n the beginning of the Champions of Kamigawa
season, one of the most contentious issues before the Magic
community was the proper pick order for the white commons.
The three best were clearly Kabuto Moth, Cage of Hands and Kitsune Blademaster, and everyone had a strong opinion about their ranking. As the season progressed, most pros gravitated toward the ranking of Kabuto Moth first, with Blademaster and Cage of Hands following second and third (or third and second, depending on your deck).
Which pros hit it right the first time and which changed their colors? We have no way to know - and they're not 'fessing up. So, with Betrayers of Kamigawa coming out soon, we are putting a few players on the record with respect to the common pick orders in Black and White. Here are all the relevant commons -- why don't you pick your top five, and see how your picks compare.
Got your lists?
Lets see how you did:
*Sam Gomersall ranks Waxmane Baku first "by a wide margin - there is nothing even close."
**Rich would rank Split Tail Miko over Waxmane Baku in a samurai/fox-based white build (that is, one with few spirits)
*** Osyp has seen the cards "only at the prerelease where [he] went 1-1," which more than likely accounts for the majority of the differences in his pick orders from the other players.
It seems that, at least insofar as the No. 1 common in each color is concerned, there is little disagreement: Waxmane Baku and Horobi's Whisper take the top slots with little challenge -- although Rich Hoaen seems to think that the Spike Tail might edge out the Waxmane some of the time.
Instead, it seems that the murkiness comes with respect whether Okiba-Gang Shinobi, (the 3/2 double-discard Ninja) or Takenuma Bleeder (a 3/3 beater for -- who also happens to be an Ogre) wins the silver -- an issue on which the pros seem split. Antonio DeRosa and Gadiel Szleifer are reluctant to give up the tempo on turn 4 by casting Okiba-Gang Shinobi (or facing the real possibility that they may not have a unblocked turn four animal), preferring the straightforward aggressiveness of the Bleeder.
Adam Horvath and Sam Gomersall believe that the potential discard effect on turn 4 -- and maybe a second pair of discards on turn 5 (if you are living the dream and can back the Shinobi up with a removal spell) -- more than makes up for the possible loss of tempo or the occasions in which you may have to simply settle on the Shinobi as a five-drop which is essentially a must block animal.
There is also a fair amount of diversity in the number 3-5 white commons. Some pros seem to really like the Hundred Talon Strike -- a neat combat trick with a simple and manaless splice cost, while others favor the Moonlit Strider -- a 1/4 spirit whose protection-from-a-color ability and sexy Soulshift 3 make it a dangerous and flexible combat creature.
Some cards rest just on the wrong side of greatness. In discussing Mending Hands, Adam Horvath said "if this were arcane OR had splice, it could very well be the No. 1 white common, but as it is, it's virtually unplayable." Is Skullmane Baku on the right side or the wrong side? Some pros immediately set aside the ultra expensive 2/1 despite its powerful ability, while others, notably Rich Hoaen and Masashi Oiso, thought that the Skullmane Baku's reusable removal ability was worth its high mana cost.
While compiling these lists, Jon Sonne claimed that I was just trying to make these guys look bad by putting them on the spot. I replied that if their picks were solid, maybe I would be making them look good instead -- but to be fair, I would include my rankings as well, such as they are. Paul Sottosanti, a member of the Development Team for Betrayers of Kamigawa, also agreed to post his rankings. Here are our picks:
What can I say, I like the 1/4s. I really wanted to list the Kami of the Tattered Shoji fifth, but after drafting against Paul the other night, I have been reluctantly convinced that fog man is better, triggering spirit abilities cheaply and filling in the absolute bottom of the Soulshift chain. Paul likes the Hundred Talon Strike over the Strider because "the effect is the same as Guided Strike, one of [my] favorite cards from Judgment [actually, young Paul, it's a reprint from Weatherlight :P] and I've wrecked many a dream with it in R&D playtesting."
I think Paul overvalues the Strike, then again, there are reasons why Sotto works for R&D and I don't. To be fair, maybe I undervalue Hundred Talon Strike because I keep trying to CAST the spell for the splice cost (ala Ramosian Rally), which, as you can imagine, has had disastrous effects on my combat phases.
With respect to the black commons, Paul and I are pretty close, only differing on the Bleeder vs. Okiba-Gang issue.
Are the pros crazy? Are they right on target? Did everyone miss a bomb? Only time will tell, but at least you can call us out - on the record.