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
So, I’ve already gone and taken a look at Fate Reforged for Casual play…how about we explore a little Constructed play…namely Standard? Let’s get right into this and take a look.
10– Valorous Stance– This is similar to Reprisal in many regards because it can be used as a removal spell to whack big stuff. Now, 4 toughness can be a bit of hurdle to leap over, but there are many bigger creatures that pack 4 toughness that this efficiently mops up. Butcher of the Horde, the Dragons, Polukranos, Courser, Siege Rhino, Wingmate Roc and a number of other threats all get taken out by this. On top of that, the other mode might make it more relevant than Ajani’s Presence…and the fact that this card can do BOTH things is what truly makes it a solid addition to Standard play. I expect this will certainly see sideboard play, at a minimum, and I wouldn’t be shocked to see this creep into the main board of a few decks.
9- Silumgar, the Drifting Death– I can make a case for this one creeping into a B/U or Esper control build as the win condition along side Ashiok, Prognostic Sphinx, or Pearl Lake Ancient. The evasion, hexproof, and a nasty ability puts this into the realm of discussion and I expect that people will give it a try. What I will remind people is that while this is 3/7 it tussles with other creatures very effectively because it essentially can fight through 4 toughness creatures meaning that Wingmate Roc, Butcher or the Horde, and even a Stormbreath Dragon are hard pressed to block this effectively. The 7 toughness makes it very difficult to kill via combat meaning your only option is a board wipe (or I suppose a Sacrifice outlet) and the control deck ought to have enough counter spells to make that threat fairly minimal. Expect to see this dragon lurking around in Standard for the foreseeable future.
8- Flamewake Phoenix– Temur or R/G Monsters just got one sweet addition to really turn up the pressure. Chandra’s Phoenix was extremely solid last year and this looks no different. It is 2/2 for 3 mana, flies, has Haste, and serves an almost identical purpose. The caveat where you need to attack each turn is no biggie either because if you are on the deck that wants this guy in Constructed then Blocking isn’t really your thing anyway. The trigger to get this guy back is a little different and might be a little harder to trigger depending on the deck, but with things like Ashcloud Phoenix, Savage Knuckleblade, Polukranos and Stormbreath Dragon being in the potential home for this guy it might be feasible. Here comes the nuisance that is a repeatable burn source to Standard.
7- Dromoka, the Eternal– This is intended to be the Abzan curve topper that we could see replace Wingmate Roc. With the Abzan Aggro decks looking to curve out by playing a 2 drop, a 3 drop, a 4 drop and then a 5 drop, this could slide right in. The fact that it can also pump your other creatures can’t be overlooked. Sure, Wingmate Roc can trigger some additional life gain, but the sheer power of a 5/5 flier that adds counters just can not be dismissed. People will certainly test this one out and see what this can do.
6- Wild Slash– Hmmm…an upgrade on Shock you say? Well…Shock has been very good for a long time, so I expect this one to be good too. It will find a way into every single deck playing Red burn spells and no one will miss a beat. At Limited, it will be good too, but it will not win you the game out right. You will need back up in order to seal up those wins, but Wild Slash will be a nice addition to your deck because it pairs well with Ferocious OR Prowess. Enjoy some more first rate burn.
5- Reality Shift– : Is this Blue Removal? It sure looks that way…because you just exiled their Butcher, or Dragon, or God, or …or…ANYTHING and replaced it with a 2/2. I think that’s a good trade in most situations. This looks like it could get insane and really give Blue the ability to deal with relevant threats after they hit the board. So much for respecting the Colour Pie! Blue Removal to the rescue!
4- Soulfire Grand Master: Jeskai Burn/Wins decks just got insane. This unassuming “Bear” just makes Burn decks plain old ridiculous. Your spells get LIFELINK?! You can get them back in your hand?! Good grief. The Lifelink is the back breaker here because it gives burn players a longer lease on life with which to find that all needed burn spell to finish you off by gaining 3,6 maybe even 10 points of life depending on the sequence of spells you can cast. The secondary ability is disgusting, the get your spell back, but it is a pricey cost to pay and most burn decks won’t really be interested in that. I mean, do you really want to spend 3 mana on your Jeskai Charm to burn him for 4…and then pay 4 more mana to get it back? You just spent 7 mana on the spell. If you have 7 mana to play around with in your Burn deck (and you haven’t won outright) you are doing something wrong. So, because of the high cost on the secondary ability I don’t think this will creep into Modern as anything more than a sideboard card, but in Standard I feel like this could take the Jeskai Burn decks to a whole new level.
3- Crux of Fate: I saw this card and said “well, there is your functional reprint of Damnation everyone. Sure, Damnation is 4 mana…and this is 5…but face it folks, you aren’t getting wrath effects at 4 mana any longer. We’ve seen that trend and Wizards has admitted as much. So, 5 mana Black sweepers is the best you can do…and really, wasn’t Damnation just a 4 mana Black sweeper à la Day of Judgment? So, here is your “updated” Damnation card that is Modal. Whatever. No biggie. Now, the 5 mana cost essentially prohibits this from seeing play in Modern or any format where Damnation is legal because Damnation is likely just better in every circumstance, but in Standard, for EDH players looking for a Black wrath effect, and in Limited this will do just as well. Decks rocking Black…thank R & D. That is all.
2- Mardu Shadowspear…So the B/W tribal warriors deck might be good enough to see play in Standard moving forward. Fate Reforged has given us a ton of new Warriors to complement the already disgusting amount of Warriors already available. If you look at the abilities of these new Warriors the deck could take on some frightening abilities and really punish slower decks. The Shadowspear and his Warrior buddies will just run wild and will surprise a lot of people…and while I’m headling Shadowspear here, the truth is he will have a whole pile of his friends that will coming to the party right along with him and will be bringing down the house.
1- Ugin, the Spirit Dragon– And now for the elephant in the room. Is Ugin good enough for Standard…well, he’s certainly good enough, but can you get him onto the battlefield. I figure lots of people are going to try and why not? He’s colourless, ridiculously powerful, and just plain warps the board. This guy is an absolute menace and his ultimate is just plain wrong. His –x ability wipes the board…so why wouldn’t a control deck try and play him? Mono Green Devotion would be keen to give him a try as well, because if you hit that ultimate, what could be more fun than dumping Hornet Queen and Polukranos onto the battlefield for free? No, people are certainly going to try and make Ugin work for them so be ready to have Ugin see play in Standard for a while.
Well, there we have ourselves some of the sweet new treats that Standard is going to get to rock out with. Let’s see how many of these make the cut…and what ones I missed. The Middle set of a block can always be tricky because the cards need to fit into an existing mold and we’ll see just what shakes out in the weeks to come.
Thanks for reading…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.