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Drafting Zendikar Part 1: First Picks October 5, 2009

Posted by James in : all, reviews, strategy, tips, limited, draft , trackback

When drafting Zendikar, you will want to decide which colors to play mostly depending on what cards are passed to you. If the rare isn’t extremely powerful, such as a Sorin Markov, you will have to depend on the commons and uncommons, which is 99% of the time. Even if your first pick is a Soren, you need good black cards to be passed to you in order to play him. Here are my 12 favorite common and uncommon first picks found in Zendikar:

12th Place: Punishing Fire

punishing fire

A great card against Vampire decks (because of its life gain) and half-decent removal against everything else. Not exactly what I would want for a first pick, but it might be a good first pick if nothing better is around.

11th Place: Heartstabber Mosquito

heartstabber mosquito

7 Mana might be a steep price for destroying a creature, but a 2/2 flier for 4 mana isn’t that bad anyway.

10th Place: Torch Slinger

torch slinger

A weaker version of Heartstabber Mosquito, but less mana intensive.

9th Place: Arrow Volley Trap

arrow volley trap

A bit pricey for creature removal. I’ve often had it in my hand with no reason to use it, but if you ever do need it and have the mana, it can be a great card.

8th Place: Disfigure


Compatible to Nameless Inversion and Last Gasp. Very decent removal and a great inverse giant growth for combat tricks. Disfigure is the first card on this list that I would really feel is worth taking as a first pick.

7th Place: Pitfall Trap

pitfall trap

Not quite as good as Swords to Plowshares, but close enough to be worth taking right away.

6th Place: Hideous End

hideous end

Great creature removal, but the two black mana makes it significantly worse than Doom Blade.

5th Place: Journey to Nowhere

journey to nowhere

Creature removal that gets rid of anything for only 2 mana. Will often be better than Oblivion Ring since it’s cheaper to cast. This is where the Zendikar first picks start getting unusually good.

4th Place: Burst Lightning

burst lightning

Way better than Shock. Burst Lightning is worth playing in Standard. Reminds me of Flame Javelin, but it’s not quite as good.

3rd Place: Vampire Nighthawk

vampire nighthawk

Not sure why this “expert set” needs such trivial reminder text, but Vampire Nighthawk is a great card. It must be dealt with.

2nd Place: Living Tsunami

living tsunami

An Air Elemental for only four mana, and the so-called drawback will actually be a lot of help if you make sure to high-pick landfall cards.

1st Place: Marsh Casualties

marsh casualties

A possible one-sided Infest. Mash Casualties is the closest thing to an Overrun in the set. It is the perfect combat trick, and it can end up killing the opponent’s entire army for a little more than the price of Wrath of God… And your army will be perfectly fine.


Black has the most first picks, and it appears to have the best removal in the set overall. A mono black deck is also a great idea considering that the vampire theme can be viable. White and red also have a few decent removal cards.

Green is very under-represented in the first picks, but green is a decent color to draft for the mana acceleration, big creatures, and possibly for its allies. Blue appears to be severely lacking in first picks, but it might be worth playing for the cheap fliers.


1. michael - October 6, 2009

The reason for the Deathtouch reminder text is cause you can regenerate from deathtouch and they want to remind us of that fact since so much of the removal in the set can be prevented by regeneration. Regeneration matters again (see all the damage based removal and no non-regeneration clauses), which is why River Boa is a nice threat to have been reprinted.
There are a few -x/-x cards listed here which can deal with the boa, don’t you know’a…but the powers that be want creature removal to not be as effective against regenerating creatures.

Terror stops regeneration…Doom Blade doesn’t.
Wrath of God stops regeneration…Day of Judgment does not…the Magic 2011 replacement unless they decide that regeneration should not be as powerful by then.

2. alexgcuevas - October 12, 2009

I’d try to fit Shepherd of the Lost, Woodcrasher Baloth, and Trusty Machete on this list, too. Those guys are amazing. The rest of the list looks solid.

For the record, although Trust Machete is kind of bland in terms of abilities, it’s one of the cards I’m most excited about first picking. It leaves you open to all colors and will make your deck 100% of the time, being cheap, powerful, and versatile.

3. James - October 12, 2009

I like Trusty Machete. I might make a second picks list eventually with the Machete on it, but I’m not sure how many cards I left out yet.

Sometimes I’ve had a problem when there are no decent creatures being passed around. When that happens enchant creatures and equipment are even less important than usual.

4. Matt - October 14, 2009

Nice tips thanks I’ll take those into account. Vamp nighthawk has already substantially boosted my rating. However, it was blue/white with flyers and the extra turn rare land that won me the pre release. Including blue flyer that taps out their blockers.

5. mf9 - November 2, 2009

I agree with the Trusty Machete comments. This set really lacks mid-range fat. Machete turns any of your early plays into creatures that are hard to deal with. Factor in that there is not many good ways to deal with artifacts other than the two kicker guys that can destroy ‘facts. (I know there is Relic Crush but at 5 mana is not an efficient card anyway you look at it useless its crushing multiple cards.)

It is easily a first pick.

6. James - November 2, 2009

First through eighth place is pretty accurate. 9th place on is questionable. Not only is mid range lacking, but early drops are also lacking. It might be worth taking a bear before some of these other cards. If you want to play allies, a Survivalist is a perfect card. If you want to play vampires, a Lacerator can be well worth it. It is worth taking “not very good” cards early game if it is based on your strategy.

Punishing fire might also be worth giving a better score.