Fate Reforged offers a ton of new cards, but they are all unique. There's a lot of useful tools, but there aren't a lot of hammers like Siege Rhino. As a result, I expect a lot of misbuilt decks. Or maybe unrefined is closer to the word I'm looking for.
I expect the best week one strategy, as usual in a format that has just opened up, will be just getting your opponent dead. Being hyper-aggressive or just playing powerful cards is going to be the most successful strategy.
In terms of actual cards, I expect the most successful new card to be Whisperwood Elemental. You have to put the least work into it to make it good. Without a supporting cast the card just does its thing and wins the game, which doesn't really apply to most of the other cards. For example, you really have to build your deck to maximize Monastery Mentor, and it is very easy to be off by just enough that it doesn't work.
Abzan Aggro (Jake Byrom) wins 2-0 vs. G/B Constellation (Brian Braun-Duin)
Garruk, Apex Predator is a card that gains a ton from Fate Reforged solely due to Frontier Siege's natural four to seven curve. I don't know if what it does is immediately powerful enough to warrant play, but if the +1: Destroy another target planeswalker ability is good, that card will really shine.
I disagree with Patrick Sullivan on Soldier of the Pantheon being poised for a comeback. Soldier in Abzan Aggro makes no sense to me. The goal of the deck was always to play all creatures that brick Sylvan Caryatid and Courser of Kruphix. This card matches up favorably against neither of those.
BBD's deck feels a bit awkward at first glance. There's a lot of moving linear components to the ramp shell, and the seven and eight cost incentive cards are really hard to cast "naturally." That means cards like Thoughtseize or Hero's Downfall, both of which featured in the deck, are significant costs to draw, as you have to have a large number of mana-producing cards to cast Ugin or Hornet Queen in a reasonable time frame. Maybe Thoughtseize buys you a turn, but it also costs a turn in the sense that the card not being a mana will stunt your plan significantly.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon is also notably not a lock to kill someone Cruel Ultimatum-style because of Hero's Downfall. This is really awkward, as basically all the decks slow enough for the eight-cost trump to really shine play that card. The minus ability is enough card advantage to solidify a gamestate, but there's a lot of tension with Ugin in these Green Devotion decks. You can minus, but if they Hero's Downfall him, you have lost your boardstate that produced the threat that was supposed to win you the game.
Basically, the point I'm getting to is Hornet Queen is great, and Frontier Siege is a big gain, but I'm not sure the payoff is there for ramping into a single threat. If it isn't, you need to be more linear to produce multiple threats.
Mono-Red Aggro (Drew Levin) wins 2-0 vs. U/B Control (Tyler Arndt)
Patrick, Cedric, and Drew all seem to agree with me here. People are going to be messing around with new cards and suboptimal decks. Get them dead.
I would watch Drew's enchantment use in these games, specifically how he consistently makes Monastery Swiftspear into a 2/3 with Hammerhand to avoid Drown in Sorrow. I agree with Patrick that he missed a point of damage by playing a Monastery Swiftspear instead of just pumping a Dragon Mantle'd creature, but beyond that he sequenced very well.
Merciless Executioner out of the sideboard of U/B Control is a pretty interesting option against W/U Heroic. I think between it and Crux of Fate, you actually put the Heroic deck into a bind where they can extend extra creatures and lose them to sweepers, or not do that and still lose their big threat to an Edict effect, where previously they could just line up their Gods Willing or Feat of Resistance with your targeted removal.
U/B Control (Alex Majlton) wins 2-1 vs. Mardu Midrange (Richard Nguyen)
Silumgar, the Drifting Death is actually a pretty awesome addition that I kept forgetting about. It really shores up a lot of holes against midrange decks that were previously able to underextend into sweepers and create incremental card advantage with token producers and planeswalkers. It also works extremely well with Crux of Fate, which is probably the biggest gain for U/B Control.
Looking at the clock and Alex's play, he is very mechanically slow with aspects of this deck. It seems like the cause here is a lot of physical manipulation of the library between scry, fetches, and Dig Through Time. This is an issue that comes up very often across many formats, most commonly with Sensei's Divining Top. Obviously people want to be careful when doing anything with their library to not look at extra cards or worse, but there is a point of being excessive here where the small time burns just keep adding up to draws. This is an aspect of the game that is rarely discussed, but if you notice that you consistently have time issues, I would take a hard look at how you physically handle your cards.
The post-match analysis by Cedric and Patrick about Rich being incentivized to scoop so he doesn't have to keep playing against control is absolutely true. If you are going to pick up a draw when a loss keeps you still live in the event, you definitely need to consider if it actually will cost you future match points to do so. Mardu is just bad against decks with removal that dead its removal, and while Rich made a match of it here, there's no way he could do it again and again over fifteen rounds. On the flip side, I've also seen scenarios where players with a deck that is heavily favored against control get paired against a friend on a similar deck early in the event and intentionally draw to increase both of their odds moving forward in the event. These are obviously corner cases, but they might help you pick up an edge once or twice.
Here we get to see Monastery Mentor make its first appearance, and it didn't last long. I really like it alongside Goblin Rabblemaster to overload their removal and with Valorous Stance as a way to protect both of them. I also really like it in this shell with Chained to the Rocks and Stoke the Flames as cheap ways to immediately activate it. The most powerful thing to do with Mentor is make a token the first turn it is in play to maximize the damage from your next turn's token-making prowess triggers, and this deck has a lot of ways to do that.
Abzan Aggro (Andrew Boswell) vs. G/B Constellation (Greg Swain)
We didn't see a lot of this match, but I really like Boon Satyr. It was poorly positioned against the sweepers from the Khans of Tarkir metagame, as a bestowed Satyr dies to both Perilous Vault and Crux of Fate.
Valorous Stance shows up yet again. I'm super impressed with the idea of the card in normal decks as a strong removal spell, as opposed to the initial evaluation of it as a new tool for the linear Heroic strategy.
Andrew Boswell has also opted to play Soldier of the Pantheon. It still doesn't make sense to me.
Jeskai Tokens (Pieter Tubergen) wins 2-1 vs. W/U Heroic (Stephen Mann)
Triplicate Spirits came up in this Jeskai Tokens list. With Monastery Mentor replacing Goblin Rabblemaster it seems like this would make sense, but I think Spirits is simply too expensive to convoke out and just bad on its own. Ephemeral Shields, which was brought up later, makes way more sense here despite the fact that you can't play too many copies of it.
That said, I do like how Jeskai Ascendancy and Monastery Mentor provide redundancy in a way Rabblemaster never did. Your deck now has a dedicated plan of play a three-drop and explode with spells. Rabblemaster just doesn't have the same synergy with Raise the Alarm that Monastery Mentor does.
Abzan Midrange (Steve Rubin) wins 2-1 vs. Jeskai Tokens (Tom Ross)
Steve has opted to go a
little lot bigger than usual, flipping Ugin, the Spirit Dragon to Courser of Kruphix early in the game. While previous lists of the deck tended to cap out at Elspeth, Sun's Champion and maybe Duneblast, you have plenty of tools to draw the required lands to cast an eight-drop if you want to. Read the Bones is a huge card for this plan, providing not only powerful selection to find the right mix of lands, threats, and answers, but also just giving you more cards so you can hit land drops while playing spells.
On the subject of Ugin, I really like how it is a maindeckable option that gives you an out to Hornet Queen. As a one-of you aren't going to always have it, but with Read the Bones, Abzan Charm, and Courser of Kruphix you can do a lot of work to find it when you need it. It also sounded like Steve opted to maindeck Bile Blight, which shows additional respect not only for the Whip of Erebos decks that were previously performing well, but also Frontier Siege.
I also like how Ugin actually has a lot of synergy with Elspeth, Sun's Champion. There aren't a lot of other six-drop threats you have to exile with Ugin's -X, so an in-play Elspeth will often survive the sweep to flood the board again.
Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker shows up again. That card really dropped off in popularity as Wingmate Roc gained metagame share and promoted playing Stormbreath Dragon as the 3RR 4/4 flying haste of choice. I don't expect Wingmate Roc to drop in metagame share anytime soon, but I do think Monastery Mentor and Jeskai Ascendancy are reasons to go towards the option that isn't officially a creature spell.
I was excited to see how Tasigur, the Golden Fang performed, but it didn't seem to shine this second game. It was a five mana 4/5 in a game that was too quick for it to go active. While that probably was one of the worst case scenarios for the card, it's worth noting how it matches up poorly against Hordeling Outburst.
Just realized it while watching this match, but if the Jeskai Tokens decks move towards Monastery Mentor over Goblin Rabblemaster, the card Glare of Heresy gets way better as it kills their two standalone threats now.
Sultai Midrange (Christopher Arnold) wins 2-1 vs. G/B Constellation (Brad Nelson)
Dakra Mystic is really odd here for a midrange deck. Playing a low impact spell in a midrange deck is just a recipe for drawing bricks going late. The synergy with Sidisi, Brood Tyrant is nice, but it feels like it's trying to be too cute. The only reason I would see for playing it is that I'm underestimating it against opposing Courser of Kruphixes, but the downside of dying to Doomwake Giant is real bad.
Tasigur really can't hang with these seven-drops. Not that the card is trying to do that, but it's worth noting that it's a level below what can occur in the format.
Game 3 is decent at illustrating why Siege Rhino and the other four and five drops are just so absurd in this format. These ramp decks have a lot of powerful but situational cards and just burn a lot of cards that don't do things on set up, while the midrange decks just keep jamming threats. If they get to trade for your cards that are supposed to be game-breaking, you just get into top deck scenarios where the midrange deck is miles ahead and you don't have time to draw out of it.
Sultai Ramp (Ali Aintrazi) wins 2-1 vs. Jeskai Tokens (Danny Goldstein)
Ali's deck looks like a real nice Frontier Siege deck. It's the Coalition Relic in your big tap out control deck instead of a pure ramp card.
Giving Silumgar a nickname is just bad. They all sound really lame, and the name is literally alternating consonants and vowels. How hard is it to say? [Ceditor's Note: Harder than you think!] That said, I do like Eugene, the Spirit Dragon.
"I never boarded it in, so I moved it to the main because I wanted to cast it." - Ali, on Worst Fears.
Ali, you keep doing you.
Abzan Aggro (Andrew Boswell) wins 2-1 vs. Sultai Control (Gerard Fabiano)
I guess Soldier of the Pantheon starts making sense when you realize that Warden of the First Tree also loses heads up to Courser of Kruphix. If you are going to lose that fight anyways, may as well make your deck better against U/B Control by going under them.
Rakshasa's Secrets post-board here makes no sense. Against the pre-Fate Reforged lists I like it as a way to knock things like Wingmate Roc out of the way, but as soon as you see multiple one-drops (Soldier of the Pantheon and Warden of the First Tree) I would be looking to fight a lower curve.
Of course, if this Control moinker is off and you are a more aggressive Tasigur deck, the early delve enabling is nice. The Satyr Wayfinder we saw game 2 really shifted the game 1 view of this deck. And you may also be assuming Andrew is boarding up the curve (as he did with Nissa, Worldwaker) and using Secrets to handle the shift. Looking at Gerard's article, this appears to be a sideboard juke plan, but I can't help but wonder if it's just better to play that deck instead of his game 1 configuration.
I like how Interpret the Signs also combos with Tasigur similarly to how it worked with Dig Through Time. That said, I don't know if the deck really needs more card advantage or expensive spells. This is especially true if you aren't maindecking the Liliana Vess to make the full combo chain of tutors.
I'm sure Gerard has some good ideas here and will have a much better list in a couple weeks, but this one feels like he was just trying out a lot of things and it didn't all pan out.
G/B Constellation (Sean Feeley) vs. G/B Constellation (Reid Duke)
In Garruk's Wake? How are these decks beating people just deading them. Even if you say you have tools for aggro and this is your anti-midrange sideboard, what happens when you lean on your nine-drop against Abzan Midrange and they just Rhino you? It makes sense in these absurd mirrors where no one can kill the other person to have some absurd trumps, but I really hope people realize they have to wait for the metagame to narrow down before they can go this deep.
Watching this game, I'm not even sure it was good enough. The card doesn't hit Pharika, which can build up a board right after the Plague Wind. It doesn't hit Whip of Erebos. It might even be too slow if you are bowled over early with Eidolon of Blossoms card advantage. We saw Soul of Innistrad really take over this game, and it looks like repeatable card advantage is really just the more important aspect over one-time breakers like In Garruk's Wake (or if you are Abzan, Duneblast).
Also, I would like to remind everyone of the lessons of Theros block. Constellation was a big force in the metagame, but rather than finding breakers to the midgame slogs, the best plan in the format was just killing your opponent as shown by the fact that Pro Tour finals was a Fleecemane Lion mirror.
Deck Tech: W/R Heroic (Zach Jesse)
The logic for the swap here makes a lot of sense. You can't really play the sit back and fight their removal game against Crux of Fate, especially because the black decks are well-positioned to fight Stubborn Denial with discard and instant removal. May as well just kill them fast with your protection spells as disruption.
The maindeck set of creatures here looks great and very well-suited to what this deck is trying to do. Max damage, max evasion for Temur Battle Rage.
I was initially really skeptical of Ordeal of Purphoros, as there are less creatures that heroic up +1/+1 counters, but the fact that it can Bolt down a potential blocker seems nice. Similarly, I'm wondering why there aren't more Feat of Resistance if the goal is getting through damage.
Corner case sequencing note: You can Temur Battle Rage after a heroic trigger has resolved, but before the spell resolved. The exact scenario I'm imagining is you have a 2/2 Fabled Hero facing down Stormbreath Dragon and a random white creature, so you need the protection from red and the trample to get through. Gods Willing, get your heroic counter, then before your first spell resolves, Temur Battle Rage. The Battle Rage resolves with your Hero as a 4/4 and gets the ferocious bonus but before your Gods Willing would give your Hero protection from red.
Deflecting Palm is awesome. It might be a bit worse here than elsewhere, as it's often better if your other cards convert to assured damage; the reach from Deflecting Palm adds up. In this deck your damage is in massive increments, so you will be coming up just a bit short less than a "normal" deck.
Mortal's Ardor is an awesome card I completely forgot existed. The interaction of Hero of Iroas and Ordeal of Heliod is probably why it didn't see nearly as much play in W/U Heroic, the one-mana trick seems much more relevant in this deck.
Ride Down is another interesting find. I'm not sure it's significantly better than Valorous Stance if the goal is jamming through a Siege Rhino, but it is much better against Hordeling Outburst (see Steve Mann's earlier match).
For those who haven't seen the deck, the combo is Temur Ascendancy, Temur Sabretooth, and either Karametra's Acolyte or Voyaging Satyr plus Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx. With seven devotion to green you make infinite mana by bouncing Acolyte or Satyr with Sabretooth and recasting it, which then turns into infinite cards if you have a four-power creature or Eidolon of Blossoms to loop, which then turns into an infinite power Genesis Hydra which finds a Nylea, God of the Hunt for trample. If you have the Nykthos combo, you can also immediately make infinite blue or red mana, as Temur Ascendancy provides one devotion to each for Nykthos to funnel your infinite green mana to. I doubt that last one matters, but it's cool to know.
It's really awesome how all of your combo pieces are actually good. Green Devotion wants mana accelerants to begin with, and Temur Ascendancy and Temur Sabretooth are both reasonable cards on their own as ways to draw cards and "removal-proof" your deck.
Temur Sabretooth is also great as a way to rebuy Genesis Hydra or Hornet Queen to go big when you have mana but not necessarily more cards to spend it on. Even without the combo it seems great, and I would look into this card in lower quantities in the traditional Green Devotion deck.
Read the Bones seems great out of Brad's deck. In fact I'm kind of wondering why that isn't more of the main plan. See all of my discussion about how Read the Bones lets the Abzan Midrange deck go super big as well.
I don't know if this Temur Ascendancy deck is significantly more resilient than traditional Green Devotion, but it is certainly more powerful. Being unable to go over the top of it or really outlast it seems to me like it makes this deck actually exciting and not just a gimmick.
Deck Tech: G/B Constellation (Brad Nelson)
I've said most of what I had to say about this deck in the earlier rounds, but I would want more traditional threats in the board so I can board down on the pure ramp plan when I'm boarding up on interaction. The other option is just making the sideboard more linear and not boarding into a super diluted deck to answer your opponent's threats.
"Don't get fancy. If they are tapped out, just cast it." - Patrick Sullivan's sage words of advice on playing removal versus Heroic decks. For the most part this is true, unless you are absolutely sure you can get more value out of it based on your other cards.
I don't necessarily agree with Patrick on losing Stubborn Denial being bad because I've been nothing but unimpressed by that card. Too often it just does nothing. It doesn't pump your creatures. It doesn't do anything unless you are already set up. I've watched too many Heroic players just die with it in hand to be excited about that even if it gives you a unique answer. Same issue as always with boarding in a situational and purely reactive card in your aggressive linear deck.
The commentators and I agree: The best part of Siege Rhino is playing two of them.
Game 3 we see a definite case where Ride Down was not the right call. Valorous Stance would have allowed Zach to do so much more: killing Dan's Siege Rhino, saving his Fabled Hero from removal, or even just adding one power to the board. If you are going to sideboard in interaction, it's way better if it supports your linear gameplan when you don't kill their creatures with it.
What edge does white control have over black with Crux of Fate now existing to replace End Hostilities? Is it Elspeth, Sun's Champion? It's certainly a fine card, but there's definitely one less thing in the pros column for U/W Control.
On the earlier note of good physical mechanics, Jim has this whole getting things done fast enough to win thing down pretty well. I also really liked his end game play here. He's ahead with more than enough time to win, so he just plays the game very conservatively. Seriously, if you want to see how to play control in a time sensitive scenario, watch these ten or so minutes of footage. It's made even better by the fact that Jim does it while Reid plays in his usual deliberate fashion. The only thing I disagree with is using the Nullify on the Eidolon of Blossoms with a Banishing Light in play you want to protect from Reclamation Sage.
Mono-Red Aggro (Seth Giurato) wins 2-0 vs. Sultai Ramp (Ali Aintrazi)
I'm not shocked game 1 played out the way it did, especially with Ali on the draw. You really need to get off to a removal heavy start against the red decks in this format, and Ali just didn't have it. Welcome to the draw of the red deck.
I disagree with Patrick on boarding in Sarkhan, the Dragonspeaker in this matchup. You don't want to try and fight Ali on his mid-to-lategame terms. Don't give him good targets for his expensive removal or dilute your hand in the earlygame. Just jam harder than he can handle.
Given the threat in play was Goblin Rabblemaster, I really don't like his play of developing the board and playing blockers over just killing it. Hornet Queen isn't the best out to Rabblemaster, as the 1/1s all die in combat with each other, and if the 2/2 dies, the Rabblemaster will grind the tokens down eventually. I also think that Ali could have changed his sequencing with Tasigur to better limit Seth's options on the rebuys and could have attacked a little more aggressively, but in the end Seth just had the burn so those didn't matter.
R/W Devotion (Sam Chapin) wins 2-1 vs. Mono-Green Devotion (Kali Anderson)
Both Devotion decks look real good against no removal. Worth noting if the format shifts in that direction.
I think Kali missed the play that would do this a couple times, but I do like how you can use Frontier Siege on your first main phase to play a creature, then use Nykthos in your second main phase to add more mana than you would have had you just used it first main.
Mono-Red Aggro (Seth Giurato) wins 2-0 vs. Abzan Midrange (Dan Musser)
I really like Seth's statement about the format here. Everyone is cutting down on Drown in Sorrow and Anger of the Gods, so punish them for it. He also happens to catch these Abzan decks that are cutting down on Sylvan Caryatid, though Foundry Street Denizen with Hordeling Outburst and Goblin Rabblemaster is still fine in that fight.
U/B Control (Alex Majlaton) vs U/B Control (Kurt Spiess)
Prognostic Sphinx looks.... unexciting. It can die easily, it can be stalled. I think there are just better threats to play and that the scry doesn't matter nearly as much as raw cards. The combo with Tasigur is cute, but I would rather just have a creature that doesn't lean on another creature to be actually good.
Grindclock is really nice here. These U/B Control mirrors need an aggressive way to end the game, and this is exactly what you are looking for. That said, you better know how to do the math here, or at least memorize the thresholds.
Deck Tech: Temur Ascendancy Combo with Joey Page
I went pretty deep talking about this deck earlier, but I really like the fact that you can board into Kiora, the Crashing Wave here. It might be worse than I think without backup removal, but that card is a relatively easy to cast, powerful, unique effect that sidesteps a lot of the sweepers or spot removal that normally is deployed against Devotion decks.
The lower amount of acceleration here is a huge reason why Ali is less favored in this matchup than other ramp decks. If Abzan gets to cast its spells before you cast Hornet Queen, it can easily get so far ahead that five insects isn't enough to catch up. He also doesn't have something like See the Unwritten to do crazy things like make ten insects.
Tasigur costing six against Ashiok is real nice. Playing creatures that aren't immediately exploitable if hit by that card is pretty good, especially when one of the big draws of the Abzan Midrange deck as it existed was that a lot of the threats were planeswalkers that Ashiok also doesn't hit.
Abzan Aggro (Andrew Boswell) wins 2-1 vs. G/B Constellation (Brian Braun-Duin)
Total damage from this Soldier of the Pantheon game 1: two. It landed on turn 1. The second one was also worth two damage. At least Warden of the First Tree threatens going over a Courser of Kruphix later. This 2/1 just kept running into an 0/3 all day. It doesn't even block Siege Rhino well. I'm pretty sure the only reason to play Soldier is to trump the mirror, where it handles Anafenza, Rakshasa Deathdealer, and Fleecemane Lion.
On the subject of Warden of the First Tree, it appears to match my expectations. Not super exciting, but good enough to play. Brings your deck just a little bit down the curve and makes it truly an aggressive deck without really changing the core principle of having your cards scale well going late.
I guess I already knew about this from testing U/B Control with Perilous Vault, but Fleecemane Lion definitely took a hit with Ugin showing up. The two words "hexproof" and "indestructible" are countered pretty easily by the two words "exile" and "all."
Patrick's comment on lifegain was immediately countered by a Garruk, Apex Predator -3, but it's worth really paying attention to. In testing for Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, this was a huge aspect of any deck we were trying to go large with. There's a lot of ways for the aggressive decks to do those last few points of damage given time in this format, and there are a lot of ways to lose life to your own cards. Not having a way to pull yourself out of range is huge, and that's something that's missing from this Constellation deck. Whip of Erebos is the obvious choice, and I think the deck wants a copy or two moving forward.
Temur Ascendancy (Joey Page) wins 2-1 vs. Jeskai Tokens (James Pogue)
We join this match in progress to bring you a complete and utter beating.
I'm glad game 1 reminded us that we can always go under the ramp deck with a little interaction and win. It's been way too long since we've had a ramp deck without Anger of the Gods or Pyroclasm to shut this option down.
Cedric's comments about casting Raze and loving Magnivore as a small child really brings me back. I feel like this sentiment was really characteristic of the entire Ohio-Michigan-Indiana region from that time frame. The Midwest Magic scene was really the best kind of Spikey, where your opponent getting to cast no spells over an entire match was the definition of having a blast. [CEDitor's Note: It really was the best. There is a lot wrong with us heh.]
I know it's part of the combo, but I think the first thing I would cut from this deck is Singing Bell Strike. Unlike all of your other combo pieces, it does very little on its own. I'm really shocked it made it past sideboarding here against the Tokens deck.
Game 1 looks like a textbook example of how the Abzan Midrange versus control matchup ends. The Abzan player just runs them out of cards and life, and there's just one final turn where the control player is drawing to slim or no outs just to regain board parity, let alone getting into a winning position.
I think Patrick missed big on analyzing Gerard's sideboard. He wanted to sideboard basically nothing, but I don't think that plan works. I think you want to sideboard any counters, as they let you one-for- one planeswalkers. I also think you want Tasigur and Silumgar to pressure planeswalkers and hold off some of the more mediocre beats that turn into life advantages the Abzan player can leverage to not overextend. I'm also perfectly okay with Tasigur eating a Hero's Downfall instead of an Ugin, or it eating an Abzan Charm instead of the Abzan player getting a two-for-one.
Interesting play one of game 2: Gerard has a Kiora, the Crashing Wave to Dan's Vampire token and casts Thoughtseize as his last card in hand. Dan has Abzan Charm and Siege Rhino with mana to Charm to draw two in response. My instinct was to draw two, but with only a single threat I really like Dan's play just saving the Charm. Giving Gerard the information is really bad if your Charm misses in anyway, whereas Rhino alone puts Gerard into a situation where he has to rip a removal spell the next turn to keep his Kiora at a threatening number of counters. That puts Dan at probably a 2:1 favorite, which is really good for him.
Interesting play two of game 2: Gerard has a single card in hand and plays an Opulent Palace off the top. Dan only has a Thoughtseize in hand. Prior to Fate Reforged, I would hold that Thoughtseize until I drew a threat to line it up with the correct answer for my threat, but that changes for this specific situation. The Opulent Palace was Gerard's eighth mana source, and that means Ugin is an issue. I may be biased from hindsight because Gerard did have the Ugin, but it really felt to me just watching Gerard that he had a spell to hit and that the cost of not hitting an Ugin if he has it is too big of a risk to not fire off the Thoughtseize.
Interesting play three of game 3: Gerard ultimates Ugin. Dan doesn't scoop. There are fifteen minutes on the clock at this point. While Dan is certainly capable of winning in less time, I would have concerns that if either player reboards, you run into a scenario where you might not have time to win if you have a grindier game. Dan did have a theoretical out of his own Ugin into a removal spell for Gerard's second Ugin, but I think that minute or two of time is real huge if you want to end the match with a non-draw result. I'll have to look at the end of the event, but it seems like 12-3 would be the typical top 8 cut off with good breakers, making the draw is basically a loss, meaning there wouldn't be a good reason to play for one match point instead of risking zero or three.
Interesting play one of game 3: Dan has a Tasigur he can cast on a board of mirrored 1/1s (Soldiers versus Satyr Wayfinders) with Gerard low on cards, but opts to instead hold it until he can cast it plus activate it in the same turn. With time ticking down, no immediate board advantage, extra threats in hand, and Gerard approaching eight mana, I think he had to be a little more proactive instead of playing for value.
Watching Silumgar in play against the Abzan deck makes me really like Ugin in the Abzan deck. There really isn't another sweeper that you can play that hits Silumgar and isn't a brick when they don't have the card. The other option is ignore the card, but true hexproof, surviving the main sweeper, and clearing Elspeth tokens makes the Dragon much harder to overrun than the similar Prognostic Sphinx.
Deck Tech: Sultai Ramp (Ali Aintrazi)
The Garruk, Apex Predator versus Ugin fight is a good note from this. If Garruk hits first, you have to use all of Ugin's counters to kill it; and if Garruk comes second, it just +1's and wins.
Something else pointed out here that I forgot before: Ugin can -0 to kill tokens. Nice Hornet Queen.
Disdainful Stroke has to be one of the biggest draws to blue in this format. Splashable, positive tempo, and answers all of the value threats at card parity.
Abzan Aggro (Andrew Boswell) wins 2-0 vs. Abzan Aggro (Hunter Nance)
Multiple Rakshasa Deathdealers is so awkward. I'm not sure you actually want to shave down on the card because it matches up so well against Crux of Fate, but a big plus of Warden of the First Tree might be that you can build a good early curve without overloading on Deathdealers.
Tasigur seems awesome in this shell as a cheaper but bigger threat, but of course, the card seems awesome everywhere so that doesn't mean much.
I do like how the matches we've watched with Boswell really show how his manabase is constructed compared to more traditional ones. Boswell is often seen light on black but curving out, whereas Hunter was behind the curve with tapped lands but had perfect colors. I'm interested in seeing Andrew's full list to comment further on this point, and I also wonder if the Bile Blights we've seen in his hand are actually better than less color intensive options.
I don't agree with Patrick that Hunter's deck is ahead in the matchup. I think Hunter's mana is a huge problem, and despite the hate I've been throwing its way all event, Soldier of the Pantheon is a huge breaker here.
On this mana note, I really like Sandsteppe Citadel here in Boswell's deck over any Temples. Hitting your mana early is way more important than the scry here, and your lands should be selected for this reason.
Warden of the First Tree trumping Wingmate Roc at ultimate is huge here. I don't think it matters as much against the more removal heavy midrange lists, but in the aggro mirror, the fact that the previously untouchable trump now is outclassed by a cheaper threat in relatively little time is huge and makes playing the smaller deck much more enticing. Why bother with five-drops when your gamebreaker can also be your beatdown card?
The fact that Warden of the First Tree doesn't die to Glare of Heresy is another big plus for it. I may have underrated this card initially. It definitely isn't on the same level as Figure of Destiny, but it's strong enough to see play and has a lot of spots where it exceeds its base Watchwolf pedigree. It's not going to be a centerpiece of a deck or a huge draw to an archetype, but it's definitely great as a curve-filler in the decks that need one.
I think Hunter having Nissa, Worldwaker in his deck postboard feels really wrong, especially after seeing Andrew going low to the ground game 1. You can't afford this many five-drops, and Roc is just better. The animated lands can block Soldier of the Pantheon, but that's about it.
Abzan Midrange (Dan Musser) wins 2-1 vs. Abzan Midrange (Jeremy Bowman)
The commentators don't really like End Hostilities here, but I think they are underestimating the draw of Jeremy combining End Hostilities with Whisperwood Elemental to build a pseudo-Plague Wind. Obviously if he saw game 1 End Hostilities from Dan he shouldn't try to fight on the same level as him, but in the dark I can see that as something he has been playing for this entire event.
Not much else to say here. This matchup isn't really a new thing. We saw Whisperwood Elemental for the first time, but it didn't do much beyond be another five-drop that made small value.
Abzan Aggro (Hunter Nance) wins 2-1 vs. Jeskai Tokens (Tom Ross)
I think Tom loses a lot here by being the fun-ofs week one list. If there's one thing Abzan Aggro tries to do, it's capitalize on durdling.
That said, the game 1 draws really didn't show this. I think Hunter kept a fine hand, as the Thoughtseize makes up for it being slow, but Tom's super consistent double Ascendancy, multiple token producer hand just shut that plan down.
I like Wild Slash in this Jeskai list when you are winning with this deck as a one-mana way to trigger Ascendancy and Monastery Mentor, but when you aren't it seems really mediocre. What does two damage even kill? I think I would rather have a better deck in the games where I'm not super far ahead than build my deck to win more.
End Hostilities seems great in the Tokens deck. The deck is so good at reloading post-Wrath, has concerns with decks coming out under its mass of three-drops, and can filter through dead End Hostilities while winning with Ascendancy or just draw through the dead card with delve spells.
Jeskai Aggro coming back, both in top 8 and in the day 2 metagame breakdown, makes sense. The deck punishes people messing around really well. Beyond that, a ton of Siege Rhinos lines up with the "just play powerful cards" plan I discussed at the start, but I expected more R/W Aggro, to be honest. The two Sultai decks is a bit surprising, but both of the players are really good and can be expected to have worked their decks to a level above the rest for week one.
That said, this Jeskai list is wild. Abzan Advantage? Shaman of the Great Hunt? Abzan Advantage is interesting and is a two mana-kill spell for Courser of Kruphix, but I'm not sold. Shaman on the other hand is a big haste creature, which I can always get behind.
W/U Heroic (Logan Mize) wins 2-1 vs. Sultai Ramp (Ali Aintrazi)
I really like Logan's sideboarded Disdainful Stroke. It's an actual good answer as opposed to Stubborn Denial. In case you couldn't tell already, I'm pretty sure Denial is a giant trap and extremely overrated.
Game 2 and game 3 illustrate the issue I see with Ali's deck. There isn't a card like Siege Rhino that ties the room together. You have earlygame and lategame, and if you don't draw them in the right order, things start falling apart.
Not too much to see here. One game Ali lives to play eight-drops Logan can't trump, and the other two Logan just won very easily as a creature didn't die.
Sultai Control (Gerard Fabiano) wins 2-1 vs. Abzan Aggro (Hunter Nance)
To contradict Patrick, I really like Kiora here as a removal spell that doesn't get stopped by Deathdealer's regenerate. Dying to removal is only a slight issue.
Also, as to Kiora's lack of metagame presence: it's bad against planeswalkers making tokens and haste. It's great against actual creatures that don't have haste. As the metagame shifted to Heroic and Abzan Aggro over Jeskai Tokens, it started gaining traction.
Gerard's deck feels a lot more cohesive than Ali's, and I'm trying to figure out why. It might just be the fact that he has a couple more Murderous Cuts and Bile Blights and a few less Pearl Lake Ancients and Hornet Queens. Satyr Wayfinder adding more delve mana to make Dig Through Time less of a five- drop and more of a two-drop is also a big deal. The two Crux of Fate do feel like it might be one too few though given how strong that card is.
I'm not 100% with Patrick and Cedric on Tasigur. I think the card is very good, but the hype is starting to outpace the reality. It's a 4/5 without trample and has a very costly activation in a format where mana is at a premium. Keep this in mind and don't haphazardly throw it in everything. Gerard's deck is very specifically configured to take advantage of it with lots of delve and cheap instants to maximize the instant speed activation. It's not Siege Rhino, where your deck is just better for having it (man, I really have underestimated how much I love that card).
Assuming Gerard kept a one-lander game 3, I love the decision. With a Wayfinder to enable cheap plays and being on the draw you get paid off big if you hit. That said, I think the commentators' analysis of Gerard is more spot on. Opulent Palace does the work of three basics, this is like a nine-card hand!
That said, if this Feed the Clan was in his hand, it's much closer to an eight-card hand. No idea what it is trying to do in this matchup.
Despite my previous comment on Tasigur, I really wonder why it wasn't in Gerard's maindeck after watching these games. Is the maindeck removal that much of an issue for it?
Sultai Control (Gerard Fabiano) wins 2-1 vs. R/W Aggro (Danny Goldstein)
If you want a narrative for this, we have all of the best cards in Fate Reforged facing down here. Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, and Crux of Fate on one side. Valorous Stance and Monastery Mentor on the other.
Monastery Mentor, Goblin Rabblemaster, and Valorous Stance are quite the trio. I'm honestly shocked we didn't see more of this with the fact that R/W was the most represented deck in day two. Hard to kill threats, versatile removal, and protection. I also really like how Valorous Stance kills Tasigur in post-board games without being embarrassing when they don't have it.
I honestly didn't even know Polukranos, World Eater was in this deck until game 2 of this match. Not a bad transformative option.
Overall, Gerard hit on some pretty impressive things with his deck. Most notable is how great Satyr Wayfinder looks. Gerard is basically splashing green for this card, and it's for good reason. 1G, 1/1, replace itself, add four mana to your future delve mana pool. This is the Thought Scour of Standard.
The winners of this weekend are Tasigur, the Golden Fang, Ugin, the Spirit Dragon, Crux of Fate, Monastery Mentor, and Valorous Stance. Or more accurately basically all of Fate Reforged, which is really impressive for a small set.
Watching Dan Musser and Steve Rubin play Abzan Midrange, I was thoroughly impressed. I think the time is right for powerful, resilient threats again over small aggro lists that falter in the face of Tasigur-backed removal or larger lists that have low equity against random proactive strategies like R/W Aggro. Of course, take this with a grain of salt because calling me biased here might be generous.
The big loser that comes to mind is Soulfire Grand Master, which appears to be undersized and overcosted for the format every time it shows up on camera. Brutal Hordechief, Whisperwood Elemental, Torrent Elemental, and Flamewake Phoenix also failed to perform, but I think that may be more due to the fact that they just didn't show up than them being bad cards.
Sidisi, Brood Tyrant also dropped in metagame share, but that may be more due to the fact that the Whip of Erebos decks are much better in a more defined metagame. When we tested against these decks for the Pro Tour, they didn't beat anything, but as people focusing more on having the right answers, they found their way in. I'm not sure the card will recover to the levels it was at before, as Tasigur promotes a very different, controlling playstyle over the tap out midrange style of Sidisi, but time will tell.
Overall, this Standard format is a great refresher from the static environment of last year. Cards change things in new and powerful ways. I would say I hope Dragons of Tarkir does the same, but given that it is a large set, I imagine that it will.