As a whole, my first thought is that Fate Reforged is a lot more complex than I was expecting, from a design point of view and from a gameplay point of view. I like that choice is one of the main themes of the set, since they always make for interesting game decisions (as do other choice-based mechanics, like scry, cycling, kicker, entwine, Charms, etc). Those are always fun to have around and reward good players while not necessarily being overwhelming for newer players if they are simple enough.
What I do not like much is that the cards themselves are a bit inelegant and seem unnecessarily complicated. The wording on some of them in particular looks like it came from a card creation thread on MTGSalvation. Let’s go over the new mechanics:
Choose a creature with the least toughness among creatures you control and put X +1/+1 counters on it.
Bolster is the new Abzan keyword and it seems to be Limited oriented, much like its Khans counterpart. It pairs well with the previous mechanic, outlast, but it’s a way to introduce the counters mechanic to spells in addition to creatures. The one caveat I have is that it doesn’t feel like a mechanic—it feels like a card. It’s the same way I felt about prowess—I would expect that text on a given card, but in half of the cards with the ability it feels like they threw it in there to meet their prowess quota. I expect bolster to be no exception, and I imagine it’s going to show up in many disconnected cards.
For Constructed, it’s going to depend solely on how good the bolster card is. By itself, bolster is not a powerful enough effect, but you could easily make a powerful bolster card by just adding it to an already existing powerful effect or by making “X” big enough.
You may cast this spell for its dash cost. If you do, it gains haste, and it’s returned from the battlefield to its owner’s hand at the beginning of the next end step.
Viashino Sandstalker fans rejoice! I am a very big fan of this ability—it’s useful, potentially very powerful, and it feels like an ability that belongs on many different kinds of cards. This is, so far, my favorite ability in the entire block.
There are three reasons for you to use dash, both in Limited and in Constructed: first, you don’t have mana to cast the creature, so you might as well dash. Second, you want an immediate effect—either the damage or the “when this creature attacks” ability that a lot of them have. Third, you want to avoid sorcery-speed removal. All of those are quite valuable, even if the third mode is not as great right now because most removal being played is instant. I can imagine metagames in which a powerful dash card would be a nightmare for control decks, and it’s something to keep in mind if the metagame shifts a little bit.
To manifest a card, put it onto the battlefield as a 2/2 creature. Turn it face up any time for its mana cost if it’s a creature card.
Manifest so far seems to apply mostly to the top card of your deck, which means you get what is almost always a random card as a face-down 2/2.
I have to say that I don’t love manifest, because I imagine it’s going to play very badly since there is absolutely zero degree of control over it in most games. With morphs, I have an idea of what they could be, because there is a finite number of morphs in the set. I have the information that you chose to play this morph in a certain game state. With manifest, you didn’t choose anything and it can be any card. How am I, as an opponent, supposed to figure out when I can attack into a manifest permanent? How can I ever spend a removal spell on something that could easily be a land? I imagine you’ll have to attack into manifest guys all the time, and in a lot of spots you’ll just get a guy eaten for free without having done anything wrong.
In the end, it just seems too completely random for me to like it very much, though we do have some sweet manifest cards already. To see if a manifest card is good, just imagine how it would be if it read “make a 2/2 token” instead. This is the worst case scenario and if it passes that test then it’s already good. If you flip a creature, then it’s potentially a lot better than that, and it isn’t destroyed by bounce and flickering. You can also try to manipulate the top of your library to get something specific, such as a Phyrexian Dreadnought that you can then unmorph for 1 or an Emrakul that you can Blink.
Now, let’s move onto individual cards:
Kolaghan, the Storm’s Fury
Kolaghan is quite interesting, because the body is a solid 4/5 flier for 5 that immediately becomes a 5/5. Unfortunately, Kolaghan doesn’t have haste. It’s funny how I now think all five-mana Dragons are supposed to have haste, and I’m disappointed when they don’t, but I guess living for years with Thundermaw and Stormbreath will do that to you.
Kolaghan (and I also quite like the name—you see I purposely spell Kolaghan out when I could use any pronoun to replace Kolaghan because I like the sound of Kolaghan in my mind so much) does have dash, however, which is its own form of haste. If you have two guys out, that’s a potential 7 extra damage out of nowhere, which is, frankly, quite a lot of damage.
Is this guy better than Thundermaw Hellkite or Stormbreath? No, I don’t think so. But he doesn’t have to be. Those cards won’t be around forever (or aren’t around anymore in the case of Thundermaw), and they are quite a high bar to begin with. In a while, his main competition will be Sarkhan, and it’s very possible that Kolaghan is better than the planeswalker—particularly if both see play because his 5 toughness makes him beat Sarkhan in the head-to-head. He does matchup exceedingly poorly against Hornet Queen, however, so it’s a strike against him. So my verdict is that Kolaghan isn’t going to see much play right now, but he’s still a powerful card to keep an eye on.
Dromoka the Eternal
Whenever a Dragon you control attacks, bolster 2. (Put 2 +1/+1 counters on a creature of your choice with the lowest toughness among creatures you control.)
Dromoka doesn’t have nearly as good a name as Kolaghan, and that’s not even counting how deceiving his title of “The Eternal” really is. In fact, one wonders where The Eternal even comes from, considering he has zero abilities that are in any way related to survivability. Unlike, say, Eternal Dragon, which is actually eternal.
As far as cards go, I think he’s not very good; he doesn’t have any sort of pseudo-haste to trigger his Dragon-attacking ability and even if you do trigger it it’s not fantastically good because you don’t get to choose what you pump (and, even if you did, it still wouldn’t be fantastically good). It is, however, quite a snowball ability if you manage to trigger it instantly with cheaper Dragons—say, with your two-, three-, and four-mana yet unspoiled Dragons. If those aren’t there, then I wouldn’t bother.
I like this card a lot, because one of the abilities is almost a playable card by itself. It battles with Suspension Field and Pillar of Light for a spot, but the ability to save your Mantis Rider or whatnot from Murderous Cut should make it a much more maindeckable card than its predecessors, even if for the sideboard you’d still rather have the one that exiles sometimes.
My first inclination is that this card is not good enough. I think it has a couple problems:
• It costs way too much mana, delving or not, eight cards to remove and UUU. If you can only remove, say, four cards, it costs 7 mana, which might as well be infinite because at this point all you’re getting out of your extra turn is an attack.
• It competes with two other delve cards in the same color that are better. I can’t imagine a deck that wants to play this instead of Cruise or Dig.
• It’s not good with more copies of itself. Treasure Cruise will dig into more spells which will in turn fuel future Treasure Cruises—this not only doesn’t do that but also exiles itself, meaning you really have to start over.
Despite that, there can be uses for this card. Taking an extra turn is like playing a ritual—it’s much more powerful the less it costs because it enables so much more in that turn. You will never cast this in the early game like you might a Time Walk, but if you’re in a critical spot, the ability to take an extra turn for only three mana could be invaluable, because it’s going to leave a lot of mana for you to use in your first turn.
In the end, I don’t believe this will see any play in any format—it certainly needs Dig and Cruise to be banned before it can compete. If those cards do get banned, then I would still expect it to not see much play, but then it wouldn’t be shocking to me if it did, because the effect is powerful.
Ugin, the Spirit Dragon
I look at Ugin and I see an Oblivion Stone that leaves a powerful planeswalker behind, and that’s nothing to sneeze at. You play it, you clear the board, and you have a good answer for whatever they play next already there. If you don’t need to clear the board, you just kill a guy, and then in two turns you ultimate and probably win the game from there (since they couldn’t beat Ugin to begin with, so seven cards plus a 1 loyalty Ugin is probably enough). In the end, Ugin is everything—he’s a sweeper and a kill condition, your best card when you’re winning and your best card when you’re losing. The only spot he’s not your best card is if you only have seven mana, but then it’s not really Ugin’s fault.
People seem to like to compare Ugin to Karn, but I think a better comparison is Nicol Bolas, and boy is he better than Nicol Bolas. Not only is he colorless with a better ultimate, but he actually wins you the game from an overwhelmingly bad position, which is something that Nicol Bolas never did and something I really want from my 8-casting-cost card.
I think Ugin has the power to compete across multiple Constructed formats, if there is a style of deck that wants a card like him.
Yasova has been severely overlooked, and I suspect it’s because people couldn’t get past the wall of text. If they bother to read it, they’ll see that it’s a 4/2 trampler for 3—nothing to write home about, surely—but with an ability that is potentially quite powerful. Threaten can win games in ways no other card can, and to put a Threaten every turn on a card that’s already almost playable means it has got to have some potential somewhere. At least it seems like a nightmare to play against, that’s for sure.
The second of the Khan legends with hybrid abilities is… not actually a legend at all. Well, that’s a bit confusing—this seems so much like it’s the “Yasova of Jeskai” but hey, I guess it’s not. Maybe there’s a second mythic cycle with hybrid abilities? Anyway, this card is pretty good in any sort of Jeskai deck. It hits for less than Seeker of the Way, and it might even be worse than Seeker in those decks, but those decks wanted more two-drops anyway, so much that we tried versions with Vaporkin. This is like a Guildmage—a 2/2 for 2 with a very powerful late-game ability, except it has lifelink. If you get to the late game with this plus a burn spell, it can kill the board single-handedly while giving you the time to do it, which is a powerful combination.
Crux of Fate
This is sort of a Wrath except it can be much better or much worse. It’s much better if you have a Dragon (or the only non-Dragon, but that seems ambitious), and it’s much worse if they have both Dragons and non-Dragons. I believe it’s more likely that you are the person with a Dragon, however, since you’re the one building your deck and can simply choose a Dragon as kill condition, but if you actively want to wrath them and can’t, that part of the effect is going to be a lot more devastating for you. If you say that Wrath of God is always a 5, I’d say that this is a 5 85% of the time, a 7 10% of the time, and a 1 5% of the time.
As a Wrath of God, it would probably already be a decent card in this format, since green decks tend to flood the board. I expect it will see play.
This card is fun! If you have two fetchlands and a Thought Scour, you can play it on turn two, and then it can have quite a nice collection of abilities. The best single creature to exile is probably Drogskol Reaver, which gives you flying, lifelink, and double strike. The next best abilities would be hexproof and haste, but I couldn’t find a guy with those abilities in Modern. Other decent options include Sigarda (flying, hexproof) and Spark Trooper (haste, lifelink, trample). Even if you only manage to give it one ability—say, flying—it’s already a pretty decent turn three play in a lot of formats.
I’m not sure why I’m choosing Khans or Dragons here, instead of just choosing one ability. I hope there is a reason for that, such as a card that says “change the mode of all enchantments to Dragons” or “Destroy all Khans enchantments” instead of being merely a flavor thing.
If your flavor needs you to be this specific and in your face, then it’s probably not good to begin with. I hope this does not become a thing—imagine if Sultai Charm said “Choose one mode – Blue: draw two cards. Green: Naturalize.” Or, even worse, imagine if Bow of Nylea read “Choose one ability – Spring: Put four cards back; Summer: etc., etc.” (here I’m trying to disguise the fact that I don’t have any idea which ability is which—any of them could be anything, honestly. Maybe it really should have named them by the season). Or if Giant Spider said “reach, because it can make a web in the air that will catch flying creatures.” You get the gist, flavor that has to be explained is usually bad flavor.
Anyway, back to the card. I think both modes on this are useful. The first one is basically a Chandra, except it can’t ping or ultimate, and in return it can’t be killed and isn’t legendary. If you weren’t trying to ping anything, then this card seems quite a bit better—if you are sideboarding it against UB, for example, it becomes immune to Pearl Lake attacks and to Hero’s Downfall, so it’s quite an upgrade.
The second ability is very different from what we’ve had before. It’s sort of a Boggart Shenanigans, except multiple times better, since it works for any creature, it hits anything and they only have to leave the battlefield (so you can loop them with some sort of bounce effect. Or, you know, just playing Norin the Wary works too). Now Boggart Shenanigans is not a high bar to beat, but the fact that it has been played before in competitive decks means I’d probably be foolish to dismiss this outright, especially since it’s only half the effect on the card. I’d like to experiment a bit with this card before rendering a final judgment.
I’m digging this change to end step, because you get one use even if the card is killed on their turn—if they want to stop it completely, they need to keep mana up, much like Sidisi. Unlike Sidisi, however, this has 4 toughness—which means it’s a lot harder to keep mana up for it since Lightning Strike and Bile Blight will no longer do it. Manifesting is obviously better than getting a token, and it guarantees one every turn without having to attack, and it has an extra ability, and it’s not legendary, and it’s only one color, so I think it will see play despite costing one more mana and not fueling your graveyard.
I mean, imagine it in those green mirrors—Sidsi usually gets one token and then can’t really attack anymore. This guy will be excellent in any sort of board stall, because he will make sure you get closer to your haymakers such as Hornet Queen or Doomwake Giant every turn, while also adding a bit to the board even if you’re not. If you have any way to bounce your own guys, then it can also let you find specific spells too.
That’s what I got for today! I hope you’ve enjoyed it, and Happy New Year!