It's Pastels for Summer!
Öhowever, I really feel like this set has done some serious things to draft. Rather than taking the detailed list and going down it, I prefer to take a broader view of the set. Letís start with some of the predominant themes that exist in MD5 draft:
1) No good/solid common Shatter-effects
While red did receive Rain of Rust, the complete lack of efficient common spells that can destroy an artifact helps to put a considerably higher value on two things. First, again, spells like Shatter and Deconstruct gain an even higher value in the first pack, along with Echoing Ruin during Darksteel; this is the obvious point. What is perhaps the less obvious point is that cards such as Skeleton or Granite Shard become considerably more difficult to deal with, and should perhaps be drafted more highly as a result.
The exception to this deficiency in the colors is, oddly enough, white with its addition of Stasis Cocoon. This isnít an absolute answer to a good deal of problems, but it can be used to deal with Shards or artifact creatures, along with an eventual solution to troublesome equipment. The versatility of this card actually helps to bring white up considerably in value, but (as weíll get to shortly) that just isnít enough of an impact.
2) Sunburst isnít everything
Skyreach Manta and Suntouched Myr have a lot of people jumping around and wanting to play nothing but five-color green, thinking that itís really the only deck left; this really couldnít be further from the truth, however. Thereís plenty of room for powerful one and two-color decks left in this environment, especially if one drafts smart early. The lack of overall power in the last packs makes it so that people are less likely to grab colored cards in the last pack, favoring the many options they have among the common equipment and creatures; this favors certain decks, such as B/x or U/x non-affinity-dependent strategies.
This isnít to say that the three-or-more color decks are mediocre or bad; itís simply that you donít need to force yourself into that third color every time you draft. If youíve managed to draft a strong white deck with a light splash and more than one Razor Golem, then run with it.
3) Slow it down, brothaí
With the new lack of efficient creatures or powerful common spells (with the exception of Cranial Plating), the environment has slowed down a lot. My view of the third set is that, with the exception of a few cards, much of what youíre going to be able to draft are support cards for the rest of your draft.
Why is this? Many of the cards that you assume to be near (or above) commons in power level actually appear in the uncommon slot. This includes cards such as Tel-Jilad Justice, Magma Jet, Devour in Shadow, and a host of other cards. The cards that are powerful enough to be considered staples in the common slot are placed as uncommons, making it considerably more difficult to round out the power of your deck after the first pick or two, as far as colored cards are concerned.
Whatís left in the common slots aside from Sunburst cards? Stand Firm, Lose Hope, Fill with Fright, Ferocious Charge, cards that are nice, but youíd rather look for a number of other creatures instead. In fact, with only few exceptions, there really arenít a large number of great creatures available in the colored slot of packs.
Those exceptions bring us toÖ
4) Black is beautiful
Six of the seven black commons are easily playable in any deck with black in it; personally, Iím a big fan of Fill with Fright and Lose Hope. The best common, however, is probably Blind Creeper; if you can follow up a turn two Creeper with another three-power creature on the next turn and a removal spell of any kind after that, youíre way ahead of the curve on most decks. The uncommons such as Devour in Shadow and Nightís Whisper are both fine picks as well, along with the Nim Grotesque.
The key here, though, isnít only in the 5D pack. Black is the only color to have solid picks in all three sets of packs, from Mirrodin on up. Each of the other colors has a pack (or two) where itís just thin on power; an example of this might be white in Darksteel, where Razor Golem is the only really solid common pick for decks with Plains.
What partners up well with the black cards? Strangely enough, green might be a new contender to partner up with black, whereas before that was possibly my least favorite combination of colors. This gives black access to artifact removal while providing plenty of solid creatures and combat tricks to supplement the black removal you already have.
The best partner, though, is probably red or blue, with red again giving additional artifact destruction along with burn, and blue just putting evasion creatures to the forefront. Anything with black tends to be a very aggressive deck, with Blind Creeper and Dross Golem providing much of the early game, so punching through with evasion or burn to finish off an opponent is pretty much optimal.
5) Uncommon choices
Finally, Iíd like to comment on some of my other favorite choices for uncommons in the set:
This card is practically unfair when you pair it with a Spire Golem or a Dross Golem, and it can be even more devastating with a Baton of Courage or an Infused Arrows. Iíll pretty happily first-pick this as long as I have a decent stable of artifact creatures, and even if I donít Iíll still consider picking it up just to see what other cards I end up picking up later in the pack. Amazing.
Okay, this is amazing in draftÖbut, personally, I just canít wait to play 1.x again so I can include some of these in Aluren; that just seems like a ridiculous set of circumstances. This is another solid first-pick again, but mostly itís the potential impact of this card on constructed that draws much of my attention, especially if Ironworks doesnít manage to completely overwhelm Standard.
This is just a ridiculously solid card, something that you should be happy drafting for any deck that youíre putting together. Itís one of the cards that turns this from a slowed environment and speeds it up until it forces an opponent to answer it or die. Equipping this on a Cub means the game ends within about four turns unless itís destroyed.
This is my favorite reprint in the new set, providing an incredibly disruptive force in both the early game and the late game. With the banning of Skullclamp giving control decks a little room to breathe, I eventually expect to see Barrier making its way back into the metagame, tapping down lands on turn two against Affinity or Talismans against Big Red. I need to go dig through my binder and find my Legends versions of theseÖ
Thatís all for now. Weíll see what we come up with for next week; donít forget to use your Ďclamps for the next two weeks. After that, itís a whole new ballgame.
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