podcast, about half the creatures at common and uncommon in this set have two power, so a 3/3 with flash is going to do a great job at ambushing. Even without the hexproof text, this card would be a super-solid uncommon, but with it? The blowout tempo potential is huge! I'm happy to start off my draft with this card. It's important to note that while Swift Warden is at its best in Merfolk, I'll play it in every green deck, so moving forward I don't need to focus on Merfolk-synergy cards.
Pack 1, Pick 4
The Picks So Far:
This seems like a pretty solid way to start off a draft. Siren Reaver is a great threat, and both green cards also are above rate. At this point I'm keeping my eyes open for a signal that Merfolk is open, but I'm not going to pigeonhole myself into an archetype just yet. Should I see a great card that is neither blue or green, I am prepared to throw away either color I currently have.
To be honest, I think Soul of the Rapids is going to be overrated to start the format. A flying hexproof threat is nothing to scoff at, but five mana for a 3/2 body is pretty abysmal. This card seems great when ahead, but when behind it's going to just trade down. The general heuristics for creatures that cost five or more is that they should be good when behind, because if you're on the draw, that's not an unlikely scenario. Don't get me wrong, it's definitely a playable card, but it's just too inefficient to pick up this early.
Spire Winder looks to be the definition of filler. A four-mana 2/3 flier is a fair amount below rate, but at that cost a 3/4 flier is reasonably above rate. It's entirely possible that since so many of the creatures only have two power, this card is better than I think, but for now I'm fine passing on this.
So even though there are two fine blue cards and the best card in my pool is currently blue, I really don't want to just commit and not take the best card in the pack. I think Squire's Devotion is one of the best commons, and I'm happy to pick it up here. Lifelink is one of the best mechanics for any Limited deck. When ahead, you can put a game out of reach, and when behind, lifelink really helps stabilize. Auras can be risky, but at least this one comes with a token, so you don't get as blown out if met by a removal spell as long as Squire's Devotion resolves. My guess is this card is going to be best in U/W because putting it on an evasive creature is a great way to end a game, but it'll be solid in any archetype!