Welcome back to From the Lab! Now that the excitement of the holiday season is winding down, it's time for a different kind of excitement. Preview season! Today I get to give you a little sneak peek at Fate Reforged, and show off a card that encourages some unusual deck building. Say hello to Soulflayer.
Soulflayer | Art by: Seb McKinnon
I have to admit, I like this card a lot. I enjoy playing with cards that are customizable, where you can tack on all sorts of fun abilities. That's why I love The Mimeoplasm and Jodah's Avenger…and The Mimeoplasm copying Jodah's Avenger. It's also worth noting that Soulflayer is pretty darn efficient. It costs two fewer mana than Tombstalker and only loses 1 power and toughness. Depending on what other creatures are in your deck, you can get much more than just flying.
Now, obviously, I had to try and find a way to give Soulflayer every ability, or at least all the ones that matter. You don't really need reach if you have flying, or first strike if you have double strike. Unfortunately, I couldn't find a way to do it with just four creatures, so you guys and gals will have to let me know if there's a combination I missed that can make that happen. Now, while I didn't get every ability on there, I came pretty close. I'll give you a rundown of the creatures I chose.
First off we have Dragon Tyrant. This massive dude gives Soulflayer three important abilities. Double strike is the one I most wanted on there, and trample prevents your opponent from blocking with a 1/1 to stop all 8 damage. Flying is valuable to be sure, but it's also by far the easiest ability to get. You can find a creature with any one of the relevant abilities that also has flying.
So with the damage taken care of, I moved on to protection. Soulflayer can gain indestructible and hexproof, and the combination of those two abilities makes it very difficult for your opponent to get the threat off the battlefield. Avacyn, Angel of Hope will provide indestructible as well as vigilance, letting you play defense and offense at the same time. Although indestructible wasn't a keyword at the time, she has been given errata with the new ability. There weren't any outstanding options for hexproof, so I ended up going with Sagu Mauler.
Wurmcoil Engine can give Soulflayer both lifelink and deathtouch. The former will help keep you from dying to multiple attacking creatures, while the latter prevents your opponent from stopping you with a larger creature.
I wanted to explore other combinations of abilities as well, so I turned to the card famous for piling on the keywords: Akroma, Angel of Wrath. Although Soulflayer can't graft protection abilities onto itself, it can get: flying, first strike, trample, haste and vigilance. Drogskol Reaver also seemed like a solid card to have since it grants two of the most powerful abilities by itself. Flying is also tacked on just in case you somehow don't already have it.
So, what are the best combinations you can make with these keyword-filled creatures? I came up with three solid options.
Abilities: Flying, double strike, deathtouch, hexproof, indestructible, lifelink, trample, and vigilance.
Abilities: Flying, first strike, double strike, haste, hexproof, indestructible, lifelink, trample, and vigilance.
Abilities: Flying, first strike, deathtouch, haste, hexproof, indestructible, lifelink, trample, and vigilance.
So, essentially, you're missing out on one relevant ability whichever you choose. Option 1 doesn't give Soulflayer deathtouch. Option 2 misses out on haste, and option 3 doesn't have double strike.
Of course, I couldn't just leave it at that, so I did what I always do when presented with a puzzle I can't solve—I cheated. By throwing out a Sphere of Resistance, you can make Soulflayer cost one more mana, which lets you exile one more creature. Now you can fill in that missing ability.
Now, there's still something missing from this deck. You need a way to dump the creatures in the graveyard. Buried Alive is the traditional solution, but that only gets you three of the four creatures. Deranged Assistant and Millikin could get you a fourth if you get lucky. However, cast Congregation at Dawn and the two mana creatures will turn it into a second copy of Buried Alive. With six ability-granting creatures in the deck, Buried Alive and Congregation at Dawn will put all your options in the graveyard. You can also use Mwonvuli Beast Tracker if you just need a fourth creature to exile. It can search for anything in the deck except Drogskol Reaver and Avacyn, so keep that in mind when searching with the other spells.
To reduce the deck's reliance on Soulflayer, I added Cairn Wanderer as a backup. The abilities the Wanderer can steal are a bit different, but with all six creatures in the graveyard, you'll have a 4/4 with first strike, double strike, deathtouch, haste, lifelink, protection from red and from black, trample, and vigilance. Not bad for five mana.
Don't Hate the Flayer, Hate the Game
The other card that came to mind when contemplating keywords was Concerted Effort. One of my first Commander decks was built around double strike and Equipment, and I used the enchantment to allow cards like Sword of Light and Shadow to protect my entire army.
Concerted Effort has its own unique set of abilities it cares about, but there's enough overlap to make it work. Soulflayer can still be used to share flying, first strike, double strike, trample, and vigilance with the rest of your creatures.
The part that makes this deck different from the previous one is that you don't have to just jam creatures in your graveyard. You can simply cast them and start attacking, using Concerted Effort to share their keywords with one another. When they die, Soulflayer will bring their abilities back to life. I'll also use Cairn Wanderer again here, since its list of abilities matches up a bit better with Concerted Effort.
This time, I'm focusing more on creatures you can actually cast, although I'll still include a copy of Akroma, Angel of Wrath…just for kicks. Mirran Crusader was the first one I thought of since it has my favorite ability as well as two solid protections. Vampire Nighthawk was next, giving Soulflayer or Cairn Wanderer flying, deathtouch, and lifelink. Unfortunately Concerted Effort can't spread the latter two around, but even on one creature they can be potent.
When combined with Concerted Effort, Voice of All can give all your creatures protection from whatever color your opponent is playing. If your opponent is playing more than one color, flying can help you get past any blockers you don't have protection from.
Hidden Horror helps you get creatures in the graveyard for Cairn Wanderer and Souflayer, but it also gives you a solid creature to pile abilities onto. Giving everything double strike isn't too impressive when all you have are 2/2s, so the Horror adds another big threat into the mix.
Buried Alive makes a reappearance here, but I've also added Moonlight Bargain, since this deck wants to cast many of its creatures. The Bargain lets you pick and choose which cards you want in-hand and which can go straight to the graveyard. Finally, I added in two copies of Utter End just in case your opponent is packing something you can't otherwise deal with.
Fate Reforging Ahead
Soulflayer certainly presents an interesting deck-building challenge, and I wouldn't be surprised to see it show up in tournament decks as well as at the casual table. Getting a 4/4 for two mana isn't bad by itself, but if you can find a few different creature keywords to add into the deck, Soulflayer can become so much more than that. Let me know what you think on Twitter through @MTGCannon, or email me at MTGCannon@gmail.com. What kind of deck will you use Soulflayer in? Is there an awesome combination of creatures that I missed? In the meantime, I'll be getting ready to show off another cool Fate Reforged card next week, so check back then to see what else I have in store for you. See ya!