Days of Future Future: Fate Reforged

Posted in Latest Developments on February 27, 2015

By Sam Stoddard

Sam Stoddard came to Wizards of the Coast as an intern in May 2012. He is currently a game designer working on final design and development for Magic: The Gathering.

It's time once again for Days of Future Future, the time when I revisit some of our Future Future League Standard testing focusing on cards from Fate Reforged.

As always, when doing a Future Future League article, keep in mind that many of these decks are not tuned. They are also full of cards that were stronger than they are now, and often are missing real-world cards that were changed later in development. They are also reacting to a slightly different metagame than what the real world has come up with, so don't expect to take these to your local tournament and demolish it. The goal of every deck isn't to be the strongest deck in the environment, it's to try and learn something. While we do occasionally hold tournaments that give us an idea of what the strongest deck is, we have found that getting a right feel of what is possible and how good the individual cards are leads to a better Standard environment. Sharing these decks is really to help give some insights into what we were thinking, and maybe show off some cool cards that haven't made it into the real world just yet.

With that out of the way, onto the decks.

When working on a new set, the first thing we do is port over some of our current decks and see what easy upgrades the new set offers them, to get a good baseline. One difficulty with having new Magic sets make an impact is that it's very easy for players to just take their current decks and make a few upgrades, rather than use the cards in the set to make brand-new decks. We need to make sure that the option for sticking with your deck is there, but that those decks aren't just more powerful than the new decks being offered—quite the tightrope.

One deck that we had pretty close to the real world was RG Monsters. Our version played a few cards that appear to have been not quite strong enough for the real world, namely Fanatic of Xenagos, but otherwise the decks are close. It also seemed like a good place to put Atarka, who combos with Xenagos, God of Revels for some pretty huge damage swings.

RG Monsters by Ian Duke

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Another deck with some pretty easy upgrades was Abzan Midrange. Our list was pretty close to the real world, although we erred more on the white mana than black, hence playing Banishing Light over Hero's Downfall.

Abzan Midrange by David Humpherys

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A deck that made the Top 8 of Pro Tour Khans of Tarkir, but fell off the radar a bit, was UB Control. With the addition of Crux of Fate and a competitive wrath for black, we knew it was a deck we were expecting to show up.

UB Control by Gavin Verhey

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Note: Cruel Edict was later cut from the set.

The other major control deck we had is one that the real world is playing a lot more of—Mardu Control. Our lists are a bit different, but it plays similarly—and we found that Monastery Mentor was a creature that we could include as a late-game threat, which could quickly take the game away by itself with a flurry of removal spells to build an army.

Mardu Control by Jon Loucks

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Beyond just RG Monsters, we also played a lot of Temur Aggro decks, partly because we found the control decks stronger than the real world. Against those decks, Stubborn Denial and Surrak Dragonclaw along with other flash creatures are just stronger than against the real-world metagame.

Temur Aggro by Gerry Thompson

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Once we've done that, it's time to drill down a bit deeper, look at some of the tier-2 strategies that didn't quite work with just Khans, and see if the plants we've given them in Fate Reforged are enough to make them into the real deal.

One such deck, that we had pegged a bit higher than the real world does right now, was WB Warriors.

WB Warriors by Adam Prosak

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The things we believed this deck was missing was a good finisher, met by Brutal Hordechief, and another powerful and cheap removal spell, this time Valorous Stance—which can kill Brimaz, Polukranos, and Courser of Kruphix.

A deck that we had a bit below the top tiers, probably because we just weren't playing Hornet Queen yet, was Mono-Green Devotion. Frontier Siege's ability to either cast the Hornet or turn it into a Wrath of God if you've chosen the appropriate mode led us to trying out the deck some more.

Mono-Green Hornets by Adam Prosak

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A deck that saw some play in Theros Standard was Mono-Red Devotion. We were a lot hotter on Prophetic Flamespeaker than the real world, but thought that between it, Outpost Siege, and Chandra, we could get a red deck that could use Nykthos to cast multiple cards a turn.

Mono-Red Devotion by Ian Duke

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Another deck that dominated Return to Ravnica-Theros Standard, but had fallen off, was Mono-Black. That's unsurprising because of how wedge-focused Khans was. With the addition of a five-mana black wrath, we thought it was time to see how close the deck got to being the real deal.

Mono-Black Control by Gerry Thompson

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This version was interesting, but we were pretty sure that without the incentive of devotion, and with the aggro decks not being incredibly successful, it wasn't worth playing mono-black over another combination.

One of the latest changes in Khans of Tarkir was to Jeskai Ascendancy. At the time it was changed, we were already testing Fate Reforged as the newest set in the FFL. While we didn't get the Banishing Knack combo deck before we handed off Khans, we did try the Ascendancy with another combo piece: Humble Defector to draw a ton of cards, then ending it with a Searing Blood.

Humble Defector/Jeskai Ascendancy by Adam Prosak

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Tokens were huge in our metagame, although different from the builds you see in the real world today. We had many of these versions—Jeskai, RW, Mardu—but we also had a few that haven't really shown up. This deck was put together to try some of our better ways to make a ton of tokens, along with Shamanic Revelation to draw a ton of cards.

GW Revelation Tokens by Bryan Hawley

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It's really important to us to test out all of the Johnny cards. We want to make sure that they are fun if they are strong enough for Standard, but even if they aren't, that the person who plays them is able to get the combo to work and that it feels satisfying. One that many players probably noticed when the set was released was Soulflayer and Chromanticore. We noticed it too, and gave it a shot to see how it would play.

Sultai 5c Soulflayer by David Humpherys

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I hope you enjoyed those. Beyond these decks, there were just a ton of other builds we had floating around. We found what I believe the real world has—that this Standard environment is very diverse, and the decks with a lot of colors make for some very interesting games.

I'll be back next week with a Dragons of Tarkir preview card, designed to take care of a few things seen in the decks above.

Until next time,

Sam (@samstod)

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