Fate Reforged is fresh off the press and hopefully most of y'all had a chance to enjoy Prerelease weekend as much as I did. When any second set gets added to a block, some things will be shaken up but never so much as to distract from the flavor and theme of the block as a whole. New tricks arise, more morphs appear to be aware of, and the power level of cards from the previous set rise and fall accordingly when new cards are introduced to the mix. Today I'd like to talk about some of the changes I've noticed and how I feel certain cards in Khans of Tarkir are affected by Fate Reforged.
Note that the new Limited formats will be the following:
Sealed: 3 packs or Khans of Tarkir and 3 packs of Fate Reforged.
Draft: 1 pack of Fate Reforged followed by 2 packs of Khans of Tarkir.
As far as drafting is concerned, without tri-colored bombs, I imagine the go-to strategy is to fall into two colors after pack one and slowly fall into a third (or stick to two) as the remaining two packs develop. For Sealed, it could go either way, as in you won't have enough fixing and playables for a solid three-color deck and have to branch out into more colors, or that more colors simply won't come together.
For the most part, it's been fairly common knowledge that the banners have been too slow to play. When people don't have a wealth of mana fixing in their lands, I can see more players begrudgingly playing a banner out of necessity in the future.
Bolster is a new mechanic from Fate Reforged that places X +1/+1 counters on the creature you control with the least (or tied for least) toughness. Bolster replaces Abzan's outlast ability from Khans of Tarkir and looks to work incredibly well with the outlast creatures such as Abzan Battle Priest, Ainok Bond-Kin, and Abzan Falconer.
On the surface, a card like Map the Wastes is a slow Rampant Growth with a small bonus and also yet another three-mana mana fixer to join the cycle of banners. In truth, Map the Wastes can be a very powerful card depending on the structure of your deck, the most important being having a healthy number of two-drops to benefit from the Bolster 1 on turn 3. The other is having some nice five-mana spells that you want to ramp into. The plan of skipping playing a morph or other three-mana creature will have to be made up with a quality creature on turn 4.
Some two-drop creatures aren't very threatening on their own, where a Bolster 1 will make them into substantially stronger threats that need addressing. Here are a few:
When drafting with bolster in mind, keep note of the toughness of your smaller creatures that you're drafting. It's best to keep them overall the same if you can help it, say, mainly with two toughness, so that when you do cast a card with bolster you have the most options to choose from.
Dash means that you want to keep your life total outside of the critically low range against any deck featuring red or black (most of them). Act of Treason, Jeering Instigator, and a swingy Trumpet Blast were previously the main reasons to hold back more than what could be perceived on-board, but now you have to worry about the possible dash cards they could have. What makes matters worse is that Goblin Heelcutter effectively puts two unaccounted for creatures getting though as it both eliminates a blocker and adds a three-power attacker for only three mana and at common.
Morphs and Manifest
There are no morphs in Fate Reforged. Previously, our three curve was so plentiful of morphs that it was a shocker if someone didn't have a turn 3 play. Very reasonable morphs like War Behemoth and Glacial Stalker often got benched simply because there were enough better morphs or otherwise playables to fill the role. With morphs being absent for a pack in Draft and half of the packs in Sealed, you won't be able to count on a three-drop happening for free, and we'll see a higher importance placed on generic morphs than before.
This morph, in particular, is great at serving a dual role. There's a cycle of uncommon Dragons in Fate Reforged that are all playable. With more flying 4/4s running around, the usefulness of Monastery Flock as a cheap blocker goes up.
It was already tough to get a read on this one as a potential morph. Especially if this card is manifested, Ruthless Ripper will be nearly impossible not to walk into. It even has the added bonus of being able to unmorph for a single black!
Now that manifest is a thing, boards will be flooded with 2/2 face down creatures even more than before. Fate Reforged also brings strong token makers like Sandsteppe Outcast. Against a bomb rare like Monastery Mentor or Mastery of the Unseen, a card like Death Frenzy will be a huge swing to get to out of a hole.
This was a great card to open and move into an awesome five-color deck with all the bombs, morphs, and whatever else you could ever want. Trail of Mystery triggers each time a card is manifested, enabling your triggers to be cheaper and likely occurring more often. Opening this pack two when you're already green shouldn't be too late to move into the archetype since even though you can't flip manifest cards, you will be hitting your land drops each turn and ought to be casting more powerful spells than your opponent. Though it will be a shame to manifest a one-of land that you want to be searching up.
The same goes here. Cards like Ethereal Ambush, Mastery of the Unseen, and Whisperwood Elemental greatly increase the power of opening a Secret Plans. The question is, do you cross your fingers hoping for this to lap or bite the bullet and take it early?
These two are so powerful that there are talks of Constructed potential with these cards and manifest. These were already pretty bomby on their own, but now that there's a chance to unmorph them for the low, low price of two mana, manifest and a turn 3 flipped Hooded Hydra will lead to some sick blowouts.
Cards that got worse
It's hard for such a powerful card to move down many notches on the pick order, but I expect it not to be such a slam as it once was. The lower numbers of Abzan Battle-Priest and Abzan Falconer and the presence of bolster as a means to place +1/+1 counters lessens the need for Armament Corps. B/W Warriors was a strong archetype in triple Khans Draft, and I expect it to hold its strength going into the new format, as even though there will be less warrior-specific cards, it'll be tougher to branch into a third color. I can easily see someone sticking to their guns and passing on Armament Corps this time around.
Cheaper tri-color cards. With one less tri-land in your packs, decks will have less fixing than before. There will be decent incentive and direction to be only two colors, and some of the strong tri-color cards may require a strong commitment rather than a splash, such as the Ascendancies or powerful rares like Mantis Rider.
This was always borderline playable but only usually in decks that didn't get enough Sultai Scavengers or Hooting Mandrills. Now that black has Gurmag Angler as a cheaper and mostly better version of this expensive black creature, Shambling Attendants' stock goes way down.
Now that Sandblast and Whisk Away exist, people will be extra wary not to attack an important creature into three open mana. Kill Shot is generally a worse version of either as well, as it doesn't work on defending creatures when you're trying to keep up pressure. It's also possible to have too many of this effect in your deck, as they can be played around it to some degree and that only gets amplified when you show multiples of them. You have very little excuse for getting caught offguard by a Kill Shot in a post-Fate Reforged world.
More Enchantments and Artifacts
The cycle of Runemarks alongside the rare cycle of Sieges add to the expectancy that you'll face enchantments. Ugin's Construct, Hero's Blade, and Stone Hewn Retainers are all playable artifacts from the new set as well that will likely make the decks of whoever drafts them. Add to the fact that banners have more importance leaves a strict sideboard card like Naturalize becoming surprisingly close to maindeck playable and at the very least an important card to have access to in your pool. The same goes for Abzan Advantage from Fate Reforged.
Overall, the changes I expect are to see more two-color decks, nearly every on-color morph to make decks, and for banners to see play in more three-color decks.
I'm sure I've missed a few big swingers here and there. With Pro Tour Fate Reforged on the horizon, I want to be sure not to be stuck in the mindset of old pick orders in a new Draft format. This seems to be a format that greatly benefits awareness of the sets with regards to the possible morphs, manifested creatures, and tricks that your opponent could have.
What's your favorite card for Limited from Fate Reforged?