A Pick Order List for Fate Reforged

Pro Tour Fate Reforged is behind us, so it’s time to present my pick order list for Fate Reforged/Khans of Tarkir/Khans of Tarkir draft. For the Pro Tour, I prepared with Fabrizio Anteri, Lukas Blohon, Stanislav Cifka, Robin Dolar, Ivan Floch, Kevin Grove, Martin Juza, Petr Sochurek, Ondrej Strasky, Jan Tomcani, and Matej Zatlkaj. We did a bunch of drafts, discussed the cards and colors, and eventually managed to win 64% of our combined draft matches in the PT. So, we were happy with our understanding of the format.

In our practice drafts, black was the best-performing color, Mardu was the best-performing clan, and black/white was the best-performing 2-color, enemy-color combination. So, the coherent game plan of black/white Warriors was still holding up strong. And since there is a lot of overlap between white/black and white/red—both are best with small creatures and tokens, supported by cards like War Flare, Harsh Sustenance, and Sandsteppe Outcast from Fate Reforged—it makes sense that Mardu was doing well.

That Mardu is one of the more aggressive clans falls in line with the overall speed of the draft format with Fate Reforged: it got slightly faster than triple-Khans because more decks end up two colors. This is caused by the absence of broken 3-color cards or tri-lands in Fate Reforged. 2-color decks are usually a bit more streamlined and aggressive, so games end more quickly.

Now, on to the pick order list! The list below ranks all cards in Fate Reforged from high to low as a guide for the first-pick-first-pack decision. It is based on the power of the cards during game play—the monetary value is not taken into account. Multicolored cards are ranked lower because you don’t want to commit to two colors from the get-go and colorless cards are ranked a little higher because they fit into every deck. I broke the list down into separate categories to make it easier to read and remember and so that I could add some comments, but you can think of it as one continuous list.

The Top Rares

The rares in Fate Reforged are very powerful on average, and most drafts start with a first-pick rare. All the rares in the above category are very much capable of winning the game by themselves and I would take them over any common or uncommon.

The Top Uncommons and Good Rares

Elite Scaleguard is the best uncommon in the set, closely followed by the red removal spells. Many of the cards here can, in the right deck, be on par with the top rares, but they may require a bit of work. For example, Temur Sabertooth can be pretty sweet when you are rebuying Aven Surveyor, but can also set you back on tempo if you have to return a morph for its ability. Similarly, Alesha, Who Smiles at Death will be awesome when recurring Ponyback Brigade, but can also be nothing more than a well-sized 3-drop who has no impact on the late game. It all depends on your deck, so keep an eye on the potential synergies after drafting cards like these.

The Top Commons and Good Uncommons

Even within our team, there was disagreement on what the best common was, even though most people agreed on what constituted the top 5.

Some quick comments on various cards:

  • In decks with 15-16 creatures, Write into Being hits a creature around 60% of the time. The scry and potential prowess triggers are also valuable, so we liked the card. Another thing to keep in mind is that there are no morphs in Fate Reforged. Hence, any decent 3-drop gets more valuable. One word of warning though: if you ever manifest Swarm of Bloodflies, don’t try to flip it up—that doesn’t end well.
  • Noxious Dragon has the best ability of all of the uncommon Dragons. Because of the introduction of these uncommon Dragons and the lack of morphs in the Fate Reforged, I started to take Monastery Flock, Sage-Eye Harrier, and Sagu Archer more highly in Khans of Tarkir.
  • The presence of Goblin Heelcutter in the format can change the way you should play your turns, as you often have to leave back multiple blockers if you want to make sure you don’t die to a dashed Heelcutter.
  • Harsh Sustenance is the best common multicolor spell, but all of them are fine and tie in to the general strategies of these color combinations. Grim Contest rewards you for playing high-toughness creatures, Ethereal Ambush fits well with cards like Secret Plans, and Cunning Strike can trigger various prowess creatures.
  • The Runemark cycle is pretty weak in general, but the blue one is the exception. If, for example, you start with Valley Dasher into Jeskai Runemark, then you have effectively assembled a 4/4 flying Dragon on turn three, which is an impressive start. Sure, your opponent might 2-for-1 you with a removal spell, but you will probably have dealt a bunch of damage by that time, and the 2-drop was probably not going to do much more in the late game anyway. Don’t underestimate Jeskai Runemark.

The Lands

There is one fetchland or gainland per pack of Fate Reforged. I slightly prefer the fetchlands because I like lands that enter the battlefield untapped, but it’s a minor difference. One way or another, you still have to take lands at some point to ensure your mana base works out, especially if you are drafting three colors.

Regarding color requirements: I would like to have 10 sources of a main color if I have several double-colored cards in that color, 8 sources of a main color if I have several 2-drops in that color, and 5 sources of a splash color if I’m splashing four cards. Adding 1 more source of each doesn’t hurt either, but more than that is probably overkill and not worth the downside of taplands.

The Decent Playables

By now, we’ve gotten to the cards that I can’t ever envision myself first-picking, so by the time you might consider a card like this, you should weigh the cards you have already drafted. For example, suppose that you first-picked Archfiend of Depravity and then you’re passed a pretty weak pack with Gurmag Angler, Destructor Dragon, and Aven Surveyor. My pick here would be Aven Surveyor. Even though Gurmag Angler allows you to stay on color, which is always nice after first-picking a rare, you can’t get married to your first pick—you have to be willing to abandon it or branch out if there is enough difference in card quality. Gurmag Angler is much worse than Destructor Dragon and Aven Surveyor, so the pick is between those two cards. Now, all things being equal you’d prefer to pick up a card that allows you to move into an enemy-color combination, as that opens up good gold cards and more clan options in Khans of Tarkir, but I believe Aven Surveyor is sufficiently better than Destructor Dragon, and thus it would get the nod in a situation like this.

Some more quick comments on various cards:

  • Arcbond is a difficult card to rate. Sometimes you can set up a huge blowout, especially when combined with Typhoid Rats, but it can be tough to get to the right situation, and your opponent can blow you out with an instant-speed removal or bounce spell after you go through various hoops to set it up. In my view, this makes it into a card that is powerful but situational. Playable, but not a high pick.
  • Jeskai Barricade and other bounce spells work well with Humble Defector or manifested spells, allowing you to draw cards at no drawback or to cast your previously manifested spell from your hand, respectively.
  • Sultai Emissary and Act of Treason work well with Merciless Executioner, Qarsi High Priest, or Collateral Damage. These cards all become a bit better in black/red when you can realistically assemble these synergies.

The Mediocre Playables

These cards get regularly cut, or need a specific deck to shine. Lotus-Eye Mystics is nice with Debilitating Injury, Aven Skirmisher has synergy with Raiders’ Spoils, and Fearsome Awakening can lead to some cool Dragon-reanimation strategies in tandem with Tormenting Voice. But frequently, these cards don’t make it to the main deck.

The Bad Cards

While it’s good to keep in mind the fringe strategies (sometimes you get the perfect Sage’s Reverie deck with multiple Singing Bell Strikes, or the ideal Grave Strength deck with a bunch of self-mill and delve cards), often these cards won’t be playable, and I’m certainly not going to pick them high.

Overall, this pick order list is far from the end-all to drafting. Assembling a proper deck, picking the right colors, and taking into account earlier picks is still of paramount importance. If you can help it, try to stay two colors in FKK draft, maybe with a light splash. Aim for 13-17 creatures, with 3-4 two-drops, 5-6 three-drops, 3-4 four-drops, and 2-3 five-drops or higher. Add a nice mix of spells, make sure to have your mana base in mind when making your picks, and enjoy the draft!

That wraps up my pick order list. Next week I’ll talk about the card choices in my Modern Affinity deck. Meanwhile, let me know what you think: Are there cards you think are ranked too low or too high in my list, or are there new synergies that you love to draft? Chime in at the comments section below!

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