Hello again! I’m right back to making choices for What’s the Pick? Pack 1 Pick 1. Let’s begin.
The way I see it, you can go two ways here. You can start your Draft off with debatably the best common in the set in Territorial Hammerskull, or a solid Merfolk card.
Hammerskull makes leaving blockers back a challenging task for the opponent. When they finally muster up enough blockers, that’s the time a nice, efficient combat trick can usually turn into a game-breaking combat.
Honorable Mention: Vineshaper Mystic
After Territorial Hammerskull, the pack drops off in quality down to two Merfolk cards. This is a closer pick, because the dream Merfolk decks consist of Jade Guardians and One With the Winds, but Vineshaper Mystic is a better card than Jade Guardian absent that combo. So the question is whether you want to embrace the variance and hope you pick up a couple of One With the Winds or do you want to focus on a more “fair” build of Merfolk in which Vineshaper Mystic is a better card. This early, I’d prefer to take the Vineshaper Mystic, as there will likely be more opportunities to pick up Jade Guardians if the archetype is open.
Vineshaper Mystic can set up profitable combats in the middle turns, and is a nice curve out after a 2-drop Merfolk like Shaper Apprentice or Deeproot Warrior, while Jade Guardian can get a bit clunky when it’s not flying through the air. Let’s play it safe and stick with the lower curve creature.
This is a pretty easy pick here. Walk the Plank is a nice, efficient removal spell that kills most creatures in the format for 2 mana.
It is a little worse than it looks, because there are a few times it will be such a weak card against an opponent that you have to remove it from your deck entirely. But even against some Merfolk decks, there are enough targets that it’s still a fine card, and in all of the other situations it’s just one of the best cards in your deck. I’m happy starting a Draft off with a Walk the Plank.
Honorable Mention: Firecannon Blast
I like taking removal early so that you can use later picks on cards that are more focused on your specific archetype. If I take a Firecannon Blast early, I can then pass on one later when another card may be better in my specific deck, rather than play a guessing game about whether I end up a red Pirate deck or a red Dinosaur deck.
Dreamcaller Siren isn’t a broken rare, but it’s a good one. Dreamcaller Siren can set up good combats, tapping down a couple of blockers or saving some damage in a race by tapping down two potential attackers at instant speed. It is also bigger than most flying creatures in the format, and can occasionally swoop down and pick off an attacking Siren Lookout or Skymarch Bloodletter.
It’s just a good rate for a creature at 3/3 flying for 4 mana, and I’d play it with little-to-no Pirates in my deck as well. This makes it similar to Pirate’s Cutlass in that it’s often good with or without Pirates in your deck.
Honorable Mention: Pirate’s Cutlass
Pirate’s Cutlass and Air Elemental are pretty close, but at this point in time I’d rather start my Draft off with the more flexible card. It doesn’t need many Pirates to be great, and when you take it early you can make sure that you pick up a couple if you end up in black, red, or blue, while Air Elemental is a solid 5-mana top-end finisher that’s specific to only blue. Let’s just stay open and take the Cutlass.
Repeating Barrage is quite the potent removal spell. While the ability to come back seems expensive, I can’t stress enough how good a quality mana sink is. There are times you’ll have extra Treasure floating around, or the game drags on long enough to make an attack to trade and bring it back. If you bring back Repeating Barrage even once it’s a great card, and if it’s only cast once it’s still a Firecannon Blast that can target a player.
Honorable Mention: Kitesail Freebooter
Kitesail Freebooter, Glorifier of Dusk, and Emissary of Sunrise are all pretty solid uncommons, but I prefer taking the cheaper option in Kitesail Freebooter, a card I’m happy with in every black deck.
Good 2-drops are tough to get and are extremely important in a format this aggressive, and it’s relevant that Kitesail Freebooter is a great play before a Pirate’s Cutlass, or to suit up with a Mark of the Vampire after picking off the opponent’s only removal spell in hand and knowing the coast is clear.
Vanquisher’s Banner is just a bomb in a focused tribal deck, and when it’s pick 1 pack 1, you can easily focus on a tribe and draft around this great rare. I’ve had the most success drafting this card in Pirates because cheaper creatures will allow you to cast more spells in a turn to draw more cards, while also gaining the most from the +1/+1 boost. Drafting Pirates also allows you to shift between three colors and be a bit more flexible in your Draft than if you were Vampires or Merfolk.
All that said, Vanquisher’s Banner is an excellent first pick, while later in the Draft it’s much worse in an unfocused deck.
Honorable Mention: Territorial Hammerskull
Tell me what you would have done. Would you have made the same picks? What would you have done differently? I’m all ears!