Feast your eyes on Fleecemane Lion, also known as the prettiest manslayer you’ve ever seen. Take a good close-up at those bouncy silver locks.[draft]fleecemane lion[/draft]
Then down to the pile of human bones.
This fantastic feline has the hair to cut it in the big leagues, but does it have the power to back it up? For starters, two mana for a 3/3 isn’t anything special. In Standard, [card]Call of the Conclave[/card] didn’t do much, and in older formats we have to compete with [card]Tarmogoyf[/card].
So the times you’ll want Fleecemane are:
1) You already have four Tarmogoyfs and need more cheap fat (I’m thinking Zoo).
2) You value the creature’s ability.
That leads us to our next question. How often are we going to activate this?
3GW: Monstrosity 1. (If this creature isn’t monstrous, put a +1/+1 counter on it and it becomes monstrous.)
Five mana for a +1/+1 counter? That doesn’t seem—
As long as Fleecemane Lion is monstrous, it has hexproof and indestructible.
Oh, right. Hexproof and indestructible are a strong couple of abilities, and certainly worth five mana, considering the creature’s reasonable base stats. This card was designed to be good.
Hexproof has frustrated plenty of players over the past year or so, and for good reason. The ability, the resilience, is excellent. Even if you know your opponent has a [card]Doom Blade[/card], at a certain point you can leave five mana up every turn. You won’t activate, because they’ll have a chance to kill it in response, but they can’t kill it without you responding with monstrosity. The standoff benefits you, because you’re the one attacking for 3 every turn. Eventually, they’ll have to burn two removal spells to get rid of it.
That all said, while this ability is good, adding an activation cost makes it much more reasonable than it was on [card invisible stalker]Stalker[/card] and [card geist of saint traft]Geist[/card], which were efficient and unkillable right off the bat.
Indestructible is also exciting, and the two abilities complement each other nicely. Before, sweepers were one of the few ways of answering a hexproof creature. Edict effects can still skin this Cat, but the best one, [card liliana of the veil]Liliana[/card], is rotating. [card]Far // Away[/card] will see more play.
Being unkillable in combat gives the card a ton of late game power that early, efficient Watchwolves tend to lack. It’s the difference in playability between [card]Qasali Pridemage[/card] and a vanilla creature with similar stats. As such, I expect Fleecemane to see a lot of play, and not just in Standard.
Some of the main factors I look for in an aggro deck are ways of utilizing flood. Vampires had [card]Bloodghast[/card]s and [card lavaclaw reaches]firebreathing manlands[/card]. Pod has [card]Gavony Township[/card]. In general, these cards take little investment early and fit the general plan of a deck. When considering Fleecemane, it’s not hard to imagine a GW deck that wants an efficient, aggressive body early and has the mana to turn it into a real monster in the late game.
As an example, here’s a take on the GW deck that Brian Kibler played at Worlds.
GW Bears[deck]Main Deck
2 Stirring Wildwood
4 Ghost Quarter
2 Tectonic Edge
4 Razorverge Thicket
3 Horizon Canopy
4 Temple Garden
3 Aven Mindcensor
3 Leonin Arbiter
3 Wilt-Leaf Liege
4 Noble Hierarch
4 Fleecemane Lion
2 Voice of Resurgence
4 Loxodon Smiter
4 Scavenging Ooze
2 Thalia, Guardian of Thraben
4 Path to Exile
4 AEther Vial
1 Torpor Orb
2 Sword of War and Peace
3 Burrenton Forge-Tender
3 Mirran Crusader
2 Kataki, War’s Wage
2 Thrun, the Last Troll[/deck]
While I’ve played GW Bears before, and even in Modern, I’ll be the first to admit that I don’t have much experience with this particular version. I might’ve shaved the wrong things, and I’m sorry if that offends you, but the idea is that Fleecemane looks really good in this deck.
Many moons ago a wise brewer once told me that [card]Aether Vial[/card] is a strong card if and only if you’re doing something relevant with your mana in the meantime. In Legacy, Merfolk is activating [card]Mutavault[/card]s and leveling up [card]Coralhelm Commander[/card]. Goblins is chaining Ringleaders together, and D&T is busy equipping Jitte and [card Rishadan Port]Port[/card]ing you into oblivion. In Modern, the above GW deck has manlands to turn sideways, [card]Horizon Canopy[/card]s to sacrifice, and now Fleecemane Lions to monstrificate.
Imagine your opponent’s surprise when, after passing the turn with a Vial on 2 and five lands up, you suddenly have a 4/4 indestructible to muck up their combat. Vial’s instant speed obscures your line, and they won’t know to leave up removal.
Note that Fleecemane is both white and green and will thus be a two-mana 5/5 with [card]Wilt-Leaf Liege[/card] in play.
In Legacy, the two decks that might want this are Zoo and Maverick, and the slots are tight in both of them. Still, hexproof and indestructible are strong enough that it merits testing.
In Standard, the card is clearly playable, and should be a solid role player throughout its life in the format. Pick up your playset and hold onto them!
GW Duders[deck]7 Forest
4 Selesnya Guildgate
4 Temple Garden
4 Voice of Resurgence
3 Banisher Priest
3 Gyre Sage
4 Scavenging Ooze
4 Loxodon Smiter
2 Frontline Medic
4 Archangel of Thune
4 Fleecemane Lion
2 Spear of Heliod
4 Brave the Elements
2 Heliod, God of the Sun[/deck]
It’s hard to build a deck for an unknown format, but this deck isn’t bad on paper. The curve starts at 2, mitigating the impact of the Guildgates. Starting the curve high increases the power level of the individual threats, giving us a meatier, midrangier aggressive deck. At a certain point, the creatures start becoming more and more powerful, and assembling [card]Archangel of Thune[/card] and [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] should overpower most board states.
Heliod is kind of sweet in this deck. The creatures are large enough that vigilance actually matters, and you can do things like attack with [card]Gyre Sage[/card] and tap it to pump [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card] or Fleecemane Lion. Meanwhile, there’s a hole in the 4-drop that the God fits nicely into. It, [card]Voice of Resurgence[/card], and Fleecemane Lion give the deck some resilience to sweepers.[card]Brave the Elements[/card] isn’t as good as it might be in a mono-white deck, but it’s strong enough. It protects every creature except [card]Gyre Sage[/card] and [card]Scavenging Ooze[/card], importantly [card]Banisher Priest[/card] and [card]Archangel of Thune[/card]. In the late game, it pushes through armies of Heliod tokens.