Today, I’ll be doing some brewing for the new Standard with Fate Reforged. The latest set is filled with gems, and I excitedly built five new decks: W/B Tokens, U/W Robots, Devotion to Ugin, R/G Defector, and Red Devotion. But before I get to the brews, I want to briefly talk about several interesting cards that stood out to me as well, but that didn’t fit in my brews.
Turning Lightning Strike into Lightning Helix is pretty cool, and it can dominate the late game once you start rebuying spells like Stoke the Flames. It cannot get through a Sylvan Caryatid or Courser of Kruphix, so it’s not an ideal aggressive 2-drop, but I think it can do some work in a deck with enough burn spells. Accordingly, Soulfire Grand Master might just solve the 2-drop problem in Jeskai Fireworks, Mardu Midrange, and W/R Midrange. These decks were always lacking good 2-drops, going so far as running Nullify and Raise the Alarm. Soulfire Grand Master seems much better than those cards. The abilities don’t stack, so I wouldn’t just jam 4 copies, but it seems great as a 2- or 3-of.
It can come down for a single black mana, it blocks Siege Rhino, and it gives you fresh cards turn after turn. In the late game, the activated ability will generally be better than drawing a random card because the worst spell in your graveyard is usually preferable over the risk of getting a useless land. Besides, it can yield a 2/2 Zombie in conjunction with Sidisi. There are diminishing returns to a legendary delve card with an activated ability, so you don’t want to draw multiples, but it looks like a sweet 2-of in Whip decks to me.
See a theme here? Yes, almost all of the hybrid cards from Fate Reforged are awesome. I love how they can go into multiple decks as well. The obvious home for Warden of the First Tree is Abzan Aggro, but if straight-up G/W Aggro would become a deck, then it can also slot in there. I hope we’ll continue to see hybrid cards in future sets.
What does Warden of the First Tree offer? First and foremost, it’s a 1-drop that can attack through Sylvan Caryatid and that won’t lose a combat to Courser of Kruphix. That’s huge, and it’s reason enough to play this card. The second and third abilities are merely bonuses; you’ll generally pump it to a 3/3 and only upgrade it further when you have absolutely nothing better to do. Nevertheless, lifelink is great in a damage race and works nicely with counters from Anafenza or Abzan Charm. Finally, Warden of the First Tree’s last ability can be activated over and over, so in the late game it turns into a must-answer bomb. I could see Abzan Aggro adding 3 copies instead of Heir of the Wilds or Thoughtseize.
We already had Magma Spray and Magma Jet, but this is the first actual Shock we get in Standard. Red aggro decks will appreciate a mana-efficient way to take out Goblin Rabblemaster and Seeker of the Way that also has the potential of going to the face for the final points of damage.
Yet, the main reason why I mention this card (as the only non-hybrid card in this list) is that I feel there was a missed opportunity here. The ferocious ability on this card could, and should, have been to deal 3 damage instead of 2. In my opinion, a Shock/Lightning Bolt would’ve been a more striking and more memorable design. The damage prevention that we got instead is next to useless and feels randomly tacked on. Temur deserved a better payoff for its 4-power creatures.
Oh well. On to the brews!
Monastery Mentor is one of the most interesting cards from the new set.
Reminiscent of Young Pyromancer, it can take over the game singlehandedly in a deck that is built to take advantage of it. Moreover, it allows us to do some fun math! Specifically, I figured out that if you start the turn with Monastery Mentor and Hammer of Purphoros in play and proceed to cast x spells, then Monastery Mentor and its Monk tokens will attack for 0.5x² + 1.5x + 2 damage in total. So if you play 3 spells in one turn, then after all the prowess triggers you’ll be smashing in for 11 damage. With a formula that beautiful, how could I not like the card?
Monastery Mentor might fit well into a spell-heavy build of Jeskai tokens, but I’m not convinced it is actually better than Goblin Rabblemaster or Hordeling Outburst. And there’s only a limited number of 3-drops you can run before the mana curve becomes too bloated. Instead, I want to try him in a non-red deck, where her effect will be more unique.
The following white/black deck is inspired by a deck that Martin Juza ran at Grand Prix Stockholm a few months ago. It takes advantage of the fact that Monastery Mentor’s abilities also trigger when you bestow Herald of Torment.
Brutal Hordechief is another Fate Reforged standout in this deck. It’s probably worse than Butcher of the Horde in Mardu, but there is no such competition for the 4-drop slot in white/black. The drain effect can put a lot of pressure on your opponent, especially when you’ve made a few tokens, and it also mitigates the life loss from Herald of Torment and Thoughtseize. When you hit five mana, the activated ability will dominate combat, forcing opponents to chump block or to pile up all of their blockers in front of a measly token.
There are a number of speculative 1-ofs in this deck. When brewing up new decks, I always like to add a few singletons from the new set to try them out:
- Valorous Stance can kill Courser of Kruphix, Siege Rhino, and Butcher of the Horde, or it can protect your Monastery Mentor from a Lightning Strike. Modal spells are always better than they look because they are so versatile.
- Citadel Siege allows your Seeker of the Way or Monastery Mentor to attack through a Siege Rhino on turn four, while threatening to continually grow your board afterwards. It can also act as a removal spell if you need. Once again, modal spells are always nice.
- Harsh Sustenance synergizes quite nicely with Monastery Mentor and Raise the Alarm, and it’s another way to take advantage of the token production capabilities of this deck. It’s situational and close to a win-more card, but I could easily see a huge life swing in a board stall.
The next card I want to brew around is Renowned Weaponsmith.
You see, when M15 introduced Chief Engineer, Scuttling Doom Engine, Ensoul Artifact, and Darksteel Citadel, I got excited about the possibility of an artifact aggro deck in Standard. It never really panned out. Especially the Chief Engineer + Scuttling Doom Engine combo, while powerful on paper, never got together because it was inconsistent: with only 4 copies of Chief Engineer in the deck, Scuttling Doom Engine just sat in your hand as an overcosted fatty most of the time. Renowned Weaponsmith may change all of that, because now the likelihood of getting a 2-drop accelerator has increased markedly. Turn-1 Springleaf Drum, Ornithopter, turn-2 Renowned Weaponsmith, turn-3 Scuttling Doom Engine, here we come!
Besides ramping out big artifacts, Renowned Weaponsmith also searches for Heart-Piercer Bow (Vial of Dragonfire doesn’t exist yet). The Bow is a pretty bad equipment—in fact, I rarely play it in Limited—but at least you can ping an Elvish Mystic or Ashcloud Phoenix, and the second Bow allows you to take down Goblin Rabblemaster or Seeker of the Way. More importantly, though, Heart-Piercer Bow triggers prowess. How about we combine this with Monastery Mentor, and throw in Seeker of the Way for good measure?
In this deck, which is somewhat reminiscnent of Todd Andersen’s Azorius Soul Blade deck from Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, Monastery Mentor is much better than Young Pyromancer because it triggers off of Springleaf Drum, Ensoul Artifact, and all of the other non-creature artifacts and enchantments. I also like that Monastery Mentor provides good bodies for Chief Engineer and Springleaf Drum, making it relatively easy to ramp out a big artifact.
This deck also features the funky combo of Monastery Mentor plus Ephara’s Enlightenment, which allows you to keep on making tokens over and over again. It’s probably too cute, but you can fetch the aura with Heliod’s Pilgrim if the situation presents itself. Generally, though, Heliod’s Pilgrim will go for Ensoul Artifact.
Devotion to Ugin
I don’t think Ugin is as good as Karn because there’s a world of difference between 7 and 8 mana. However, I like it better than Nicol Bolas because Ugin allows you to come back from way behind and because it goes up to a ridiculous 9 loyalty after taking out a prospective attacker.
One way to take advantage of Ugin is to play it as a one-of finisher in U/B Control or Abzan Midrange. But I want to go deeper. I wanted to start with 4 Ugin as my first four cards and then figure out the rest. Here’s what I made:
After a less-than-stellar showing at Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, Green Devotion has mostly fallen off of the Standard radar. But it’s the one deck in the format that excels at ramping into big stuff. I mean, it can chain Elvish Mystic, Whisperer of the Wilds, and Nissa, Worldwaker into a turn-4 Ugin with mana to spare. And I didn’t even need Nykthos, Shrine to Nyx!
So green has the ramp part locked up, especially with new addition Whisperer of the Wilds, which feels like it was made for this type of deck. But the other important aspect of using Ugin is breaking the symmetry on the -X ability. Since it exiles only colored permanents, morphs and lands (even ones that were animated by Nissa) remain. Hence, I included Wildcall, Hooded Hydra, and Whisperwood Elemental. Reid Duke has already sung the praise of Wildcall, and I feel it fits this Ugin deck even better because you get to keep a boosted morph after sweeping the rest of the board. A morphed Hooded Hydra is also safe from Ugin and, even better, it’s also awesome to manifest because you can turn it face-up for GG rather than 3GG. Finally, Whisperwood Elemental provides card advantage while turning on Whisperer of the Wilds and protecting your board from End Hostilities.
This new archetype is based around the following three cards:
It all works beautifully together. Here is the deck:
Shaman of the Great Hunt may be even better in a deck with Hordeling Outburst, but it also card seems powerful in this deck. If you curve Elvish Mystic into Goblin Rabblemaster into Shaman of the Great Hunt, then your opponent will usually not have any good blocks. And if your opponent doesn’t kill Shaman of the Great Hunt, then you can take over the late game with the card draw ability. Especially in this deck, it allows you to get closer to one of the two-card combos that I described above. Finally, I should mention that I love casting Barrage of Boulders to clear the way for Shaman of the Great Hunt while killing a freshly donated Humble Defector in the process.
I enjoyed Red Devotion in last year’s Standard, but after the rotation of Ash Zealot, Burning-Tree Emissary, Frostburn Weird, and Boros Reckoner, we lost all of the cheap devotion enablers. Sure, you could play cards like War-Name Aspirant or Goblin Rabblemaster, but they don’t have enough red pips to turn on Fanatic of Mogis or Nykthos. Prophetic Flamespeaker was an option, but it’s not well-positioned in this Standard format, which is dominated by huge ground blockers.
Enter Fate Reforged.
We’re back in business!
Mardu Scout works quite well with Purphoros, God of the Forge. Although the idea of dash is that you get to attack with it right away, you don’t have to attack. You can just dash it in play, deal 2 damage to your opponent, attack with Purphoros, and return Scout to your hand at the end of the turn, safe from sorcery-speed removal.
The other Fate Reforged addition, Flamewake Phoenix, is much better in this deck than Chandra’s Phoenix ever was. There are plenty of 4-power creatures in the deck to turn on ferocious, and a single mana to return from the graveyard is an insane rate. Remember that you can play it in your second main phase if you need a blocker.
All of these brews are still in the preliminary idea stage, but I see a lot of potential in Fate Reforged. I haven’t even mentioned Crux of Fate as a nice addition to U/B Control alongside Silumgar, the Drifting Death; Ghastly Conscription as a way to go over the top in the Sidisi-Whip mirror; Soulflayer as the missing piece in the Sagu Mauler + Chromanticore deck; or seemingly innocent cards like Jeskai Sage that can plug holes in mana curves. There’s just so much action crammed into Fate Reforged that I kind of wish the upcoming Pro Tour would be Standard. These are exciting times.