Yikes, this pack is weak! Seekers’ Squire certainly isn’t exciting, but explore is valuable, as are 2 mana plays. Seeing a Squire in your opening hand increases your confidence that you’ll hit your land drops and have a smooth hand. It’s strong enough to go in any black deck, regardless of tribal synergies.
Honorable Mention: Jade Guardian.
When I open a bad pack, I’m slightly more likely to look towards a Merfolk card. Merfolk is the tribe that’s best able construct a good deck out of objectively weaker cards. Jade Guardian plus One With the Wind is a built-in combo that can allow you to steal games against stronger decks.
I’m not quite as high on Pirate’s Cutlass as some of my colleagues. In my opinion, Snapping Sailback and Tishana’s Wayfinder are slightly stronger cards. But I find green to be a slightly weak, and slightly narrow color, so I’m not thrilled to first-pick a green card if it’s short of spectacular. Pirate’s Cutlass excels in 3 color combinations (U/R, U/B, and R/B) and might even make your deck in something like W/B Vampires. It offers a nice intersection of helping you score easy wins when you equip something on turn 3 or 4 and it never dies, but also giving you staying power by allowing your creatures to trade up in a long game. The fact that the next best cards are all green can also be a tiebreaker in favor of avoiding a green card, although I caution against overvaluing that concept.
Honorable Mention: Snapping Sailback.
Snapping Sailback is an above-par creature in a decent tribe. Flash can allow you to ambush an attacker, and also helps the Sailback dodge sorcery-speed removal.
Explore is valuable, and most cheap creatures can’t attack into 2 or 3 power first striker. Emissary of Sunrise is another example of a card that will make the cut in your white decks, regardless of tribal synergies.
Honorable Mention: Tilonalli’s Knight.
I’m continuously impressed by Tilonalli’s Knight. Early plays are crucial, and one that hits hard and is difficult to trade with can certainly be a high pick. The Knight is a bread and butter card of one of my favorite archetypes—W/R Dinosaurs.
Territorial Hammerskull is my favorite common. It takes away the opponent’s ability to block, forcing them into a race that you’re much better equipped to win. It’s in a decent tribe, and enables your Tilonalli’s Knights and Pterodon Knights at a more affordable cost than most Dinosaurs. It’s also emblematic of exactly what I want to be doing in Ixalan Draft—attacking every turn and taking away my opponent’s ability to defend themselves.
Honorable Mention: Dark Nourishment.
I rate Dark Nourishment as about equal to the best of the common removal spells. You’re usually trading down on mana, but that’s what you sign up for with most removal spells in Ixalan. On the other hand, a few points of life gain are quite valuable in a close race, or what you stabilize with your midrange or control deck. I think it’s slightly better than Pious Interdiction, and it’s nice to take a black card knowing that several of the players downstream will be taking white cards from this pack.
Vanquisher’s Banner isn’t a bomb in every deck, because not every deck is going to be dedicated tribal. But when you start with the Banner, you can work harder to steer your draft in that direction, and you have all 4 tribes to choose from! A tremendously powerful artifact that can go in a wide variety of strategies is the ideal way to start a draft.
Honorable Mention: Ruthless Knave.
There’s a big drop in power level between Vanquisher’s Banner and the next best card, but I do like Ruthless Knave. It’s a cheap creature in a good tribe, and offers a helpful ability in a long game. You can sacrifice a creature that’s locked under a Pious Interdiction or targeted by a removal spell. You can also sacrifice the Treasures that you might be generating from other sources—like Prosperous Pirates—for extra value.