What’s up, kids? So we’re back in black for this fall’s exciting new Magic set, and I’ve got my list of the 10 first-pick commons in Khans of Tarkir. Now, obviously a lot of the time you’ll want to be choosing a rare or a powerful uncommon to kick off your drafts—but at other times you’ll be faced with a real turkey like Ugin’s Nexus, and you’ll need to look lower down on the rarity curve for your P1P1.

As everyone knows who drafted our most recent format, there’s no shame in taking a common first. Lightning Strike, Frost Lynx, and (holy hell) Triplicate Spirits were all awesome first picks, and honestly more drafts are probably started with those cards than any others. So it’s worth knowing—or at least speculating—which new commons are going to be our team leaders.

Before we begin, though, let’s do a quick review of my first-pick commons from M15. Did I get ’em right?

I chose the following cards:

White: Raise the Alarm and Triplicate Spirits—Both slam dunks, I think. That said, the former was somewhat mitigated by white’s popularity in M15 draft; often it wasn’t worth the risk to go into white for merely a Raise the Alarm, given how overdrafted the color tended to be.

Blue: Frost Lynx and Welkin Tern—The former definitely, while the latter proved to be a little weaker thanks to Forge Devil.

Black: Flesh to Dust and Shadowcloak Vampire—The former definitely, and the latter I think is a little underrated still. Honestly I don’t think there is a great No. 2 first pick for black, although certain of my compatriots chose Rotfeaster Maggot. I disagree, but not because R.M. isn’t a great card; rather, you just don’t ever, ever have to pick him (?) first.

Red: Lightning Strike and Generator Servant—I think I hit both of these on the head. Generator Servant > something really big on T3 was one of the definining sequences of the format.

Green: Elvish Mystic and Living Totem—The former is fine, albeit somewhat unexciting; and the latter is my biggest miss of the format, I think; Netcaster Spider definitely should have been the pick.

Colorless: Will-Forged Golem—I think I was right about this, however—weirdly enough—I feel like I rarely started a draft with the 4/4.

Final score: I’m going to call this list an 8.5/11, with full minus marks for Shadowcloak Vampire and Living Totem, and a half-minus for Will-Forged.

Not bad! Without further adieu, here are my picks for 10 first-pick commons for Khans of Tarkir:


I might be going out on a limb here, but this spell (a reprint, from I forget where; I can’t check because I’m writing you aboard a Wi-Fi-bereft plane bound for Singapore) to me seems very versatile and reasonably costed, in addition to playing nicely with prowess. Now, of course you probably would prefer a Frost Lynx in this spot, but cantrip + prowess I think will enable some Frost Lynx-esque turns, wherein—while you might not be adding permanent P/T to the board—you will be temporarily boosting the stats of a prowess creature you have on the board, in addition to drawing yourself towards more creatures or Crippling Chills. It’s a tempo game, to be sure, but tempo is a real strategy, especially with enablers like this one.

U Mystic

This guy just seems all-around solid. Similar in some ways to our recently departed M15 pal Amphin Pathmage, I think you could create a formidable force of natively unblockable three-power dudes—normally not a cheap ability, as the 4U retail rate on Mystic demonstrates—without having to worry about curve considerations, thanks to the option to play this guy (and all his monk brethren) on turn three as a 2/2, and then unmorph ‘em one by one at your convenience.

B Debilitating Injury

My choices for black are a little boring, but that’s oftentimes the case for the color, traditionally one of the richest in removal. While it’s sadly not an instant like Disfigure, Debilitating Injury here is cheap and efficient, and is likely one of the best ways to snap off a morph card before it can become something more threatening.

B Throttle

And here we’ve got a functional reprint of Lash of the Whip, from Theros block. While never super exciting in that format—Gray Merchant of Asphodel was always the higher pick—the rate is good, and I think we’re going to get a lot more value out of Throttle here in, um, Mongolia, as we’re not playing battlecruiser Magic like we were in Greece. Unfortunately because of the way morph’s rules work (unmorphing something doesn’t use the stack, so you can’t respond to it), you’re not going to be able to get your opponent in response to their paying an unmorph cost, but either way -4/-4 is almost alwasy going to get the job done.

R Arrow

This was a bit of a tough pick, because red has some very good cards, and a lot of kill conditions. The reason why I went with Arrow Storm—sorcery speed and double-red casting cost (a liability in a set that’s pushing you towards playing three colors) notwithstanding—is simple: You know how sometimes you want a Lava Axe in your deck, but you just can’t justify including it over another card that actually *does* something other than reduce your opponent from five to zero life? Well, Arrow Storm does both, killing a creature probably 75 percent of the time, and the other 25 percent just going to the dome for lethal! What’s more, I reckon that if you are playing red cards you are almost always going to be able to trigger raid—even if it’s just by throwing away an attacker that’s long been useless—so I wouldn’t even consider four damage as being an option on this card. Five mana for five damage to a creature or player is great.

R Mardu

I’m really excited by Mardu Warshrieker. He’s in the Mardu clan (RWB), which is all about aggression, and so I think him topping your attack-early-and-often curve is going to be backbreaking, when you get in for damage on T4, play this Hill Giant and then jam *another* three-drop. That’s just going to be a ton of P/T coming out your opponent on T5.

G Savage Punch

First of all, best art in the set. One of Magic’s finance-watchers said that you should pick up foils of this, simply because it’s a picture of a guy punching a goddamn bear. At any rate, while I wish this was instant speed—for flavor as well as power reasons; who ever heard of calming strolling up to a bear and giving him ample notice before a right hook?—the fact that it’s not makes me think that it’s very powerful. Ferocious seems like it will be a bit harder to trigger than raid, so I wouldn’t count on the extra +2/+2 all of the time—but, in general, you’re going to be in green, which naturally has the bigger dudes anyway, meaning your fight will work most of the time. And I really love the cheap rate, allowing you to play this on T4 alongside maybe a Grizzly Bear, too (not the one you are punching).

G Woolly Loxodon

Did I mention big green creatures? This guy is the biggest. Having massive P/T in your deck like that which is provided by Loxodon Corleone always feels great (Alpha Tyrannax, anyone?)—but the only problem is that you can’t afford to junk up your curve with too many seven-drops. But, as before with Mystic of the Hidden Way, now you don’t have to! You can put this in your deck as a totally serviceable 2/2 for three and, when it’s time to start smashing, unmorph (or it is morph? I think techinically it’s unmorph, although I think that approximately 100 percent of non-Wizards-employed Magic players say it the way I just did) this guy and get to work on your opponent’s board. At that point, he’s basically The Abyss, and once their side of the table is clear, he kills quick.

W Kill Shot

Our final color is white. I had a lot of trouble choosing my white cards, mostly because I feel like outlast is too clunky and slow to be really good: You’re tell me I have to play a guy on T3, spend some part of my turn on T4 tapping him to add a +1/+1 counter, and then only on T5 can I really start getting in? That just seems dangerously durdly to me. Now, I will say that it’s rare that Wizards would make a marquee mechanic for a big fall set terrible, and I reckon that the synergy between outlast cards—in which a static ability from one outlast guy grants extra abilities to creatures who already have +1/+1 counters on them, by whatever means—will make the stategy playable and likely good. But, moving in on that synergistic strategy from pack one, pick one seems questionable to me. I dunno, maybe I’m just gun-shy on the color since the White Rush of the summer of ’14.

All that preamble aside, consider Kill Shot: It kills stuff, it’s instant-speed, it can go in a variety of decks, it’s more reasonably costed than white usually gets this effect for (sans the “blocking creature” clause, a la Divine Verdict), and for those reasons I think it will make a fine first pick.

W Mardu

Now this guy I am excited about: Three power and four toughness, spread across two bodies, for just three mana? Sign me up. As I said early, I think you are almost always going to be able to trigger raid at a relatively low opportunity cost—but, even if you don’t, this human warrior (another plus, as Khans has a minor warrior tribal sub-theme) is a totally unembarrasing 2/3 for three. Get in there, Mardu Hordechief.

That does for our first-pick commons in all the colors—however, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the following cycle:


As Mark Rosewater has often said regarding Magic set design, if your theme (i.e., wedge colors) isn’t in evidence common, it’s not your theme—and so we get this clutch of clan-aligned six-mana commons: all powerful and splashy, but all firmly in three colors, which in Limited formats past has made them somewhat risky first picks.

Now, of course, we have morph, meaning that the worst-case scenario is that you take one of these guys first, then get boxed out of that clan or those colors, and you have to either A) ditch the pick, which is a totally respectable and in fact admirable thing to do when it comes to drafting; or B) just play it as a Grey Ogre (aka a 2/2 for three). The latter is not the best thing to do, but it does mean that first-picking one of these five cards won’t ever be a total waste; and so, with that in mind, it might be worth it to move in on these guys earlier rather than later. Me, I’m going to (at least initially) default toward shying away from early gold picks, rather waiting to follow the draft and see what clans or colors are open, but I wouldn’t at all fault you for trying to Ponyback Brigade it up—that card’s hilarious!—right out of the gates. (Get it?)

That’s all we got, kids! Would love to hear what you think of my picks—and, most importantly, good luck this weekend at the Khans of Tarkir prerelease! I’m going to try to play at a shop called Games Haven in Singapore, but work commitments (not to mention massive and disorienting jet lag; the Lion City is 12 hours ahead of Eastern time) may keep me from doing so. If I’m not able to play, that probably means that my first chance with Khans cards will be two weekend from now, at Grand Prix Orlando!

23/17 is a Hipsters of the Coast column focused on Limited play—primarily draft and sealed, but also cubing, 2HG, and anything else we can come up with. The name refers to the “Golden Ratio” of a Limited deck: 23 spells and 17 lands. Follow Hunter at @hrslaton.

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