Every once in a blue moon, I write a Limited article for DailyMTG, and today that's exactly what I'm doing. As a new format emerges, figuring out where you should look to start your drafts is incredibly useful. I'm going to take a look at the signposts of the format, the commons and uncommons that help guide you down many of the paths the set has available. For each color, let's look at the best two commons and best two uncommons and see where those lead us. These are the cards you'd be happy first-picking at common and very happy first-picking at uncommon.
White leans aggressive in this format, which does inform where you go when you start with a white card. Still, the top two white commons are both great on offense or defense, which is why they are the best.
Unconditional removal is few and far between, and at three mana, this is a steal. Choking Restraints deals with anything, and thanks to the activated ability, that even extends to creatures with abilities outside of combat.
Like Restraints, Sigardian Priest is high-tier removal—but in creature form. It has a blind spot, which is Human(s), but against most decks it will lock down their best creature unless dealt with.
A 3/4 for four that draws you a card is great, and it doesn't take much to get Courageous Outrider there (plus, the card you draw is guaranteed to be action). With six other Humans you have a 50/50 shot, and it will be common to have ten-plus Humans in a deck that starts with Outrider. Even when you miss, it isn't a disaster, making this a very good early pick.
Faith Unbroken is a high-risk, high-reward card. When you play this and your opponent doesn't deal with it, they likely just lose. Their best creature is gone and you are bashing with a 4/4 or greater. When they do deal with your creature, you often got two-for-oned, which is a tough spot to be in. The upside here is worth the risk, though, and I would be happy to take it early.
Where do these take us?
As expected, these cards all push toward aggressive decks. The two common removal spells are versatile enough that they will be great in control, but the uncommons definitely skew toward beatdown. A Courageous Outrider deck with ten Humans is likely to attack, because as we've seen throughout history, Humans are a warlike and aggressive species. Faith Unbroken is the most aggressive of these cards, as you want to end the game as quickly as possible, before your opponent deals with your powerful Aura.
Following white's aggression, we have blue, which is more split between tempo and control decks. Both Blue-Red Spells Matter and White-Blue Spirits care about board presence and attacking, while green-blue and blue-black will often play around with emerge and be more controlling.
Blue doesn't usually get brawlers at this cheap a cost, and Ingenious Skaab certainly packs a punch. It will often attack as a 3/4, threatening 4 to 5 damage, and can take down almost any common or uncommon in combat without too much trouble. It does require you to play a good amount of spells, but even by itself is quite playable.
Bear with me for a second as I explain why this card is such a drag to play against. It may not look like much, but it does so much of what blue decks are looking for in this format. It lets you trade your three mana for your opponent's three-plus mana, as you rarely want to bounce a cheap creature. You get that at no card cost, since Drag Under replaces itself, which is perfect for any flavor of blue deck. Tempo decks gain tempo, spells decks get a spell that replaces itself (a fine prize indeed), and controlling decks get to make sure they survive until the late game. I'm a huge fan of this card, and suspect that many will underrate it.
Talk about tempo—playing this card often heralds the end of your opponent being able to make relevant attacks or blocks. By itself, it's a very playable card, and combined with more Spirits, it locks down the board very quickly. It's at its best in a Spirits deck (shocker), but I'd happily play this in any blue deck. Herald is a premium card, and one you should be on the lookout for.
Geist of the Archives is a little less aggressive, and by that, I mean it's a 0/4 defender. Still, the ability is a very good one, and I'd play Geist every time if I were blue. Even in a blue-red or white-blue tempo deck, a ground blocker that improves your card quality is a good deal, and this reminds me of the Magic Origins powerhouse Sigiled Starfish.
Where do these take us?
Blue is a bit of a mixed bag. Many blue decks aren't interested in attacking, and even the ones that are approach it in vastly different ways. That leads me to be conservative with my first couple picks, and that's why these top commons and uncommons have a fair degree of flexibility. Nebelgast is the most linear, but even that fits everywhere, and the other cards will all perform well in any flavor of blue deck. Blue-Red Spells Matter is the biggest winner, as both commons are perfect for the deck, but don't feel locked in by any stretch.
As in Shadows over Innistrad, black cards provide a mix of removal spells, graveyard shenanigans, and madness. That once again leads us to wanting early picks that are flexible and powerful, so you don't end up wasting picks regardless of the direction you head.
Three mana to kill any 3-toughness creature is a fine deal, and this even gets around pump spells (since it stays on the creature and will kill it at end of turn). In a pinch, you can Boon a large creature of your own and get in for a ton of damage, though I suspect that won't happen often.
This is an interesting one. On its own, Midnight Scavengers pulls its weight. It's a five-mana 3/3 that draws you a spell, assuming your deck has enough small creatures, and that's a solid common. Once you factor in the value of melding with Graf Rats, you end up with a card that ranges from good to great, which is where I like to be. Nobody really wants Graf Rats without Scavenger, so once you have one or two Scavengers, be on the lookout for a late Rats or two.
Well, it doesn't get simpler than this. Or more efficient, more unconditional, or more flexible. Take Murder, and you won't be disappointed.
I really like this card. Four mana for a 2/2 and a 1/1 flier is a solid deal up front, and this gives you the ability to cash in dead cards later for more bodies. It also enables madness and delirium, making this a solid card no matter what deck you play.
Where do these take us?
Anywhere you want to go. I'd tend toward aggression, with madness being at the top of the list, but black is certainly capable of playing a controlling game. Removal spells and value creatures do that, and those are the cards that make up black's best commons and uncommons.
Red is looking to attack its opponent, though it does so via a couple methods. The Blue-Red Spells deck leans more on combat tricks and, well, spells, while Werewolves and Vampires (red-green and black-red, respectively) focus more on creatures. Regardless, there aren't a ton of red control decks running around.
Even if you don't pick up extra copies, one mana for 2 damage at instant speed is a good deal. Efficiency is to be prized, and this is as efficient as it gets. If you do manage to get multiples, then you are luckier than I, and you should enjoy it.
If this is how Alchemists say hello, I don't think I want to learn how they say goodbye. At full cost, this is fine if unexciting—and it's absurd for the madness cost. That sounds like a good deal to me, and this is a card I'm glad to take early.
I'm noticing a theme among red's best cards, but I'm willing to go with the flow. Killing a creature or finishing off your opponent is a good deal for two mana, even if it's a sorcery. Exiling is a nice bonus, and will come up every now and then.
Even though this is another burn spell, it's got quite a different effect than the other ones on this list. First of all, it costs seven mana instead of one or two, which is hefty. Secondly, it doesn't kill a thing, it kills all the things. Spreading Flames is expensive enough that you don't want a lot of them, but having one makes your deck pretty fearsome in the late game.
Where do these take us?
Somewhere hot, that's for sure. Red decks are going to be aggressive more often than not, and cheap burn spells help facilitate that. Luckily, they are also good in control decks, so you aren't even giving up any flexibility by taking these. Spreading Flames is the exception, where I'd try to play this (or splash it) in a control deck.
Green has a few different roles it's trying to fill. The Blue-Green Emerge decks play very differently than Green-White Humans or Red-Green Werewolves, though the cards they want often overlap. Green was the best color in Shadows over Innistrad, and it'll be interesting to see if it lost a step here.
This first made its debut in original Innistrad, and it was great then too. Prey Upon is cheap and effective, letting green mages play multiple spells in the same turn to good results. It requires a lot of creatures, but what kind of self-respecting green deck is short on those?
A 4/3 for four is a solid deal to start with, and gaining +1/+1 and trample in the mid- to late game is a reasonable advantage. This is also a Human, making it a relevant creature type in some decks.
The uncommon Dromoka's Command is a formidable card, even if that comparison is a bit of a stretch. Getting a two-for-one off this isn't very hard, and when you do get to block a 3/3 with your 3/3 and eat two of their creatures, you are gonna win the game in a landslide (remember, it doesn't fight—your creature just hits theirs).
The Noose is loose—or isn't, in this case. A 2/2 for two with reach and a relevant combat ability is a good pick, and becomes great once you are using it for madness or delirium. This will range from being a very good card to the best card in your deck, depending on how many wild synergies you are enabling.
Where do these lead us?
Green has beef and fight effects, which will push us toward aggro and midrange strategies. Green does a great job of playing to the board, and I imagine most of its decks will fall closer to aggro than control on the spectrum.
Working on a First Draft
So, jumping into an Eldritch Moon Draft, what should you be looking for? These cards are good places to start, though there are plenty of sweet rares and mythic rares to open, too. I value cards that are flexible, so you have good options as the draft progresses, and the cards I've highlighted here will give you a path toward many different decks. Good luck!