By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
Good morning and thanks for stopping by here at The Bag of Loot and my Casual Encounters column. For those who are new here, I will be cracking a pack of Fate Reforged and looking at what I would select first if this was Pick 1, Pack1 in my next draft. Let’s take a look at what I’ve got.
Fate Reforged seems a little more heavy with bombs than Khans was, so let’s start with the rare. Yasova Dragonclaw is a pretty strong starting place. She’s efficient to cast as a 4/2 for 3 mana and comes with Trample making her pretty solid from the outset. She triggers Ferocious if that matters to your deck as well, which is always a benefit. However, I get most of those same stats with an Alpine Grizzly so what makes her so appealing? Her ability to effectively Act of Treason one of their blockers each turn is actually really difficult to handle. Even if the creature you’re pulling aside isn’t a huge bomb, it can really upset combat math to pull aside their blocker and then swing in. The only catch is that she can only target a creature with power less than hers. That may or may not be ideal because you might only be pulling aside a Wetland Sambar or an Ainok Tracker. If you can find a way to Bolster her or to augment her to steal something larger then you might find things will get a little out of control. I’ve played against one in a match and while her ability is kind of tricky, it certainly is beatable. However, she’s still a very powerful card and would be pulled straight to the front of the pack for some careful consideration.
Mistfire Adept is a very nice uncommon and has some solid stats. The basic body is that of Hill Giant, which is quite reasonable. However, the Prowess and the ability to grant something Flying is the real perk here. You cast a spell and suddenly you have a 4/4 flier. That’s nothing to take lightly. There’s not really a whole lot of downside here because this is a useful to just about any deck playing Blue and would be getting a long hard look as well.
Renowned Weaponsmith is underwhelming in every regard. The artifact theme is not strong enough to warrant this guy, and the ability to tutor up a bad artifact is also not overly relevant. His base stats are a little on the poor side as well because he gets quickly outclassed. Sadly, this guy isn’t very good and will likely a late pickup for filler to someone in Blue.
Hewed Stone Retainers feels like a downgraded version of Illusory Angel. If this had Flying, or First Strike, or anything really, you’d consider playing it, but at a vanilla 4/4 the answer is probably not. Don’t get fooled by the casting cost, the fact that you need to cast this as the second spell this turn increases the cost of this and unless you have a deck with some cheap spells to fire off this might get stranded in your hand for a while.
Write into Being is a card I quite like. One of the concerns I have with the Manifest mechanic is that I often feel like I don’t have much control over what gets manifested. It might be that land I really need, or that super efficient removal spell, or that hyper expensive creature that I was really hoping to find in the late game. In all of these of situations having the card get Manifested is less than ideal. Write into Being gives you some measure of control over what spell you end up getting and that is very useful. The casting cost puts it right on curve with other Morphs and the fact that is a non creature spell helps provide you with fuel for Delve spells and triggers Prowess. While this is a long way from being a home run it is a deceptively powerful card and is ultimately very useful.
Temur Runemark is NOT something I like. Most auras are a surefire way to get yourself in a situation where you lose out in a 2 for 1 situation. Unless the Aura is really powerful, it is usually a better idea to play cards that stand on their own merit. I’m not going to say I won’t play an Aura, but I’m certainly not looking to play those auras unless I’m pretty desperate.
Collateral Damage is a card that I like in certain decks, but is usually not something I’m too keen to grab. I never like sacrificing MY board state to deal damage, so sequencing this spell just right to have maximum impact is tricky and pretty important. If I can’t find a way to sacrifice something that is being blocked (and dying anyway) to take out something else I’m just not overly keen to play this. The ONLY other way I play this if I have a tokens strategy where I can use the tokens as fodder, but even there I’m not going crazy with this card. This a tricky card and something that certainly has a benefit when played correctly, but not always available in the optimal way.
Whisperer of the Wilds was in last week’s pack too and I’m still a fan. I’d be flipping this to the front of the pack, but likely won’t be first picking this at this point.
Gurmag Angler is the sort of aggressive mid-round pickup you just love to see. The big body on this one is very appealing and the fact that the casting cost can be significantly reduced with Delve makes this very appealing. I don’t think I really want to first pick this because if you are in on the Delve plan you have a limited number of cards slots that can be devoted to delve cards and this guy may not be the best way to go. However, he is a very nice early pickup and a big body to sure up the board.
Typhoid Rats are one of those common cards that you always overlook, but it always makes your deck. Nobody likes attacking into or blocking a 1/1 deathtoucher and the rats just do some much work. It isn’t a first pick, but it certainly is a good mid-round pick.
Grim Contest is interesting because it is an unusual take on the “fight” mechanic that green usually gets for removal. The part I like about this is that it is at Instant speed meaning that you can use it on your opponent’s turn and leaving you to do whatever you like with your mana on your turn. Sadly, it is a gold card and fits into fewer decks, but if you have Green and Black in your deck I see no good reason not to take this mid-round and see if you can make it work for you. This would have been ideal in M15 Limited with Rotfeaster Maggot, but that is a digression. This is an interesting spell and something that will garner mild interest, but is in no way a first pick.
While a number of the cards in this pack are pretty interesting, there is no doubt that I would be taking Yasova from this pack with my first pick. I feel like Green leaves you open to go into some very powerful combinations by making Abzan, Sultai and Temur all available and her raw stats are very solid. Her two toughness is an issue because she dies readily to Wild Slash , Douse in Gloom and Debilitating Injury but there is plenty of upside to her because her repeatable “Act of Treason” is quite powerful and will really mess with combat. I don’t think she’s an insane bomb the way some of the Legendary Dragons are, but she’s very good and a cut above the other cards in this pack.
Thanks for stopping in today here at Casual Encounters and taking the time read. I hope you guys have an awesome MTG day!
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters
@bgray8791 on Twitter
Well, I hope everyone’s had a blast at their prerelease events over the weekend. I have to admit, it was kind of weird format because we all opened so many Fate Reforged packs and very few Khans packs. That was a weird choice by Wizards, but it seemed to work ok. At one point I turned to someone else and said “hey…could you imagine doing this with 4 packs of Dragon’s Maze…that would have been unplayable.” By comparison, Fate Reforged prerelease worked, but there wasn’t the sort of variance that I would truly expect from the sealed format starting next weekend…but it was fun. It wasn’t as grinding as Khans was and that increased explosiveness meant winners and losers were easier to pick…and you could tell if you were on the right path or not.
I played the Two-Headed Giant event on the Sunday evening with my brother. The last time we played at the Khans prerelease we got thoroughly embarrassed and were pretty unimpressed with our results. However, this time we held our own and were in the running until the very last match. I’ll get to how that one got away on us in a bit, but we finished 3-2 and were relatively pleased with our results.
I opted to play Temur for this event and my brother decided he would play Mardu meaning we could bank on having some pretty solid creatures and a pair of aggressive decks…or so we thought. I opened up my pool and I was legitimately shocked. My Temur pool hardly had ANY playable 2 drops…and a very limited number of Morphs. The three drops I had weren’t even in my Clan! What gives? It wasn’t until I hit 4 on my curve that I started getting creatures that felt and played Temur-esque and that was a bad sign. So, my curve was…how do you say…TERRIBLE with very few plays in the opening turns. I was not impressed. The only good news was that my brother had a much more aggressive build and could put some early pressure down to help bridge us to turn 5+ when my deck could roar to life. It wasn’t a great game plan, but it was the best we had with the pools we opened.
In our first game we started off ok and I was holding up my end of the deal with some pretty reasonable removal to try and stave off the threats from our opponents. I Burn Away Dromoka, cast Bathe in Dragonfire on another dragon and felt pretty good about things. But then I drew three straight lands and completely flooded out and our opponents cast Shifting Loyalties on our Brutal Hordechief…which they then followed up with one of their own. You can imagine things took a decidedly downward turn and we were dead shortly after. We felt a little bummed.
Game 2 our opponents had us on the ropes and pretty much dead on board until they misplayed. They had a Daghatar the Adamant on the board with his 4 counters and they cast Hunt the Weak on it to fight something of mine. Then they cast a second Hunt the Weak on Daghatar, but forgot that Daghatar had already been dealt some damage and this second round was going to be lethal. Oops! With Daghatar dead because they goofed we went to town and my trio of Dragons (two Mindscour and one Destructor) went to work. They shortly conceded and we evened our record at 1 and 1.
The next game we came out much more quickly out of the gates, but the game turned when I had 7 mana and Temur Sabretooth on the board. The Sabretooth just stymied our opponents who just could not sequence a profitable attack by the potentially indestructible kitty. To make matters worse, my ultra greedy deck was PACKED with value creatures to abuse with the Sabretooth. When you are bouncing Aven Surveyor in order to give the Sabretooth indestructibility, eating their attacker, and then recasting the Surveyor to out tempo them, the opponents get sad…fast. Oh, the Surveyor isn’t your style? How about Bear’s Companion? Hell yeah! It was undoubtedly our best game and the one where I was able to hold off and to play conservatively and eke out advantage with the cards in play and not rush to dump my hand on the table. Suddenly we were 2-1 and feeling pretty good about ourselves.
Then we had a bye because a team dropped leaving a weird number of teams and we just had a turn to sit. Ok…3-1 it is…and in striking distance of a prize.
The last game we were moving along ok…until we got caught with Tasigur’s Cruelty and it forced us to pitch two cards apiece. Normally, this sort of card would be unplayable, but in Multiplayer it was devastating. I also opted to discard a land and to hold on to some pricey spells. Figures. Next thing I know I’m stranded on 4 mana, can’t hit Burn Away, Aven Surveyor, or ANYTHING…and we die to some pumped up creatures. Grrrr. Oh well. We had a shot and we blew it.
Here’s my decklist
Some of the cards that shone in our matches were not the ones I was expecting.
Pilgrim of the Fires: The 7 mana golem was about our best friend all day. Sure, he’s 7 mana and you don’t run him out there any too quickly, but the truth is, he likely wins just about any combat he ends up in. And by 7 mana, your opponents have already fired off just about all their best removal that can handle this guy…so the NEED to rely on combat. Well, with this guy being just a house we made short work of a number of opponents and were very impressed with him.
Temur Sabretooth: This kitty can do some work. The ability to be indestructible is very potent and can make combat a real nightmare. What’s more, it is super fun to bounce value creatures and then reap the rewards all over again. This one looks like the real deal and likely a real player in Limited.
Wild Slash: Premium Red removal…yeah…it’s good. It did work all day long.
Aven Surveyor: I know the guys on LR were pretty stoked for this card, and I like it too because it did do work…but I’m not convinced it is as super as people think it is. 5 mana is a big investment for a bounce effect, particularly when there are lots of powerful things to do at 5 mana. It was a big tool in my deck as I was packing loads of bounce effects, but users must be wary because he’s expensive.
Bathe in Dragonfire: Relatively inexpensive and useful removal to take out those nagging creatures. This likely over performed a little for me because it took out all sorts of things including a number of Dragons of varying sizes and descriptions as well as pesky Morphs. A good utility card.
Jesaki Infiltrator: This guy was a bust. A 2/1 unblockable creature SOUNDED good, but then he immediately Manifests a buddy…and loses the Unblockability. That’s kind of junk. Tested this guy out once and was immediately underwhelmed. Out he came and in went more burn.
Enhanced Awareness: What I would have given for a Weave Fate…or Treasure Cruise…or just about ANYTHING. This one is 5 mana…and it is an awkward one to jam. I got it off once, but wasn’t hugely impressed. Most of the time it was a 5 mana brick in my hand. It feels far more situational than Jace’s Ingenuity or even Opportunity and in a format where there are likely to be lots of other things to do with your mana that isn’t good news. As much as this COULD be good, it wasn’t. We’ll have to see if that trend continues.
Dragons: The 6 mana 4/4 dragons are playable, but hardly scary. I found the Mindscour Dragon cute because the Mill effect was handy. The only catch is having to watch that you don’t mill someone with Delve cards because you’re fueling their Treasure Cruise. I ran three of these just to see what they can do and while they are kind of neat, I wouldn’t hold my breath for them.
Runemarks: These are as awful as I feared they would be. Most of them seemed totally unplayable and not at all what I was interested in doing…so they all got left behind in favour of actual cards that did stuff.
Well, guys…I feel like we’re coming to an end of my Fate Reforged prerelease experience. I’d love to hear about what you experienced and how you fared. Let me know by leaving a comment or finding me on Twitter.
Thanks for reading…and until next time keep it fun, keep it safe…keep it casual.
By Bruce Gray – Casual Encounters @bgray8791 on Twitter
Fate Reforged pre-release will introduce special promo ‘Time Shifted Cards’. During the event you get to pick your Tarkir Clan and will also receive a special ‘Ugin’s Fate” booster pack which contains a Token, a Land card and certain amount of ‘Time Shifted Cards’ from a pool of 40 holo foil stamped cards with alternate art which demonstrates how the plane of Tarkir has changed. The PAX Australia panel showcased three of these cards.