The Future Past

Posted in From the Lab on January 12, 2015

By Mike Cannon

Mike Cannon started writing From the Lab at the end of 2012 after two years with GatheringMagic. He is an ardent casual player and loves finding uses for bad cards.

Welcome back to From the Lab, my friends. With Prereleases for Fate Reforged on the horizon, it's time to really start digging into the set and finding the cool combos that await us. I've only seen a small portion of the set and I can already tell you that it's a veritable gold mine for interesting Johnny cards.

The first one that caught my eye was Soulfire Grand Master. I mean, first of all, giving spells lifelink is pretty cool. However, it was the card's second ability that seemed to be just begging to be broken. Giving buyback to any spell you want seems absolutely crazy. The folks down at R&D tried to balance the ability by making it cost four mana to activate, but we'll show them.

The Reset Button

In order to activate Soulfire Grand Master over and over again, you'll need a spell that can produce its own cost, plus at least four extra mana. It seemed to me that the easiest way to do that was to use something that untaps all of your lands. Rude Awakening costs a lot of mana, and Early Harvest restricts you to only using basics in the deck. That's when I remembered Reset. It untaps all of your lands for just two mana, so you only need seven lands to net one mana each time to cast it.

The downside to Reset is that you can only cast it during your opponent's turn, which means you need to be able to use all that mana at instant speed. Since the deck already has a way to untap lands as many times as you want, Shivan Gorge is the perfect way to finish off your opponent. Simply produce a few thousand mana, then use that to keep casting Reset while tapping Shivan Gorge repeatedly.

To search for the requisite pieces, I'll turn to some old combo staples. Mystical Tutor can grab Reset out of your library, while Worldly Tutor searches for Soulfire Grand Master. Now, there's still one thing missing. The deck needs a way to get to seven lands. Given that we're in blue, a control shell is one option, but it's been a while since I've built a hardcore ramp deck, so I'm going to go that direction instead.

First off, we have Search for Tomorrow, which gives you something to cast on turn one if you have it in your opening hand. Although it costs three mana later, it also puts the land onto the battlefield untapped, so you can potentially use it to cast another spell that turn.

At two mana, Farseek and Nature's Lore come in. Either of them can grab a Breeding Pool or Stomping Ground out of the deck, and Nature's Lore can even put it onto the battlefield untapped if you're willing to pay the 2 life. That's a net cost of one mana to get an extra land in play. Not bad at all.

Reap and Sow costs four mana, and only puts one land onto the battlefield. However, the important part is that it can search for any land. That means you can use it to grab a Shivan Gorge out of your library if you don't already have one in hand.

Skyshroud Claim and Ranger's Path are the heavy hitters, putting two lands onto the battlefield instead of just one. With these, you can potentially combo off on turn four if you have the right cards in hand.

Cast Worldly Tutor off a Stomping Ground on turn one, then cast Nature's Lore on turn two, putting Breeding Pool in untapped to cast Mystical Tutor. On turn three, play a Shivan Gorge for your land drop and cast Skyshroud Claim, putting a Breeding Pool and a Temple Garden onto the battlefield untapped and casting Soulfire Grand Master. On turn four, play a land that produces red or blue mana and pass the turn, killing your opponent during his or her draw step.

Reset Master

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Evil Made Manifest

The big, new mechanic of Fate Reforged is manifest, and I have to say this is one of my favorite mechanics in a long time. It always gives you at least a 2/2 creature, but sometimes it can give you much more than that. That's the idea behind this next deck.

When I first learned about manifest, it reminded me a lot of Illusionary Mask, an early predecessor to the morph mechanic. It's a weird card with a massive amount of text on it, but it really only has one purpose: Get Phyrexian Dreadnought onto the battlefield while skirting around its drawback. Manifest can do the same thing.

Manifest cards appear to some degree in every color, so I'll start with the other part of the deck. In order to manifest a Phyrexian Dreadnought, you first need to put it on top of your library. Fortunately, Worldly Tutor and its cousin Sylvan Tutor make this incredibly easy. For one mana you can go get that Dreadnought out of your deck and put it right where it needs to be.

Brainstorm is another great option, allowing you to put back a Dreadnought you've already drawn. I've also included Sylvan Library, which makes sure any Dreadnought you would draw before you're ready stays right on top of your library.

Since these cards put the deck in blue and green, I'll stick to those colors for the manifest cards. Wildcall is the easiest, allowing you to manifest for just two mana if you don't care about getting extra +1/+1 counters. After that, Jeskai Infiltrator seems like the best option. It only costs three mana to cast, and doesn't require any mana at all when you're ready to manifest. Ethereal Ambush is more expensive but, since it's an instant, you can set up a Worldly Tutor or two at the end of your opponent's turn and cast it during your upkeep to get your Dreadnoughts.

I didn't want to rely solely on Phyrexian Dreadnought, so I went looking for other big creatures with drawbacks that can be avoided through manifest. Unfortunately it seemed the best options were in black, such as Hunted Horror and Nyxathid. Therefore I settled for Myr Superion. Not the biggest creature ever, but a two-mana 5/6 doesn't seem bad at all.

Phyrexian Manifesto

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Death and Re-Death

Another card that jumped out at me was Marang River Prowler. As long as you control a black or green permanent, you can cast it from your graveyard. Now, pretty much anything you can cast from your graveyard can be dangerous, but especially a creature, and especially one this cheap.

The plan is simple. Cast Urza's Incubator, naming either Human or Rogue, it doesn't really matter which. Now cast Phyrexian Altar. Between the two of them, you can cast Marang River Prowler from your graveyard over and over again, sacrificing it to pay its own mana cost.

 

Blood Artist is the obvious choice to take advantage of all this death, but for reasons that will become clear in a moment, I also included Hissing Iguanar and Goblin Sharpshooter. Any of these creatures will knock your opponent's life total down by one each time you sacrifice the Prowler.

Now it occurred to me that Urza's Incubator, Phyrexian Altar, and Marang River Prowler all have something in common: They all cost three mana. That makes it incredibly easy to search for the combo pieces. Using the transmute ability on Dimir Machinations, Perplex, or Drift of Phantasms will allow you to search for any of these cards, as well as the Iguanar and Sharpshooter.

Now this combo doesn't work unless you have a black or green permanent on the battlefield. Blood Artist can fulfill that requirement, but it can't be found with the transmute cards. To fix that problem, I added in Oubliette, an oft-forgotten predecessor to cards like Oblivion Ring, Journey to Nowhere, and Banishing Light. It's a black permanent, it costs three mana, and it lets you get rid of one of your opponent's creatures. Seems like the perfect card for the job.

Marang River Altar

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Moving Forward, Looking Back

That's all I've got for you today, but join me again next week as I delve further into the past with Fate Reforged. I've only just begun to scratch the surface of the shenanigans you can pull off with this set, and I'll be here with your daily dose of decklists come Monday. See ya!

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