If you are reading this, congratulations! You made it!
You successfully completed the Fate Reforged Prerelease weekend and all the sleep deprivation that it brings with it. Like many of you, I braved the ten-hour work day and followed it up by trying to sleep in my car between rounds of a six-round midnight flight that saw me split Top 4.
My Sealed pool was only slightly better than my failed attempt at an FNM Hero deck, and for those of you that follow me on social media, you hopefully saw the Constructed Jeskai deck I was blessed to open, complete with two Seeker of the Way, Flamewake Phoenix, and other supremely powerful goodies. My naps were all at least 30+ minutes because I only dropped a single game in all of my matches, and they were usually over by turn 8 at the latest. It felt great to open such a powerful pool.
One of the key factors in my Prerelease success was a card that I thought, upon reading for the first time, seemed pretty impressive. I opened two of them and only utilized one at first glance, but after giving it another once-over I decided to use both. Boy did I appreciate that decision later in the night. Write into Being is very reasonably costed and led to pretty huge blowouts. I was never upset to draw it, and three mana for a 2/2 manifested creature is akin to what you're paying for a morph, so you never feel like you're getting bad value. The real power rested in the "scry" ability, which helped me either hit land drops or filter out a bad draw. Leaving the card on top always felt good, because you knew you were drawing gas, which made it a lategame delight to draw as well.
From the get-go I could tell that manifest was going to be a defining mechanic in Fate Reforged Limited. Hitting a creature blindly puts you in such a dominant position, because the onus is placed on your opponent to gauge what it could be rather than what it is. On more than one occasion they used a removal spell on a 2/2 land and left a moderately better creature on the board for fear of the blowout. The shell-game dynamic always left them wondering, and when you're able to flip up a powerful threat seemingly out of nowhere, it can really swing the pendulum in your favor. No longer are opponents made privy to onboard tricks for cards like Abzan Skycaptain and instead activate your trap card. I felt like this all night.
This got me to thinking…
What if manifest isn't just a Limited all-star, but instead could have very real Standard applications?
I decided to get to work in hopes that I could answer that question.
The first deck I wanted to try out is meant to put Mastery of the Unseen to the test.
Mastery has a lot going for it, and a lot going against it. Like Sacred Mesa before it, Mastery of the Unseen has the chance to take over a game entirely if it is left unchecked. The mana cost-to-creature generating ratio is very doable in the right shell, and in a control deck, could give a very powerful win condition that can't just be hit with a Hero's Downfall.
However, that's the thing that it has working against it as well: maindeck answers. Green decks of all stripes have adopted Reclamation Sage as at least a one-of in their builds, and the ability to 187 cards like Jeskai Ascendancy or Courser of Kruphix means that Mastery might not be long for this world even if you untap with it.
Another concern that has been voiced to me is that this card seems much worse than Elspeth, but untapping with this lategame is going to let you generate a ton of power. I think playing this card on turn 4, especially with Nullify backup, is where you want to be. This now lets you hold up mana for counterspells while threatening to start putting 2/2s on the battlefield. These creatures can keep your life afloat and even add to the power of Treasure Cruise. I plan on testing this out a lot more.
That doesn't mean it's just something that you give up on though.
Here's my starting point:
A lot of the groundwork for this deck belongs to Jim Davis because, let's face it, the man is the U/W Control master. In testing his manabase prior to Fate Reforged it felt almost perfect, so that was one part I knew I didn't want to change.
Some of the big changes include Monastery Siege, which I think it absolutely fantastic in this deck. Divination is awesome, but Siege at the same cost can threaten to take over games with the chance to filter all of your draws and fill up your graveyard. In multiples it allows you to sculpt your hand to perfection and works quite well in tandem with your Banishing Lights, Elspeth, and Mastery to protect them even further.
A big reason I'm trying out Siege is for the added power of Treasure Cruise. Dig Through Time is an absolutely busted card, but in a lot of scenarios, a Siege will power a one-mana Cruise, and that means a steady stream of card advantage that can bury a player. Remember, Jeskai Tokens plays it because Ascendancy allows for cards to be put in the graveyard in abundance, and Monastery Siege has a similar effect. Untapping with one in play could be the perfect way to start the process of putting a vice-grip on a game.
A card I'm extremely anxious to try is Monastery Mentor out of the sideboard. Brimaz benefits greatly from sideboarding in mirror and midrange matches because, traditionally, removal is worse against a control deck that only packs a couple of threats. I've found that there's nothing worse than playing a Brimaz only to have it stonewalled by a card it can't attack through, often making me feel like I've wasted a slot.
Mentor, if you untap with it, has the potential to make sure that the Brimaz conundrum is completely irrelevant. Imagine this scenario:
Obviously these are optimal situations, but they don't feel out of the realm of possibility, and every spell you cast after Mentor to protect it ticks the clock down on your opponent.
For those of you that really like attacking though, I have something for you as well!
- 4 Elvish Mystic
- 1 Genesis Hydra
- 3 Hornet Queen
- 1 Reclamation Sage
- 4 Sylvan Caryatid
- 1 Temur War Shaman
- 4 Voyaging Satyr
- 3 Whisperwood Elemental
- 4 Courser of Kruphix
- 4 Polukranos, World Eater
- 1 Nylea, God of the Hunt
It's not worth winning if you can't win big, right?
Mono-Green Devotion has been a staple strategy for those who like to jam huge threats on the board and activate Nykthos for gratuitous amounts of mana to power out insane plays.
This version uses manifest to not only put more power on the board, but to also gain a lot more reach than it had in the past. One of the most difficult things for a green-based devotion deck to do was to come back from a Wrath effect like End Hostilities or the new kid on the block, Crux of Fate. Whisperwood Elemental makes sure that if your board is flush with creatures and your opponent goes for a sweeper that you're still going to have a large board presence that a control player probably can't handle.
Pushing the manifest envelope is Temur War Shaman. As of now, it's a one-of, but that could easily change as testing goes forward. Flipping up a creature and gaining the fight off of it (if say, it's a Polukranos) could clear the way for your attackers with the Prey Upon effect.
Joining the fray is massive mana sink Wildcall. For two mana you can have a 2/2, but down the line it becomes an as-big-as-you-want-it threat that will almost assuredly be the biggest baddy on the board.
The sideboard is still in progress. I'm almost certain Jeskai Tokens is going to be one of the best decks out of the gate when Fate Reforged becomes legal, so I want a card that can give this deck a fighting shot against it, and with eight black sources to cast it and Chord of Calling to find it, I wanted to try Doomwake Giant. It might be too ambitious, but the deck needs something like it to ensure it's not swallowed up by tokens.
Bonus Section: Weekly Spotlight
Something new I want to embark on is a community exercise to show off new decks, strategies, outside-the-box thinking, or just plain cool builds. I get a lot of messages a week asking about checking out the things people pour a lot of their creativity into, and what better way to reward that than to put it out here for all of us to check out.
This means I'll be posting your lists once a week for the entirety of SCG readership to check out.
No sideboard? No problem. We can build one together.
Numbers off? We can all help with that!
Feel free to ship over your creative lists to me over Facebook or Twitter, and you might get picked for something we all can get excited about. All I ask is that your deck is either a spin on something existing, new, or off-the-wall. I probably won't be posting your Abzan Midrange deck that was copied from the latest Open Series Top 8.
This week I'll be kicking it off with an Orlando native named Ashley Taylor. She sent me a mostly complete G/W Aggro list that I think shows some real promise.
One of the things that jumps out at me is how good Soldier of the Pantheon could be right now. With Abzan Aggro the most played deck, Soldier can block their powerful two-drops without batting an eyelash. While obviously having great earlygame, this deck can also hang in the midgame like most G/W Aggro decks of the past couldn't, with powerful treats like Polukranos or Wingmate Roc. Turning on a raided Roc should be child's play for this deck, and cards like Gods Willing or Valorous Stance can protect your investments from removal. Speaking of Stance, Courser of Kruphix- long the thorn in aggro deck's sides- can finally be destroyed for a very small cost that doesn't involve two-for-one'ing yourself!
What Ashley is missing, however, is a sideboard.
Well that's my time for today, kiddies.
I've got another Prerelease to play in Sunday night.
Hopefully I can run back a Constructed deck and come out on top.
See you next week.