Limited players get short shrift during spoiler season. Naturally, Wizards wants to hype a new set with all its flashiest mythics and rares, and so—with the exception of a handful of cards spoiled by Limited Resources’ Marshall on the Mothership, and elsewhere—we Limited junkies have to wait until the full card image gallery is released before we get a sense of the contours of the set that *we* will be playing with in our 40-card sealed and draft decks.

One good thing that does, though, is make it feel like spoiler Christmas morning on the day that the full card image gallery drops. Last week when that happened I eagerly combed through the gallery, skipping over the mythics and rares (been there, done that) in favor of those sweet silver- and black-symboled cards, the bread and butter of Limited players the world over: uncommons and commons.

Today I wanted to quickly talk about my picks for Fate Reforged’s top commons. Uncommons are of course powerful and important in a Limited format—but, as you know, you can often go drafts and drafts without seeing X uncommon, especially when the set only represents a single pack in the draft. Furthermore, I find uncommons somewhat easier to evaluate, given that Wizards has more leeway to do more powerful things with them.

With commons, the lines are much finer. As a result, it’s even more important to be able to evaluate them accurately, so that you can jump quick off the blocks in a new format. With that in mind, what follows are my picks for the top 13 commons (you’ll see why that odd number) for Fate Reforged.


This is pretty much the perfect card for a Jeskai prowess deck, and is totally fine in an aggro Mardu deck, as well. In both, it does something you want to do: get a blocker out of the way early and for cheap, with no card disadvantage. At its very worst, Pressure Point cycles for two mana, saving you some damage on a turn. That’s a pretty low floor for a card that, in multiples, could result in some sick and self-perpetuating combo-ish kills.

en_ebf2g2jbkmWhile not a strictly better Mardu Hordechief, Sandsteppe Outcast does some work better than that Khans mainstay—and it doesn’t even require raid to do it. On its first mode this guy is a 3/2 beater for 2W, totally a fine rate, and on its second mode it can still trade with a morph on the ground while giving you one evasive power in the air. Worth noting, too, is that this card is a warrior—though whether BW Warriors remains as strong as it was in Khans remains to be seen, now that we have one less pack of Chiefs of the Edge and Scale, Raiders’ Spoils, and (somewhat less so) Rush of Battle.

en_zx9p9f6dojThis card is an odd bird—er, monk. While not strictly powerful on its own—at its best, it’s probably going to trade with a morph in combo with an instant-speed trick—it is going to fuel delve strategies, shoring up the early board with a chump (or double) block, with no loss of card advantage when it hits the bin. I honestly think this might be better in Sultai than Jeskai; it’s basically the best card that says “2 mana: cycle” ever. I think in Khans we were always looking for ways to draw cards here and there, and this is a (mildly) board-impacting way to keep the chain going.

en_z1n6xqyhn7Frost Breath with delve, huh? Sign me up. I’m not sure this is actually going to be that great in the clan colors associated with this mechanic, given that Sultai is generally attacking along a different axis—but I think that in Temur this is going to be a back-breaking card, allowing you to smash in with some of your big 4- and 5-power beaters while negating an opponent’s best blockers for two turns. Also, compare this to Waterwhirl, which was a playable and powerful card in certain circumstances. For the decks that want it, this is kind of strictly better: Often you’ll be able to cast it for cheaper, and both of those creatures will not be a going concern for longer.

en_5ruuf562xqI had a hard time choosing black’s best commons, but I think this guy makes the grade. While not spectacular in either mode—he’s either a fine 2/3 for three or he finishes off an opponent’s creature at the cost of, say, your worst creature—I think he is flexible enough that he’s going to be good. Maybe not a super-high pick, but in a Mardu strategy, where you have a lot of 1/1 tokens and such, this guy is going to be able to pick off what your opponent thinks is a “free” token meal.

en_n6fn39cm9cThis zombie *warrior* is similar to Jeskai Sage in a lot of ways: He, too, fuels delve, saves you some damage, and kind of ends up being three power (and maybe more) worth of creature for two mana. I think he’s probably only going to see play in his namesake guild, but there I think he will shine. In Mardu or BW Warriors he’s less impressive—but, either way, played on-curve he’s usually going to result in a 2/2 morph-ish card on T3, which is kind of the gold standard for this format.

en_pjnosjnisjThis is a very efficient card, in all the ways a card can be: It costs a lone red mana, it’s an instant … it’s basically a Lightning Bolt! Red and white decks often have a lot of superfluous 1/1 tokens floating around, which quickly get outclassed unless you are just killing your opponent with them + a mass pump spell like Trumpet Blast. I for one will be happy to have something relevant to do with, say, that one Hordeling Outburst-ed token that gets blocked/eaten on a multi-creature attack—a common scenario—and the flexibility to flip a removal spell from your opponent on its head is also valuable.

en_f1s2v8hs90I have a confession to make: I am a reformed Valley Dasher addict. I’ve played too many of that useless card, and honestly it’s been one of my hardest habits to break in Khans. Mardu Scout is almost a strict upgrade on Dasher, given that (if your mana is right, which of course isn’t a sure thing in this gold set) you can cast him on T2 for even *more* damage and then bring him back to your hand at the end of the turn, instead of throwing him away into your opponent’s 2/3 on the following turn. Or you can just cast him honestly on T2, and have a 3/1! The difference between 1 and 2 toughness in this set is kind of meaningless, and that’s why I think they made this guy a little harder to cast at RR.

en_jl35u6zharGreen’s commons were very hard to pick, as I don’t think the color has very many laudable cards at that rarity at all. Hunt the Weak, a reprint, costs a lot, is sorcery-speed, and it isn’t guaranteed that your creature is surviving the battle. That said, in a morph-on-morph face-off, Hunt the Weak will win the day: If you are on the play and you and your opponent both cast a morph on T3, this is the trump card, allowing you to kill your opponent’s morph and crash in for three damage, leaving you with a permanently upgraded creature. God forbid you play this on a morphed Abzan Guide, which you later flip up and combine with Aniok Bond-Kin or something for max lulz.

en_qgg22nyaysNow here is a card I am a little excited about. Granted, in most decks it’s not going to grant you a significant speed advantage in the early game (as it would have if it came down on T1, allowing you to cast a morph on T2), but there is a lot to do with your mana in the late game on Tarkir, and anything that can ramp you to five and six mana is valuable, allowing you to turn your trump-card morphs up earlier than your opponent—and the ferocious kicker is just crazy gravy. Imagine a not-at-all-unfathomable sequence of T2 Whisperer of the Wilds into T4 Alpine Grizzly plus a land drop: That will allow you to poop out a 4/2 plus a morph on T4, kind of like the similarly backbreaking Mardu Warshrieker > combo play in Khans. It’s too bad her toughness is 2, basically making her useless as a blocker, but you can’t have it all.

en_rlz42ff7hvThis is where my 13 best commons in Fate Reforged comes in. Ethereal Ambush is part of a five-card, enemy-colored cycle, three of which I’ll be talking about here. I *won’t* be talking about the Boros and Izzet cards in the cycle, the former of which is fine but not, I think, first-pickable (and ultimately mostly replaceable in the form of Rush of Battle or Trumpet Blast), and the latter of which is actually kind of not good; it just doesn’t do enough, cycling or no, for the mana cost. But Ethereal Ambush is just that: an ambush. It’s four power at instant-speed on T5, and chances are one of the two cards you manifest you’ll be able to turn up later for it’s mana or morph cost. It’s not a backbreaking card by any means, but it’s just very efficient for its mana cost, and (at its best) a built-in two-for-one.

en_4mv9sjfp1jWhat a cool card! I love the design, first of all, and I the effect is very powerful: It suddenly turns your Archers’ Parapets (already a very good card in a grindy Golgari or Sultai build) into killing machines. This is just very efficient removal, and doesn’t require a setup cost much beyond what you already want to be doing in these colors. Doran, the Siege Tower lives!

en_k9ybi2g1oyAnd here we come to the end. Harsh Sustenance is super strong. Sure, sometimes you’ll only have one creature out and it won’t do anything, but you were probably already losing that game, anyway. But in any respectable BW Warriors, Mardu, or Abzan build, this card is a gamebreaker. Remember those board stalls that would happen in Abzan mirrors, where both you and your opponent just keep adding creatures to the board? This ends that. It can kill creatures, go to the dome, and it gains you life to boot. It reminds me of that one time in Gatecrash when I 20’d Kadar “Gruul Ragebeast” Brock in a board stall that had originated from the interaction between his Guardian of the Gateless and my Assemble the Legion. Finally I drew Massive Raid, and that was game.

Good luck at your prereleases, everyone! Let me know what you think of my evaluations, and how these cards (and others) work out for you!

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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