Fate Reforged: Game design fails and top 8 cards for constructed
By Neil T Stacey
You’re saying my Spirit Dragon land can’t cast my Spirit Dragon, because my Spirit Dragon isn’t a Dragon?
I can forgive Wizards for the fact that Eye of Ugin has no interaction with Ugin, the Spirit Dragon. There are five years separating Worldwake from Fate Reforged. But Crucible of the Spirit Dragon is in the same set and has “Spirit Dragon” right there in the name. These two cards are so clearly related in their flavour that it is downright painful to realise that in actual game-play they don’t link up in any way.
Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest: legendary monk and Khan of the Jeskai clan. Not mythic rare. Ojutai, Soul of Winter: legendary dragon after which the entire Jeskai clan has modelled itself. Not Mythic Rare. Guy who teaches at the monastery? Mythic rare. Yeah, Wizards, that makes sense.
There is a whole list of Mythic Rares that just don’t seem to feel like Mythics, while the cycles of Legendary Dragons and Khans are at rare while they really seem like they should be Mythic. I can’t recall another set with such a mismatch between flavour and game-play but fortunately, the issues are purely cosmetic.
The set it is otherwise well put together and plays well in Limited. It seems to be a faster format than Khans of Tarkir while still allowing you time to set up a big turn, and control decks are still viable.
It seems to me that Wizards has compromised flavour elements in favour of game-play and honestly I’m okay with that. It gives me something to complain about without actually affecting the experience of playing Magic.
Fate Reforged also offers some interesting and unique cards for Constructed and I’m going to run through my picks for the best cards in the set. Note that this list focuses primarily on cards’ utility in Standard since that’s the premier tournament and the main showcase for new cards. Only a bare handful of cards ever make it to the forefront of older formats so unless otherwise stated, assume that these cards are all useless in Modern and Legacy.
Warden of the First Tree is certainly a solid card, I just find the activation costs to be a bit too clunky. I feel like you have to work just a little bit too hard to make it work, but I could very easily be wrong.
Crux of Fate gives a sweeper to a colour that was lacking one. However, it’s only likely to see play in one deck. Blue-Black Control is a fringe deck as it is and I don’t think Fate Reforged gives it enough to bring it up to the top tier of decks.
Shu Yun, the Silent Tempest looks massively powerful, handing out double strike like it’s candy, and at instant speed too. I like that he gives you a one-shot kill along with Become Immense. This guy might just be the real deal. Then again, he might require just a little bit too much setup. Time will tell, and I’ll certainly test him in a few decks. Now onto the cards that made the cut. (Click on name to see card)
The power-level on Wildcall isn’t that high. Its value lies in its flexibility. I never thought I would say this, but it is pretty relevant that it is a bear when you need it to be. Green-based decks tend to be short on things to do in the first 2 turns of the game. If you don’t draw a mana dork in your opening hand, you often have to either mulligan or do nothing until turn 3. Having even a mediocre 2-drop for emergencies can keep you alive in some percentage of games where you would otherwise be overrun in the early turns.
It’s possible to build around Wildcall with cards like Hooded Hydra or Master of Pearls, but I’m more inclined just to put it in decks that want an X-mana X/X. The face-down card also gives you information your opponent doesn’t have and puts the pressure on him/her to play around a long list of possibilities. If you happen to manifest a relevant creature, that’s a nice bonus.
I picked up a set of these at R5 apiece and I recommend doing the same. Wildcall is occasionally excellent but it’s always solid, and it smooths out the clunky curves that characterise Standard right now.
Whisperwood Elemental is probably the most playable Manifest card in the set. For 5 mana you get a get a 4/4 that, at worst, puts out a vanilla 2/2 every end step. Like a bigger, scarier Goblin Rabblemaster, this guy threatens to overrun the board in short order. As an added bonus it offers reasonable protection against most sweepers, which is a big deal in the creature heavy decks that will want to play this guy.
As with Wildcall, I expect Manifest synergies to be an occasional bonus rather than a regular feature of the card. However, if you manage to get multiple triggers off of this you’re bound to get a chance to flip something useful.
The biggest downside of this card is that as a 4/4, it doesn’t stack up that well against Siege Rhino. However, you get a token the turn you cast it so you can immediately gang-block a Rhino and get a little bit of value left over, so that’s far from terrible.
What a difference a toughness makes. I tested Hooting Mandrills in a lot of decks and it was often close to good enough. Tasigur, however, has what it takes to tangle with Siege Rhino and tell the tale. It’s also more likely to survive a scrap with a Rabblemaster, and it lives through Stoke the Flames. Then there’s the activated ability, which seems perfectly suited to graveyard-based decks. Tasigur has a combination of mid-game punch
Tasigur probably isn’t quite playable in older formats. He’s not quite vanilla, but with his activated ability costing 4, he’s close to it. While casting him for 1 mana is a real possibility, I can’t imagine wanting to Delve away your graveyard for a beater instead of a Treasure Cruise, but if the Cruise and/or Dig Through Time feature on tomorrow’s Banned and Restricted announcement (I don’t think they will) then Tasigur deserves a closer look.
#5 Wild slash
It’s Shock. Shock is a useful tool in Standard. Nothing exciting here, let’s move along.
Don’t get me wrong; I am as quick as the next guy to dismiss cards that cost too much mana. If something costs 8, I rarely even bother to read what it does. However, I accidentally read Ugin’s abilities with the mana cost covered up and it looks close to unbeatable if it resolves. In a faster Standard format 8 mana would still be way too much, but instead we’re playing in a world dominated by Hornet Queen. I don’t see this as a 4-of in many decks, but it’s sure to be a game-breaking 1- or 2-of in decks playing for a long game, and maybe in greater numbers in Green Devotion decks that can cast it sooner.
I can’t picture many board states where you don’t win once Ugin lands, and if Standard remains as slow and grindy as it is now, that will make Ugin an influential card indeed. It’s also a nice addition to Modern Tron decks, where it serves the same basic function as All is Dust, except that after sweeping the board it leaves you a ready-made win condition.
Ugin also goes into basically any Commander deck, so there’s that.
I always pay attention when a card does something unique, and this two-drop grabs my attention in two different ways. Giving all your burn spells lifelink translates to a lot of life over a long game, padding your life total and buying you time. Two mana isn’t a terrible rate for a 2/2 with lifelink, so you don’t concede as much early turn power as you would expect with an engine card like this.
Once you get to the late game, Soulfire Grand Master really comes into its own. With the lifelink added on, even a cheap burn spell becomes a game winner when you can recast it every turn. Stoke the Flames, with its convoke discount, suggests itself as a perfect candidate for recycling. The real game-ender, however, is delving for a cheap Treasure Cruise and returning it to your hand to cast again in a turn or two.
One criticism of Soulfire Grand Master is that it is an inferior threat when compared to Seeker of the Way. This is certainly true; Seeker is much more powerful in combat and ends a game much more rapidly. However, good two drops are scarce enough that it’s easy to run them side-by-side and there a certainly decks that want to do just that.
A lot of words have been written extolling the virtues of this card. I won’t repeat all of them here; suffice to say that it is potentially very powerful in every format. I don’t rate it as highly for Standard as some do, simply because you have to be consistently casting at least one spell per turn in order for it to significantly outperform Brimaz. That suggests that you only really want this in a deck that is committed to making it work. That said, Mentor is easier on the mana and has a higher ceiling so in fair decks there are arguments to be made for either of them. I personally prefer my threats to be powerful on their own, so I would lean toward Brimaz in most cases.
In older formats where spells are free and/or plentiful, however, Mentor has the power to very rapidly win a game all by itself and that earns it a high spot on this list.
#1: Valorous Stance
Amidst all the Mythic Rares, a humble uncommon takes my top spot. Valorous Stance kills an impressive percentage of Standard’s key creatures at instant speed. Add in the option of protecting a key threat of your own and that’s a recipe for a format staple.
Valorous Stance is bound to be a major part of Standard as long as it’s legal. The question is, can it hold up in older formats? NOPE. But it gets my top spot anyway.