Happy holidays, everyone! In addition to this being the most jolly time of year, it's also the most exciting for us Magic players, as Fate Reforged is just around the corner! Sweet spoilers have been coming out, and I can already tell that the new set will shake up the old Standard back into a nice healthy state. Today, I'm going to talk about a few that have caught my eye for Constructed and rattle off a few brews I have in mind for getting a jump into the new Standard format.
This card is mostly Hooting Mandrills and that card is nearly Constructed playable as is. If it weren't for Treasure Cruise, Murderous Cut, and Dig Through Time being as strong as they are and also needing to feed off of the graveyard as a resource, Hooting Mandrills possibly would make its way into Constructed. Siege Rhino obnoxiously being a 4/5 is another strike against it, but what if I said Hooting Mandrills had flying, first strike, vigilance, lifelink, and hexproof to go along with its trample? Then the story would be completely different. Let's look at a list with Soulflayer's most obvious pairing: Chromanticore!
- 4 Fleecemane Lion
- 2 Sagu Mauler
- 4 Satyr Wayfinder
- 4 Siege Rhino
- 3 Soulflayer
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 4 Chromanticore
- 4 Sidisi, Brood Tyrant
I was working on a Chromanticore deck to go big a few weeks ago, and Soulflayer could just be the missing link to tie the room all together. Sadly, this tends to stretch the manabase quite thin; the main offender is the necessary BB to cast Soulflayer when I really want the deck to be base green. As good as Courser of Kruphix is, even managing GG proved difficult at times.
That said, this is a blend of two of the stronger decks currently in Standard: Sultai Reanimator and Abzan Midrange. Red is basically non-existent in the deck, and the times that you want to cast or bestow a Chromanticore naturally will be in the lategame. Satyr Wayfinder does some good work to find your missing colors as well.
The optimal draw for the deck is a turn 2 Satyr Wayfinder milling something along the lines of a Sylvan Caryatid and a Chromanticore, then following it up with a turn 3 Soulflayer, which should create a threat that's only stoppable by Crackling Doom or a sweeper like End Hostilities or Elspeth, Sun's Champion. Super cute and undeniably powerful. Time will tell if a tuned version of the archetype will exist, or if Fate Reforged will provide more pieces to the puzzle.
As far as older formats go, the card pool is enormous. There are plenty of gem creatures to be delving for Soulflayer. The most notable is likely Vampire Nighthawk in Modern as it's nearly playable on its own and probably would see play if there weren't so many Lightning Bolts running around. For Legacy, JD Nir has already begun brewing with max value with Soulflayer:
The most obvious deck for Soulfire Grand Master to fit in is R/W Burn, but since the rotation of Boros Charm, Skullcrack, Shock, and Warleaders's Helix, that deck hasn't really existed. However with Stoke the Flames, Searing Blood, Lightning Strike, Magma Jet, Magma Spray, and perhaps to a smaller extent, Anger of the Gods, there may be enough tools to make this guy pretty good. I think the right start is in a shell derivative of Brad Nelson's R/W Tokens deck from Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir.
Searing Blood is a powerful card that hasn't seen as much play as it deserves because there hasn't been a deck lately to support the RR casting cost. The red decks want to have a ton of cheap creatures and spells and ran the risk of being weak in the lategame, especially when up against incidental lifegain from Courser of Kruphix and Siege Rhino. Now with Soulfire Grand Master you have a reasonable lategame engine to compete. Buying back a Lightning Strike to go machine gun mode will be its primary use, but even casting Hordeling Outburst over and over can overwhelm an opponent in the later stages. The most exciting use of Soulfire Grand Master has to be with Stoke the Flames though, as you can really go off as quickly as turn 4 with the rebuys to shoot down a Courser of Kruphix or the like. Post-sideboard, getting a repeatable Erase or Glare of Heresy will amplify the strength of your most impactful hate cards.
Valorous Stance is exactly the card that W/U Heroic needed. Courser of Kruphix, Siege Rhino, and the mirror match big creatures have always been an issue with the deck. Even though W/U Heroic is built favorably to beat the green decks, the small advantages they gain can add up to be tough to race, especially once Eidolon of Countless Battles is no longer in the mix. The deck can ill-afford to run any pure maindeck removal, as it's a very linear strategy that needs all of its moving parts to function correctly. Getting a split card like Valorous Stance to fill the role of a protection spell and a removal spell is a perfect upgrade to the strategy. It's basically a mono-white charm.
It's a shame that the new cycle of enchantments that turn into auras on a manifested creature aren't auras initially, and Heliod's Pilgrim has always wanted to be able to fetch out another creature. It only takes one more good aura to really complete the package of the deck, as you probably want eight total to go along with Heliod's Pilgrim and the second Aqueous Form is somewhat of a placeholder waiting for that day. Another current option is Mortal Obstinacy, but now with Valorous Stance to deal with Courser of Kruphix (and to a lesser extent, Doomwake Giant), those are less threatening.
Esper Control has basically been a very mana-stretched version of U/B Control that reached for End Hostilities to clean up the mess. As of now, U/B decks have to play the glacially slow Perilous Vault and somewhat hedge on a cheaper sweeper in Drown in Sorrow to function. Now that black has a sweeper all to its own with Crux of Fate, the stretch is no longer necessary. Also now that Ugin, the Spirit Dragon exists as a natural trump to Elspeth, Sun's Champion, U/B has a great lategame planeswalker as well.
With Crux of Fate, you don't have to worry so much about strong four-cost creatures like Sidisi, Brood Tyrant and Siege Rhino, allowing you to switch Disdainful Stroke for Negate. The deck is a little soft to a resolved Whip of Erebos, but that's always been the case for the deck. Hopefully you can outlast them somewhat and find your Ugin. It could be entirely right to just be playing two Ugins and no creatures at all, cutting Pearl Lake Ancient. If there's a nice blue or black (or blue and black) Dragon in Fate Reforged, I could see that being the creature of choice, as it works nicely with Crux of Fate. After seeing this guy spoiled, I expect there to be one of the cycle for this deck.
If it's indeed awesome, I can see the yet unspoiled blue/black dragon as a two-of moving forward.
Other Notable Cards
I expect that this card cost much less originally, something like 7UU before Wizards discovered how utterly broken Treasure Cruise and Dig Through Time are across every format. Eleven mana isn't the issue, it's the UUU that's the required minimum to cast it. Also the fact that it's competing with Dig Through Time for the graveyard leaves Temporal Trespass looking darn near unplayable to me.
Swarm strategies have been on the rise lately. Sultai Reanimator puts a bunch of hornets and zombies into play, and Jeskai Tokens is flooding the board with soldiers and goblins which leaves room for a card like Archfiend of Depravity to do some work. However, it has to compete with Doomwake Giant for the same slot so I'm hesitant to jump on wanting this as an answer to those strategies just yet.
Very much a "win more" card, big things were once thought about the potential in Hunter's Prowess before it ultimately fell short of being Constructed worthy. Shamanic Revelation requires a big boardstate to be effective and a huge one to be triggering the ferocious lifegain aspect of the card. The conundrum is: if you have all these great creatures in play, aren't you just winning anyway? This could have outside applications as a sideboard card in very grindy and stalemate apt matchups, but in general, I'd rather have something good. You know what's a good follow up to Hornet Queen? Another Hornet Queen.
Goblin Heelcutter will generally be better than rebuying a Lava Spike at three mana due to it enabling your creatures to attack much better by making an opposing creature unable to block. I figure its natural casting cost of 3R to be a remote alternate cost that will come up in a small percentage of games (though I have hardcast my fair share of Rubblebelt Maakas in my time). Overall, I really like this guy even if he does compete with Goblin Rabblemaster for the top-end of red decks. Without Legion Loyalist or Firefist Striker, the red rush strategy has had to lean on Hammerhand to push creatures through. I don't have a decklist just yet, but Goblin Heelcutter is one that I'll for sure be brewing with for the next iteration of Boss Sligh.
I have to say I'm super excited to see what the rest of Fate Reforged has to offer! The creatures and spells look awesome and will undoubtedly be a nice complement to what Khans of Tarkir brought to the table. For me, I'm looking forward to jamming the updated and improved W/U Heroic deck starting week one, as I feel Valorous Stance really shored up some of the holes in the archetype.
What's your favorite Fate Reforged card thus far?