I had the great pleasure of working with TeamCFB & Face to Face United for PT Fate Reforged. Our testing consisted of a week in California with multiple drafts a day followed by the team GP in San Jose. While I personally did fewer drafts than I normally did with Pantheon, I felt far better prepared going into the event than normal.
On Wednesday evening before the PT, our full roster sat down in a conference room with a projector and a Google Docs spreadsheet to codify our thoughts on the format. We produced a document that can be used in a similar way to Frank Karsten’s P1p1 Pick Order Guide.
The introduction of Fate Reforged slowed down the format considerably in our experience. The consensus best shell was B/G, making Abzan and Sultai the preferred clans. The commons in FRF are relatively weak compared to their counterparts in KTK, so you often end pack 1 short on cards you want to play. I like to prioritize taking lands over marginal playables so you can take better commons in packs 2 and 3 over fixing.
Also important to note is the relative depth of black and blue in FRF. There are lots of cards in these colors I am happy to play, whereas green only has Whisperer and Hunt the Weak that usually make my decks. This creates some odd color dynamics at the table.
Finally, the defining characteristic of drafting your FRF pack is the rare. We rated 7 of the 35 rares and 6 of the 10 mythics above every non-rare in the set. There are another 7 rares and 1 mythic that are better than everything but Elite Scaleguard (the mythic uncommon) and another 12 rares that are on par with the very best uncommons. That makes for a total of 26 of the 35 rares and 7 of the 10 mythics that you are first-picking almost every time you open them. That is crazy.
What Should I Take Pick 1 Pack 1?
We defined tier 1 as the cards clearly better than Elite Scaleguard, which was a natural dividing line as we felt Scaleguard was clearly the best non-rare in the set.
Tier 2 is for Scaleguard and his friends. There was some debate over whether the other cards were slightly ahead or slightly behind if you had to choose pick 1 pack 1. The cards are listed in consensus order as to whether you take them ahead of Scaleguard or not.
After Elite Scaleguard, our team felt that Mistfire Adept, Pyrotechnics, and Temur Sabertooth were the next bunch of powerful, great uncommons. They were a noticeable step down from Elite Scaleguard but still very good first picks. For me personally, I would have bumped up Outpost Siege but otherwise I like these rankings.
This is about the break point for cards I would be happy first picking. The next tier includes good cards that can’t compete with the power level above. Personally, I would have Abzan Beastmaster at the bottom of tier 3 as I was blown away by that card, but the team consensus was to rank him lower.
What About the Rest of the Draft?
At this point, we are no longer as concerned with a pick 1 pack 1 ranking. You hopefully won’t have to take anything after this point first, so it is more important to rank them within their colors so you know how to follow up your first picks.
A quick summary of the commons:
It is worth noting the number of commons in each color that are cards you actually want to play: Blue (7), Black (5), Red (5), White (4), Green (3). Blue also gets Sultai Skullkeeper and Jeskai Runemark as honorable mentions, as they are actually good in the right deck.
Now for the list by color. I also included the gold cards and Ugin's Construct for reference in each list. The placement of the gold commons assumes you are already in the color. Other than Grim Contest, I would take a weaker single-color card pick 1 pack 1 over the two-color commitment. As black/green is my favorite color pair, I’m willing to take Grim Contest more aggressively.
I take fully on-color lands over anything below the premier commons and lands I could maybe see playing over anything marginal. As I mentioned above, I like taking lands aggressively in pack 1 as the price is lower given the power level of the commons.
And that’s the CFB/Face to Face pick order for FRF. Hopefully you’ve already had the chance to get a few drafts under your belt—let me know in the comments where you disagree. I’m finding as I play more that some of these are still moving around for me (notably the black common order and a few of the rares) so there is more to learn.