As fun and diverse as this Standard format is, the feedback has been clear: People want to hear about Fate Reforged cards, and we’ve had some sweet ones spoiled over the past week. Today I want to look at four of the more interesting cards that have a good shot at making an immediate impact in Standard. Instead of making new decks with Fate Reforged cards, we can wait until we see more of the set. The cards I’m going to look at are likely upgrades to existing archetypes.
This card isn’t quite as impressive as Young Pyromancer simply due to the mana cost. You may think all the other slight improvements offset this, but I’m firmly in the camp that for this kind of investment card, tacking on extra mana significantly weakens it. Let’s get the drawback out of the way and examine why the card isn’t as good as it looks at first glance.
Mentor is a 2/2 that costs 2W and does nothing when it first comes into play. There are a number of cards that looked incredibly powerful and turned out to be competitive duds simply by matching up poorly against the removal in the format. While I think the current set of removal is more expensive, there’s still enough burn and Drown in Sorrows running around to make this card tough to use.
What are the upsides? Well the one that jumps out to people at first is prowess. More importantly, all the tokens also come with prowess! This means that if you spawn a few baby Monks you don’t need a Jeskai Ascendancy to finish the game, just play a few noncreature spells and that’s game boys!
Wait, what’s that? Noncreature? That looks… different from Young Pyromancer. Oh I see, someone in R&D really enjoyed the idea of triggering off Auras. UW Heroic guys and gals, congratulations on managing to sneak this one through. In fact, I would say this little tweak to the card makes it Standard playable.
See, while pumping the tokens is nice and certainly scary in a world where we have access to dirt cheap cantrips, we aren’t playing Mentor in those formats. So the pump is really overkill in most games since it means you’ve played your 2/2, had it live, cast multiple spells for mini-Mentors, and then cast even more spells to clear the way and pump your creatures to win. You know what 3-drop also does this with about half the work? Goblin Rabblemaster! A card you may be familiar with, since Jeskai Tokens is the first place most people thought about including the Mentor.
Mentor really doesn’t compete well with the other threats the Jeskai Tokens deck has access too. It doesn’t have the immediate threat with Jeskai Ascendancy as a Hordeling Outburst does, Goblin Rabblemaster needs less spells to be good, Seeker of the Way is a two-drop, and Mantis Rider has built-in evasion. Raise the Alarm is the odd man out, but also goes very well with Jeskai Ascendancy and Stoke the Flames while keeping the spell count high.
Where Monastery Mentor is most likely to shine is out of the board of UW Heroic. Getting stuck playing a long game is absolute misery and unlike other decks, it has a pair of relevant one-mana spells to help Mentor out. Gods Willing gives an obvious helping hand by protecting the Mentor from harm while making a Monk. Defiant Strike is what people want if they plan on killing people with peace and enlightenment though. Cycling for W to get a creature and a pump is exactly what you want, and being able to play an Aura and a Defiant Strike on the same turn leaves you enough beef to be able to do something later in the game.
Let’s take a look at how we’d slide it into James Fazzolari’s UW Heroic:
We could just cut Brimaz and the Dig Through Time from the sideboard and slide three of these right in. Then, post-board, we have six protection spells and a fair number of cheap cantrips to still help it go off. Meanwhile we aren’t as reliant on keeping heroic creatures alive, and the often weak Seeker of the Way can be swapped with a power creature. Of course, Brimaz doesn’t need any support so it isn’t a given that Mentor is actually better here.
Another way to take it is simply to jam the max number of Stratus Walks and cheap cantrip Auras with Phalanx Leader and go that route instead. You have a respectable heroic plan and your backup for game one is very powerful and less disrupted by spot removal. If Drown in Sorrow and Perilous Vault gain a big following this plan looks less impressive. Once more of the set has been spoiled I really want to give it a shot.
Tasigur, the Golden Fang
Tasigur, the Golden Fang is one of the most interesting legends. As far as bodies go, you pay the same as Hooting Mandrills, trading trample for getting out of Stoke the Flames and Siege Rhino range. That’s already a nice buff and makes it a bit more interesting than the common counterpart. Then, of course, it has a built-in recursion engine for when the game goes long.
This ability is overcosted at four mana, but really needs to be otherwise it risks taking over the game in degenerate fashion. Utilizing delve to clear the chaff out of your graveyard and leaving only the spell you want and some lands makes for an interesting dynamic. Meanwhile, it fuels your future delve cards while usually giving you the equivalent of spare parts. Cards that probably aren’t worth a card, but still fine to get back.
Of course, there will be times where the only choice is to give you a Hero’s Downfall, Whip of Erebos, Thoughtseize or any other sweet spell. When that happens, Tasigur has basically won you the game. Let’s not even go into getting multiple relevant rebuys from the ability. This card is borderline already thanks to the body and extra milling power in attrition matches when the game bogs down. Being able to rebuy relevant spells with consistency will be the deciding factor. Being a legend doesn’t help much, but I could easily see sliding one or two into Sidisi Whip.
The best reason to consider this creature for Constructed play is the sweet 5th toughness. Maybe a few decks really want a cheap guy that can block everything in the format.
In the same vein as Monastery Mentor and Young Pyromancer, Flamewake Phoenix invites comparisons to Chandra’s Phoenix. Both of them go straight into aggressive red strategies and provide useful evasive damage while being removal resistant. Where they differ is that while Chandra’s Phoenix was built from the ground up to go into mono-red, Flamewake instead leans toward two- or three-color decks. Why? Mono-red strategies typically are not the best ferocious enablers and Flamewake is too weak without the recursion ability.
On the flipside, while Flamewake needs more work to be good, the payoff is also far more mana efficient. Shoving in with Flamewake and getting it killed to later be returned via Butcher of the Horde means you only spend one extra mana to bring it directly back onto the battlefield. You can spam these fliers at the opponent for a long time between their cheap buyback cost and Butcher, Stormbreath Dragon, and so on.
This list puts you on a more aggressive slant that takes advantage of Flamewake, but doesn’t change the core of the deck too severely. What’s better is that Butcher now has a friend that can be sacrificed every turn for an activation if you find the Flamewake isn’t getting the job done.
Warden of the First Tree
Someone really liked Figure of Destiny. I find it a little amusing that they kept the wacky templating nonsense from Figure despite trying to make things simpler over the past seven years. As for Warden, it has some stiff competition from the other 2-color threats available, so I find it hard to believe it’ll become an immediate staple. Right now it competes with Rakshasa Deathdealer and Fleecemane Lion for early game threats. While Deathdealer may be more mana intensive early on, it also has far better survivability. Fleecemane gives you the body upfront and is similar in how well it survives removal after investing some mana.
Warden is the worst of both worlds and should only be used in conjunction with these creatures, not over them. It would be best served against opposing midrange strategies, however right now the color combinations it slides into are flooded with high-efficiency creatures. Worse still is that it plays very poorly with enters-the-battlefield-tapped lands. This creature is better than the other two when played on curve, but when you miss a beat it gets very awkward to use without disrupting your primary game plan.
I fully expect that Warden will find a home eventually and it could happen now, despite my misgivings. I think the more likely scenario is it finds itself to be a role-player until rotation rolls around, at which point it can take center stage. A classic card with the power level to be playable, but too awkward in the current format.
That’s all for now, chime in if you have a particular card you want me to go over in the future!
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