Welcome back! I hope your holidays were as relaxing and unproductive as mine were. Even though Christmas is typically Magic’s downtime, there was a lot going on with the beginning of spoiler season. Next week I’m going to talk more about what we are seeing out of Fate Reforged and how to contextualize it, but I do want to start this week with my preview card!
ROSS’S TOTALLY LEGIT FATE REFORGED PREVIEW CARD THAT WAS FOR REAL GIVEN TO HIM BY WIZARDS BUT THEY MUST HAVE LIKE FORGOT OR SOMETHING
So this happened:
So what I am going to do is assume the Game Day promo is my preview card, and I will do this AS LONG AS IT TAKES until Trick or Gleemax or the corporate fat cats at Hasbro give it to me for real. We can even keep score (starting next time). So let’s see what card I get to start with!
It’s actually fitting that this is my preview card this time around, because I’ve been playing some Mono-Black Aggro lately, and this card is a seemingly obvious inclusion.
There are some deck construction conflicts here, because black now has four playable one-drops, as well as two conditionally playable ones in Cruel Sadist and Ruthless Ripper. If you decide to build your deck more synergistically, you can play Shadowspear with Bloodsoaked Champion and Tormented Hero, which then pushes you pretty strongly towards a small white splash for Chief of the Edge (and consequentally, some of the better combat tricks). Prioritizing power gives you Gnarled Scarhide over the Tormented Hero, which is essentially a Savannah Lions/Falter split card and doesn’t pressure you into playing a very sketchy manabase (likely including some number of tapped lands) in your small creatures deck. I would not recommend playing more than 10 to 12 one-drop creatures in your list, unless you are confident you won’t see Anger of the Gods. If you decide to do that, however, Pain Seer becomes even more of an automatic four-of than it was already (and it was a pretty big deal before).
Let’s look at my list:
This is the kind of deck I would never pay time and money to play with in a large event, but it is more than capable of stealing wins in smaller, less tuned environments (you know, like FNM). It has some of the qualities that I look for when playing an aggro deck in a small format, but it hasn’t been able to check all of the boxes yet. Here are some of the things going for this archetype that make it well suited to play at FNM.
- Critical Redundancies: Mardu Shadowspear is just one example of critical redundancies in this deck. You always want to make sure you hit your aggressive one-drop in a creature-heavy aggressive deck, and having several to choose from solves that problem easily. Thoughtseize and Despise do work as proactive removal spells for difficult to answer permanents, especially in the board-presence-heavy format we are in now. Thoughtseize also allows you to keep the control decks from casting their removal on time, forcing them to either dig up more or otherwise commit resources to staying alive rather than progressing a game plan. The top end for this deck is pretty unimpressive, but there are options available, including the Fate Reforged offering Brutal Hordechief.
- You Get To Cast Thoughtseize: You know this card is insane, right? Being able to cast a guy turn one, then play another guy and take their best card is a strong opening line against most archetypes, but sometimes you start with more than one Thoughtseize. You never play it turn one in this deck since you need to lead off with a threat (there isn’t enough raw damage in the deck to allow you to skip an attack), but you should still be able to resolve it before anything dangerous comes online.
- This also lets you play the old JSS game of “Let’s See How Good My Opponent Is.” Looking at their hand will obviously give you an advantage of structuring your lines of play for the next several turns, but it will also allow you to determine future choices in the match. Did they keep an obviously bad opening hand? Are there any unusual card choices that seem like they may be substitutions? Are there tapped lands instead of fetchlands? Are there too few or too many lands in their hand? Are they obviously playing something cobbled together from M15 packs? Figuring this out can influence sideboarding options and keeps in the remaining games.
- It Has Foolproof Mana: Temples, refuges (the “+1 life” lands), and tri-lands are so good that they encourage the midrange decks to basically do nothing in the early phase of the game. By sticking to one color (even though I want this deck to play Butcher of the Horde SO BAD), you prevent yourself from having to waste mana on scrys or future fixing. Also, since our curve is so low, you’re able to keep most two-land hands. Also, you don’t have to play Urborg, which would only benefit your opponent and cause you corner case headaches in multiples.
- It Has A Clear And Consistent Gameplan: A lot of the decks that you see people bring to FNM are scattershot in terms of operational objective, but this is not. While this strongly limits the flexibility of play, it also prevents you from making a lot of mistakes. This is especially good if you are FNMing after a long day of work, you haven’t played in a while, or you had a couple of grownup drinks before the tournament started.
- It’s Cheap! …Well, it’s cheap for a Standard deck. You know, assuming you own Thoughtseizes and fetchlands by now. You should really own Thoughtseizes and fetches by now. The beautiful thing about this deck is that if you don’t own the fetches, you can just play 18 Swamps (not a typo, I would shave one for either the last Despise or Shadowspear).Otherwise, the majority of the pieces are uncommons or easily acquirable rares.
Overall, there are not many changes I would make to the list, but that may change with the final reveal of Fate Reforged. Brutal Hordechief is a very likely candidate for making the list (although we will need to figure out how to make that off-color activation work), as well as Mardu Strike Leader. It is worth noting that all of them are warriors (including the token generated by Strike Leader), so Chief of the Edge may be worthwhile on his own. Also, judges, correct me if I’m wrong, but you can use Brutal Hordechief’s ability to force their entire team to all block one creature of yours, as long as they are satisfying the blocking requirement. That’s a pretty impressive diversion if so. Speaking of the Hordechief…
There is something seriously concerning with the rarity situation in Fate Reforged. Many of the apparent tournament staples (like our aforementioned friend Brutal Hordechief) are at mythic, with several legends at rare. This is concerning, given that the understanding when the change in rarity happened was that the tournament staples (Char was the example cited at the time) would largely remain at rare. I understand that the situation is nuanced, and it seems many cards are at mythic simply because they are very long and boring to read from beginning to end (I assume Robert Jordan is posthumously given a design credit).
It’s confusing, at least in part, since some of the mythics don’t seem out of the realm of possibility of being rare. Warden of the First Tree, which appears to be Casey Affleck’s Invitiational card, is only mythic in the sense that it is eventually very good and also costs G to cast. Monastery Mentor is likely only mythic because it says “prowess” one too many times—it’s less that the card is too good to be rare (although as printed it basically is), and more that creating tokens with prowess creates an on-board math nightmare that WOTC only wants showing up occasionally in Limited. Temporal Trespass is mythic partially as a means of prestige: it’s a callback to an extremely powerful card, although the “fixed” text of exiling itself (and also costing a bunch to cast in multiples) keeps it from being oppressive as is.
Ultimately, Magic is not in danger from Fate Reforged—but it will be if every set is like Fate Reforged.
Next week, we will be addressing card evaluation more fully (with guest stars!), but I just wanted to touch on this subject today since it is pertinent. Now, let’s close this thing out with some quick hits!
- 2015 is starting off pretty strong with an early set release, as well as a stacked Clash Pack. Sure, the next few FNM promos aren’t close to Stoke the Flames quality, but the Elspeth vs. Kiora Duel Deck will make up for that.
- Speaking of that Clash Pack, here’s what worries me about the rarity thing in Fate Reforged. If rares are fair game for reprints (as we are learning, apparently), then it’s pretty scary that a lot of the important cards for Standard seem to be sitting at mythic in this set. I can’t seem to think of any mythic promos outside of… Zendikar block? I know GP promos kind of alternate, but in terms of any other type, have we seen mythic promos? Is that infringing on FTV sets? I can tell I’m rambling.
- There were a lot of really awesome pictures of great gifts in the PucaTrade Secret Santa program this year. Unfortunately, they all dried up and what we’ve been left with is a bunch of people (like me!) wondering where their present is. I will still plan on participating next year, since I believe that most PucaTraders are really great people, but I wonder if there is a way to filter out the people who aren’t in it for the right reasons. Shout out to the people who went above and beyond this year.
- Bonus shoutouts to @DamageDirect and @TheProxyGuy, who helped make next week’s article possible. It is not PP6, that’s the week after next (I promise! Unless it isn’t).
- Top Level Podcast is the best podcast I think I’ve ever listened to in terms of understanding the dynamics of Standard (or any other format). You’re leaving money on the table if you play Standard and don’t listen regularly.
- The second installment of #BTBExt will be January 31, 2015, at Premier Sports Cards in Orange City, Florida! $5 entry (all of it going into the prize pool), and bonus prizes will be raffled off! Registration begins at 12, with the event starting at 1. If you’re in the area that weekend, we’d love to have you! Fate Reforged will be legal, so that will be exciting.
Therefore, be excited! See you next week.
Longtime magic player and TO.Loving husband and father. Cube > Commander.
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