Normally I like to focus on Standard or Modern with a new set’s release, but with Hour of Devastation appearing to be a set that scales down in power level for Constructed, I thought I’d take the opportunity to do some preliminary evaluation the cards for Booster Draft.

Let’s pretend for a moment that I am opening my first booster for my first Draft of Hour of Devastation. This is how I’d initially evaluate the top 10 commons in that first Draft.

10) Aerial Guide

Aerial Guide feels like the best blue common to me, but could end up being not as good as it looks if the format is less aggressive. Wind Drake isn’t an exciting card, but it’s playable. When that Wind Drake gives another creature flying that couldn’t profitably attack without it, then a 2/2 flyer for 3 mana is much more enticing.

9) Grisly Survivor

Grisly Survivor has the ability to hit for a ton of damage if unblocked even once. Combine this with Cunning Survivor and U/B cycling decks not only have some common payoffs, but also get much more aggressive. I remember Faith of the Devoted not having enough closing power in the control versions of cycling decks in Amonkhet, but maybe now as a card that gives some additional reach it will be more effective.

8) Sandblast

Not exciting by any means, Sandblast is your white common removal for Hours of Devastation. White tends to be aggressive, making this card a little worse because killing a blocker means it already got a block and the creature didn’t get to do damage. Sandblast will still kill most creatures in the format and that’s enough upside to want to play with this card when you’d sometimes leave Impeccable Timing in the sideboard.

7) Torment of Venom

Torment of Venom won’t necessarily kill everything you target with it, but the ability to get additional value by dealing 3 or getting another permanent with it makes it a little better. Torment of Venom is also an instant, so it can be used against larger creatures in combat as well as during combat. This is the type of card I generally overrate at first because removal is a safer choice when you don’t have additional information about how the format plays out, but I think this card gives you enough to be a top 10 common.

6) Khenra Scrapper

This card seems like the premier 3-drop common in the set. A 2/3 menace for 3 mana isn’t a great rate, as was the case with Alley Strangler. But adding an exert ability allows Khenra Scrapper to trade up for a bigger creature, or make the opponent trade two creatures for just Khenra Scrapper. This is a card I think you’ll end up looking at a lot like Emberhorn Minotaur from Amonkhet.

5) Oketra’s Avenger

A Dromoka Warrior with a little more text. This creature is no Gust Walker, but Oketra’s Avenger is also difficult to block early because of the exert ability. Oketra’s Avenger can continue to attack throughout the game without the liability of dying in combat. 1 toughness is usually a huge strike against a creature, but since this card can constantly attack through 1-powered creatures I think it’s a high pick 2-drop creature for aggressive decks.

4) Rhonas’s Stalwart

A low-curve, aggressive creature with an exert ability that makes it much more difficult to block. While the clause about not being able to be blocked by 2-powered creature may seem like blank text, it will prevent double blocks and blocks from creatures with 2-or-less power and 4-or-more toughness. I think this is actually a nice upgrade to Bitterblade Warrior, and a solid 2-drop creature for aggressive creature decks in a set that appears to be lacking quality 2-drops.

3) Puncturing Blow

This most reminds me of Oblivion Strike, though slightly less powerful. It has the ability to kill most creatures in the format and also exiles creatures with embalm or eternalize, or even prevent creatures from being brought back with Gravedigger or Wander in Death. Double red mana and the fact it’s a sorcery are the biggest strikes against Puncturing Blow. While I wouldn’t be jumping for joy if this was my first pick, I think it’s a solid place to start a Draft.

2) Ambuscade

Ambuscade is a lot like another Limited powerhouse, Clear Shot. While losing the additional toughness bonus can be relevant for 2-for-1s in combat, Ambuscade is still likely the best green common. This is just extremely efficient removal for green, a color that usually doesn’t get much of it. I think this card is likely still worse than Cartouche of Strength, but pretty close in power level.

1) Open Fire

Open Fire is my early pick for best common in the set. While it’s no Searing Spear, it seems to kill a good number of creatures at instant speed and has the ability to go to the face for some reach. I don’t doubt this is the type of card that will probably fall in my pick orders as I learn more about the format, but this is the common I see first picking most often right now.

As usual, early in a Draft format I’m going to be valuing removal spells in the common slot highly until I figure out which cards are important in which strategies. I think this is generally a safe way to draft any format early and I won’t be changing my approach with Hour of Devastation.