ALCHEMY HORIZONS: BALDUR'S GATE: TOP COMMONS
Welcome to this discussion of the top commons in Alchemy Horizons: Baldur’s Gate. With the latest draft set dropping on Arena this week, we wanted to give you a head start on the competition with a great understanding of which commons are the highest picks and why they are so important.
Before we begin however, a quick word about this set in particular and the fact that it contains an awful lot of reprints from Adventures in the Forgotten Realms (AFR). With roughly half the commons being reprints it’s quite reasonable to assume that at least some of the trends seen in AFR will continue in Baldur’s Gate.
For those who didn’t play much AFR it’s crucial to understand that the draft format was very unbalanced color-wise. Blue for instance was extremely weak, borderline unplayable in fact, whilst both Red and Black were very strong with Rakdos sacrifice dominating the format.
Whilst we can’t be completely sure that Baldur’s Gate will play out in the same way, the sacrifice deck appears to be alive and well in Rakdos and to be honest, once again Blue’s commons look extremely weak. That said many new Cards have been added which will hopefully address this imbalance and provide a new and exciting format. Let’s get into it.
Recent sets have shown us that stapling the words ‘draw a card’ to an acceptable body is a recipe for success. It’s no surprise then that Priest of Ancient Lore (which was the top white common in AFR) is heading up the top spot here. Although the priest lacks flying and is therefore a downgrade from Inspiring Overseer in Streets of New Capenna, this card will be a super high pick for sure. Obviously any card which creates a body and replaces itself is a fine starting point but don’t sleep on the lifegain - it’s especially relevant in this set due to the lifegain theme present in Selesnya.
White has a reasonable selection of two drop creatures to choose from, however Steadfast Paladin seems like the best of the bunch. Another reprint which performed well in AFR, it’s the lifelink on this 2/2 body which makes it so powerful. With most recent limited sets being fast paced and assertive, many players have learned two important lessons; strong two drops are crucial to success and lifegain can really swing a match. As a turn two play with lifelink the paladin makes an excellent opening move.
With White looking aggressive Blessed Hippogriff will make a fine curve topper in any aggro deck. Although the body is on the smaller side for four mana, its ability to ‘jump’ a guy into the air on attack will surely help you close out games. The adventure on the other hand provides some great duality; potentially allowing your team to attack through a single blocker, saving your guy from a removal spell or maybe even turning a trade into a profitable exchange.
An honorable mention here for Patriar's Humiliation which has the potential to be a one mana removal spell. Naturally this does require some build around (put lots of creatures in your deck people) but it’s super easy to hold this up and incredibly efficient too. Unfortunately there will be situations when this card doesn’t pull its weight, however in a deck with a sufficiently high creatures count, it should get the job done more often than not.
Lacking defensive two drops, one of Blue’s best early plays is Undersimplify. Although this won’t be quite as powerful as Make Disappear in Streets of New Capenna, it fills a strategic void that Blue desperately needs to plug. Having a proactive play on turn two correlates strongly with success in modern games of limited and this card provides just that. Sadly its effectiveness will drop off sharply in the late game, although thanks to its secondary text, it will rarely be completely dead. It’s also worth noting that the adventure mechanic often provides information which a Blue mage can exploit with this counterspell.
Whilst a 3/3 flier for five mana is hardly exciting, the fact that Young Blue Dragon’s adventure provides card draw and filtering makes all the difference here. Although the body may seem a little over-costed, paying seven mana total for a 3/3 flier that lets you scry and draw a card isn’t too bad. Especially given it's on an installment plan meaning it will be relatively easy to fit the first part in along your curve earlier in the game. Don’t overlook the creature type either, with several archetypes caring about dragons there’s value in that too.
At a six mana Air-Cult Elemental may seem pricey, however it’s a super solid play. Between the large body and the bounce effect this can really help stabilize your board. Naturally bouncing an opponent's creature springs to mind, however rescuing your own creature from under an enchantment can be a sweet play too, as is returning a creature with an ETB to your hand. The 5 points of flying toughness really matter here too as this body stonewalls most of the non-rare dragons in the set.
An honorable mention goes out to the Wizened Githzerai, largely because it’s Blue’s only decent two drop creature. Whilst the 2/1 body isn’t impressive, its ability makes this extremely difficult to block in the early game. If an aggressive blue deck does exist in the format then this card will undoubtedly rise in value.
Black’s premium removal spell Grim Bounty, is a four mana ‘kill anything’ that not only deals with planeswalkers but also leaves a treasure behind. There’s not much more to say about this card other than - take it highly - even inexperienced players won’t be passing this often.
An all star in AFR, Vampire Spawn out performed many people's expectations. Whilst the 2/3 body for three mana is unassuming, the four point life-swing really helps decide close games, especially when you are able to put multiples of these in your deck.
A digital only card, new for Alchemy, Sewer Plague is Black’s second removal spell. Utilizing the perpetually mechanic, this card kills small creatures immediately and will eventually take down even the largest ones. Although this is three mana, making it less desirable than Grim Bounty at four mana, it being instant speed does help make up for that a little.
An honorable mention here for Sepulcher Ghoul, a card which was a crucial piece of the sacrifice deck in AFR. With an Act of Treason effect available at common it’s likely that Sepulcher Ghoul will once again be highly sought after. The value of a free sacrifice outlet is hard to overstate when it's combined with a steal effect, as it makes the combination possible as early as turn four. It’s also worth noting that this card has been rebalanced for MTG Arena and now has a 2/2 stat line rather than the 2/1 found previously.
Red’s premium common removal spell is once again Dragon's Fire. Dealing three damage at instant speed for two mana is obviously great, however, this card has extra utility due to the large number of creatures with the dragon creature type in this set. The fact that it’s easy to deal four or more damage with this card makes it a standout common.
Another card that was dominant in AFR, Hobgoblin Captain, is Red's premium common two drop creature. Extremely effective in multiples, this card can become a nightmare for your opponent to block. When picking this card look for ways to boost the power of your creatures or be sure to pair it with other 3 power three mana creatures.
Another digital only card, Giant Fire Beetles is a 2/2 menace that draws you a 2/2 menace the first time it attacks. It should be pretty easy to get an attack in with this guy early in the game, meaning it’s almost always going to draw you a card, making this an excellent pick up.
An honorable mention here for the Act of Treason type effect, Incessant Provocation. Dominating play in AFR the Rakdos ‘steal and sac’ deck was by far the most powerful archetype driven in part by the ready availability of Price of Loyalty, a three mana steal effect. One reason this type of card becomes so ubiquitous when the sacrifice archetype is viable is that it’s virtually unplayable outside of that deck. As such these often come around on the wheel (when the archetype is open) making it a powerful late pick for a deck that frankly doesn’t need any more help.
Another card which proved its potency in AFR, Owlbear provides yet more evidence that adding ‘draw a card’ to an already solid body will generally create a monster. Trample is the icing on the cake for this card, which honestly doesn’t need much help to be the top green common.
Green’s common removal spell Band Together, is a nice one this time around. Whilst it does require a tiny amount of setup (creatures on board) this will usually get the job done given how large Green’s creatures are in this set. Being able to pick two of your own creatures to deal the damage is a solid option when your opponent has open mana, as it can drastically reduce the chance of a blowout. Font runner for most comical art in the set, it has yet to be confirmed by WOTC that no hamsters were harmed during the making of this card.
Affectionately known as Gorgeous George in AFR, Hill Giant Herdgorger is back. Thumping his way onto the battlefield, this 7/6 body will easily outclass anything on your opponent's side. The lifegain is no joke either, the stability that this card provides is unreal and chaining off multiple copies is a real way to win games.
An honorable mention here for a card that both ramps and fixes you whilst providing up to three bodies, Undercellar Myconid. Although this card won’t fit well in aggressive decks, it’s one to be aware of in the format when trying to splash or play a multicolor pile.
There’s only a handful of colorless common cards in this set and several of them provide fixing. Without any multicolor lands available, these cards will be the go-to option for anybody looking to splash outside of Red or Black (where treasure is also available).
By far the best looking of these options is Pilgrim's Eye. A three mana 1/1 flier that draws you a land of your choice is certainly a reasonable option, ensuring you don’t fall too far behind on board as you search up your splash color.
Prophetic Prism is another reasonable option due to the fact that it replaces itself. It’s important to note however, that whilst this fixes your mana it doesn’t ramp you, rather providing a filtering effect.
Dave ‘Angri’ Warner started playing Magic The Gathering during the Ice Age expansion. Proud to have collected a full set of 4th Edition, he was horrified to discover that, whilst he was away at college, his mom had donated his cards to a thrift store! With two mathematics degrees safely under his belt, Angri turned his attention to the world of online poker. Following a 10 year stint as a professional poker player, he finally returned to the glorious game of his youth. When not found playing or writing about MTG, he enjoys hanging out with his small family or riding an electric bike around the polluted English city he calls home.