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Top 10 First Picks for Dark Ascension Draft (Tips & Strategy) January 24, 2012

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

(Updated 2/27/2011)

Dark Ascension can be drafted alone or with two booster packs of Innistrad. Keep in mind that Dark Ascension will be the first pack you draft, so it’s a good idea to know what you want to “shoot for” when you start drafting Dark Ascension with Innistrad. The cards in this list are the cards that I think are (a) powerful, (b) worth drafting early, and are (c) common or uncommon. Rares are often the first pick, but you should be more familiar with the commons and uncommons since you will see a lot of them.

I usually don’t want to commit to more than one color early on, but I don’t think Dark Ascension leaves us with a choice because many of the two colored cards are so powerful. (The two colored cards I speak of are actually cards that require a second color to play flashback.)

1. Secrets of the Dead

secrets of the dead

Secrets of the Dead is now my favorite card of the set. You can draft a great blue/green, blue/red, or blue/black deck with tons of flashback cards. One of these and you can draw your entire deck very quickly.

2. Lingering Souls

lingering souls

Lingering Souls gives you up to four 1/1 flying Spirit tokens. That’s a lot of chump blockers or attackers with evasion. White/black has no central theme, but you can try to get a human or spirit theme. This card makes spirits good, and Village Cannibals makes humans good.

3. Tracker’s Instincts

tracker's instincts

I think blue/green (Simic) is the best color combination in Innistrad, and Tracker’s Instincts is number one because it’s one of the best reasons to commit yourself to that color combination in your Dark Ascension pack. If you are drafting triple Dark Ascension, then it will be significantly less powerful, but it will still be quite good. If you draft this card, you’ll probably want a lot of other creatures in your deck in preparation for Spider Spawning and friends.

4. Fires of Undeath

fires of undeath

Fires of Undeath is a potential two-for-one, and it’s probably the best removal spell in the entire set. Keep in mind that red/black is the color combination for the Vampire theme.

5. Faithless Looting

faithless looting

Red/blue has become a much more viable color combination to build around with this, Mystic Retrieval, and other flashback cards. Faithless looking can give you up to a 4-for-1 when you use it and discard cards with flashback and/or lands you don’t need.

6. Burning Oil

burning oil

Burning Oil is also a potential two-for-one, but the opponent will be able to prepare for it after you use it the first time. Red/white has no central theme, but keep in mind that Rally the Peasants is in Innistrad, so you might want a lot of evasion or token creatures that can get pumped.

7. Briarpack Alpha

briarpack alpha

Briarbark Alpha is a wonderful surprise and can devastate an opponent’s attack.

8. Strangleroot Geist

strangleroot geist

The most important addition of Dark Ascension is the “undying” mechanic, and Strangleroot Geist is the most powerful common or uncommon with undying. This ability is great for at least one reason just about everything else on my list is great — because they can give you a two-for-one. Card advantage is very important.

9. Forge Devil

forge devil

Forge Devil lets you ping a creature right away. It reminds me of Icatian Javelineers. It will probably even be played in Standard. The main weakness is that it has to target a creature, so it has to kill itself if no other creatures are in play.

10. Tragic Slip

tragic slip

Tragic slip is one of the best removal cards in the set. It won’t always kill what you want, but it can kill just about anything you can chump block; and it will often be much better than that.

What about werewolves?

Although there are no werewolves on this list, I think werewolves are an underrated theme in draft, and you should plan ahead if you want to give them a chance. Strangleroot Geist, Briarpack Alpha, and Forge Devil are all cards worth taking early if you want to commit to werewolves despite the fact that they aren’t werewolves. (Commit to red and green if you want to play werewolves.)

What about zombies?

I have never had good luck with zombies, but it is possible to make a blue/black zombie deck. Reap the Seagraf is decent and should be taken if you want to shoot for a zombie deck.

What about…?

I don’t know if there’s any reason to play green/black; but white/blue, and white/green are all potentially good color combinations in Innistrad. Dark Ascension gives you no special reason to play these colors, but you can plan ahead to play them. Green/white humans are good, and blue/white has Feeling of Dead.
Updated 2/27/21: I took Grim Flowering and  Stormbound Geist off the list. I added Secrets of the Dead and Faithless Looting to the list.


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1. Some random dude - January 24, 2012

This is a Crap list. You should consider making a new one. Forge devil deals damage to you and you get to do one dam. to a creature? Not cool.Stormbound Geist is crap 3 for 2/2 that cant block anything but flying too expensive maybe if it cost one mana. Tragic slip could be replaced by chant of the skifsang. Fires of Undeath for three mana, again to expensive for 2 damage stick with the rule one mana one damage. Those are the cards I would remove from the list. hanvengul ruinbinder would be another suggestion but if your looking for commons and not rare.shriekgeist has two abilities flying and library discard.Thought scour is one mana for library discard and you get to draw a card.

2. James - January 25, 2012

Some random dude,

You are right that few of the cards on this list are very impressive in isolation, but I’m not impressed by Shriekgest, Skifsan, or Thought Scour. I doubt any of those cards will get you closer to winning the game than the cards on my list, but I realize that they can be useful.

Dark Ascension does have some decent mill cards (library discard), and I might underestimate such a strategy.

3. 12 pack - January 30, 2012

Instincts is ridic.
burning oil is ridic.
good set for draft and sealed.
that is all.

4. awesomeandy - February 3, 2012

i like this list and i myself in the pre-relese remember wishing i had some of the very same cards. some random dude is survierly underestemating fires of death and the like, actually if i draft da/inn i will load up on as many of these and geis flames as i can for early bord advantage and tragic slip for later game, and this is a good idea since many relevent ceatures are 1-2 toughness (to start at least). and btw stormbound geist.. probably the best flyer in the set at common level (maybe uncommon too)

5. Dustin - February 10, 2012

Some Random Dude is obviously not a good player.

Forge Devil is INSANELY good. Taking 1 damage to make a 1/1 and deal 1 is GREAT. Gutshot only deals 1 damage (no creature) and good players will quite often take 2 damage to play it without blinking an eyelash. Losing 1 life to get rid of a Delver / Champion of the Parish / Stromkirk Noble / Reckless Waif is a hell of a bargain, and adding a chump blocker to the deal is gravy.

Stormbound Geist is NOT just a “2/2 for 3 that can’t block” - it’s a 2/2 for 3 WITH FLYING (which is already a pretty good deal) that BECOMES A 3/3 when it dies! In that sense it’s TWO fliers for 3 mana, so who cares if it can’t block? I’m actually surprised this card isn’t HIGHER on the list.

This seems like the kind of guy who will play much worse cards to avoid taking a 1 or 2 damage hit, and more than likely loses at least 75% of his matches. Some of these players need to learn that your life is a resource, no different than your mana. Yes, spending less is favorable… but when adding a bit to your cost helps you win faster? Go for it!

6. Dustin - February 10, 2012

…the only ones I disagree with are Grim Flowering and Hunters Insight, because I don’t think green/blue self mill is quite as viable with DKA in the mix as it was in triple Innistrad, but people still draft it as if it is (meaning, a lot of people will be trying to draft that) and I don’t think there’s enough to support it that 2 or 3 players can get away with doing it in a draft, so unless I hit something utterly BROKEN for that mechanic (i.e. a Splinterfright) I’m staying out of that mechanic. I would also consider something like Beguiler of Wills a really high pick, given the serious defecite in removal in these sets - I’ve seen her win A LOT of games.

7. James - February 10, 2012


I forced blue/green Spider Spawning in my only draft and went 2-1. I probably shouldn’t have forced it, but I did okay. I certainly might not play it if a lot of people are, but that is not the case in my area.

What would you replace these two cards with? I also like the lords/captains that help vampires, spirits, and werewolves.

Beguiler of Wills is a rare, so it doesn’t qualify on this list.

Splinterfright is in Innistrad, so you wouldn’t be able to make a blue/green deck at all. You shouldn’t open that until the second pack.