Ixalan Limited has been a tough nut to crack for so many players, and that includes myself. I’ve spent a ton of time drafting to both start testing for Pro Tour Ixalan and to help some friends test for the World Championships. After somewhere between 30 and 40 Drafts, I’m still finding it difficult to make some picks, especially early in the Draft. So let’s do some Pack 1 Pick 1s to get more familiar.
Legion’s Landing is close to a bomb in Ixalan Limited. A 1/1 lifelink for 1 isn’t a great rate, but having the ability to flip the enchantment and start pumping out 1/1 lifelinkers, as well as give you an extra mana every turn, is excellent. It’s relatively easy to flip, as the creatures are all aggressively slanted and white has cards like Queen’s Commission at common that can do the job on its own. Territorial Hammerskull will help make sure that your combat step doesn’t go too poorly as well.
In a format without many mana sinks, Legion’s Landing is a great way to start a Draft.
Honorable Mention: Drover of the Mighty
Drover of the Mighty is a phenomenal 2-drop in most green decks. Providing early mana advantage is the huge benefit that mana creatures provide, but later in the game they tend to become inefficient bodies in combat. Drover of the Mighty provides you that early mana advantage while also becoming a relevant body at 3/3 after it ramps out a 4- or a 5-drop.
The biggest downside of Drover of the Mighty is if you end up a focused Merfolk deck—this is a green card that isn’t quite at first-pick power level, but will still occasionally make your deck.
Wow, this is a weak pack. I’m not happy to first-pick a Skymarch Bloodletter, but I think it’s the best card in the pack. It’s a quality 3-drop evasive creature that I’m happy to put in decks that aren’t solely focused on Vampires.
Honorable Mention: Storm Fleet Spy
Storm Fleet Spy is a solid 3-drop that generates some value as long as you can make an attack the turn you cast it. Spy is a little undersized for a 3-drop ground creature, but swings a Pirate’s Cutlass as good as anyone else. Call to the Feast is also a reasonable pick here but as you’ll see I like to stay flexible early in Ixalan draft and make sure I pick up playables, because the packs drop off in quality fast.
Storm Fleet Spy will go in most of my blue decks as long as I have a solid mana curve of creatures to trigger raid on turn 3, but I’m not going to be happy to start a Draft with it.
While some people have had Firecannon Blast slide down their rankings, I still take it highly. It’s in red, the only color that pairs well with all of the other colors in Ixalan, and is a cheap, efficient answer to most of the creatures in the format. As a red mage, it’s your only way to kill a creature with more than 4 toughness, and that can be an issue in a world where Auras like One With the Wind and Mark of the Vampire are being more heavily played.
The downsides of Firecannon Blast are of course its double-red casting cost, and also that triggering the raid can be difficult without losing a creature in the process because red doesn’t have much evasion in Ixalan. The fact the card is a sorcery means you also can’t cast it before blockers, adding to this problem.
I still feel the flexibility of Firecannon Blast as an early pick makes up for the downsides it may have.
Honorable Mention: Deathgorge Scavenger
Deathgorge Scavenger isn’t a bomb by any means, but it’s an above-the-curve 3-drop that will attack as a 4/3 often enough and gain some life to win a race when it needs to. It’s a 3-drop that gets better as the game progresses, and worse early when there’s nothing in anyone’s graveyard.
Deathgorge Scavenger fills a slot in the mana curve of a deck like R/G Dinosaurs with a solid 3-drop, the mana slot with the weakest card quality in the color combination. I’m pretty happy playing it in all green decks that provide it value, but it doesn’t play out substantially better than Ravenous Daggertooth some of the time, so I think it would be a mistake to take it over a good common.
Lightning Strike is one of the best removal spells in the format. It’s red which, like Firecannon Blast, is a good place to start a Draft since it pairs well with any color in Ixalan, and on top of that it often trades up in mana in a format with a lot of smaller creatures up the mana curve.
Tempo is important in Ixalan Limited, so the ability to remove a creature and cast one in the same turn early can be devastating for an opponent on the back foot. Having a little reach in your deck can also go a long way alongside a card like Unfriendly Fire.
Honorable Mention: Ruin Raider
Ruin Raider is a great 3-drop Pirate that plays well in most black decks. Ruin Raider can draw you some extra cards, and your opponent is usually eager to trade off with it, even if it becomes a liability on later turns.
The downside is, in a format this fast and aggressive, the ability can become so much of a liability that you may not even be able to cast it in a race because any spell off the top of your deck can kill you. I’ll certainly still take Ruin Raider highly, but I’m not taking it over one of the best uncommons in the format.
Rampaging Ferocidon is a great 3-drop that also happens to be a Dinosaur to help with all of the “Dinosaurs-matter” cards. Attacking is crucial in this format, and Ferocidon has evasion with menace, and can often get blowouts when it is blocked with combat tricks like Sure Strike.
Both of its other abilities are upside since your opponent will usually play the first creature after you cast the Ferocidon, triggering it for loss of life first, and there are a lot of lifelink creatures in the format, so shutting off life gain can definitely swing the game against a B/W Vampires opponent.
Rampaging Ferocidon is an easy first pick for me here.
Honorable Mention: Contract Killing
There are a lot of cards that are close in power level to Contract Killing here, but I like to stay flexible early in Ixalan, and first picking removal spells is a good way to do that. Bonded Horncrest likely would have been my pick earlier in the format, but I’ve been disappointed by its inability to block effectively and how easily it can be chump blocked. My only other creature in play has fallen to a removal spell or I’ve drawn it on an empty board too often to be happy first-picking it now.
Contract Killing may be a 5-mana card, but it also gets you back 2 mana in the form of Treasure, which can give you some quality double-spell turns either the turn you cast it or the following turn. I’ve even had some success splashing some high-end bombs in decks with multiple Contract Killings and other Treasure makers, so there’s some additional upside there.
What do you think of my first picks? Would you have drafted differently? Let me know what you think in the comments!