Common & Conquer Part 1: Commoner Deckbuilding the Hard Way

(Dromai| Art by Kate Fox)

I want to help you dominate in Commoner. That is the express purpose of this article series, and whether your aspirations are to win some Lore Books at the next big side event at a Calling or Pro Tour, or simply to beat that one player at your local Armory, I hope my writing can help improve your Flesh and Blood Commoner game in deckbuilding and gameplay.

Each article in Common and Conquer will focus on a misconception about the format, or just a problem you may encounter on your Commoner journey that can leave you extremely frustrated, and hopefully provide you with some tips that put you on the right track to succeed and crush at the format.

Commoner hasn’t been exciting in a very long time. But with the recent change to allow for as many pieces of rare equipment as possible, the release of Dusk Till Dawn, and the announcements of the preconstructed deck product featuring the Professor and the upcoming Bright Lights expansion, there appears to be a lot of room for exploration and innovation. In fact, we have already begun to see this; Chane took down the most recent Commoner Win a Lore Book side event at the Calling: Birmingham, and the Top 8 also featured some unexpected faces such as Dromai and Prism, and the future looks even more promising. With all that said, let’s start leveling up your Commoner game.

Ports are for USBs and Boats

The first and potentially largest misconception when it comes to Commoner is porting. It’s inevitable and understandable that the first action most existing players would take is to try and port their favorite hero or existing decks into the format, only to realize that, oftentimes, the missing tools make for a vastly different playstyle. With the release of Dusk Till Dawn bringing a whole slew of cards and potential options for the Light and Shadow heroes old and new, including the addition of Angels to a revamped Prism, the disparity between the intended CC or Blitz playstyles of a hero and their Commoner card pool has become more pronounced.

What does Prism look like with no access to Luminaris or non-Spectral Shield auras for Iris of Reality? How does Dromai function without any Invoke dragons? Where is the inherent pressure generated by Ninjas from having Mask of Momentum in their headpiece slot? When approaching a format with such a restrained card pool as Commoner, the common fallbacks to deckbuilding in Flesh and Blood start to become missing. Key generics such as Sigil of Solace, Snatch, and Crown of Providence, which are oftentimes taken for granted as “free” slots when trying to create a defensive suite within the sideboard or fill out a suite of breakpoint attacks need to be reassessed and reconsidered.

My opinion is to STOP TRYING TO PORT YOUR CC AND BLITZ DECKS INTO COMMONER! While there are a few heroes where this is very possible to do so, due to the limited card pool and the hero’s own abilities wanting you to play a certain type of card (Iyslander and Dash come immediately to mind), many heroes simply DO NOT work if you attempt to port them over directly.

Holding Out for Your Hero

Take a hero such as Katsu, for example. While he may seem like he has a lot of powerful tools in Commoner, namely Heartened Cross Strap, as well as a bevy of hard-hitting attacks, none of his combo lines can be completed, with many reaching into rare for the finisher or even into majestic for his specialization lines. This also has the cascading deckbuilding issue that a lot of these higher rarity combo cards are also zero-cost blues that block for three, meaning that the natural Harmonized Kodachi pitch enablers and natural defensive insulation of the class get neutered to quite a large degree.

Additionally, as mentioned above, the lack of Mask of Momentum within the format also dramatically changes the matchup from the viewpoint of the defending player, who no longer needs to block in a certain way and can devote more resources to the relevant on-hits rather than being stretched thin across the combat chain with a variety of effects being threatened at all times.

Another example that comes to mind is the Illusionist class as a whole, though Prism takes a much more drastically different approach to her gameplay. Without Luminaris, the emphasis on playing yellow attacks is immediately lessened, and the available suite of Herald attacks shrink enough that there needs to be a serious conversation had regarding whether it’s worth attempting to utilize the newly printed Luminaris, Celestial Fury to synergize with attacks that may not be the best in terms of rate. The lack of Auras at common for Illusionist is also another pressing issue, with the Iris of Reality game plan relying almost exclusively on the fragile Spectral Shields and also having a pitch cost that indicates wanting to play more blues than before, which in turn skews the overall attack lineup within the deck.

Prism is in a very interesting spot with the release of Dusk Till Dawn as there are quite a few new commons for the hero, but so many of them care about the Angel subtype or are unable to block, that trying to find a place for them in either iterations of the hero prove to be a deckbuilding challenge where the player who can unlock the potential of the deck may reap large rewards, as the Top 8 of the Commoner side event at the Calling: Birmingham demonstrated. 

Final Thoughts

All this is not to say that you can’t play these heroes; if you truly love them or just want the challenge of playing them, all the power to you, but you must identify what your hero does within the context of Commoner. Even before taking the expected metagame of these large side events at Callings into account, your deck simply needs to function, and you’re the person who is trying to make Katsu work in Commoner. So what does that look like?

The first and easiest step to take is to identify what your hero gets in their card pool that the others do not. For Katsu, maybe you’ve identified that the on-hit card draw from Whelming Gustwave in addition to the sheer rate of zero-cost, five-strength attacks with go again is something the format simply doesn’t offer and you’re actively trying to leverage that. So rather than trying to complete a single combo line, the thing you’re exploring is how to spider-web across the various lines with cards such as Be Like Water or Mask of Many Faces to consistently gain access to pitch-efficient attacks that force blocks. 

Ultimately, while I’m trying to help you to maximize your chances at crushing the competition in Commoner, I don’t want you to abandon your favorite heroes. Commoner is a format where you can take any hero to a reasonable place within the metagame, but that it requires assessing the card pool extensively, understanding how you can leverage the unique qualities within your hero’s ability, equipment, and cards to be able to achieve something that others can not.

Following this introduction to Common and Conquer, I’ll discuss more in-depth the ways one can approach some of the more difficult heroes to build in Commoner (specifically Ninjas not named Ira or Fai), the preconceived notions of how Commoner at the competitive level is a two-deck format, and outlining what is perhaps the most underrated and strongest part of any Commoner deck: the equipment.

Daniel is a competitive psychopath who has relegated himself into playing the most casual format of Commoner. Starting Magic at the onset of Shards block, he jumped into Flesh and Blood when the Ira demo decks were being given out to Australian stores and is a proud holder of a 4-digit GEM ID. In his spare time, he enjoys trying to convince his friends to play increasingly worse cards, going to museums, and playing Guild Wars.