A New Frontier: Power Rankings – Commons and Uncommons
‘A New Frontier’ is a new series of articles based around the recently created MTG format that uses only cards with the new border from the M15 set and onward. In these articles I plan on follow the results from tournaments, talk about viable decks in the format, as well as powerful cards. I hope to do at least an article each month with updates on the format, results, as well as the current status of its popularity. Please keep in mind that these are merely exploratory articles and that the Frontier format is still trying to find its footing. It could end up doing very well and develop a following like EDH has, or become just another footnote like Tiny Leaders.
“All’s quiet on the western front”. There hasn’t been much news on Frontier here in Japan as of late but there has been a few more daily tournaments. Since my last article, an Abzan aggro, Abzan Planeswalkers, and Mono red aggro deck have finished 3-0 at Hareruya in Tokyo. You should be able to see the lists over the next few days on their website. There are going to be two very big events this weekend that should really put Frontier in the spotlight. One is a Frontier Showdown on Sunday, January 8th at 12pm at Face to Face games in Toronto, Canada, and the other is the God of Frontier tournament in Tokyo, Japan at Hareruya at 10 am on January 9th.
Because of the 14 hour time difference, the Showdown will probably be finishing just as the God tournament is starting. If you’re looking to absorb as much Frontier as you can, this weekend is for you. Hareruya has a Twitch Channel which you can follow, so hopefully you will be able to check out the top players from each round as they play. I plan on attending the tournament (I’m going to take an early bullet train from Nagoya and try to sign up), but if for some reason I’m not able to register, I plan on sticking around and doing some Live Tweeting of the event (my Twitter is @yoschwenky). I’ll interview some players, maybe play a few free games, and if I can I’d like to interview the creators of the format themselves. That’s worse case scenario though.
To prepare for this event, I will be grinding games of Frontier with my friends around town in Nagoya, and taking part in some weekend tournaments on Saturday and Sunday. I still plan on using my BW tokens list, but I’ve made a few changes since the last time.
|BW Frontier Tokens|
|75 cards, 15 sideboard|
4 Caves of Koilos
4 Concealed Courtyard
4 Shambling Vent
3 Westvale Abbey
|4 Smuggler’s Copter
4 Raise the Alarm
4 Secure the Wastes
4 Gideon, Ally of Zendikar
3 Anguished Unmaking
2 Collective Brutality
3 Declaration in Stone
2 Sorin, Solemn Visitor
26 other spells
15 sideboard cards
I’ve ended up cutting the Cryptbreakers completely so I could go up to 25 mana, and added a few more pieces of removal (a 3rd Declaration in Stone and 2 Collective Brutality). The Brutality not only gives you more answers for an early Jace, but it also lets you target a Rally the Ancestors spell in an opponent’s hand and gives you another discard outlet to play Voldaren Pariah with. These changes were mainly to address some of the decks shortcomings, which was hitting 4 mana consistently and having removal when I needed it. The extra land also comes in handy when you’re looking to “loot” with Smuggler’s Copter.
In the sideboard, I took the advice of the hosts on MTG Frontier’s podcast and added in both Phyrexian Revoker and Hushwing Gryff. Revoker is a good card to have against Aetherwork Marvel decks and also does a good job of shutting down other activated abilities like those on planeswalkers. Hushwing Gryff gives me an out against GB Elves and other Panharmonicon decks, and also would come in against Rally decks as extra protection from their combos. I think both will end up making a huge difference.
Well, we all know why you’re here today. I purposely skipped over the uncommons and commons of Frontier for creatures, instants, and sorceries because I simply didn’t have the space in those articles. I also didn’t talk about common enchantments and artifacts, so I’ll be covering those as well. Instead of talking about each type in their own category, I’m just going to do as I always do with the power rankings, but I won’t be able to talk about each and every card. I’ll point out important synergies, but for some cards I might just put a note next to it in order to save you time. It’s going to be a big list regardless, but I’d rather get it all done at once than write another article.
The highest level, 5 stars, are strong cards that you’ll see all around the Frontier format in various decks. These are probably 4 ofs, and will probably be the first cards to see a spike this format takes off.
At 4 stars, we see cards that are still powerful but are usually confined to 1 or 2 decks. This could be a combo piece that only fits in one deck (but is incredibly powerful), or a card that can only reach it’s full potential with a deck built around it to support it. Once it gets going though it’s almost impossible to get rid of.
For 3 stars, we have cards that are showing up more in the sideboards than the mainboards, but depending on the metagame they could show up and be potentially good against a large variety of decks. These are cards that could be silver bullets against certain strategies, but also be weak to other cards unintentionally.
Once we get to down to 2 stars, we start to see fringe playable cards that are good in the lower tiered decks, but probably not a first choice or even the best choice for that deck. You’ll rarely see these 2 star cards played.
1 star is a card that will probably NEVER show up in the format. For the sake of time, I will be focusing mainly on 3-5 star cards and only briefly touching on 1 and 2 star cards when they become relevant.
5 Star Uncommons and Commons
- Lightning Strike
- Treasure Cruise
- Reflector Mage
Let’s spend some time addressing the elephants in the room. Reflector Mage has been a dominating card in every deck it’s been in. The original Bant Company deck, the Bant human Coco deck, the UW Flash deck, and now it’s seeing play in Rally the Ancestor decks as well. This card is probably the best all around uncommon creature in the Frontier format. I wouldn’t be surprised to see it show up in in some Abzan blue or Jeskai decks in the future either.
Treasure Cruise has been broken and banned in just about every format it’s showed up in. The question is, will it eventually be banned in Frontier as well? Well, we do have the ability to fill our graveyard quickly with Fetch lands, JVP (baby Jace), and a number of other spells, but I would say it’s currently not as broken as it was in a format like Legacy or Modern which could easily put 4-5 cards in the graveyard in one turn making it incredibly easy to draw 3 cards. It might eventually be banned in another year or two, but I think you’ll be able to enjoy it for a while. It’s a great card for delve based decks using cards like Tasigur, but it could go in just about any blue deck such as Jeskai Tokens, control, and a UB dredge deck. Smuggler’s Copter only makes it better.
I recently posted a poll about Lightning Strike on my Twitter asking if Lightning Strike was the best red removal in the format, and 57% of you said it wasn’t. While I could see some red spells being better depending on the situation, I don’t think you can argue that this is one of the most versatile red removal spells in the format. Wizards has been trying to weaken red for the last few sets, and the current cards either aren’t at instant speed or only deal damage to creatures. If you’re a 3 color deck like Mardu or Jeskai, you’ll most likely play this. Other decks like UR spells will also have this a 4 of, and you’d be hard pressed choosing any of the new red burn spells over this in your deck.
4 Star Uncommons and Commons
- Azban Charm
- Jeskai Charm
- Become Immense
- Temur Battle Rage
- Blossoming Defense
- Murderous Cut
- Stoke the Flames
- Raise the Alarm
- Unlicensed Disintegration
- Hordeling Outburst
- Dragon Fodder
- Shaman of the Pack
- Satyr Wayfinder
- Zulaport Cutthroat
- Veteran Motorist
- Duskwatch Recruiter
- Nantuko Husk
- Elvish Mystic
I want to start off our 4 star uncommons with this trifecta of cards. Some of you might remember the combo of Become Immense for 1 mana into a Temur Battle Rage to give your creature in Atarka Red an insane amount of power around turn 4 or so and win you the game, but there was always the problem of having your creature killed at instant speed. Now that both Ranger’s Guile AND Blossoming Defense are legal in Frontier, it’s going to become a lot more difficult to kill that creature. Not only do you have to worry about Atarka Red doing this to you, but I also wouldn’t count out GR Energy/’Infect’ using the same combination of cards to kill you before you know it. These decks could be deadly in the hands of a pro.
The next two cards that I think will see a lot of play as long as Jeskai and Abzan decks do well are their respective charms. Jeskai Charm is already showing up as a 4 of in every Jeskai deck out there, and it’s a great card against aggressive decks such as Atarka red. Being able to block and give all your creatures lifelink is a great tempo play against aggro decks that go all in to one shot you. It’s also amazing on offense, especially in Jeskai token decks. Abzan Charm was one of my favorite charms when it was in standard because it had 3 amazing choices. It got rid of threats permanently, drew you cards if you were looking for gas to finish off your opponent, and it could pump your creatures to create a tempo swing in your favor. It’s not showing up in all of the Abzan aggro decks, but quite a lot of them are still running it as a 3 or 4 of so I would still rank it as a 4 star card.
The next batch of cards in the 4 star category are the core cards of Rally the Ancestor and Artistocrat decks. Zulaport Cutthroat is of course the most important of the 3 and you won’t find any of those type of combo decks without it. It’s the decks main win condition and is always a 4 of. Nantuko Husk is the best sacrifice outlet out there, and while there are more you’ll always want to have this in play before you play a Cutthroat or other card you don’t want exiled. Satyr Wayfinder wasn’t in standard when Aristocrat decks were big, but they were in previous Rally builds so they are right at home in this new Rally deck. Aside from Rally, I see Wayfinder reprising his role in Sidisi dredge decks, as well as helping with Delve in other green based decks running cards such as Tasigur, Treasure Cruise, and Murderous Cut. I also like Wayfinder in delirium decks.
Roast, Stoke the Flames, and Murderous Cut might have some drawbacks compared to Lightning Strike, but you can’t overlook their power level in this format. Roast is a good card against Abzan decks. It kills cards like Siege Rhino, Tasigur, and anything else with 5 toughness, while Stoke the Flames can be used easily in decks playing Goblin Rabblemaster or other red cards. Even if you’re only casting it for 2 red mana, that’s a bargain for 4 damage at instant speed. I’m sure every red based creature deck will play it. Murderous Cut was a pretty good removal card during it’s time in standard since it was easily splashed into 3 color decks, but also because of how easy it was to fill the graveyard for delve. It only became easier to do in Frontier, so I think we’ll see it show up in both main decks and sideboards in the near future. Delve/Dredge/Delirium decks haven’t gotten as much attention as Abzan and Jeskai so far, but I bet you’ll find Cut in there.
Next we have Shaman of the Pack and Elvish Mystic. Panharmonicon has really helped to put Shaman strategies back on the map, and it helps that both Collected Company and Chord of Calling are legal in Frontier. Shaman will only be in GB elves, but Elvish Mystic has a lot of potential as the ONLY one casting cost mana creature in the format. There are many at 2, but if you’re looking to cast a powerful 3 drop on turn 2 such as Nissa, Voice of Zendikar or Goblin Rabblemaster, Elvish Mystic is the way to go. Mystic will definitely be in ramp decks, but also in a lot of midrange decks and some combo.
The remainder of the cards in the 4 star range don’t really fit together, but are powerful in their own right. Raise the Alarm is a great card for GW/BW/RW/Jeskai tokens, Hordeling Outburst is in every Atarka Red deck out there along with Dragon Fodder, Veteran Motorist will always be good in Mardu vehicle decks piloting a Smuggler’s Copter or Fleetwheel Cruiser, Unlicensed Disintegration will definitely be in Grixis Ensoul artifacts, and Duskwatch Recruiter fits into a number of deck using Collected Company (bant humans, Aristocrats, etc)
3 Star Uncommons and Commons
(For the sake of time, I’m just going to make notes about each of my choices for 3 star cards. If you’d like to discuss the selections more in depth, please feel free to comment down below)
- Draconic Roar (good in Dragon based decks. Probably a tier 2 card)
- Silumgar’s Scorn (great card in Dragon control, but not in much else)
- Foul Tongue Invocation (should show up in Esper Dragon control decks a lot)
- Stubborn Denial (good sideboard card for decks with lots of strong creatures like Temur beatdown)
- Sultai Charm (more of a sideboard card than the other charms I mentioned above. Slightly less vesatile)
- Ultimate Price (good in some match ups, useless against Mantis Rider and Siege Rhino. Sideboard card)
- Murder (double black symbol hurts it the most, but solid removal for some two color decks)
- Valorous Stance (already seeing play in lots of Abzan sideboards. Both modes are great)
- Naturalize (hits big vehicles and small threats like Smuggler’s Copter for cheap)
- Grapple with the Past (Good for GB Delirium, maybe good in Sidisi dredge/delve decks too)
- Fiery Temper (seems good alongside Jeskai Ascendancy in Jeskai Tokens, not bad if you have the discard outlets)
- Void Shatter/Dissipate (possibly maindeckable for control decks)
- Negate (both control and blue midrange decks will have this in their sideboards)
- Disdainful Stroke (will be popular in midrange heavy metagames as it hits all spells 4 and up)
- Shrapnel Blast (great card in Mardu Vehicles and Ensoul Artifacts. Possible 4 star card)
- Fiery Impulse (good card for slower midrange decks to slow down aggro decks with. Also hits JVP)
- Blessed Alliance (if Become Immense/Battle Rage strategies become big, this will be a life saver.
- Grasp of Darkness (stuck in two color black decks most likely, but solid removal)
- Harnessed Lightning (most likely will only show up in GR Energy/Infect and Aetherwork decks)
- Lambholt Pacifist (great card in Bant/Abzan human Collected Company decks, but might be pushed out of the decklist for more powerful cards)
- Seeker of the Way (good in Jeskai/Mardu decks using a lot of removal and token makers)
- Foundry Street Denizen (some Atarka Red/Goblin decks will use it to hit hard on turns 3 and 4, but not everyone will play it over Zurgo)
- Reclamation Sage (definitely a sideboard card in Elves, also might show up in other Chord decks in the SB)
- Stormchaser Mage (has shown up in some UR Prowess decks, also is pretty good in Jeskai flyers/tempo decks)
- Elvish Visionary (mostly in GB elves now, but was in some Rally the Ancestor, Aristocrat, and Collected company decks before)
- Servant of the Conduit (probably only for Aetherworks/Energ-Infect decks)
- Catacomb Sifter (good card for Rally/Artistocrat decks. Not in much else)
- Voltaic Brawler (could easily make the jump to 4 stars if it breaks out in Atarka red and GR energy. Possible Temur card too)
- Ornithopter (only in some Ensoul Artifact decks at the moment. Not the best choice.
- Reckless Bushwhacker (another possible 4 star card. Could break out in Goblins, RW humans, Red/X tokens, and a number of other builds)
- Transgress the Mind (great sideboard card for midrange/control match ups)
- Duress (saw lots of play in sideboards before, see no reason why it wouldn’t do so again. Hits a lot of problem cards)
- Tormenting Voice/Cathartic Reunion (great for Sphinx Tutelage decks. Helps with Delve too!)
- Fragmentize (not the best artifact/enchantment removal spell, but not bad either. Will be in some sideboards).
- Vessel of Nascency (good choice for GB delirium decks, might be good with Sidisi as well)
The Best of the Rest
- Mardu Charm (good in Mardu Tokens)
- Appetite for the Unnatural (sometimes better than Natural State/Naturalize)
- Dispel (great way for control decks to easily counter Rally the Ancestors or Collected Company)
- Clash of Wills (much better than Revolutionary Rebuff in my opinion)
- Devouring Light (has potential in white token deck sideboards, maybe humans as well)
- Lightning Axe (can’t beat 5 damage for one mana. Helps with Dredge/Delve too)
- Anticipate (one of the possible choices for control to smooth out draws)
- Gather the Pack (great way to fill graveyard for Delve/Dredge)
- Magmatic Insight (good in Sphinx’s Tutelage decks)
- Incendiary Flow (might see this in burn decks? Possible SB card?)
- Impact Tremors (good sideboard card for decks with lots of tokens. Possible mainboard)
- Nissa’s Pilgrimage (one of the many possibly ramp cards you could play. Good for mostly green decks)
Viva La Resistance
With Aether Revolt just around the corner, Frontier is looking to get a big shake up from all the new cards. The MTG Frontier podcast hosts have talked about how in the recent past new sets have only added a few cards cards to eternal formats like modern and legacy, but at this point in Frontier, it seems more likely they we’ll be able to add a new deck or two to the format, and totally reshape a number of already established decks. Some decks will rise, some will fall, but the challenge to optimize and brew new strategies should stay with us until the next set is released in the spring.
While this will be my last “true” power rankings article, I’ll be updating my thoughts on the Frontier format whenever a new set is released. Be sure to check back for updates on the Frontier metagame in Japan, as well as my thoughts on how and where new cards from Aether Revolt will fit into the format. I hope you’ve enjoyed the articles and got some new ideas for brews from some of my suggestions! Thanks for reading.