The Moore Report - Fate Reforged Picks
Henry’s Fate Reforged Picks
Well, readers, Fate Reforged is upon us, and for those of you checking the spoilers I’m sure you’re aware that this release is set to shake standard to the core. For those of you who haven’t, let me enlighten you. I’m going to talk about some of the great new additions to Magic’s most regular of formats, but I’ll skip some of the big ones. Monastery Mentor and Brutal Hordechief are quite clearly going to do big things; I won’t waste your time expounding on their merits. Instead, I’ll like to talk about some cards that I think are underrated or that I really like.
I have to admit, I have a big soft spot for Time Walks, so whenever one gets printed, no matter how conditional, I get excited. I remember when Time Sieve came out, and a few people tried really hard to turn that into a deck. It eventually became one, when Tezzeret, Agent of Bolas was printed, and it was a lot of fun to play. I want to be clear that dismissing a card like this is a mistake. Time Walk effects printed nowadays are created with harsh restrictions because taking an extra turn is very powerful and WotC know that. They have to make it cost 8UUU or every man and his dog would be playing it. 8UUU means that only very specific decks can play it, but I believe that that deck is out there. Maybe not quite yet, but there is still one more set to come in this block before rotation.
Once we have that set, we could see a return to the mono-blue aggro/control decks that dominated standard a while ago. This set provides at least two pretty decent additions in Cloudform and Frost Walker. Cloudform is great because not only does it provide 2 devotion by itself, but if you manage to manifest a creature you could come close to turning on a Thassa, God of the Sea with just that card alone! Building a blue devotion deck with Temporal Trespass seems like it’s going to be an interesting deck-building challenge and I’m looking forward to seeing what people come up with.
This card is a real nice one. The stats leave a little to be desired; as time goes by, a 4/4 for 5 is quickly becoming close to unplayable, even in limited, but luckily this little fellow has some spicy text to give him a leg up. Let’s start with the manifest ability. If you get to keep the elemental until your end step, you’ve done well, because now your 4 power for 5 mana has turned into 6 power for 5 mana over two cards, which isn’t a bad rate. Obviously, the longer he stays in play, the better this becomes – especially considering that manifested cards aren’t always just 2/2s. Manifest is clearly a powerful mechanic, and I’m interested to see how far people can push it. After all, who doesn’t want to surprise their opponent with a 5/5 hydra for GG? That interaction (with Hooded Hydra) by itself might make the effort worth it, and if that’s the case then Whisperwood Elemental would be a shoe-in for that deck.
But that ability to me isn’t the best one. The sacrifice is huge. We haven’t been playing Magic in a world of good Wrath of Gods for a while now, so I think people have become accustomed to getting away with playing random midrange decks that flood the board with creatures. Believe me when I say that that world will soon come to an end. Crux of Fate is exactly the card that U/B control needed to propel it from playable to very good, and I wouldn’t be surprised if I started seeing a bunch of creatures minus a Silumgar, the Drifting Death hitting the graveyard all over Magic tournaments in the near future. If I’m correct, then Whisperwood Elemental is exactly the card you want in your green creature deck.
It was surprising to me, when I started researching previews for Fate Reforged, that the opinions on this card were so split. On one hand, there were people arguing that this card was exactly what sidisi whip decks needed, since it was a threat that you could deploy efficiently along with another creature or removal spell on the same turn, and that the ability was some nice gravy. On the other, there was a group of pros adamant that this card was actively not the card that sidisi whip wanted, and that another random body wasn’t necessary. The ability, those people would say, was far too slow in a deck that didn’t need more inevitability.
I’m not sure on the sidisi whip deck debate. I think I’m leaning more towards the “not what it wants” side, and here’s why: Tasigur’s delve does make him a very impressive mid-game threat, since as I said it allows you to gain tempo by playing both him and another card in the same turn. However, we really need to look at what “gaining tempo” really means. What we’re saying is that we get to jump ahead on the board by leveraging our graveyard to cheat on mana. On a turn that starts with us looking behind, we might end up ahead because we get to make a 4/5 while casting Hero’s Downfall on our opponent’s best creature. That sounds great in a vacuum, but how valuable is that in an actual game of Standard Magic? Sidisi whip has always been a deck that was able to build a dominating board early with triggers from its namesake, and is one of the decks best suited to abusing Murderous Cut. This being the case, I think that Tasigur is unnecessary. So, if we’re not that interested in the tempo potential, the only other reason to play Tasigur is his activated ability. As I mentioned, sidisi whip doesn’t really need the help with inevitability, so he’s not needed there either (though, I can think of a lot of games where I’ve milled all of whips, and his ability starts to sound a lot nicer to me in that scenario).
All of this being said, sidisi whip isn’t the only black deck in standard. A graveyard based or controling deck that really needs a cost-effective threat and also struggles to keep up on cards in the late game would lean on Tasigur pretty hard, and he looks pretty comfortable on that throne so I’m sure he wouldn’t mind. What I’m saying is that people who try to jam Tasigur into existing sidisi whip decks are probably doing it wrong, but that doesn’t mean that the card is bad. Poor Tassy just needs a good home, and once he finds one he’ll be really good.
The comparisons to Chandra, Pyromaster are pretty clear, and that’s where I’m going with this card too. Any card advantage engine printed in red is something that has to be seriously considered because it doesn’t happen that often. There are two main differences between this card and chandra, and I feel like both of them make the card a more attractive option. The first is that the siege costs 3R instead of 2RR, which means that it can be played in a lot more decks. While the mana in standard right now isn’t bad, it certainly isn’t as good as it has been. It would take a load off the shoulders of a midrange deck that is in the market to keep the cards flowing but doesn’t want to commit that hard to playing red.
The other is that the siege is an enchantment. While people have started to play more enchantment removal in their sideboards (and even maindecks) to combat whip strategies, I’m still confident that an enchantment is a lot harder to remove than a planeswalker is, which is a tick in the siege’s column. I will say that chandra has a slight upside over siege in that you can cast her then immediately impact the board, but how relevant is that 1 damage these days? Casting a 4 mana planeswalker to kill 1/3 of a Hordeling Outburst doesn’t seem profitable, and people should definitely be looking elsewhere for their board-controlling cards.
Outpost Siege could be the card that opens up the gates for strategies that we haven’t seen at all yet in standard, so keep your eye on it.
Well, that escalated quickly. There was a horse, and a man on fire, and a warriors deck in standard. Warriors, as a tribal deck, wasn’t really there before Fate Reforged, but the deck is stacked with playables now. Battle Brawler with a Chief of the Edge in play is a 4/2 first striker, which for 2 mana is enormous. Mardu Woe-Reaper is another efficient 1-drop to go along with Bloodsoaked Champion and Tormented Hero that also just happens to give whip decks a bad time, which is very desirable in the current format. We could be seeing a new two colour aggro deck bursting out of the gates with Fate Reforged, which would be cool.
On a side note, why isn’t Anafenza, the Foremost not a warrior? She’s a soldier. Was she too good as a warrior? That seems hard to believe.
This one, well, I’m not so sure about it. Huh? How was that? Ok, fine, I’m sorry. I tried. This card reminds me of Knife Juggler from Hearthstone, and Knife Juggler is crazy good. You do have to pay 2 more mana, but for that you get an extra power and the ability to target with the ability. Now, it’s almost completely useless to compare cards between Hearthstone and Magic, but that’s just the first thought process that went through my mind when I saw this guy.
I’m pretty sure this card is legit. I can see a situation where Mardu tokens is the best deck in standard. If that becomes the case, then there will assuredly be a lot of mirror-matches played. Those match-ups must be kinda gross, since a token deck might have a hard time actually coming up with an answer to their opponent’s board. They can’t really play Anger of the Gods, since that’s counterproductive, and their normally efficient removal like Lightning Strike and Crackling Doom aren’t very good when they’re killing a lowly soldier. Enter the Sureshot. I really like his spot in a mirror like this. Intuitively, players will want to remove their 1-for-1 removal after the first game, and that plays straight into the orc since the worst part about him is his frailty - 2 toughness isn’t much. If you get to untap with this guy I can’t imagine losing too many games. Your Hordeling Outbursts become pseudo Martial Coups, and I find it hard to believe that you’d ever fall behind on board after that.
Obviously Orc Sureshot’s applications will be limited, but I’m hoping that they will also be outside of limited, if you catch my drift. It’s possible that Arc Lightning might just be better, but I have hope for the juggler.
I find the printing of this card alongside Crux of Fate very interesting, and I chose to talk about the fiend because I actually think it’s better (for now). The reason you play board-clearing spells in a deck is to catch up or stabilise the game. You’re looking to prolong it to give yourself time to deploy your (hopefully) more powerful spells. You can’t expect to just play a bunch of 1-for-1 removal spells and hope to get there, because if your opponent can cast two spells a turn and you can’t, you’ll fall further and further behind. Archfiend of Depravity is a card that allows you to cast something which makes your 1-for-1 removals better, but instead of resetting the board unconditionally we’re asked to accept a slightly worse wrath effect and the possibility of opposing removal to obtain an aggressive 5/4 flier. This argument might be moot, since it’s probable that the decks that you want this depraved fellow in are different from the decks that you want Crux of Fate in, but I think the comparison is important for discussing format growth. Usually, when a new set breaks, the best decks are the most efficient proactive decks. This is because they have a clear game plan, and building and piloting the decks is quite easy. It can take a while before a viable control deck becomes apparent, because control decks need to know what it is that they’re trying to control before they can become successful.
My overarching point is that I believe, at least for the early days of Fate Reforged standard, you might be better served playing an abzan midrange deck with Archfiend of Depravity than a blue/black control deck with Crux of Fate, simply because one is a creature that can attack and the other requires opponents that will spend multiple cards building up a board state for Crux to gain value from. This doesn’t seem likely, since a single Hordeling Outburst or Monastery Mentor is threatening enough by itself. It’s important to note that Archfiend of Depravity’s trigger is during your opponent’s upkeep, so if they tap out the turn before you cast it their board is going to shrink no matter what.
That about covers it for today. It’s clear that Fate Reforged is going to make a dragon-sized impact on standard, and I’m looking forward to seeing what strategies and cards rise to the top.