Last week, we cracked a bunch of Fate Reforged packs to determine our first pick… assuming that our rares weren’t playable. William Jensen did another of his (hint: he took the rare). Let’s run it back!

Pack 1

Commons (10)
Lotus Path Djinn
Mardu Scout
Grim Contest
Pressure Point
Aven Skirmisher
Hooded Assassin
Hunt the Weak
Fierce Invocation
Temur Runemark
Tasigur’s Cruelty

Land (1)
Thornwood Walls

Uncommons (3)
Marang River Prowler
Break Through the Line
Channel Harm

Rare (1)
Frontier Siege

Frontier Siege is not a rare I’d expect to first pick. Yes, Whisperer of the Wilds is green’s best common, but acceleration in the early game is much more important in the late game, and the siege has the least-usable Dragon modes. I’m looking past the rare this time.

At uncommon, Channel Harm is a powerful, often game-winning effect. However, it’s a late-game card and one that works best when one is behind. I’ll come back to it, but I think we can do better. I’m not a huge fan of Marang River Prowler, which I find surprising, since it’s more aggressive than the excellent Mystic of the Hidden Way. However, I like having the option to block with my creatures.

At common, Temur Runemark, Aven Skirmisher, and Tasigur’s Cruelty are weak to unplayable cards. Pressure PointHooded Assassin, and Fierce Invocation are playable, but unexciting. Mardu Scout is decent, but color-committing and red, a color which isn’t a stellar color in Fate Reforged or Khans. I’m focused on three commons:

  • Lotus Path Djinn is an Alabaster Kirin, which was a surprisingly powerful creature, that trades vigilance for the more unpredictable and aggressive prowess.
  • Grim Contest is a sweet removal spell that guarantees a creature will die. In an Abzan deck, this is often a superb, (mostly) unconditional removal spell. It is two colors, however, and is restricted to Abzan and Sultai decks (not to mention 4+ multicolor decks).
  • Hunt the Weak is a comparable removal spell, is only one color (increasing one’s deckbuilding options to include Temur), and has extra value with Abzan’s +1/+1 counter lords.

What’s the pick? I think that Hunt the Weak, Lotus Path Djinn, Marang River Prowler and Channel Harm are all defensible. Grim Contest is a multicolored card and I’d prefer not to commit to it when the very similar, but monocolor Hunt the Weak is an option.

My Pick: Marang River Prowler. Well, I was planning on taking Lotus Path Djinn, but then I realized that the rogue beats in for the same amount of damage earlier and more consistently (and it’s lack of defense doesn’t really matter when cards like Mystic of the Hidden Way rarely want to be on defense). I want to play with the card some more before the final verdict, but I’m happy to both start in blue and be aggressive. It’s worth noting that this pack is relatively weak and I may not wheel anything from it (and if I do, it’s likely to be red or green).

Pack 2

Commons (9)
Write into Being
Reach of Shadows
Cunning Strike
Hooded Assassin
Abzan Runemark
Rakshasa’s Disdain
Aven Skirmisher
Mardu Runemark
Ambush Krotiq

Land (1)
Dismal Backwater

Uncommons (3)
Fruit of the First Tree
Winds of Qal Sisma
Valorous Stance

Foil (1)
Fearsome Awakening

Rare (2)
Shamanic Revelation
Magnetic Web

Shamanic Revelation isn’t a clear windmill slam, but it’s a powerful enough effect that I’d probably take it and see how good it is. However, given that Magnetic Web is our rare, we should look at the rest of the pack. Hooded AssassinAbzan RunemarkRakshasa’s DisdainAven SkirmisherMardu Runemark, Ambush Krotiq, and Winds of Qal Sisma range from weak to unplayable. Fruit of the First Tree is a neat card with shenanigans, but playing four mana and hoping a creature dies is a bit gimmicky (even though it’s a sweet build-around card).

I’m looking at the following:

  • Write into Being has surprised me in its power. Looking at the top two cards of your library makes one fairly likely to hit an actual creature, plus you get to improve your next draw and trigger prowess. It suffers a bit because blue has so many good commons (and is likely to be overdrafted), but it’s still a fine card.
  • Cunning Strike has really overperformed in my experience. It often kills a morph and draws a card, and that’s absolutely worth 5 mana. The extra 2 damage and prowess are pure, delicious gravy. The only problem is that it’s two colors, and I’m loathe to commit to a color combination when so many good, single-color options abound in Fate Reforged.
  • Reach of Shadows is an expensive, unconditional removal spell. You want cards like this, since Fate Reforged and Khans are full of powerful, must-answer creatures. This is likely black’s best common, and with Douse in Gloom, it does a great job of keeping the battlefield under control.
  • Dismal Backwater is an allied-color land, so it’s worse than, say, a Thornwood Falls (which goes into Temur and Sultai, rather than just Sultai). Still, dual lands are always good to have.
  • Valorous Stance is an excellent removal spell, particularly for bombs (which are the most important creatures to remove). It will sometimes be a great combat trick, and the versatility only serves to make it better.

My Pick: Valorous Stance. It’s great removal, at instant speed, with upside. Plus, it’s in white, which is one of the best colors in Fate Reforged. If it weren’t in the pack, I’d probably take Reach of Shadows, because versatile removal, at instant speed, is still good. It’s also worth noting that we again do not expect to wheel any playable white cards.

Pack 3

Commons (10)
 Sandsteppe Outcast
Reach of Shadows
Ainok Guide
Harsh Sustenance
Soul Summons
War Flare
Sultai Skullkeeper
Ancestral Vengeance
Smoldering Efreet
Hunt the Weak

Land (1)
 Tranquil Cove

Uncommons (3)
Qarsi High Priest
Sudden Reclamation
Winds of Qal Sisma

Rare (2)
Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury
One With Nothing

Huh, that’s weird. There’s a One With Nothing in our rare slot. Oh, well. Guess we can’t just take the rare. Let’s set aside War FlareSultai SkullkeeperAncestral VengeanceSmoldering Efreet, and Winds of Qal Sisma.

  • Soul Summons produces a vanilla 2/2 that can potentially be a creature and surprise your opponent. With Fate Reforged speeding up the format, a vanilla 2/2 isn’t bad, and the upside is nice, but I’d like to get more bang for the buck of my first pick.
  • Tranquil Cove is another allied-color dual land. Fixing is nice to have plenty of, but I’d prefer to commit to a strong card before blindly committing to less-flexible fixing.
  • Sudden Reclamation is a lot like Weave Fate: it’s card advantage, but it’s not great card advantage. Sure, it’ll almost always draw you two cards, and one of those cards could be the best creature in your deck, but the other will always be a land. We can do better.
  • Qarsi High Priest is a neat one; it blunts your opponent’s removal spells, and if you don’t like what you manifest the first time, you can try again every turn. I haven’t gotten to play with this one much, and I won’t be picking it here, but I’m excited to see what this little creature can do.
  • Ainok Guide has really impressed me. Sure, it’s another 2/2 for 2, but the +1/+1 counter is exceptionally relevant in conjunction with all of the Abzan lords (and occasionally fixing your mana at the cost of its stats and a draw is relevant, if not good upside). I won’t take it this early, but I sure don’t mind wheeling it.

My top picks are the following:

  • Sandsteppe Outcast is a much better Ainok Guide. It’s in the best color for +1/+1 counter shenanigans, plus it’s great at trading for a morph and leaving a spirit behind (and that spirit is an easy and excellent bolster target).
  • Reach of Shadows is a great removal spell. ’nuff said.
  • Harsh Sustenance is a powerful, but hard-to-use multicolor spell. It’s worse than Reach of Shadows by virtue of being conditional and multicolor, but in the right deck, it can be so much better than Reach of Shadows (because it gains life, can go to the face, and can kill colorless creatures).
  • Hunt the Weak is yet another +1/+1 counters-matter-friendly spell. It’s a more balanced version of Savage Punch: it works more often (and is great for having one morph beat another), but it’s less of a tempo blowout than a ferocious Savage Punch.

My pick: Sandsteppe Outcast, but it’s close. Outcast can provide card advantage and stymie opposing morphs (oh, and it’s a warrior). Reach of Shadows is a very strong card, but costs 5 mana; it’s much harder to find good 3-drops in Fate Reforged than it is to find good 5-drops. I think that the removal spells are just slow, expensive, and clunky enough to be worse than the Outcast, but it’s quite close. As for what wheels, well, there’s a lot of good stuff in Abzan cards (granted, mostly in green and black) that I can hope to wheel, too (which makes all the Abzan options slightly better).

And now, our final pack.

Pack 4

Commons (10)
Map the Wastes
Bathe in Dragonfire
Aven Surveyer
Write into Being
Gurmag Angler
Rakshasa’s Disdain
Dragon Bell Monk
 Sultai Runemark
Abzan Runemark
Lightning Shrieker

Land (1)
Wind-Scarred Crag

Uncommons (3)
Dark Deal
Mardu Woe-Reaper
Mardu Shadowspear

Rare (2)
Citadel Siege
Rooftop Storm

I’m going to leave this one as an exercise to the reader. If Citadel Siege is a Rooftop Storm, what do you take out of this pack?

Hopefully this series is of use to y’all. I look forward to discussing pick orders with you in the comments below and continuing to explore the new format.

And, as always, thanks for reading.

—Zachary Barash

Zachary Barash has been playing Magic on and off since 1994. He loves Limited and drafts every available format (including several that aren’t entirely meant to be drafted). He’s a proud Cube owner and improviser, creating entire musicals from scratch every week. Zach has an obsession with Indian food that borders on being unhealthy.

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